The moon was high and bright, not that Severus could see it from where he sat crouched behind a particularly prickly and overbearing bush. 'It had looked inviting,' he thought, not for the first time. Really, you’d think he’d have gotten better at choosing hiding place over the past few months. That’s how long he’d been following them, trying to learn their secrets.
He had tried, and failed, to shake off his fascination with them. They were just a bunch of arrogant and irritating boys that he knew for certain were beneath him, but still, when he lay awake at night, he wondered again and again what secret they held that bound them together so tightly. Finally, almost three-quarters of the way through their fourth year, he had stooped to following them, sneaking around trying to glimpse even a moment of their bad behavior.
So far, he had bupkis.
He knew they were particularly fond of going near the middle of the grounds, by that rather violent tree there, but the area was so open that he always found it difficult to get close enough to hear what they were saying. They also didn’t always go over there, so it wasn’t easy to pinpoint when they would be there and when they wouldn’t.
As he heaved a heavy sigh, he pulled himself upright. It seemed that tonight was not a night for this particular area, and so he trudged back off to the castle, trying to find where else he might could catch them.
Snagging sight of the crescent moon finally, he picked a particularly prickly leaf from his robes and entered the castle through a smaller door off the courtyard.
Immediately, a sound, a rustle of fabric or fur had him frozen where he stood. He was just inside the closed door, almost hidden in the shadows. But not quite, apparently, because a low hissing sound started up and he saw the bright yellow eyes of the new caretaker’s cat. He couldn’t remember the blasted beast’s name, but he knew better than to stick around after he’d been spotted by it.
Barely taking his eyes from the monstrosity, he scanned his immediate area. He was almost ready to just make a break for the dungeons when he heard the halted gait of the caretaker, Argus Filch, coming his way. He wasn’t as bad as the previous caretaker, Apollyon Pringle, but he was still a nasty individual, and that was saying something coming from Severus Snape.
Thinking fast, he remembered a broom cupboard just around the corner. Doing a bit of maneuvering, he peeked around the corner before making a dive for it. He could hear the cat growling low in its throat now, but he paid it no mind as he threw open the door and ducked inside. He was careful not to slam the door.
The closet was smaller than he thought it would be, and there was something on the floor already. Something that was chuckling softly.
“Are you serious?” he asked, more to himself when he realized that he was not alone in the small space.
“No, actually,” came a voice he recognized all too well. “But I’m sure it would be difficult to tell in the dark.”
He groaned as he sat down heavily, not even bothering with politeness. He might have thrown an extra elbow, too, as he settled in for the long wait.
They were both quiet now, keenly aware of Mr. Filch now just around the corner. Severus heard his unwilling companion mutter a spell of concealment and for a moment let himself be impressed by the quick-thinking.
“…bloody kids,” muttered Filch as he wandered off again. He called for his beast, but when it seemed reluctant to leave, he added another grumble, “Suit yourself.”
Both boys blew out a sigh of relief, but that was the only sound for a long moment. Severus felt the other wizard shift where he sat.
“How long have you been in here?” he asked, his tone only slightly less sullen than usual.
“Oh, maybe two minutes longer than you,” the boy replied. His tone was down-right friendly in a way that told Severus exactly how amusing he found this situation.
“Is something funny to you, Potter?” he spat.
“Shouldn’t it be, Snivellus?” James answered. “I mean, I could cry about it, but my name isn’t Severus Snape.”
Gritting his teeth, Severus decided now wasn’t the best time to start this fight. It was a long and tiresome battle as it was, and something told him that being stuck in a broom cupboard as they continued the fight wasn’t exactly his best idea yet.
They were both silent for several long minutes. Snape shifted, realizing that their hips were pressed against each other. Shifting didn’t alleviate anything, though, as he was pressed tightly against the wall on his other side.
Suddenly, James said, “My arse is numb.”
Severus stared straight ahead at the crack of light showing through the bottom of the door. He didn’t quite know how to respond, nor did he think it prudent to comment on Potter’s arse at all. He sighed to himself and they both resumed their silence.
It seemed Potter couldn’t do it, though, couldn’t remain quiet for any significant length of time.
“I’ve always wondered if you were just too lazy to wash your hair, too poor to buy shampoo, or if you perhaps intentionally left it a greasy mess to ward off anyone that might accidentally like your wretched personality.” This was quite a speech and Severus was again impressed by the boy, this time that he could actually pronounce all his words correctly. “We have a kind of running bet,” he added.
Severus couldn’t help it. His arm slipped. It extended out to his right side, to its full length, and his wrist connected with Potter’s chin rather abruptly. Damn, too low, he thought to himself.
Potter reached up, took Severus’ forearm in a tight grip and returned it to its rightful place in Snape’s lap.
“I’m going to let that go,” he said. “For now. And only because I suspect that stupid cat is still out there.”
