Small Things
by Ishafel

November 1981

It is in the small things, victory: in the details, the leftover bits. This is only a very little win, one man's soul. It is not much, balanced against the thousands Albus has lost, and sometimes it is not enough. But they say that every time a butterfly is born, a star dies, and surely the redemption of Severus Snape must mean something.

He was not an easy win because he did not, himself, believe there was anything worth redeeming. When Albus found him he was on the edge of madness, on the edge of the great darkness that had consumed so many other brilliant minds before him. Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix Black, Severus Snape. He was on the edge but he knew better than to jump. He was living in a small filthy flat in Muggle London, this child Albus had failed so totally.

There were bruises on his arms, and some of them were from the needles and some of them he had put there himself, but there were none of the bruises like fingerprints his father had once given him. He was thin, and more than that he was stretched thin, as if there were no longer enough of him to go around. He was alone, but that was no surprise because he had always been alone. The voices in his head were better company than his classmates had been.

He thought Albus was one of his hallucinations; that much was clear. He turned his head away and sat resolutely facing the wall of the bathroom, waiting for things to go back to normal. Albus stood absolutely still, the way one does when one is in a small space with an unhappy tiger, say, or a rabid dog. After a long awkward pause Severus crawled stiffly across the sticky tiles and put out a hand to touch the hem of Albus's robe. Finding it was real, he let go of it at once and sank back with a sob. Absently Albus stretched a hand down to him; let it rest on the tangled dark hair. Severus shifted and leaned into the touch the way an animal might have, an animal unused to comfort.

Albus led him out of that ruined place to Hogwarts, which was as close to a home as either of them had ever known. He drew off Severus's rags and led him into the bath, and sat him in the tub, as he would have done a child. He had never had children, and as he knelt and bathed the thin, pale body he admitted to himself that it was a man's body, and beautiful. His lovers had been few, and furtive, and female; masters were sworn to celibacy and he had rarely found his vows difficult. Here before him was beauty--and temptation--as he had rarely seen it.

When Severus was clean Albus dried him carefully and gently and wrapped him in clean light robes and put him to bed on a spare couch he had conjured in his study and made up with fresh starched linen. Severus went uncomplainingly, though in fact it was still quite early. He sat beside Severus until the man slept and then he went into his own room and closed the door firmly behind himself, feeling chaste and virtuous and frustrated.

He had always found sleep a punctual friend, but that night it was long in coming and when at last it did he dreamed of Severus. At dawn he woke and rose from his bed and knelt beside the couch on which Severus lay. He touched Severus's forehead with the back of his hand and found it far too warm. Summoning a bowl and a cloth, he washed the long pale body once more, this time to cool it. Severus woke and looked up at him, the fathomless dark eyes bright with fever, the thin face twisted with delirium. "It burns," he moaned, and drew Albus's hand down until it touched the sin itself. "Please, it burns."

It was very dark, but often the hour before dawn was the darkest. Albus was torn between his duty to give comfort and his duty to his vows, and in the end comfort won out. He drew his hand gently over the penis, marveling at the way it sprang to life beneath his hand. He could feel it pulsing with a life of its own, through the layers of the sheet and the man's robe. One by one he drew those layers away to reveal the firm purpling erection in its curling dark nest. It had seemed so much smaller earlier, so much sadder, so much less angry. Now it was hot to the touch, and he knew what Severus had meant when he'd cried out that he burned. Albus burned, too, his own penis hard and eager, trapped beneath his clothing.

He began to stroke the penis in his hand, curling his fingers around it awkwardly and without rhythm. He felt embarrassed and unsure of himself, the angle unfamiliar and his own lust an almost physical presence. But Severus moaned and reared against his hand, propelling himself upward in a steady, driving cadence. His pleasure--more than that, his relief--was so obvious that Albus felt both justified and confident.

"Harder," Severus mumbled, and Albus closed his fingers more firmly, almost as if he were closing them around his wand. Severus was very close now, his testicles tight against his body, eyes squeezed closed. Albus gave him the release he needed. He was very hard himself, so hard that he knew that when he had finished he would have to for himself what he did now for Severus. In itself it was not a violation of his vows, but surely if he did it while thinking of this desperate boy, it would be as much a violation as if he had drawn out his penis and spent here, on Severus's narrow chest. Healing must be its own reward.


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