After the Rain
It was midnight and it was raining.
Harry felt that he could mark the events of his life by the sound of rain falling outside. His life occurred in cycles and each cycle was marked by change. If he held out his hands he could count on his fingers the amount of people that he hurt. And at midnight when it rained, they came back to haunt him as he added one more to their number.
"Harry Heart," Ginny taunted.
Her eyes would glisten with her mirth as she danced before him, with the sound of her laughter echoing like a bell in the hall. Everyone would laugh with her when she was so happy. They would roll their eyes and throw mock looks of pity at Harry also, but he would only be laughing just as hard.
"Harry heart. Eiy. Ell. Yuu," she would say in a singsong voice when she was standing knee deep in snow.
Harry would playfully growl in irritation at her open affection before grabbing at her. She would squeal before trying to fight off his pursuit with a magical arch of snowballs. She was always wand happy like that and if Harry wasn't careful he would end up covered with cold, semi-frozen water dripping from his hair and face.
"Harry Heart," she would murmur softly against his lips. "What will I do next year when you leave Hogwarts?"
They didn't get that far.
By January of Harry's Sixth Year Ginny had gotten over what little had remained of her shy nature. She had dated Dean and then Harry and was suddenly confident enough. She didn't need a boyfriend that was a year above her to tell her who to become. Harry didn't have the mean streak within to bind her to him when she was not what he wanted either.
Ron of course was pissed, but Harry let him steam and storm for as long as he needed and soon enough he let go of the idea of having Harry as a legitimate member of his family. It was strange with Ginny for a while after he broke up with her. It had taken her a while to see what he saw when he looked at her. She had cried for so long that Harry had been afraid that he had broken her but January went and she soon began to smile easier at him. By February she was dating Colin and laughing in the hall again. She would laugh and tease him as always...but he wasn't her 'Harry Heart' anymore.
And it was midnight and raining again.
"Why do you let me do this to you?" Pansy would ask.
Harry tried to tell himself that he didn't let her do anything but deep down he knew that this was a big fat lie. He let her hate him and use him and hurt him as much as she wanted. At first she would look at him in pity and disgust but little by little that passed and instead he could see confusion more than anything else. He would look at her with his Slytherin eyes and Gryffindor smile and not answer her questions at all.
"Harry did I hurt you this much?"
She would run her fingers through his hair and lick away the thin stream of blood from his lips, but he wouldn't even be looking at her.
That scared her and he could see that but he didn't know how to come back from the emptyness. His hollow gaze would look through her as if she were invisible or he was lost somewhere. Sometimes he would have tears in his eyes that would catch just at the edge of his lid but would not fall. That scared her too.
He liked the mark on her arm.
It wasn't there yet, but when he held her against his body he could feel it burning into his palm so he held her tighter. It wasn't her darkness that he wanted. He could never get her to understand that. Sometimes she stared at him in silence when he was in her and he could see the gaps in her mind where he wouldn't fit.
"Harry, you're nothing like I thought you would be," she told him one night.
He didn't hear her. He was busy looking at the blood beneath her nails. He thought that he transformed her into a succubus when they had sex but that would just make him a willing partner to her evil. He wished that he could feel the pain when her nails scraped bloody pathways down his back in the moments when she was all demon and he was her prey.
He expected to feel her anger when he took her outside to stand in the rain.
She didn't get angry. She looked at him and he could see the red pupils of another looking through her at him. He felt naked under such a gaze because he didn't have the darkness to hide him and he didn't believe in the light anymore. He wondered if Malfoy got half as unnerved as he did when she looked at him. They were cut from the same cloth though. Harry didn't expect such animosity between servants of the same dark god.
"Yes Draco and I are fuck buddies," she answered when he didn't seem interested in asking the question.
He just nodded.
She slapped him across the cheek. He didn't react. She slapped him again. And then again. And then he caught her hand and she couldn't hurt him anymore. So instead she looked at him with her Slytherin hate and tortured soul.
"You never wanted me," she said softly. "You never stop looking at him."
And it was midnight and raining again.
