An Accident in Time

BY : CiraArana
Category: Harry Potter > Slash - Male/Male > Harry/Snape
Dragon prints: 11213
Disclaimer: The characters belong to JK Rowling and associates. I make no money with this story.

Title: An Accident in Time
Author/Artist: CiraArana
Pairing: Harry/Snape; also mentions Harry/OMC, one-sided Harry/Ginny, and Ron/Hermione
Rating: NC17
Warning(s): chan (15), bottom!Snape
Summary: One evening, Harry opens the door to an unexpected visitor, and is faced with a boy who looks and sounds like a younger version of Severus Snape. Exactly like a younger version.
A/N: Written for the Daft Day Snarry Sawp 2010. I meant to write a cute, fast-paced little story. But then Severus kind of kidnapped my plot and ran away with the story. He might be a bottom, but he's awfully toppy all the same, if you ask me.


An Accident in Time


Day One

The knock on the door came just when Harry had set his dinner dishes to wash themselves in the sink.

Harry sighed and glanced at the clock, then shook his head and went to answer the door, expecting to see either Wesley Charlton, his ex-lover who kept trying to come back to him, or Ginny, who kept hoping that perhaps someday he would figure out that being gay was just a phase and come back to her.

What Harry had not expected upon opening the door was see a gangly adolescent boy, dressed in too-large wizarding robes, glaring at him with all-too familiar black eyes.

Reeling with vertigo, Harry clung to the door and blinked at the boy – young man – who looked like a younger version of Severus Snape.

Exactly like a younger version of Severus Snape.

'Potter.'

And he even sounded like him. The voice was younger but unmistakably Severus Snape.

'Um …'

The boy who looked and sounded like Snape narrowed his eyes in a hard, impatient stare.

'You are Potter, aren't you?' he demanded.

Harry blinked, swallowed, and firmly told himself to stop acting like an idiot. If the boy had to ask who he was, he couldn’t be Severus Snape, no matter how similar he looked. Not when they had known each other for over fifteen years. Besides, the last time Harry had seen him, Snape had been a grown man of forty-odd years.

So Harry made himself smile politely and answer, 'Yes, I am Harry Potter.'

The boy gave one, sharp, short nod. 'You look a lot like James Potter. You related?'

Once more, Harry had to grip onto the door, feeling dizzy, as though the world had just hiccoughed off course and proceeded to spin in a different direction.

If the boy knew James Potter, who had been dead for longer than this boy seemed to have been alive …

'Snape?' Harry asked faintly.

The boy’s black eyes grew sharper, more wary and distrustful, and the thin body swaddled in the black robes twitched ever so slightly. Tense, ready to bolt, his gaze so intense Harry wondered vaguely if this was what Legilimency looked like on a less trained wizard.

'Yes?' the boy said cautiously.

Harry swallowed. 'Severus Snape. Oh Merlin.'

The boy – Snape – took a sudden step forwards, his eyes alert and demanding. With his sharp, hooked nose looking even larger in the face of a teenaged boy, he reminded Harry of a predator ready to strike.

'You know me?' the young Snape asked, his voice vibrating with breathless urgency.

Harry nodded weakly. 'Yeah. Yeah, I … know you.'

The boy gave another sharp nod and bounced back on his feet. 'Good.'

Before Harry had opportunity to ask, an envelope was thrust in his face. A familiar, spiky hand had written his name and address on it.

'It said you’d explain this.'

Harry looked from the envelope to Snape’s face and saw the fear the boy had been trying to hide in the slight relaxation of his body’s tension. He shook his head, took the letter, and stepped back from the door, holding it open for his unexpected guest.

'You'd better come in.'

The boy who was Snape did not move.

'It said you'd explain,' he repeated.

Harry ran a hand through his hair. 'Look, I have no idea what is going on. Yes, I know you, but not like you are now. I need to sit down and read the letter and understand this situation, and I’d rather not do that out here in the open. It’s getting late and it’s getting chilly.' He sighed and added, 'And I’ve got the feeling that the situation can't be dealt with in five minutes. So, come in, sit down, and give me a moment to read this.'

Snape hesitated, gave him a sharp look, and then seemed to decide. Keeping a wary eye on Harry, he sidled through the door, never turning his back to Harry. Harry, being familiar with Snape's paranoia – some of which came thanks to one James Potter – closed the door and then turned towards his living room.

'Come in here and sit down,' he said over his shoulder. Taking the rustling behind him as indication that Snape followed him, Harry walked through his little entrance hall into the spacious living room. Heading straight to his armchair, Harry plopped down, thankful to sit.

Snape sidled in behind him and moved cautiously over to the sofa, where he perched on the edge. The tension in his body and the way his wary eyes darted from Harry to every corner of the room and back again told Harry that this Snape would jump up and run at the merest hint of imagined danger. He wanted to say something reassuring and calming, but he couldn’t think of words that would work on Snape.

Deciding that reassuring Snape could wait until he understood what was going on, Harry merely gave the boy a smile and concentrated on the letter in his hands.

A standard, brown envelope, the address written in black ink. Nothing extraordinary. A few checks with his wand revealed no jinks or curses. The letter had been written by Severus Snape with no harmful intention towards the receiver. Harry swallowed, ripped the envelope open, and let the folded parchment slide into his hand. After another quick glance at the boy, who was watching his every move with distrustful caution, Harry began to read.

Potter,

I am writing this in the firm hope that it will never become necessary. However, in the event of my life once more becoming subject to fate’s mockery, I will need you to know.

Although you were a very unwelcome witness to the event, it may have slipped your execrable memory that I did not escape what has grandly been termed the “Battle of Hogwarts” unscathed. Even now, almost ten years later, I am not free of the damage I received that night. It is this damage that will have sent an adolescent boy with my name and my face to your door with this letter.

In plain words, so that even you can understand: I was cursed, and the effects of that curse still linger. The result you have now seen with your own eyes. Yes, Potter, that boy is me.

For you to take the required action, you must understand what happened, and so I will attempt to explain the details of my condition.

This is not the result of a single curse that hit me during the battle. Do not go haring off in an attempt to find curses that reduce physical age. No such curse exists. If it did, wizards and witches would have been using it for centuries. No, my unexpected youth is due to an unfortunate combination of spells, and the resulting irregular reaction of magic.

The original, attempted curse was an Aging Spell – sub-category Senescere Exsecratio, type Chronos Epirroi, with an attempt at a triple circulation (ask you friend Mrs Weasley nιe Granger for the explanation if you don’t understand) – cast by one of my former Death Eater comrades. You have seen the effects of Aging spells of the Chronos Epirroi type, I believe, when the Misters Weasley endeavoured to trick a certain Age Line around the Goblet of Fire. The sub-category Senescere Exsecratio, however, is classified Dark, as the spell’s intent is to harm and finally kill the victim. The curse cast on me was meant to speed my aging three-fold.

Unfortunately, the caster had neither the power nor the ability to cast the curse correctly. It would not have mattered if the spell had failed. However, the incorrectly cast curse had unforeseen results when it collided with a Disarming Spell, an Expelliarmus, I believe. I suspect Longbottom cast it. The result was the opposite of the original intent – not aging but de-aging.

As the curse failed, the effect is highly irregular. It is neither lasting nor cumulative. That means I have not steadily grown younger, Potter. Instead, the curse flares up erratically, with no discernible trigger, and I suffer from what I have termed “youth flashes”. These flashes regenerate me for unpredictable time spans. Sometimes mere months, but other times years.

During these flashes, I regress to the person I was at that age. I have no access to knowledge and skills I acquired after that point in my life. I do not remember what has happened in the years that I have lost. Occasionally, though, I retain dim memories of the past that will become my future.

Take your time understanding this, Potter. I know you will have trouble untangling the mess that passes for your brain.

I do, however, remember most of what happens during a flash.

In general, the youth flashes neither last long nor do they de-age me significantly. However, some flashes have cost me a considerable number of years, and I suspect that, one day, a flash will de-age me into an underage wizard.

Since you are reading this letter, my suspicion is correct. I can only hope I have not grown too young to reach you before someone else reaches me.

This is the reason I came to your home, Potter. I need help, your help, as much as it pains me to even write it down.

No, I do not need help finding a cure. I doubt there is anything you could do for me in that respect. However, there are people who would very much like to catch me underage, and they are not disgruntled former comrades of mine. I seem to have a talent for gathering contacts who seek to use me for their own benefit without any thought of my health or well-being.

This past decade, I have been seeking a cure for my condition. You are aware that I have not yet been successful. Still, the time spent in research was not entirely wasted, though I doubt you are aware of my achievements. I would be surprised if you even read the News in Magical Research page in The Daily Prophet.

Other wizards and witches do, however, and for several years I have been in close contact with Healers at St Mungo’s, as well as a number of Unspeakables. They have all shown great interest in the physical, mental, and magical changes I undergo during a youth flash, and their help and insights have been invaluable in some respects.

Yet, as I implied above, my contacts seem ultimately only interested in those insights they can gain from my condition. Both St Mungo’s and the Department of Mysteries have repeatedly suggested I undergo further tests to discover how my body and magic react to the youth flash, to determine the workings of my mind and memories during the regression or regressed state. For the sake of magical science or, Merlin forbid, the greater good.

I have read the outlines of several of those “tests”, and I refuse to be an object they can vivisect for their pleasure.

However, now that I am underage, I have no power to refuse their demands. Legally, I am a minor without a guardian, which places me in the power of the Ministry. Say what you will about the “new Ministry”, Potter, they will not protect me. They will cite the “greater good” and hand me over the moment the request is made.

You will stop them, Potter. I invoke the Life Debt that you owe me to protect me from the Ministry and St Mungo’s alike. You will take care of me until the flash has passed and I have returned to my proper age. This includes care of my physical, mental, emotional, and magical well-being. I shall consider the Life Debt null and void when this is over.

Yours sincerely,
Severus Snape.


Exhaling noisily, Harry let the letter fall into his lap.

Well. That explained a lot.

'So?' an impatient voice asked, and Harry looked up at the boy Severus Snape had become. He was leaning forwards with his eyes intently on Harry’s face.

'Does it explain? The letter? What is going on?'

Harry nodded slowly. 'Yeah. Yeah, it …' He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, wondering how he could tell the boy. 'Yes, it explains your problem.'

'And? What happened?'

Harry bit his lip and glanced down at the letter. He had no idea how to do this, how to tell this boy that he was actually a grown man and that his current youth was due to a magical accident. Snape hadn't left him any clues, either. It would be easier if he remembered, at least a little. But he said he usually didn't remember. Usually.

Cautiously hopeful, Harry looked back up again and asked, 'How much do you remember?'

Snape frowned. 'Remember about what?'

Harry shrugged helplessly. 'Everything. Your life. What happened to you.'

The look he got in response was so pure Severus Snape that Harry felt as though he had been de-aged, too – into an eleven-year-old.

'I don’t know what happened to me, Potter. That’s why I'm here!'

'Yeah, but … I mean, what was the last thing you remember before you woke up this morning? Or whenever you woke up today.' Slowly, Harry’s brain digested the unexpected news and moved into work-mode. 'What happened after you woke up? How did you know to come here? And that I would be able to explain?'

Snape stared at him for a moment. He hunched his shoulders ever so slightly, an instinctive gesture of self-protection that Snape probably didn't even realise he had made, or thought was so slight no one would notice. It made Harry ache inside.

'It was a letter,' Snape said after a moment of silence.

'A letter?'

'Yes, a letter. I … found it. It was addressed to me. Severus Snape, underage wizard, it said on the envelope.' Snape stopped, watching Harry intently.

Harry, having no idea what was going on inside of the boy's head, nodded encouragingly. Snape hesitated a little longer, then went on, 'I thought … But there wasn't an explanation in there. Only your name, and that you would explain it to me, and your address and Apparation coordinates.'

Harry nodded again, wondering why Snape tensed further. Perhaps he thought he would get into trouble because he Apparated without a license. 'Okay, so you read the letter and Apparated here.'

Snape's hands were hidden by the robes' overlong sleeves, but Harry thought he saw them clench.

'I did not Apparate,' the boy said with painful formality and superficially hidden vulnerability. 'I am not of age and do not have my Apparation license.'

'Oh.' Harry remembered the glimpses he'd had of Snape's childhood. 'You came the Muggle way?'

A short, sharp twitch of the boy's head answered him. 'Knight bus.'

Harry opened his mouth to ask – how he got the money, if someone had recognised him – but bit his tongue. Better not. It could only end messily. Instead, Harry asked, 'Okay, but what about that letter? How did you get it?' Had Snape somehow managed to develop a spell that timed the appearance of the letter with the youth flash that would make him underage?

'I found it,' Snape repeated stiffly.

Sighing, Harry ran a hand through his hair. 'Okay. Let me guess. You woke up, this morning or whenever, you were in a house you didn't recognise, and you imagined the worst. So you started rooting around to try and find out what, where, who, why, and how. Right?'

Snape pressed his lips into a thin line and shuffled his feet. A very faint rose colour spread over his cheeks. 'Yes,' he admitted grudgingly. 'I found that letter in a drawer.' He took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and looked challengingly at Harry. 'It was written in my own handwriting.'

His tone was so belligerent that it took Harry a moment to understand why. Snape probably thought Harry would think him crazy. Harry tried for a reassuring smile.

'Uh, yeah. Yeah, of course it would be.'

Snape's eyes widened in surprise – or perhaps shock – before he managed to control his expression. 'So.' He swallowed, trying to appear unconcerned. 'So, the house … that was my house?'

Harry shrugged but nodded. 'Most likely, yeah.'

Snape nodded as well, but slowly, thoughtfully. 'I … I thought the house looked … looked as though someone like me might be living there. As though I might be living there.' He looked back at Harry, and this time couldn't hide his confusion and fear. 'But why would I have written myself a letter?'

'Um …' Harry's mind raced, trying to come up with the best explanation. Something that was straightforward, not too shocking but still believable. He came up blank. Finally, he shrugged and handed Snape the letter he had brought Harry. 'Here. Read this.'

Snape looked from him to the letter and back at him. Slowly, he reached out and took it. He stared at Harry for a while longer before he lowered his eyes to read. He tilted his head slightly so that his hair slid forwards and veiled his face.

Harry sat back in his armchair and waited. He couldn't see Snape's face but the sudden tension in the thin body told him more than that would have. The trembling of his skinny, pale hands – not yet potion-stained – was barely discernable. After several quiet moments, long enough for Snape to have read the letter at least twice, the boy looked up.

His face was sickly pale. His eyes were wide and panicked. Yet his voice was calm, though tight enough to make Harry wince with the effort it must cost Snape not to scream.

'So. A magical accident did this.' He paused and took a deep, shaky breath. 'How old am I?'

Harry hesitated, considering, not sure whether he ought to answer outright. Snape had already gone through quite a lot, from not knowing where he was and what had happened to him, to be forced to go visit a stranger and trust him to explain. But on the other hand, Harry remembered only too well how much he had loathed being left in the dark by adults "for his own good".

'How old am I?' Snape repeated.

Harry sighed and gave in. 'Can't say for absolutely certain, but around forty-eight, I think.'

What colour there had been in Snape's pale face rushed out. His eyes were wide, dark holes in his thin face. He opened his mouth, but all that came out was a choked gasp. His breathing sped up unnaturally.

'Oh, shit.' Harry jumped up and grabbed the boy's shoulders. Snape twitched and made an aborted move to jerk away. 'Breathe,' Harry ordered, trying to remember what Auror training had said about calming down victims or relatives. 'Relax. Concentrate on breathing.'

Snape spat a few, choked words and flailed his arms. He struggled to get up. Harry pushed him back down.

'No, don't move, don't talk. Concentrate on breathing. Everything else afterwards.' Wrapping one arm around Snape's thin, shaking shoulders, Harry groped for his wand and cast a simple Breathing Charm on Snape. Immediately, Snape's breathing evened out.

Snape made a soft sound and another attempt to get away, but it was half-hearted and Harry had no trouble keeping him on the sofa.

'Don't get up,' he said. Reaching out, he gathered a blanket and spread it over Snape's thin shoulders. 'Here. Just sit here and calm down. It's all right. You'll see.' He patted Snape's shoulder and made move to get up.

A hand shot out of the tangled robes and grabbed his wrist. For such a thin person, Snape was surprisingly strong. Harry looked down and met panicked eyes. He gave his best, reassuring smile.

'Hey, don't worry. I'm not going away. Just into the kitchen, making a pot of tea. We could use it, don't you think? You just sit here. I'll be back in a moment, and we'll talk some more. Okay?'

Snape stared at him and took a couple of deep breaths. His dark eyes were sharp as he looked up into Harry's face, and again Harry wondered if Snape was trying to use Legilimency. He projected thoughts about tea to the forefront of his mind and kept his reassuring smile steady. After a moment of searching Harry's face, Snape let go of his wrist.

'Okay.' His voice was trying very hard not to be shaky. 'Okay, I, I…'

Harry gave his shoulder a squeeze, but then went into the kitchen without trying to reassure the boy again. It wouldn't help.

In the kitchen, Harry needed only a few, quick flicks of his wand to start the tea preparations. He wasn't all that good with household charms, but preparing tea was one he could do in his sleep. While he arranged teacups, cream and sugar on a tray and waited for the kettle to sing, he kept an ear out, listening for Snape. All was quiet, though, and when he returned a couple of minutes later with the tray floating before him, the boy was huddled on the sofa, the blanket wrapped around him.

'Here.' Harry pulled the small table Hermione had kept on insisting he needed over and placed the tray on it. 'How do you drink your tea?'

Snape blinked at him and then at the teacup Harry held out to him. 'Oh. Sugar. Please.'

Harry added some sugar and handed Snape the cup. 'If you want more sugar, feel free.'

Snape accepted his cup slowly and sipped. 'It's okay, thank you,' he said very politely.

Harry doubted it, but didn't say anything. He simply fixed himself a cup and sat down in his armchair.

After they had sipped their tea in silence – and Harry had kept watching Snape – he spoke up. 'So, you know what happened to you and what brought you here, and I suppose you have a lot of questions.'

Snape stared into his tea. He was quite obviously debating with himself what to ask. Or perhaps whether to ask at all.

'You never said if you were related to James Potter.'

That wasn't quite the question Harry had expected, but he shrugged and answered nevertheless. 'Yes, I was. He was my father.'

Snape looked up. 'Was. He died, then?'

Harry looked at him, searching for something like glee in Snape's face, but there was only wariness.

He nodded. 'Yes,' he said slowly. 'He died. A long time ago.' It felt odd to tell Snape. After all, he was directly responsible for the Potters' deaths. Somehow, Harry couldn't blame him any longer, though. After all, Snape's plea to Voldemort for Lily's life had allowed Harry's mother to sacrifice herself for her son – and had, in the end, helped Harry to win.

Snape stared at him so intently that Harry wondered whether he had read Harry's thoughts. The next question came unexpected, nevertheless.

'Your eyes,' Snape said hesitantly. 'I …'

'Oh.' Harry grimaced and suddenly felt a lot more awkward. 'I. Yes, well, I have my mother's eyes.'

Snape's face twisted, crumpled. He looked as if he was about to cry. 'She married him.'

'Yeah.' Harry bit his lip, and then decided he'd better tell Snape, to get it over with. 'She's dead, too. They died the same day. Voldemort killed them.'

At the mention of the name, Snape jumped and grabbed his left forearm. Harry's eyes widened – but so did Snape's. The boy stared down at his arm, pushed up the long sleeve. His forearm was unmarked.

'I … I thought …' he whispered.

He looked so pained and confused it hurt Harry to go on. 'Yeah. Um. You are.'

Snape's head snapped up. 'What?'

'You, your older self, were marked. With Voldemort's Dark Mark.'

Snape's eyes went unfocused. 'I … did it, then. There are … boys in my House who …'

Harry sighed. 'Yeah, you did. You were a Death Eater. But when Voldemort threatened my mum, you went to Dumbledore and, um. Well, told him you'd do whatever he wanted if he kept my mum safe.'

Snape's eyes, wide and afraid, fixed on Harry's face. Harry made himself go on, 'It didn't work, obviously. A close friend of my parents betrayed them to Voldemort, and he found them. He was actually after me, because a prophecy had told him about a child being born with the power to defeat him.' Harry shook his head and pointed to the scar on his forehead. 'He hit me with the Death Curse, but I survived.'

'That's impossible!' Snape burst out. He sat up so suddenly the tea sloshed onto the saucer. 'There is no defence against Avada Kedavra!'

Harry looked down at his hands holding the cup. 'He gave my mother the chance to step aside. But she didn't. And when she died … for me …' He shrugged uncomfortably. 'Dumbledore said that my mum's sacrifice protected me. And I kept only the scar.' He didn't say anything about the Horcruxes. Snape didn't need to know about that.

'Why Dumbledore?' Snape asked after a pause.

'Huh?'

'Why did I go to Dumbledore? To keep Lily safe?'

'Oh.' Harry nodded. 'You wouldn't know that, of course. Um, Dumbledore was the leader of the Order of the Phoenix. The Order fought against the Death Eaters. And Dumbledore was known as the only wizard Voldemort was ever really afraid of. So, yeah, you went to him. And he gave you a position at Hogwarts,' Harry went on, anticipating what would probably have been the next question. 'You were the Potions master. That's how I met you, by the way.' He grimaced at the memory.

Snape gaped at him. 'I was a teacher?'

'Yeah.' Harry had to chuckle at the boy's expression. 'Not the career you'd have chosen, was it?'

'No.' Snape snorted. 'Definitely not.'

'What would you've liked to do?' Harry asked, suddenly curious. He had never thought about it before.

Snape eyed him over the rim of his teacup. 'Why do you ask?'

'I'm curious, I suppose. I mean, one of the first things I ever got to know about you was that you were the Potions master but wanted to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. But after the war, you went into private potions brewing.' Harry shrugged. 'I just wondered.'

'Oh.' Snape licked his lips and sipped his tea. He looked a little discomfited. 'I … I want to go to St Mungo's.'

Harry blinked, surprised. 'A Healer?'

'Yeah.' Snape looked up defensively.

Harry blinked some more. 'Oh. Um.' He cocked his head. 'Yeah, actually, I can see that,' he said thoughtfully. 'In sixth year, they seemed to always ask you. Dumbledore, he said something about you saving his life with a potion, I think, but with Leanne, that was probably a spell to stop the curse and—' He stopped, seeing Snape's bewildered face. 'Sorry, just thinking out loud. But, yes, I can see you as Healer.' He grinned. 'You don't have any bedside manner, though.'

Snape narrowed his eyes at him, and Harry sighed. He probably thought Harry was laughing at him. And, most likely, wouldn't believe it if Harry told him otherwise. Harry backtracked the conversation to what they had been talking about before to find a way to go on.

'Um. So, anyway, you were teaching at Hogwarts when Voldemort vanished the first time. Everyone thought he was dead, except Dumbledore. And he was right, of course.'

'What about you?'

'Me?'

'Your … parents had been killed, you said.'

'Oh. Yes.' Harry wrinkled his nose. 'Well, since all of my grandparents were dead, I was given to my only living relative, mum's sister.'

