Care of Magical Creatures

Bernice (no longer Sarah Bellum)

Beta: Mac, Louiselux, and Kirstie, with suggestions from TillyTilly.
Date: December 2001.
Pairing: Snape/Hagrid. "Hagrid simply loved monstrous creatures. The more lethal, the better."
Note: The Snape in this fic is rather more the book Snape, rather than the movie Snape, although I do fully believe that Alan Rickman is sensuality incarnate.

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"Thank you, Hagrid," Snape let a small smile slip as he held up the jar. A vile smell rose from the viscous liquid that sloshed as he held it to the light. "I've been trying to get Kraken saliva for months! Where did you manage to find this?"

"I've been asking round, put the word out down at the Cauldron, let 'em know I'd be grateful if someone could get some fer me, " Hagrid puffed up proudly.

"Excellent! I had visions of you tackling one of those beasts yourself. Dumbledore would have been very displeased if you'd been killed trying to fill one of my orders."

"Oh no, I'm not tha' daft, Professor. Even I wouldn't tackle one of those wee beasts!"

"'Wee beasts'? Your idea of a 'wee beast' isn't everybody's, Hagrid," Snape shook his head ruefully, in too good a humour at his acquisition to make a comment about Hagrid's passion for dangerous creatures. The number of times Hagrid had been bitten, burned, stung, zapped and trampled by his 'pets' was a favourite topic of conversation amongst the faculty. And no matter how many times the Groundskeeper was injured, he never faltered in his devotion to the magical monsters he loved to drag home and adopt.

"What are yeh going to use it for?"

"It's a marvellous base for all kinds of potions. Keeps them stable. Stops things exploding before they are supposed to. Some of the students have problems with ... explosions. I'm hoping to use this to prevent the entire dungeons being blown up by that fool Longbottom. Had to send him to Pomfrey last week after he blew off his own nose. It also makes one immune to one's own poisons, and prevents curses backfiring, makes sure they go to the intended victim."

"Not that yeh'd curse anyone, Professor."

Snape gave Hagrid a cool look, "Of course not, Hagrid. You know me better than that."

"That I do, Sir," Hagrid smiled disingenuously. "I remember when you were a little boy, first come to Hogwarts, you were full of curses then, but yeh never hurt no one. All bluff and spit, but yeh were very sweet, all the same."

Snape's lip curled in a disgusted sneer, "Sweet? I was never sweet!"

"Oh yeh were, yeh were the cutest little monster in the school! Yeh'd go and turn one of the children into a newt or summet then hide behind me when they came a lookin' for yeh," Hagrid chortled at his recollections, ignoring the angry flush on Snape's face.

"That was a long time ago, Hagrid," Snape hissed.

"True, yeh'd no hide now, that's for sure. Yeh not so tetchy now, either. I reckon time's knocked some corners off yeh. Yeh've grown into a fine young man, from the 'orrible little monster that yeh were."

Snape's mouth worked soundlessly for a moment, but he couldn't think of anything suitably cutting and just dismissed the half-giant with a sharp gesture. "That will be all, Hagrid." Then, grudgingly, "Thanks again." He strode away to store the new acquisition, hoping the black bats wings of his cape billowed out behind in a suitably impressive manner, wanting to dispel the unwelcome reminder of his youth.

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It was easier and easier to accept Hagrid's undemanding presence near the Dungeons. Between classes the gentle man would be enquiring if there was anything else Professor Snape needed for his experiments, grinning broadly under his beard if Snape had a request; fetching things from shops where Snape had been barred, or catching, milking or flensing the creatures himself. With bandaged fingers he'd proudly present a jar or a box of stinking goo.

Pouring over the most obscure books he could find, Snape searched for things he'd been unable to acquire through his own means, setting challenges to see if Hagrid could meet them, and taking full advantage of this suddenly rich vein. He had a passing thought that he could recreate the Philosopher's Stone itself if he could convince Hagrid to bring him just a few more items. Not that the stone itself could offer him anything he wanted or needed, but it would be a chance to prove that he could do it. Something only a very few wizards had ever been able to do. He mused on the idea quietly and made a few notes, but put the project on a mental back burner. There were many other things he could create that wouldn't have him on the headmaster's carpet, explaining himself.

He didn't waste too much thought on why Hagrid was being so helpful. The man had always helped when needed and Snape was used to the other staff trying to curry favour with him. No one ever wanted to upset the potions master, and he had no qualms at all about using them for his own convenience.

Today's offering, a full bucket-load of the hard-to-harvest gillyweed, was obscured by a large bunch of weeds from the forest. Snape stared at the multi-coloured grasses, then tossed them aside, surprised that Hagrid would bring him something so utterly useless. The giant had an incomplete education, but had surely picked up enough knowledge of magic through his own pursuits to know what was useful and what wasn't. The grasses had no magical properties at all. The only use they ever saw was as animal feed, or when the students would decorated their hair with the shining blades as they cavorted in teenage hormone induced lust, thinking they were beyond the gaze of the teachers. He threw them into the sink, snorting to clear his long nostrils of the pollens leaking from the glittering stems.

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"Professor?"

Snape grunted, not looking up from the steaming blood-red contents of his cauldron as Hagrid popped his shaggy head around the door.

"I noticed yeh didn't turn up for lunch, and..."

"I'm busy."

"So I eh... I thought I'd bring yeh some supper."

"Fine." Snape didn't look up from his work.

Hagrid carefully moved some papers to one side and put down a huge tray of sandwiches. The sound of his contented mastications intruded on Snape's consciousness and he looked up, glared at Hagrid's smiling face. He took a sandwich for himself, remembering he'd worked through breakfast as well. Snape nodded acknowledgement as Hagrid poured him pumpkin juice, thinking it couldn't go amiss if Hagrid himself worked through a few meals.

"So, eh... how's it going there then?" Hagrid gestured at the cauldron, making a strained attempt at conversation.

"Good," Snape said shortly. "Should be ready for Madam Pomfrey by tomorrow."

"Oh, she will be pleased." Hagrid beamed at Snape, then fell silent again, shifting uncomfortably on a chair not meant to accommodate his ample bottom. He stayed silent until it was obvious Snape's attention was totally fixed on his potion again, and gathered together the plates, put back the papers and picked up his tray to leave.

"Sir," he risked one more interruption.

"What," Snape muttered, annoyed.

Hagrid fidgeted nervously, obviously girding his loins, then, "Yeh've got pretty hair."

"What?" Snape whipped around, eyes narrowing.

Hagrid backed away a little, towards the door, "Yeh've got pretty hair, Sir. Very shiny. Like ink from the giant squid, yeh know, when yeh step on his tentacles and he squirts it at yeh." He stopped babbling. "Thas all, I jus' wanted to say..."

Snape coiled, twisting to follow Hagrid's retreat across the room. He waited for yet another comment about his 'greasy' hair, preparing venom for a counterattack, but Hagrid ducked and left the room, leaving Snape to work over his words, worrying at them for hidden insults.

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"I asked Professor Vector if we could swap seats." Hagrid explained why he was now sitting on Snape's right in the great hall, poking him with his enormous knees.

"I'm surprised you didn't have to ask three people to move," Snape said, trying to find somewhere to put his feet, irritated at Hagrid's knees bumping his.

"Heh heh, no, there's lots o' room once everyone shuffles down. Plenty o' room for a little one," Hagrid beamed at his own joke, as mountains of food appeared in front of them.

Snape let his mind go back to the dungeon and the results of his latest experiment, and busied himself glaring at the students at the Ravenclaw table. Exasperating know-it-alls, the lot of them. Then suddenly his attention snapped back to the table, "Why did you want to swap seats?"

"I thought it'd be nice if we sat together, thas all. We could talk."

"About what?" Snape asked, giving Potter his best look of impending death as the brat stared at him, nudging his useless friend, Weasley.

"Oh, anything, don't matter," Hagrid mumbled around a mouthful of food. "I jus' like talking with yeh."

Snape couldn't find the hidden meaning in that, and concentrated on squashing his peas into an unappetising mush.

"I'm not a conversationalist, Hagrid," he felt compelled to point out. "I have no interest whatsoever in idle chit chat. If you're looking for someone to pass the time of day with, sit somewhere else."

"Tha's what I have Fang for, Sir. He's good at idle chit chat. Pass the gravy?"

"You talk to your dog?"

"O'course, Sir. Say anything teh Fang and he don't mind."

"So, I'm a step up from a dog, am I?"

"Oh no, Sir," Hagrid chortled, ripping flesh off a roasted boar's leg, "Yeh a bit more'n that!"

"I should hope so," Snape pushed back from the table, dabbing his lips with a napkin. "I'm going back to the dungeons. I have a potion on the boil." He nodded politely to Dumbledore, gave the Hufflepuffs a glare for good measure and left.

Hagrid wiped his mouth on the tablecloth and jumped up to follow, "I'll walk with yeh."

"I can find my own way, I have been doing this for many years," Snape was finding the hulking giant's presence increasingly aggravating. As they reached the door to Snape's quarters, he turned and snapped, "What! Why are you following me everywhere?"

"I... I jus' like to be with you."

Snape reared back to take in the full sight of the giant, "No one likes to be with me. I make bloody well sure of it!"

"Well, I think yeh nice."

"Nice!" Snape spat, infuriated, "I am many things, but I am never nice!"

Hagrid looked down at his huge feet and shuffled awkwardly.

"I jus'... I like yeh," Hagrid mumbled. He took a deep breath, lungs expanding like bellows, but he spoke softly. "Yeh very smart, and yeh never talk down teh me... no more than yeh do to everyone else anyway, and..." he faded out.

"And what?" Snape said slowly, eyes glittering dangerously.

Hagrid looked up again, distracted by the glitter, "Yeh've got lovely eyes, Professor. They're the colour of blood on a week-dead dragon."

Black blood eyes narrowed further, as Snape hissed "So, you're trying to tell me you fancy me, is that it?"

"Yes, Sir," Hagrid said, a little cautiously. "I... we... these past few weeks..."

"These past few weeks you've been underfoot and overhead, continually getting in my way. I should have guessed this was all a set up right from the start." Snape leaned forward, looking up at Hagrid, his body twisting like a cobra assessing the wisdom of attacking a bear. He pinned glittering black eyes on Hagrid's face, his low satin voice a slither of pure venom, "I suppose Black put you up to this, it's just what he would find amusing. He'd love to watch me squirm while some great oaf of a giant tries to involve me in his humiliations."

"I weren't put up teh anythin' by Black. Yeh know that I'd never do anything like that to yeh. Yeh have to know it," Hagrid choked out, reeling at the vituperative attack.

"Oh, so I'm supposed to believe you would seriously consider that I could possibly be interested in you!"

"Well, I..."

"The grounds keeper? A teacher who never even finished school? Who got the Magical Creatures teaching position because of Dumbledore's guilt? A great unwashed hairy brute? I'm supposed to take that as anything other than a joke?" Snape barked, spitting a little in his quiet fury. "Oh, I can see them now, sniggering up their sleeves as they've always done, watching you trying to make a fool of me."

"I never... Severus, I'd never try to..."

"Oh, get away from me, you bumbling idiot. Leave me alone to get some work done, and tell those bastards their trick didn't work this time." Lips pulled back to reveal his yellowed teeth in a parody of a grin, Snape slammed the door to his quarters in Hagrid's face, adrenaline pumping with the anger that reddened his vision and cleared his sinuses. He yanked the door open again when he realised he hadn't heard thumping footsteps leaving,"... and furthermore, if you think-"

He stopped abruptly, mid curse.

Hagrid was standing there, head bowed, tears blubbing down his large hairy face. "I'm sorry, Sir. I'll go now," Hagrid said, before slowly clumping back out of the Dungeons, head bowed.

Thwarted in his tirade, Snape snorted like an angry horse, hurrumphed to himself and slammed the door once more for good measure. He busied himself for the afternoon on a regime of fuming and giving students terrible marks on their reports, deducting extra points for bad handwriting and rampant stupidity. How dare Hagrid. Just how dare he!

