Summary: The moment you've all been waiting for.
Notes: More of a warning-- there is much badness and cheesy quoting of Shakespeare. I don't know what my thing is with Snape and Sonnet 116, but it's definitely beginning to qualify as a phenomenon. I can finish this. I can. Six and a half hours. 9,500 words. I can do it.
It was to be Harry's first proper night out since Giacomo's had opened. Liam and the staff hand ganged up against him and told him that he needed a night off. Harry often wondered how Liam ever managed to go to his own job, as much time as he spent at Harry's place.
"You can't be there every night," Liam had said. "I promise, the place won't explode if you leave it for a few hours." And Harry had agreed, after some coaxing.
The appointed time was nearing to meet Liam at the pub, and Harry was frantically giving last-minute instructions to Camille, whom he was leaving in charge. "And you have my mobile number if anything happens, right?"
"For the tenth time, yes, everyone here has it," she said, smiling. "Anyway, you'll just be down the street. If anything that bad happens, someone can come and get you. Just go and have a good time. You deserve it. You've been working twenty-hour days since this place opened."
Harry left, at last, by way of Camille physically pushing him out the door. With his business off his mind for the moment, his thoughts turned to the next perplexing matter-- idiot Liam having invited that Aidan chap to join them tonight. It was really just supposed to be Liam and Harry, but being that they'd be at Séanachie, it was very likely to turn into an all-night piss with the entire staff. If Aidan did turn up (which Harry honestly thought unlikely), he wasn't sure he was comfortable subjecting a complete stranger to the drunken antics of his mates. Especially a complete stranger he was being forced to decide entirely too soon whether he fancied or not. Yes, Harry had found him attractive, but he hadn't given it much thought beyond that until Liam had announced that Harry fancied him. Oh, well, he decided. After all, from what Aidan had said, he was only here on holiday, so there couldn't be that much to lose. But Harry resented the very idea of just having "a bit of fun." He'd been someone's bit of fun, and it had left a bad taste in his mouth. It wasn't a position he wanted to put anyone in. Aidan would go back to Scotland. But maybe Harry would too, someday. It could be more than temporary if he wanted it. Whoa, Potter, you're getting way ahead of yourself here. You don't even know if he's in there yet. As soon as he'd formulated that thought, he found himself in front of the door of the pub. It was time to find out, one way or the other.
It was much noisier than his own restaurant, he realised. He'd never given it much thought before now, but it was noisy. He made his way into the bar area, stopping to hug and shake hands with various staff members along the way. Liam was at their usual table, he saw, and a rather ill-at-ease Aidan was sitting next to him. So he had turned up. Harry didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Liam waved him over excitedly. He'd clearly already had a few.
"I don't believe the two of you have been properly introduced," Liam said. "Aidan O'Neill, Julian Jameson."
Harry fought the blush he felt creeping into his face and shook Aidan's hand. "Nice to meet you properly," Harry said. "I'm sorry I had to run off this afternoon, but I see Liam here took care of things."
"Not a problem," said Aidan with a slight smile. Bugger it, he really was lovely, wasn't he?
Gwen, the waitress, came over with another round, and made a huge embarrassing show of fawning over Harry and kissing him on the cheek several times. "She always did have a thing for you," Liam commented when she'd gone. "See? There's even a little heart on your pint."
Harry looked at the foam on his pint of Guinness, and, indeed, whoever had pulled it had drawn a heart in it with the tap. Harry looked up to the bar, where he saw Stephen wink and blow him a kiss. "Oh, it's only Stephen taking the piss," Harry said, quite relieved.
Liam raised his glass. "We drink," he said dramatically, "to Ireland, the motherland, giver of the holy porter--"
"Liam, shut the fuck up," Harry said, clinking his glass against the other two. "If he sings 'Fields of Athenry' before midnight, you're allowed to box his ears," Harry said to Aidan.
"Now that's a nice impression to give our guest, Mr Jameson!" Liam exclaimed in mock-horror, standing up. "If you lads will excuse me, I'm just going to make sure everything is all right in the jacks'." With that, he sauntered off.
Harry smiled nervously at Aidan. "Sorry about him. He's a bit mad, if you hadn't figured that out."
"I wondered," Aidan said. He did have quite a nice smile, Harry thought.
"This must be horribly awkward for you," Harry said. It was sure as hell awkward for him. "Liam told me what he said to you, and I just want you to know that I don't… well, that is to say…. You shouldn't feel like you have to be here," he said finally.
"I don't," Aidan said.
"You don't say much, do you?" Harry asked.
"I say quite a bit, when properly provoked."
