So, about a year ago, I wrote a story called Book of Shadows. And upon request (and my own inspiration) I began writing the sequel Shadow Puppets. Unfortunately, as I wrote I found that I didn't know where to take it and while I tried to figure out what should happen, other stories were written and I thought less and less of Shadow Puppets. I've started a number of different versions and since many of you have waited this past year for the continuation, I bring you the unfinished tales of Shadow Puppets.

Title: The Unfinished Tales of Shadow Puppets -- 1
Rating: R

Neither is really sure how it happened but Snape moved into Harry's rundown mouse-hotel apartment. Snape stopped being "Snape" and became "Severus" and "Potter" became "Harry". On a regular basis.

Upon his arrival, Severus brought furniture that took up too much space and it ended in an argument. Harry needed the space to paint. Severus needed the chair so he had a place to sit. They don't really remember how it was resolved but the chair stayed and Harry still had room to paint.

They don't think about "moving too fast", but suddenly they have a morning routine. Severus wakes first and uses the bathroom. It took him a few days to maneuver the same way Harry does but now it comes easily. Harry is usually waiting when he emerges from the bathroom, they nod to each other and Harry disappears inside while Severus makes breakfast. Since he arrived, he's determined to keep the refrigerator stocked with food that's actually edible. When Harry isn't looking, he feeds a bit to Crookshanks. The cat is starting to grow on him.

They eat standing up because there still isn't room for a table and Hedwig will come flying in with the morning post. She's started picking up Severus' mail as well so they rifle through it together and read in silence. Every morning, Severus thinks about moving them into a bigger apartment. One where there aren't mice and there's room for a table. He can't quite shake the want of a house with a garden. But he knows that Harry loves this apartment so he doesn't say a thing. Even when a mouse scurries over his foot.

Today isn't any different except for a letter from St. Mungo's that makes Harry pale. He rips open the envelope and pulls out the parchment as his hands shake. His hands always shake when he gets a letter about Sirius. He reads quickly, skipping over the paragraphs until they get to it. Harry hates how they dance around the truth but Sirius is okay. Harry can visit this month. He folds the parchment back up, stuffs it in the envelope without saying a word to Severus who's patiently waiting to know what's upset him so much. He's only been there two weeks; he doesn't know that Harry has religiously gone to visit Sirius every month for the last two years.

Harry goes to the foot of their bed, opens his trunk and pulls out parchment, ink and quill. Using the lid of the trunk, he writes his reply. It's the same thing every month, they write and let him know that he can come; Harry writes back and tells them he'll be there. It's the same time every month, the same day. They say it helps Sirius keep track of the time. Sometimes, he wishes that Sirius would die because Harry isn't sure how much more of it he can take.

When he finishes the letter, he ties it to Hedwig and sends her off, ignoring her protesting hoots. He goes back to the trunk and pulls out his cigarettes. He doesn't smoke much, only before and after he sees Sirius. He lights one and closes his eyes as he inhales. The shaking in his hands stops and the nicotine helps calm him. He taps his foot impatiently and forgets that Severus is there, watching in amazement as Harry shivers and smokes like he were breathing.

It's well known to both of them that Harry doesn't know how to conduct himself with Severus around. He gets nervous when they kiss and tenses up when Severus tries to hug him. This time is no different when Severus strides across the room and tries to comfort him. He wants the bruised look to leave Harry's eyes and he wants the scared little boy to go away and bring Harry back. It hurts him but he never tells Harry. It occurs to him now that they don't talk unless there's something to say. He hates that.

When Harry tenses, Severus lets go and goes back to the sink to clean up after breakfast. He lets the sound of clinking dishes and water distract him from the sound of Harry's wheezy, desperate breathing and the smell of smoke that's lingering in the air. He's tempted to throw a plate against the wall but he doesn't. He keeps his own emotions in check, like always. Severus feels like a fucking Muggle house wife.

After Harry has smoked through half the pack, he stubs out the last cigarette and joins Severus by the sink. He knows he should say something, explain what's going on but he feels small in Severus' presence; he's afraid to show weakness. He thinks about how he's wanted Severus in his life for years and now Harry has him but doesn't know what to do with him. He likes kissing Severus, though. "It was a letter from St. Mungo's. I visit Sirius once a month. I'm going tomorrow." In those two weeks that Severus has been there, Harry forgot Sirius even existed. He feels guilt wash over him now and he steps back a little so he can't feel the penetrating heat that seems to come off of Severus in suffocating waves. Up until this morning, the suffocation was a comfort. "I-Do you want to come?"

Severus looks up from the sink and stares at Harry as the youth shifts uncomfortably and his gaze darts about the room. He wants to touch Harry, to reassure him, to do something. If he thought it would be well received, he would shove Harry against the wall and kiss him until their lips were black and blue. He's watched Harry shut him out and he can't stand it. He's close to bursting and leaving. But he won't leave, he knows it. Severus doesn't know what to say. He doesn't really want to see Black but Harry might need him and he wants to be needed. "Do you want me to come?"

Harry nods frantically before he can stop himself. He looks away from Severus, nods more discreetly. Before Severus can say anything else or reach out to him; Harry steps around him. His heart thumps loudly in his chest as Harry lays a new canvas on the floor and starts painting.

From his spot, all Severus sees is a whirlwind of color. Harry doesn't use a brush, just his hands to mix the color together. The paint burps and gurgles as he pours a pile of red on the surface and presses down with his palm. It splatters everywhere. Harry doesn't care, though. He just keeps going until his arms ache. He rolls back on his haunches and stares. There are no pictures, there are no symbols, but still it speaks of everything he feels as he runs a hand through his hair, grimaces when he realizes his mistake and his hair is streaked with color.

The paint is bright and cheerful, red and yellow and light blue and purple; too cheerful. Harry grabs a tube of black paint and aims it at the canvas. A few good squeezes and the happy canvas is ruined by the abyss. Happiness raped by hate and anger and fear. It's perfect. He wants to shred it but puts a charm over it to help it dry and to keep the mice from walking on it.

He stands and turns to Severus who?s still watching him. Harry aches inside. It feels like his chest is caving in, pressed down by his own anguish and grief and he knows that Sirius isn't the only issue. For the first time in almost a year, Harry wants to cut. If Severus weren't here, he would go through his trunk until he found his knife and rip into his skin until his body was unrecognizable. But if Severus weren't here, he wouldn't want to cut. He itches and he absentmindedly rubs at his left arm and something in Severus' eyes shift. Harry suddenly feels naked and exposed. "I-" he stutters and he doesn't know what to do. It's never been like this before.