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At dinner that night Snape had plenty of legroom, no one trod on his feet, and Professor Vector had learned over the years not to try to engage him in conversation. Snape methodically tore apart his steak and kidney pie, making piles of flesh and organs, and refused to look at the other side of the table. He did not want to look up and see Lupin smirking, or trying to make his insincere apologies on Black's behalf. He did not want to glare at the students and see that they had been in on it, as Snape knew full well that he'd lose his position if he disembowelled one of the little shits. He certainly did not need to check if Hagrid's eyes were still red-rimmed and swollen. He could tell that the half-giant was putting on an oh-so-gallant show of being upset by the whispers and questions of the other teachers. Of course, they'd take the giant's side if Hagrid told them why he was upset. No one would sympathise with a Slytherin.

Not that Hagrid appeared to have told anyone, although no doubt Dumbledore or one of the others would try to pry it out of him. Snape ground his teeth together until his jaw ached, feeling the burn rise in his cheeks.

They all think I'm so pathetic, Snape thought, that I'm as weak and needy as they are and so desperate for company I'm going to make a fool of myself by falling into Hagrid's arms. If they think it's going to be that easy, they have another think coming. I'll stand on their burning corpses before I let them get me like that again. I need no one and nothing but my own intelligence and abilities.

By the end of the evening meal Snape had managed to make eye contact with no one, and had brought the air temperature in the great hall down by at least four degrees.

By even later in the evening, in his dungeons, he found he was totally out of hippogriff hair, and realised with a start of annoyance he'd lost his easy supply. It would be just like Hagrid to hold a grudge over this incident, Snape thought to himself; the man is utterly lacking in the professional standards required by a teacher at Hogwarts.

Snape stepped up onto a bench under the back window of the Dungeon, careful to avoid treading on any delicate glass bottles, and stretching up onto his toes to peer out across the grounds. He could just see Hagrid’s hut through the trees. He reached to the bars to haul himself up a little so that he could make out Hagrid, in the dim evening, by a meagre fire, his large head heavy in his hands and elbows balanced on his big square knees. He did not look very approachable.

Snape made a brisk noise of irritation and levitated himself off the bench. If he wanted anything, he would simply have to get it himself. He resigned himself to a trip to Knockturn Alley. He only knew of one shop that sold things interesting enough to make the trip worthwhile, and it wasn't the kind of shop that was found in the much lauded Diagon Alley.

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Snape's mood was considerably lighter by the time he'd finished shopping. He loved all the clinking noises of the glass jars, the little thuds of the tiny wooden containers, the pewter and steel and bronze all rattling together in his pockets after a visit to his favourite apothecaries. He eschewed the bags proffered, much preferring to carry them all on his person, just to feel the roll and tumble against his thighs of all the containers with their precious liquids and powders and crunchy scabs as he walked. Anything fragile he simply held, fondling the smooth surfaces as he walked. With Hagrid's help recently, Snape's supplies had never been so well stocked with exotic and unstable substances. Hagrid...

Snape walked a little slower, his mouth a little grimmer, chinking the bottles in his hand absentmindedly. He'd have to do something about Hagrid. If the giant hadn't been put up to the prank - and now that Snape thought about it, it would have been out of character for Hagrid to involve himself in anything that would hurt another person, never mind a Hogwarts teacher - then perhaps some of the things Snape had said had been a little harsh.

But if he hadn't been put up to it, then that left Snape with the very uncomfortable realisation that the giant had been trying to court him.

There had been a few attempts over the years by misguided souls to catch Snape's eye, but he'd put paid to those irritations very quickly. To have the giant pitch his woo was unnerving indeed. Still, that was over and done. Hagrid would surely have taken the very firm no seriously, and would be making no further attempts. A giant, he thought. A giant and a wizard, what a ridiculous idea. Even as he said it over to himself Snape could only be amused at the idiotic concept. As if it would ever be possible or even likely that Snape would avail himself of Hagrid's attentions.

His ponderous footsteps had taken him into Diagon Alley, and he noticed a small crowd had formed outside of the Magical Creatures shop. They were oohing and aahing over something in the window, and as he was in no hurry, Snape stopped to look.

Peering back at the crowd through watery worried eyes was the smallest, fattest little dragon Snape had ever seen. Barely larger than a small dog, its belly was very round, its scales a pale wishy-washy greenish grey, its wings pink, weak and far too small to carry its body weight. The tiny dragon was looking from person to person with great consternation through the glass. It coughed, belched and farted small clouds of smoke. Snape thought was the most utterly pointless looking creature he had seen in a very long time.

The people around him, their noses pressed against the glass didn't agree:

"It's adorable!"

"It's so sweet! Aren't they illegal though?"

"It's a Vietnamese pot bellied dragon. They don't get a lot bigger than that, and they've been cleared by the Ministry of Magic as pets. You can tell the muggles it's a strange lizard if they see it."

"Oh, I want one!"

"Look at the price tag first."

Snape surreptitiously did, and sucked cold air through his teeth in shock. Obviously a pet intended only for the idle rich. He turned away to continue his own late night shopping, fingering the remaining galleons in his pocket and thinking of the new robes he wanted for the next school year, the potions books he'd heard had just arrived, and a new glass cauldron he needed for his own secret experiments.

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Cold water was seeping into his boots as he made his way to the grounds keeper's hut, and despite the lumos spell he was still finding every single puddle on the short journey. Snape cursed his indoor boots, Hagrid's hut, and the night in general. If he fell and broke any of his precious vials, someone was going to suffer, he'd make sure of it.

He carefully set the box down on Hagrid's stoop and set off towards his own dungeon and dry socks.

The door creaked. Resignedly, Snape stopped walking and half-turned towards the hut. He was not going to be seen sneaking off into the night if Hagrid had already heard his movements.

"Sir?" Hagrid sounded puzzled, and perhaps still a little sad.

"Hagrid," Snape said, shortly.

They looked at each other in silence for a moment.

"Was there summat'...? Hagrid trailed off as he noticed the box Snape had left.

"I saw that tonight and thought you might like it. It's..." he paused, what was it? "It's a thank you for all the work you've done for me lately," Snape said, pleased with how gracious he sounded.

Grizzled eyebrows drawn together in curiosity, Hagrid bent to open the box and gave a short shout. "Oh! He's beyoootiful! Oh, Professor!" Hagrid lifted out the tiny dragon. It sat cupped in his huge hand looking no less worried than when Snape had first seen it. It stared up at Hagrid and farted violently, almost disappearing in the smoke. "He's lovely, he is! He's..."

"Yes, yes," Snape cut him off. "Well, I…." Snape began, then stopped. He turned to look at Hagrid properly, gritted his teeth and grimly admitted: "You were given the position of teacher of magical creatures because you were the most qualified for the position, and after general staff consensus we all agreed you were the best possible choice. You weren't offered it for any other reason, Hagrid."

"Oh, Sir..." Hagrid looked like he was going to start blubbering all over again. He made as if to cross the short distance between them.

"Good night, Hagrid. I trust I shall see you at breakfast looking far less disreputable than you have been today. People will think you've been drinking again." Snape stalked off into the night, only the dim glow from his wand separating his blackness from that which surrounded him.

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Snape found a watery smile for Hagrid as the chair next to him groaned miserably at breakfast the next day. The bright smile Hagrid gave the Professor in return would have been obscene at any hour of the day, but was doubly so this early in the morning.

"'e's beautiful, Sir!" Hagrid whispered, conspiratorially. A whisper loud enough that the entire table heard as they leaned in to eavesdrop.

"Yes, so you said last night."

"'i's name's Dhan Tu. That's Vietnamese for dragon. I looked it up. In the library," Hagrid continued to whisper, as if this information was important, piling his plate with eggs, bacon, beans, black pudding, fried bread and mushrooms, tomato and a huge serving of tiny chippolata sausages. "Jus' so's you know, I know 'ow to use the library, an' all."

Snape ignored him, watching brown sugar melt into his porridge before carefully stirring, and adding just the right amount of cream. Perfect porridge required just as much attention and care as a good potion.

"Sir, there's jus' one thing..."

"If the dragon gets sick or dies, give me the body and I shall return it to the pet shop for a full refund."

"Wha'? Oh, no, 'e's fine.   He's beautiful, he is. No, it's not about that. I jus' wanted to tell yeh..." Hagrid trailed off a bit, swallowed and started again. "I wanted yeh to know, I do wash."

Snape looked up, confused by the non- sequitur, "So?"

"Well, it's jus', the other day, you said..."

"Oh, ignore that. Pass the tea."

"An' I jus' want teh thank yeh again for Danny and I want yeh to know I never meant teh hurt yeh, when I said..."

"Yes, yes. That's fine. All over with now," Snape was mortified that Hagrid would bring up the topic with the other teachers all around them, and was careful not to upset the giant and thereby set off another round of woe and questions.

"Well, tha's okay, then," said Hagrid, obviously not okay but still so happy about Dhan Tu that he wasn't going to push the issue. He leaned in again, hunched slightly so he didn't tower over the smaller Wizard, "'e really is very beautiful."

Snape rolled his eyes and sighed.

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Hagrid had not taken no for an answer, Snape realised, after returning to his office after afternoon classes to find some of Hagrid's awful home-made treacle toffee on his desk, nestled in a squashed and tatty gift box. He leaned over and sniffed it suspiciously. Snape picked up a piece and gnawed a corner. The addition of a generous amount of Hagrid's home-made rum had made it far more palatable than the last time Snape remembered eating it - he recalled an uncomfortable childhood Christmas trying to unglue his jaw with the pointy end of Lucius Malfoy's wand - but it was still too sweet for Snape's palate.

The dragon had definitely been a mistake. It had been far too extravagant a gift, and apparently Hagrid had decided it was worth trying again. Perhaps Hagrid thought that now Snape understood that Hagrid hadn't been put up to it by Black, Snape might be more open to the idea. Hardly, Snape thought, trying to get toffee out of his back molars with the tip of his tongue. The last person he'd be seen arm-in-arm with would be Hagrid. It was probably impossible anyway, even if he had been willing. The dragon had seemed such a simple idea, so much easier than apologising, but now it appeared the situation was going to be even more uncomfortable. Firmer measures were required to get through to the half-giant that his attentions were not welcome.

Of course, Hagrid was waiting for him outside of his quarters, Dhan Tu on the end of a lead and a gaggle of squealing children surrounding them, laughing and petting the tiny, almost flying lizard. It had found its voice and was neeping loudly and trying to bite the children who dared pet it. Hagrid looked on proudly. He was telling them all in a choked up voice just how ‘beautiful’ Dhan Tu was, and Snape was mortified to hear Hagrid tell them who had purchased the animal.

"Ah, 'ere 'e is, 'ello Professor!" Hagrid called out cheerfully.

"Oh, Professor Snape, where did you find him?" one of the children asked, a small round Hufflepuff girl who wore an expression that said quite clearly what she would be demanding from her own parents this Christmas.

"That is none of your concern." Snape pulled himself to his full height and loomed over them. "Is there some reason why you are loitering outside of classrooms instead of attending this afternoon's Quidditch match?"

They shrunk away from his looming and scuttled away quickly, before he could find an excuse to deduct points from their houses.

"What are you doing here, Hagrid?" Snape demanded, glaring at him.

"I was taking Danny for a walk, and I thought I'd accompany yeh to the match."

"I do not require accompanying, Hagrid. I thought I had made that perfectly clear."

Dhan Tu chose that moment to let of a series of small farts like a string of pearls, popping tiny smoke circles out of his arse, while bobbling around on four rigidly straight legs. He looked up at Hagrid and neeped as if expecting a reward for the performance.

"Well, there's that, Professor. I wanted to talk t'yeh about that. Do you think it's normal? He's awfully farty."

"How would I know? I'm not a dragon expert, Hagrid."

"Yeh know an awful lot of stuff about what's inside bodies though. I thought maybe yeh'd have a potion I could give 'im to calm his belly. I reckon if anybody'd know what teh do, yeh'd be th' one."