Harry grinned. "Should I provoke you?" Aidan raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Bugger, he was difficult. Harry wondered briefly why he even cared, but he knew he did, and that was enough. "Look," Harry said, deciding to level with him. "I know you said you don't feel like you have to be here, but you also seem to be terribly uncomfortable, and I don't know what I can do to fix that. I know it must've been quite odd having my friend tell you that I fancied you, but in the end, you turned up, and…. Fuck, I'm making a mess of this, aren't I? I should just ask you boring questions or something." Harry had the distinct feeling that he was raving like a madman. Or at least someone rather maladjusted. "Right, then, what do you do back home?"
"I'm a teacher," Aidan said.
It was something, at least. "What do you teach?"
"Science," Aidan said after a moment. "Chemistry? Do they call it that here?"
Harry smirked. "I'm not the one to ask about that. I'm still confused as to why it is that when I ask for a Coke, I'm then asked what kind." Harry wasn't really sure what to say about chemistry. It was sort of like Potions, though. "Chemistry was my worst subject in school," he said, feeling a bit stupid. Yes, good one. He tells you what he does for a living, and you immediately say how horrible you are at it. "Mostly because the teacher didn't like me, though."
"It's a long story. Suffice to say that my father was apparently a right bastard, and the teacher in question had been at school with him. Do you have students like that?"
"Yeah, it was sort of a unique situation. And the funny thing is, that teacher is probably one of the only people back in Britain that I actually give a rat's arse about." Well, it was true. Aidan looked a bit surprised. Harry laughed nervously. "I can't believe I'm even telling you that."
"It sounds as though your reasons for leaving were complicated."
"That's an understatement. Well, no, my reasons for leaving weren't really very complicated, because I honestly didn't think it through. It's my reasons for not going back that are complicated."
"Do you think you'll ever go back?" He couldn't quite read the look on Aidan's face.
"I know I will. One of these days. I just… I suppose I'd like everyone back there to have time to forget all about me, you know?" Well, really, what was the harm in telling Aidan all this? It wasn't as though Aidan had any idea who he was, or was reporting back or anything like that. He still didn't know if he fancied him, but he definitely liked him.
Liam returned from the toilet, and Harry thought he looked a bit dismayed at the fact that he and Aidan were not currently snogging on the table. But he sat back down with them, apparently having no excuse to leave again. Harry was really going to have to kill him.
And then the music started, drowning out most possible conversation. "Oh, I forgot Sean was playing tonight!" Liam shouted over the noise.
"He's really good," Harry said into Aidan's ear. He couldn't help but notice how good he smelled. There was something strangely familiar about the scent that he couldn't place.
Another round of drinks appeared before them, and Harry toasted Aidan with a silent nod. Liam was too busy shouting "hey wife!" at the top of his voice to notice. Harry tried to be helpful and teach Aidan the audience participation to the traditional songs, but communication was difficult, and Aidan was nothing if not reserved, he noted.
During a break between songs, Harry heard Stephen shout from the bar, "Sean! Julian's here!"
"Oh, bugger," Harry said.
"What?" Aidan asked, clearly confused.
"They're about to make me sing, I think," Harry said, drinking down as much of the beer in his glass as he could at one time.
"No," Harry said, shaking his head helplessly as he walked to the stage.
"I hate you, Stephen," he said into the microphone, earning a laugh from the audience. "For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know, this is a tradition that started when I was the chef here, and was often in the habit of having entirely too much to drink after I'd finished work for the day, and one night I stole the microphone and wouldn't give it back. Now that I'm a respectable businessman, of course, they have to embarrass me. Remember, everyone, it's still before midnight, so if Liam sings along, you can all box his ears. 'Fields of Athenry,' the only song I know all the words to."
Sean fortunately took pity on his relative sobriety and played a more up-tempo version of the song than usual, so it was over sooner and Harry was able to return to his seat, blushing and cursing amid the applause from the general audience and the catcalls from his mates. "I'm sorry you had to witness that," he said to Aidan.
"No, it was quite nice," Aidan said. "If nothing else, you have a very commanding stage presence."
"If nothing else," Harry said, laughing. He downed the rest of the pint he'd been drinking and started on the full one that had been set down at his place while he'd been up singing.
He was very well intoxicated and babbling nonsense to anyone who would listen by the time the pub closed, and had hazily decided at some point that he most definitely fancied Aidan. Stephen invited everyone round his place, as was his custom.
"You two coming?" Liam asked as everyone was stepping outside.
Harry shot a questioning look at Aidan, who only shrugged. Great help, that. "No, I think I'd better call it a night."
Liam and the others said their goodbyes and started off down the street.
"I'd offer you a lift back to wherever it is you're staying," Harry said to Aidan, "but I'm a bit pissed and should not be driving."
"It's all right," Aidan said. "It's not far."
Harry took a step and staggered a bit. He really hadn't meant to drink this much. "Want me to walk you back, then?"
"I rather think I should walk you back," he said, taking hold of Harry's arm to steady him.
