The Company You Keep (Snarry, NC-17) 2006

Word Count: 9969 words
Characters: Draco, Snape, Harry (in flashback)
Rating: NC-17
Beta-Reader: Miraba
Additional corrections: Sevfan

Summary: The war is over. Severus Snape wants to be left alone. Draco wants Snape. Snape decides a stray cat is a better companion than a Malfoy, given what he learned about both Malfoy and Potter in the days after Voldemort had captured Harry.

Warnings: Brief flashbacks to sex with Voldemort’s captives, mentions of non-con and rape. Dubious consent Snape/Harry in the flashbacks. Also, a very cute cat. If you are allergic to cats, do not read this fic.

Disclaimer: I wrote this fanfic for completely non-commercial enjoyment. All characters are not mine and are copyrighted and trademarked by their owners/publishers.

The Company You Keep
by Ravenna C. Tan

Severus sighed. The telltale sounds coming from his study could only mean one thing–that damned cat had knocked the inkwell and who knows what else off the desk. She was, he supposed, a normal enough cat, prone to periodic spastic bouts of rampaging, attacking imaginary foes and chasing her own tail. As this happened every few weeks, he had long since charmed the inkwell not to spill, and ceased being angry about it so long as she didn’t scatter his papers about while he was actively reading them.

He stepped into the upstairs room that served as his office, and there she sat, on a completely cleared oak-topped desk, washing her face by licking her paw and rubbing it contentedly against her whiskery cheeks. He raised an eyebrow at her; she looked up and he could have sworn she imitated him. “Nothing interesting in today’s post?” he asked as he pulled his wand from its pocket in his robe.

The cat did not even meow in reply, just leapt off the desk and sauntered out, tail in the air. Severus flicked his wand and the papers, inkwell, quills, and other assorted things on the floor leaped up to the desk and arranged themselves. He looked at the pile of unopened letters there and sat down with a huff.

What was the point of being a recluse with all these people writing to him all the time? The top one was clearly from McGonagall. No doubt asking him to reconsider teaching again. And there was one with a gold-dusted M in the wax seal, probably another invitation to one of Narcissa’s tiresome soirees. Still, some sense of propriety made him open them before turning them to ash. Yes, more blather from Minerva about the increased need for a proper overhaul of the curriculum and would he consider…? No, he would not. He tossed the parchment into the grate and it went up in a puff of smoke.

Now the Malfoy missive. He slid his finger under the seal, expecting to see Narcissa’s flowery scrawl–he was sure she had a charmed quill and didn’t really write every invitation by hand. But instead there was a familiar-looking set of bold, flowing lines. Draco’s handwriting.

Snape eyed the letter with growing surprise. So, Mr. Malfoy had come up with a way to occupy himself post-war. He was proposing they meet at the Black Tabard, which was, admittedly a better choice than many, but still unacceptable. What part of “recluse” didn’t he understand? Severus snatched up a quill as the cat came in, hopped up onto the desk and stared at him. Her eyes tracked the end of the quill avidly, her whiskers bristling, but she did not bat at it as he thought she might. He penned a quick response. Young Malfoy would have to come to him if he wanted to talk. He suggested Tuesday next, sealed the parchment and then met the cat’s gaze.

“And why could it not have been an injured owl on my doorstep? That at least would have been useful.”

As if in answer, the cat snatched the quill in her mouth and sped out of the room with it. Severus sat flexing his fingers a moment, marveling a bit at the quickness of nature’s creatures.

And their resilience. He had to admit it had been immensely satisfying to watch the little feline go from a scrawny bag of bones that could barely lift its head to the lively scamp she was now. The night he had found her he had been coming home from that disastrous meeting at Hogwarts–disastrous because he had not managed to convince McGonagall that he in fact intended to follow through on his promise to become a hermit. He had Apparated to the empty lot nearby and then walked through the rain to his own front door, only to find a black mass of sopping fur huddled there on the step.

The little thing had been terribly afraid of him and he remembered neighborhood cats like this one from when he was a child. For some reason, the little black females were always, as the local children termed them, “fraidy cats.” Skittish. This little one had shrunk away from him, but she was too sick and injured to run away. He had scooped her up and brought her into the house without really thinking too much about it.

Upon drying her (and finding her right front paw lame, her head and tail gashed, and a large chunk of fur missing from her side), he discovered she was the classic black cat, just a touch of white on her feet and under her chin, with green eyes and white whiskers. She objected loudly to being toweled and he switched to using a Drying Charm from his wand, which she submitted to by lying exhaustedly on the towel.

It had been three days before she was well enough to move from the towel, and that only to lap at a bowl of cream Severus had put out on the theory that cats liked cream. He had put a few drops of Boneset Draught in, as well, and a drop of Blood Restoring Potion on the theory that it was unlikely to make the little thing any worse.

And before he knew it, he had, well, a familiar. The neighbors were already long since convinced he was some kind of devil worshipper. He had given up disabusing them of this notion and having a black cat prowling the yard only served to reinforce the image. Come to think of it, it had been a while since he had caught one of the neighborhood urchins trying to sneak up to his window.

Draco’s answer came the next morning at breakfast time, as Severus was sipping a cup of tea at his study desk, the cat sitting and waiting for him to put the cream dish on the floor for her. The owl knocked on the window and Severus let it in. The cat and the owl eyed one another but both behaved. The owl pecked at Severus, wanting a reply.

He scanned the parchment. Yes, Tuesday next it was. He penned the confirmation and the owl flapped back out the window, the cat’s eyes bright as it followed the bird. “So were you a birder before you settled into your life of luxury?” he asked. The cat licked her lips. “Very well.” He emptied the rest of the little cream pitcher into his saucer and set it down for her. It pleased him to talk to the cat. It fit his idea of himself as a recluse, living off the postwar pension they’d awarded him and supplementing that with potions orders to a few apothecaries, while he closed his mind to any intrusion, past or present.