Severus was fuming, of course. He just couldn’t win with this arrogant arse.
It took another few minutes of sitting still for Potter to have to move again. He leaned forward on his knees, grasping the door knob and turning it slowly. It creaked and he stopped for a second before trying again. As he peeked out, he huffed another sigh, shut the door, and flopped back down.
“Still out there?” Snape asked unnecessarily.
“I swear that cat can see through me,” was Potter’s only answer.
It was one of those moments, the kind where it just suddenly dawns on you that you’re stuck in the tiniest of spaces with your sworn enemy. Not that Severus hadn’t realized the obvious before, but it occurred to him abruptly that this could go on all night. That god-forsaken beast could camp there as long as it desired and he and Potter could be bound here for the rest of the night.
He ground out a word his mother would have washed his mouth out for using.
“Just realized this is an all-night slumber party, did you?” James said, back to his cheerful self.
Snape didn’t dignify that with an answer, particularly since Potter was spot on.
The silence was deafening again, and now his arse was numb, too. He stretched his long legs out in front of him, the bottom of his shoes hitting the door jam. It was a small relief.
He supposed it was his turn to break the quiet. “Why were you out anyway?” he asked. He knew he wouldn’t get the answer he wanted, but fishing couldn’t hurt. He wasn’t really prepared for Potter’s answer, though.
“Following you,” James said matter-of-factly. He didn’t offer anything else.
Sputtering a little, Severus asked, “Why?”
He could almost feel the other boy smiling in the dark. “Well,” James began, drawing the word out, “you’ve been following us for months, so I thought it only fair that I return the favor every so often.” Severus was struck dumb. “Of course, I don’t follow you every night,” Potter continued when it looked as if he wouldn’t comment. “Some nights it’s Peter, others it’s Sirius. I think you mentioned him earlier. Almost as if you were hoping it was him you were locked in a closet with.”
Severus felt his fists ball up, but he didn’t strike this time. Instead, he said, “No nights for Lupin?” There was an edge to his voice. Something was funny about that kid and he wanted to know what.
Potter shifted next to him again, bending at the waist in what Severus realized was a bow. “My apologies, dear Mr. Snape. I didn’t realize your crush was actually none other than Remus. I’ll be sure and pass along the message. However, I don't really think you're his type.”
Snape’s wand was out before he realized it. It was pressed against Potter’s cheek, digging in just a little.
“Go ahead,” the boy spat. “Your pathetic wand waving will do nothing in such a small space and you’re likely to hex your own eyebrows off before you blow my cover spell to high hell and Filch storms in here.”
Breathing heavily, his spittle flying and landing on his chin and robes, Severus tried to calm himself. He tried to get a grip on his rage.
Wand still in the Gryffindor’s cheek, Severus said, “What is your problem with me? You could barely lay eyes on me before you swore to hate me forever.” He didn’t hear the slightly whiny note to his voice, but Potter pounced on it.
“Aww… Poor Snivellus! I didn’t know that I offended your delicate sense of right and wrong by just pointing out the obviously flaws in your being!”
It was another long moment of just breathing for Severus. Don’t do it, he told himself. It probably wasn’t the worst trouble either of them had been in, but being caught in a broom cupboard with none other than the Gryffindor King wasn’t ever going to be on Severus’ to-do list.
Finally, he removed his wand, stashing it again. His arm was sore from the awkward angle of holding his wand against Potter’s face and the tension that had run through the muscles as he made his decision.
“That’s a good boy,” Potter told him.
Severus groaned. This was going to be a long night indeed. Severus couldn’t hold his temper and Potter couldn’t hold his tongue.
Settling against the wall on his left now, the Slytherin tried to relax. If they could just not provoke one another maybe they could avoid a month’s worth of detention.
It wasn’t long before Severus heard an odd sound, a rhythmic kind of raspy sound. A moment later, he realized the bloody Gryffindor was snoring.
“Really?” he asked quietly, his eyes rolling to the ceiling almost in prayer to get him through this blasted night.
The snoring barely faltered as Potter answered, “Might as well.”
Biting his tongue, Severus again focused on the slip of light at the bottom of the door. He focused so much on it, listening to the almost soothing sounds of Potter sleeping, that the light began to fade and his own eyes got heavy.
He had almost decided to give in when he saw darkness flash across the space. That brought him suddenly awake, focusing more intently on the light.
There it was again, but this time, he recognized it as someone passing by. He nudged the boy beside him, hissing, “Someone’s outside the door!”
James straightened slowly, silently, instantly alert. He still couldn’t help himself, though, as he said, “Yeah, several hundred students and plenty of staff.”
Severus bit the inside of his cheek.
Whoever it was passed by again, this time more slowly, as if he were waiting for someone or something, maybe searching in the low light of the castle at this time of night.