Severus can't stand it anymore. He growls, takes two strides and holds Harry even after he tenses and it feels like he's holding a board. He just holds on even though he knows his clothes will be covered in paint and that Harry hates being held. It's the only thing he can think of doing. He's surprised when Harry sags against him and grasps onto him like a drowning man. Harry needs this, he realizes. Severus has been waiting for this for two weeks - two very, very long weeks. He catches Harry's lips, kisses him slowly and softly. He doesn't rush in case Harry freezes again.

Harry doesn't think about how they don't kiss very often or how much he likes kissing Severus, only that he's kissing him and it feels good. Lips that are soft but faintly chapped even in the dead of summer, lips that make Harry shiver. He grabs onto Severus' shoulders and anchors himself as he delves his tongue inside. His eyes are firmly closed and he wants to forget about the letter from St. Mungo's and the itching on his arm that has increased to a faint burning. He just wants to be here.

Cautiously, Severus begins to unbutton Harry's shirt. He's waiting for Harry to stop him, to push him away and storm out. It occurs to him that he's never seen Harry naked. He's always careful to change in the bathroom even though Severus makes it a point to disrobe in the room when Harry is there.

It only takes a minute before Harry stiffens and pushes away from him. He looks trapped and Severus tries to keep the disappointment from his eyes. "I-uh-I have to get to the gallery," he says and bolts out the door before Severus can protest. Harry pounds down the stairs and steps into the heat on the sidewalk.

(Here was going to be a scene between Ernie and Harry. Never Happened. This next scene would be in chronological order if the Ernie scene had happened.)

Mostly I like this scene because it shows that Harry really does want Severus, he just doesn't know how to show it. Awww.

Sometimes he wonders after Severus is asleep and Harry is alone. He wonders what would happen if Severus left him. For the last two weeks all he's been able to think about is how different they are and how quickly their relationship is progressing. But he's not sure if sleeping together, not talking, and occasional kisses can be called a relationship. There's a dull ache in his chest that suggests that he really does care for Severus - after all, he's fantasized about him for years. Somehow, his dream into reality doesn't satisfy him the way he thinks it ought to.

He lights a cigarette and watches the lazy clouds roll by in the night sky. He wonders what happened. He thinks that maybe his crush on Severus stayed at Hogwarts. It would make sense if he didn't blush every time Severus looked at him or if he didn't wake up hard every morning and disappointed when Severus is already in the shower. He wants Severus to devour him, to want him.

He's so frustrated as he sits in Severus' chair. It smells just like him and the ache in his gut intensifies. He stares longingly at the bed and he wants so badly to crawl in next to Severus and be held. He wants to feel strong arms around his stomach and sturdy hips against his ass.

He's startled by a voice, "Harry," Severus mumbles. "Harry, come to bed. Want you."

His heart flutters dangerously in his chest but Severus is asleep, clutching Harry's pillow to his chest. Harry is envious of that pillow. He wants to give himself like that. Instead, he sits in the chair and watches as Severus' chest rises and falls slowly.

He still remembers what Sirius said to him before he took the final mission: "Don't worry so much, Harry," he'd said. "I'll be back before you know it and I'll take you to Rome, I promise." He'd smiled that confident, dashing grin and hugged Harry long and hard. Now, Harry thinks that Sirius knew it would be his last mission. He read once that the soul knows when its host body is going to die and he thinks Sirius felt the pull. He's felt it before but he's always survived; Sirius survived but at a cost that's left him mindless.

And here's where we get to the horribly depressing bit that made me cry. Yes, my own writing made me cry. How pathetic is that?

Severus catches his eye as they stand in front of St. Mungo's. The building is huge and white but Harry takes a deep breath and opens the door. He's come here every month for two years but he still can't stand it and it's too familiar to be comfortable. It smells sterile and intimidating. The receptionist nods at them, she knows Harry; everyone does.

"Mr. Potter."

Harry turns at the voice and nods. "Dr. Connor."

Dr. Emily Connor is a short witch with flaming red hair and kind blue eyes. She reminds Harry a little of the Weasley's; maybe that's why he likes her. She's in charge of Sirius' case. "If you'll follow me, I'll take you to see Mr. Black."

Harry follows but he knows the way to Sirius' room. He glances at Severus and smiles weakly. He wants to Apparate away from here. When they reach his room, Harry hands his wand to Dr. Connor and slips inside. The walls are white and the glare is almost blinding. Sirius is sitting in the corner, knees drawn to his chest and seems to be intently studying the floor. Harry sits in front of him and looks him in the eye. "Hey Sirius."

He cocks his head. "James?" Sirius doesn't remember that Harry has grown up. He has a hard time distinguishing his memories.

Harry takes his hand. "Yeah. It's James." It kills him a little more every time he has to say that. Dr. Connor says he's making progress but Harry can never see it.

Sirius panics. "I can't find Peter and Remus. I looked everywhere, James." "It's okay, Sirius. I found them."

He relaxes against the wall. "I couldn't remember where I put them." Sirius pauses. "But something's missing. Where's Lily?"

Harry plays along. "Lily is at home taking care of Harry. She said she'll come next time." Dr. Connor says it's good to indulge him in this stage. She says the truth might make it worse. Sometimes Harry isn't sure that Dr. Connor really knows what she's talking about.

Sirius nods. "I lost Padfoot. Can't find him. Here puppy!" He calls and tries to whistle. He doesn't remember that he is Padfoot.

He shushes him and runs a hand through Sirius' hair. "Padfoot is staying with me and Lily."

He accepts this and purrs a little as Harry keeps stroking his head. "Something's still missing. Always missing. Where's Remus?"

Harry's heart clenches in his chest. "I told you, I found Remus."

Sirius shakes his head. "No. Something happened to Remus." He hits his head lightly against the wall, repeatedly. "Something bad. It's all fuzzy. I can't remember. What happened to Remus?"

He isn't sure if he should tell him the truth. Harry hates talking about what happened to Remus. "Remus isn't coming back, Sirius," he says gently and his voice hitches on his grief. "He went away."

"Where?" Sirius demands. "I have to find him. I promised I would find him." Harry's grasp on his hand tightens a little. "I know you did and he knows, too. He knows you'll come when he needs you."

"But he needs me now! I know it. I just can't remember where he is."

Sirius looks so lost and Harry knows he should tell him the truth. He should tell Sirius everything. But he can't bring himself to shatter the peace that he thinks Sirius has. What good will it do if he tells his Godfather that he's actually Harry and all his friends are dead? "He-"

"Remus!" Sirius shouts. "Remus! Where are you?" He looks at Harry. "He's hurt. He...they put a curse on him. He doesn't know what's going on."

He feels tears well up in his eyes because he doesn't know what to say and Sirius is frantic and pulling at his hair. Strong arms grab him around the waist and pull him up. Severus drags him from the room as nurses rush in and sedate Sirius as he keeps shouting for Remus. Severus' arms are secure around him and he's whispering things in Harry's ear that he can't bring himself to hear.