Speaking of which, the dragon’s blood (the flower, not the liquid) he’d been steeping were probably ready to be mashed. He went to the door to the basement, holding it open a moment to see if the cat wanted to follow. She seldom did, wrinkling her nose as if she disliked the smell, which was probably the case. She was nowhere to be seen, though, and he proceeded down without her.

He spent the day down in the lab–now that he didn’t have access to the Hogwarts facilities he had turned the basement into quite a decent one–extracting the essence from murtlap and prepping the next step for a batch of liniment they were waiting for at the apothecary shop in Hogsmeade.

It was full dark by the time he emerged, fingers cramped from the painstaking work, his neck crimped. He fixed himself a ham sandwich for a simple supper–the cat happily destroying a slice of the ham for herself–and then got in bed to read.

No sooner had he lay back, the book propped on his chest, than the cat insinuated herself between his face and the pages. At first, he attempted to merely see over her, but the little minx arched her back. He brought up a hand to shoo her or perhaps shove her away, but as soon as he touched her fur, she pushed back against him and began to purr.

“Feeling a bit neglected, are we?” he asked, as he stroked her fur in resignation. “Bored? Should I have let you out in the yard today?” He had long since learned that getting aggravated had no affect on the animal. Logic dictated that if he did not wish to feel aggravated, it was up to him to do something about it. Besides, the cat was soothing.

After a few moments of petting, she settled herself into the crook of his arm, still purring, her paws in the air as she waited for him to scritch her belly. The fur she had lost was growing in, Severus noticed. Her tail was of an even fluff and her side was almost regrown. There was still a visible gash between her ears where the fur was shorter and didn’t cover as well. The purring continued as he picked up his book again and went back to reading. Her little eyes remained open, watching his hands as he turned the pages. The book was somewhat interesting, but not enough to keep Severus awake as her warmth and purring lulled him to sleep.

The cat was a wonderful soporific, he thought, upon waking refreshed in the morning. It was not lost on him that since the cat had begun sharing the bed with him–he had found it utterly impossible to keep her out by magical or mundane means–the nightmares and flashbacks of the war had ceased. Perhaps he was simply accomplishing his goal of gradually sealing himself off from those parts of his mind. But a wise wizard had once told him not to tickle a sleeping dragon. In other words, don’t mess with success.

The next day he let the cat out while he worked and they finished off the ham together at dinner time. He noticed she had some fine feathers stuck between her toes as she took up her post on his chest, kneading gently without claws. “Have a fine day birding?” he asked, as he stroked her head. Her purring increased in volume. Severus had never had a cat before, but it seemed that by most measures this was a very good cat. She suited him better than a human companion would have, never speaking, never in the way (well, hardly ever except for her fascination with quills, which he took to be part of her birding heritage), and yet she kept his life as recluse from being lonely.

Oh, there were still times when she vexed him. Just the other day she had clawed up the front page of the Daily Prophet, which he might have wanted to read, but as most of the page was taken up with a weepy paean to Harry Potter, now one year gone, Severus could not say he actually minded all that much. That was probably the reason he agreed to meet with Draco. Malfoy, he knew, wouldn’t write some lionizing, gilded pap. Severus had nothing but contempt for Potter’s fame while he lived, why should that be different now?

Tuesday arrived and Severus whipped up a fairly decent batch of conjured scones and tea. Domestic charms had never been his forte, but he could manage that one fairly well, and it saved him a trip to the grocer’s, which he avoided as much as possible. One couldn’t really live off conjured food, but for just an afternoon visit, they would do.

Draco arrived punctually, a sharp rap on the door coming just as Severus set the plate of scones down on the kitchen table. They would have to meet there, as the chairs in the sitting room were piled high with books and Severus was loath to move them. As he went to the door, the cat came down the stairs, curious as ever.

Malfoy looked well, tall and hale, though he had never filled out like his father. He had a more delicate build, more fragile features. He had grown his hair to shoulder length and it swept over his jacket like spun gold.

“Mr. Malfoy, how pleasant to see you,” Severus said.

“Merlin’s beard, Snape, try to sound like you haven’t just swallowed a vial of broken glass, why don’t you?” Malfoy stepped over the threshold, and shook hands with his old professor. “I’d think you’d be happy for a spot of company.”

The cat hissed.

Severus shot her a glance. Her ears were back and her tail was bristled out like a bottle brush, as if she resented this intrusion into the house as much as Severus did, though she was much more demonstrative about it. “If you would,” he said to Malfoy, ushering him into the kitchen.

The cat followed, hissing again as Malfoy sat down. Then she began stalking back and forth in the doorway, as if Draco’s feet might be in danger. “Since when do you have a pet, Snape?”

Severus sat and poured the tea. “Since she picked me for an owner, apparently.”

“What’s her name?”

“Name?”

Malfoy laughed, breaking off a piece of scone. “It’s traditional to name one’s pets, you know.” He shook his head in disbelief. He held out a bit of the scone, calling “Here pussy, pussy. Let’s be friends, hey?”

The cat hissed again and then settled herself on the kitchen counter, behind Severus, where Draco could still see her green slitted eyes peering at him over his old teacher’s shoulder.

“Is she always like that, then?” Malfoy said, picking up his teacup.

Severus shifted in his chair. “I don’t know. You’re the first visitor we’ve had.” He picked up his own cup and then said “So, your parents are well, I take it?” Might as well get the bantering and gossip over with as quickly as possible so they could get down to business.

The banter was mercifully brief. Malfoy didn’t much care to talk about his parents, had only a tad of news about old Hogwarts acquaintances who had survived the war, and Severus of course had none. They were still on the first cup of tea when Malfoy said “So, this book I’m working on.”

“I admit to some curiosity as to why you wanted to talk to me about it.”

Malfoy drew out a quill and a stack of parchment. “You don’t mind if I put all this on the record, do you?”

“Not at all,” Severus replied, as the quill began to write of its own accord. “But it is I who asked you a question.”

“Yes, well, the publisher wants it to be definitive, covering all angles, not just one of these quickie jobs like the one that Witch Weekly put out.” Both men shuddered inwardly. “So I’m interviewing pretty much everyone who ever knew him.” Malfoy picked up a scone and toyed with it. “Besides, from what I’ve heard, you might have some special insights.”