They walked towards the match and discussed potential cures. Snape puzzled over possible potions, and Hagrid added his own knowledge of dragon physiology, which was surprisingly comprehensive.

"When did you learn so much about dragons, Hagrid?" Snape had to ask. "Weren't you expelled before dragons were covered in school?"

Hagrid puffed out his chest in pride, "I've bin teachin' meself, I 'ave, Professor. It's not as good as school, o'course, but I do get the books out of the library and I've bin readin' up on 'em for years. It's a bit of an 'obby, you know, trying to learn what I missed out on. Mind you, fifty years and I'm still not up to seventh year level in some subjects. All I see in me tea leaves is cold tea! Maybe it was a good thing Riddle got me kicked out, I could never keep up wi’ other students."

"Perhaps." Snape said shortly. "Or perhaps you just needed better teachers. Someone to push you harder. Most of the teachers here molly coddle the students abysmally, letting them get away with anything. It's a wonder any of them pass, to be honest."

"None o'yer students have ever failed their O.W.L.'s, have they, Sir?"

"No. I refuse to allow any of those bumbling dolts to soil my perfect record," Snape smirked. "I don't care if I have to terrify each and every one of them into nervous fits, I will not have my students fail."

"Firm, but fair, Sir," Hagrid said, as they arrived at the base of the Slytherin Stand.

Snape pulled aside the curtains at the base, preparatory to mounting the stairs to join his house and watch his team smash the Hufflepuffs. He turned as Hagrid stepped under the stairs with him, wondering why he hadn't gone immediately over to the Gryffindor stand, "What are you doing in here, Hagrid, you always go to the..." He trailed off as Hagrid put a huge gentle hand on his back, just below his shoulder blades, cupping him slightly, then bent down. Snape had one passing thought on how much practice Hagrid must have done on not looming over someone when he was so tall before their lips touched lightly together.

Lips that could have engulfed his with ease brushed back and forth, light and soft as silk under the tickle of the generous beard. A hand that could easily have crushed his skull came up to dust gentle fingertips across his cheekbone, as delicately as if Snape were made of the most fragile porcelain. Hagrid firmed the kiss, applying the softest suction to Snape's upper lip, mouthing dainty nips over his lower lip, pressing one tender kiss to the corner of Snape's mouth before pulling away a little.

"I thought..." Snape cleared his throat and tried again, "I thought I made it perfectly clear that I wasn't interested in-" His protest was cut off as Hagrid moved in again, carefully cupping the back of Snape's head to tilt him back a little, using the tip of a very large tongue to caress Snape's lips, teasing in minutely to touch his teeth. Snape felt himself being eased backwards until the only support he had was from Hagrid's hands. He reached out to grab hold of Hagrid's coat, clutching handfuls to stop himself stumbling, his eyes closing as Hagrid's hair fell around his face.

Hagrid started to work their mouths together, tongue and lips busy as he drew Snape's tongue back into his own mouth, briefly toying with it before Snape drew it back and tried to get his knees to support him again. He pulled away, relieved to be able to put a little distance between them.

"I thought... I thought I made it..." he whispered.

"Ah, that yeh did, yes," Hagrid said, softly stroking one hand from Snape's head down to the middle of his back. "I'll see yeh after the game. Looks like it'll be a good one, but I put a galleon on Slytherin this time around."

Hagrid collected Dhan Tu and ducked outside as the noise from the stands above sharply increased, spectators cheering the players as they came onto the field. Lots of spectators only a short distance away, Snape thought. What if they had seen? Wholly inappropriate behaviour for a Hogwarts teacher. Wholly inappropriate. Snape stamped up to his usual spot, jerking his Slytherin scarf tight around his throat, scattering students who had oozed their buttocks into his spot on the stands. He scrubbed the tasselled end of the scarf against his lips, trying to wipe away the sensation of his weakness.

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The game ended with Slytherin pounding the Hufflepuff's into the ground. Literally in some cases. Many penalty points to Hufflepuff, but they stood no chance against Slytherin tactics. Snape sneered at Sprout as she cheered for the muddied winners heartily, and for the bloodied losers just as cheerfully. He gritted his teeth in a parody of a smile as she offered her congratulations to his house.

"All good exercise for the youngsters, eh', Severus?" she said cheerfully.

Snape didn't bother to respond. She had no idea of the importance of competition to hone these children sharp as blades, to make them useful in battle and strong against evil. 'Fun', was utterly beside the point as far as Snape was concerned. Fun is for fools with time on their hands and no brains in their heads, he thought, as he stepped lightly down to the field.

He wasn't surprised to see Hagrid waiting for him at the bottom of the stands. He drew himself to his full height and glared at the other man, projecting menace from every pore, determined not to demonstrate such deplorable weakness again. He silently cursed Hagrid's height as they drew level. It was impossible to loom menacingly over someone nearly three foot taller and three times his width. He tensed even further as Hagrid placed a large dustbin lid sized hand on his back, cupping his shoulder blades, thick fingers curving downwards.

"We need teh talk, Sir," Hagrid said. "P'raps yeh'd like teh pop down teh my house for a cup o' tea ana bun."

"Yes, Hagrid. We do need to talk, and not about your flatulent pet. Your behaviour of late..."

"Ah yes, I'd like teh talk about that, too, Sir," Hagrid's fingers wiggled slightly, curving around the back of one of Snape's arms, gently cupping him against the giant's side and steering him down towards the hovel Hagrid called home. Snape stiffened even further, discreetly trying to pull away without making a scene in front of the last scattering of spectators from the match.

He didn't manage to escape until Hagrid voluntarily let him go in order to shrug off his huge scruffy coat and gather tea things together. Oversized tea cups and pots, generous scoops of the earthy mix Hagrid favoured, and some hard bun that Snape felt needed to be soaked in the tea before it was palatable. He picked it apart with the tips of his fingers, scattering bits of warm soggy bun over the huge plate, chewing his lips a little as he mulled over the best way of telling Hagrid the facts.

"Hagrid," he began, doing his best to blunt the sharp edge of his tongue, "It's not... I appreciate..." Snape had no idea how to let down a suitor without undue cruelty. But cruelty didn't seem to work with Hagrid, so perhaps now was the time to try reason. "It's just not possible, Hagrid. Simple facts. Look at the size difference."

"My folks had no problem with that," Hagrid grinned happily over his teacup. "And me Mam were a real giant, a lot bigger'n me! It wasn't me Da that were the problem, it were raising a kid she didn't like."

"Her loss," Snape said in an indifferent tone. He was proud of his show of kindness and smirked to himself. Shame Dumbledore wasn't around to hear that, it would have earned him points with the old lunatic. "But a female giant and a male wizard are vastly different to-"

"Oh, I'm sure we'll manage jus' fine, Sir," Hagrid chuckled from his seat in his huge arm chair, "More tea? Would yeh like another bun? I made 'em myself."

"No, no more tea, no more buns, and no more of this foolishness, Hagrid," Snape said firmly. "I'm not interested. I have done my best to make that perfectly clear without hurting you unnecessarily, but this will not continue. Do you understand?" Snape felt a hard burn of annoyance start in his intestines at Hagrid's stubborn refusal to see sense.

"I unnerstand what yeh're saying, Sir, but I also know yeh're alone. I've watched yeh since yeh were a little kid..." Hagrid paused for a second, looking horrified at what he'd just said "Not like that, I didn't watch yeh like that when you were little, I jus' remember how alone yeh were then. Yeh'd tag along after the Marauders tryin' to be friends wiv 'em and getting yehself into trouble, and yeh jus' as alone now. An' I unnerstand that. I'm alone too. I've been alone for a long time, and I have a lot of love in me to give teh someone and I'd like it teh be you, coz yeh're gorgeous and because I know yeh need it."

"I am not lonely and I do not need your love!" Snape stood up, bringing his face level with the sitting giant, his anger rising at Hagrid's insulting assumptions. Friends with the Marauders, indeed!

Hagrid bent his head, hands wringing in his lap, "I know I'm not a real catch, not like yehself. I'm not much to look at an' all, but I'd treat yeh kind, I'd never hurt yeh, and I'd really love yeh if yeh'd let me."

Snape paused, his determination flickering for a second at the heartfelt declaration, and in that split second break between his attempts at dissuasion, Hagrid had him. Huge hands at his upper arms pulled him forward those last few inches. Snape reached up to push away the approaching face, but his hands became entangled in beard, and he clutched ineffectually at long straggly hair as their lips brushed. I am not going to melt again, he swore to himself, and clenched his jaw to prevent ingress, but Hagrid was simply brushing his lips back and forth, breathing in as Snape breathed out, waiting patiently, his own breath huffing across Snape's face. Hagrid's breath was sweet like treacle tarts, sticky buns, sugared tea, evidence of a sweet tooth. Snape closed his eyes, wondering what he tasted like himself, he would imagine sharp spiteful foods. Pickled onions and vinegar, hard biting cheese, small dark heavily salted olives. No sugar in his tea, nothing sweet in his mouth.

"I have to supervise detentions at seven..." Snape found another protest, another reason why this was such a bad idea, but Hagrid whispered "Lovely" and kissed his eyes closed with dry lips.

Snape's other perfectly rational arguments slipped further away as the tip of a large tongue flitted over his cheek, "Yeh even taste nice," and he couldn't remember what the hell he was arguing about at all once the kisses moved below his jaw, tenderly caressing the thin strip of throat that showed above his high collar.

Large hands moved across his back, enfolding him closer until he was pulled against the rough and itchy fabric of Hagrid's waistcoat. With Hagrid seated, they were almost level height-wise, but as Hagrid leaned back, Snape found his feet leaving the floor, supported by the hand that clasped the curve of his back as he was leaned over Hagrid's chest and stomach. He untangled his hands from Hagrid's beard just enough to allow the large hands to push his robe from his shoulders, feeling it slither down his back to pool between Hagrid's feet on the floor.

Now would be an appropriate time to stop kissing, Snape thought. He turned his head just a fraction so his nose lay alongside Hagrid's, letting him feel the other man's breathing getting faster, making the soft needful sounds Hagrid was uttering seem so much louder. Gentle as he was, it felt like Hagrid was consuming the lower part of Snape's face, his lips wholly enveloping Snape's mouth with carefully placed kisses.

"It's like yeh wearing a suit of armour," Hagrid spoke quietly against Snape's mouth, "And so many tiny buttons." His big fingers awkwardly fiddled with the buttons that locked Snape into his high collar.

Snape watched, fascinated, as Hagrid determinedly manipulated the tiny buttons half way down the front of Snape's jacket, then inside, opening the black waistcoat to work at the buttons on the stiffly starched white shirt.

"So many layers," Hagrid murmured as he worked.

"I can't stay, I told you that," Snape snapped, hands fluttering a little as if he should be putting his clothing back in its strict order.

"I know, I jus' wanted teh kiss yeh a bit more." Hagrid pushed all the layers of cloth back down off Snape's shoulders, half way down his upper arms, holding him there as he bent forward again, nuzzling behind Snape's ear, and kissing his way down the side of Snape's throat. He softly traced the line of narrow collarbone with a tongue tip, suckling softly at the small dip between the end of one bone and the beginning of the other.

Snape's head fell back to make room for Hagrid's attentions as the pattern was reversed on the other side, fuzzy kisses going upwards again, ending with a gentle nibble on his earlobe. It was getting harder to speak, but he had to point out, his voice oddly garbled: "It's only a few minutes to seven."

"Yeh skin's the colour of fresh-spilled cream," was Hagrid's only reply, and Snape just accepted the compliment with a small puff of expelled breath, he simply couldn't concentrate enough on trying to find the hidden meaning in it. He accepted that Hagrid didn't really have hidden meanings or agendas, he simply said what he thought, and admired what he liked. And right now he was admiring small mouthfuls of skin over Snape's shoulder, kissing and licking his way down, carefully biting the fold of skin where arm met chest as if testing the tenderness of the sparse flesh.