Harry sometimes thought that he was just a sum of all his parts. He would lie awake and imagine himself like that. Just legs and fingers and lips and cock...but it wasn't his own body that he wanted so much that he ached. He wished that his hair didn't feel so smooth and untamed when it should have been pure grease. And he wondered why robes were made the way they were because robes hid a lot and sometimes they hid too much.
'Don't shout. Don't shout. Don't shout,' Harry would repeat obsessively in his mind because he was in Seventh Year now and the Dark Lord was fast becoming someone's fertilizer.
His cauldron exploded spectacularly if he did say so himself.
"Ten points from Gryffindor!"
Harry was disappointed despite everything. For once he wished that Snape would let it go but the professor never did. Sometimes Harry felt as if Snape must have known that his frequent Potions accidents, that rivalled Neville's record, were really not so much accidents at all. But, Harry had no intentions of backing down and, damning it all, he wanted something to come of it if even he had to burn Hogwarts down in his stupidity.
Harry would sometimes admit that it was an obsession and sometimes he waited for midnight to see if it would rain. But it didn't anymore.
"What do you think you are doing?" Snape's voice sounded less than kind in Harry's ear after Potions class.
Harry fought the smile that rose to his lips.
"Oh so you do know that I still exist," he stated with a smirk that he had picked up from the prat standing before him.
"What?" Genuine confusion came through in Snape's voice.
Harry suddenly felt as if he was backed against the wall of the dungeon and pinned by eyes that were stained midnight black. For a moment he could actually feel the x-ray vision that Snape would have to posses in order to read his soul like Snape was doing. Then again, x-ray vision had nothing on Occlumency. Harry didn't feel secure enough to allow the professor an easy access to his deep, dark secrets just then.
"You stopped looking at me," Harry responded as if what he said made sense.
Snape's expression gave nothing away. If anything the darkness just seemed to intensify as he deciphered Harry's madness.
"You endangered us all on purpose Potter, because it tickled your fancy?" he asked instead.
Harry blushed, which was rather surprising since it had been a while since he felt innocent enough to blush for anything.
"I figured I had a small bit of leeway, all things considering," he answered when he found his voice to speak again. "It wasn't about endangering anyone anyway. I just got carried away in the past two weeks."
"Then what does it have to do with?" Snape enquired.
Harry's answer was immediate. "You. I don't like knowing that I'm not worthy of your gaze anymore. I saved the world and you lost interest in saving me."
"You are so brazen," Snape retorted. "Stupid and stubborn. Foolish. Petulant. Irrational."
He took a couple steps forward with each word and Harry took a few steps backward until he really was backed against one of the dungeon walls. He tried to search Snape's face to figure out what he would be sacrificing, in the days to come, for this private moment.
"Still think I'm my father's child?" Harry asked softly.
"Yes," Snape snarled. "You will always remind me of him in some ways."
Harry cringed noticeably. He hated that something died inside of him whenever he did not live up to Snape's unspoken expectations by rising above the steryotype of being 'just another Gryffindor'. He had spent hours on his own practicing Occlumency the summer before when he was finally able to perform magic outside of Hogwarts. He went to bed with a nosebleed every night but he woke up every morning trying to build a mental wall. On the first day back for Seventh Year, Snape had crushed it with a look, but Voldemort had not been so lucky.
Now he was still a memoir of Snape's hate for the name 'Potter'.
Snape caught his arm as he jerked away towards the door. "Never be ashamed of who you are Potter. Be proud that you carry your name. I might despise you for it and who you are like but no matter how much of him I see in you, you are Harry Potter not James and I have learned to acknowledge this."
"I am not like him," Harry hissed through clenched teeth as he remembered the last image he had seen of his father in a pensieve.
"You are and that might not be something to be ashamed of," Snape told him. "If I were a better wizard I would admit that James was far more mature in the hour that he died than I give him credit for."
"You are a better wizard," Harry said softly, not quite meeting the Professor's intense look.
Snape was silent for such a long time that Harry thought it best if he left the room. He had to get to dinner. He had to get to bed. He had to dream inappropriate dreams and wake up waiting for midnight and rain to mark a change in his life. Because any change was acceptable by then.