Severus merely raised an eyebrow.

“Because of the Legilimency lessons you gave him, sixth year.”

“For the record, Mr. Malfoy, those were Occlumency lessons.” The cat began to growl behind him, a sound he had never heard her make before. Her tone sounded remarkably like his own. “And I doubt I have anything useful to share with you from those sessions, which were cut short by Potter’s own foolishness.”

The cat hissed.

Malfoy made placating noises. “I didn’t mean to get your hackles up, Snape. But if you did have any memories, of his, I mean, it would certainly help. He only lived eighteen years, after all, so it’s going to be a very short book if I start when he arrived in the Wizarding world.”

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. “There was a Squib Dumbledore set to watch over him. Arabella Figg.”

“Already talked to her,” Draco said smugly. “So I know about the aunt and uncle, the bully cousin. A little, anyway. Raised in a cupboard? Was that true?”

“I had heard that yes, it was, and from what I saw, it was true.” Severus started talking, then, as memories came back to him in fits and starts. He had spent the previous year trying to forget Potter, so at first things came slowly. He was astonished to find it was dinner time when Draco called a halt and asked if he could come back in a few weeks.

“But surely, that’s enough,” Severus said.

“Oh, it’s wonderful, and I can’t thank you enough.” Draco stood, the parchment and quill stowing themselves in his satchel. “But after I talk to some others, and start the writing, more questions will arise and I’ll want to make sure I am getting it right.”

“Very well. Owl me.” Severus strode to the door to see Draco out. The cat followed.

But Malfoy lingered at the door. “Listen, if you’d like, the offer for dinner at the Tabard still stands. On me, of course.” His delicate hand ran up and down the door frame, betraying his nervousness.

Severus may have been a hermit but he knew a come-on when he saw one. “Do you think that’s wise?”

“Wise?” Draco smiled a winning smile. “I prefer to think of it as nice. It would be nice to… see you again.”

Severus stiffened. “Looking to rescue me from my miserable solitary existence?”

“No, Severus… that’s not it at all…”

“Good day, Mr. Malfoy, I am in no need of rescue and I shall see you again in a few weeks.” He closed the door before the young man could make any more protests and then turned to the cat. “What makes him think he can suggest such things? I’m twice his age and not the slightest bit interested.”

The cat hissed in agreement.

That night she leapt up on the bed as he eased between the sheets, already purring as though she knew he needed extra soothing after such a trying afternoon. He lay back against the pillow and she climbed with gentle steps onto his chest, circling as she looked for a place to settle. She eventually settled on the crook between Severus’ legs, kneading his inner thigh as she purred and purred.

“So, should I give you a name? Hm?” he asked, thinking about what Draco had said. “Myrtle, because of your thorny personality? Or Greymalkin, perhaps?”

She was warm and comforting as usual, and the vibrations were pleasant against his crotch. When she took to nuzzling him, though, he felt himself beginning to stiffen. That would not do. The cat seemed oblivious to the state of his arousal, though, and she continued to head-butt him in the groin exactly as she would have as if it were his chin she were rubbing against.

“If you’re not careful,” he said to her, “You’ll make me reconsider Mr. Malfoy’s offer.”

She looked up, green eyes boring into his, and gripped his growing erection through the sheets with her paws. She looked almost possessive.

This would not do. Severus Snape had no wish to have bestiality added to the long list of his crimes and he shoo’ed her off. On the floor, she stalked back and forth agitated. Then she ran from the room.

Severus could not fail to note that that night one of his regular postwar nightmares returned. This was the one where he and Draco were under Imperius, taking alternate stabs with their turgid flesh at one of the captive girls–Severus couldn’t really remember which and it didn’t matter. The Imperius had to be strong, very strong, to make him able to perform such acts on a female, and a student, and an unwilling captive, while on public display. How much of it was true memory and how much just dream he did not know. He woke in a cold sweat to find it still pitch dark, still many hours of night left. He could not call the cat, since she did not have a name. But it was ridiculous to think that the cat had anything to do with his dreams. Draco’s visit had obviously brought the memory to the surface and Severus hoped he would not have more cause to regret speaking with Mr. Malfoy further.

Draco returned two weeks later, sooner than Severus had anticipated. Severus did not make scones. This time when they sat in the kitchen, the cat’s hisses were marginally quieter, but not by much. Draco pulled something from his pocket. “Hey, pussy, here puss, I have something for you.” He held a small ball in his hand. He let it go and it took flight into the air with a whir of magical wings and sped into the sitting room. As if compelled by a charm, the cat sped after it.

Severus raised his eyebrow.

“Toy Snitch,” Draco explained. “Safe for toddlers so should be safe for your cat.”

“She’s quite a birder, you know,” Snape said with what he realized was a doting tone. He cleared his throat and schooled his features into something more stern as Draco was setting up the quill and parchment again.

They picked up where they had left off, more of Severus’ memories of Potter as a boy, things he had seen in his mind, Draco leading the way with questions and sometimes making notes of his own on a separate parchment.

They were interrupted some hours later by a tremendous crash from the sitting room. Severus rushed into the room to find the cat, limbs splayed on top of what had been a towering stack of books and was now a jumbled heap in the center of the rug, the toy Snitch fluttering helplessly in her mouth. He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying not to notice how many of the books’ pages were bent or, Merlin forbid, torn. Now he realized the other reasons why one named pets–so one had something to scream at times like this.

Instead, eyes blazing, he pointed to the stairs, his finger shaking with anger. The cat, wide-eyed but the Snitch still firmly gripped in her jaws, ran for it, crossing the room in a flash and disappearing up the steps.

“Did you train her to do that?” Draco asked. “It’s like she knew just what you meant.”

“I think I have had enough for today, Draco,” Severus said.

“Would you like help putting the books back?”

“No, thank you, I can manage it myself.” Severus steeled himself against the inevitable proposition.