"I'm going to be late," Snape sighed, eyes closing, giving up on trying to get comfortable as he hung, supported by Hagrid's hands.

"Mmmm, nearly purple," Hagrid muttered, rubbing a thumb over one exposed, shrivelled in the cold, nipple. "Needs warmin' up," he observed, and huffed hot breath over Snape's chest before making elegant swirls around the edge of the aureole, his tongue leaving a moist spiral from where fresh cream met nearly purple, but never quite touching the tiny nub at the centre. The tongue tip circled and curled, a touch too delicate to satisfy, but too deliberate to be accused of being a tease.

Snape wriggled, damned his inability to touch the floor and get some decent purchase, trying to push himself forward and make Hagrid complete the caress. He hissed in annoyance as Hagrid's firm touch continued without reaching the centre, and he wondered if kicking Hagrid in the shins would work.

Hagrid suddenly turned his face and caught the nub between his teeth, pressing firmly, sending burning ley-lines of sensation radiating out from the small pain down to Snape's knees. He was suddenly glad he was being held up, as his legs would have abruptly given way, dropping him unceremoniously to the floor. He couldn't contain a rough growl, pushing forward as much as his awkward position allowed, encouraging more, grabbing what he could of Hagrid's sleeve, beard, whatever came within range of his partially-restricted hands, as motion and heat started in earnest. The pressure and wet suction increased steadily as Snape leaned into it, allowing a carefully controlled murmur of approval to escape.

Pressure was slowly released, and Snape found himself relaxing into the wide wet strokes of Hagrid's tongue as he soothed the now hard and slightly swollen nub, and blew a stream of warm breath over the moist puckered skin. Not moving, just listening to the sound of his own rough breathing, head still tilted back a little, Snape waited patiently for the tongue to move across to the other side.

"Yeh're late," Hagrid spoke softly.

"What?" Snape tried to come back to here and now, looking down at Hagrid's earnest face, focussing on the large lips, now moist after the attentions they'd bestowed.

Hagrid set him carefully back down onto the floor of the hut, and started to pull Snape's shirt closed. "Yeh're late. For detentions." He stopped and picked up Snape's robe from the floor, wrapping it around his shoulders. "Yeh'll have to do up all those buttons yerself, they're just too fiddly for me to get me fingers around 'em."

"But now I'm uneven," Snape yelped, outraged.

"Uneven, Sir?" Hagrid was genuinely puzzled.

"Oh, never mind," Snape yanked his clothes around himself, jerking his waistcoat closed. He yanked open the door to Hagrid's hut, pulling his collar up, trying to do the buttons up as quickly as possible, struggling to get them evenly aligned.

A big hand on his shoulder caught him before he could storm off into the dusk, "Another bun, Sir, since yeh missed yer tea?" Hagrid pushed another of his horrible buns into Snape's hand. "Perhaps, tomorrow night, if yeh don't have any detentions, we could... talk again?" Hagrid asked, shyly.

Swirling his robe around him Snape twisted away onto the grounds, stalking back towards the castle, cursing under his breath. Cursing detentions and cursing Hagrid, and cursing himself as a fool most of all.

"Tomorrow night," Hagrid called out cheerfully. "We'll try'n make it even for yeh, Sir."

Snape's steps faltered a little, and he nearly turned around to hurl an obscenity at Hagrid, but he spotted some small bodies scuttling around in the near-darkness and decided that dishing out point losses to children out of bounds at inappropriate hours would be a much easier target. He stalked through the castle to his dungeons, wishing just once he could get his wand out and inflict something horrible on the students that scattered frantically from his path. Something like twenty-four hour leprosy or crabs.

The delinquents of his detention were already in the classroom, and being Hufflepuffs they hadn't managed to destroy the room looking for potions to use in pranks, yet. "Sit down, shut up, get your books out, read!" he snapped at them. Usually he never let the students study in detention, why reward them for bad behaviour? But tonight he had no intention of putting the necessary effort into finding some suitably disgusting task for them. He took the bun out of his pocket, put it on his desk, and glared at the horrid thing until the children made tiny terrified noises indicating their time was up, and "Could we please leave and please don't kill us, Sir". At his chin jerk they scuttled like startled crabs, trying to get through the door all at once and briefly getting stuck before shooting out into the corridor and away to safety.

A small nervous face peered back into the class room, "Sir? Your buttons are all done up wrong."

He killed the bun instead. "Incendio".

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Hundreds of tiny buttons, a rhythm to doing them up so that it didn't seem like a chore but a routine of buttoning down and holding in. Tiny buttons that covered the shoes and made sure there was never a flash of ankle. Tiny buttons at the wrists so that sleeves covered not only disgraceful marks, but as much sallow skin as possible. Tiny buttons all the way up to the throat. Snape considered Hagrid's words, and decided he'd been right, it was like strapping on a suit of armour. Armour not only to keep others out, but also to keep himself trapped inside.

He pulled the long robe over his shoulders, and watched his own face in his mirror as he adjusted it to sit perfectly. The long lines were designed to billow threateningly when required, or to pool at his feet in perfect vampiric style when he wished to be merely sinister, all the while ensuring his silhouette and intentions were blurred.

Leaning forward, he touched his fingertips to his own reflection.

"Good morning, beautiful!" the mirror chirped.

'Fresh cream', he ran a finger down the cold glass cheek. Not yellow, not sickly, not jaundiced. Hagrid hadn't seen cursed-dagger-to-the-liver-yellow. Hagrid saw 'Fresh cream'.

"Woo hoo, sexy pants!" the mirror wolf-whistled. Snape had long since learned to ignore the ridiculous item; responding in any way, even to hurl an insult, simply sent it into paroxysms of simulated lust.

Snape outlined his severe features and tried to let the ever-present frown relax. He wasn't going to attempt a smile, not with the stupid mirror giggling at him - Dumbledore's idea of a fun gift - but he tried to look less like he was sneering, tried to take away the contempt in his lips, tried to see what Hagrid saw. The best he could do was to look blank; he couldn't smile at a sniggering mirror. His eyes, though, he'd always liked them. Blood of a week-dead dragon, or no. No human being had black eyes. Hagrid's eyes were black; laughing, crinkly, expressive, black. The giants, the vampires, the dhampires, some elves, various monsters in the forests, so many creatures with black eyes, but not humans.

"Ooooooooooooo's a pretty boy then! Mwa mwa," the mirror made kissy noises at Snape's inspection.

Taking his fingers from his mirror image, he ran them through his hair, letting it fall back down over his face. People had always had something to say about his hair. Greasy, oily git, he mentally repeated the oft heard mantra. 'Wash your hair, slime ball'. Snape liked his hair, liked the way it swung like a beaded curtain, hiding his face and giving him an illusion of privacy, but no one else had ever liked it, certainly had never admired it. Squid ink, indeed!

His fingers moved down, tracing the path Hagrid's tongue had taken around his jaw, then under to the top of the high collar. His fingers felt cold, hard, and pointed, not like the soft, rough, hot touch he'd felt last night. I'm skin hungry, Snape thought. That's all this is. It's been so long since someone touched me that I'm reacting too quickly to the first touch that comes along. He scowled at himself, hating his weakness, but one narrow fingered hand ran down the side of his chest, remembering how he'd been touched, how Hagrid's desire and surprising delicacy had made him feel important, fragile, and powerful.

"Where are you going, gorgeous! Don't leave me like this!" the mirror sang out as he turned away.

Where had this Hagrid come from? When had the taken-for-granted groundskeeper suddenly become a sexual being? Logically, that Hagrid had always been there, and like everyone else, Snape hadn't given him a second thought. It was easy to overlook the jovial giant as a person with wants and desires or normal 'human' needs. Hagrid helped everyone, was beloved by everyone, and was totally taken for granted. He was as much a part of the school as the towers, the dungeons and the owls, and had been since he'd come here as a young, tall child, fifty years ago.

To Snape, when he himself had been a child, Hagrid had been a fixture of the school, a protector in times of need, the groundskepper's cottage a place of refuge when the bullying became too overwhelming, easily dismissed from mind when no longer relevant or useful. To Snape as an adult, Hagrid was as close to a friend as Snape had ever permitted, a colleague, as respected as any other, frequently useful, and still a fixture of Hogwarts.

The closest they'd been in recent months was during the few times that Hagrid would find him in the forest, exhausted or wounded or simply unwilling to move after a Death Eater meeting, and would carry him back to the school. Snape was sure that hadn't meant anything. Hagrid would do that for any injured being he found in the woods. And if occasionally Snape had curled into the broad chest, or held the edge of Hagrid's horrible hairy coat while he was being carried, that didn't necessarily mean anything either. He certainly hadn't thought it would mean anything to Hagrid. Had it? Where had Hagrid got the idea that Snape would be receptive to his advances?

And when on earth had Hagrid become a robe lifter? Snape himself had never made any secret, nor seen any reason to advertise the fact he was somewhat elegant himself, but Hagrid had seemed to him to be the epitome of gruff manliness. All hair and dirt and animal skins, enormous hands and jugs of mead, and had only ever expressed interest in women. A woman. Perhaps Hagrid considered beggars couldn't be choosers. Now there was an unflattering thought.

He couldn't stop turning the issue over and over in his mind all the way to breakfast. Eyes on the stone floor, he was so preoccupied he forgot to terrorise students. They cowered before him, but for once he was not terrifying. More from habit the smaller ones scuttled and hid, the older ones pretended to be doing something quietly important. He came in to the great hall via the side door, his preferred entrance – he hated entry via the main doors and the public parade to the top table. Hagrid was already seated, and his broad face lit up with a bright smile when he saw Snape. It was like watching the sun come out. Snape gave him a brisk nod and took his place beside the groundskeeper, taking a slice of crisp toast and scraping on a little butter and sharp lime marmalade.

Hagrid poured him tea, the pot and cup looking like child's toys in his wide hands, and added a splash of lemon. He knew how Snape liked his tea, and that was disconcerting. Snape knew he'd never bothered to learn those kinds of details about his colleagues. In fact, he would consciously reject that kind of intimate knowledge of the others unless he thought it could be useful. It bothered him that Hagrid had paid attention, as if there had been an entire subtext to their relationship for years to which Snape had remained unaware. He nodded curt thanks, and felt a small burn of embarrassment as he wondered if the children had noticed Hagrid's action. In all the years he'd been teaching at Hogwarts, no one had ever poured him tea at the top table, and surely the more suspicious minds in Slytherin had to have noticed Hagrid's activities of late and the attentive mannerisms and posture he was taking now.

"I'll be headin' in teh Hogsmeade today, Professor. Is there anythin' I can get for yeh while I'm there?"

"No, thank you." There were things, Snape was sure. He always needed something for a potion, a class, or an older student's special project, but he didn't want to be beholden to Hagrid for favours right now. Before, he'd been happy to use Hagrid to get what he wanted, when it hadn't been anything personal. Now he felt that accepting a favour would be a tacit agreement of further intimacies, and he was not prepared to give up that amount of control.

Finished with the tea, Hagrid's fingers lightly brushed the back of Snape's hand, over his wrist, against his fabric-ensconced forearm before dropping away. Snape froze at the intimate public touch, eyes flicking around the room nervously and moved his arm away.

"I've gotta get goin'," Hagrid leaned into whisper as he rose, "Got class this mornin', then I wanteh head off early to Hogsmeade. But I'll see yeh this evening, 'bout seven, all righ'?" As Hagrid leaned in to ask, his knuckles bumped against Snape's thigh, and although Snape was sure it had been accidental he couldn't stop his leg from jerking sharply and his thoughts from being unsettled.

"Yes," he hissed. "I said I would, didn't I?"

"I'll make us some supper," Hagrid beamed.

"I wish you wouldn't, Hagrid. My stomach is upset enough already."

Hagrid chortled lowly and went on his way, leaving Snape to nervously tear his toast into tiny pieces.