"I don't need to watch you anymore as I no longer need not protect you from evil." Snape's voice was soft and hard and controlled and open and nothing like Harry could remember before. "I might not watch you as keenly as before but I see you Potter. Even hidden behind your Gryffindor friends. Even if I would rather be looking somewhere else. I see you."
At midnight it rained again.
Between Harry and Snape the passes were imperceptible. It paid to have mad skills that previously seemed useful only in spy work or a time of war. The notes had only to be very finely folded and a signal was established early. They had of course discussed other methods of communication like flooing or shadow scribing. At one point they even got into a discussion about using runes and the elements. Messages in the sand. The idea, though mentally appealing was hardly practical. The reason why they needed alternate communicating methods was because their meetings were hardly to discuss Hogwarts related material.
"Damn! Snape is coming." Ron did not sound pleased as they snuck out of the Great Hall early.
Snape levelled them with a look of irritation when he was close enough to speak. "What do we have here? I suppose the three of you feel that you are now above having to follow the general timetable that Hogwarts have in place."
"There's no rule against skipping meals," Ron said, barely managing to school his face into a less than annoyed look. "Harry wasn't feeling up to eating in there so Hermione thought we should all find something better to do instead."
Hermione had suggested studying. Harry could see that Snape was all too aware of this and that he approved. Harry began to brace himself for the lecture that he might have been in for later.
The pass was perfectly manoeuvred.
To anyone else it would have seemed like an accidental brushing of the Potions professor's hand against Harry's. Three seconds later Harry had a tiny folded paper hidden in the space between his index and his middle finger. Cheap magic trick. Harry slipped his hand into his robe pocket when they had taken enough steps away from the scene of the encounter.
"Do you mind if I ditch you guys?" he asked pointedly once they were near the Gryffindor wing. "Studying sounds less and less appealing with each step I take."
Hermione gave him a look of disappointment. Ron looked betrayed. His brown eyes silently told Harry that he would be spending days paying his best friends back if he abandoned them now. Harry swore to himself that he would make it up somehow.
"I don't allow you in here just to sleep Potter."
Harry woke on Snape's couch covered in a dark green blanket that had certainly not been anywhere near him when he had collapsed tiredly. He had been previously trying to study but that had not lasted long before sleep had taken him captive. It was also a few hours past the time that Harry had entered. Besides, Snape seemed mighty comfortable sitting behind the desk in his living area. He was marking parchments as if he had been sitting there for quite some time.
"Sorry professor," Harry murmured sleepily as he began to fully wake. "You know you always say that. Why don't you ever wake me?"
Snape glanced in Harry's direction for the sole purpose of throwing a glare.
"I did," he responded. "The rubbish that you mumbled to me was hardly worth the effort I was exuding. And for your information my backside is not cute."
Harry breathed an expletive but not finding it enough to hide the brilliant shade of red that his face was turning he decided to say it a little louder.
"Tell me I didn't say that," he groaned miserably after he found the strength to let go of the mantra that his curse was becoming.
"Among other things," Snape responded, already returning to the scroll that he was decorating with red ink. "None of which I care to repeat as it hardly made sense beyond the previous comment."
Harry groaned again.
"Sorry Professor," he said softly as he folded the green blanket. He silently put his shoes back on before heading to the door. "Sorry about falling asleep too. I know I always say it but this time I really am. I suppose you'll change the password now. I have the note in my pocket somewhere."
"Severus," the professor interrupted firmly. "That is my name and you may refer to me with it in here. I believe you asked while in your semi-conscious state. I granted you permission then. It is only fair that I grant you the permission once more since you are awake."
Harry couldn't contain the grin, so he didn't. "Thank you."
"And the password will not be changed until the next time I pass you the note as always." Snape was all professionalism and calmness, as if he was not discussing the illegal entry of a student into his private rooms.
Harry left quickly before he gave in to the strong impulse to cross the room and beg the older man for just one kiss.
"You look funny," Ginny said and there was finally no trace of sadness in her smile.
Harry took a seat beside her in the empty stand of the Quidditch pitch. It was dark but not late enough for dinner to already be served. They were alone and that was something. They hadn't been alone together for a long time.
"Do I?" he asked her with a quirky smile. "How?"