He was not wrong. “You know, Snape,” Draco said silkily, “You’re not as old as you make yourself out to be…”

Severus had no intention of letting the young Malfoy finish that sentence. “You, who spent only a year in the Dark Lord’s service, cannot know how the years of servitude to him aged me.”

“Please, Severus, I’m not asking you to be an acrobat or play Chaser for the Chudley Cannons.” As if the issue of age were about ability, or stamina. “Just… have dinner with me.”

Severus tried logic. “Surely, Mr. Malfoy, there is no shortage of handsome, intelligent wizards to pass your time with.”

He saw a shadow flicker through Draco’s grey eyes, before Draco answered, “But it is you I am asking.”

Severus remained stone-faced. “Is bearing the Dark Mark so bad…?”

Draco grimaced and his tone was bitter. “They treat me like touching me will give them Dragon Pox.”

Severus was sure Draco had not intended that as a pun, so he did not smile. Merely nodded as if he expected aught else.

“That’s why I thought maybe… I mean, I thought you would understand… If you…” Draco was unaccustomed to tripping over his own tongue.

Severus caught him by cutting him off before he could fumble any further. “I appreciate your sentiments, but the inability to find a suitable sexual partner is not the reason I am a recluse.”

“So why are you a recluse?”

Severus pursed his lips and put a hand on the handle of the door. “Because I prefer my solitude,” he said in a tone that declared the matter closed. Draco shuffled resignedly out the door, mumbled something about owling him, and then Severus shut the door firmly behind him.

Severus sat in the now-empty chair in the sitting room, his eyes on the pile of books though he was not seeing them. The cat poked her head cautiously out of the stairwell. He had wanted to become a recluse because after Dumbledore’s death, in those final months of the war, when he had been closest to Voldemort… Snape had long since hardened himself against shudders or sighs over it. Those months of proximity to the Dark Lord, his captives, and other Death Eaters made him quite certain there were intimacies he never wanted to experience again. He felt sorry for Draco, who was certainly too young and too attractive to be treated like a leper, but Severus would not exactly blame any potential suitor for feeling that way, given all that the Death Eaters had seen and done. The full truth had never come out publicly, but the rumors alone were enough.

And Potter. Severus had lost hope when the boy and his intrepid band of well-meaning youngsters had fallen into the Dark Lord’s clutches. Weeks had passed while the Dark Lord gloated over them, while he toyed with them and his minions. Potter had borne the worst of it, of course. Though in the end the prophecy had been both right and wrong. They were each the destruction of the other.

It didn’t bear thinking about, but now that Severus had begun thinking about it, he had to worry at the thoughts like a scavenger at a carcass, until he had his fill. He almost didn’t notice the cat had leapt into his lap and he began petting her with a hand while he played the thoughts over in his mind. Losing hope had been like an illness, a disease of consumption eating his heart from the inside, as the knowledge that Albus’ sacrifice–and Severus’ own–would come to naught…

No, not naught. In the end, the world had been rid of the Dark Lord. Severus never knew exactly what happened in the end between Potter and his nemesis, and there were none alive who had witnessed the final confrontation. Perhaps it was a blessing not to know.

That night he lay in bed staring at the ceiling until the cat settled herself on his chest. He dared not say a word to her, and she purred him to sleep.

The next owl from McGonagall he did throw into the fire unopened, and the next from Draco Malfoy, as well. But two weeks from Tuesday, there was Malfoy at the door.

Severus opened the door but stood there glaring.

“Did I mix up the days, Severus? Are you in the middle of something? I told you to owl back if today wasn’t convenient.”

“Did you,” Severus growled, unwilling to admit he’d never opened the missive. “As a matter of fact, I am at the end of a brewing cycle. If you are willing to wait, I can join you in half an hour or so.” With that, he stalked into the house and to the stairs to the lab. Draco, thankfully, did not follow him, but instead seated himself in the chair that the cat had so inadvertently cleared on his previous visit.

Severus spared him only half a thought as he descended into the laboratory. He spent considerably longer than the promised half hour down there–in truth, he had not been in the middle of anything and merely wanted to put Draco off. He had the ingredients ready to make a batch of the Draught of Lethe, so he set about preparing that. Really, once the ingredients were ready, the actual brewing time was not that long.

Perhaps an hour and a half had passed when he mounted the stairs with the blandest expression he could muster on his face.

His breath caught for a moment as he looked into the living room and saw the cat, reared up on her hind legs and teeth bared, facing a serpent, also reared up and hissing malevolently. Just beyond, there was Draco in the chair, his elbows on his knees, watching intently with his wand between his fingers.

Severus’ eyes narrowed and he dispelled the conjured snake. The cat sank down on her haunches the instant it disappeared and began washing her face.

Serpentsortia, I presume?” Severus said, wishing he felt as calm as the cat now looked.

Malfoy had a schoolboy pout on his face. “You taught me that spell. Remember?”

Severus merely nodded, telling himself that Malfoy wouldn’t have allowed the snake to hurt his cat, would he?

“Shall we chat in here, today?” Malfoy suggested. “Looks like your cat did you a favor, Snape.”

Severus looked around the sitting room which in fact was mostly clear of the heaps of books that had been collecting there, stalagmite fashion, for years and years. Spinner’s End had never been his home for more than a few months at a time since he had begun teaching at Hogwarts–until the past year that is–so there had never seemed to be time or need to clear up. It only made sense that now that he intended to live out his days as a recluse here that he finally shelve everything. He had already catalogued nearly half the books and begun arranging them by subject, then internally within category by author. Alphabetizing was soothing work.

He took the seat opposite, in a threadbare red-velvet wing chair that the cat had taken to sleeping on in the afternoons. She cocked an eyebrow at him, but when it became clear he was not going to relinquish the seat, she instead crowded herself between the arm of the chair and his leg, eyes fixed on Malfoy. Severus interpreted her expression as “Come on, snake boy, let’s see what else you’ve got.”

Malfoy, for his part, merely took out his quill and parchment as usual, set them to working, and began asking Severus questions about Hogwarts. “It’s quite necessary background,” he said, as Severus’ defensiveness to his prying became evident. “I certainly can’t rely on my own, student-based memories of those days,” he said. “And McGonagall won’t say anything but pat anecdotes about Dumbledore.”