He refused to spend his morning dwelling on the evening ahead, and focussed on classes and preventing disasters. It was not only in his nature to be on edge, but a part of his job description. It seemed that every student was a potential calamity. They did not become less dangerous as they became more experienced, as then they came in contact with a wider variety of dangerous items, and their confidence exceeded their intelligence. His nerves were always somewhat raw, as the little idiots conducted their repeated attempts at suicide a-la-cauldron, but today he would brook no accidents and watched every single twitch and nervous jitter from his students, hovering like an enormous vulture, looking for any mistake before it could happen.

Lunch was quiet - reminiscent of lunches prior to the start of Hagrid's courtship. Snape sat quietly, the seat on his right empty, and ate his meal in silence and peace.

Flitwick leaned over to ask him: "Where's Hagrid?". Snape answered "Hogsmeade" before it occurred to him that Flitwick should not consider that Snape could know, would know, or would care about Hagrid's whereabouts, and he's just proven whatever disgusting thing Flitwick was thinking correct by answering. He chewed his lip until he tasted blood in punishment of his stupidity. It wasn't as if Hagrid even ate his lunch at the staff table all that often anyway, he'd only been doing it on a regular basis during the past few months. There was no reason for Flitwick to be drawing any kind of inference at all from Snape's answer.

Flitwick started on about how he wanted Hagrid's help with moving something or other and how he'd have to ask some of the seventh year students instead and blah blah blah Snape tuned him out. He wasn't going to get dragged into helping Flitwick indulge his inability to deal with his own lack of height. Flitwick was the Charms Professor, Snape thought, let him charm whatever it was and shut up about his incompetence. The high chirpy voice faltered, and Snape considered that perhaps his silence was dismissing the man unnecessarily. He actually quite liked the diminutive Professor, or at least had no reason to hate him, not as long as Flitwick kept his disgusting insinuations to himself.

Afternoon classes didn't go quite so smoothly, his own nerves started to trip him up. An instruction to his fourth years to say an incantation over the cauldron was met with raucous laughter when he said 'umbrella' instead of 'wand', and was compounded when he took several seconds to even realise his own error. He took points off Ravenclaw for their insolence in laughing, but was mortified at the error. He hadn't made a mistake with a potion, either doing or teaching, since his own student days. He was angry with Hagrid for making him so uptight, but furious at himself for allowing it to happen. They would have to have words tonight. This idiotic game could not be allowed to continue if it was going to affect Snape's work.

He occasionally found, after classes, when his work was finished, that he had too much time to think, and would spend his time brooding, or making extra work, filling his time making potions for Madame Pomfrey or seeking out Dumbledore. He and the Headmaster rarely chatted about anything important, but could both sit in silence comfortably. Snape reading, Dumbledore eating candy. This was a luxury Snape only afforded himself occasionally, once a month at most. Most of the time he'd read alone or brood, or stare into his fire until his eyes were dry. He enjoyed his alone time, the time to sort through his thoughts without the easier option of using a pensieve. Worrying over the slings and arrows he'd suffered, thinking about the mistakes he'd made, and wondering if he'd change things if he could.

Tonight he wasn't sure if he had too much time, or not enough. Snape cleared his classroom, marked waiting homework, and wrote up his lesson plans for the next week. He knew he could send a message via floo to Hagrid saying he wasn't going to turn up and that he expected all this nonsense to stop, but that was weak, and Snape had never been cowardly. He poured cold water from the jug on the side into a basin and washed his face and hands, making some attempt to remove the potion stains from his nails. He had to go down and face Hagrid personally and...

... and what? He towelled his face dry, replaced the towel on the rack and smoothed it down carefully. As soon as he went into Hagrid's hut, and Hagrid started with the kissing and the compliments, Snape's resolve was going to dissolve. He was honest enough and had enough evidence from the past few days to know that his intestines were going to liquefy and his knees were going to give way as soon as it started, and he was fooling himself if he thought otherwise. And why? He'd turned away suitors before: easily, politely, nastily, whatever the occasion required, but he couldn't do it with Hagrid. Because Hagrid didn't notice? Didn't take the hint? Hagrid kept coming at him with his gentle ways and kind words and took all the crap Snape dished out with gentle good humour? That despite Hagrid's size and the coarseness, he knew Hagrid was never going to hurt him? Because Snape knew he could trust him? Trust. Snape could count the people he could trust on one hand. On two fingers. Dumbledore, and Hagrid. Dumbledore, because, as far as Snape was concerned, there was not a person on this planet as wise and knowing as the biased-against-Slytherin old lunatic. And Hagrid because there was simply nothing in the man that was deceitful or hidden. When he said something, or did something, he meant it wholeheartedly.

To be loved wholeheartedly was undoubtedly an attractive option. Maybe he'd never considered Hagrid as a part of his life, rather than as a part of the architecture, but he'd had his eyes opened, and the man was suddenly far more appealing now he'd confessed he was in love with Snape. Or he wanted to be in love: Snape understood the difference. The difference between being sure your approach was going to be accepted, and a last desperate attempt to protect the heart.

Cloak billowing, he strode out of his dungeons and across the grounds. He felt like he should be dragging his feet. Fear brought his chin down, but he fought it, he was not going to Hagrid's hut as if it were to his execution.

He was not going to skulk like a criminal in the dimming twilight. Something like this, visiting a paramour, was supposed to fill a man's heart with joy and his loins with lust, not make him feel sick to his stomach. Only the years of practice attending Voldemort's gatherings gave him the fašade of a confident man.

The door opened long before he got there, denying him a few moments to gather his thoughts on the stoop before he knocked. Hagrid watched him, a wide smile splitting his face, eyes crinkled up with joy.

"Yeh look nice."

"I look the same as I always look."

"Yeh always look nice."

"Yes, well," Snape had no answer to that. "I see you've made some effort."

Hagrid's hair and beard were slightly tamer than usual, as if some attempt had been made to slash and burn them into place, and he had replaced his usual brown shirt with a huge billowy white pirate style blouse. It suited him, emphasising his size yet adding an edge of elegance. He beamed that his efforts had been noticed.

"One o' the students helped me pick it out at Hogsmeade today."

"You told one of the students?"

"Oh, not about us, Sir, jus' that tonight was goin' to be special and I wanted to try'n look my best."

"Indeed. Of course now they will be watching your house and trying to discern just what is so special, and will have noted my arrival."

"I didna think o' that."

"Of course you didn't."

"I'm sorry..."

Snape held up a hand to forestall the apology, "It doesn't matter. I've been the subject of so much gossip at this school over the years I'm sure this won't be the worst that gets said."

"Well, thas all righ' then."

"Quite."

"I made us some supper," Hagrid gestured to the table, laid out with Hagrid's best, only slightly mismatched, setting. It was apparent that Hagrid really had gone to some effort. The usually scruffy cottage had been scrubbed from top to bottom, a reasonably good quality tablecloth covered the rough hewn table, there were doilies, and a bunch of some scraggly stumpy, cauliflower-like flowers in a clay pot on the table. It was all quite touching really.

Snape sat, twitching his robes around his knees, and was served a bowl of a savoury smelling stew and a hunk of fresh baked bread. He eyed the stew curiously, wondering what beast had been sacrificed to its contents and buttered himself some bread. He picked off a corner, waited until the butter melted a little, and tasted it. "This is good, did you bake it yourself?"

Hagrid nodded, obviously absurdly pleased at the compliment, "Yeh, I remember 'ow much yeh like fresh bread, an' I made the stoo extra salty, jus' 'ow yeh like it."

Hagrid picked at his food lightly, something Snape had never seen before, and he was gratified he wasn't the only one with nerves. Apparently, now that Snape had made the decision to be here voluntarily, and Hagrid was no longer in the persuader role, his anxiety was making itself known. Snape sucked the marrow out of a small bone, then pushed his bowl away.

"What exactly are you looking for, Hagrid? Before we commit to any further course of action, I want to know exactly what is expected."

Looking down at his hands for a moment as if collecting his thoughts before entering high level negotiations, Hagrid replied: "I jus' wanteh take care o' someone."

"And you think I need someone to take care of me?"

"Yes."

Snape was silent for a moment. "Well, that was honest."

"I'm lonely, Professor. I've been alone for a very long time," Hagrid looked pinched and white, but determined to put his cards on the table. "An' I think that yeh get lonely too. I'm needin' someone to take care of. Teh love."

"Why me? Surely there are other people who would fulfil your needs?"

"Yeh're a very handsome man, Professor, an' very clever, an' I know yeh could prob'ly 'ave yeh pick o' anyone, but I had teh take my chance. Yeh're very innerestin' an all." Hagrid looked earnestly into Snape's eyes.

"Hagrid, I was a Death Eater!" His ultimate put off.

"I know that, Sir. Everyone knows that."

"It doesn't bother you?" Snape couldn't think of anyone who hadn't responded with horror upon finding out that little titbit.

"O' course not, Sir. Everybody makes mistakes."

"And you don't care that I'm a horrible greasy big nosed git?" Snape couldn't help smirking a little, remembering some of his favourite insults.

"I'll tell yeh summin'," Hagrid started to smile a little in response to Snape's effort to lower the tension. "Madame Maxime had a big nose, black hair, and a lot o' style. When she turned me down for bein' a half-giant it made me realise that I had teh stop looking for easy substitoots and admit that I wan'ed the real thing. Anyway, it's hardly gonna bother me if yeh've got a big nose. I've got a big everythin' afterall!"

"True."

"An' I like yeh nose."

"Really."

"Yeh. I like yer everythin'."

"Indeed," Snape's voice stayed calm, but he felt a little warmth at his collar.

Standing, Hagrid cleared away the supper things, tidying a little before coming to stand beside the still seated Snape.

Looking up, Snape asked: "What if we're not compatible?"

"No one knows tha', Sir, before they start. That's part o' the fun, the findin' out."

Snape was quiet for a beat, then pointed out: "You have a hairbrush in your hair."

"Oh... ah... yeh," Hagrid fidgeted with it, "It got stuck. Even after bein' at the 'airdressers an' all, my 'air still needs a lotta tamin'."

"Come here." Snape stood and gestured Hagrid closer with a hooked finger.

Hagrid lowered his head and Snape carefully picked at the wild hair. It took a few moments and he stiffened briefly as he felt Hagrid's hands come to rest on his waist while he worked. Hagrid's fingers spread slightly as if testing where waist ended and ribs began, spanning the distance easily. The errant hairbrush freed, Snape offered it up to Hagrid, who instead cupped Snape's left hand, flicking the hairbrush away with his thumb, whereupon it clattered to the floor.

Hagrid turned Snape's hand over carefully, barely holding it, brushing his thumb over the palm. "Yeh have the most delicate hands, Professor, I've always admired 'em. Yeh fingers are so dainty, like fragile little spider legs." He bent and softly pressed his lips to the palm and kissed the small mound at the base of Snape's thumb before trailing his lips to the edge of pale wrist just showing beyond the long sleeve. He pressed a moist kiss on the pulse point. "I've dreamed of holdin' yeh hand for so long."

Snape watched, fascinated, as the hand was turned over and each knuckle kissed before Hagrid, his eyes half closed in concentration, moved to lightly lick the fingers, finishing by rubbing his lips over the nails.

Snape used his right hand to start flicking open the buttons on his jacket, watching, mesmerised, Hagrid's gentle attentions on his hand. He had opened his waistcoat, and started on the shirt before Hagrid turned his eyes to Snape's actions, reaching out with rough warm fingers to follow the path of the opening buttons, tracing a line down Snape's sternum to the top of his trousers. Hagrid put his hands on Snape's shoulders and eased down every layer at once, taking the clothes and laying them carefully over the table. He started to softly outline the contours of Snape's torso, the thin lines of pectoral muscle and ribs, looking as if he'd just found the Holy Grail.

"Oh, yeh do have a lovely figure, Professor. Yer so elegant an' refined." He ran his hands up and smoothed them over Snape's shoulders and arms, "Yeh arms are beautiful, too. Lovely shoulders."