"JAMES!" Sirius screams as he's hoisted up and taken to the bed. "Please James! Don't let them - Ah!" His cry is strangled and all Harry sees is Sirius struggling until they empty the needle in his arm and he goes limp.

Harry pushes away from Severus and grabs his wand from Dr. Connor. "I'll be back next month," he tells her and almost spits in her eye when she gives him that piteous look that she gives him every month. That look that says, "Kill him, Harry. Let him go. There's nothing we can do anymore." And every month he returns as shaken as the month before and upsets Sirius even more.

Harry stalks down the hallway, fingering his empty pocket and wishing he had a fag. He just needs a fag or a cut. He shivers as he thinks of the blood sliding down his arm. Yes. He'll get rid of Severus when they get home and cut up his arm. It's been almost a year. He could use a good cut. He's vaguely aware of Severus keeping up with his quick pace but Severus' legs are longer.

"Harry!"

He whirls around, ready to shout when all words die on his lips except, "Hermione." She looks older, her hair is pulled back in a neat bun at the back of her head and she's dressed in professional robes. Harry leans closer to Severus and almost grabs his hand before catching himself and he steps away. She's smiling brightly at him but it's a little weak and he hopes she won't start yelling. She hugs him tightly and he tentatively returns the embrace. It's nothing like the hug in front of the greenhouse two years ago. That hug was between friends. This one is harder; it almost feels like she's trying to hurt him. He thinks he might deserve it. When they part, she notices Severus.

"Professor Snape."

Severus nods but all he cares about is the way Harry's hands are shaking and the fragile look in his eye. Harry's strung as taut as a bow and looks ready to snap in two. He wants to reassure him, he wants to wrap his arms around Harry and whisk him away but he won't admit to the sting he felt when Harry moved away from him.

Hermione turns back to Harry and her eyes harden a little. "I've been worried about you."

Harry resists the urge to kick at an invisible stone, like he has something to be ashamed of. But he doesn't. It was his choice to leave and he would do it again if given the chance. "How have you been? Are you and Millicent still together?"

She glares. "No. We're not. I wrote you about it two months ago."

He swears silently. That must've been the one letter he didn't read. "I-I'm sorry. I knew she meant a lot to you." Merlin, he wants to leave. He thinks about running, just running to the exit and Apparating as soon as he gets outside. He can't handle this and he knows it. He shouldn't have come, shouldn't have begged Severus to come, too.

Hermione shrugs easily. "She wanted Ginny more than me. Why haven't you been returning my Owls? I tried to find you but not even Dumbledore knew where you were." She glares at Severus. "But apparently you allowed some people to find you."

Severus almost snarls back until he sees her eyes. She's jealous. She's jealous that he found a way to find Harry and she didn't. He had the power and the knowledge and the *need* to find Harry and she didn't. She thinks that Severus is a better friend than she is. If only she knew, he thinks.

Her attention is completely on Severus now. "How did you find him? I tried everything."

"Don't bring him into this," Harry says before Severus can answer.

"And why not?" She demands. "Why couldn't I find you, Harry?"

He clenches his fists until his knuckles are white and his whole arm is shaking. "Because I didn't want anyone to find me. I just wanted to be left alone, Hermione. I just want to be fucking left alone!"

"Then why is he here when-"

"Because I love him!" Harry shouts and the whole floor seems to go silent. All Harry hears is the beating of his heart and the blood pounding in his ears. Every person in the hall is staring at them and Harry knows his time for anonymity is over. He might have to move again. Maybe he really will go to America this time. He looks hard at Hermione. "I don't know how he found me and sometimes I wish he hadn't but he did and I love him."

Severus' bubble goes pop with those final words. When Harry had shouted that he loved him, Severus felt like all the awkwardness and that fucking apartment were all worth it if Harry really did love him because he doesn't want to leave, but he's close to going. He's willing to break down every single fucking wall Harry has ever built if he has to. Snapes don't fall in love very often. They're like werewolves: they mate for life even if they die from their own grief and broken hearts. We're kind of stupid like that, he realizes.

Hermione looks dumbfounded and even a little ill. There was so much she didn't understand about Harry in school and now there's even less. She feels like her childhood is being stripped away before her eyes and she's not ready for it to go. She thought she felt like this before when she walked into the Ministry for the first time, fresh out of Hogwarts and thrown into an office where a pile of papers was waiting for her. But now it's deeper. She knew how to conduct herself at the Ministry, here she doesn't.

This boy in front of her isn't the boy she knew. And yet, he's everything she remembers him to be and she thinks that maybe, just maybe, this boy has been waiting to thrash to the surface for 19 years. Waiting under the waves, lungs nearly exploding to breathe and finally he can and Hermione is scared of him even though she knows this is Harry.

She tries to think of something to say but her brilliant mind can't come up with anything. She squeaks her protest when Harry turns to leave but he keeps walking and she can't stop the cold tingle in her chest. She feels the tears slide down her cheeks and finally she knows that she'll never get Harry back and she feels light for a second. It's time to move on.

Severus follows Harry as he nearly runs from the hospital. They're both momentarily blinded by the intense light of the sun but he grabs Harry before he can disappear and kisses him forcefully. Harry grasps his shoulders tightly and kisses back until their teeth are scraping together and Severus tastes a little bit of blood. Yes, he thinks, be angry.

Harry tastes the blood and thinks he should be worried that one of them is bleeding but he's not. He growls and digs his nails into Severus' shoulder until he thinks he's pierced skin but Severus doesn't even flinch. Harry pushes him away and stares at him as they both catch their breath. Frantically, he looks around but no one seems to notice that Harry Potter is being snogged in front of St. Mungo's by Severus Snape. He wonders if everyone forgot about him like he always thought they had.

Harry shakes his head as if to get the thought out of his head and Apparates into the living room and goes straight to his trunk. He flips it open with a little too much force and it crashes against the foot of the bed. His hands are shaking as he pulls out his pack of cigarettes and lights one. He wraps his arm around his stomach and smokes furiously, puffing clouds of smoke to the ceiling.

I actually cut out a great deal of that scene because I don't like it much anymore. At the time, it was great but now it seems out of place. These next two scenes were added a few months ago when I attempted to write it again. I'm quite fond of them.

Harry sits in Severus' chair and stares out the window at the moon that's fat in the sky. Every full moon he thinks about Remus and wonders what would've happened if everything had been different. What if his parents had never died? What if he hadn't lived? What if Remus and Sirius hadn't been captured? That's the question that plagues him the most: if Sirius and Remus hadn't been captured. He likes to think that they would be off gallivanting across the world like they'd always wanted; the last two Marauders causing trouble across the globe. Harry only needs to close his eyes and he can see Sirius' sparkling eyes and Remus' smile. He misses them.