"Oh, no, I'll be fine," Harry said, almost afraid of what would happen if Aidan came with him. "Anyway, it's a bit far."
"All the more reason for me to go with you. Your friends wouldn't be very happy if something happened to you."
Harry began to lead the way to his flat. "You're not drunk at all, are you?" he said, more accusingly than he meant to.
"While not sober, I'm considerably less intoxicated than you are."
They walked in silence for a few minutes, but Harry couldn't quite stand it. "So you came here looking for an old friend of yours, you said?"
That unreadable look again. "A former student of mine, actually."
"You came all this way for just a student?" Certainly, then, teachers did come looking for their students across the ocean. At times, Harry was almost insulted that no one had come looking for him. But to be fair, he hadn't made it very easy to find him. The whole of the Hogwarts staff could be scouring every city in America right now, and he'd never know it.
"Not just a student," Aidan said after a moment. "More than a student."
"So a friend, then."
"I'm not sure I'd say that either. It's rather complicated."
Harry laughed. "Sounds like me and Snape," he said before he could stop himself. Oh, well. It wasn't like Aidan was going to know who Snape was, anyway. Harry often wished he didn't know.either.
"That teacher I told you about that hated me. I mean, he didn't hate me, that was the thing. He just acted like it. Or, well, I suppose he might have hated me for a while, but… Oh, never mind. Sorry, I'm rambling. Anyway, you were saying? This student you came looking for?"
"To be fair, I didn't come here just looking for him. I needed a holiday as well."
"Why did you want to find him, though?"
"There… are a few things I should have liked to settle between us. Rather like the case of you and your Mr Snape, I assume."
"Professor Snape," Harry said in an exaggerated mockery of Snape's tone.
Aidan smirked. "Right. But in our case, I believed all of the dislike to be on his side, and perhaps pre-emptively returned it."
"So you basically came to tell him you don't hate him?"
"Put simply, yes, I suppose so. And to offer him a position at the school, if he wants it."
"Awfully nice of you."
"Yes, I suppose it is. Strange, I'm not ordinarily a nice person."
"Oh, I find that hard to believe. You haven't threatened to kill Liam even once, even after all he's put you through."
"It doesn't mean I haven't thought about it."
Harry laughed. "He means well, he really does. Bit of a plank at times, is all. His heart's in the right place, and I love him to death. People like him are partially what's kept me here."
"You're here rather permanently, now, though, aren't you? With your business and all?"
Harry shrugged. "If I thought there was anything good waiting for me back in England, I'd go. I love the restaurant, but it's only a restaurant."
"How do you know there's nothing good?"
Harry sighed. Of all the things he'd had to explain to people, this one was always the hardest to word. "I just haven't got much of anyone left. There was a… a bad accident at my school just before my last term there ended. Most of my friends died in it."
"Oh, how terrible."
"Yes, it was. Anyway, the only people left there whom I know are people who didn't know me as I really was, who didn’t care to."
"Surely there must be one or two."
"Two," Harry said. "Both teachers, actually. But they don't even really know me, and I'm not sure they care." They had arrived at Harry's door. "Do you want to come in for a bit?"
"I didn't ask if you should, I asked if you want to. You've walked all this way-- you should at least get a cup of tea for your trouble."
Well, no, he didn't want to, not really. He did, and he didn't. Harry Potter as Julian Jameson was having a strange effect on him, and he didn't quite understand it yet. And he also knew what would probably happen if he did go in. But he'd somehow tacitly agreed to it by turning up at the pub tonight. He'd known the score. And he felt that he was making progress with talking to Harry and getting him to think about what he'd left behind, and didn't want to ruin it with the awkwardness of rejection.
"Just tea, if you like," Harry said gently. "I think I'm as confused as you are here."
Well, that was a relief. "Tea would be…" he fought not to say 'acceptable' "…lovely." He still didn't like sounding so bloody cordial about everything.
Harry grinned and unlocked the door, gesturing for Severus to go in. When the lights were on (yes, Muggle lighting with a switch-- he'd had lumos on the tip of his tongue, but had fortunately managed to remember himself), Severus was surprised at how tidy and tasteful the flat was. He'd half-expected something more akin to the gaudy adolescent squalor of the Gryffindor dormitory.
Harry offered Severus a seat (proper manners! Would wonders never cease?) and went toward the kitchen. "I'll just get the tea. You can put on the stereo or something if you'd like."
Severus stared at the assortment of knobs and buttons on the stereo and couldn't help but think how much more complicated they'd become since he'd last seen one. Of course, that had been circa 1976 in Muggle Studies, so it made sense. He couldn't even seem to find where it was the records ought to go, so he decided it was best for him not to touch it. "That's all right," Severus said. "I'm not much use with machines. I'm rather afraid the thing would explode." The first full truth he'd told all night.