"I get the impression you seem to think everything is beautiful, Hagrid," Snape said, a little waspishly.

"No, only the beautiful things."

Hagrid grinned broadly, his fingers coming to rest on the button at the top of Snape's fly.

Catching Hagrid's hand, Snape asked, "Isn't this getting a little one sided?" and tugged at Hagrid's collar.

Hagrid nodded and looked a little shy as he grabbed the edge of his blouse, "I'm... er..."

"It's all right," Snape said, his voice low.

Hagrid nodded and pulled off his shirt, tossing it on the table next to Snape's robes, returning to kneel on one knee in front of Snape.

Putting one hand onto Hagrid's massive shoulder, Snape pursed his lips into a silent 'ooh' of appreciation, letting his hand, which looked tiny against all that muscle, curve over the huge biceps, trailing his fingers down the line that delineated the start of the triceps. "Not bad, Hagrid. Not bad at all."

Blushing furiously, Hagrid ducked his head and huffed a small laugh, "Get on with yeh, Professor!" He moved in again, pressing his lips to the arms and shoulders he'd been admiring, obscuring Snape's view. Leaning back, Snape swayed slightly in response to the careful caresses, shivering just a little as lips carefully explored, raising goosebumps, and used his hands to map what he could of Hagrid's form in return. The smooth skin of Hagrid's shoulders and upper arms blended into a supremely hairy chest. Firm pectorals blurred into the rounded stomach. Even under a layer of softness, Snape could feel the bands of muscle, honed from fifty years of hard work with the beasts and grounds of Hogwarts.

Hagrid looked up again, meeting Snape's eyes, a question there, then turned to the side, and pulled down the blankets on his bed. "I got some new sheets today as well. Nice 'uns. Bit less itchy than I 'ad before, so yeh'd be comfy."

Swallowing hard, Snape nodded and moved to sit on the bed, bending to remove his shoes. Hagrid beat him to it, cupping his foot in one hand, and gently removing the shoe, tongue in the corner of his mouth as he worked the tiny buttons on the black spats. He held the foot a moment, stroking his thumb over the high arch.

"Well?" Snape demanded, "Aren't you going to tell me my foot is beautiful, too?"

Hagrid looked up quickly, then grinned, "Yer foot is beautiful, too, Professor," he laughed.

He lifted the foot to his mouth and kissed Snape's toes, as if he were an old fashioned gentleman kissing a maiden's hand.

Snape snorted in amusement and took the foot back, giving Hagrid the other to denude, smirking as the process was repeated.

The smirk faded and his breath caught when Hagrid reached to his fly again and started working downwards on the row of buttons, his thick fingers brushing against Snape's thighs and between. He lifted his hips to allow Hagrid to draw them down and off before folding them over the back of a chair. Drawing his feet up, he moved back on the ample bed, and lay on his side, watching Hagrid checking the trousers didn't crease.

"Your turn," he pointed to Hagrid's trousers.

"Later," Hagrid said quietly, leaning over Snape to run his hands down his sides, over the underwear clad hips to his thighs, rolling Snape over onto his back. Hagrid smiled very softly, eyes tender, staring down into Snape's with gentle desire, "Jus' let me take care of yeh this time."

"And what would that entail...?"

"No need teh be nervous, I jus' wan' teh kiss yeh, an' touch yeh and stuff."

"I'm not-" Snape's rebuttal was cut off when Hagrid leaned over him, still kneeling on the floor beside the bed, and pressed their lips together. The kiss was as Snape remembered; delicate, worshipful. Hagrid made a tiny happy noise as he wiggled the tip of his tongue into Snape's mouth, carefully teasing Snape's own tongue into a response.

Concentrating on his breathing, Snape pushed himself to relax into it, letting his lips go soft, letting his jaw go loose. Hagrid's hands caressed his sides, up and down, gentle even strokes, and Snape relaxed a little as he was thoroughly kissed. Instead of passively melting, this time Snape was determined to give as good as he got, and twirled his tongue around the tip of Hagrid's, encouraging the exploration. He wrapped an arm around Hagrid's head and held him close, drawing the tongue deeper, and gnawing gently along its edge, until Hagrid finally broke off, breathing deeply, his eyes closed, obviously trying to get himself back under control.

Snape curled a lip triumphantly. Hagrid wasn't the only one with killer kisses.

"I said we'd get things even for yeh, didn't I," Hagrid whispered, and leaned down to the nipple he'd overlooked the day before. He started with the same gentle swirls he'd bestowed on the twin, his hands continued stroking, smooth soothing caresses that moved back and forth over Snape's chest, warming and teasing, while his lips teased the tiny bud into a hard little pucker.

"Yeh have mood nipples," Hagrid observed.

"What?"

"They've gone all pink now they're warm."

"Oh, do shut up," Snape said, and pulled Hagrid's head back down, sighing softly as the warm wet strokes continued. Everywhere that Hagrid touched seemed to become super sensitised; his arms, hands, throat, chest, all seemed to come alive, as if he was waking up, inch by inch, and reaching towards the warmth after decades buried beneath the snow.

He shivered a little as the thick fingers brushed over his stomach, followed by the same careful, thoughtful kisses. He sucked his stomach in, trying to avoid having his abdomen touched, before making himself relax into the caress, working hard on his breathing. In... out... relax... The touch skimmed over his hips, not breaking for the fabric of underwear and smoothed over his legs. Snape waited for it-

"Yeh've got lovely legs, Professor."

-there it was.

"Strong thighs, powerful legs, like a thestral, or an aethonan."

Horse legs, could be worse, Snape thought, smiling a little as the fingers brushed the fine hair on this thighs the wrong way, tickling just slightly.

"Good well developed calf muscles yeh have there, too."

All the better to storm around the castle terrorising children with! Snape thought, stretching a leg out for Hagrid to admire, rubbing his foot against the hard round cushion of Hagrid's right pectoral muscle.

"This the scar Fluffy gave yeh?" Hagrid asked, tracing a finger over the faded white lines of the dog bite.

"Mmm," Snape murmured, concentrating on the give of the flesh beneath his sole and the tickle of hair between his toes.

"Sorry 'bout that. Sometime I'll show yeh how teh calm all the beasts so yeh don't get hurt again," Hagrid promised.

"Is that what I am?" Snape asked, lazily, a dangerous undertone to his voice, "One of your dangerous beasts?"

Hagrid grinned, in fact, Snape could swear he almost smirked, a knowing glint in his bright eyes. He took Snape's foot and placed a kiss on his ankle, "Most dangerous of 'em all, Sir."

"Just as long as I'm the most dangerous."

"Oh yeh are, with yer knees like fresh fried eggs, yeh could hurt me worse'n any of the others."

"I could hurt you with my knees?"

Hagrid bubbled a laugh, "Yeh know what I mean."

Snape was quiet for a second, looking up at him from the odd angle, "Yes. I know."

Delicately placing Snape's foot back on the bed, Hagrid leaned forward, dropped a quick kiss on Snape's lips, and hooked his fingers into the waistband of Snape's underwear. He kept his eyes locked with Snape's, asking permission every step of the way, taking the other side of Snape's last remaining protection and tugging gently.

Snape lifted his hips slightly, allowing Hagrid to draw the scrap of fabric up over his thighs, down his calves and off. Wherever it went, it wasn't with the care Hagrid had taken with the rest of his clothing. Broad hands left swathes of warmth up and around Snape's thighs, calves, around his hips as Hagrid stroked and petted, before the hands came to rest on his knees.

A questioning pressure was applied to the inside of Snape's knees, just a suggestion of movement and Snape acquiesced, letting his legs part slightly. He'd never felt so naked, so exposed, as he was to Hagrid's hungry gaze, and he used every bit of the iron will he'd used to lie to Voldemort's face to stop himself from trembling as those large gentle hands smoothed their way down the insides of his thighs, pushing them further apart.

Concentrate on breathing, he told himself again, concentrate on making sure hands don't clench and give away tension. Don't concentrate on the way those warm fingers feel, the callused, hard-working hands so careful against tender skin, or the incredibly tender kisses being pressed from knee down the inside of thigh, and no matter what, don't concentrate on the whispers about how the skin is like the softest palest creamy satin.

Concentrating on keeping his hands flat on the bed beside him, Snape jumped inadvertently at the first cautious lick, a broad wet stroke over the head of his prick. He hissed a little at the intensity of sensation, his hips jerking very slightly.

"Yeh all righ'?" Hagrid asked softly.

"Yes. Fine." Snape wriggled a little, staring resolutely at the ceiling of the hut. Watching what was happening would finish him off far too quickly.

Hagrid lowered his head, carefully pushing Snape's thighs further apart, and started again. One hand roamed over Snape's thighs as his tongue lapped up and down the length of Snape's prick, curving around easily, as if consuming an iced lolly. As the tongue investigated the delicate skin of his scrotum, Snape turned his head to see his hand becoming a fist and the tendons in his arm starting to show, and he heard his breath becoming laboured. He clung desperately to the last of his control, but one blunt fingertip was rubbing just behind his balls, a firm massage of the miracle mile, and Hagrid had taken him entirely into his large hot mouth. Snape was so easily held in soft lips as the tongue continued to rub and massage, pushing the head of his prick against the ridged roof of Hagrid's mouth, the tongue circling around and under, pushing and pressing.

One strong hand on his belly stopped his first thrust, holding him down as the hot wet sucking firmed. Hagrid set his own pace, his head starting to move up and down, his lips tighter, slurping on Snape like the Professor was a rare and delicious delicacy.

Hagrid settled between Snape's thighs, still holding Snape down on the bed and started to move his head in a firm steady rhythm. Threading one hand into Hagrid's hair, Snape was horrified to realise he was emitting tiny squeaking whimpers each time Hagrid's head descended. The fingers of his other hand stuffed into his mouth did little to muffle the ridiculous noises. It was so very embarrassing, but Hagrid's mouth was so very, very good.

The heat, the pressure, the strong flexible tongue that pressed and rubbed up the underside and against the sensitive frenum, all combined to build an overwhelming need within him. He bit and sucked his own fingers as the first bubbles started, drawn up from his balls by the unbearable pressure of Hagrid's suckling. The first shots of lightning blasted out from deep inside, as his body constricted, convulsed, pushing against the weight holding him down. He choked and groaned and spasmed, kicking out as the fire spread down his thighs, liquid pulsing, setting his prick aflame, the head felt like it was exploding, only held together by the firm pressure of Hagrid's throat. He whined, long and deep and loud, as he gave everything he had to Hagrid, hips wiggling as much as his confinement would allow.

Taking the fingers out of his mouth, he gasped for air, waiting for Hagrid to stop his greedy swallowing, but the other man kept working him, not letting the erection fade, tongue still massaging the shaft, one hand still caressing his thighs and hips. The stroking drew everything out of him that he had to give, leaving him weak and groaning, and unable to form the words to order Hagrid to stop. He could hear his own pathetic moans and put his hand back, covering his mouth, waiting until Hagrid finally rested, just holding the softening prick for a few moments before letting him go.

"Are yeh okay there?"

"Ungh..."

"Well, yeh jus' rest a while, then." Hagrid lay down beside him, going back to gently stroking his chest and side, gently patting his face. "Yeh're absolutely delicious, Sir!" Hagrid said, cheerily.

They both lay quietly for a time, Snape waiting for his heart to stop pounding in his chest, Hagrid just gazing at him adoringly, smiling softly.

"Where on earth did you learn to do that, Hagrid?" Snape was absolutely taken aback by the confidence with which he'd been 'taken care of'.

"Oh, mos'ly books, Sir. And... er... there's a place. Caters to... er... large orders."

"A brothel?" Snape lifted a disbelieving eyebrow. "You? You visited a brothel?"

"Twice, Sir." Hagrid looked miserable at the confession. "I was young, and I jus wanted teh know what all the fuss were about. Yeh unnerstand, don't yeh, Sir?"

"I suppose so." Snape was noncommittal. He simply couldn't envisage Hagrid in a den of iniquity. "Why twice?"