He leans back in the chair and pulls his knees to his chest. When he closes his eyes, he can still see Remus swinging from the rafters, rope around his neck. He'd thrown up when he'd come into the room the next morning and seen Remus' tongue hanging out of his mouth, eyes cold and dead. Harry doesn't remember much of what happened after that. He does remember being walked out of the room. Thinking about it now, it might've been Severus who'd taken him to another room, wrapped him in a blanket, and given him a cup of coffee with a calming potion mixed in.

Remus had tortured Sirius, that much he knows. Remus never said what he did; he barely spoke at all after the Death Eaters had released them. Sirius had been catatonic and Remus never said a word. A week later, Remus had hung himself. "For the memories," his note had said. It was hard to believe that it was almost three years since it had happened. Three years since Remus had died, three years that Sirius had spent in St. Mungo's running blindly from shadows that he doesn't recognize.

"Mr. Sirius Black is making little progress," the last letter had said. "He doesn't talk much and refuses to leave his room. We suspect that at this rate, he'll be untreatable within the next six months." Even with Magical remedies, once a Wizard or Witch loses their mind it is unlikely that it will ever be restored. "We recommend that he be put out of his misery. There is nothing else we can do."

Harry bites his thumb nail until he begins to bleed but still he chews one finger after another. He stares at the letter that he's spent the night writing. All it needs is his signature but he's reluctant to give it. He knows it's pointless to hope that Sirius will get better and his galleons are being sucked away each month. He'll be out of money soon. There's no hope left in him.

He glances at Severus' sleeping form. There's a little line of drool down his chin and Harry almost laughs. The shadow cast on his face makes Harry itch. He finds his sketch book and the old bag of coal in his trunk. Carefully, he pulls back the blanket until Severus' whole body is exposed. There's a warm draft coming from the open window so Harry isn't worried about him getting cold. In the shadows, Severus is beautiful.

Harry repositions the chair and draws. His fingers are throbbing from his earlier treatment and they itch as bits of coal dust settle in the wounds but still he works. The slope of Severus' forehead is pronounced but even the shadows can't hide the contours of his nose. Harry wonders if it was just broken too many times to rescue or if he was born with a hook nose. He hopes for the former but he's not exactly sure why. Severus' cheeks are flat even in sleep but his lips aren't as thin as Harry once believed. Grinning wickedly, Harry draws the line of drool.

Severus' arm is curled around the pillow that's supporting his head and his hair fans across his smooth, pale back. His stomach is partially exposed and Harry takes great care in perfecting his nipple and naval; the trail of hair that gives promise of a thicker patch but his leg is bent, hiding his groin. Harry thinks about moving the leg so he can feast on the sight of Severus' penis but he doesn't want to wake him so he leaves it. Between his thighs, Harry draws the shadow of genitals and the slight curve of Severus' left leg down to his toes.

The sketch is rough and later he thinks he'll paint it. He's wanted to do an accurate drawing of Severus for years. He thinks he should be disappointed that Severus isn't as emaciated as Harry once thought but perhaps, it's better this way. He pulls the blanket back up and covers Severus, drops a kiss on his nose and smiles when he makes a content noise in his sleep.

Harry sits back in the chair and is confronted by the letter again. He picks up the quill and signs his name; brings his nail back to his mouth, winces when he encounters the taste of coal and a faint burning. He finds it strangely comforting and lolls his head on the back of the chair. It's time to move on. He watches as the moon sinks but he's asleep before the first rays of sun vomit across the horizon and the shadows are chased away.

Severus finds him in the chair the next morning. It's the first thing he sees and he smiles as he sits up and stretches. He goes to the chair and pushes the hair from Harry's forehead before noticing the black and bloody fingers. He almost gets angry until he sees the letter. Picking it up, he quickly scans it but one sentence stands out:

I give my full permission for the staff at St. Mungo's to stop the treatment of Sirius Black.

Severus picks up Harry after he sets the letter down and carefully places him in the bed and undresses him. As an after thought, Severus grabs his wand and cleans and dresses Harry's hand. He tucks the blanket around him and settles himself in the chair. He watches over Harry as he sleeps.

Theeen we skip ahead

Harry falls to his knees in front of Sirius' grave and cries. "I'm sorry!" He sobs and presses his forehead against the cold ground. "I'm so sorry. I tried. I tried so hard to be everything." He slams the palm of his hand down in frustration as grief shakes his body. "I'm so sorry." His voice cracks and breaks. He's not sure if he's crying because Sirius is dead or because he's finally dead and Harry can leave forever.

He keeps crying after Severus pulls him up and wraps his arms around his stomach. Severus doesn't say anything, he won't shush Harry. Instead he sits and waits. He thinks it's terribly appropriate for all the Marauders to be buried together. Lily is on the far left with James to her left and Sirius between him and Remus. Peter is buried next to Remus, their Marauder names on each stone. The phrase, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," accompanies it and he doesn't understand that at all but it had made Harry smile.

Harry's sobs become hiccups but still, Severus doesn't hurry him. They could be there all night but he doesn't care. He'll just pull his robe closer and keep Harry warm. He doesn't think Harry ever got a chance to grieve for anyone, even himself. He's a little surprised when Harry leans his head against him and pulls him closer. Gladly, Severus tightens his grip and presses his cheek against the top of Harry's head.

As they sit and the sun sets, Severus can't even imagine how he got himself in this mess. Falling in love with a Potter - his mother would be horrified if she were still alive. He holds Harry a little bit tighter. He doesn't remember when he fell in love with Harry. He's not sure if it was when he saw Harry play with Crookshanks in the kitchen at Hogwarts or if it was Harry's drawings that did it. Maybe it was just a few days ago when Harry finally trusted him. He does know that Snapes mate for life and he'll buy that damn house with the damn garden even if he has to bring the mice with them. He won't admit it but he doesn't mind the mice anymore.

And that was the end. Ta Da! That is the skeleton of Version One.

Title: The Unfinished Tales of Shadow Puppets -- 2
Rated: PG-13
Notes: This was the second attempt at Shadow Puppets. A little more promising and less erratic but left off at a really good spot that I just didn't know where to continue from.

The solid click of the door closing brings Harry back to his hand on Snape?s forearm and the fingers wedged between his own. He blinks slowly, just realizing what he's done. He has nothing to offer Snape, not an extra room; not even a proper chair to sit in. Harry tries to think of something to say to the blank face staring at him but his gaze slowly drifts down and he?s staring at the floor. His cheeks flush and his hand twitches at his side.

Snape stares at Harry's bent head and all he can think about is how good it feels to see him again. He leans against the closed door and watches Harry intently, taking in all the changes he?s missed over the years. It seems so much longer than two years. He squeezes Harry's hand and lets it drop before walking farther into the room. He picks up two discarded paintbrushes. "May I?"