Severus heard the unspoken plea in Draco’s complaint: I’m counting on you, Severus. Well, it was hardly Severus’ fault that the boy couldn’t get laid because the Dark Mark was worse than syphilis…

Or was it? Even as he began a canned recollection of his own about Dumbledore, he wondered. How much of Draco’s decision to become a Death Eater was influenced by Snape? He told himself that Lucius would have seen to it that his son took that path no matter what. But from the time Draco was eleven until he took the Mark at sixteen, Severus had exerted much more influence over Draco’s development than Lucius had.

He had taught him Serpentsortia. He had reveled in having a protégé in the Dark Arts.

But he knew better than to blame himself for things that were Lord Voldemort’s responsibility. Didn’t he?

It was not Severus’ fault that Draco’s virginity was torn from him as a part of the dark ceremony that Marked him. It was not Severus’ fault that once Potter was in the Dark Lord’s clutches that he used Draco and Severus and others to break the boy’s spirit and torture the others.

He had known it would be unwise to talk to Draco about Potter. That memories he preferred would fade into the past would inevitably be stirred. But maybe he did owe Draco something.

Was that why he submitted to these interviews, though he loathed them? Or was he, though blind to it, just as hungry and desperate for some intimacy as Draco was? Draco was undoubtedly right that their pool of candidates would be limited to former Death Eaters. And the young man was attractive. Severus had to admit that perhaps the only part about being forced to commit heinous sexual crimes–sometimes under Imperius and sometimes not–had been those moments of connection. With Draco.

And with Potter. He realized he had stopped speaking and was staring at a spot on the wall above Draco’s head. It didn’t bear thinking about. No, he was certainly not going to think about that.

“Severus, please realize, I won’t be putting anything into the work which incriminates you or makes you look… bad. But I must reconstruct the events from Potter’s point of view of… that night.”

“Which night…” Severus hissed, knowing already what the answer was but needing to see Draco squirm to ask.

“Um, up on the Tower. The night I, you know.”

“Speak plainly, Mr. Malfoy, and I will do the same.”

Draco took a deep breath. Clearly Severus was not the only one suffering as a result of dredging up memories. “I was there, face to face with Dumbledore for a long time before you came up there.”

Severus nodded as if he knew this.

“From what we know, Potter was there, too. Under an Invisibility Cloak. So he saw the whole thing.”

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and it seemed he was growling–the cat certainly was. “So you had a chit chat with Dumbledore which Potter witnessed–will you be putting that into the book, Mr. Malfoy? Then I appeared to accomplish the task you were unable to do. Your own mother had sworn me to an Unbreakable Vow to do so for your sake, so it is not as if I had any choice in the matter. Potter, of course, did not know that, so all he saw was his most hated teacher murder his most beloved mentor.”

“I… of course,” Draco said, his pale skin flushed and his eyes now searching the carpet.

“You know the rest, I believe, as I dragged you bodily along, trading curses with Potter until we were able to Disapparate. What more is there to say?’

Draco looked up at that point, his voice hesitant and vulnerable. “Would things have been different if I had… if I had been able to… do it?”

Severus sighed. “We would have still fled Hogwarts. Potter would have still been incensed by revenge. He and his cohort would have still fallen into the Dark Lord’s hands. We would have still… been used in the manner we were used. And Potter and the Dark Lord would have still annihilated each other.” The cat was bristling in the chair, one set of claws digging into Severus’ leg but he did not care. “In a word, no. Things would not have been different. You, perhaps you might have been different, and not for the better.”

“Do you resent protecting me?”

“Of course I do. You and Potter both, from the moment you landed on my doorstep when you were eleven years old. For one reason or another I was always protecting you both when all I really wanted to do was protect myself!” Severus was standing now, his hands shaking as he clenched them into fists. “Is this what you really wanted to ask me? Is this what you truly wanted to hear? Was this all a sham, working up to this, to ask me these imbecilic questions for no reason other than to assuage your own conscience or stroke your own ego?” He didn’t wait for answers to the questions. “Get out! Get out this instant!” And when Draco held up his hands, sputtering apologies and protests, Severus swept his wand across the room in a severe and utterly straight line, ending it with a flick as if it had a drop of water on its tip. Then he fell back into the chair.

Draco was gone. Severus knew that he had just discovered himself on his arse in the empty lot up the hill. That is if Severus’ anger hadn’t misdirected the spell and landed him in the river. Severus found it difficult to care.

The cat, meanwhile, was now occupying the spot where Draco had been, washing her face with her paw and looking nonchalant.

“So tell me,” Severus said to the cat. “Is that just an act you put on or are you really that sanguine?”

She looked up with her usual bottomless green eyes. Then she scampered across the rug and up onto Severus’ lap. She put her paws on his chest and nuzzled his chin with hers, rubbing her soft face against his cheeks, and he brought up a hand to stroke down her back. She purred.

Severus wondered how long it would take for an apology to come from Draco. Perhaps none would and he would be quit of him. But Severus suspected he could not be so fortunate. The cat continued to rub her face on his, seemingly content now that the interloper was gone.

After the afternoon he had had, Severus knew that a trip to the grocer’s was not in the offing. They had canned kippers, though, which the cat loved, and rye crackers, and eventually when he tired of sitting in that one spot petting the cat, that is what Severus moved to the kitchen to prepare.

The other good thing about a cat as a companion, Severus decided, as the cat licked oil from his fingers, is that they were not judgmental. Or at least this one wasn’t.

That night, despite the cat’s solid, warm presence, the memory that played in his dreams was one of Potter. The Dark Lord’s amusement. The vision of his snakelike grimace as he told Severus with glee how Malfoy needed no Imperius to torture Potter in a manner that pleased his Master. It was a challenge. Could Severus do the same? Surely the enmity he felt for Potter’s father, coupled with the fresh enmity he had for the boy himself, would make for a truly interesting entertainment.