"Once teh see if I liked it, and once teh be sure I didn't. It weren't what I was lookin' fer. The people there, they were nice an' all, but it weren't what I was lookin' fer at all." He continued petting Snape's ribs, "Yeh don' mind, do yeh, Sir?"

"No. We all have needs."

"How do yeh take care of, you know," Hagrid shrugged a little, shyly, "yeh're needs."

"Privately."

"Oh." Hagrid nodded sagely. "I like teh read books, sometimes."

"I like to confiscate those books from the students and burn them."

Hagrid laughed brightly and tugged Snape closer to his chest, giving him a strong one armed cuddle.

Rolling against him, Snape ran a finger along a row of three fine white lines on Hagrid's forearm. "What's this from?"

"Ah, tha's where I learned teh always be polite to a hippogriff, back when I was in school! I'd jus come back from wrestlin' a troll in the forest 'n' was feelin' a bit full o' meself. Hippogriff soon taught me to mind me manners!"

"And this one?" A long ragged scar ran across Hagrid's ribs.

"Harpy. Beautiful beasts, Harpies, but moody. Very moody."

"And this? It looks quite fresh." A half-healed wound, like a bite mark, marred Hagrid's collarbone.

"There's a wee vampire in the forest, poor thing. I feel sorry for 'im, so I let him 'ave a little drink now 'n' then."

"Hagrid! That's utterly foolhardy!" Snape lifted his head to glare angrily.

"There's no 'arm in 'em if they don't inject their venom. If yeh give 'em a chance, most of 'em are quite nice. Yeh just gotta look beyond the prejoodice."

"You're quite the soft touch, Hagrid."

Hagrid chuckled softly, giving Snape another cuddle, "I know that, Sir."

They were quiet for a few moments, then Snape asked: "Did you want...?" He let one hand trail suggestively down Hagrid's furry belly.

"Not yet, Sir." Hagrid caught Snape's hand before it tangled with his belt buckle.

"You don't want-?"

Hagrid cut him off, "Oh yes, very much, Sir! But I'll wait, yeh don't have teh do anythin'."

"What if I want to?" Snape asked, suspiciously. "I get the impression you don't want me to see you naked. Is there a problem?"

"No, Sir," Hagrid wouldn't make eye contact. "I jus' want teh make tonight special for yeh." Hagrid started to push gently at Snape's shoulder, turning him onto his back.

"So," Snape said, eyes narrowed suspiciously, "You feel that if you do a good enough job in bed tonight, I'll be keen to return again at some point in the future?"

Hagrid was quiet for a moment, drawing lines on Snape's chest with one finger, "If it were 'orrible, would yeh come back?" he asked, sensibly.

"No, I dare say I would not."

"Well then, there yeh go."

"So am I never to see you naked?"

Hagrid blushed, just a touch of pink on his round cheeks. "I reckon so, but..."

"But what?" Snape was getting annoyed. He'd allowed himself to be naked and vulnerable with Hagrid and wanted to see that trust returned.

"It's jus' that folks get a bit odd about that kinda thing. What with me bein' a half-giant, an' all. Like all they want teh see is..." he trailed off, then leaned down to whisper, "you know... 'ow big it is."

"Well of course, what do you expect?"

Hagrid looked somewhat taken aback, as if he'd expected some kind of reassurance from Snape that he wouldn't be interested in such base knowledge.

"It's perfectly normal, Hagrid. Even men with no giant parentage compare size."

"Yes, I guess yeh're right there, Professor." Hagrid still looked uncomfortable.

"So?"

"Later, Sir. 'onest." Hagrid said earnestly, "I jus' had summin' else in mind first." He continued his manipulations, rolling Snape over onto his stomach and leaning up on one arm.

"I don't think either of us are ready for that, just yet," Snape snapped, tensing up.

"Oh no, I'm not gonna do that, not t'night, Sir!" Hagrid seemed surprised Snape would even consider he'd been thinking along those lines. "I jus' want teh kiss yeh back, like I did yeh front. Get teh know yeh on this side too." His free hand started to gently caress and stroke Snape's shoulders, rubbing gently until Snape relaxed again. Long strokes from shoulders to waist, alternated with Hagrid's thumbs rubbing firmly at the base of Snape's neck, working out the deep muscle tension that even his orgasm hadn't relaxed.

Pulling the hair away from Snape's neck, Hagrid started to plant soft kisses, pressing his lips from the back of Snape's exposed ear down to the curve of his throat, licking at the line of his shoulders; long drawn out laps that licked away the light salt sweat of recent exertion.

"I saw yeh back once, when yeh were swimmin' in the lake one summer," Hagrid mused, then returned to mouthing the small knobs of Snape's vertebrae where they hid just below the spare covering of muscle. "Yeh cut the water like a blade and emerged like a sprite, so sleek and spare."

"I haven't been swimming in the lake for many years," Snape mumbled into the pillow. "You've been watching me for a long time, haven't you?"

"It were just an observation, Sir. Like I said, yeh were far too young for me to be 'avin' those types of thoughts about yeh then."

"Hmm," Snape mumbled sceptically, but didn't bother following up on the thought as Hagrid's hand had started to sneak below his waist, rubbing smooth circles over his buttocks. The warm mouth travelled down, making wide open-mouthed false bites against his lower back as if Hagrid was tasting him preparatory to making a meal of spine and sinew.

The sucking bites moved over his left buttock and down the back of one thigh, with a pause for Hagrid to sigh "Yeh've got a lovely bum, Sir," before moving down. Kisses down to the backs of Snape's knees, Hagrid's abundant beard tickling the delicate skin there, one hand massaging the calf muscle Hagrid had admired earlier.

"'old on a mo." Hagrid leaned over the edge of the bed, hauling his frilly pink umbrella from underneath where he'd conveniently stashed it. He mumbled something and pointed it at Snape's nether regions.

Snape jumped as an odd tingling sensation made itself apparent, "What on earth was that, Hagrid," he barked, twisting to glare over his shoulder and starting to tense up again.

"Nothin' to worry yehself about, just a little cleanin' spell," Hagrid explained, dropping the umbrella again.

"Cleaning spell? I'm already clean! I washed before I came here," Snape said indignantly. He was offended at the suggestion that he wasn't clean.

"Inside, Sir. Inside."

"Oh!" Snape blushed at his obtuseness, then blushed harder when he realised why Hagrid would want him 'clean inside', and hid his face in the pillow so the ridiculous blush wouldn't show.

"O'course, teh other option would be one o' those chocolate spells-"

Snape interrupted before Hagrid's candour could get any more embarrassing. "Clean is fine, Hagrid. Just fine," he mumbled from his pillow haven.

"Righto, then. I'll jus' be getting' back to it, then," Hagrid chortled quite contentedly and bent down to his task once more. Kisses spread from the backs of Snape's thighs down the inside, as his legs were carefully pushed open, spread wider on the bed.

As a thumb pressed against the inside cheek, carefully spreading, Snape burrowed his head as far as he could, using his arms to push the pillow up as high as possible, trying to cover his ears, trying to muffle his own sounds, from himself as much as from Hagrid.

Again he concentrated on his breathing, following the rhythm and keeping it steady, and trying not to think of the hot breath or the thick fall of hair that tickled his skin as Hagrid nipped gently at vulnerable skin.

Hot firm kisses trailed from Snape's tailbone to his testicles, making him jump and twitch. This was the kind of touch he'd read about in the books he'd earlier denied reading; the kind of book that left him disgusted at the young perverts who'd giggle and point out certain scenes to each other with their eyes wide and their voices high. The kind of touch he would publicly disdain as vile, but at the moment was urging him to spread his legs even wider and tilt his backside upwards as his balls contracted and crawled, eager again despite having had their release only a short time ago.

The bed rocked as Hagrid shifted, climbing carefully to rest between Snape's thighs, taking one in each hand and pushing them as wide as they'd go, until Snape felt like he was being split like a turkey wishbone and his hips started to protest.

"Yeh should see the view from 'ere, Sir," Hagrid chuckled. "Now that's beautiful!" Then Hagrid reached up and snatched away Snape's pillow. "I can't 'ear yer lovely little noises if yeh do that, Sir," he said, throwing the pillow to the floor.

Snape wanted to protest the loss of that flimsy protection, but then Hagrid's head descended again, burrowing between Snape's legs. Kisses and strong rasping licks started again and Snape was too busy trying to swallow his yelps to protest anything. He reached back one hand, weaving his fingers into the long silkily tangled hanks of Hagrid's hair as Hagrid's tongue breached his defences, pushing in slowly and firmly. Snape jerked his hips forward, trying to escape the warm, wet invader, but Hagrid followed easily and Snape involuntarily pushed back to meet him, his hips starting to convulse at the intensity.

One large hand slid underneath his pelvis, cupping him so his oversensitive flesh didn't bump against the bed, but slid through loosely gripping fingers instead, and the tongue pushed in further. Broad, long, it wiggled to loosen the muscle that fought it, and Snape wiggled right along with it.

Snape bit his wrist, trying to distract himself from the overpowering sensation, trying to keep himself still and not look the fool, but a little inner voice whispered: relax, Hagrid wants to do this to you, accept and enjoy what's on offer. Raw embarrassment at being touched in such a way warred with raw desire for more such touches, and Snape arched up, pushing back for more... deeper...

The pressure increased, and the firm wet touch wiggled deeper, pointing itself and flattening out again, curling up so the tip of Hagrid's tongue pushed against the sides of the channel. It sent shocks of electric sensation up Snape's spine, straight up to his brain, and straight through to his prick, which was once again hard and pushing into Hagrid's fingers. He couldn't stop the small high-pitched moans and the occasional surprised snort, as he felt his insides melt under Hagrid's attention.

Hagrid started a thrusting motion in time with Snape's jerks, pushing in deeper to meet each backwards heave on Snape's part, tongue still working as if trying to test the texture of every inch of Snape's insides. It was with a sense of relief Snape heard Hagrid's low groan of happy contentment, it made him feel less idiotic in light of the series of helpless 'uh's' he'd started to make himself. The tongue curled, explored and found the jackpot, pressing into the soft nodule that sent a sudden stab of fire straight to the head of Snape's prick. And once he found it, Hagrid didn't leave it alone, pressing, rubbing, prodding, using his tongue to massage the hidden treasure, leaving Snape writhing and sobbing.

The hand underneath Snape tightened, giving him something firmer to rub against. The hand above moved over his back and buttocks in hard, circular motions, encouraging Snape's undulations. Hagrid growled deep in his throat, fucking Snape hard with his tongue until the sparks flew and the fireworks went off behind his eyes and Snape couldn't help the short sharp scream that escaped him as every nerve in his body exploded at the same time, sending him over the edge into helpless shuddering spasms.

Snape was dimly aware of Hagrid's careful withdrawal and the tender hands that rearranged his arms and legs into less torturous positions, but couldn't bring himself to move or respond. He could hear Hagrid's voice rumbling over him like a spill of dark brown pebbles, but the sense of the words was lost. Small things fizzed and popped deep within Snape's brain, but their meaninglessness faded into physical sensations, oozing through thickened blood to send tingles like lemonade pins and needles through his skin and joints.

Don't snore, he ordered himself, you're not asleep. He tried to focus on what Hagrid was saying, in case he missed a compliment to some hitherto ignored body part, but everything was fading in and out and the temptation to snuggle into the blankets that were being pulled up around his shoulders was overpowering. A heavy arm settled around his waist and he drifted, listening to the voice if not the words, for what seemed like a very long time.

The eventual lift of the bed as Hagrid rose stirred him and he looked up blearily.

"Would yeh like a cuppa tea, Professor?" Hagrid asked. "I'm just gonna put the kettle on."