Puzzled, Harry nods and almost knocks himself in the head when Snape transfigures them into two chairs that look quite comfortable. He blushes and clears his throat. "Do you want anything to drink? I think I might have some tea." He rummages through the bare cabinet fruitlessly.

"Potter," Snape says, voice rumbling and echoing in the still air of the apartment.

Hesitantly, he joins Snape in the living room and sits. Crookshanks promptly jumps into Harry's lap and purrs loudly. Harry smiles and they butt heads. Still locking eyes with the cat, Harry murmurs his question: "Does Dumbledore know that you're here?"

"He knows that I was looking for you."

Harry pets Crookshanks until he calms and the cat curls up into a ball in his lap. "That's not what I wanted to know and you know it." He sighs, "Just don't tell him where I am, please."

Snape watches with interest as Crookshanks goes racing after a mouse and pounces on it too easily. "I didn't come here to give away your hiding place, Potter. Albus has been looking for you, though. Not nearly as diligently as some but he has done his part in the search."

He twitches uncomfortablely and drums his fingers against the arm of the chair. "People are searching for me?"

Snape rolls his eyes. "Calm down, Potter. The whole world isn't trying to beat down your door anymore. Just a few who...care for you."

"Like you?" Harry asks.

"Like Miss Granger," Snape prompts quickly and glares. "Albus wishes that you return to Hogwarts."

Harry snorts indignantly. "I'm sure he does. Who's retiring?"

"I am."

"Oh," he manages to say before his throat closes up. He can't quite wrap his mind around the concept of Hogwarts without Snape. It would be like toast without jam, pasta without sauce. He swallows around the growing lump in his throat uneasily. "Well, I suppose we all have to move on sometime."

The following silence is awkward as they stare at each other. Harry doesn't know what to say. In some part of his brain he feels that he doesn't have to say anything because Snape found him, Harry didn't ask for this. Snape can carry on the conversation by himself as far as he's concerned. He's still angry that Snape managed to find him and he has to put up with questions and conversation that he never wanted to have ever again. He doesn't care what Dumbledore wants. It was always about Dumbledore while Harry was at Hogwarts. Not anymore, he vows to himself. It's about me now. I take care of me and no one else.

"Well?" Snape asks.

"Well, what?"

He sighs. "Are you going to stop acting like a petulant child and come back to Hogwarts with me or hold this stupid grudge against Albus for the rest of your life?"

Harry glares. "I'm not holding a grudge." Not a big one anyway. "Besides, why should I uproot my entire life just so I can prostrate myself at Dumbledore's feet and do whatever he wants me to do?"

"This 'life', as you call it, doesn't seem all that appealing."

"At least it's my own," Harry growls. "Just because you were able to play his bitch doesn't mean I will!" The second it leaves his mouth, Harry knows it was the wrong thing to say, the worst thing he could've ever said; yet his scowl does not waver and he watches as Snape's face turns slightly pink.

That was the greatest line and I always wanted to continue from there. Unfortunately, POOF.

Title: The Unfinished Tales of Shadow Puppets -- 3
Rating: NC-17
Notes: Another attempt that begins almost like Version Two but has a different outcome that still ends badly. This is also the infamous sex scene that isn't hot.

The solid click of the door closing brings Harry crashing back to reality. The reality of his hand on Snape's arm and eyes staring at him so intently that he just manages not to fidget. Snape slowly extricates Harry's hand from his forearm but doesn't let it go. Their fingers cling together and he draws Harry a step closer until their chests are pressed together and the only sounds are their breath in the silent apartment and the gentle skittering of mice feet in the walls.

Snape doesn't say anything as he lifts a hand and tucks a piece of hair behind Harry's ear, a gesture that seems so profoundly intimate that Harry's knees begin to quake. There's a sort of amazement in his eyes that makes Harry want to hide in the bathroom. It's almost like Snape isn't quite sure that it's actually him, as if Harry is going to disappear any second and leave only a pile of clothes on the floor.

His breath hitches in his throat as Snape's thumb traces his lips; so gently Harry barely feels it but when he looks up, he knows it was intended, knows that it means so much more than all the words they've said to each other in the last hour.

Harry wishes he were taller as he stretches his torso. Just a few more inches and the height difference wouldn't be so awkward. But Snape meets him halfway and once their lips crash together the height miss-match doesn't matter so much anymore. Snape's arms come around his waist and pull him closer; he never wants to stop kissing Harry. He doesn't care how it ends, just as long as Harry never takes his lips away. Lips that are far from soft; rough in patches where Harry's bit into them, tender in areas that haven't scabbed over yet. It's so completely Harry that it almost hurts to feel so close to him.

He fists Snape's hair, the strands thin and brittle; clean now that he is out of the dungeons instead of over a hot cauldron. Harry wishes it were greasy just so he could feel it on his hands afterwards, the lingering texture of sweat and oil all over his fingers. Maybe if he asks nicely, Snape will stop washing it so he can play with the stringy remains and inhale the brilliant aroma of what he imagines Snape would smell like.

He moans into Snape's mouth, the taste of strawberries so vibrant that it's almost like he's just eaten one himself. His tongue swipes hungrily for more, just a bit farther in and he'll find what he's looking for. As hands clasp his ass, he lets out a little uneasy breath before he's lifted up off the ground. Compliantly, he swings his legs around a thin waist and he's very glad for the height difference now.

They break apart, lips red, nearly purple, and all Harry can see are the great depths of Snape's eyes and he wishes that eyes really were the windows to the soul just so he could have a glimpse; pull the curtain back just a bit, show him the barest corner and he will live happily. Tease, he thinks, you are a horrible tease to look at me like that.

Harry licks his lips as his heart pounds in his chest. It's never felt like this with his other partners, he's never felt so at peace with something he's always seen as messy and essential to his existence. He's never enjoyed sex as much as he thinks he should. He's always nervous, even a bit panicky as his clothes are stripped away and hands touch him in intimate places. But here and now it doesn't seem so scary, more surreal than anything and he's comfortable enough to allow himself to nuzzle at Snape's neck and paw at his shirt. With a bit of tugging, it comes off and Harry flings it somewhere over his shoulder and devours Snape's lips again as he finds two nipples just waiting to be twisted and pulled.

He arches as skilled hands scratch along his back and a teasing finger makes its way between his cheeks. It takes him a second to remember where the lube is and if he has a stash of condoms somewhere in the vicinity. He thinks there's a box in his little bedside table and hopes he's right. He doesn't feel like running down to the corner market. He can't waste his few remaining pounds on a box of condoms when there's still groceries to buy. It momentarily bothers him that he's able to suck face while thinking of his grocery list.