"You're in love." She smiled. "Does he know yet?"
He gave her an assessing look and pondered actually lying or faking surprise but he had finally gotten her back in the way that they were meant to be and he wasn't about to lose her again.
"How did you know?" he asked instead.
"Harry Heart, it's easy to see once I understood what to look for." She laughed softly and gave him a playful shove. "You never stop looking at him."
He smiled at that because he has heard it before and he was afraid that she would have shouted or asked if he had lost his mind falling for Professor Snape. Of all the gits in all the wizarding schools in the world, Harry had chosen the one who got the title of Bastard of the Year from everyone who met him.
He hugged her for understanding so well.
Harry liked to think that the things he did were random but it was more planned randomness than anything else and that meant that he was not being random at all. He liked to think of it as fancy footwork that distracted others from his purpose. What kicked up the appeal a notch was that Snape allowed him to carry out his planned encounters. Synchronized dancing.
He liked bumping into Severus in the hallway.
That was always the most fun mostly because he wasn't able to do it a lot or it would have looked suspicious so he especially savoured the moments. He lost Gryffindor tons of points in those situations, especially if Professor McGonigall was strolling down the hall to witness his clumsy stumble. She seemed to take offence at his lack of grace and while everyone sympathized with him for having to endure the wrath of both Heads of House, Harry's eyes would glisten like emeralds at the coarse piece of parchment, hidden in his palm, which was worth all the effort.
"What are you doing?" Severus asked very softly. His eyes weren't sleep hazy like Harry had expected. Which meant that Harry had been well and truly caught.
Harry backed away from the bed where he had found Severus taking an obviously quick nap.
A plausible explanation eluded the Seventh Year in his panic. His fingers still tingled from the way he had slid them through potion greasy hair. He wondered if Severus could feel the ghost of his kisses on his neck.
Harry wanted to plead temporary insanity but Severus wasn't a Muggle and probably wouldn't know what the hell that meant in legal circumstances. Still the excuse seemed rather tempting to blurt out.
"I couldn't not do it," he whispered finally, which was just as damning he supposed.
Severus rose from the bed and approached Harry. Harry stood his ground knowing that moments like this either made or broke a person. Harry was afraid for the latter, but he stood waiting for Severus to revoke whatever it was that had been between them.
Harry couldn't. Impulses were not something to be easily explained. Not much thought went into them or they would be sound decisions and not impulses. So Harry felt an acute loss of words. For some reason, the truth did not seem adequate enough, but it was the only thing that he had to offer.
"I wanted to," he said.
"Are you blind?" It was the coldest that Snape had sounded to Harry since they had stood side by side and cursed the Dark Lord together.
Harry had no reply so he didn't answer.
"Well I am not," Snape said calmly. "Kisses are not something to be wasted on someone as unappealing as me."
It took a few seconds for Harry to decipher the words into plain British English but when he got the meaning his eyes went rather round. He stood gaping like an idiot for a few more seconds before words finally formed coherent sentences in his head.
"Wasted?" he asked. "Unappealing?"
"You have nothing to prove to me or anyone else," Snape told him with narrowed eyes. "I do not allow you in here as a rouse to take sexual advantage of you. I don't require gratitude in the form of lies and false affection."
"Shit," was all that Harry could softly say when he realized that Severus was serious. "You actually believe what you're saying. You actually believe that for all the times that I came in here, I was doing it out of some twisted form of gratitude."
He took a step forward before summoning the courage to reach out and trace Severus' lower lip.
"Make no mistake that I am grateful for everything that you have done for me. You've saved my life so many times that I couldn't possibly catch up without it taking years. This has nothing to do with that except maybe if you accept that I truly am appreciative of everything that you've done for me."
For a moment Harry thought that Severus had believed him, but then the dark eyes narrowed in disgust and Harry suddenly remembered that Snape had told him once that he would never see past the Potter name.
At the sound of the outer door slamming, Harry crumbled onto the floor, curled into a ball to protect himself from the sharp pain that had sliced through his chest.
"You still love the rain," Pansy said with slight disapproval.