'Tuney?' Snape was incredulous. 'But she hates magic!'

Harry nodded and gripped his cup a little tighter. 'Yes, well, she wasn't all too pleased to be saddled with me.'

Snape's eyes were uncomfortably shrewd. 'I see. She called you a freak, too, did she?'

Harry nodded, surprised. Then he remembered that Snape must have had more contact with Petunia than Harry had seen in his memories. He'd probably seen some of the resentment Petunia had held for the magical world after it had become obvious that she wouldn't be part of it. 'She did. And my uncle, too.'

Snape's face showed an expression of disgusted disbelief. 'She married? Who would have wanted to marry someone like that? Ew.'

Harry was startled into a laugh, and then decided not to try and stifle it. It wasn't nice, laughing at Aunt Petunia. But she had never been nice to him, either.

'Hey, my uncle wasn't a lot better,' he said. 'He thought exactly the same way she did. But he looked like a walrus. And my cousin was even more stupid than my aunt and uncle together, and he looked like a pig! Well,' he amended, 'in the end, Dudley, that's my cousin, kind of redeemed himself. But my uncle was glad I was gone, and I can tell you, I was more than happy to never have to see them again!'

There was that shrewd expression on Snape's face again. He looked as though he understood a lot more than Harry had wanted to say. Well, if his home situation had been anything like the few flashes that Harry had seen in the man's memories and the Pensieve …

'Um, anyway. I left the day I turned seventeen. And besides, I spent most of the year at Hogwarts, so that was all right.'

'Gryffindor, right?' Snape interjected.

Harry felt his hackles rise at the smirk the boy gave him. He could see the adult Snape in that. He reacted the same way he had done as a boy: thoughtlessly.

'Yes, well, the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin,' Harry snapped. 'But I'd already heard that Voldemort had been in Slytherin, and I didn't want to be in the same House as the murderer of my parents, so, yeah, Gryffindor.'

Snape stared at him. Harry blinked. Whoops. Perhaps he shouldn't have told him that bit about Slytherin. Hastily, Harry went on, 'And anyway, it doesn't matter anymore, now. I've been out of Hogwarts now for longer than I was there, and—'

'Played Quidditch?' Snape interrupted again.

'Yes, I—'

'Seeker?'

Harry growled. 'Yes, yes, all like my father, thank you. You don't have to say it again. I've heard it more than enough from you.'

Snape shrank back a little at the harsh tone. 'So I gathered correctly from my older self's letter to you that I don't like you much,' he said stiffly.

Harry fiddled with the handle of his cup. 'No, you don't like me at all. You loathed my father, and I happen to look a lot like him, so you loathed me on principle, too. And I didn't like you much, either, because you were a perfect arsehole to me right from the beginning.'

Snape's eyes had gone wide at the swearword. He looked cautiously delighted, like a boy who'd been disciplined for using "language" and was delirious at having caught an adult using it.

Harry huffed. 'Yeah, you were an arsehole, so I was an arsehole right back at you. Didn't stop you from saving my life, and more than once, too.'

'I did?' Snape now looked gleeful.

'Yeah. Well, the first time, which was during my first year, so you can see I had a really interesting time at Hogwarts, that first time was because you owed my dad a Life Debt. But you kept saving my life afterwards, too. Um, I think. Well, you more or less told me that it was for my mum's sake.' Harry flushed a little at the white lie. Snape hadn't exactly told him … and if the man had thought that he would survive the war, he'd never have left certain memories in the "secret Pensieve", Harry was sure.

Unfortunately, Snape was sharp enough to see that something didn't match up. 'I told you? Not likely, if I didn't like you that much.'

Harry ran his hand through his hair again. Snape's mouth twitched into a hastily suppressed smile, and Harry thought he could tell what had amused the boy. Stupid hair, sticking up and out.

'Uh, no, you didn't exactly tell me…' he admitted. Chewing on his lip, he thought about what to tell the boy, and then shrugged. The truth, as best as he could, of course. 'Okay, listen. I'll give you the short version of what happened after Voldemort returned.'

Snape sat up, face serious and concentrated. Harry nodded at him.

'So, he came back with the help of the man who betrayed my parents, when I was fourteen," Harry said, and then continued with a very short version of his fifth and sixth years, leaving out Sirius's death. That wasn't something he wanted to discuss. Not then, and not with Snape. When he got to the end of his sixth year, he stumbled. 'Shit, this is going to be difficult."

'Difficult, how?' Snape asked, eyes narrowed. 'And you shouldn't swear in the presence of children.'

'Shove it,' was Harry's snorted reply. 'Difficult because … Well. I don't know how you'll react to it.'

'I did something bad, didn't it?' Snape said quietly. He sat very still.

Harry took a deep breath and told Snape about the events atop the Astronomy tower. Snape was still, silent, and very, very pale. Harry went on, more slowly, 'It was his idea. Dumbledore's.'

'That I kill him?' Snape gasped. His hands shook badly.

Harry nodded. 'Yes, and you didn't like it one bit. You told Dumbledore you wouldn't do it, but he made you do it. Kind of blackmailed you into it.'

Snape blinked. 'W-what?'

'Oh, yes. He said you had promised to do whatever Dumbledore needed you to do, so there. And … and he kept throwing my mum at you. You know, that you'd promised to do anything to keep me safe for her sake, and so on. Well. But the thing is, no one knew at the time you did it.'

Snape's teacup clattered against the saucer, and Harry saw that the boy was shaking all over now. He got over to the sofa, sat down next to him, and put a hand on his shoulder. 'Hey, it's okay now. It's over. Everyone knows, now.'

Snape made a little noise like a whimper. Harry took his cup and refilled it, adding more sugar than last time, and made Snape drink the tea. It helped a little. The boy stopped shaking.

'Here, are you all right?' Harry asked.

Snape laughed, but it was choked and sounded more like a sob.

'Okay.' Harry said softly. 'Do you want me to tell you the rest? What happened until Voldemort died? Or would you like to go to bed?'

Snape shook his head quickly. 'No, tell me,' he demanded. 'I want to know …'

Harry nodded and squeezed Snape's shoulder again. The boy leaned into him, just a little. Harry went on, quickly recapping the year of Snape's tenure as headmaster and talking in broad strokes about his own mission until he came to the night of the battle. He had to pause then, to sort through his memories. It had all happened so fast.

Snape didn't urge him on, kept listening silently as Harry told him how he had seen Snape that night and how, intent on killing the man, Harry had followed him.

'But you led me to the Headmaster's room and then kind of vanished.' Harry still remembered his confusion and anger at Snape disappearing like that. 'A hidden door, or something, I don't know. The room was empty. I looked around, saw the Pensieve. It sat right there, on your desk. It was obviously full of memories.'

He paused and rubbed his nose, still a little embarrassed. 'In hindsight I know you set it up for me. Then, I was too angry. Thought I could hurt you, looking into your memories again. So, I poked my head into it and saw a lot of things that I was actually meant to see.

'Dumbledore had given you some last orders for me. You were meant to pass them on close to the end, though how you were meant to do that, I don't know. In the event, I got to know things a little early, but it didn't matter. I got the information and acted accordingly.

'There was a battle. You fought, though no one ever knew on which side. I think you didn't fight on any side but to keep as many students safe as possible. That was when you were hit by that botched curse. Um. I got rid of Voldemort. Oh, I actually told him that you'd been on our side all the time. There were memories in that Pensieve that were … pretty convincing. The memory where Dumbledore ordered you to kill him, too. So, when everything was over and you were found alive, I told the Aurors what I'd seen, and they questioned you under Veritaserum, and then you were cleared. So. That's it.'

Harry looked down at Snape and found the boy watching him. He was still pale, but he'd obviously recovered. And there was that uncomfortably astute look again. Harry had known Snape was clever. Hell, he'd been the Half-Blood Prince! But, somehow, Harry had always associated this cleverness with the adult Snape. Not with the teenaged Snape. Yet here was the boy, clearly a teenager and also clearly hearing a lot of things that Harry hadn't said.

'My older self hadn't thought he'd survive, did he? That was why he let you have the memories?'

Yup, sharp as a knife.

Harry grimaced again and nodded.

Snape stared at him some more but didn't ask any more questions. After a while, he went back to staring into his tea. Harry let him. The boy needed time to think about what he'd heard.

The chiming of the clock in the hall made both of them jump. Harry glanced at his watch. It was almost midnight.

'Okay, late!' he said and got up, flicking his wand at the tray. Snape looked up at him, clearly worried what would happen now. Harry sent the tray to the kitchen before he turned back to the boy. 'So, um. The letter said I was to take care of you. I'll do my best. I promise. But tomorrow we'll think about what happens next. You need rest. And some time to work through all the stuff I just told you. Come on, I'll show you where you'll sleep. Or, that is, would you prefer to sleep here on the sofa?'

Snape blinked. He looked around. He looked at Harry. 'Do you have a guest room?'

Harry grinned and waved at him to follow. 'Not exactly a guest room. It's more an extra room, kind of a study. But there's a bed there. In case one of my friends needs a place to crash.'

Snape followed wordlessly up the narrow, winding staircase to the small room next to Harry's bedroom. Harry opened the door and let him enter.

'It's not much,' he apologised. 'But it is a bed. And you probably won't mind sharing space with my books,' he added with a grin, seeing the boy eye the shelves. There were some of his old textbooks, both from Hogwarts and from Auror training, as well as the remainders of the Black library. Harry had taken the books he wanted to keep when he'd closed up Grimmauld Place and given the rest to the Ministry for safekeeping. Crammed in side by side with ancient tomes on the Dark Arts were the few novels Harry had collected, mostly Muggle and wizarding crime fiction.

'Books are okay,' Snape said absently as he trailed along the shelves that lined two walls. The bed took up a third, and a wardrobe the fourth. Harry went to the wardrobe and got bed linens out. While the boy murmured excitedly over the selection of books, Harry fought to get the bed made. That was a charm he'd never managed, and so he had to do it the Muggle way.

When that was done, Harry took away Snape's book to show the boy the bathroom and where Harry slept. After telling Snape to wake him in case he needed anything, Harry wished him a good night and got ready for bed himself.

There was a lot he had to think about as well.

*

Day Two

Harry was woken by his alarm as usual. He rolled over and blearily groped for his wand, as usual. He sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, yawned and stretched. As usual.

Still more asleep than awake, Harry frowned as he stumbled to the bathroom. He had a feeling. Something was different. But it wasn't until he stepped out of the bathroom again, showered and ready for a cup of tea, and saw the closed door to his library-slash-guest room that things clicked. Closed door. Not usual. And then he remembered.

Right. Snape. Snape as a boy. Was sleeping in Harry's guest bedroom.

Harry scratched his head.

What was he supposed to do with the boy?

No thinking before tea, though, so Harry got dressed and wandered into the kitchen, where he soon had his breakfast ready. As he sat down with tea, toast, and bacon, he wondered whether he ought to wake up Snape. On the other hand, Harry had never been able to think with Snape staring at him, and Harry rather thought he needed to do some thinking. Besides, what with the shock yesterday, the boy needed rest. Harry would wake him up later.

While he absently made his way through his breakfast, Harry pondered what he should do now. What to do with the boy. The letter had said Harry was responsible for him, until the "youth flash" ended and Snape became himself again. But what did being responsible for Snape entail? Keep him safe. Sure, Harry could do that. Get food into him. No problem. But what else?

Harry sipped his tea, frowning. He had no idea how to take care of a teenaged boy. He knew perfectly well that his own home life with the Dursleys was not how it was done. Perhaps he ought to Floo Mrs Weasley. After seven children, she'd know. But if he asked her, then she'd tell Mr Weasley, and then it would get around the Ministry in no time.

And hadn't Snape said that the Department of Mysteries was after him? Harry wasn't all that wild about having to deal with the Unspeakables if he could prevent it.

So, not telling the Ministry about Snape was probably part of taking care of him. But what else? And how old was Snape, anyway?

The second alarm – the one that told Harry it was high time to get a move on and Floo in to work – dinged and jerked Harry out of his musings. He looked at the clock. He glanced towards the stairs and listened. No sound of Snape. Well.

Harry went over to the fireplace and Flooed his boss. Robertson frowned fiercely when Harry told him he wouldn't be in today, and probably not tomorrow, either, and he couldn’t really tell how long until he would be able to come in again.

'If you're ill, I want to see you at St Mungo's,' the man growled.

'Sorry, Rob, not ill.' Harry gave his superior a small smile. 'I have a Life Debt situation on my hands, though. I can't tell how long it will take until I get things sorted.'

The Head Auror still didn't look pleased but told Harry they'd manage a couple of days without him. Harry thanked the man and ended the Floo call before Robertson could change his mind. Not that he would. Life Debts were taken very seriously in the wizarding world, and even more seriously by the DMLE, and most seriously when an Auror was the one who owed the Debt.

And most likely even more seriously when it was Harry Potter how owed it, Harry thought with a grimace and pulled his head out of the fire.

He found Snape standing behind him when he turned. The boy looked sullen.

'You don't have to stay home because I'm here, you know,' he said before Harry could do more than open his mouth for a good morning. 'I'm old enough to take care of myself.'

Harry blinked. 'Well, yes, I'm sure you can. But we didn't talk about what you'd do last night, and I'd like to get things sorted out before I leave you alone for most of the day.'

'I'll stay in your guest room and read. There's really no need for you to hang around and watch me,' Snape said sulkily, wrapping his too large robes around him.

'We'll still need to get things settled,' Harry insisted.

Snape scowled at him. 'I'm not a baby!'

Harry sighed. 'No, you aren't, but you're in unfamiliar surroundings. My wards don't know you yet, so they might decide you're dangerous if you so much as open a window. Or you might get hungry some time during the day and wander down into the kitchen, but everything in there works magically, and you aren't allowed yet to do magic yet. So you'd have no way to get something to eat. See, things we need to talk about.' He pointed the boy towards the kitchen door. 'By the way, how old are you?'

Snape looked even more sullen. 'Fifteen.'

'How far at Hogwarts?'

'Finished fourth year,' Snape replied shortly and plopped onto a chair, scowling. Harry shook his head. 'Okay, thanks. Um, anyway, good morning. I hope you slept well. Would you like breakfast?'

Snape slumped over the table and poked moodily at a few scratches in the surface. 'Yeah.'

Harry waited for more, but realised there wouldn't be. So he took that to mean Snape wanted breakfast and got to work again. He'd need to go grocery shopping again soon, he noted. And buy more. Two people needed more than one, especially if one of them was a teenager. Snape could need some feeding.

Harry flushed as he caught himself at that thought. He was turning into Mrs Weasley. Uh. He hurried to get done. Shortly afterwards, he placed a plate with bacon and eggs in front of Snape. 'Here. Do you want tea or juice?'

Snape scowled at the plate and poked the eggs with his fork. 'Tea.'

'Okay.' Harry got him a cup.

'You've a real bad taste in reading matters,' Snape informed him.

Harry blinked. 'Oh? Last night you looked rather pleased.'

Snape flushed a little and glowered. 'The books on magic are good. Interesting. Some really old ones. The rest is trash.'

'The rest? Oh, the novels.' Harry grinned. 'Yeah, they're trash, but I like them.'

Snape shot him a look that said something along the lines of 'of course a dunderhead like you would like them'. Harry grinned unrepentantly back. He'd had this discussion with Hermione before. It drove her mad that he would read bad novels when he had so many interesting books on magic and magical theory.

'They're relaxing,' he told the boy what he always told Hermione. 'I don't have to think when I read that stuff. Plus, they're kind of funny.'

'Funny.' Snape forked eggs into his mouth and looked at Harry as if he'd grown a second head.

'Yep. Especially the wizarding novels.' Harry chuckled. 'Man, the Aurors in those books are a bunch of idiots! And the writers …! Honestly, as if things would work that way. A dark wizard every day, terrorizing the wizarding world, taking hostages left, right, and centre. Thinking up terrible rituals. And one lone, brave Auror Apparates in to save the day. It's hilarious, really.'

Snape looked offended. Harry bit his tongue not to burst out laughing. Hermione looked like that, too. She couldn't bear Harry talking badly about a book – even if the book was a trashy novel.

'So, what do you do that you can just take off a day or two?' Snape finally asked.

Harry grinned and tilted his chair back. 'Auror.' He laughed at Snape's stunned expression. 'Which is why the books are so entertaining. Especially those by Abraham Wright. He's an ex-Auror who was demoted to Hit Wizard in the post-Voldemort purge. He's been writing Auror novels ever since. Kind of rewriting his own history. Making himself look like a hero. The really funny thing is how much he gets wrong about Auror procedures.' Harry sniggered.

Snape gave him a strange look.

'What?'

'Somehow you don't strike me as someone who would laugh about something like Auror incompetence,' the boy said slowly, and then his expression became completely bewildered, as though he didn't know why he was of that opinion.

'Oh.' Harry's grin vanished. 'Well, not usually, no. But Wright, he's just so pathetic. Gets so much wrong. And … and it's better to laugh about his books, and tell everyone how stupid you think it is than get angry about it.'

Snape was still frowning. 'But why did I…? Oh. A memory of my older self?'

Harry nodded. 'Yeah, must've been.'

Deep in thought, Snape finished his breakfast. Harry sat back, sipping on his cup of tea and watching the boy. When Snape finally pushed his empty plate aside, Harry leant forwards.

'Okay, let's think about what to do about you until this youth flash stops.'

Snape immediately hunched his shoulders, fingers wrapped tightly around his cup, and scowled at Harry. 'I'll stay here, you go to work, we wait. What else is there?'

'Well, your letter told me I'm to take care of your well-being.'

'Yeah, and so?'

'Oh, we need to talk about how you can get something to eat while I'm at work and you're not allowed to do magic.' Harry looked the boy over. 'And clothes. You'll need something that fits. We'll need to change my wards to include you. And exclude people who would mean harm to you. And, I don't know, perhaps you'd like to have something else? I mean, something to do besides reading books? You tell me.'

Snape looked uncomfortable. He pulled his robes closer around his thin body. 'I've got something to wear,' he said stiffly. 'I don't need charity.'

Harry rolled his eyes, but insisted. He remembered all too well how much he hated Dudley's hand-me-downs – and the flashes he'd seen of a weirdly dressed Snape in the man's memories. 'Nonsense. You need clothes that fit. I know a neat little shop that sells Muggle-style clothes; we'll find you something there. Oh, you can pay me back once you've returned to your older self, if you insist.'

The boy blinked at him, seeming surprised, but Harry didn't pay much attention to him. He was already thinking about how to change his wards to accommodate Snape and his special needs.

'Hey, you wouldn't accidentally remember who those people are that want you for the tests, do you?'

The boy sneered at him. It gave Harry pause. Somehow, it looked a lot different than the adult Snape's sneer.

'Of course I don't remember.'

'Oh, well.' Harry got up and wandered over to the living room, trying to remember where he had put the ward stone. 'You haven't found anything in your house that would give us some clues?'

Snape followed him, trailing a black train behind him. 'Contrary to what you seem to believe, I did not ransack the house.'

At Snape's awfully formal tone, Harry looked up from digging through a chest. One glance at Snape's rigid back and blank face, and Harry knew he'd insulted him. He opened his mouth to apologise, but Snape beat him to it.

'What are you doing, anyway?'

'Oh. I'm looking for my ward stone.' Harry smiled. 'Sorry. I didn't mean to imply you'd go around snooping. Just thought you might have seen something when looking around. I can't imagine your older self would have put a letter addressed to himself somewhere open on the off chance he'd turn into a child. Sorry. Underaged wizard.'

Snape shrugged, uncomfortable. 'Why do you have a ward stone?' he asked, completely ignoring the apology. 'No single wizard needs one. Only the large places, like Hogwarts and the Ministry, need stones to anchor the wards. Every wizard or witch is capable of carrying the wards on their homes themselves.'

Harry suppressed a grin. Snape really reminded him of Hermione. 'I need strong wards,' he explained. 'You know, me being the one to vanquish the Dark Lord, and all that. My wards need to keep a lot of people out. And being an Auror, I can't carry those wards myself. They'd collapse every time I needed to use a lot of magic and that would leave my home unprotected.'

'If you say so.' Snape sniffed contemptuously. 'And you keep the ward stone hidden in your living room?'

'Aha!' Harry dove under a large, fern-like plant – a present from Neville – that was enthroned on a stool, and dragged a small box made of dark, polished wood out from underneath it. 'There you are! Yes,' he added, turning towards Snape. 'I always hide it here. Last place people look for it.'

He grinned at Snape's expression and carried the box over to the fireplace where they had sat last night. Sitting down, he tapped the box with his wand to open it. The lid dissolved, revealing the ward stone, a facetted, dark green stone that seemed to vibrate ever so slightly. Snape edged closer, eyes intent on the stone.

'Okay.' Harry put the open box onto the small table and waved Snape over. 'Come here. Let's try to figure out how to add you to the wards.'

Adding Snape to his wards turned out to be easy, though it took a lot of time since Harry had to proceed carefully. However, changing the wards so that they would keep away wizards and witches who meant harm to the boy was a lot more difficult. More than once the wards began to tangle, making the stone throb warningly, as they struggled to reconcile some of Harry's friends with the person Snape was and with what "harm" actually meant. Harry cursed when a ward line that allowed Ron access to Harry's house once more snagged around the "harm" line in Snape's pattern.

'You have some very interesting friends,' Snape, who was very pale, commented.

Harry snorted. 'No, you're a paranoid bastard. Ron's not dangerous to you, but he's working with his brother at their joke shop and … well, people at Hogwarts generally thought that George and Fred, who founded the shop, were even more trouble than my dad and Sirius had been.' He looked at Snape out of the corner of his eye and saw the boy flinch a little.

'Ah,' was all Snape said.

The wards kept tangling.

Finally, Harry gave up. Sweat-soaked and panting, he put the stone back into its hiding place. 'We'll need to find out who, exactly, could be a danger to you and add them individually to the wards,' he huffed.

'That would be a good idea, if we knew who those people are,' Snape said patronisingly.

Harry scowled at him. 'Yeah, which is why we need to find out. We'll go to your place and have a look around. Your letter said you'd been writing to these people. There ought to be some names around for us to find. Um. That is.' Harry hesitated, looked at Snape. 'If that's all right with you? To go through your stuff?'

The boy once more looked surprised. 'I,' he began, then shook his head. He seemed to think about it and finally gave a short nod. 'I would like to go to my house,' he said. 'I … I must have made notes about the "youth flashes". Perhaps I can find out more.'

Harry nodded. 'Okay, good.' He wiped his brow. 'Hey, let me get changed and we'll be on our way.'

'To my house?'

Harry wondered why it was that he apparently kept surprising Snape. 'Well, yes, that too, though later. First we'll go to that shop near Bristol and get some clothes for you. Something you can move in easily,' he went on when Snape opened his mouth to protest. 'You're a walking fire hazard like that.'

Snape glowered at him.