Suddenly there's a hard cock pressing against his stomach and thoughts of grocery shopping go flying from his mind. He's not sure how he missed it before but all he can think about is what he'd like to do with that cock if given the chance. All his school boy fantasies come barreling through and he grinds his erection against Snape's. He's not sure who moaned but he's almost sure it wasn't him.

Snape growls in his ear and begins licking and biting his shoulder in such a way that Harry thinks his bones are melting and soon he'll be a pile of skin on the floor. Harry moans and thrusts again, shallowly enough that the friction is teasing and makes him cry out. Snape licks up his neck and starts on his earlobe as Harry pants and wheezes, wishes they would move to the bed but words are lost on him at this point and his attention is focused entirely on the way his nerves are tingling.

Snape licks up Harry's neck and sucks on the junction under his chin. All rational thought was dispelled as soon as Harry asked him to stay. There is no logic to what he is doing but there is nothing stopping him now. Yet there is something somewhere nagging at him, asking him when a simple trip to find Harry Potter became an urgent need to possess him, claim him, mark him to tell others to stay away. He won't let any hurt come to Harry now, not now while he can prevent it; old habits die hard, he thinks cynically and nearly claws at Harry's clothed back.

Harry breathes through his teeth as sharp nails dig into his back and he feels the old rush come back, the old rush for pain, for blood. He silently pleads with Snape to dig deeper, to tear skin, to find nerve and bone and tear him apart. With a growl, he nearly sinks his teeth into Snape's shoulder and rides the gasp that comes from the man's throat like he would ride a cock. His hands clasp around a pale neck and once he tastes blood he pulls away. His eyes widen as his chest heaves and he stares at the small scrap. He looks up and finds Snape staring at him just as blankly. Harry's taken it too far.

"Sorry," he mumbles and discreetly licks away the blood. It isn't the same. It doesn't feel right to do it to someone else, not as good as it felt to do it to himself.

Snape's hands don't leave his back and he pulls Harry closer when he tries to dislodge his legs from Snape's waist. "Don't apologize," he whispers and nuzzles Harry's neck, inhales the odd scent of stale paint. Slowly, his hand travels under Harry's shirt and touches unblemished, smooth, smooth skin that feels heavenly beneath his fingers. He kisses Harry softly, almost sweetly as their tongues merge together in an age-old battle.

Harry relaxes and enjoys the feel of hands on his skin and a tongue in his mouth. Out of habit, he thinks of what needs to be hidden and wonders if they can fuck without Harry removing his shirt. His heart speeds up and he's suddenly cold enough to start shivering. This is wrong but he can't remember why. Why does he need to hide? Why should they stop? But he knows, he'll always know and he'll never be comfortable. All thoughts of a nice slow fuck are gone from his mind and he's aware of every breath Snape takes, every finger and how far away it is from his arm.

He breaks the kiss and stares into Snape's eyes, he's searching for something but what? he isn't quite sure. Reassurance, maybe. Understanding at the very least. He wonders if Snape's ever been desperate, desperate enough to take control. His eyes cloud over and all Harry can see is Snape. There isn't anything there, just empty eyes that reflect back at him. "What are you?" He whispers. "Where did you come from?" Harry swallows and tugs at a piece of Snape's hair; it feels so real, the body feels so real.

Snape lets him slide down his body and stand on his own again. He cups Harry's face between his hands. "You've known me for nine years, Potter."

He shakes his head as best he can but doesn't let his eyes leave Snape's. "No. You're different. There's something different about you." It hits him quickly, like a fist in the stomach and his head starts to spin. He gasps and grabs onto Snape's arm. "Shit," he murmurs. "You're...you're. But I don't understand."

Snape's smile looks like a lightning bolt crack in a perfectly cemented sidewalk. "I assure you, I do have the ability to be happy, Potter."

It sounds so absurd that Harry laughs and it feels good. His anxiety flitters away on uneasy wings and he's left to fend for himself. It's so different than anything else and he realizes that he likes it. He kisses the palm of Snape's hand and pulls him towards the bed. With an uneasy, lop-sided grin, Harry unbuckles Snape's belt and yanks it slowly through the loops of his pants. Snape stares down at him and runs a hand through the thick unruly hair. Harry leans into him as Snape's trousers drop to the floor. He isn't wearing any pants.

His breath catches in his throat and Snape carefully turns him around so they're back to front. He runs his hands up Harry's torso and takes the shirt off him. Harry holds his breath for the rejection but it never comes. Snape rolls his nipple beneath his forefinger and kneads the skin of Harry's neck between his teeth, hard enough to mark but not break skin. Harry gasps and holds Snape's head as he shallowly humps empty air. A trail of warm air makes his knees buckle as Snape chuckles in his ear. His other hand grasps Harry's hip and keeps him still.

"Bastard," Harry growls and shoves Snape's hand over his penis. He purrs softly as he manually moves Snape's hand against him.

"Patience, Potter." Harry snarls again until he feels his trousers loosen and worked down his thighs. He attacks Snape's lips with vigor as his balls are cupped through his pants and worked against the cotton fabric. His eyelashes flutter and he makes a trilling noise that makes Snape shiver and grind his erection against Harry's ass.

Harry smirks. "Patience, Professor."

"Shut up, Potter," he says exasperated and pulls Harry's hips against him. Harry moves his hips against Snape, breath heavy as his head falls against Snape's shoulder. He groans into Harry's ear and nips at his lobe. "What do you want, Potter? Tell me what you want."

"There are condoms and lube by the bed," Harry pants and wishes for his pants to be discarded so he can feel skin against his backside. Snape hums his agreement and they tumble onto the bed; Harry manages to get out of his underwear easily as Snape roots through his bedside table. He almost laughs when Snape pulls out the tube of lubricant and makes a disgusted face.

"You expect me to put this... this crap on my genitals?" He sneers but it melts as Harry laughs and pulls him down for a kiss.

"Do you have a better idea?" Harry asks as he tears off the foil and prepares Snape.

It bothers him momentarily that Harry seems so skilled at unrolling a condom, the kind of skill that comes with practice. Fiercely, he kisses Harry deeply. He wants Harry to remember this, he wants Harry to carry this with him for the rest of his life. He wants...he wants Harry. He pulls Harry closer and stares down at him as he smirks, he can't help it. His cock teases the entrance to Harry's body and the cool lubricant sends a jolt through Harry.

"Oh for Merlin's sake!" He swears and rolls them over and impales himself on Snape's cock with a cry. Snape groans and holds onto his hips. He tries to protest, shout that Harry wasn't prepared but all he manages is another moan as Harry lifts off him and drives home hard enough for stars to burst behind his eyelids. "Fuck patience," Harry grins and groans loudly.

Snape nods and thrusts up blindly. Harry moves slowly, malicious grin on his face as he watches Snape glare at him. "Two can play at this game," he growls and flips Harry over, pushing his legs over his shoulders and pushing in sharply.