Harry was thoroughly soaked but he hadn't moved in hours and he had no intentions of getting up from where he laid on the ground of the Quidditch pitch. He would have mud in his hair once the sun rose and he was almost certain that his clothes were ruined but he didn't have the energy to cast any spells. So he let the rain bathe him.
The midnight sky reminded him of Severus and so he couldn't take his eyes off it.
"I understand now," Pansy continued. You didn't want my darkness. You didn't even want his. You just wanted anything to make you feel. Pain is a bitch. Now that you can feel it I bet you wish that you were numb again."
"Get up Potter. I've had you bleeding and you've always walked away. Don't make me ashamed that I wasted precious months of my life on your sorry arse." She held out an arm to him. "You'll choke on your damn emotions and then I'll feel like an idiot walking away like I'm ten seconds away from doing."
She had never gotten the mark like he thought that she would.
Harry had suspected that her opportunity had just not come up. Instead she had stood before him with her wand raised and in the cold blood of a Slytherin had held him under the Cruciatius curse. In the end when the Ministry arrived to collect the Death Eaters Harry had saved her from Azkaban. She owed him. Harry understood that.
"I can't move," he said softly, barely above the sound of falling rain. "My body refuses to respond."
She stood beside him silently gazing up at the dark sky also. The bright ripple of a lightning bolt split the perpetual black. As if it was her sign she bent a little to grab his arm and mercilessly tug him to his feet.
"Make him see you the way you see him," she said in a tone very close to anger. "Make him see you like you made me see you. You're such an idiot Potter. Stop acting like a damn recluse and use that awful Gryffindor courage that everyone bloody swoons after you for."
"You wouldn't understand," he responded in kind. "I can't make him want me."
"Bullshit," she retorted softly. "He already does. He just needs to see that you want him."
Harry was quick to realize that getting Snape alone was not an easy task if the professor did not wish to be alone with him. Cheap tricks and fancy footwork didn't work anymore. Bumping into the professor in the hallways would cost Gryffindor far more than they were willing to offer up so near to the end of the year. It would also mean a week's detention with Filch. Harry didn't have weeks of his life to offer up as sacrifice either.
What he did have were weeks to pine. After a while the silent kind of pining hurt too much to hold inside so Harry started to say his thoughts out loud. Randomly and planned. Only he couldn't say what he wanted in plain British English.
"Heeeisss sssyeee steeheeeisss sehhhsshhh," he would say at breakfast and lunch and dinner and in the middle of Potions class when Severus began to yell at him for incompetence. 'You've stopped looking at me again.'
Panic ensued the first time he did it although he thought he was speaking softly.
The Gryffindors backed away in fright while the professors all looked at him with a mixture of shock and slight horror. Dumbledore's eyes seemed to instantly lose its twinkle at the Parsletongue words. Of course they didn't understand the words but he just kept saying them. Most of the time he would look directly at Severus when he spoke.
The professors all accompanied him to the hospital wing for Madam Pomfrey to examine him that first time. In contrary, he had a perfectly sane conversation with her, even if it was a little mundane and sad and she barely learned anything too valuable. He suspected however, that after he left the Infirmary the Mediwitch pulled Severus and Dumbledore aside to tell them what the words translated into.
"Heeeisss sssyeee steeheeeihhh sehhhsshhh," Harry would say softly when Severus looked at him in anger and sometimes Severus would look almost sad before he walked away in a snap of his black robe.
It took a while before Harry was finally granted the opportunity to speak to the professor alone.
Harry looked into the angry black eyes and saw a flash of lightning ripping a midnight sky. Making its presence felt.
"You're not the least bit attractive," he finally said quietly. "I could go through a list of all your infamous faults but I'm sure that you know them just as good. I should tell you though that I couldn't care less if you looked like the Count Dracula at this point. You're you and I've accepted and gotten over that. I'm not so vindictive that I would seduce you just because you are so less than attractive."
He paused as he reigned in his emotions.
"Its just us now. No Voldemort. No Ron and Hermione. No James. No Sirius. Just us so you damn well will acknowledge me. I don't have shit to prove to you and there isn't a roomful of people in here to gawk or contradict so you'll accept whatever I have said to you as truth and fact because all I have are my words right now."