Harry got changed and then dragged a very reluctant Snape with him to Patty's. Patricia McCaull was a Squib who specialised in designing Muggle-style clothes for wizards and witches. Her jeans might look like ordinary jeans, but they had special pockets for wands or potions phials, and some shirts came with specially reinforced sleeves to protect the wearer during ingredients gathering. Plus, since she wasn't actually part of the wizarding world, she didn't much care about who and what Harry was. She was happy to accept his Galleons (which her brother would change into Muggle money for her) and never considered trying to earn more by selling stories about what "The Boy Who Lived Wears This Summer". Harry almost loved shopping there.

Thankfully, the shop was nearly empty when Harry and Snape showed up. Patty was busy advising two witches when they entered and only nodded and smiled at them. Harry waved, signalling that she could take her time with her other customers, and pushed Snape through an arched doorway into the wizard's section. Snape at first showed even less interest in clothes than Harry usually did, but once he discovered Patty's clever additions, he not only became interested, he actually went looking for his own clothes.

There was a brief discussion when he finally saw a price tag – Patty was expensive – and he wouldn't allow Harry to pay for him. Harry reminded the boy that, if he wanted, he could pay the money back once he'd returned to being an adult, or consider it part of the Life Debt. Snape stopped arguing and only glowered.

At one point, Patty showed up, and she actually managed to talk Snape into buying more clothes than the single set he had insisted on. Harry withdrew and watched the battle from the distance, not at all surprised when Patty emerged victorious. But when Snape emerged wearing black jeans and a dark-red jumper over a black t-shirt, Harry was stunned.

Wow. The boy looked … nice. Thin and pale and his nose was still too big, but overall he looked much better than Harry had thought possible. Wow.

Snape glowered at Harry and marched to the cash desk, a bag with his old robes in one hand, and several more clothes hung over his other arm. He dumped everything on the counter for Patty to ring up the amount, his glower getting darker when he heard the final sum.

'I'll settle it with Gringotts directly, Mr Potter, shall I?'

Harry nodded and went over to sign the slip that permitted her to withdraw the correct amount of Galleons from his vault. Patty packed Snape's new clothes into self-shrinking bags and handed them to Harry, who handed them to Snape, who looked at them suspiciously before putting them into the pocket of his new jeans.

'I'll pay you back as soon as I've re-aged,' he informed Harry stiffly.

Harry shrugged. 'Okay.'

Then he dragged Snape with him to a Muggle grocery shop to buy a few more supplies, badgering the boy about what foods he liked. Snape kept insisting that he didn't need anything special, until a small girl gave him a wide-eyed look and squeaked, 'Don't be stupid, you could make him buy you lots of sweets!'

Snape flushed but relented and shyly pointed out some fruit and sweets he liked. Harry winked at the girl and dumped double of everything Snape told him into the shopping cart. Snape followed him to the checkout with wide eyes.

'I … thank you,' he said a bit breathlessly as he followed Harry into an alley near the store where Harry could shrink the bags and Apparate them. 'You didn't have to buy me things I liked at all. I'm sure my older self wouldn't think you careless about fulfilling the Life Debt if you hadn't.'

Harry smiled at him, a small ache in his chest. 'Of course I didn't have to. But I remember being your age, and since taking you to Honeyduke's wouldn't be a good idea, Muggle sweets will have to do.' He flicked his wand at the bags, and they shrunk obediently. 'Okay, ready to Apparate to your home?'

Snape blinked and slowly reached out to take Harry's arm for Side-Along Apparation. Harry checked the mouth of the alley to make sure no Muggle could see them.

'You know where I live?' Snape asked as Harry raised his wand.

'Yeah, and I hope you haven't changed your wards to keep me out.'

He hadn't, and only seconds later, Harry and Snape found themselves at the dead end of a narrow alley that ran towards a lively street. The alley was bordered by gardens on both sides.

Harry led Snape to the first gate on the left. It opened into a small garden at the back of a red-brick house.

'Here, you'd better go first,' he said. 'I don't know how your wards might react if I barged through without you being home.'

Snape eyed him curiously, but then did as Harry told him. The wards flared for a moment but settled, and they remained quiet when Harry followed him through the gate.

'You've come to visit me?' Snape asked curiously.

Harry grimaced. 'No, not visited. But after the war, there were some people who wanted to see you in Azkaban. The DMLE thought it would calm people down when they knew that you were under regular Auror observation, and—'

'I can't believe I agreed to that!' Snape stopped and glared at Harry.

'You didn't. Not at first.' Harry prodded the boy up the back stairs towards the door. 'You need to open the door. I know I can't.'

'Open how? I'm not allowed to do magic, remember?' Snape sneered.

'Just touch your wand to the lock.'

'That's magic, too.'

'You want me to give you a written permit to open your own fucking door?' Harry growled.

Snape huffed, but he dug his wand out and touched it to the lock. The door glowed green and opened. Instead of entering, however, he turned to stare at Harry.

'So, if I didn't agree to Auror observation, why do you know you can get through wards set by my older self?'

Harry wondered if Snape was stalling. It probably wasn't easy for him to enter this house, his own house, and be faced with a life he couldn't remember.

'Well, the Head Auror pointed out to you that, if the public knew you were under observation, they were less likely to do something stupid. And if they did, there would be someone to help you and arrest your attacker.'

Snape's thin lips twisted into an ugly smile that Harry remembered only too well. 'And you won that questionable privilege, oh Chosen One?'

Harry gaped, and then actually laughed. 'Gosh, no! I was only an Auror trainee, after all! You had three different Aurors during the first five years, and then Robertson, the Head Auror, decided that I'd be the best for the job. I think the last Auror complained about you threatening him. And then you all but killed an attacker and Shipley, the Auror on duty, almost couldn't stop you. He refused to come back after he was released from St Mungo's, and Robertson assigned me. He probably assumed that after Voldemort, I could deal with you.'

Snape had cocked his head. 'Did I threaten you?' he asked, almost gleeful.

Harry huffed. 'Of course you did. And I threatened you right back. We then had what the report later termed "an argument" and got our differences settled. Off the record, we both hexed the other, and you healed me if I promised not to write about the duel in my report, and I promised not to be a nuisance if you cooperated. You've set your wards so that I can enter your house when you're in, and we've only had to meet three or four times when some idiot tried to break in and kill you.'

The boy gaped at him. 'K-kill me?'

'Mmhmm. At least one of them carried a knife and made it as far as your bedroom door. Another one managed to break into your lab and fiddle with your potions before you took her down, and I arrived just in time to throw up a Shield before whatever that witch had done set off an explosion that was meant to kill you.'

'But,' the boy shook his head, eyes wide, 'if you've done that, I mean, saved my life in that explosion, why would I invoke the Life Debt now? Wouldn't it already be fulfilled?'

'Because you're a paranoid bastard and don't want to ask me for help.' Harry shrugged. 'I don't know. You probably convinced yourself that those times before didn't fulfil the Debt since I was only doing my job, and that I would never help you with this if I didn't have that Debt dangling over my head.'

Snape looked thoughtful, a little doubtful. 'Hmm.'

Harry shrugged again. 'Never mind that now. Are you going to enter?'

Snape hesitated, then took a deep breath, straightened, and shot Harry a quick look as if to gauge whether Harry had seen him preparing himself. Harry made sure to look at the door, and finally Snape turned and pushed it open.

They entered into a small, tiled room that led to the kitchen. Lights sprang on each time Snape went into a room, making him twitch every time. Harry thought it best to ignore that, too. Instead, he said, 'Okay, let's go looking for clues. I know you have one bedroom made up as an office, and that there are lots of things down in your lab. Probably your journals are down there. Letters more likely in the office. So, do we split or look together?'

Snape looked around, a little helpless. 'I'm … not sure. Splitting would be faster but if there are wards …'

'Um, I could come with you to the lab and look around for wards, if you'd like,' Harry offered, unsure of his reception.

But to his surprise, Snape nodded. 'Yes. Thank you.'

Harry nodded back and preceded him down the stairs to the lab in the basement, thinking how different the boy was to the man. The adult Snape Harry knew would never, ever have admitted he couldn't see wards, or accepted Harry's help, and he definitely wouldn't have let Harry be alone in any room of his house if he could help it.

Harry wondered what the adult Snape would think about his younger self's actions once he'd re-aged. The letter had mentioned that Snape remembered what happened during the youth flash.

There was a simple locking spell on the door to the lab that Harry was able to dismantle easily. The lab itself was free of wards, but most of the cupboards and cabinets were locked and warded. In a corner, there was another desk, its drawers warded even more heavily than some of the ingredient cupboards. Harry pointed out where the wards were and what he thought they hid. Snape nodded, twisting his wand between his fingers. Harry eyed the wand and came to a decision.

'Listen, Snape. This is your house. And, underaged or not, your magic won't be noticeable here. So, if you need to use magic to get through wards, use it. No need to come and get me. Most likely I won't be able to get through your wards, anyway. You might, though.'

The boy's head snapped up and he looked at Harry out of narrowed eyes. 'Permitting underaged magic, Mr Potter? And you being an Auror. Does the Ministry know you're breaking the rules?'

Harry snorted. 'Snape, I'm famous for breaking rules. You spent six years trying to get me expelled from Hogwarts for that reason. The Ministry has its reasons for not allowing underaged wizards to perform magic. I think most of them are ridiculous. Besides, there are exceptions to the rules, and you know it. So. If it helps you, wait until I have left the room, then you can pretend that you're a sneaky Slytherin going behind the dunderheaded Gryffindor's back.' He flashed a wide grin at Snape, who was looking mildly stunned, and left the lab.

A little later, he felt the ripple of magic as wards were tested and then lifted. Harry smiled and set to working his way through the office.

It didn't take him long. Snape was a very neat person, and he had his letters sorted in files. The files were in turn sorted on the shelves by topic in "Business", "Research", and "Special Project". There was a fourth stack, labelled "Hands off, Potter!", which made Harry think that this was private. He laughed a little, and felt a little guilty, and resisted the temptation to take a peek. Snape wouldn't forgive him if he snooped again. Thinking the "Special Project" files were the most likely ones, Harry concentrated on those.

He was right, and again Snape's neat streak helped, for each file was labelled with the other person's name and reason for writing. After thumbing through the first few files to make sure that these were indeed letters about the botched curse, Harry simply began noting down the names on the files. There were three Unspeakables, two of whom Harry had never heard of, and a surprisingly large number of Healers from St Mungo's. At a glance, it seemed as though Snape was in contact with every Healer on the Spell Damage ward, and then some. Harry simply took down the names. It was a depressingly long list.

Harry sighed and put everything back where he'd got it from, and then went down to the lab.

At first, he didn't see Snape at all. And then he saw a very nice arse raised invitingly up into the air.

Harry's cock took an interest before Harry's brain caught on and he realised who that pert bottom belonged to.

Good god, who'd ever have thought Snape had an arse like that?

Harry shifted to give his erection some room to grow, and then realised, horrified, what he was doing and who he was staring at. He flushed and withdrew, needing privacy to subdue his body, silently cursing himself. It hadn't been that long that the mere sight of a shapely arse should be able to get him that hot and bothered. Besides, it was Snape!

Not to mention that, right now, Snape was a minor and under Harry's care.

There probably was a special place reserved in hell for people who lusted after underaged wizards.

Harry felt a little sick. Thankfully, that helped getting his stupid cock down. Taking several deep, calming breaths, Harry got himself under control. Then he went in search of the rest of Snape.

When he entered the lab again, he found the boy kneeling next to a trunk he'd been digging through. There was a pile of slender books on the floor next to him, and Snape was browsing through another one.

'Found something useful?' Harry asked as he stepped closer.

Snape looked up, eyes distant. He blinked, and they snapped back into focus. It was oddly adorable. Harry fought a smile.

'Oh. Yes.' The boy pointed to the books. 'These are my journals. I have apparently prepared for this to happen. For me to become an underaged wizard. There was another letter with those journals that explained some things, and the journals are really helpful, too. I.' He paused and looked hesitantly at Harry. 'That is, I'd like to take them with me.'

'Oh, sure,' Harry nodded. 'That'd probably be best. Would you like to take the whole trunk or only some of the journals?'

Snape stared, surprised. It was getting very weird, Harry thought. 'What? Did you think I'd tell you no?'

Snape blushed and looked away. He put the journals back in the trunk and closed the lid. 'I'd like to take the whole trunk, please'

Well, that would be a yes, then. Harry began to wonder about Snape's experiences if simply saying yes to a small request surprised the boy like that.

Unfortunately, he couldn't shrink the trunk, so they had to Floo back to Harry's place. Harry hated Flooing, but Flooing with luggage was even worse. He sent Snape through first, hoping the wards would accept the boy, and locked Snape's place up as best as he could. He set some additional wards that would warn him if someone tried to break into Snape's house. Then he reluctantly grabbed the trunk and Flooed home.

Bruised and dizzy, he stumbled out of his fireplace – to find Ron there, his wand drawn and pointing at Snape.

It took a moment for Ron's yells to register. Harry blinked, looked from his best friend to Snape (wand drawn, perfect duelling position, great, and he'd have to scold the boy later), and shook his head.

'What the fuck is going on here?'

Ron's yelling stopped the moment he saw Harry. 'That's what I could ask you, mate. Who's that and what's he doing here? He looks like Snape. Is he moving in?'

Harry rubbed the scar on his forehead and sighed. 'Ron, he doesn't look like Snape, that is Snape. And before you get any funny ideas into your head, I'm bound by the Life Debt I owe him to take care of his well-being. That includes you hexing him. Don't even think about it. I'd be forced to do something I don't like.'

Ron gaped at him. 'What? You? Snape? That?'

The boy sneered, and Harry noted absently that this time, it looked very much like Professor Snape at his best. Worst. Whatever.

'Um, Ron, do you think we could take this somewhere that is not in front of my Floo? And put your wand away, please. That goes for you as well, Snape. Underaged magic, and all that. Hexing my best friend doesn't count as an emergency, you know.'

Snape bared his teeth at Harry, glared at Ron, and ostentatiously put his wand into his pocket. Ron blinked at the boy, then at Harry, and sighed. 'Okay, okay. You come in properly and make tea, and I'll call Hermione over, then you can tell us both at the same time. How's that?'

'Sure, whatever. Hey, Floo to that place in Diagon that delivers and get us something to eat, will you? We haven't had anything since breakfast, and I could eat a Hippogriff.'

'Don't let Buckbeak hear that.' Ron grinned, and Harry herded Snape and his trunk out of the small room.

Harry directed both trunk and Snape into his living room. 'Sorry about that,' he said as he put the trunk down. 'Was Ron here when you arrived?'

'Yes, and he didn't let me say anything before he started yelling at me,' Snape said indignantly. 'Is he really your best friend?'

'Yup. Never mind him, he's a bit overprotective sometimes.' Harry smiled weakly.

'He's an idiot,' the boy said crushingly.

'He's my best friend and he doesn't like you, well, your older self, much,' Harry tried to explain as he went to the kitchen. 'He probably took one look at you, jumped to conclusions, and decided he needed to rescue me.'

The boy followed him, snorting. 'Jumps to conclusions and decides he needs to rescue you? Do you need rescuing often? Wonderful, I entrusted my life to a thoughtless thrill-seeker. Besides, he'd get a lot more answers if he yelled less and gave others a chance to explain.'

'Hey, Harry's not a thoughtless thrill-seeker!' Ron exclaimed from the kitchen door. He glared at Snape, who glared right back at him. Harry leant against the counter and laughed helplessly. Ron and Snape turned to glare at him. Harry laughed harder. Hermione pushed into the kitchen next to Ron and looked at the three guys.

'Anyone interested in telling me what is going on?' she said, sounding annoyed. 'Ron Flooed to tell me someone impersonating Snape was encroaching upon Harry, and here I find him in a tussle with a child and Harry laughing his head off.'

'I am not a child!' Snape snarled at Hermione. There was his wand again.

Hermione straightened, about to deliver a lecture, from her expression. Harry was laughing so hard his knees gave out and he sank to the floor. Now all three of them gave him disgusted looks.

'What the hell is so funny?' Ron sulked.

Harry waved a hand. 'You guys,' he wheezed. 'Oh, man, some things just never change.'

'Harry, would you please—' Hermione began. Harry waved his other hand, shushing her.

'Yes, yes, Hermione, I will. Okay.' He bit back another howl of laughter and pointed to his friends. 'You guys go to the living room and sit down. Snape and I will get the tea ready and follow you. No, Hermione, explanations later. Shoo.'

Hermione huffed and rolled her eyes before leaving and dragging Ron with her. As the door closed behind them, he could hear her starting to grill Ron. Snape gave him a sullen look.

'I'm not a child,' he mumbled.

Harry grinned. 'I know. That was just Hermione being confused. She probably was ready to be all worried about me until she found a situation that was very different to the one she expected. She tends to become more and more like Professor McGonagall in situations like that. Oh, I ought to mention you'd best get that wand out of sight, or she'll lecture first you and then me. And you don't want a Hermione-lecture.'

Snape stared at him and seemed to be about to say something nasty, but he closed his mouth again and put his wand away. Harry nodded, getting to his feet. With a wave of his own wand, he set the kettle to boiling and got the tea tray out.

'Incidentally, perfect duelling position. If you were a bit older, I'd take you to Auror Headquarters and let you give our trainees a run for their money.'

Snape made a funny, choked noise and busied himself with arranging teacups on the tray. When Harry looked over at him, his pale cheeks were flushed a deep red. Harry smiled, and when the kettle sang, he took take care of the tea. He was about to lead the way back to the living room when he thought of something.

'Uh, Snape, I … Er, say, do you mind if I call you Severus? Seems weird, somehow, to call you Snape.'

The boy blinked. 'Ah? Oh. N-no.'

'Okay. Hey, you can call me Harry, too. Anyway, Severus, I just wondered … Do you want to be there when I tell my friends about you? I mean, they'll probably say things that you don't want to hear. So if you'd rather stay away, you can. You know, if you'd rather go and put your clothes away or oh! The groceries!'

Harry dug the shrunk bags out of his pockets and re-sized them, putting them on the kitchen table. Snape immediately stepped forwards and took them.

'I think I'll put these away,' he said, not looking at Harry. His face was still rather flushed.

Harry nodded sympathetically. 'Okay. Take your time. I'll keep a cup of tea for you, though, okay?'

Snape grunted something from inside a bag, which Harry took as assent. Leaving him to putter around in his kitchen, Harry gathered the tray and went to the living room.

Ron and Hermione were sitting on the sofa. They'd obviously been talking to each other but looked up when Harry came in. He gave them a small smile. 'So, let me sit down and get a cup of tea, and then we can talk.'

Hermione nodded and took over pouring each of them a cup of tea. 'Is Snape not coming?' she asked.

'Thanks, Hermione. No, he's putting groceries away. I thought it would be better if he wasn't around while I told you. Especially considering the first thing Ron did when he saw him was start yelling.'

'Hey, mate, I came to look for you because Grant says you haven't been in to HQ today. But you weren't home, and then the fireplace spat him out! He sneered just like Snape. What was I supposed to do?' Ron protested.

'Stop yelling long enough for him to explain?' Harry suggested but grinned.

Ron grabbed a biscuit from the tray. 'Well, if you can stay calm in the face of that sneer then you're a better man than me.'

Harry laughed. 'Actually, I've never been able to stay calm in the face of that sneer, have I?'

Ron winked at him. Hermione rolled her eyes. 'Okay, so that boy really is Snape, Harry?'

Harry nodded, and then quickly told his friends what had happened, the boy showing up with the letter, Snape explaining the botched curse, and the Life Debt. He ended with asking them both to promise that they wouldn't talk to anybody else about Snape.

'The longer I can keep it secret, the safer he is,' he said, looking at both of his friends.

Hermione nodded emphatically. 'Of course I promise, Harry.' Her eyes glowed and there were pink spots on her cheeks. She was clearly already pondering Snape's plight and how to help him. Ron, on the other hand, only gaped.

'Wait, that means you're saddled with Snape? A teenage Snape? Until Merlin knows when?'

Harry shrugged. 'Looks like.'

'Damn. That's awful. I'm sorry, mate.'

'What for? He hasn't been that bad, so far.'

'So far.'

'Ron.' Hermione's tone was disapproving. Harry grinned into his teacup.

'What?'

'He's a boy, now. Not the man who was our professor. If you're nasty to him, you're treating him the same way he treated us.'

'Yeah, serves him right,' Ron agreed.

'But did you like him being nasty to us? Did you think it was fair?' Hermione sat up, eyes flashing. 'Do you think he was right to act the way he did?'

'Whoa, hey, Hermione! Of course not!'

'Then you shouldn't do the same thing!'

'Wha—?' Ron wrinkled his brow. 'But … I'm not. Hermione, I'm not! I'm not a nasty git like Snape!'

'Then be nice to the boy.' Hermione gave him a hard look before she turned to Harry. 'What do you plan to do about him, Harry?'

'What can I do?' Harry shrugged. 'He said in his letter he doesn't want me to help him find a way to stop the flashes or lift the curse. He just wants me to take care of him while he can't do so himself. What else is there to do but wait?'

'But there has to be something we can do.' Hermione frowned.

We? Ron mouthed, eyes wide.

'Thank you, but that is not necessary,' Snape said from the door. He came over to stand next to Harry's armchair, meeting Hermione's eyes but without anger or condescension. 'I have my journals. I'll work through them and see what can be done.'

Hermione blinked. 'Journals? Harry only mentioned a letter.'

'We went to his house for information,' Harry explained. 'Which reminds me. Hermione, I need to get some people added as dangerous to my wards. I tried before in general terms, but that didn't work. I've got some names, though, now. Think you can help me with that?'

'Oh, yes, of course, that is easy,' Hermione readily agreed.

'Dangerous?' Ron asked suspiciously.

'To Severus.' Harry nodded, ignoring his friends' surprise at hearing him use the name. 'I told you how the letter said … Oh, heck, where is the damn thing, anyway?'

Snape – Severus – gave him an incredulous look. 'Are you always this careless with important things?' Then he pointed to the fireplace. 'I put it on the mantelpiece.'

Hermione gave Harry a stern look. 'Yes, Harry has been known to be careless on occasion.' She got the letter, ignoring Harry's spluttering. Snape – Severus – grinned a little uncertainly.

'Hey, two against one is unfair,' Harry mock-complained. Severus's grin tickled him pink. 'Ron, a little support here, mate?'

Ron looked from one to the other, wide-eyed. 'Uh …'

Hermione slapped him over the head with the letter. 'Don't say anything wrong if you can avoid it, Ron.' She sat down, letter open in her lap. 'Okay, let's have a look at the wards then.'

For the next hour, Harry and Hermione, with occasional help from Severus, added the names of the Healers and Unspeakables Snape had corresponded with as potential threats to Harry's wards. Hermione suggested some minor changes to the general wards, so that they could warn against people meaning Snape harm in a way that threatened the terms of the Life Debt. It was too theoretical for Harry, so he just nodded. Severus, though, was interested, and he and Hermione got into a heated discussion, first on theory and wards, then on Severus's condition.

Ron just watched, stunned, and got the food when the delivery came. Later, he and Harry played wizard chess, while Hermione and Severus fought over what seemed to Harry minor details of potion brewing. He lost big time to Ron because he spent more time watching Severus than the chess board.