Harry grasps his shoulders. "Harder," he demands and cries out as Snape complies. The bed creaks as the headboard hits the wall over and over again. Sweat beads down Snape's neck as he grunts and groans. Harry arches and breathes savagely through his teeth as Snape's thrusts come faster and his legs begin to shake with the strain.

He can't quite see straight when a shaking hand wraps around his cock and Harry kisses him feverishly. His tongue battles weakly against Snape's but his resolve is crumbling. Harry shouts as he comes and Snape isn't far behind. His muscles tense and he shudders with one more thrust before he comes. With a huff, Snape pulls out and falls next to Harry on the bed. He pants and smiles softly at him as Harry runs a hand through his hair and thinks about getting a cigarette. Harry's surprised when Snape shifts closer to him and falls asleep almost immediately. Harry lies awake, plagued with images. Without disturbing Snape, he finds his fags and lights one.

The sun wakes Harry up the following morning. He's sore and the fist thing he thinks of is the day before. He sighs and pulls a pillow closer. Somehow, he thought it would be different; that he would care a little more but all he feels is vague indifference. All the fantasies he had in school never ended like this, he never felt this empty. Even masturbating alone in his bed felt more satisfying than this. He isn't sure if it's because having sex with Snape wasn't like anything he had imagined or if he had imagined it so often that he still isn't sure that it's real.

It's like he's just woken up from a glorious dream full of strong arms and sturdy hips that leaves him so lonely in the morning. It always feels so real; sometimes he thinks he can still smell the stench of cum on the air and if he moves his hips just so, he'll be able to feel his muscles contract just right but there's nothing and as he stares at the vacant spot next to him, it feels just like one of his dreams again. Too good to be true. He'll go about his day and forget that he made love to Snape in his dreams again.

But the smell of eggs and toast make his stomach roll and he knows that he doesn't have bread and he most certainly doesn't have eggs. Last time he checked, all he had was TVP and even that was getting a little low. Blinking rapidly and sitting up, he spies the plate on the counter. Crookshanks is sitting at the foot of the bed glaring at him, fur turned a spectacular shade of green. Grinning at the previously orange ball, Harry goes over to the plate and the sound of the shower finally registers in his head. It was real. It wasn't a dream.

He suddenly feels profoundly ill at the thought of Snape seeing him naked, of being intimate with Snape, of just being with Snape. He sits on the counter top and squashes the egg with his fork. How long has it been since he's had egg? Two, three months? He's not sure why he doesn't pick them up more often. The eggs make a strange gurgling noise beneath his fork and Harry laughs as the milk almost completely separates from the yolk. He's used to dry eggs that don't run, even being at Hogwarts didn't rid him of his dislike of runny eggs. He realizes that he'll eat them anyway because Snape made them and Harry is certain that being fixed breakfast by Snape is not something he should take for granted.

Harry neatly cuts the egg and bread and pops it in his mouth. It sloshes against his tongue and he almost throws up at the odd taste of slimy eggs but swallows them anyway. It doesn't surprise him that Snape is a shoddy cook. "Crookshanks," he calls enticingly. Come eat these horrid things so I don't have to, he thinks and bats his eyelashes. Crookshanks blinks slowly at him, quietly asking if Harry is mad before licking his paw thoroughly and turning his butt to the human.

Glaring at the cat's back as he jumps from the bed, Harry chokes down the rest of the sludge and tries to think of something nice to say about them so Snape's feelings won't be hurt. He wonders when it became important to him that Snape be comfortable and not threatened. Harry snorts and puts the dirty plate in the sink to be washed later and stares at the mouse corpse in the middle of the floor. "You've been busy, I see," he mumbles and tosses the thing out the window.

He fidgets nervously and picks through his clothes. He doesn't want to be naked when Snape comes out of the shower and he feels silly in his little apartment. He dresses quickly as he hears the shampoo bottle fall to the floor of the shower and Snape cursing as he hits his head against the wall and his elbow almost immediately afterwards. Harry smiles fondly, thinking of his own first experience in that shower and feels slightly sympathetic. It'll take some getting used to, Harry thinks before he realizes that Snape won't have time to get used to it. He'll probably be leaving once he's done; back to Hogwarts to do whatever-it-is that Snape plans on doing and Harry will never see him again. Oh if only he were so lucky!

The door to the bathroom flies open and Snape stalks out, wet hair dripping across his face and towel wrapped haphazardly around his waist. He looks extremely put out and frowns at the puddle of water gathering on the floor. "There is carpet in your bathroom. What idiot put carpet on your bathroom floor?"

Harry shrugs easily. This is territory so familiar that he almost smiles. "I don't know. The same idiot who made the shower too small, I suppose."

He glares. "Yes. That is quite possibly the shoddiest excuse for a shower I've ever come across."

"Nothing like your dungeons, I'm sure," Harry replies. Yesterday it mattered that Snape hated his apartment, today it seems trivial. Why shouldn't Snape hate his apartment? Snape hates everything so why should the apartment be any different? He thinks it might be because he'd like to accomplish at least one thing that Snape doesn't ridicule him about.

Snape snatches up his wand and dries himself fluffy. The towel folds and whizzing back into the bathroom while Harry averts his eyes. Snape scoffs. "Got enough of it last night, then?"

Harry blushes vermilion. "Just giving you a bit of privacy."

Snape rolls his eyes. "If I wanted privacy, I would've stayed in the bloody bathroom." He frowns at the obvious fluff in his hair and flattens it with another spell. Harry thinks he quite likes it better fluffy but bites his tongue. He does allow his eyes to follow Snape's every bend and turn as he collects his clothes from around the apartment. Harry admits that the professor has a fine ass on him, a shame to cover it with those robes all the time.

"I don't need to be saved," Harry says to him as he sits down on the end of the bed. He's still barefoot and shirtless, a combination that Harry finds nearly irresistible.

Don't worry, the shift confuses me too.

Snape looks up at him and brings his knee up to his chest, a position that seems sinful for some reason. "What if I want to save you?"

"I don't need you to save me."

"Oh I beg to differ, Potter. I think you need saving more than anyone."

"I saved myself a long time ago. I don't need you."

"Then who do you need?"

"You're the last person who can talk about "needing" people. What about all those years spent in your dungeons, whoring yourself for Dumbledore - "

" -- This has nothing to do with me!"

"It has everything to do with you! You come here and fuck me; talk about saving me when you're the one who wants saving; you're the one who wants to be needed. I can't do that for you. I'm not your patient or your nurse. If I'm not either of those then what am I?"

Snape stares at him blankly before lowering his head. "I don't know."