As Severus had disrobed, he had never before felt quite so much like he himself were the one being raped. Now that Harry Potter was beaten, the Dark Lord’s powers knew no bounds. He was, as the adage predicted, corrupted absolutely, drunk on his own power and his sadism. Severus suppressed a shiver, determined to show as little emotion or weakness as possible as he carried out the command.

There was Potter, unchained but limp on the floor of his stone dungeon cell. His wand long ago broken. His mind, close to the same state.

Severus had wasted no time entering Potter’s mind, which he had always been able to do with ridiculous ease. Now, though, it was not to degrade the boy further, but to try to protect him, as Severus had done again and again Potter’s life. Blocking Quirrell’s hex on the boy’s broomstick. Destroying Malfoy’s conjured serpent at the dueling club. Sending the Order after him when he had been lured to the Department of Mysteries.

Many of those times, he knew it looked as though he and Potter were at cross purposes. Harry, please trust me, this will be much easier if you play along.

Easier for whom, Snape? had come the reply from inside the boy’s mind. So, he was not completely broken, yet. Hope dared to spark in Severus’ chest.

For both of us,Severus had said. My mind is open to you, boy. Can you not see that I am as much a victim as you, here?

All this done in the blink of an eye, as Severus cast a Cleaning Charm over the scrawny body, transfigured a more comfortable platform on which to violate it, and seized the boy by the wrist.

Not properly a boy anymore, a wizard come of age. That was little consolation. Struggle a little, he told Potter, who began trying to free his wrist from Snape’s grip. Would you like me to put you under Imperius?

He felt the realization dawn in Potter’s mind that he had a choice of participating or of having his choices taken away. If he underwent Imperius, it would be All Snape’s Fault. A rush of memories poured from Severus’ mind into Potter’s. The many times Severus had taken the blame to preserve Potter.

You hate me already, Severus had told him, then. Let me take the blame for what is about to happen here, as well. He covered Potter’s body with his then, feeling him struggle under him, sweat breaking out all over Potter’s skin.

And then, another surprise, the young wizard said no, though his fear and apprehension came through as clear as his tears. No. We’re both victims here. I won’t let you take the blame for what belongs to Him.

Severus licked at Potter’s neck, tasting salt and sweetness.

Snape, came the querulous thought. Can you… can you make it… good?

Severus left his mind open to the boy then, knowing that the only way to keep his trust was to keep that door ajar as he took Harry’s nipple between his teeth and worried at it with the tip of his tongue. Harry’s arching, moaning response surprised Severus. He had not thought he would be quite so demonstrative; he needed no prompting to put on a good show for the Dark Lord. From the chuckles and comments that Severus could hear, that had not been the case with Malfoy, whom he had resisted coldly and silently.

They understood one another.

Severus found himself hard and aching against Potter’s thigh without the need of any spell. He ran his hands down Potter’s ribs, feeling the torso arch. He sucked the sensitive places on his neck, so easy to find when one was joined in mutual Legilimency.

It was a pleasure Severus had never used before and he regretted that it was only under such circumstances that he discovered it. When he eventually sank into Potter, his own breath rasped, driven from his lungs in sympathy. His own insides twisted deliciously–or so it felt–as they fucked in a steady rhythm. Severus did all he could to elicit one more sigh, one more cry of pleasure, one more uncontrollable spasm from Harry, drawing it out as long as possible.

He made it good.

He woke to find the cat licking tears from his face. He petted her vigorously, inexplicably glad that he was not lying here alone in the night, crying. Why having the cat should make a difference, he did not know. “Yes, dear,” he said, as her licking was becoming a bit too vigorous for comfort. “Yes, I see why you’re called familiars. Because one gets overly familiar sometimes.”

She purred at that, and rubbed her furry head under his chin. It wasn’t enough to make Severus forget that he had just unearthed one of the memories he most wanted to keep buried. That had been the last time he had seen Potter. The last time he had touched another human being intimately. Perhaps that passionate scene had precipitated the end. It was not unusual for the Dark Lord to choose a captive for his personal pleasure, and for that to be the last anyone would ever see of them again. He had been picking off Harry’s cohort in this manner for weeks already, that blond Ravenclaw, Longbottom, the youngest Weasley, all had gone before. Severus had assumed that Potter would be the very last to go, but after the demonstration that he and the boy had put on, perhaps his lordship decided not to wait.

The very next night the Dark Lord had taken what he believed to be a broken, docile sex toy named Harry Potter into his boudoir. It was the last time either of them were ever seen.

“Did you know,” Severus said to the cat in the dark as he petted her and she rubbed her face against his, “that I felt it the moment the Dark Lord died? I knew, beyond any doubt, as if a thousand pounds of chains that had been weighing down my heart suddenly slipped free.”

The cat licked another tear from his face.

“But the feeling did not last. I, like everyone else, had thought that eliminating the Dark Lord would mean that Potter would once again escape. But that was not the case. Damn my luck, I had finally come to understand the boy, finally come to respect him, to…” He choked a bit and the cat put her paw over his mouth as she groomed his eyebrows. He put her gently back onto his chest. “Don’t you see the irony? Because of course, he did not survive. And there was nothing I could do. Nothing. Except try to forget.” The cat hopped up and began to crisscross his chest, her tail lashing in agitation.

The fact that there were fifty drams of the Draught of Lethe downstairs right now began to seem like fate. If he took enough of it, he might be able to forget Harry Potter, Draco and his book be damned. For that matter, he might forget Draco Malfoy.

Of course, he might also forget that he had decided against having relations with Mr. Malfoy. It was possible to take so much that a person could forget who he was. Severus was not ready for that kind of suicide.

Or any kind. He had never chosen that option before, why would be now, when the evils in his life were now in the past? Young Malfoy’s interest was hardly an evil. A pain, yes, now that he was sure he would not be giving in. But evil was far too strong a word for the actions of a lonely wizard. And besides, Severus’ body did twitch in interest, just a bit. Perhaps a draught to suppress the libido would be the saner course.