It was an odd but relaxing evening, Harry thought later when he lay in bed. He had enjoyed watching Severus, lively and animated, talking to Hermione. Watching them talk and argue without contempt on either side.

It really was no trouble at all, having Snape – Severus – here.

*

Day Four

Harry returned home early from the Ministry. This was the first day after Severus's arrival on his doorstep that Harry had gone to work, and he had been jittery all day. Anticipating something. Trouble.

He hadn't been worried about Severus. He knew the boy would be all right for the eight hours Harry was away. He had books and his journals, and there was enough food in the pantry that didn't need to be cooked for Severus's lunch. Plus, Harry had given him the Floo code for a direct connection to the Auror Headquarters.

Harry had felt a little silly, fussing like that. More than once, he was reminded of Mrs Weasley. And Severus's expression occasionally resembled the one Harry must have worn when Mrs Weasley had been mothering him.

Still. Harry found himself taking the Life Debt very seriously. Besides, doing his best to keep Severus as safe as possible made him feel better. That was just who he was, keeping people safe.

However, despite his precautions and his strengthened wards, Harry had felt … not nervous but agitated. He couldn't quiet his mind, and so he went home early. Some of his colleagues looked up from their desks as he left, but by now the whole department knew about the Life Debt he was bound to fulfil, and no one protested him leaving.

When Harry arrived home, he knew immediately that his feeling had been right. The wards hummed with an alien touch. Someone had tried to get it.

Harry hurried to get inside from his warded Apparation point.

'Severus?' he called out the moment the door closed behind him. There was a thump from the living room, and the boy appeared in the doorway.

'Yes?'

'Everything all right?'

Severus blinked. 'Yes, of course. Oh! There was someone here earlier today. They tried to get in.'

Harry nodded grimly. 'Yes, I felt their touch on the wards. Did you see who it was?'

'No. But it was an Unspeakable.'

Harry paused in hanging his coat up. 'Oh?'

Severus nodded. 'I was in the living room, and I heard the ward stone hum. So I went upstairs and looked out of the window. It's a good spot, that hall window, because it reflects a little and no one can see in from the outside.'

Harry nodded. He knew that.

'I couldn't see their face, but I think it was a man. Too broad for a woman. And he wore the kind of grey robes that all Unspeakables seem to wear.'

Harry took a deep breath. 'So they already know you're here. Of course, with you gone and everyone at the Ministry knowing I was away dealing with a Life Debt, they probably put two and two together. And when I went in to work this morning, they must have decided to come and try.'

Severus shrugged and went back to the living room. 'They might have already known they'd find me here with you.'

Harry followed him, frowning. 'How would they?'

Severus gave him an exasperated look. 'Oh, I don't know. Perhaps because you're the Auror whose duty it is to keep an eye on me? Who was most likely to find me first if they didn't. And they're Unspeakables. I'm sure they knew about the Life Debt, and that I would claim it to get away from them. They're not stupid, you know.'

Harry gritted his teeth, trying to keep his temper under control. The expression on Severus's face, the tone of his voice, and most of all, the implication in the words – they all reminded him too much of his days at Hogwarts. 'Well, good thing you took precautions,' he grated out.

The boy gave him a somewhat condescending smile. 'Of course.'

Harry took a deep breath to calm himself and caught a whiff that reminded him of the boys' dorm in Gryffindor tower. Distracted, he took a closer look at the boy who had sat back down on the sofa with one of his journals. Yep, definitely greasy hair. A lot greasier than four days ago, when Severus had shown up on Harry's door step. He hadn't showered since, had he? Well, Harry thought with an unholy delight, he couldn't do anything about the attitude, but he could do something about that.

'Okay, fine, whatever,' he said with a wave of his hand. 'The important thing is that no one got through the wards. Did the ward stone come under pressure?'

'Hm?' Severus looked up. 'The stone? No, I don't think so. It hummed but nothing else. I think it would have given an alarm if the pressure became too strong, wouldn't it?'

'Well, it should, yes. So the Unspeakable tested the wards and tried to get through but launched no strong attack.' Harry nodded. 'Probably was aware that doing so would alarm Headquarters.'

'Would it?' Severus's head snapped back up. He suddenly looked far more interested.

'Oh, yes.' Harry gave him a somewhat nasty smile. 'There are a few reporters who found that out. Now they have a lot of time to think about how stupid that was – Azkaban doesn't offer many distractions.'

'So, if someone tried to get through, you'd know immediately?'

Harry looked at the boy, a little surprised. 'Yes, of course. You're perfectly safe here.'

Severus blinked several times. His face twitched. He swallowed once, but the only thing he said was, 'Good.'

Harry shook his head as he regarded the thin figure. Now that it was gone, he noticed how tense Severus had been. Silly boy. What had he thought Harry had changed the wards for? But that was Severus Snape all over.

'Okay, come on, then,' Harry said with a smile and turned towards the kitchen.

'What?'

'Dinner.' Harry grinned over his shoulder. 'That is, I'll prepare dinner, and you'll go have a shower.'

Severus sank back onto the sofa. His eyebrows pulled down. 'I don't need a shower.'

Harry's grin broadened. 'Oh, yes, you do. You're a teenager, and all teenage boys need to shower. Daily. And wash your hair.'

The boy flinched as though someone had hit him, and then sat up straight, fists clenched at his sides. 'I am not a child who needs to be told what to do,' he snarled. 'I can take care of myself.'

'I don't doubt that.' Really, Harry was having far too much fun with this. 'That doesn't change the fact that you need a shower. Somewhat badly, I might add.'

Severus's face flushed an ugly red and he surged to his feet. 'I don't have to listen to you insult me, Life Debt or not.'

'Hey, I wasn't insulting you,' Harry protested, still grinning. 'Only pointing out the fact you need a shower. Really, it's not that bad. There's unlimited hot water, too, and you can use my shampoo.'

Somewhere in those words must have been something very wrong to say, though Harry hadn't a clue what it was. But it set Severus off into a snarling, spitting rage, reminding Harry of an alley cat he had once encountered on a stakeout. The tom had bristled and hissed at him just as Severus was doing. The comparison amused Harry.

The words Severus spat at him, however, did not.

There was a lot about being an arrogant Potter, just like his father, in what Severus said. It moved Harry back a decade or more, back to the classroom where he had to listen to Snape unfairly berate and insult him. He'd drawn and pointed his wand before he knew what he was doing, and the sight of its tip pointing at an unarmed, underaged civilian shocked Harry back into his right mind.

'Enough,' he snapped and shoved his wand back into its holster. 'I don't care what you think about me. You invoked the Life Debt and enjoined me to take care of your well-being. So I'm doing that. And you will go and take a shower.'

Severus was trembling all over but bared his teeth at him, not backing down. 'I sure as hell don't think that's what I meant when I said—'

'I don't care if that's what you meant or not,' Harry snapped back, interrupting the boy. 'If it wasn't, then it's your mistake. Be more precise next time. Now. Shower.'

The boy drew himself up straight. He was thin but almost as tall as Harry. 'I don't have to do what you tell me. You have no power over me, Potter!'

Harry snorted. 'Spare me the dramatics, Snape. You didn't intimidate me when you where twenty years older than me. You won't intimidate me now. And you will find that I have power over you – you gave it to me yourself. Now, I suggest you make use of the shower. Or I will make you.'

Severus glared at him, and Harry glared right back. They were both panting and snarling, Severus's hands were clenched into fists, and Harry had taken refuge in clinging to the doorknob to prevent himself from drawing his wand again. They stared at each other silently for what felt like a very long time. Finally, Severus whirled away.

'Fine, I'll go and use your damned shower!' he yelled as he stomped away.

'Use the soap!' Harry shouted after him.

Severus's answer consisted of a number of expletives and an, 'I hate you!' screamed in a cracked voice.

A door slammed upstairs. Harry fell back against the doorjamb and sighed.

Taking care of a teenaged Snape was more difficult than he'd expected.

*

Day Seven

Saturdays, Harry firmly believed, should not be spent at work.

Yet with his unexpected absence during the previous week, his boss had suggested that Harry might want to come in on Saturday to clear up his paperwork. There hadn't been anything Harry could say against that – there was an awful lot of paperwork to be done, and with the three days he'd been missing, the mountain had only grown. So Harry struggled out of bed and went to work.

He hadn't wanted to leave his house at all. Part of that was due to his dislike for paperwork, and he could imagine better ways to spend his time on a Saturday than brooding over boring formulas and unintelligible law texts. The larger part was his worry for Severus.

He hadn't seen much of the boy over the past couple of days as Severus had mostly spent the time locked up in his room. Whether he was forty or fifteen, the man could sulk for the Wizarding World Games. And while Harry worried what a sulking Severus might get up to, his biggest worry was what others might do in an attempt to get the sulking Severus out of the safety of Harry's wards.

There had been no further attempts to breach his wards. But Harry believed the Unspeakables would try again, and the weekend was the best time for that. None of the Unspeakables had to be at work, so they could attack as a group. Harry's wards, even bound to the ward stone, could not withstand a full attack by a group of adult wizards.

Even if Harry was home, he wouldn't be able to fight them off for long, barely long enough for reinforcements to get there – and on a Saturday, those reinforcements would be nothing more than the two Aurors on duty. Not enough to fight off a group of Unspeakables.

But while Harry was away from home, he depended on his wards' alarm spells – and he wasn't sure the alarm would come in time for him to keep the Unspeakables away from Severus.

Harry left very, very reluctantly. His admonitions to Severus about being careful had not been well received. Once at headquarters, he spent most of his time listening with half an ear to the alarms instead of filling out forms. The rest of the time he spent wondering about his paranoia. Taking care of Severus seemed to turn him into Mad-Eye Moody.

By two o'clock, Harry decided he'd been there long enough. He hadn't got much done, true, but at least his boss couldn't say Harry hadn't been in.

Arriving home, Harry's first action was to check his wards. He felt very relieved – and more than a little foolish – when they proved untouched. No one had tried to take Severus away. Harry's mood immediately improved, and he thought he could even deal with a sulky (but these days always showered) Severus.

However, Severus seemed to be in a better mood as well. He had come out of his room and was once more sitting in the living room with his journals. He even deigned to greet Harry, and later approached him with a question about something he had read in one of his journals. Although there was little that Harry could tell him, Severus showed no impatience at Harry's lack of knowledge.

A little later, Harry was surprised to find himself in a lively discussion with Severus about defensive magic. That was something Harry knew a lot about, so he was able to answer Severus's questions and even hold his own against Severus's arguments.

It was almost fun, Harry realised. Sitting in his safe living room, on the sofa next to Severus, talking with him and watching his face flush with enthusiasm … it was amazingly nice.

Severus looked nice, too. It wasn't only his clothes. His face was less pale and, Harry thought, not as thin anymore. There was a small smile on his lips as he excitedly talked about Shield Charms, and it wasn't a nasty smile. With his hair clean and eyes sparkling with animation, Severus looked rather … handsome.

It was a pretty stunning discovery.

The chiming of the Floo alarm that signalled an incoming call made Harry blink. For one, dazed moment, he thought the sound was some kind of musical-magical emphasis on his discovery. Then he recognised the sound and shook his head. Getting to his feet, he mumbled an apology to Severus and left the living room, heading for his little Floo chamber.

He'd had the Floo moved from the living room to a separate chamber after he'd been surprised by Mrs Weasley one morning. Talking to the woman who was almost his mother while wearing nothing but underwear, his chest covered in bite-marks and his lover prowling down the hall stark naked, was not something he wanted to do ever again. With the Floo in a separate room, he at least had a chance of throwing on a robe – or getting his thoughts back in order after he'd just had the rug pulled out underneath his feet.

Harry was doubly glad for the additional seconds it took him to walk from living room to Floo chamber when he saw an unfamiliar face hovering in the flames.

Auror-trained skills helped him examine his caller quickly. Male; small, neat beard; high forehead; stern looking. The type of face his mentor at the Auror department had called the "should wear glasses"-type. Scholar. Instantly, Harry was wary.

'Good afternoon,' Harry greeted him with bland politeness while he sat down in the low chair in front of the fire.

The stranger's smile was equally bland and polite. 'Good afternoon, Mr Potter. My apologies for calling you unannounced. I had hoped to find you at home today.'

The wizard's slightly oily voice made the hairs at the back of Harry's neck rise. He didn't need his instincts to scream at him to know that whatever the man wanted from him, it wasn't something Harry would like. 'Well, you've found me at home,' he said, trying his best to remain calm and courteous. 'Is there something I can do for you?'

The wizard's face twisted into an expression of insincere shock. 'Oh, no, Mr Potter! Indeed not. I would not dare to call you and demand your assistance. No, no, quite the opposite, actually!'

He smiled benevolently, and Harry gritted his teeth. 'Yes?' he prompted. 'Let's start with you telling me who you are, and then you explain why you think I need your assistance.'

'Of course, Mr Potter, my apologies.' The wizard nodded. 'I assumed you knew my name. Bainbridge is my name, Henry Croft Bainbridge, Mr Potter. I am the Healer in charge of the Spell Damage ward at St Mungo's Hospital. It was brought to my attention that you might be in need of my assistance. My niece, Clara Croft, senior secretary in the Wizengamot Administration, informed me that you had taken time off work this week in order to deal with a cursed family member. We at St Mungo's Hospital are well aware that in the past you have had trouble keeping your visits away from the notice of the press, so I was convinced that this was the reason you did not contact us before.

'Therefore, as the Senior Healer, I decided to approach you in this fashion for indeed, Mr Potter, as well-versed as you are in dealing with all manners of curses, you must be aware that a curse victim needs medical care from professional and experienced Healers. This is especially important to remember if the curse victim is a family member. We do not recommend that even our own staff attempt to cure family members. There are curses that are crafted to attack any wizard or witch of the same blood who comes too close, physically or magically, to the victim.

'So I humbly offer you my help, Mr Potter. Send the poor victim to my care, and I shall give them my closest attention and do my utmost to break the spell.' Healer Bainbridge smiled benignly.

It was all Harry could do not to gape at the wizard. Not only because Bainbridge was a pompous ass. But how stupid did he think Harry was? A cursed family member? The Healer couldn't possibly believe that Harry would buy the story that St Mungo's "had heard" about his "cursed family member". Which family member would that be, after all? Everyone knew that the Weasleys were the closest Harry had to family

It was a ruse to get at Severus, of course. Harry remembered seeing Bainbridge's name on one of the files (and he'd have to talk to Hermione about why the wards let the wizard Floo call when he'd been identified as a threat by name). But even if he hadn't remembered the name, that ridiculous story would have set off alarm bells in Harry's head.

Either St Mungo's Healers were idiots, or they thought Harry was an idiot, or they were absolutely awful schemers.

Well, if that was the calibre of his enemies this time around, Harry wouldn't have to worry. At all.

The thought was enough to relax his earlier tension, and he had to fight to keep his smile in. It wouldn't do to let the Healer know that Harry had seen through him. Biting back his laughter, Harry made himself frown in confusion.

'A cursed family member?' he repeated innocently. 'Well, I am very grateful for your offer, Healer Bainbridge, but I think there must have been a mistake. Are you sure your niece mentioned me? My only living family members are Muggles, and if they'd been cursed, the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes would have taken care of them.'

The Healer blinked, looking lost for a moment as though it had never entered his mind that Harry would refuse his generous offer. 'Mistake? No, no, Clara mentioned your name. She is not generally prone to repeat gossip, but she thought your sudden absence noteworthy and told me when we had tea last week.'

'Gossip!' Harry laughed, delighted. For once, the Ministry's gossip mongering would work in his favour. 'Oh, I understand. I'm very sorry, Healer Bainbridge, but you – or your niece – have fallen prey to Ministry gossip. Never trust anything a Ministry employee tells you they "have been told" or "have heard". It's always grossly wrong and exaggerated. I was away to deal with a Life Debt. There was no talk of curses or family members. That must have been a Ministry grapevine addition.'

Bainbridge looked as though he wanted to reach through the fire and throttle Harry. 'Clara was quite clear in her information,' he insisted.

'I don't doubt it.' Harry did his best to curb his amusement. Idiot or not, it wasn't wise to offend a Senior Healer too much. 'I'm just saying that the source of Clara's information was wrong. Hey, that information travelled from level two to level three. That's plenty of time for gossip to become embellished. But anyway, while I thank you for your offer, I can assure you there is no cursed family member in my house.'

He smiled apologetically into the Healer's angry face. There was nothing more that Bainbridge could say to convince Harry if he didn't want to mention Severus's name and end the game. Bainbridge seemed to know that, too, because he gave Harry a reasonably gracious smile, muttered some more apologies, and ended the call.

Harry remained where he was, sitting in the low chair. He laughed at the Healer's idiocy. Although, when he thought for too long about what had been behind the stupid plan – how the Healer had tried to manipulate Harry, how he'd intended to use and abuse Severus – Harry felt all his old rage come back.

Wizards and witches using their power to manipulate others, abusing their power, he hated it just as much as he had when he had been at Hogwarts. He loathed the corruption he'd seen in the Ministry. When he'd become an Auror, he'd fought hard to root it out, the corruption, the abuse of authority, and to make the Ministry a place of fairness and clean politics. He'd even been successful. The Ministry under Kingsley Shacklebolt was a better place than it had been under his predecessors.

But it wasn't perfect. Harry knew that. It would never be perfect. And in his years as an Auror, he'd learnt not only how to fight corruption – but also when to fight it. He'd learnt that charging in and smashing everything to pieces was not the best way, and that sometimes standing back, waiting, letting the manipulators get caught in their own webs was the way to do it.

And he'd learnt that laughing sometimes made the schemers angry enough to make mistakes. And an angry schemer who made mistakes was someone who could be taken in, accused, and tried.

Even if the schemer was a Senior Healer. Harry hoped, really hoped, Bainbridge would make his mistakes soon. Very soon.

Well, it was no use getting angry. No one had done anything wrong – yet – and just because Harry didn't like the Senior Healer didn't mean he wasn't a good Healer. He'd just have to keep his eyes open and Severus safe.

When Harry returned to the living room, he found Severus sitting on the sofa, ostensibly reading a book. But the boy's head shot up the moment the door opened, and Harry noticed how pale and tense he was.

'Hey, are you all right?'

Severus nodded stiffly. 'Yes, of course. Who was that?'

'Senior Healer from Mungo's.' Harry plopped down in his armchair and grinned at the boy. 'Said he heard about me having a cursed family member at home and wanted to help me. Idiot.'

From the fact that Severus's face didn't show the least surprise Harry gathered that the boy had eavesdropped. He was probably worried about his safety again, Harry thought, recalling earlier reactions.

'He was one of your correspondents,' Harry added, nodding towards the pile of Severus's journals next to the sofa. 'Bainbridge. I saw his name on a file and recognised it.'

Severus nodded slowly, not looking at Harry. He shuddered and wrapped his arms around his body. 'He's an awful man,' he whispered.

Without thinking about anything but wanting to comfort the boy, Harry went over to him and wrapped one arm around Severus's thin shoulders. 'Hey,' he said softly, 'don't worry. You're safe, here. He can't get through the wards.'

Severus hiccoughed and shivered. He was so tense Harry's body ached in sympathy.

'Really, don't worry,' Harry repeated, tightening his hold just a little. 'He might be a good Healer, but he's a real idiot. I mean, can you believe he thought I'd buy his story? And just hand you over? How stupid does he think I am? Or you are, really. As if you'd have simply gone with him, even if I had fallen for his lies. You'd have seen through him instantly and then called me a dunderhead and told me what my duty to you and the Life Debt was.'

Severus peered at him. He was still so tense, looking ready to bolt. Harry wondered what he was worried about. That Harry would one day decide to hand Severus over, no matter what he'd said before? No matter that there was a Life Debt between them? That Harry would laugh at him and mock him for being scared? For wanting comfort?

He probably was, Harry realised. Poor Severus. He badly wanted to comfort the boy, hug him and reassure him that, really, Harry would never do either. But he didn't know what to do, exactly – would Severus even let Harry hug him? – or what to say. He wasn't really very good with these things.

In the end, Harry awkwardly patted Severus on his shoulder. 'Cheer up, Severus. If that's the calibre of our enemies, we won't have to worry at all. They're either idiots or abysmal schemers. We're better than they are.'

Severus once more gave him that stunned look. But then a shy, little smile curled his mouth, and he reached for Harry's hand, squeezing it.

'We're better than they are,' he agreed fervently, and then flushed and hid behind his book, leaving Harry to wonder yet again at his reactions. He'd never understand Severus.

*

Day Ten

'—and he said in chapter four that you could do a Scathell Shield Charm with the Protego wand movement! Can you believe that? And he's taught Defence at Hogwarts! As if that would work! Every idiot knows that if you use the Protego movement, you'll base the Shield on yourself. And the Scathell is meant to be long lasting, so of course you can't base it on yourself. You'd kill yourself the moment you started attacking. Honestly, what was that guy thinking?' Severus snorted derisively and dropped the potato he'd been peeling into the bowl. 'There, all done.'

'Thanks.' Harry finished cutting the veggies and dumped them into a pot. 'And being Defence teacher at Hogwarts doesn't necessarily mean the guy's competent. In my second year, we had a fraud teach us, and fifth year, a Ministry drone.'

Severus brought the bowl over to the cooker. 'I know, I had a bunch of funny people teach me, too. But Viridian wrote books! Isn't there someone who checks whether the stuff people want to publish is actually correct? Seriously, you'd kill yourself if you tried to do what he claimed was a short-cut.'

Harry gave the boy an amused smile. He was so honestly disgusted with the many mistakes he found in Viridian's out-dated Defence book. It offered Harry no end of entertainment, coming home to a barrage of indignant words, or to Severus quarrelling with a book.

'I doubt that many people would get any results at all if they tried,' he said. 'The wand movement alone would make that impossible. You'd have to be incredibly powerful to force inward-focused magic to obey an outward-focused charm.'

Severus huffed and hopped onto the counter next to Harry. 'That's no excuse,' he groused. 'Mistakes like that shouldn't be printed at all.'

'Oh, I agree with you on that.' Harry poked his wand at the cooker to set the veggies to simmering. 'It would make my job easier sometimes. Now, don't just sit there and watch. If you want to eat potatoes, find me a pot to cook them in.'

He shooed Severus off the counter, and Severus obeyed with an exaggerated sigh. Instead of opening the cupboard to get out a pot, however, he simple leaned there. 'No idea where the pots are, but I could find you a cauldron,' he offered with a smirk.

Harry snorted. 'Pots are right behind you, as if you didn't know.' He stirred the veggies, then turned his head to glare at Severus. The boy sighed again and, twisting his upper body around, he opened the cupboard – the wrong one – and peered inside. 'I can't see any pots,' he said, faking confusion.

Harry wasn't listening. He'd frozen the moment Severus had moved, eyes drawn down as if by magic. He was staring. Right at the boy's crotch. Where his jeans stretched and wrinkled in all the right ways, in all the right places, perfectly outlining the shape of Severus's cock.