Harry stepped back out of the kitchen and grinned at him, flicking a button on the stereo, and music filled the room. "It's okay, I never even owned a CD before I got here."
Severus was sure that he was supposed to know what that was. "I don't have any either," he said vaguely. "I can work a record player and a radio, but that's about it."
"That's funny," Harry said, leaning on the doorframe. "Liam and the lads were so horrified at my lack of musical knowledge when I got here that I thought I was abnormal or something. It's good to know there's someone else."
Severus shrugged. "I much prefer books."
The kettle whistled and Harry went to make the tea, and brought the teapot in on a tray, along with two mismatched mugs and some milk and sugar. "Sorry I haven't got a proper tea service. I don't have much polite company over, as I'm sure you must have guessed."
"I'm hardly polite company."
"You're very polite. I, on the other hand, am rude and illiterate, and am probably serving the tea all wrong," Harry said, pouring the tea into the mugs. "Of course, I'm sure the fact that I'm serving it at all says something, as most people who come round are just handed the kettle and a mug. But then again, most people are Liam."
Severus smiled, then outright laughed at the amount of sugar Harry was putting into his tea.
"I only have it this way when I've been drinking," he explained. "So, what is it you read?" he asked, picking up the earlier thread of their conversation.
Severus knew that whatever Muggle books he'd be able to think of would sound horribly stuffy. "Mostly things written by people who are quite old and quite dead."
Harry laughed. "Shakespeare and such, then?"
"Yes, I do like Shakespeare a great deal."
"I've never read him myself, sadly," Harry said. "I don't read as much as I'd like to, not that I have the time these days. And all my intelligent books are back in England. All I've got here are some trashy novels my friends have loaned me or left here."
Severus remembered the dog-eared copy of The Interpretation of Dreams that he and Remus had found in Harry's trunk on top of a clearly unread edition of Baudelaire translations. But the boy-- man, he corrected himself-- really did need to read Shakespeare. Severus had always thought it tragic that such things were not required reading at Hogwarts. Perhaps if it ever came to the point where Aidan and Julian were on gift-giving terms with one another. He knew Harry's birthday was coming up soon, but he didn't know if Julian's was the same. Of course, Severus wasn't sure he'd still be here by then, but he was beginning to get the feeling that he would. Really, by Harry's warped logic, he shouldn't go back at all, because there was no one back in England that cared about him.
"Let's see," Harry said, "I know I know some Shakespeare… 'to be or not to be, that is the question, whether 'tis nobler in the mind' …Erm. Well, that's really about it, actually."
"'To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them,'" Severus finished for him.
Harry smiled. "Yes, that. It sounds so much nicer when you say it. Probably has something to do with the fact that you actually know what it means."
"It does help."
"Do you know more?" Harry asked, trying to shift his sitting position and appearing to nearly lose his balance. Severus instinctively put a hand on his shoulder to catch him.
"Any more what?"
"Rather a lot, I should say."
What, he wanted Severus to recite Shakespeare to him? "Let me not to the marriage of true minds," he began, without even thinking, "admit impediments. Love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove." Harry's eyes were closing, Severus noticed. No, he really looked nothing like Black. Not like this, anyway. "Oh, no! It is an ever fixèd mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken…" He paused, realising he'd left his hand on Harry's shoulder and was now absently running his thumb along Harry's collarbone, but he neither heard nor saw any protest, and well, if this was what he had to do… "It is the star to every wandering bark," he continued, "whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken." But this had nothing to do with being what he had to do, did it? It had much more to do with his hand moving up to the nape of Harry's neck, craving the feel of the skin beneath his fingers. "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks," he went on, unabashedly twining his fingers into the ends of Harry's hair, "within his bending sickle's compass come." No, this had nothing to do at all with any scheme or plan, knowledge that was confirmed by his quickening heartbeat and the heat spreading through his body. "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom." He willed his voice not to tremble, but it refused to obey. "If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved," he finished. It wasn't just his voice that was trembling. He couldn't quite grasp what was going on, or where these feelings had come from. Well, that was a lie. He had a strange feeling they'd been there all along.
Harry opened his eyes and immediately locked gazes with Severus. And then things began to move very quickly, hazily. Severus had no idea which one of them had moved first, nor if any words had been spoken, but suddenly Harry was setting his cup down on the table and moving toward him, sliding over and tangling their legs together, and Severus was wrapping his arms around him, and their lips met in a long kiss that left them both breathless. Severus felt that his entire body was on pins and needles when they parted briefly, long enough for Harry to regard him with a heavy-lidded gaze and whisper, "damn," before kissing him again.
Severus's whole world melted against those lips, and nothing else mattered, he realised faintly. It didn't matter who they were, or who they said they were, or who they might not even be, because this felt more right than anything he'd ever experienced in his life. Somehow they moved so that they were lying down, and blanketed in each other's warmth, they kissed one another into sleep.