The cat was crawling down his body now, circling and circling, trying to settle on a spot to sleep. She circled herself over Severus’ crotch, eyeing him sidelong to see if he would boot her off the bed again. This time she did not rub against him quite so vigorously, kneading lightly. Her weight was soothing, not arousing, and Severus soon found his breathing deepening to match her purr. There were no more dreams that night, no more nightmare memories.

They ate nothing but kippers and rye crackers for the next few days, as the urge to stay in was stronger than ever. The cat certainly did not seem to mind and so Severus decided he did not have to mind, either. Having a pet could be a strange kind of symbiosis, he decided. The little cat, which had been so frightened of him when it had been hurt and sick had quickly come to depend wholly on him. Not once during the next four days did she ask to go into the yard, sticking close on Severus’ heels, even as he went to the lab to bottle up the Draught of Lethe. Severus spent much of the time reading a fraction of the many books he had so recently shelved.

It was a Friday, or possibly a Thursday, when he ventured out next, for cream and eggs and some other dietary variety. He was quite irked, then, as he returned home, to see a blond head above his hedge–Draco Malfoy sitting on the stoop, something in his hands that was undoubtedly Severus’ copy of the Daily Prophet.

“Mr. Malfoy, I don’t believe I invited you to return,” he said, as soon as he was close enough to say it without having to shout.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Snape,” Malfoy said, standing. “I’m not here to ask you any questions. You don’t even have to say a word. But I’m here to give you a little advance warning about something, courtesy of my father. I owe you this so just… hear me out.”

Severus sighed and glanced at his neighbors’ windows. No need to give them more reason to believe he was a devil worshipper. “Go inside.”

Draco took a seat at the kitchen table while Severus put away the groceries. When he was done, he took the seat opposite, poured some cream into a saucer for the cat and she hopped up on the table between them to lap it up, her ass pointed toward Draco as if in editorial comment.

“Speak,” Severus said, offering Draco no tea and folding his hands.

Draco held the newspaper up. “You’ll want to read it. The Ministry was investigating what they thought might be a haunting of a Muggle house. They eventually tracked the source of the disturbance to the family’s pet … ferret.” He said this last with intense distaste.

“I fail to see what some Muggles…”

Draco handed the paper to his former professor with a snap. “The ferret, as it turned out, was not only magical, it was….”

By then Snape had the paper open to the photo of a smiling, gap-toothed wizard, flanked by smiling St. Mungo’s personnel and Ministry officials. “Longbottom!”

Draco nodded. “Problem is, now they want to reopen the investigation of everything that happened, what we knew, when we knew it, what we saw, everything. Because of course we all testified that he’d been killed.”

Severus let the paper fall from his fingers, as two thoughts warred in his brain. One, if the Ministry was to subject him to another round of investigation, then downing every last dram of Lethe was a preferable option. Two, if Longbottom was still alive, what about the others…?

The cat was staring at him with intensely green eyes. Severus stood suddenly. “How did they reverse the permanent transfiguration?”

“According to the article, Revenicorpus.” Draco remained seated. “Anyway, that’s the warning. My father says they are putting the paperwork in order for the whole shebang, Veritaserum, Legilimency, a media circus…”

“Thank you, Mr. Malfoy.” Severus kept his voice barely below a shout. “Good day to you.”

“Come now, Snape. We’re in this together, don’t you think? I think we should…” But he got no further, as in the next instant, the cat leapt across the table and slashed him across the face. “Merlin’s beard!” Draco stumbled back from the hissing animal, his chair knocked back, his hand on his cheek, blood seeping.

Severus glanced back at the cat, who glared back. “Give me a moment,” Severus said to him, then addressed Malfoy. “I asked you to leave. If you get some dittany on those cuts they won’t scar. Now, please.” Severus raised his wand, and Draco clearly remembered his previous visit, on which he had been magically ejected from the house. He ran.

The door banged closed behind him. Severus locked it with another wave of his wand.

Then he looked at the cat, who was sitting on the table, tail lashing and eyes glitteringly bright. Expectant.

Severus began to speak. “The last time I felt hope flare, it was snuffed out.” He reached out a hand and the cat rubbed its head in his palm as he ran a thumb over the scar that would not heal.

“Harry?” he said, his voice beginning to tremble.

The cat began to purr, then jumped down to the floor, weaving in and out of Severus’ legs and, whiskers aquiver, looking up at him with the same expectant look as if Severus were about to put down a large dish of cream.

There was no waiting any longer, no putting off the inevitable crushing disappointment. Severus spoke the incantation.

The cat blinked at him a moment, then there was a searing flash of light–Severus threw his sleeve up to shield his eyes.

When he lowered his arm, there was a naked man on all fours on the rug. He raised his head. Piercing green eyes met Severus’, and then in the next moment, there was a naked man in Severus’ arms, licking the tears from his face. This time Severus could not stop the sobbing, as Harry nuzzled against him, pressing them both back into a chair, Severus underneath.

Their lips met next, and Severus felt as though his breathing stopped entirely, or perhaps it was time that stopped, as Harry’s tongue searched for his.

“Can you speak?” Severus finally said, when his mouth was free as Harry’s trailed down his neck. “Or is your mind still that of a cat?”

“I speak,” Harry said, but shook his head as that clearly didn’t come out the way he meant. He climbed up Severus’ chest much as he would have had he been small and furry, and stared into Severus’ eyes in the same way he had habitually in the previous months. This time Severus felt his mind opening, Harry’s and his together as they read each other’s thoughts. It’ll be easier this way, came Harry’s thought, until I remember how to talk.

Severus gripped him by the shoulders, wand still in his hand, still breathless in disbelief. How?

He could feel the struggle in Harry’s mind. I can’t remember. As a cat, time doesn’t really pass the same way… Maybe with time… Harry rubbed his erection against Severus’ leg. I just knew to find you. I knew you would take care of me. Protect me.He rubbed his face along Severus’ cheek just as he had when he had been a cat. And you did. Anything I needed.