Harry stared. Everything around him vanished, all sounds turned into white noise as he traced the shape and size of that cock with his eyes.

His mouth watered. Harry imagined shoving clothes away to reveal that cock, and then taking it into his mouth, sucking and licking and worshipping it until it was hot and hard. Until he heard moans and pleas for more. He could almost feel it, the weight of the hard cock in his hands, could almost smell the scent of aroused male. His hand moved without thought, reaching out to touch …

'Harry? Hey, is something wrong?'

The vision vanished, and suddenly Severus was standing right in front of him, looking at him. Harry blinked, and then flinched as he realised what had nearly happened. He flushed and cleared his throat, turning towards the cooker in the hopes of hiding his erection.

'Wrong cupboard,' he managed to say. 'Pots are in the lower one.'

Silence followed his words, but Harry didn't turn. He stirred the veggies, inwardly berating himself and cringing at his own stupidity. More than stupidity. It was … was … there was no word for what it was.

'Oh. Of course.' Severus sounded subdued, perhaps even a little hurt.

Harry bit his lip and forced a smile onto his face as he turned around to reassure the boy that he hadn't done anything wrong. But the smile vanished the next moment, and Harry never said his platitudes.

Severus was squatting in front of the cupboard that held the pots. His jeans were stretched tight over his arse. Harry's erection came back full force. And then Severus kneeled and bent forwards, reaching into the back of the cupboard for one of the large pots. The denim shifted, became even tighter as Severus ducked down.

Harry swallowed, clinging desperately to his wooden spoon. His heart was hammering, and his own jeans were uncomfortably tight as well, his erection straining against its confines. He told himself he ought to look away, move, turn around, but he couldn't.

He couldn't. He just stood there, motionless, staring, wanting. He hadn't wanted that much, that fiercely, in a long time.

And he couldn't have. He couldn't. Because this was Snape. Even if he was a boy at the moment – and that was horrible enough. Harry shuddered away from the realisation of how much he desired a child. But it was still Snape. The man who had loved Harry's mother. A man who would never want Harry in return.

A man who had been cursed and de-aged into a boy. A boy who was under Harry's care.

A boy who was kneeling in front of the cupboard, pot in hand, staring back at Harry with wide eyes and red cheeks.

'Um.' Harry grinned weakly. 'Found a pot?'

Severus nodded, licking his lips. Harry couldn't help staring again, following the movement with his eyes. His prick twitched with desire to feel that tongue.

'Yes, I…' Severus coughed and finally looked away. He got to his feet and hesitantly held the pot out to Harry. 'I … Does this one f-fit?'

Harry took the pot, careful not to touch Severus's fingers in the process. 'Yes, thank you.' He was about to turn away when Severus shot him a quick glance from beneath lowered lashes.

Harry froze again, holding his breath. Severus looked away. His face was flushed, and his breathing seemed a little too quick, a little too shallow. Harry wanted to reach out, brush the black hair away, to see Severus's face. See his eyes. He wanted—

Severus fidgeted, shuffling his feet. He bit his lip, then opened his mouth as if to speak, half-turning to Harry. Their eyes met for a second, before Harry's dropped from the boy's face. Once more drawn down as though by magical force, and Harry saw the outline much more clearly now.

Severus was hard, too.

That shocked Harry back into clarity, and with clarity came guilt and disgust. Here he was, in his own kitchen, all but seducing the poor boy. Who probably didn't understand what was happening, why his body was reacting to Harry.

This was wrong. Harry shouldn't be doing this, not even unconsciously. He was supposed to care for the boy; he couldn't abuse his own authority that way. Abuse the shaky trust Severus had in him.

Resolved, yet inwardly berating himself, Harry turned to the cooker, just in time to rescue the veggies from boiling over.

He wouldn't do anything, he swore to himself. Not even acknowledge Severus's reaction. It was better that way. It didn't mean anything, anyway. Severus was a teenager right then. Sporting an erection didn't mean anything at that age.

And that was all. Harry wouldn't read it any other way. He couldn't. So he wouldn't. He wouldn't say or do anything. He wouldn't make Severus uncomfortable.

'Hey, do you need help with the potatoes?' Severus asked.

Harry jumped a little, so buried in his thoughts about Severus that he'd almost forgotten that he was there. Nor had he noticed Severus moving.

Severus was far too close now. Harry could feel him, standing right there. He could feel the warmth of Severus's body, could smell him. He smelled good, like Harry's shampoo and potatoes and young man. Harry's cock was still insistently hard.

'Oh, no, thank you.' Harry tried for light and casual, but wasn't sure how successful he was. He didn't look at Severus, because turning would bring their faces too close. 'I can manage. But you could check the CoolKeep and see if there's any more of the lamb we had the other day. I can defrost it and throw it into a pan if you want some.'

There was a choked sound, and then Severus retreated a little. 'What?' He sounded angry and disbelieving.

God, not a moment too soon, Harry thought. 'Lamb,' he said out loud, still not turning and pretending he was busy with the potatoes. 'Or sausages, if you'd prefer them.'

There was a long silence, and finally Harry had to turn if he wanted to remain circumspect. But Severus had stepped back even further, and to Harry's relief, he didn't look like a seductive siren anymore, either. He looked pale and shocked and angry.

'Severus? Do you want lamb or sausages for dinner?'

The boy seemed to flinch, and Harry felt awful for acting like this, for seeming to simply brush the incident away. But it was better this way.

Severus's face crumpled, and he turned away. His body sagged into a slouch. He shoved his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders.

'I'm not hungry,' he said sulkily.

'Just potatoes and veggies, then?' Harry asked, wincing at himself.

Severus promptly glared at him. 'I'm not hungry,' he repeated. 'I'll go to my room.'

'What? No, no you won't.' It was unfair, Harry knew, to cast a locking charm on the door that Severus couldn't cancel. And perhaps he was abusing his authority that way, too, as Severus murderous scowl seemed to indicate. But the boy had to eat – and more than a bite of breakfast and an apple for lunch. That was part of his physical well-being and Harry had to take care of it.

Which he told the boy when Severus began to protest, loudly. Severus snarled at him, but in the end subsided and sat down. Then he sulked all through dinner, and at the earliest opportunity, he vanished into his room.

Harry didn't even try to get him back down to help with the dishes. Severus was angry, and he had every right to be. Harry had acted irresponsibly. But he was trying to rectify what he'd done. He needed to, both for his own conscience and for the Debt he owed Severus.

He was taking care of Severus's emotional well-being.

He wouldn't take advantage of him.

*

Day Fourteen

'What the fuck happened here?' Harry stood in the doorway, looking around the kitchen.

The smell had assaulted him as soon as he'd entered the house. He'd thought perhaps Severus had tried cooking and burnt something. Hurt himself. But this didn't look like a cooking disaster.

There was goo everywhere: the floor, the surfaces, and the walls. Even the ceiling was dotted with dark green blotches. On the kitchen table was the molten mass of what had probably been a cauldron. It rested in the middle of a large, blackened area – the remains of a fire set up under the cauldron. The mess was steaming gently. Severus sat in a chair beside the table, his hair and clothes equally blackened. He'd been poking at the molten stuff with fascination when Harry had burst into the kitchen.

The stench was horrible.

'Oh.' Severus jerked. He cast a quick glance at the clock, bit his lip, and gave Harry a faintly sheepish look. 'Um. You're back already.'

'What. The Fuck. Happened here?' Harry repeated, pressing the words through gritted teeth.

Severus looked around the kitchen and seemed to notice the mess for the first time. 'Ah. I was …' He turned hesitantly back to Harry. 'Um. An experiment. It … it didn't work.'

'An experiment.' Harry struggled not to start yelling. 'You were experimenting in my kitchen?'

'Where else could I?' Severus protested, jumping to his feet. 'You don't have a lab!'

Harry wondered if this was how Professor Snape had felt when one of his Potions students had melted a cauldron or exploded a potion. He wanted to wring the boy's neck.

'You shouldn't be experimenting at all,' he snarled. 'You shouldn't even be trying to brew potions, much less experiment! What if you'd blown the house up?'

'I wouldn't have!' Severus crossed his arms, looking mulish. 'I know enough about potions not to explode stuff.'

'Yeah, but apparently not enough not to make a fucking mess out of my kitchen!'

'I told you, it was an experiment!'

'And it quite obviously didn't go as you wanted! So don't fucking tell me you knew you wouldn't blow up the house!' Harry shouted. His knees felt suddenly very wobbly and his heart was hammering. Good god, the boy could have killed himself instead of making one hell of a mess!

'I knew it wouldn't' Severus yelled back. 'It couldn't explode. Just because you're completely unaware of some basic principles of brewing doesn't mean I'm ignorant too!'

'Oh, yeah, right, Mr Genius. Your ignorance was apparently enough to … to … whatever the fuck happened!'

Severus sneered, hands clenched into fists, shaking. 'Two ingredients acted adversely, which resulted in an unexpectedly violent reaction.'

The boy sounded so much like the adult professor at that moment, mocking Harry, implying he was a useless moron, that Harry lost it. He crossed the kitchen, goo squelching under his feet, and grabbed Severus's shoulders. He shook the boy hard. 'You pretentious little shit! You go and explode shit in my kitchen, you own up to it. Don't hide behind big words like a fucking coward!'

'It didn't explode, you … you ninny!' Severus shrieked, fighting to get loose.

Harry laughed. He let go with a shove, sending the boy stumbling back against the table. 'No explosion, right,' he sneered. 'And the stuff just flew out of whatever you used as cauldron peacefully.'

Severus made an unintelligible noise of rage. 'I-it r-reacted,' he stammered.

'Exploded!'

'No!' Severus shoved the table, banging it against the wall. 'It … the potion, it fountained up and then the cauldron melted! No explosion!'

'Fountained, exploded, what the fuck ever.' Harry felt like pulling his hair out. 'Doesn't matter one bit. What matters is you shouldn't be experimenting! Good god, Severus, don't you know what could have happened? You could have killed yourself!'

Suddenly feeling faint and sick, Harry dropped down onto the other kitchen chair. No wonder Professor Snape had always snarled at Harry and tried to get him expelled when he'd done something heroic and potentially fatal. Harry suddenly felt much more forgiving towards his old teacher.

'No, I couldn't!' Severus had tears of frustration in his eyes. 'The potion reacted badly, but it could never, never have exploded or, or done something like that! I know that much!'

'I don't care!' Harry glared at the boy. 'You could have hurt yourself, you idiot. No more experiments, at all, but definitely none when you're alone.'

'But you're never home!' Severus cried angrily. 'And I can't just sit around all day and do nothing but read! For days and days!'

'Then find yourself another hobby!' Harry tiredly rubbed his forehead, feeling the tension and adrenaline ebb away. 'Preferably one that isn't destructive.'

'And what do you suggest I do?' Severus whinged. 'I can't use my wand, I can't brew potions, can't leave the house, what else is there? Folding paper cranes?' He sneered.

Harry sighed and looked around his messy kitchen once more. 'Anything, as long as it's not dangerous and you don't get hurt.'

Severus tossed his head. 'Who are you, my mother?'

'Might as well be.' Harry sighed again. 'I am responsible for you. Until you return to your proper age, I'm responsible for you, and that includes your physical well-being.' He tried a smile. 'You'd never forgive me for letting you harm yourself.'

Severus snarled at him. 'You only care about that fucking Life Debt! I could die of boredom, and you'd still only think of "taking care of my well-being"!'

'Hey, that's not true!' Harry sat up, stung. 'I do my best to make things as easy for you as possible.'

'Right.' Severus snorted. 'Easy for you, you mean. You go off to work and expect me to entertain myself. But no using magic, oh no, can't have that. In case you didn't notice, there isn't much to do around here without magic.'

'But you said yourself you'd be busy reading,' Harry protested, genuinely hurt. He'd thought Severus was okay, that he liked staying with Harry.

'But I can't be doing nothing but read!' Severus threw up his arms.

'Well, then.' Harry blinked, thoughts whirling. 'There's got to be something you like to do that's not reading and doesn't require magic. And isn't potentially dangerous. I mean, what do you usually do over summer when you go home?'

Severus face closed off instantly. He stood motionless for a moment, body gone rigid. Then he sneered. 'You know what, forget it,' he spat. 'I'll go to my room and read your stupid novels.' With that, he banged out of the kitchen. Harry could hear him storm up the stairs, and then a second bang.

Harry sagged on his chair. Tiredly, he rubbed his face. What had he said this time? He'd only wanted to help.

He would never understand Severus.

Groaning, he let his hands drop to his lap and took another look around at the mess. Goo everywhere, sticky and thick and slowly dripping off the cabinet doors. He sighed and got up. Looked like it was up to him to clean this mess. Hopeful, he tried a few basic cleaning charms, but only the Air-Freshening Charm really took.

It was times like these Harry regretted telling Kreacher to stay at Hogwarts. He could really do with some house-elf magic right now.

*

Day Seventeen

Harry woke up slowly. He felt heavy but rested. Outside he could hear birds singing. The house itself was still quiet.

Harry stretched languidly, enjoying the sensation of his warm, comfy bed and of not having to jump out to get ready to work. Thank god, it was finally the weekend. No need to leave the house – to leave Severus alone in the house and spend the day wondering and worrying about what he'd get up to. Perhaps they could find something for the boy to do while Harry was at work.

Thinking about Severus erased the last vestiges of sleep. Harry sighed. The last two days after their row had reminded Harry of the days after the shower discussion. Severus remained mostly locked up in his room, and when he came down to dinner, he was sulky and taciturn. No matter how Harry had tried to strike up a conversation, Severus answered in monosyllables.

He didn't even quarrel with books anymore. Whenever Harry passed Severus's room, it was silent behind the door. Harry wondered what the boy was doing. He'd debated spelling a wall transparent, but decided against it. Severus had a right to privacy, no matter what.

Well, perhaps today, when he didn't have to "go off" he could do something to draw Severus out, Harry thought. He'd even offer to help him with a potion, if that was what it took.

Harry grimaced. Potions brewing with Severus. And him willing to sacrifice himself for Severus's entertainment. What had got into him?

Harry shook his head at himself, and then heaved a deep sigh. His wonderful Saturday-morning laze was over before it began. His pleasant languor had vanished, leaving him restless. Time to get up.

With another sigh, Harry threw his duvet back and sat up. He grabbed his glasses but didn't put them on. He could find his way to the bathroom even in darkness, and he'd only take them off again. Pulling on his bathrobe, Harry wandered out of his room.

On his way to the bathroom, Harry passed Severus's door and he paused, listening. All was quiet. Well, it was only nine o'clock. He was probably still asleep. Evading a creaking floor board, Harry continued on to the bathroom, where he softly closed the door behind himself.

Five minutes later, the shower was running hot, and Harry eased in with a soft sigh. He loved Saturdays. And Sundays, of course. Days when he could stand under the shower for as long as he wanted, enjoying the heat and the pressure. When all he had to think about was what he'd like for breakfast.

Well, that day he was thinking about Severus, too. What could be done to entertain him. Something without magic, and something that wasn't dangerous. They could play cards or wizard chess. Hm, wizard chess. Hadn't Ron once told him about a set of charms and spells that could be put on the board so that one person could play against, well, the board? Perhaps Severus would like that. He'd have to remember to ask Ron.

Or perhaps they could go out. If Severus was with Harry, he should be safe. And he'd been cooped up for more than two weeks. He was probably going stir crazy. On the other hand, Severus had never struck Harry as someone who enjoyed spending time outside. And he wasn't a great flyer. Or was he?

Harry realised he didn't know. The man had at one point obviously been good enough to referee a Quidditch match. But as a student, he hadn't been a good flyer. And he'd been jealous of James's talent. Or had that only been Sirius's explanation for the antagonism between them?

Okay, he'd better ask Severus. Harry grimaced and tilted his head back, letting the water spray over his face. He'd better ask Severus what he liked, full stop. It didn't speak well about Harry that he, after living with the boy for several weeks, still didn't know what Severus liked to do, apart from reading and brewing potions.

Harry groaned, the sound echoing softly in the bathroom. He really wasn't a good guardian, was he? He neglected Severus and yelled at him, and on top of everything else, he was lusting after him.

Harry let his head fall forwards until his forehead came to rest against the tiled wall. He didn't even have to close his eyes to see Severus's jeans hug the boy's erection or stretch over his arse. Hm, and it was such a nice arse, round and pert, and he remembered what it looked like raised invitingly into the air as Severus bent over a trunk.

Aw, fuck, now he was hard. Harry groaned again. It kept happening, no matter what he told himself. Sometimes all he had to look at Severus and within heartbeats, he was rock hard. And that wasn't even counting the dreams. God, that last week, he'd felt like a teenager himself, waking up either hard and aching, or sticky and spent.

It was disgusting, really, to lust after a teenager. No matter that he'd sworn never to do anything about it. He shouldn't even have those fantasies.

And why was he having them now? He'd never even remotely thought like that about the adult Snape!

Or had he?

No, Harry was sure he hadn't. He knew he'd ignored quite a lot during his days at Hogwarts, denied and redirected his emotions. Such as his crush on Cedric, which he'd turned into a crush on Cho. But even after he'd become aware of his preferences, he'd never thought of Snape as a sexual being.

Besides, the man had been in love with Harry's mother.

Ew.

But the teenage Severus was so different from the adult Snape. Of course, he was just as touchy, but not quite as jealous of his dignity yet. And although he thoroughly disliked James Potter, there hadn't been those incidents in his past. The Shrieking Shack and the incident by the lake. Severus hadn't loathed Harry on sight and on principle like Snape had done. There weren't years of antagonism between them.

And Harry liked the boy Severus was. Had been. Whatever. He enjoyed spending time with him, talking about magic, Defence, and the Dark Arts. Severus had a vicious tongue on him, sometimes, but he could also be funny without being cruel. He'd worked so hard to understand what had happened to him. And he'd shown an amazing amount of trust in Harry.

God, he should just come out and admit he was fond of Severus. Too fond. He'd miss him when he returned to his real age. Perhaps they could stay friends? Or would Harry just transfer his … okay, okay, his crush on Severus to the adult Snape?

Harry blushed with mortification at the mere thought. Snape wouldn't be as innocent as Severus. He'd see Harry's attraction and … No, better not go that way.

Better to enjoy the time he had with Severus.

If only his brain would understand that he didn't mean "enjoy" that way! And would stop throwing those dreams at him.

Dreams in which the things in the kitchen had ended differently. Where Harry had knelt down and opened Severus's fly. Where he had stroked Severus's cock to hardness, and then blown him to nirvana. Dreams in which Severus was bending over something, wiggling his arse at Harry. Where he looked over his shoulder at Harry and gave him a wicked smile. Where Harry would actually step closer and touch, and then they'd both be naked and …

Harry moaned and tightened his hand around his cock. Then he realised what he was doing. The thing he'd so far refused to do, had resisted doing. No matter how hard and aching the dreams had left him, he'd refused to wank while thinking of Severus. Yet here he was, wanking and thinking of Severus, of the dreams about Severus.

But it felt so good, and god, he needed it so much! Surely it couldn't hurt; only this, he'd never do anything else …

Harry shoved all reflections of a guilty conscience aside and relaxed into the sensations. He would allow himself this, just this once. Just enjoy it and think about the other stuff later.

With a soft moan, he leaned back into the spray of the shower. Closing his eyes, he focused on the feeling of his hand on his cock. His other hand reached down, cupping his balls, and Harry sighed with pleasure. He sped his hand up a little, stroking faster, and added a gentle squeeze and twist at the end. His toes curled on the smooth floor of the shower, and his balls tingled. Harry tugged them up a little, and then rolled them in his palm, before he concentrated on stroking again.

Soon, his movements became faster, more urgent. Harry bit his lip to stifle his groans. Don't wake Severus. That would be too embarrassing but, oh, the fantasy was damn hot! Severus hearing him and coming into the bathroom to find Harry wanking. He'd smirk and then slip out of his pyjamas to join Harry under the shower. He'd press his naked body against Harry's, and then drop to his knees in front of him, smiling knowingly up at him.

Harry would run his hand through Severus's hair and whisper, 'Please.' Severus would lean in to press a shy kiss to the top of Harry's cock. Then he'd open his mouth and let him in. One hand would come up to play with Harry's balls as he twirled his tongue around Harry's erection. At Harry's pleading whimper, he'd give in and suck …

Harry came with a deep grunt.

Shaking and panting, Harry leant against the cold wall. As he blinked his eyes open, he was for a moment confused that there wasn't a naked Severus kneeling in front of him, sporting a smug grin. Then reality cut through his afterglow, and Harry groaned.

'Oh, fuck.' He banged his head backwards against the wall, and then gave himself an angry shake. That had been incredibly stupid. No more fantasies.

Quickly, Harry washed off the last of the evidence and shut off the shower. Still annoyed with himself for getting lost in what should only have been a wanking fantasy, Harry slid the shower door open and groped for his towel – and froze, mid-motion, as he came face to face with a very real Severus.

Who was standing closer to the shower than to the bathroom door. Looking flushed and a bit rumpled. And whose pyjama pants were tented quite impressively.

'Um,' Harry said. Then he quickly tugged the towel over his groin. 'Uh, S-Severus.'

Severus looked up at Harry's face, his expression half-embarrassed and half-defiant. 'I heard a thud and then you groaning,' he said. 'I, I only came to see if … if you're all right.'

Harry almost believed him, if it hadn't been for the way the boy had stared at Harry's cock before Harry had covered it, and the twitching of Severus's own, persistent erection.

And the fact that Severus had quite obviously taken several steps into the bathroom instead of silently closing the door when he'd seen that nothing had happened to Harry.

But it was better, far better for everyone concerned, to pretend to believe the boy's story. So Harry, face burning with embarrassment, gave him a weak smile. 'That's, uh, thank you. I'm, ah, as you see, I'm fine. Uh. You, um, need the loo?'

Severus blinked, and suddenly flushed a violent shade of red. 'Uh, oh, no, thank you,' he stammered and beat a hasty retreat out of the door.

Harry sagged and hid his face in his towel with a groan. Then he snapped up, snatched his wand from one of the pockets of his bathrobe, and cast a locking charm on the door. Which he should have done in the first place. Before he got carried away.

So much for fantasy and reality.

Shaking his head at himself – and trying not to whimper in mortification – Harry towelled his body and his hair, and then flicked his wand at his magical shaver. He'd better not shave himself the Muggle way. Shaved and squeaky clean, he wrapped himself in his bathrobe and crept into his room, where he dressed quickly. In the baggiest trousers and sweater he could find.

Just in case.

*

If he'd thought getting caught wanking by Severus was the height of embarrassment, Harry was soon taught otherwise. Having to answer questions concerning his love life to a teenager who'd caught him wanking was even worse.

Severus had seemed recovered from his own embarrassment by the time he'd come down for breakfast. He'd been relaxed and smiling at Harry, and it hadn't been a nasty or teasing smile. It helped Harry a lot with his own tension and uneasiness that Severus appeared to ignore the incident.

In hindsight, Harry ought to have known that things wouldn't go as smoothly when Severus had offered to lay the table. The boy usually refused to do something manually when Harry could do it in half the time with magic.