"So you admit it, then." Harry wishes that Snape had stayed away. He wishes he'd kept the book to himself, gone farther than London. "Find someone else, Snape. I'm sure there's someone you can take care of." The words cut him to the quick. For the first time, Harry really thinks he might want Snape to stay longer than a few days; forever even. But he isn't what Snape wants. He never thought that would hurt so much.

Snape rubs his eyes roughly. "It doesn't work like that, Potter. You don't spend nearly two years searching for someone because you have some half-arsed reason. There have to be some feelings involved."

"I agree but I'm not entirely convinced that those were your motives."

They always end up fighting. Oh well.

Title: The Unfinished Tales of Shadow Puppets -- 4
Rating: PG-13
Notes: This is the last one that can actually be seen as a continuation of Version Three

"You'll come back to me," Harry says and runs his fingers through Severus' hair slowly to remember the thin texture.

"I told you I would and I keep my promises," he replies gruffly and rests his forehead against Harry's. "I'm only an Owl away."

"I know." Harry clears his throat loudly to keep the emotion from his voice. "Have a good trip, right?"

Severus smirks but his usual mockery feels wrong in this environment and the expression wilts into something resembling, what could almost be called, a smile. He sighs deeply. "Just try not to get yourself killed while I'm away, hm?"

"I'll do my best," he promises and clutches Severus' forearm a little tighter. "Do you have to go?"

That almost-smile is back but pitying and Harry hates it when Severus looks at him like that. "I made a promise."

The breath Harry lets out is shaky as he nods. "Right, of course. Do they know about me?"

He chuckles. "Who doesn't?"

"You know what I mean."

Severus sobers up quickly and touches Harry's cheek with his finger tips. "Yes. They've seen your book."

"So they won't keep you?" Harry asks but there's a sinking feeling in his chest that tells him Severus won't be coming back.

"No but if we wait much longer, I'm going to miss my flight."

Suddenly Harry hears the rumbling of the planes out on the runway and the loud shrieks of children flying for the first time and parents on their cell phones talking about God-Knows-What and the loud speaker announcing Severus' flight. "Don't go," he whispers and Severus holds him close, so close that Harry breaths in the smell of burning lacewings and the lingering scent of the dungeons.

Severus inhales the smell of the apple shampoo that Harry uses; some Muggle stuff that he gets at the corner market for a few quid. He knows that he'll always think of Harry when he bites into an apple and he wishes that Harry were coming with him, taking this flight with him and seeing his childhood home. Come with me, he wants to say but its too late because the flight attendant is making Hurry Up-eyes at him. He breaks away and kisses Harry's forehead. "I'll see you later." No good-byes. It wasn't good-bye. Severus would be back.

Harry nods and lets go of him; watches as Severus shows his passport and boarding pass. He bounces on the balls of his feet because he thinks he might cry if he stands still. The back of Severus' head has never looked so depressing. "Severus!" He shouts before he can stop himself. Severus turns slowly, pink around the eyes. "I love you!" Harry feels his stomach flip when Severus strains for a smile, his lips contorting in an unfamiliar shape. He lifts his hand like it weighs a ton and waves to Harry before continuing down the ramp. Once he disappears, Harry wishes he had let someone come with him so he wouldn't have to go home by himself.

He stares as they close the doors and Harry swears Severus will come barreling through them and say that he can't bear to leave Harry and they'll go home together and it will be fine and wonderful and Crookshanks won't give him that sympathy look. Harry swallows tightly and fumbles in his pocket to make sure his cigarettes are there. What Severus doesn't know, won't hurt him, Harry reasons and walks swiftly to the loo so he can Apparate home.

It smells of too much Lemon cleaner and the lights are too bright against the wall of mirrors. He squeezes into a stall and concentrates. His apartment shimmers into focus around him and Crookshanks looks up from Severus' chair. "So the old bloke left, eh?" He seems to ask with only a blink of his eyes.

"Sod off," Harry murmurs and lights a cigarette before the mood leaves him. "Are you going to share the chair or do I have to move you myself?" Another slow, considering blink before Crookshanks stretches slowly; back legs first, a flick of his tail, careful arching of his back and wiggling of his front toes before he daintily jumps from the chair and chases after another mouse.

Harry falls into the chair and wiggles where the cushion is warm, presses his nose against the fabric and breaths in deep enough to hurt. The fabric smells so strongly of Severus that Harry feels like he's at Hogwarts again. He swears that if he opens his eyes he'll be surrounded by torches and the warmth of the old school; just open his eyes and he'll be home but Severus won't be there and if Severus isn't there it isn't worth it.

Carefully, he opens one eye and then the other. Alas, he's still in his apartment and Crookshanks is looking at him funny. Harry sticks out his tongue and arranges himself so his knees are slung over one of the arms and his head is thrown back. "Uph!" He groans when Crookshanks jumps onto his stomach. "Why no, I wouldn't mind if you sat on my bladder. Not at all," he mutters threateningly and inhales. Crookshanks blinks at him and purrs extra loud, almost sarcastically.

Crookshanks looks at him through half-lidded eyes and the purr is a little wetter as his paws stretch out and press against Harry's chest. Harry can still remember what if felt like to be in his Hogwarts bed with Crookshanks on his stomach, arm flung out and bleeding against the duvet. He can remember the days when he would pretend that Crookshanks would squeal on him until he tested it; bled in front of Crookshanks and nothing happened. No one came barreling into the room, the cat was loyal and kept his secret. It never occurs to him that it's silly to put so much faith in a cat, mildly insane to think so highly of a ball of fur that chases mice all day but finds time to comfort Harry when he needs it.

He picks up Crookshanks until he's near Harry's neck and they butt heads. The purr sounds like a laugh and Harry smiles as two gentle paws land on his cheeks. The pads are smooth and almost feel like cotton as they bat at loose strands of hair and a small nose nuzzles his chin like an exuberant dog, whiskers tickle his neck before Crookshanks wiggles free and stares at him, blinks slowly before lifting a paw and gives one more smart bat on Harry's nose before laying back down with his chin on Harry's shoulder. It amazes Harry that such a round cat can make himself so flat, almost like a large orange carpet across his torso. "Such a pretty cat," Harry murmurs near his ear, not really caring that Crookshanks indulges him, the stupid human, with his humanly means of affection.

He's forgotten all about this cigarette and he lets it drop to the ash tray. The bedroom window is open and a light breeze comes through the room smelling of the lilac bushes the downstairs neighbors are growing on their small terrace. It reminds Harry of Privet Drive but only the good parts, the smell of flowers in the evening and sometimes if he wakes up early enough, Harry can hear the birds chirping outside before the sun is over the horizon and the streets are still dark. He and Crookshanks will sit in Severus' chair and listen; Crookshanks ready to pounce any bird that dares come to their window and Harry listens with his eyes closed and wonders if this is what its like to be happy.

The End.

So, there you are my dears: The Fic That Never Was. Tell me what you thought about it:

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