Severus’ body was recovering from the shock now with the vigorous application of blood circulation. The memory of the time they had made love for Voldemort’s amusement surged through him, and he knew Harry was sharing it.

Yes, came the thought from Harry. Please, Severus. I’ve waited so long.

Wait,Severus replied, even as Harry humped his leg and keened in his throat. You knew to come to me, but did you try to tell me?

Harry’s mind turned over that thought. I did. I kept trying to write with the quill. But when you’re a cat, you can’t really plan ahead. Every time I would touch the quill, I’d end up playing with it. He seemed unaware that he was again rubbing his face along Severus’, his jaw slightly stubbly, just as it had been on his last day in human form. And there was that one day, I tried to show you the Daily Prophet. But I couldn’t think beyond the moment and I ended up slashing it to bits. I didn’t really think at all. The only truly human thought I was able to cling to was this.

And Severus gasped as Harry shared the memory again, the sensation of Severus making love to him in Voldemort’s dungeon. If it weren’t for that, I think I would have become a cat completely. Would have just run off and caught mice for the rest of my life. Harry’s desire burned clear and bright in his mind.

But Severus had to be sure. But you hated me, Severus countered, trying to slow his breath. Just because I gave you a moment of care and tenderness in the midst of a…

You’ve given me much more than a moment, Harry countered. You protected me so many times. And… And what flowed now were not words, but feelings and images–and Severus could not deny the cat-thought that Severus had, in fact, fed him, cared for him, healed him, and loved him. And that Harry, as cat, had loved him back.

Logic still dictated that they should wait. That he should insure that Harry had returned to his right mind, that he should see to his health and wellbeing, that he should not just throw the naked hero of the wizarding world to the carpet and bugger him for all he was worth.

But waiting did not seem to be an option. Severus blamed it on the animal way of thinking seeping into his brain. No planning ahead. Just food-sex-safety NOW. As he began to undo his robes, hindered as much as helped by Harry who seemed to want to claw at the buttons as a way to undo them, Severus’ doubts were pushed aside. He had no time more time to pause, as Harry sat back onto the floor and tried to pull Severus down on top of him.

Severus gave up on the buttons and vanished his robes. He was rampant, and he fell upon Harry’s neck like a wolf on a doe. Harry did not speak, but little cries escaped his throat as he arched into the wetness of Severus’ mouth. Severus felt the vibrations of Harry’s voice against his tongue, one hand searching Harry’s body on its own agenda even as his hips began to drive his erection against Harry’s skin.

Harry rolled underneath him, rubbing his own prick against the rough carpet as he curved his ass forward again and again, so that Severus’ cock would rub hard against his tailbone. Severus groaned.

Severus reached down and stroked Harry’s back, and up his tailbone went, letting Severus’ cock slide between his asscheeks, the silky head of his cock slipping past Harry’s asshole with a slick drop of pre-come. Harry’s back arched more, his knees bending under him and raising his ass in the air.

The tone of Harry’s cries as Severus took his cock in hand and ran the head back and forth over Harry’s entrance made it clear he did not want to wait. Severus did not want to wait either, but he did want to make it good. He cast a Lubrication Charm then laid his wand aside and continued to tease.

Harry’s teeth were clenched now, his fingers clawing at the carpet, and Severus ran a hand through Harry’s hair. He gripped it firmly, bending his back at a pleasing angle, even as Harry tried to move back to impale himself on Severus’ cock.

Severus slid home with a long moan of his own, and then held still, his arms wrapped around Harry’s torso, barely moving, barely breathing, just trembling in sensory bliss. And to think that he had just recently considered trying to either forget Harry or suppress his body’s response to sexual stimuli. Snape was doubly thankful for his own self-control.

Harry began to keen again and Severus responded with long strokes, shoved hardest right at the end, then switched to a rhythm of three short strokes, then one long one, the final jerk on the stroke expertly nailing Harry in the prostate. Severus saw stars and weren’t sure if they were in his own eyes or if he was reading them through Harry’s mind.

Harry began to yowl as his orgasm neared and Severus held him on the edge, pushing him higher with each set of strokes but not pushing him over. He trailed his tongue along Harry’s slick back, tasting sweat and salt and skin and making Harry’s vocalizations even more urgent.

He slid his palm along Harry’s cock, smearing it with the dripping pre-come and then forcing Harry to fuck his palm against the carpet with his own thrusts.

That was all it took. Harry began to come, jerking hard back and forth between hand and cock, both moving as Severus let his own orgasm loose, clinging to Harry with every muscle as he spurted and shuddered. The flood of emotions that rushed out was what surprised him most, and he held tight to Harry as if to protect them both from the pull of the tide. Fear, love, enmity, envy, respect, need, all came gushing forth in a grand moment of insanity.

Then it was over, and Severus felt saner than he had in years. Many years. And he had a tender lover lying in his arms. He disengaged gently and Harry sighed and spoke. “I’ve been waiting so long for that. And yet, it seems like yesterday.”

Severus now was the one who couldn’t speak. Instead he rolled them both onto one side, transfigured the rug into a featherbed and a throw pillow into a blanket.

“Huh. I guess, in a way, it was yesterday. For me.” Harry closed his eyes. “Only I feel a lot better than I’d think I would, if I had just been imprisoned for a month. Was it a month?”

Severus’ reply was almost a growl it was so low. “Almost two.”

Harry yawned and stretched, rubbing his back against Severus. “But of course, I’ve been completely taken care of for the past… how long has it been?”

“It took you almost a year to find me. And you’ve been living here as a cat for about three months.” Severus clung to Harry once again. What if Longbottom hadn’t been found? What if Harry had remained a cat forever?

He hadn’t realized his mind was still so open and readable, but Harry heard the questions and answered him. “You would have figured it out one way or the other. I’m sure of it. And I’m fine.” He wriggled his back against Severus’ chest and sighed. “Would it be too weird for me to ask for you to… to pet me?”

“Of course not,” Severus said, his mind finally closing and his mouth opening as he laid a tender kiss on Harry’s head. He stroked the silky strands of Harry’s hair, damp from sweat and glossy as fur.

-end-

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