But Harry hadn't realised it and been only too glad to find Severus in a good mood. Especially after their row three days earlier.

As they sat down for breakfast, Harry said, 'I've been thinking this morning.'

When he caught Severus's smirk, he flushed madly, scolding himself for his ill-advised choice of words.

'I mean, about what you could do,' he hastened to add. 'While I'm at work. Something other than reading that doesn't need magic and isn't brewing.'

Severus's eyebrows rose. 'Hmm.' He grinned. 'I see. Well…'

Harry ground his teeth and told himself that no one had died of embarrassment yet. 'I meant something like wizard chess. Ron told me about a new set of spells you can put on the board so that you can play against the magic. Something like that. I could set it up for you, and you don't need to use magic to play.'

Severus propped his chin up in his palm. 'That does sound interesting,' he said slowly, still grinning slightly.

Harry relaxed a little. 'Okay. Good. I'll Floo Ron about the spells. And I thought that perhaps you'd like to go somewhere today?'

'Are you asking me out?' Severus batted his lashes. It was done so exaggeratedly that Harry had to laugh.

'No, I'm not. Argh, Severus, what are you thinking? No, no, don't tell me!' Harry shook his head. He really had a talent for setting himself up, hadn't he? 'I just thought, well, you've been stuck inside this house for weeks now. Perhaps you'd like to go visit Hogsmeade, or someplace else. You know, get out a bit?'

Severus shrugged. 'Hogsmeade might be nice,' he agreed. 'If it isn't a Hogsmeade weekend at Hogwarts. I think I'd be noticed despite being the correct age at the moment.'

Harry nodded. 'Yes, probably. Well, that's easy to find out. I'll ask Ron. There's a Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes shop in Hogsmeade, too, so he'll know. Um, but on the chance it is a Hogsmeade weekend, where would you like to go? Diagon Alley?'

Severus snorted. 'No. So far, only the Unspeakables and Healers have tried to get me. If I show up in Diagon Alley, we'll have the press camping outside the wards as well.'

Harry sighed and poked at his toast. 'I'm afraid you're right. Well, I know of some other wizarding places in Britain, and Seamus – an old classmate of mine – once invited me to Ireland, so I know one or two places there as well. But, um. The thing is. I don't know how well you fly. Or if you'd like to go flying. Or play pick-up Quidditch. Or something like that.'

'I can fly.' For a moment, Severus looked uncomfortable. 'I can fly,' he repeated. 'Not well enough for the Quidditch team, but I don't fall off the moment the broom goes up, either. But I haven't had much practise, and if you want to play Quidditch … well, I'll watch.' He shrugged.

'No, no, you won't. You'll not sit around and watch while my friends and I play.' Harry pointed his fork at Severus, who scowled at him. 'This is supposed to be entertainment for you. And you don't strike me as someone who enjoys watching pick-up Quidditch. If we meet some of the guys to play, you play as well. If you don't want to play, we don't go.'

Severus's scowl darkened. He fiddled with his knife. 'I … I'm not good at playing Quidditch.'

'Hey.' Harry smiled gently and waited until Severus looked back up. 'It's about having fun, not about playing well. It's more everyone on their own than a regular game, anyway, what with the kids flitting around. Hey, I've been playing Quidditch with Teddy for years, and it's always been great fun.'

Severus's eyes narrowed. 'Who's Teddy?'

Harry blinked. 'Huh? Oh, of course, you wouldn't know. Eh. He's my godson. First year at Hogwarts now.' He smiled fondly.

'Oh.' Severus ducked his head, hiding behind his hair. 'Okay.'

'Okay.' Harry frowned, then shrugged it away. 'So, would you like to go play Quidditch? Or would you rather do something else?'

Severus peered up at him. 'I … I'd rather not play, if you don't mind,' he said hesitantly.

Harry felt a bit disappointed but smiled at the boy. 'Of course I don't mind. I asked what you wanted to do, after all!'

Severus considered him with a strange expression on his face. 'And … and you'd come with me to do what I'd like to do?'

'Of course!' Harry grimaced a little. 'Well, I can't promise to be more than a watchdog of some kind if you decide to go and gather ingredients, or whatever. But of course I'll come with you. And not only because you need a watchdog, so don't scowl at me.'

Nevertheless, Severus's scowl lifted slowly. 'But … you'd come with me? All day?'

Harry was a little confused. 'Yes. I just said so, didn't I?'

'You'd go and spend a whole day with me?' Severus seemed baffled. 'You don't want to, I don't know, perhaps, spend time with someone else? I mean, you don't have to if you'd rather go out with someone else. You've stayed home every weekend with me, it's okay if you'd like to go and see someone.'

'Severus, I offered to go with you, didn't I?'

'Yes, but you would no matter what you'd want to do. You'd feel oblig … obligated.' Severus peered at him from behind his hair, but despite his posture, the look in his eyes was neither shy nor insecure but rather searching and a little calculating. 'I just wondered if, perhaps, you wouldn't like to go out. Like … with a girlfriend.'

Harry's snort came spontaneously. 'I haven't had a girlfriend since Hogwarts.'

'What about the Weasley girl?' Severus asked. He frowned even as Harry opened his mouth. 'Um. What Weasley girl?'

'Oh.' Harry nodded. 'Flash of memory.'

'From my future?'

'Yeah. I did date Ginny Weasley when I was at Hogwarts. Sixth year.' Absently, he rubbed his scar. 'I suppose everyone expected me to keep dating her after the war and then eventually marry her.'

'Why didn't you?' Severus asked, head cocked like a curious robin. Harry gave him a considering look. Severus immediately shrunk back. 'S-sorry, you don't have to tell me. Not my business.'

'No, that's okay. You can always ask.' Harry shrugged. 'Everybody asked. I was just wondering … Oh, well. I didn't marry her because, once the dust had settled and I had time to think about something else than Voldemort, I found out that I prefer men.'

Severus sat up straight as though hexed, eyes sharp and intense. 'Men?' he repeated, breathlessly.

Harry blushed and shifted the jam jars in front of his plate. 'Yes.'

'Oh.'

Harry looked up. Severus was staring at him as though he'd had an epiphany. But the next moment, the expression was gone, and Severus's eyes, even sharper and more intent than before, were fixed on Harry's. An uneasy shiver ran down Harry's spine. Just when had Severus learnt Legilimency? What if he saw …?

'So, do you have a … a boyfriend, then?' Severus asked.

'Er.' Harry scratched his head, a bit thrown by the reaction, the unquestioning acceptance. He'd never experienced that before. 'Um. No. No boyfriend at the moment.'

'But you've had a boyfriend?' Severus leant forwards. His sleeve came dangerously close to sliding through the jam on his toast. 'Before?'

'Yes,' Harry answered slowly, wondering about the interest. Or was Severus gearing up to a "Tell me all about sex!" demand?

'And what did you do?'

Harry blinked. 'What?'

'What did you do?' Severus repeated, impatient. 'What do boyfriends do?'

Harry remembered that Severus was only fifteen at the moment. That he probably knew next to nothing about sex and intimacy – and hadn't that been the reason Harry had chastised himself so much? Besides, Severus had been a teenager thirty years ago. Acceptance of wizards loving wizards – or witches loving witches – was still not universal. He'd experienced that himself. But it would have been even less accepted during Severus's adolescence. He gave Severus a gentle smile. 'The same as a boyfriend and girlfriend do.'

'The same?' Severus was wide-eyed and a little flushed. 'You mean, holding hands and sneaking off to k-kiss? Things like that?'

Harry smiled. 'Yes, things like that. Going to Hogsmeade together and sitting in the Three Broomsticks at a table in a corner, whispering and making eyes at each other. Touching under the table. Sneaking off and getting caught by professors and put in detention for breaking curfew.'

'Did you?'

'Well, I was out of Hogwarts by the time I realised, so I was never put in detention.' Harry grinned. 'The rest? Yes.'

'Oh.' Severus blinked, looking faintly stunned. He stared at Harry. 'Did you … did you like it?'

Harry laughed softly. 'Of course.'

'Then, why don't you have a boyfriend at the moment?'

'There isn't anyone I like that way right now,' Harry said gently. It wasn't entirely truthful, and it wasn't that easy, either, but he didn't want to discuss the difficulties of adult relationships with Severus.

'And what would you like?' Severus bit his lip, eying Harry, half-curious, half-uncertain.

'In a boyfriend?' Harry told himself not to fidget. Severus couldn't know; he was prying. 'Why do you ask?'

Severus shrugged a little too casually. 'I'd just like to know. I don't know any wizard who has a boyfriend. I'm curious.'

There was more to it, but Harry couldn't see what. He thought it was probably okay to go with the basics. 'Well, I want what everybody wants in a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Someone who likes me, and in my case definitely someone who likes Harry, and not the famous Harry Potter.' He grimaced. 'Someone I like to spend time with. Who likes the same things I do. Someone who at least gets along okay with my friends. Someone who can live with my job.' He stopped himself and shrugged. 'Just the things everybody wants.'

'What about how he looks?' Severus eyes all but glowed with intensity.

'Um.' Harry leant back in his chair, eying the boy nervously. He didn't know Legilimency yet, did he?

'Isn't that important, too?' Severus prodded.

Harry gave a half-shrug and firmly chased the fantasies of Severus away. Not what he should think about now. Even if Severus couldn't read his mind, yet. 'For some it's important, yes.'

'Not for you?' The boy seemed sceptical.

'Well. Um.' There really wasn't a way out, was there? Damn. There was a reason Harry hated talking about relationship stuff. 'It's not important in the sense that the guy has to be beautiful, you know. Just, um, good looking. Interesting. Attractive. But that's something individual,' he quickly continued. 'I mean, someone who I think is attractive, other people won't, and vice versa. There's this colleague of mine, Grant. He's got a partner I wouldn't look twice at if I'd met him somewhere, but Grant's always going on about how pretty Justin is. Which he is. Pretty. And that's the thing, pretty just isn't attractive to me, not in a man.' He finished with a nod.

Severus was watching him pensively. 'Mmhmm.' He was silent for a long time, looking at Harry and toying with his mug. Then, he suddenly grinned mischievously. 'So, what did he look like then?'

'Who? My last boyfriend?'

Severus shrugged. 'Mmm, him, too. But I meant the guy you were thinking about this morning.'

Harry choked on his own breath. 'W-what ?'

Severus's grin broadened. 'In the shower. You were thinking about some guy, weren't you? What did he look like?'

Harry gaped. He couldn't help it. He felt his face heat, and the heat spread down his neck, and he kept gaping at the boy. Severus flushed pale pink, but he kept grinning at Harry.

Harry's mouth moved, but no words came out. He couldn't think of anything to say. And then the fantasy was back, Severus wet and naked in front of him. Except now he was flushed the same pale pink as the real Severus, and his grin was just as mischievous, and Harry was hard. He gasped and closed his eyes, shaking his head, trying to get himself under control.

Trying to reconcile the Severus he knew with the grinning imp who sat across the breakfast table and asked embarrassing questions.

And, oh god, don't forget that Severus would remember all of this when he'd re-aged!

Harry forced himself to smile at the boy. 'Tall, dark, and handsome, Nosey Parker.' He got up but made sure to keep his groin out of Severus's view. 'Now, let's not sit around talking all day. I'll go and Floo Ron about Hogwarts and the chess spells. You tidy up, please?'

With that, Harry escaped into the living room, firmly telling himself that no, he wouldn't die from embarrassment, and that he must have imagined that calculating gleam in Severus's eyes. And if he hadn't, it didn't mean anything, anyway.

*

Day Twenty-One

Harry was almost thankful for the chiming of the wards, because it allowed him to leave the living room, and Severus's presence.

On his way to the door, Harry wondered whether living with teenagers was always like this. Whether they were always either moody and sulking, or absurdly cheery and … scheming.

Because he was sure that Severus was scheming. The way the boy acted was not normal. Probably. But ever since last Saturday when he'd cornered Harry with his questions, Severus had been acting weird. And he'd been watching Harry. Constantly watching him, openly or out of the corner of his eye. More than once, Harry had seen a calculating gleam.

It made him very nervous. Uneasy. Mostly because he had no idea what Severus could be planning. If it had been someone else, Harry would have said Severus was interested in Harry. There had been that one time in the kitchen …

But that hadn't meant anything. Severus was a hormone-driven teenager. He'd just reacted unwittingly to Harry's interest. Plus, Harry knew that Severus was interested in women. The man had been in love with Harry's mother for most of his life! True, Harry had dated girls, too, before he had even realised he was more attracted to men more than women. But he rather thought that Snape, who had always been more self-aware than Harry, would have realised that he'd been attracted to men by the time Harry had come to Hogwarts. But there had never been the tiniest hint. So he wasn't. Hadn't been. Couldn't be.

And Harry doubted that sexual orientation changed with de-aging.

Unfortunately, Harry's body hadn't received the message that Severus wasn't interested. It made spending time with the boy even more uncomfortable.

So much so that the wards sounding the alarm came as a welcome distraction.

It just surprised him that the people who were after Severus hadn't taken the next step sooner. They really weren't very good schemers.

Harry stopped in front of his door and took a deep breath. He let it go slowly, counting heartbeats. Then he rolled his shoulders back and nodded once before he let his wand slide from its holster into his hand. The routine, trained into him during his first three years with the Aurors, made him calm and concentrated enough to face any kind of enemy.

Holding his wand up at half-ready position, Harry opened the door. The path to his garden gate wasn't long, and even in the darkening gloom he had no trouble seeing the person standing just in front of it. Close enough to trigger the alarm, but not close enough to actually activate the ward's defence mechanism.

Harry closed the door, leaving it slightly ajar, and inclined his head towards his visitor. He didn't step away from the door. 'Yes?'

The hooded person bowed ever so slightly. 'Good evening, Mr Potter.' A deep voice, slightly scratchy. Obviously male. Probably the same Unspeakable who'd tried before. 'You are harbouring Severus Snape.' It wasn't a question.

Harry crossed his arms in front of his chest and smiled grimly. So they were finally moving out into the open. 'Yes.'

The hooded head nodded. 'Please hand him over.'

Harry barked out an incredulous laugh. Fucking impertinent idiot. 'No.' He turned as if to walk back inside, wand arm tense to start casting the moment the Unspeakable tried something.

'Mr Potter!' the wizard snapped, and Harry stiffened. The anger he'd been feeling grew. He wouldn't be ordered around by anyone, much less on his own property. Slowly, as slowly as he possibly could, he turned back around and raised his brows.

The Unspeakable huffed, obviously annoyed. 'You have no legal right to Mr Snape,' he declared.

'Neither have you.' Harry gave him a bland smile.

A sharp, impatient movement. 'Mr Snape is, at the moment, an underaged wizard without a designated guardian, which puts him in the care of the Ministry.'

'Wrong.' Harry bared his teeth in what the other might take as a smile. 'He is mine under the requirements of the Life Debt. If you want to argue that, take it up with your own department. Aren't the Unspeakables the ones who know all about Life Debts?'

The Unspeakable gave the impression of gnashing his teeth. Harry could only marvel once again at how stupid everyone apparently thought he was. He hadn't fallen for the idiotic story the Healer had told him, and now they thought he'd cave because they mentioned Ministry guardianship? They really must think him stupid. Or naοve. The wizard hadn't even tried to use legal mumbo-jumbo.

It was rather insulting.

'Mr Potter,' the Unspeakable spoke up again. His voice was lowered to what Harry recognised as gently coaxing and "We're all reasonable adults here, aren't we?". 'We do not want to harm Mr Snape, despite what he might have told you. He was unreasonably suspicious about the outlines of the tests we asked him to undergo. He did not allow us to properly explain these matters to him but insisted we wanted to, ah, vivisect him for our pleasure. I assure you, Mr Potter, that is quite, quite wrong.

'We do not want to harm or hurt Mr Snape in any way. We want to study him. We want to understand his condition, and the magic that caused it. We want to help him break the curse. You cannot argue that this is a desirable result.'

Harry shrugged, unimpressed. Of course it all sounded so very reasonable but Harry had come to trust Snape's paranoia. The man usually knew his enemies very well.

'Sorry,' he said insincerely, 'but when Snape invoked his Life Debt, he insisted that I was to keep you away from him and not hand him over for any kind of "test". So I won't. Neither to you, nor to the Healers, not even to the Minister himself. That's all I have to say on the matter. Please don't come to trouble us again. Good evening.'

With that, he turned and went inside, ignoring the Unspeakable shouting after him. He made sure to close the door gently, then cast a couple of locking charms on it.

'Those bastards,' he growled at the door and shoved his wand back into the holster with unnecessary force. Turning around, he saw Severus standing in the hall just a few steps shy of the door. He had obviously been eavesdropping again.

But, surprisingly, he didn't look as upset as Harry thought he would have after hearing the Unspeakable so blithely discuss him. In fact, he didn't look upset at all. He was pale and wide-eyed and breathing rapidly, but the expression on his face looked more like joy than upset. As though his birthday and Christmas had come together, with an Order of Merlin, First class, on top.

'You all right?' Harry asked gruffly. 'Stupid Unspeakables. As if I'd give in to threats. Or sweet-talking. They must really think I'm some kind of complete moron. It's pretty insulting.'

Severus blinked and gave him a shy, shaky smile. 'You said I was yours.'

'Yeah, and they won't get their dirty paws on you. I won't let them!' Harry shot another dark glare at the door, hoping the Unspeakable who was still lingering in front of his gate would somehow feel it and go away.

He didn't. The wards chimed again.

For a moment, Harry thought about going out there and hexing the man, but then he had a better idea. He dashed into the living room and dug out the box with the ward stone. It needed only a little prod with his wand, and the first, and mildest, defence wards activated. A yelp came from the front of the house. Harry grinned with satisfaction and put the stone back into the box.

'There.' He turned to Severus with a broad smile. 'That one definitely won't come back again!'

Severus's answering smile was so bright and joyful Harry's heart had trouble dealing with it.

*

Day Twenty-Five

It was Sunday, and Harry invited Ron and Hermione over to his place for a late lunch and an afternoon of conversation. He hadn't seen Hermione since the evening he had told his friends about Severus's accident as she'd been busy preparing for a law reading before the Wizengamot. Ron he'd seen more often, but never for long, and Harry missed talking with his friends.

Besides, he needed adult conversation and some normalcy. He needed to be able to completely relax for at least a couple of hours and not worry about … certain things. Like Severus. All those sneaked glances and calculating looks and bright smiles made Harry edgy.

He didn't want to think of inviting his friends over as protection from Severus, but that was what it was. If he spent one more quiet evening alone with the boy, he might do something … stupid. And wrong. Very wrong. No matter how much Harry's body enjoyed those fantasies filled with images of hot, sexy, naked Severus.

No matter how much some parts of him – mostly certain southern parts – insisted that Severus would welcome Harry. It was just his southern parts thinking, and Harry didn't trust them.

To Harry's surprise, the day had turned out even more enjoyable than he'd hoped. To his even greater surprise, most of that unexpected enjoyment was due to Severus. And it hadn't been due to the boy's absence either.

Harry had thought Severus would be bored with only adults visiting, perhaps not even sit and eat lunch with them, or be silent and resentful. Instead, he and Hermione animatedly discussed some obscure laws and principles of potions brewing over lunch. There weren't any sneering or insulting or contemptuous glances, even though Harry was aware that Severus had at least two memory flashes. But Severus didn't sneer, and Harry relaxed into his argument with Ron over Wheezes and the weekend's Quidditch matches.

After lunch, Severus challenged Ron to a match of wizard chess. Ron was surprised, but pleased to play someone who wasn't Harry or Hermione. He was even more pleased – though he cursed enough to make someone less familiar with him think the opposite – when Severus gave Ron a run for his money.

'I never knew you're such a good chess player!' he exclaimed after Severus had chased him mercilessly around the board.

Severus gave him a smug smile. 'I've had a lot of practice. There isn't much I can do around here, since I'm not allowed to use magic.' He gave Harry a speaking glance, which made Ron frown and Hermione nod approvingly. 'So I've been playing a lot since Harry set up the board for me. Those spells for self-playing are really neat.'

Ron blinked. 'Yeah? You think so? I never got a good match out of them. It's always the same, you know, when I play the magic.' He shrugged.

Severus's grin became even smugger, and he shot another look at Harry and Hermione, but he didn't say anything. Harry admired his restraint – and wondered at it. He hadn't thought Severus would miss an opportunity to point out that a Gryffindor's magic was lacking.

Ron strolled over to the fireplace and peered at the small table next to the sofa. 'Say, Harry, you got any biscuits in the house?'

Harry laughed. Hermione pursed her lips. 'Honestly, Ron. You had lunch less than an hour ago. With two helpings of pudding! You can't tell me you're hungry again.'

'Hey, I was working hard over there,' Ron protested with a grin, pointing over to the board. 'Hard work always makes me hungry.'

Severus sniggered into the box of chess pieces he was putting away.

Hermione huffed. 'Ron, you need to eat fewer sugary things. They're not healthy and can adversely affect your magic, you know. I read something just the other day about—'

'No lecture, Hermione, please!' Ron groaned, flopping down on the other end of the sofa, and Harry laughed softly as the two of them began bickering. This was familiar and normal, and just what he needed.

What wasn't normal, though, was Severus suddenly appearing next to him, holding a bowl of biscuits. Ron and Hermione stopped bickering and blinked. Severus grinned and set the bowl down, snagging a handful of biscuits for himself.

'A well-deserved reward after a hard battle, since the maiden seems a bit displeased,' he said, winked, and wandered out of the room.

Ron gaped after him for a second, then pounced on the bowl. 'Really, mate, child Snape's a lot better than the adult version,' he commented, munching happily.

Hermione sighed, loudly, but then smiled. 'Well, we'd better have some tea to go with the biscuits.'

Harry smiled at her. 'Right, I'll go and make some.'

Hermione raised her wand in the direction of the kitchen. 'Oh, no, let me, Harry!' she said brightly. 'I've learnt a new spell from Molly, and I want to try it.'

Harry looked at Ron, who shrugged, and then a tea tray zipped into the room, startling both of them.

'There.' Hermione smiled as she directed the tray towards the table. 'Perfect tea within seconds. Oh. I think I forgot the cream.' She blushed, and before Harry could stop her, she vanished into the kitchen and came back with the creamer.

For a while afterwards, Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat in front of the crackling fire in the living room, sipping tea and munching biscuits and talking. When Ron snagged the last biscuit, Hermione gave him a reproving look and, turning to Harry, asked, 'What about Severus, Harry? Don't you think he would have liked some tea as well? And perhaps more than a handful of biscuits?'

Harry grinned and shrugged. 'If he'd wanted tea, he would have reappeared. And if he'd wanted more biscuits, he wouldn't have left them anywhere near Ron.'

'Mmmph!' Ron protested, mouth still full.

Hermione gave Ron a disgusted look. 'But, Harry, don't you think he might have liked to stay? I feel as if we've chased him away. Does he know we wouldn't have minded if he stayed?'