Snape grunted and dropped his head back down onto the mattress, wondering where the pillow had ended up. He stared at Hagrid from the odd angle, admiring the way he moved. For such a big man, he handled everything he touched with a fine degree of delicacy and care, his strength held in check at all times. Snape had always thought Hagrid could be quite devastatingly dangerous if he ever was provoked enough to lose control, but in the many years they'd known each other, he'd rarely seen Hagrid more than slightly miffed, and he always recovered his equilibrium quickly, returning to the easy-going gentle soul everyone knew and loved.

After a few moments, Hagrid came over with a large cup and Snape inhaled the steam, sipping gingerly at the too hot liquid, enjoying the brisk pick-me-up brew Hagrid favoured. Good for hangovers, if Snape remembered correctly. Hagrid pulled up a chair and sat in front of him, cradling his own mug and grinning broadly.

"Well?" Snape asked, briskly.

"Nothin'," Hagrid didn't stop his grinning, "I'm jus' 'appy."

"I mean, when are you going to take your trousers off, or is this the extent of the relationship you're offering? Not that this wasn't very pleasant, I don't deny that, but I can't help but be suspicious-"

"Ah, you're right, Sir," Hagrid stopped grinning, now looking more like someone who'd been handed a piece of very worrying news. "Yeh won't laff or anythin', will yeh, Sir?"

"Of course not, Hagrid. What do you take me for?"

"Right then." Hagrid stood, undid his belt, obviously uncomfortable under Snape's scrutiny. Snape refused to look away. Dropping his trousers, Hagrid clambered over Snape and slid into bed and under the blankets, as quickly as possible.

Snape gulped a few more mouthfuls of the hot tea, set the cup on the floor and rolled himself into Hagrid's arms. He cupped the large face in both hands and peppered it with soft kisses. Across the cheeks, the lips, Hagrid's rounded nose and against the crinkles at the corners of Hagrid's eyes, until he felt Hagrid relax again, the crinkles deepening as the smile returned.

There was something just so utterly masculine about the body that cradled his own, the scent and strength of pure manliness. Honed through years of physical labour and the complete lack of genteel frippery, indulged in cakes and lollies and buns, scarred by beloved beasts and ruddied by the sun. That tender mixture of power and gentleness was in every touch Hagrid bestowed, hands skimming up and down Snape's back, from shoulders to hips. Mimicking the rhythm of Hagrid's caresses Snape ran his hands across Hagrid's chest, each enormous pectoral larger than he could fit into both hands.

He rested his head against the soft prickle of Hagrid's chest hair, and let his hands wander down, following the furry line. The trail led to a thick forest of hair, a not so forbidden forest.

He slid his hand down, around... around some more. Satisfying his perfectly normal human curiosity took some time and exploration. His hand curved around Hagrid's pizzle and the fingers could not meet on the other side. Hagrid wasn't exactly twice the height of a normal man, but he was certainly more than twice the length. Snape stroked from the thick base to the tapered head, admiring the flush of flamingo pink that followed his fingers.

"It is a beauty, Hagrid," he said, looking up and giving Hagrid what he hoped was more smile than smirk. "Most impressive, indeed."

"Er, well, thank you, Professor," Hagrid hiccuped as Snape's fingers found a particularly sensitive spot. He looked inordinately pleased with Snape's admiration. Snape supposed he should be, it was a rare occasion that Snape found something admirable in others.

Hagrid muttered something quietly under his breath as Snape firmed his strokes, hand steadily sliding up and over the large appendage, rubbing and twisting as he passed over the head. He twisted his wrist to slide back down the shaft, the foreskin trapped under his fingers, rolling down with his motion. Every time his hand came back to rub the fat tapered head, Hagrid's whole body twitched, and his hands clenched, fingertips digging into the muscles of Snape's back. Snape sneaked his other hand down, cradling the full, fat overflowing handful of scrotum he found nestled in the fur.

He knew he couldn't come close to Hagrid's impressive performance, but he knew how to use his hands to maximum efficiency, and set about learning the curve and bend, the trace and vein, the sigh and moan of Hagrid's pleasure. He learned how Hagrid would stretch when Snape's thumb pushed firmly along the ridge underneath, and how he'd bite his lip and moan softly when Snape's hand caught under the glans, letting it pop through the circle of his fingers. Wiggling down in the bed, he looked Hagrid's great prick straight in the eye, before moving forward to give it a tentative lick, noting the sharp salty taste, the clean earthy smell.

"Yeh don't hafta do that, if yeh don't want teh..." Hagrid's hand wavered near his face.

"Be quiet, I'm concentrating," Snape said shortly, without heat. He could just fit his mouth around the head, and closed his eyes to focus on the hot spongy flesh, the heat and burn on his tongue, making sure that by stretching his mouth as wide as he could, he didn't therefore let his teeth scrape.

"Oh, thas nice, Professor," Hagrid sighed.

Twisting his hand around the fat shaft, he pumped it harder, his tongue roving over the mouthful of flesh he held. He was filled with a great sense of satisfaction at the sound of Hagrid's avid appreciation.

Hagrid settled into a litany of 'Oh yeh lovely man' and 'oh tha's good' and 'oh yeh beautiful man' and just 'oh'.

Snape leaned up, resting his shoulder on Hagrid's stomach, giving himself the best access possible, and squeezed a little harder, his hand moving and twisting a little faster. It was quite a challenge, but one he found himself mastering it with his usual competence, guided by Hagrid's increasing volume and decreasing coherency.

He tightened his lips on the juicy mouthful and pressed his tongue to the taut frenum line, massaging it firmly in a counterpoint rhythm to that set by his hand. Velvet skin moved with his fingers, a slide of membranous skin rolled with him, moistened with a line of Snape's saliva, up and down to reveal strong tender flesh that quivered and pulsed on the sharp edge of arousal.

Muscles tensed under his cheek, and Hagrid's hand tangled in his hair, suddenly pulling him off. The large hand pressed his face against the fur of Hagrid's stomach, but Snape continued jerking his hand hard and fast on the pulsing shaft, even as he felt the heat splatter wetly against his jaw and throat. Great globs of stickiness impacted with scalding intensity and slid over his skin. Roaring, a shout like a wild beast, Hagrid pushed Snape's face against his hairy belly, thick fingers forcing Snape to look away from the results of his hard work, until the final pulses finished and the brobdingnagian erection softened within Snape's hands.

They lay quietly for a while, Snape with his head still on Hagrid's belly, carefully fingering Hagrid's now flaccid prick, while Hagrid hummed contentedly to himself, one hand under his head and the other still tangled in Snape's hair. After a moment, Hagrid whispered, "Come up 'ere for a cuddle, Sir", and Snape did, tucking himself against Hagrid's side. One big arm came up around him, crushing him closer. "That were beautiful, Sir, weren't it."

"Mm," Snape murmured, "I have giant come in my ear."

"Oh dear," Hagrid muffled a chuckle and grabbed the edge of the new sheet, wiping Snape's face and throat, cleaning out the offending seed. Snape threw one arm up over Hagrid's chest and drifted lazily, enjoying the rare pleasant relaxation, and refused to think of all the things that usually filled his mind. For this short time he let go of his old bitterness and the demands of school and duty. Hagrid's heart beat thundered beneath his cheek, solid and too powerful to be ignored, a sound that dominated his attention until his own heart beat in time, a smaller, meaner counterpoint. He lay on the edge of sleep, aware of his own body, sticky and still moist, as a receiver and giver of sensation rather than as a machine merely to carry out obligation. While he lay there listening to the thud thud thud he could feel warmth and life under his skin, and consciously pushed away his resentments and grudges and let Hagrid's delight and desire take their place.

The room was warm and close, closed doors and windows and fire taking just enough oxygen to make it difficult to think overly clearly, but a small thought occurred. "Where is that disgusting dog of yours and the flatulent dragon?"

"I gave Fang teh Lupin 'n' some o' the children are lookin' after Danny t'night." Hagrid rumbled. "I figured yeh'd not appreciate their attentions as well as me own. Fang can get right over friendly with guests 'n' all."

Snape was quiet for a beat then, "So now everyone knows?"

"'ow'd yeh mean?" Hagrid sounded just a little nervous.

Hitching himself up onto his elbow, he glared up at Hagrid's semi-somnambulent form. "You get dressed up, you give your pets to others to look after, no doubt hinting why, and the school sees me coming here and not leaving tonight. You have done your best to advertise this rendezvous, haven't you, Hagrid?"

It was Hagrid's time to be quiet for a moment, an almost frown wrinkling his brown. "Yeh know I can't keep secrets, Sir. It's always bin a joke 'round the school. Me and my big mouth. Pardon the pun."

"True."

"So yeh knew that before yeh came here t'night, dincha."

"I suppose so, Hagrid," Snape admitted grudgingly, looking away over the rounded hill of Hagrid's chest.

"So there yeh go. Yeh're no fool, and we both knew that before we got this goin', didn't we, Sir?" It wasn't really a question.

Snape didn't answer, just put his head back down on Hagrid's arm.

"I'll give yeh everythin' I've got teh give, but yeh gotta take me as I am," Hagrid waited for an answer, then continued when he didn't get one, "Does it really bother yeh if people know? About you and me, I mean."

Snape thought about it, thought about the looks and sniggers, the giggles behind their hands the students would offer every time he went past, the knowing grins from fellow staff members, and half-heard comments that suggested he seriously needed a shag. They'd all be looking for him to soften, to show a tender underbelly for jibes and other attacks, so he made a mental note to look for any new weakness of theirs he could exploit. He'd have to sharpen his tongue to its most deadly to get through the next few weeks, to make them too afraid to look him in the eye, never mind attempt to taunt.

"No, Hagrid. It really doesn't."

"Didn't think it would."

Snape would have bristled at the smug self-satisfied tone in Hagrid's voice if he could have raised the energy for the ire. "You're not as na´ve as you pretend, are you Hagrid."

"Probably not, Sir."

This time the quiet pause was even longer, and just from the edge of sleep it suddenly occurred to Snape, "I never stood a chance, did I, Hagrid?"

"'owd yeh mean?"

"You had this all worked out from the beginning, didn't you? You had your plan in place for the taming of the beast before you even started."

Just a touch of guilt tinged Hagrid's voice, "When dealing with magical creatures, yeh've gotta have a plan in place. Yeh have to know where yeh want teh end up, get all yeh moves worked out before yeh start. Otherwise yeh end up dead. That's why Professor Kettleburn lost so many limbs and 'ad to keep gettin' 'em replaced all the time. 'e didn't keep 'is mind on the end result and let the creatures dictate things too much, gave 'em their 'eads too much. That's not good for the creatures – they get 'urt and scared if yeh don't care for 'em proper, and it's not good for those trying to care for 'em neither. That's how yeh lose a finger!"

Hagrid took a deep breath before continuing. "So yeh, I had teh make a good plan before coming t'yeh, coz I knew if I failed or got it wrong the consequences would be 'orrendous. Succeed or die. I spent years plannin' this."

"Years?" Snape was surprised. He plucked out a few of Hagrid's chest hairs.

"'ad t'be perfect," Hagrid scratched the denuded patch. "I had to give yeh yer 'ead so yeh wouldna feel trapped, but make sure yeh'd wanna come back teh me too."

"So all those compliments-"

"Were from the 'art, Sir. I do adore every part of yeh," Hagrid kissed the top of Snape's head slowly, his lips staying there for the space of one breath in and out, "Yeh gave me a scare there though, at the beginning. And I really didn't mean to 'urt yeh so. Thought I'd really mucked it up then!"

"You knew I'd come back?" Snape couldn't believe he'd be that transparent.

"No, I thought I'd lost yeh. I really thought I'd ruined it, moved too soon 'n' all. Me 'art nearly exploded when I realised I could 'ave another go at gettin' it right." He rubbed Snape's back in smooth round circles.

"And thus you continued with your carefully laid plans. You manipulated me quite skilfully, didn't you, Hagrid."

Innate honesty stopped Hagrid from denying it. "Does it bother yeh?"

Snape pushed in closer, absorbing the warmth and thought about the hand that rubbed his back and considered how he felt about Hagrid's Machiavellian plans. "No." And it really didn't.