“Do you think Filch’s cat is gone now?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper.
Potter got up on his knees again, his movements exaggerated as he desperately tried not to make any noise. He put both hands on the door frame and pressed his ear to the wood. Severus could barely make out the boy’s silhouette, but he got the gist of what he was doing all the same.
“It’s… maybe purring?” James said in answer, obviously unsure of what he could hear.
Severus pulled his legs back, tucking them under him as he joined Potter at the door. Ducking a little bit lower, they both listened. Thinking nothing past listening for any sounds, Severus almost didn’t notice when Potter stiffened suddenly. The boy backed away, hands high in the air.
“Careful, Snape,” he said. “That was almost an embrace.”
Moving nothing else, Severus lashed out with his right foot, connecting with Potter’s stomach. He was satisfied with the answering huff of air that escaped the boy, abruptly followed by a low groan.
Potter had just grabbed Snape’s ankle to pull him back for a good beating when the Slytherin was saved by the shadow passing through their tiny bit of light again. Severus shook his leg to remind Potter that he still had a grip on him. Reluctantly, the boy let go.
Still with his ear pressed to the wood of the door, only Severus heard the soft chuckle and the crackle of a candy wrapper before receding footsteps.
This time, instead of retreating to the back of the closet, he settled down where he was, turning to press his back against the door. It was almost comfortable, except where the door jam was jutting into his shoulder blade. He leaned his head back against the door, then tapped it against the wood. It felt so good, he did it again.
“I’ve fantasized about beating your skull against solid objects,” Potter said in a kind of dreamy voice. “But I can’t say that I ever pictured you doing it to yourself.”
Severus’ eyebrow rose of its own accord, the gesture lost to the other boy. “Fantasizing about me, were you?” His tone was acid.
“Oh, you know it, Snivellus. About like you fantasize about Lily Evans.”
And they were off. Snape was in one corner, Potter in the other. Limbs were flying everywhere. No one was really connecting with anything vital yet, and then Potter had a grip on Severus’ hair. He pulled high, but sitting down, he didn’t have the height for it. That was when Severus swung wide, his back to Potter. His elbow finally found something in the form of Potter’s ear and the boy let go suddenly.
They were both breathing hard, both having retreated to either side of the cupboard.
“Not her,” was Severus’ only answer.
Potter was moving this way and that against his wall, but Severus couldn’t tell what he was doing. He was suddenly tired. Actually, he was past tired. He’d been skulking around half the night and now he’d been locked in a bloody closet with an insufferable Gryffindor for several hours.
Surely, the coast was clear by now.
He rose up, his scalp throbbing where he’d nearly been introduced to premature balding. “I thought only girls pulled hair,” he muttered. If Potter heard, he finally chose to keep his comments to himself.
He was up on his knees, his hand on the doorknob when a paw reached into the gap. It was turned up, the pink pad barely visible as it fished around under the door for anything that would confirm the cat’s suspicion that they were still in the cupboard. He hissed through his teeth and jumped back, half landing on Potter.
“Wha-?” the boy tried to say, but Snape elbowed him and pointed. Though James could barely see his actions, he looked all the same and saw what was the matter. It was his turn to use a word that would have gotten him at least two days detention.
Though they didn’t know it, they were both having similar thoughts of kicking that blasted beast. Neither made a move, though, as Severus settled back into his previous position, pulling his robes tight around him. He just huffed, watching the brute as it continued it’s exploration everywhere that it could reach. It was obvious now that they weren’t getting any relief.
Already, Potter was doing the heavy breathing again that preludes sleeping. Severus gave up. Without any further comment, he checked to make sure the spell that was keeping them concealed was still active, then he closed his eyes for slumber, too.
There was light. Suddenly, there was a lot of light. There was also snickering. Severus was coming around slowly, his eyes burning in the sudden change. He was sleeping half upright, his shoulder and head against the wall. His arms were wrapped around a pillow. Only… that pillow was breathing.
His eyes flew open into the amused face of James Potter.
He threw himself backward, but only got as far as the other wall, which wasn’t much distance at all. He ripped his arms back as if he’d been burned. And that’s when he heard the full on guffawing now.
Slowly, mortified beyond reason, he turned his head to see Potter’s crew, the accursed Gryffindor boys all staring, openly laughing. Peter Pettigrew was even pointing, half doubled over and breathing heavily. Instantly, Snape was furious.
Without one word, he scrambled to his feet, his limbs tangling with Potter’s in the small space, further aggravating him. When he was finally upright, he pushed through the jeering boys, out into the bright early light that was now flooding the castle. He didn’t even look for the stupid cat that started all of this, just thankful that no one else seemed to be around.
Stalking off to the dungeons, his robes flared dark and ominous behind him in his rage, looking like batwings flapping in the wind.