'Yeah, mate, he didn't have to vanish,' Ron chimed in. 'I mean, I never thought I'd say it, but he's actually kind of all right, you know.'

'I'm sure he'd be pleased to know that, Ron,' Harry quipped. 'And don't worry, Hermione. Actually, he stayed longer than I thought he would. Because, and don't tell him I said it, but I think he's started reading my novels, and he's got to the point where it's hard to stop reading because you really need to know what happens next. So he's probably pleased that you're here and diverting me. That way, he doesn't have to wait until tomorrow to be able to read without the chance of getting caught.'

Hermione's lips twitched as she was caught between amusement and annoyance. While she approved of reading, she didn't think much of Harry's reading preferences. Ron was gaping again.

'Snape?' he burst out. 'He's reading your crime novels? Wow. Plays chess, feeds me biscuits, and reads trash. You know, if he keeps that up, I might start thinking he's human.' He grinned. 'I like this version better than the old one. Think we can keep him?'

Harry's amusement vanished and he sighed.

'Harry? What's wrong?' Hermione asked immediately. 'Has something happened to Severus? Is he in danger?'

Harry ran a hand through his hair. 'No danger, no. Not any more than he usually is. At least, as far as I know.'

'But?'

'But, the thing is, nothing has happened, Hermione.'

'But that's good, isn't it?' Ron cut in.

'No, not really.' Harry sighed again. 'He hasn't changed at all. I mean re-aged.'

'Don't you think it's great, mate? The version of Snape you've got is way better than the other one.'

'Yes, Ron, but that's not the point.' Harry gesticulated with one hand. 'He's been fifteen for over three, almost four weeks now. Severus's been reading through his journals, you know, stuff Snape wrote down about his condition. And he said that the youth flashes rarely ever lasted longer than a week at most. A week! And it's been almost four now!'

Hermione nodded. 'You're worried he won't age back, aren't you?'

'Yeah. Of course, it's nice that I get along with Severus. That's not the problem. But it's not the real Severus Snape, you know? He's not a fifteen-year-old boy, he's an adult. It's, I don't know, it's not right that he should be … trapped like this.'

'There wasn't anything in Snape's records that would explain the situation? Or point to a way the youth flash might be counteracted?' Hermione asked. 'I looked up those spell categories Snape mentioned in his letter, but I didn't have much time to study them because of the law reading. But if you want me to, I could look into the matter, Harry.'

Harry nodded slowly. There was an odd sensation in his chest, and Harry called himself a fool. He agreed with Ron, more than his friend could imagine. He liked this version of Snape. But of course he couldn't keep him.

'Yeah, perhaps you'd better have a look at it,' he told Hermione. 'If you can spare the time.'

'I'll make the time, Harry,' Hermione promised. 'But are you sure there was nothing in Snape's notes that could help?'

'I don't think so.' Harry shrugged. 'Severus read through all of his journals and he hasn't found anything. At least, he never said so, and I haven't seen him with a journal for quite some time, now. Either he's through and hasn't found anything, or he's discouraged because there wasn't anything in there that could speed up his turning back into his proper age.'

'Did you have a look at those journals?' Hermione had tugged a small notepad and quill out of her robes and was busy making notes. Ron watched her with an amused smile.

Harry looked away. 'Not really, not,' he said. 'And I don't see what use it would be. I don't understand half of what you and Severus talk about, Hermione. How could I find something in the journals if he didn't?'

'Well, perhaps there is something in there that needs advanced knowledge Severus simply doesn't have at his age,' Hermione suggested.

Ron snorted. 'Hermione, if there's advanced knowledge that Snape doesn't have, it's got to be really advanced and obscure, and how likely is it that Harry knows that kind of stuff? No offence, mate.'

'I just said that I know I won't be able to find or understand anything in Snape's journals that Severus doesn't.'

'All right, I don't have any appointments on Wednesday afternoon. I'll have time to do some research then.' Hermione made another note. 'Is that early enough for you, Harry?' She looked up. 'Oh. Hello, Severus. Did you come to get some tea? I know you said in your letter you don't need help with finding a cure, but I hope you won't mind me looking into the matter?'

Turning around at Hermione's greeting, Harry saw Severus standing in the door. He was almost ghostly pale. His eyes were wide and hurt. Harry immediately got up, feeling worried. 'Did something happen?'

Severus took a deep, shaky breath. His hands clenched into fists. 'Are you trying to get rid of me?' he said. He'd probably intended a snarl, but he only managed to sound choked.

Harry stopped and blinked, and then cursed Severus's ability to sneak up on conversations. Apparently he'd overheard more than just a few sentences, and he'd got the wrong impression. Harry ached for the boy's pain.

'Of course not!' he said fiercely. Stepping closer, he grasped Severus's shoulders tightly. 'Of course I don't want to get rid of you! I'm just worried about you.'

'But you want me to become my proper age again,' the boy said accusingly. Harry could feel him trembling under his hands. 'You don't want to take care of me anymore, do you?'

Harry fought the urge to pull Severus into a hug. He tightened his grip on the boy's shoulders, and even that made Severus bristle.

'Yes, I want you to be your proper age again,' he said softly, 'but not because I want to be rid of you. Never that, Severus. But I'm worried, and this isn't right. You aren't fifteen, you're forty-eight. You shouldn't be trapped forever at an age that … that isn't your own and that doesn't allow you to brew potions or do magic. I don't want you to be trapped like this. You've been trapped and … and chained for most of your life in one way or other. You don't deserve to have that done to you again, no matter by whom.'

Severus stared at him. For a short heartbeat, Harry thought he saw Snape in there, thought the boy's wide eyes had become black, bottomless tunnels. But then the impression was gone, and Harry was staring into eyes that were simply wide and dark and hurt. The boy was breathing in rapid, shallow pants. 'But what if … what if I never re-age,' he whispered. Scared.

It felt as though someone had punched him. Harry's hand tightened until his knuckles were white and Severus would probably be bruised. 'I'll keep you anyway.' He shook the boy a little. 'God, Severus. What did you think I'd do? Kick you out?'

Severus bit his lip and blinked rapidly when his eyes became suspiciously bright. He reached up to cling to Harry's hands which were still holding his shoulders. 'Promise?' It was said even more softly.

'Idiot.' Harry swallowed hard. 'I promise.'

Relaxing, Severus let go of Harry's hands. Suddenly feeling awkward, Harry took a step back and cleared his throat.

'Okay. Now. Um. Tea?' he fumbled. He made himself smile brightly. 'There's still some tea left, though Ron's eaten all the biscuits.'

Ron made protesting noises again, but Harry didn't pay him any attention. Severus gave Harry a small smile, and then ducked his head, hiding his face – and his eyes – behind his hair. Harry hesitated for a second. Then, feeling safe with Ron and Hermione there, he wrapped one arm around Severus's shoulders.

'Then let's get you some tea,' he said gently and steered the boy to the fireplace where he conjured a second armchair for Severus to sit in. Ron, perhaps feeling a little guilty, was pouring Severus a cup, and Harry added sugar with a flick of his wand. He sat Severus down and handed him the cup. 'Here you are. Hope it's still hot enough.'

'And if not, Harry's a wizard and can do a heating charm,' Ron said with a grin and a wink.

Harry was so thankful for Ron's easy joking that he teased right back, and the awkward moment was gone. Harry concentrated firmly on being relaxed and casual and on joking with Ron – and firmly ignored the strange, searching look Hermione was giving him.

But of course he couldn't escape her entirely. When she and Ron said good-night, she hugged Harry tightly.

'I'll look into the matter as soon as I find a spare moment,' she said softly, then kissed him on the cheek and followed Ron through the Floo.

Harry sighed and rubbed his scar. He had the feeling that Hermione had seen a lot more than he wanted her, or anyone else, to see.

*

Day Thirty

'Harry!' Severus jumped up from the sofa, dropping his book, when Harry appeared in the doorway. He quickly walked up to Harry, looking him over worriedly. 'Are you all right? You're home so early. Did something happen?'

Harry gave Severus a tired smile and moved past him to sink down into his armchair. He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. He ached all over, from stress and lack of sleep and that last chase through the dungeons – or was it a crypt? – of the old monastery where they had finally run down the Dark wizard they'd been trying to catch all week. The bastard had got at least two curses through Harry's shields, and although a Healer had stopped and reversed the worst damage, Harry still ached.

Sometimes he hated his job. This was definitely one of those times. For months the Aurors had been tracing a Dark wizard who was attacking old wizarding mansions and manors, terrorising their inhabitants. The case had been baffling, for despite all the terror, the rogue had never harmed a wizard or a witch. His targets had always been the buildings.

Of course, with many of the old pure-blood families, the family seat was the foundation and source of their power. And their survival.

But as if being a high-profile case hadn't been enough, the case was made even more difficult because the rogue preferred ancient Egyptian curses. Few wizards and witches in modern Britain knew how to defend themselves against them. Harry had talked to Bill, but curse-breaking wasn't the same as defence, and Harry had mostly been as helpless as his co-workers.

The previous week, they'd finally had a breakthrough concerning the identity of the rogue behind the attacks. Every day of the current week, Harry's unit had worked overtime, following leads and hints in order to gather hard evidence and to discover where the wizard had his base. They'd found the old, half-ruined monastery the previous night, and the Head Auror had ordered the full team to be ready before sunrise.

They'd made their move shortly after nine o'clock, after crouching in the dewy fields and glade surrounding their target for almost four hours. Then three more hours of cat-and-mouse with the rogue, and another three hours of paperwork back at the Ministry. The Head Auror had sent everyone in Harry's unit home as soon as they'd signed the preliminary reports. They'd all gone gladly, and not even the most ambitious ladder-climber had protested.

Harry was determined to sleep all weekend. Preferably with the help of Dreamless Sleep potions. That one rogue had given him nightmares. He'd called himself Ankh-amon and, like nearly every Dark Arts user gone rogue, he was stark raving mad. Harry wished he never had to take a case like that again. Or at least not anytime soon.

'Harry?' Severus's worried voice penetrated through the light slumber Harry had fallen into. Harry could feel the boy stand next to his armchair, bending over him. That was the only good thing about the case, Harry thought fuzzily. It had kept him away from Severus and temptation, and kept him too tired to even think of it.

'Harry, were you hurt? You said last night that your team would move out today. What happened?'

Groaning, Harry forced himself to open his eyes. Severus was indeed hovering over him, pale and worried. Harry managed a tired smile. 'Don't worry. 'm fine. Just tired.'

'Were you hurt?'

Harry flapped his right wrist. 'Cut. Rest was healed. Not hurt. Only tired.'

His eyes closed again, and already he could feel himself sinking into sleep. Far away, he heard footsteps, and the rustling of cloth, and then a blanket was spread over him. Something popped up underneath his feet, propping them up comfortably. Harry sighed with pleasure and fell asleep.

*

He woke a little over three hours later, still exhausted but rested and hungry. Severus was sitting on the sofa, legs curled under him, and nose buried in his book. One of his trashy novels, Harry realised with a small grin. He was nearing the end of the novel, and so enthralled he didn't even twitch when Harry shifted in his armchair, snuggled deeper under the blanket, and yawned.

Harry eyed the boy with still sleepy amusement. Severus's head was lowered, but Harry could see his lids flutter and twitch as Severus's eyes raced along each line. Harry chuckled, and not even that seemed to register with Severus. Harry's amusement deepened. He'd be teasing the boy for days over this!

The amusement vanished at that thought and Harry sobered. Four weeks now, and Severus was still fifteen. Still no change. That wasn't good. Harry shouldn't have the opportunity to spend days teasing the boy.

Though, he wasn't really a boy. Harry ran his eyes over the figure sitting opposite him. No, Severus wasn't a boy. He might be thin, his body still boyish with his narrow shoulders, but he was almost as tall as Harry was. And even as an adult, Snape had been thin. Or perhaps lean was the better word, Harry though absently as he ran his eyes over Severus's folded legs.

Nice, long legs, Harry noticed, a little surprised. Why hadn't he noticed before? With Severus wearing Muggle trousers instead of wizarding robes, his legs were so clearly visible. On display. And it was far less reproachable to stare at Severus's legs than his arse or cock.

Neither of which was visible to Harry at that moment. Not that he was trying to see them, anyway!

But of course, the mere thought brought back images of Severus bending over, of his trousers stretching over his erect cock. Harry's prick twitched and began to fill.

Harry shifted uncomfortably, half-ashamed to be sprouting an erection with Severus only a few steps away! But he wouldn't see, Harry argued, because it was hidden under the blanket. Though that didn't mean he was excusing his reaction, Harry hastily reassured himself. Then he dismissed that train of thought entirely in favour of staring at Severus's slender hands holding the book, and imagining what those hands would feel like on his cock.

He was so lost in the fantasy that it took him a moment to realise that the slender hands had gone still, that one of them was no longer turning pages. Harry blinked and looked up – and wished he hadn't as his eyes met Severus's. Dark and burning, intent, mirroring Harry's own desire back at him. Harry swallowed and tried to look away. But that only allowed him to take in Severus's flushed face, his slightly open, glistening lips – as though he had just licked them – his shallow breathing. The splayed legs. The unmistakable bulge in Severus's jeans.

Harry swallowed again, his own legs spreading to give his erection room. It was straining against his fly. Under the cover of the blanket, Harry snuck a hand down and squeezed his cock. The resulting jolt of pleasure made him aware of what he was doing, with Severus sitting there, watching him, and he blushed.

'Um,' Harry began, needing to say something to break the silence and the tension, and to divert both of them from what was going on. 'What time is it? I'm hungry.'

Severus breathed out in a hiss, and Harry's eyes darted back to his face. They widened when Harry saw the smile on Severus's face.

'What—?'

Slowly, Severus stood up and let the book drop. Harry watched it bounce on the sofa, and then his eyes were drawn back up to Severus's face. Severus smirked and walked, prowled, closer. 'I'm hungry, too,' he said. His voice was stunningly deep and vibrating slightly.

Harry shivered, feeling pinned to the spot by the dark eyes and Severus's smile. Helpless, cock throbbing, he looked up as Severus loomed above him. 'S-Severus …?'

'I'm very hungry,' Severus repeated, voice going even deeper, softer. His eyes fell to Harry's mouth, and he licked his lips. 'Positively famished.'

Before Harry had time to react, Severus moved again, closer, a sudden flash of dark jeans and sweater, and then he was straddling Harry's lap. Harry yelped and started, shocked and, deep down, thrilled by the boy's forwardness. His hand tightened on his cock, and involuntarily his hips thrust upwards just a little.

As close as Severus was, he couldn't miss the motion. His eyes seemed to glow as he regarded Harry. 'Very hungry,' he whispered. His hands slid to the armrests of Harry's chair and he leant in, but slowly, hesitantly. Unsure, despite his show of confidence. Harry dug his fingers into his thigh to prevent himself from reaching out and up and pulling Severus down to kiss him.

'Severus, I…' His voice broke, and he didn't try to speak again. He felt dizzy, all his blood having gone south.

'You want me,' Severus said softly. It wasn't a question, but neither was it as confident a statement as it was probably meant to be. Severus's eyes stared closely into Harry's, at Harry's face, gauging his reaction. Harry clenched his fingers a little tighter, feeling his nails bite into his leg through his clothes.

A sudden, bright smile bloomed across Severus's face. He'd seen what he'd been looking for; not that there was any way for Harry to hide it, not now, not anymore, not with Severus so close and Harry rocking ever so softly into his own hand. 'You want me,' he repeated, sounding delighted.

'I … Severus …' Harry tried again.

Severus laughed softly, exhilarated, and put a finger to Harry's lips, silencing him. Harry wanted to suck that finger into his mouth.

'Shh,' Severus breathed. 'You want me. I know you do. You can't deny this.' And he ground down with his hips, pressing Harry's hand into his cock. The sudden, increased pressure made Harry moan.

'God, Severus, don't!' he pleaded breathlessly. Yet he made no attempt to get away, to shake Severus off.

'Why not?' Severus challenged. 'Why not?' He pushed down again, and Harry's hand slid away without his input, allowing Severus's groin contact. Severus gasped softly but he kept talking. Harry wondered how he did it. 'Why shouldn't I do this? You want me, I want you.'

Harry moaned again. One hand shot out from underneath the blanket and grabbed Severus's hip. 'You … you can't want me,' he panted, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it. It only served to make him dizzier. 'You … I know you aren't … aren't into men.'

Severus choked out a laugh and grabbed Harry's hand, dragging it to the front of his jeans where he pressed it down. Through the cloth, Harry felt Severus's erection slide into his palm. Instinctively, his fingers curled around it. Severus bit his lip. 'Doesn't that feel like interest?'

Harry closed his eyes, one hand on Severus cock, the other going back to his own. He knew there were good reasons not to do this, but it was getting incredibly hard … no, no, difficult to remember them.

'That's … that's because you're a … a teenager,' Harry gasped as Severus rocked into his hand. 'You're … horny by default.'

Again, Severus let out a strangled laugh. 'And yet, I had no desire to jump any of your friends,' he whispered. 'Only you, Harry. Only you … I, oh, please!' He clamped his hand over Harry's, holding it as rocked into Harry's palm.

Harry swallowed a groan. He needed to let go, get up and away from Severus, stop this. While he still could. Severus was moving more insistently, moaning with each thrust forwards. He leant closer, resting his forehead against Harry's. His eyes were so close, so dark and glowing, they filled Harry's entire view.

'Severus …' he moaned and closed his eyes.

'Please, Harry.'

Groping for some last straw, Harry mumbled, 'What … what about my mum?'

Severus's breath hitched. 'Who?'

'My mum.' Harry bit his lip and opened his eyes. The memory of what he'd seen in Snape's Pensieve had cleared his head a little. It had also reinforced his decision that this couldn't go on. He couldn't do this. Shouldn't do this. Severus was in love with his mother. 'Lily Evans.'

Severus stilled, staring into Harry's eyes, panting softly. 'What?'

Harry tugged his hand free and made himself let go of his aching cock so that he could push Severus a little further back. Trying to calm his hammering heart, he looked up. 'What about Lily?' he asked again. 'I know that you … that you love her.'

Severus had become very serious. He closed his eyes for a moment, clearly struggling to take even breaths. Then he looked at Harry again. 'I … Yes. I love her,' he admitted very softly. Harry felt a sudden, sharp pain in his chest, but he ignored it.

'Of course I do,' Severus went on, just as softly, but with an odd intensity. 'She's my friend. My best friend. She … Yeah. But. I don't want to do this with her!' Unexpectedly, he leant in and pressed his lips to Harry's.

It was an awkward angle, and Severus was too forceful. He smashed their lips together until Harry felt his teeth digging in. Severus had clearly never kissed anyone before, and that was enough to make Harry forget everything else. One hand found its way to Severus's hip again, the other curled around the back of Severus's head, tilting it just enough to make the kiss easier, and then Harry took over.

He nipped Severus's lip, and when Severus drew back, Harry turned the kiss into a gentle slide of lips on lips. Severus trembled, tensed, but gave in and relaxed with a soft sound, allowing Harry to lead. Harry moaned and parted his lips, let his tongue tease the corners of Severus's mouth.

Severus's mouth opened in surprise, and Harry's tongue darted in. Just a little, just for a tease, before he pulled back. Predictably, Severus mirrored him, and before either of them knew, they were kissing deeply, madly, tongues tangling and sliding, chasing each other. Harry pulled Severus closer, hand on his hip sliding lower to cup one buttock. Severus gasped and moaned into Harry's mouth.

Suddenly there was movement, the blanket they had trapped between them slid away. Harry pulled back, confused, and Severus shoved it off and to the floor. His usually smooth hair was a little mussed, and Harry ran his fingers through it, wonderingly. Severus had such nice hair …

The memory of Snape as he'd been when Harry had first seen him snapped Harry out of his lust-induced haze. Harry whimpered, and when Severus tried to lean in again, Harry stopped him.

'No! No, Severus, don't! I can't,' he panted pleadingly.

'What?' Severus was just as breathless as Harry. 'Can't do what?'

'This!' Harry flailed one hand. 'Wanting you! Kissing you! Wanting to do more than just kiss you.'

Severus flashed him a predatory smile. 'Good!'

Harry shook his head. 'No, no, not good, not good at all!'

'Why not? What's the problem this time?'

Harry gazed imploringly up into Severus's eyes. 'I mustn't, Severus. I'm and adult and you're only fifteen.'

'Wrong.' Severus smirked. It looked strange but good with his bright eyes and pink cheeks.

'What?'

'I'm only temporarily fifteen. You said yourself that, in truth, I'm forty-eight.' He cocked his head and raised one eyebrow. 'I don't mind that you're so much younger than I am.'

Harry grinned weakly and shook his head. 'But right now, you're fifteen, Severus. You're in my care, and I'm supposed to protect you and take care of you and once you're back to your own age, you'll never forgive me.'

A strange little smile hovered on Severus's lips. 'How would you know, Potter?'

Harry blinked. 'I'd be taking advantage of you. You don't like me. And, and you said in your letter that I'm to take care of your well-being, and—'

'Hmm, yes,' Severus all but purred, already leaning closer again. 'This way, you're taking care of my emotional well-being. And my physical well-being. Probably even my magical well-being as well.'

Then his mouth closed over Harry's, and his groin slid against Harry's erection, and all reasonable thought went out the window.

Harry moaned, tightening his hold on Severus, and kissed back without restraint. His hips rolled up to press against Severus's at the same time that his tongue thrust into Severus's mouth. Severus shuddered and groaned. He twisted, making their erections rub against each other, and then suddenly there were hands under Harry's shirt and on his naked skin. Hesitant fingers that trembled as they trailed over his fluttering stomach muscles. Harry's hold on Severus tightened for a second before Harry pushed him back.

Severus's eyes were glassy and dazed and confused. Harry didn't give him time to clear his head but grabbed Severus's jumper, pulled it up over his head, and tossed it aside. Then he sent Severus's shirt the same way, his eyes already gazing hungrily at Severus's bared chest. It was thin and hairless, the ribs still prominent, but all of Harry's attention went to the pink nipples that tightened under his gaze.

Severus jerked and cried out when Harry's lips closed over one of the tight buds. Harry sucked gently, then took the nipple between his teeth and pulled. Nibbled. Severus clung to his shoulders, writhing in his lap. The stunned, gasping sounds he made drove Harry wild. He attacked the other nipple while he snuck a hand into Severus's trousers.

'Harry, oh, Harry!' Severus moaned when Harry touched him. Harry hummed and curled his fingers around Severus's cock. It was already slick with pre-come, and the way he twitched and clung and groaned told Harry that Severus was close. Suddenly, Harry burnt with the desire to see Severus's face in ecstasy.

He tightened his hold and stroked as best as he could in the confines of Severus's pants, rubbing the head with his palm as he twisted his wrist on the way up. Severus gasped and bucked his hips. His thighs trembled against Harry's, and his body tensed. Harry leant back and looked up into Severus's face as he squeezed a little harder, stroked a little faster.

Severus's eyes flew open, sightless and glazed. His breathing hitched. Then his lids fell shut, and he shuddered, coming with a drawn-out groan over Harry's fingers.