Snape's eyes narrowed as it had that first time that they had discussed this. "Why?"
"Because! Just because!" Harry cut his shouts short and took deep breathes of air that were filled with fear.
"I can't stop looking at you. I can't not see you," he said softly. "I love you."
He was expecting Severus to refuse to accept the declaration. He was expecting to be thrown out of the office with the stone floor as his only means of finding comfort. He was expecting shouts and accusations and coercions into denying his words. He was expecting Severus to act like the arse that the students had dubbed him.
What he didn't expect was the way that Severus' kiss threw him off balance.
He didn't expect the thread of arousal that flooded his system as Severus pulled him flush against his own body. He didn't expect the heat from their bodies to affect his equilibrium. He didn't expect the tongue play to make him painfully hard in only a few minutes. He didn't expect the equal hardness that was pressed into his hips that signified that finally Severus was allowing his own desire to show.
"Where were you?"
Harry grinned at the angry, accusing tone. "I was out, Ron."
"I hope you were at least studying," Hermione said with a glare. "Our N.E.W.T.S are only a month away. I'd hate for you to mess up so late in the year by doing something stupid."
Harry wanted to laugh at how close to the truth she was. What he was doing; having an affair with a professor was just as illegal in the Wizarding world as in the Muggle world. Ron would probably develop an aneurysm on the spot and Hermione would probably report him out of duty. So he didn't tell them, because that was how best friends worked. Some secrets were too dangerous to risk.
Instead he linked his arms with theirs, threw them indulgent looks and managed to steer them towards the Great Hall without having to answer any of their questions.
Harry closed his eyes tightly at the soft words. Suddenly he felt as if he lost all the energy in his body to move. Instead he wrapped his legs tighter around Severus' hips, wanting to keep him inside for just a little longer. Severus didn't allow it. He slipped out of Harry leaving the younger wizard feeling cold and abandoned.
He shivered. Severus gathered him in his arms, holding him against his body. Harry felt better with his head resting on Severus' chest.
"Why can't it just be us?" Harry asked so softly that his words sounded like thoughts.
Severus' arms tightened around him. "We are not the only people in this world."
Harry didn't have words to fight the injustice that he was left feeling. He didn't have the strength to fight the looks in his mind that he knew he would have to endure if his secret came out. Severus had it easy, he hardly ate in the Great Hall anymore but if Harry didn't meet his friends in there it would have looked suspicious.
So he went.
He spent the evenings fighting the urge to keep looking up at the Head Table to see if Severus would be there to offer him reassurance but of course he wasn't. Instead he laughed and chatted with his friends and pretended to be irritated when Ron asked where he had been for yet another evening in three weeks. He threw a spoonful of mashed potatoes at Hermione when she said that she hoped that he had been studying.
Before he walked out of the Great Hall one evening he felt drawn to look at the Head Table one last time for the day. Cold blue eyes met his green ones. It sent fear shivering down his spine like a frost. He had never been on the receiving end of Dumbledore's displeasure before and he didn't like it much. But on this he wasn't going to back down. Teenagers in love were stupid creatures, he knew, but he was almost a fully-grown wizard now and he was prepared to fight until the very end if he had to.
Lying awake, wrapped tightly in Severus' embrace he reminded himself over and over that he had nothing else to give if he had to give up the man he loved. He had two weeks of lessons left before his exams. He would just have to find some way of stalling the inevitable until he at least managed to graduate. He couldn't get the cold blue gaze from his mind however.
"I love you," Harry said softly into the dark.
He wished that all his fears weren't reflected in his words. He wished for peace or forgiveness. He wished that Dumbledore owed him for something as big as saving his life like Pansy had owed him, but Dumbledore had always been powerful enough to save himself. Harry had nothing to offer in exchange and he knew that his words to explain would never be enough. He wished that he didn't feel guilty and ungrateful for all that Dumbledore had done for him in the past. This was his life now. Harry had chosen Severus. He wished that in some way Dumbledore could understand that.
"I love you too," came the reply at his side.
And it was midnight and raining again.
And it's you and me and all other people
And I don't know why
I can't keep my eyes off of you.
You and Me by Lighthouse