Biting the inside of his cheek, Harry fought for control. His balls were so high and tight, it wouldn't need much to set him off now.

Severus sighed and sank against Harry's chest. Harry withdrew his hand and let it dangle over the armrest, wrapping the other arm around Severus's waist. He pressed a soft kiss to the boy's temple.

It didn't take Severus long to recover. Soon he sat up and looked at Harry with a wide, joyful smile. 'Wow, that was brilliant,' he said. His eyes dropped to the very noticeable bulge in Harry's trousers, and Severus's smile became wicked. He shot Harry a glance through his lashes. 'Hmm, your turn now.'

Harry wanted to shake his head and give the boy an amused, indulgent smile. He wanted to tell Severus that it wasn't necessary. But he did nothing of the kind as Severus took his glasses off. He still said nothing when Severus began to pull on Harry's clothes. Then Severus's mouth was on his again, and he couldn't say anything.

Fingers tugged on his fly, and Harry gasped into the kiss. Severus pulled back with a soft, smug chuckle. He looked so happy. Harry cupped Severus's face in his hands and just stared for a moment. Severus raised one eyebrow. Harry began to smile and shake his head, but while he hadn't been paying attention, Severus had opened his trousers. Harry's cock sprang free and into Severus's hand. Harry's eyes rolled back in pleasure at the sensation, whatever he'd wanted to say forgotten.

Severus's touch was a little hesitant at first. His fingers too loose. His movements too slow. Harry thought he'd die from this torture, from the stimulation that wound him tighter and tighter but was never enough to tip him over.

Then Severus shifted and scooted backwards. Harry blinked, uncomprehending, down at Severus. His lust-fogged brain was too slow to understand Severus's wink, or his intention as he lowered his head. The sensation of Severus's lip wrapping around the head of his cock came as a shock.

Harry groaned, or perhaps whimpered, he couldn't hear himself over the loud thrumming of blood in his ears. His toes curled, and he clenched his fingers, gritted his teeth, desperate to hold on, enjoy, and not simply explode.

Severus sank lower, taking more of Harry into his mouth until he gagged. Then he pulled back and began to lick and suck, experimenting. Harry shook with pleasure and the strain of trying to hold on. Severus's tongue curled around him, and there was a hint of teeth.

Gasping, Harry tugged on Severus's hair. 'S-Sev'rus … I … I …'

Severus tightened his lips and sucked so hard his cheeks hollowed. Harry's head fell back, and his hips shot up, and with a cry, he came in Severus's mouth.

Vaguely he was aware of Severus jerking as though startled, and then pulling back. Severus's hair slid through Harry's nerveless fingers, and Harry regretted the loss of the soft touch. Still trembling and panting hard, he forced his eyes open. And moaned as he saw streaks of his come on Severus's face.

Severus coughed and shook his head, wrinkling his nose. Then he wiped at his cheeks. 'Messy,' he commented, with a look at his filthy hands.

Laughing weakly, Harry tried to sit up. 'Sorry,' he said. 'I … wait a s-second.' Concentrating wasn't easy, shaky and dazed as he was, but he'd Summoned his wand often enough to manage it even half asleep. Blown out of his mind made no difference there. His wand obediently wiggled out of the pile of Harry's clothes and flew into his hand. Harry cast a cleaning charm at Severus, and then one at himself.

'I'm, ah, sorry,' he said, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

'Sorry?' Severus frowned. 'What for.'

'Um. Making a mess.' Harry felt his face heat. 'C-coming like that. All … all over you.'

With a shrug, Severus grinned. 'It was worth the experience. And it really doesn't taste that bad. But the swallowing is tricky.'

'What?' Harry gaped at him.

Severus cocked his head. He seemed utterly unconcerned that he was still naked as he perched on the footstool. 'What "what"?'

'You … I … But you …'

Severus rolled his eyes and leant forwards, hands on Harry's knees. 'Harry,' he said seriously, 'It's okay. I didn't do anything I didn't want to do.'

For a moment, Harry stared at him and debated contesting Severus's words. That he couldn't have known. That he couldn't have wanted it. But he swallowed his words. Harry remembered being fifteen. He hadn't taken being told what he wanted well.

'O-okay. Um.'

Severus laughed and kissed him, just a gentle brushing of lips. Harry's cock was too spent to do as much as twitch, but a frisson of reawakened arousal ran down Harry's spine.

'Hmmm,' Severus said softly against his lips. 'Bed?'

Harry blinked, then laughed. 'For sleeping, yes.'

'No sleeping.' Severus straightened. It brought his groin – and his half-hard cock – right up to Harry's eyes.

'Ah. Teenagers,' Harry sighed and struggled to his feet. His knees still felt wobbly. Harry grabbed hold of the backrest and peered around, looking for his glasses.

'Here.' Severus bent over – god, that arse looked even better naked! – and picked up Harry's glasses. 'Though I don't know why you need them. You'll be taking them off again in five minutes' time.'

Harry shoved them onto his nose and raised his brows at Severus. 'You're confident, aren't you? Or are you just horny.'

Severus stepped up to him, so close their bodies almost touched. 'Just wanting you,' he whispered, his breath caressing Harry's face. Harry shivered. When Severus took his hand and tugged him toward the door, he followed without protest.

The way down the hall, up the stairs, and into his bedroom seemed both long and short. Harry's head cleared a little, and suddenly all the good reasons why he shouldn't be doing this came back to him. Making out and a hand-job, that might still be okay. Snape might not kill him for that. But he knew what Severus wanted, and Harry was convinced it wasn't a good idea. No matter what Severus said. He wasn't Snape.

With those thoughts and arguments going through his head, the way seemed too short. He hadn't yet untangled his head when they reached his bedroom, and Severus pushed Harry down onto the bed.

'Severus,' Harry began, holding up his hands to stop the boy.

Severus all but snarled at him. 'We're not having this discussion again!'

'But I—'

Severus shut him up in a tried and tested manner by kissing him. His hard cock rubbed against Harry's hip.

'I want you, Harry,' he whispered in Harry's ear. 'Please.'

The soft plea was unbearably hot, making Harry moan. Severus then unwittingly destroyed Harry's defences entirely when he trailed his lips down Harry's neck and grazed his teeth over the spot right behind the juncture of neck and shoulder. Harry's body jolted as though electrified. Harry gasped. Even his cock twitched.

Severus gave a surprised but pleased murmur and licked that spot. Harry quivered, his hands on Severus's hips clenching. Severus bit him, unexpectedly hard, and Harry cried out. His cock hardened instantly. Severus lapped and nuzzled the bite. Desire so forceful Harry almost blacked out ran through his body. With a growl, he flipped them over and forced Severus legs open.

'Yesss,' Severus hissed and arched beneath him.

Harry growled again and pounced. He lay on top of Severus as he began kissing him. Their cocks slid and ground together. Severus ran his hands down Harry's back, stopping just shy of Harry's arse. Harry bit Severus's lower lip.

'Come on, touch me,' he whispered against Severus's lips before he claimed another kiss.

Severus did as he was told, sliding his hands over Harry's bum. Harry rolled his hips. Severus lifted his legs and wrapped them around Harry's thighs. They both moaned at the changed angle, and for a while, they simply rocked together, enjoying the sliding and gentle friction on their cocks.

But that wasn't what Harry wanted. He pushed up until he crouched above Severus as he nibbled along the boy's neck. Severus whimpered and dug his fingers into Harry's arse in an attempt to pull him down again. Harry resisted and instead attacked the dark pink nipples, licking, sucking, and biting one while he teased the other with his fingers. He changed to the other nipple, and then switched back again, until Severus was almost sobbing.

Satisfied, Harry slid lower, running his tongue over Severus's smooth stomach. He could smell Severus now, musky and mouth-watering and male. Changing direction, Harry went for his prick.

Severus went wild as Harry' swallowed him down, and Harry had to grab his hips to hold him down, or else Severus's twisting and bucking would have hurt him. He didn't need a broken nose right now. Above him, Severus was babbling, an endless stream of, 'Harry, Harry, yess, oh, please, oh, Harry!' over and over. Harry hummed and swallowed again.

While he had the boy distracted, Harry dared to let go of one hip to slide his fingers over Severus's balls and down to his crack. He gently rubbed over Severus's hole until the boy was squirming, and then carefully pushed the tip of one finger in. He didn't meet much resistance but still pulled back.

Severus gasped when Harry let go. 'What?'

'Lube,' Harry grunted and lunged across him to the bedside table

Severus moaned. His legs splayed even wider. 'Oh, yes.'

Then Harry was back to sucking the boy's cock and sliding one finger in. With the added slick of the lube, there was even less resistance. Severus bore down, taking Harry's finger all the way in. Harry moved it slowly in and out, then crooked it, searching. Severus arched off the bed with a wail when Harry hit the right spot. Harry hummed and did it again.

When the thighs spread for him began to tremble, Harry eased up on the sucking. He wanted Severus so far gone he wouldn't experience any pain but not post-orgasmic. Severus groaned in protest and pulled on Harry's hair.

'No, Harry, please, please, don't stop!'

Harry kissed the tip of Severus's cock and slicked up a second finger. Moving slowly, he pushed into Severus's hole.

'God, Harry, more,' Severus panted and tried to bear down.

'Slowly, slowly,' Harry said. He nuzzled Severus's balls and pushed deeper.

'Fuck slowly and just do it!'

'Hmm, pushy.' Harry's fingers slid in. Severus gasped and began rocking more forcefully. But Harry refused to be rushed, and he kept his movements slow. In and out, stretching, opening, occasionally hitting Severus's prostate.

'Damn it, Harry!' Severus cried with a painful tug on Harry's hair. 'Stop pussyfooting around. I want you, not your fingers!'

Harry groaned, shook his head, tempted by Severus's words. 'No, I'll hurt you.'

'No you won't,' Severus growled. 'I'm fine, come on, Harry, please!'

'Don't rush, or you'll get hurt. I know what I'm doing,' Harry growled back.

'Me, too!' Severus ground down on Harry's fingers. 'Come on, please, now, inside, please!'

Harry bit Severus's thigh in reproval, and Severus kicked out. 'Severus, stop!' Harry glared up. Severus, propped up on one elbow, glared back down. 'You've never done it before, have you?'

'No, I haven't but there was a book,' Severus said, talking over Harry's repeated admonishment to stop rushing.

'A book?'

Severus pushed back against Harry's fingers. 'Yeah. One of yours. Was on a shelf in the back. Read through it. I know what I'm doing. Please, Harry!'

Harry didn't know whether to laugh or not. Typical bookworm, Severus had read up and now thought that reality was just like the book. On the other hand, Severus hadn't shown any pain or discomfort when Harry had inserted even two fingers. And he certainly showed enthusiasm.

Tired of all the inner debating he'd been doing, Harry decided to trust Severus. He pulled his fingers out, still moving carefully, and slicked up his cock. Severus watched him with wide eyes, then fell back onto the mattress with a groan. His legs splayed obscenely wide, he raised his arse.

Face with so much temptation, Harry had to bite his lip, needing the small pain to remember to go slow. At least at first. No matter what Severus said.

Propping himself up with one arm, Harry guided his cock to Severus's hole and pushed in. Severus hissed and clamped down. Harry forced himself to hold still.

To his surprise, it didn't take long for Severus to relax. Harry pushed a little more, and then slid in, slowly, smoothly, all the way in. When his balls came to rest against Severus's arse, Harry paused, staring down at Severus in amazement. Severus stared back. For a second, they remained still, looking into each other's eyes. Then Severus shuddered, and his eyes closed, and Harry began to move.

He meant to go slow, no matter how relaxed Severus was. But Severus was impatient, bucking his hips and pulling on Harry, urging him to go faster with hissed words. So Harry complied. He thrust in, hard and fast, and Severus's legs wrapped around him to pull him even deeper. Harry lost all control he'd had, even if only in his own imagination, and began pounding into Severus's arse.

The bed creaked with each of his thrusts. Its groaning was accompanied by the sound of flesh slapping against flesh and Harry's grunts. Severus's moans and hisses and pleas were in harmony, and together they created a symphony of desire that echoed in Harry's heart.

Severus came with a soft, surprised sound. He threw his head back, dark hair fanning out on the pillow. Then he cried out, louder, and shot over his stomach and chest. Harry froze, watched. The sight and the smell and the sensation of Severus's arse contracting around him had him teetering on the edge.

Severus shuddered and sagged limply back onto the mattress. Still gasping, he half-opened his eyes and gazed at Harry. A lazy, mischievous smile spread over his face.

Harry swallowed and tried to thrust in deeper. Severus dug his heels into Harry's arse, moved up into Harry's next thrust, and clenched. Harry's hips stuttered, lost their rhythm. Grunting, he pushed in as deep as he could go and came.

The next thing Harry was aware of was lying half on top of Severus's body, sticky and sweaty, with Severus's arms around him. One hand trailed over his spine. He could feel Severus's breath on his temple and Severus's heart under his palm. With an effort, Harry turned his head and pressed a kiss to Severus's shoulder.

'Back again?' Severus asked quietly, sounding amused.

'Mmmm,' Harry replied and snuggled closer.

Severus's arms tightened. 'Harry. I …'

'Mmm,' Harry said again and, lifting his head, kissed Severus's lips. 'Yeah.' With a sigh, he slumped back down. For the moment, they lay in sated silence.

'Need to clean up,' Harry said a little later. 'We're sticky.'

Severus moved under him, away from him, and Harry grumbled a protest. Then a wand was pressed into his hand. Harry blinked at it. He looked up at Severus. He stared.

Severus's straight, dark hair was mussed and streaked with sweat. There was a white smear along his jaw that looked like dried semen. His lips were curled up in a lopsided smile. His eyes were radiant. He was so beautiful that Harry's heart clenched.

'Cleaning charm?' Severus asked.

'Yeah.' Harry gathered his thoughts and performed several cleaning charms. Then he kicked the duvet down and pulled it up over them. 'Sleeping now. Tired.'

But Severus was too far away, and Harry insistently pulled him closer. Severus came into his arms willingly and curled against Harry's body.

'Hmmm. Good,' Harry mumbled drowsily.

He thought that he felt the body next to him tremble, and something hot run down his chest. But he was asleep before he could think about it.

*

Day Thirty-One

Harry woke up slowly. Even still half-asleep, he was aware of feeling relaxed, rested, and sated in a way he hadn't felt for a long time. For a moment, he couldn't remember why he was feeling so well. Then the memory of the previous night came back.

Severus. Touches and kisses, and whispers and moans. He'd kissed Severus. Touched him. Made love to him. He remembered, Severus's dark eyes glowing, his face flushed with pleasure. Severus's hands on his body. The feeling of Severus's cock in his hand, against his hip. The feeling of Severus's arse clenching around him, hot and tight, and Severus moaning softly, dark hair spread on the pillow over his head.

Humming with lazy satisfaction, eyes still closed, Harry revelled in the memories and the sensation of sated hunger in his body. With a smile, he reached out to touch Severus, to pull him into an embrace. Kiss him. See Severus smile.

But he touched cold sheets.

Blinking, half-sitting up, Harry squinted at the side of the bed where Severus had lain last night, when they'd fallen asleep. Severus wasn't there. Harry knuckled his eyes, trying to wake up more. He hadn't dreamt last night. He was feeling too languid and sore to have imagined making love to Severus.

Perhaps Severus had got up to go to the loo? Make breakfast? How late was it, anyway? But the sheets were cold where Severus had lain. Confused and a little hurt, Harry sat up. And saw Severus standing at the foot of the bed, watching him.

Only it wasn't Severus. Harry groped for his glasses, not taking his eyes off the black figure, but he didn't really need his glasses to see. To understand.

The world came into focus, and Harry looked up at the adult Snape, who was dressed in his own, black robes. He looked a little different, less thin and less pale, but the lack of expression on his face and in his eyes was horribly familiar.

'Oh. Um.' Harry, suddenly panicked, pulled his duvet up to his chin and gave the man a nervous smile. 'Snape. You're, um. Back to your own age.'

He waited, trembling and cold inside, for the tirade that surely would follow. He waited for Snape to start yelling about Harry's inability to take care of a teenager, about how Harry had abused his authority, and Snape's trust, and that he'd report Harry to the Wizengamot for child molestation.

But Snape, still expressionless, only inclined his head ever so slightly. 'As you see.'

'Um,' was all Harry could say. All he could think of. His mind was oddly blank.

'I have to thank you,' Snape said coolly. Harry winced a little and sank lower behind the shielding duvet. Now it would come. Now Snape would turn sarcastic and vicious and flay Harry's character and morals and heart.

Snape's eyes grew uncomfortably piercing. 'I have to thank you,' he repeated, 'for taking such good care of me.'

Harry flinched. He had to look away from those eyes, suddenly feeling too raw to be able to stand their gaze. All his earlier satisfaction, the utter peace and happiness he'd been feeling, melted away, leaving him cold and hollow. Aching.

God, Snape didn't even have to yell to cut him down. He didn't even have to be openly sarcastic.

But what had he expected? That Snape would, miraculously, somehow still be that fifteen-year-old boy Harry had come to lo— be fond of?

He clenched his fingers into the blanket and straightened his spine. Harry had never backed down in a fight with Snape.

'You're, uh, welcome,' he said quietly. Although he still couldn't look at Snape, his voice was steady.

An uncomfortable silence followed, stretched. Harry could hear birds outside. The creaking of the house. Severus … Snape's breath. His own, rapid heartbeat in his ears.

Harry kept his eyes trained firmly on his feet under the blanket. He wouldn't look up, meet Snape's eyes. He couldn't. This man – the adult – knew Harry too well. He probably didn't even need Legilimency to know what Harry was thinking. He'd only laugh. Harry couldn't take it right now.

'Well,' Snape said finally. Harry's fingers tightened until his knuckles turned white. 'I shall take my leave, then.'

Harry nodded. 'Yes. Okay.'

Another silence. Then Snape seemed to sigh.

'Goodbye, Mr Potter.'

'Goodbye,' Harry whispered to the retreating footsteps. The bedroom door closed.

Harry sat still, tense, listening, waiting. The front door closed. The wards flickered as Snape stepped through. The pop of Apparition seemed oddly loud.

'Goodbye,' Harry whispered again, 'Severus.'

Squeezing his eyes closed, Harry took off his glasses and burrowed into his bed, pulling the duvet up over his ears. He didn't want to get up any time soon.

*

Day Forty-Eight

Harry poked morosely at his dinner. He was feeling lonely and very sorry for himself. The kitchen was too quiet, and when he looked up, the place opposite his was empty. Harry sighed and shoved his plate away.

It was ridiculous. Stupid. He'd known that things couldn't last forever. They weren't meant to last, after all. Still. He missed Severus.

It had been over two weeks since he'd seen Severus. The boy Severus, that is. He'd gone to visit the adult Severus a couple of days after the youth flash had ended, ostensibly to see if the man was all right and to return his journals. Harry had been nervous before the visit. Trembling. After all, the adult Snape remembered everything Harry had done with and to Severus as a boy.

He'd known not to expect a warm welcome. But perhaps he'd hoped for it. Or at least for a welcome that didn't consist of curses and insults thrown at him.

What he'd got couldn't really be called any kind of welcome at all. He'd arrived at Snape's front door, happy to discover that the wards still allowed him in. Snape had opened the door a little later, and Harry's heart had begun beating even faster, somewhere in his throat.

But Snape hadn't welcomed him, only grunted at Harry's explanation for coming. He'd waved Harry in and told him where to put the trunk, even going so far as to thank Harry for bringing it. But he hadn't invited Harry to stay, and he hadn't seemed very interested in either Harry or the trunk. His whole demeanour had been absent-minded and vague, and his words somewhat disjointed. He'd kept hovering at the top of the stairs that led down to his lab, clearly impatient to go back down to whatever experiment was taking up all his time and concentration.

Harry, hurt, had left and not gone back again. Not for a second attempt at a visit, and since there hadn't been any alarm, not to check up on Snape in a professional capacity, either. He came home every evening to a silent house. He went out to see his friends, who kept asking after Severus. He didn't sleep very well, because his dreams kept him up – in all possible senses of the word.

It was no use telling himself it was ridiculous and stupid and impossible and whatever else came to mind.

Harry missed Severus. And he was miserable.

With a groan, Harry got up from the table and dumped his mostly uneaten dinner into a box to put it in the CoolKeep. Perhaps he'd have more of an appetite tomorrow evening.

The knock came just as Harry set his dinner dishes to wash themselves in the sink.

He sighed and glanced at the clock, then shook his head and went to answer the door, wondering who it might be. Wesley Charlton perhaps, who, now that Severus was gone, had begun to make even more and stronger attempts to come back to Harry. Or Ginny, who once again wanted to talk about how well Harry had taken care of the boy and what a wonderful, perfect father he'd make.

What Harry had not expected upon opening the door was to see a slender young man, dressed in black jeans and a dark red jumper, smirking at him in an all too familiar way.

Reeling with vertigo, Harry clung to the door and blinked at the boy – young man – who looked like a younger version of Severus Snape.

Exactly like a …

'Severus?'

'I think I figured it out.'

Harry opened and closed his mouth several times before he managed, 'You … What …?'

Severus shrugged. 'An accident in time saves everyone a lot of heartache and pain, or however the saying goes.'

Harry blinked, utterly confused. 'I don't understand.'

Severus gave him a fond smile. 'I know. You have no idea what the memory of those weeks with you means to me.' He suddenly became serious. 'That first time, I came to you because of an accident, and because I couldn't think of anything else to do, anywhere else to go in case I regressed into an underaged wizard. I thought you'd keep me safe, no matter what, especially if I appealed to your sense of fairness. But you did more than that. And I … I thought that, perhaps, my accident hadn't been entirely – accidental. In the end, we both gained something. Didn't we?'

His dark eyes were intent, but not to the point that Harry was reminded of Legilimency. Instead, Severus seemed to be looking for something in Harry's face, searching, pleading just a little.

Harry was still too bewildered to try and make sense of it. But Severus's eyes struck him as different. While they weren't as cold and bottomless as Harry remembered adult Snape's eyes being, they weren't exactly those of a young man, either. They looked as though the adult was there behind the young man's eyes.

Severus's words were even more unexpected.

'You … You remember? Your adult self?' Harry shook his head. 'But I thought you said you don't when you de-age …'

Severus's smug grin looked oddly shy. 'Told you, I figured out how to stabilise the age changing.'

'I … what?'

Severus rolled his eyes. 'The age changing, Harry,' he repeated patiently. 'I figured out how to control the flashes and how to retain most of my memories. I understand now what triggers a flash, what cancels it, and how to manipulate the triggers.' The smug smile was back.

Harry kept blinking. Did Severus just say he had deliberately de-aged himself? And that he meant to stay that way? 'But why?' he all but wailed.

Severus's smile became darkly seductive. 'Let me come in. Harry. I'll show you.'

End.

Notes:
Language disclaimer for the translation: I don't speak Greek, and my Latin has seen better days. I used online dictionaries for the translations.
senescere: verb, to age
exsecratio: noun, curse
chronos: noun, time
epirroi: noun: influence (on)



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