Title: A Fruit Tree in Winter
Author: Surprise!
Giftee: paperbacked
Word Count: 12,800 give or take a few
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: HP/SS
Warnings: AU after book six. :)
Disclaimer: Not mine, I'm just playing. If it was, I'd be richer than the Queen
Summary: Severus Snape is not pleased when a new potions brewer opens shop down the street from him.
Notes: Great thanks to my beta, she knows who she is. Everyone should thank her really, since this fic wouldn't be what it is without her. Happy Holidays, Paperbacked! I hope that you enjoy this. :D

Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Harry Potter stretched and looked up at the ceiling and yawned. It was the same ceiling that he'd stared at for years, but somehow on that particular morning, it looked different.

"It's time to go home," he whispered to the peeling paint.


Severus Snape didn't pay much attention to the boarded up shop windows of the former Quality Quidditch Supplies as he walked by it on the way to his shop. His head was full of the various experiments he was planning on setting up that afternoon while Granger watched the shop and did what she did best: tell everybody within sight, excluding him, exactly what they should do and then proceed to offer various reasons why based both on her extensive research and just plain nosiness.

Hiring Granger had been one of the most brilliant ideas that he'd ever had. The chit had a way with dealing with people that, while completely different from his own, was off putting enough that she wasn't considered nice–and how Severus hated that word.

There was only one downside to the whole Granger issue, and he was standing by the counter when Severus walked in.

Weasley turned and frowned at Severus, but nodded good morning anyway.

"Good morning, Severus. I was just doing the morning inventory." Granger handed Severus a neatly organized list. "We're short on some of the standard stock potions. I'll lay out the ingredients for you once you've given me your brewing schedule for the day."

Severus nodded, and pushed through the door to the back where his small office area was, with his desk and research books as well as a small alcove where Granger had her own desk. The largest area was through yet another door to his lab and storehouse for ingredients and finished potions.

Everything was proceeding just as it always did. And just as it always did on mornings when Granger's husband accompanied her, there was no tea.

Grunting, Severus took to the task of brewing his own tea while looking over Granger's list of what was needed as far as the basic potions were concerned. They were unfortunately low on Contraceptus. And since it was nearing the end of the summer, all the imbeciles that were attending the upper years of Hogwarts would be in desperate need of said potion within a few short weeks. The sales alone would fund Severus's research for at least a month.

Poking his head out the door, Severus glanced around for Granger. She was pushing Weasley out the front door finally in preparation for opening. About ruddy time. "Granger!"

"Yes, Severus?"
She flipped the sign on the door to open, and pulled a functional apron over her head.

"I've decided that I need your help back here this afternoon. Owl that woman you did last time about watching the front of the shop. And regardless of what I have you doing, you'll have to find time to keep an eye on her."

A smile lit Granger's face at the news that she was going to be allowed to brew. "Of course, Severus, I'll do so straight away. As soon as she arrives, I'll meet you in the back."


"Yeah, it's through that door right there."

Harry grinned at Ron. "What, you're not going in with me? Don't tell me that you're still scared of Snape after all these years."

Ron rolled his eyes. "Not at all. I'm not allowed in during store hours. His Snarkiness won't say anything before the shop opens or after it closes, but in between, I'm a walking dead man. I can't even take her out to lunch. Why she insists on working with that git, I'll never know."

"He does know a lot about potions--"

"Yeah, well, get in there and say hello to her. She'd be furious if you didn't." Ron tapped him on the back and sent Harry on his way through the door.

The bell above the door rang, but the front room was empty. There was no Hermione like Ron had guaranteed. There was no one at all. Not even Snape.

"I'll be right there!"

Well, at least Harry knew that Hermione was in the building.

"Please tell me you're Miss--" Hermione stopped her sentence when she caught sight of Harry standing in the doorway.

"Hate to disappoint, but I'm not a Miss anything." Harry gave Hermione his best crooked smile.

"Harry!" She screeched and went running straight toward him. She engulfed him in her arms. "You're here! In England!"

Harry chuckled. "It was time to come home."

"I certainly would think so."

"Why, did it say so in Hogwarts: a History?" Harry pushed the tip of her nose with one finger.

"No, you prat." She smiled. "I suppose you saw Ron?"

"First thing. He pointed me in the direction I needed to go to see you. Says he can't come in here though."

Hermione chuckled. "No, he can't. Severus forbids it."

Harry's eyebrows rose. "Severus?"

"Granger! Is that chit here?"

"No, Severus. Just a customer." Hermione called back over her shoulder. "I'll be right there. Just a moment." Hermione sighed, the excitement draining from her features. "Stupid cow. I get the chance to brew and she has the gall not to show up. Now I'm juggling a potion and my duties in the front."

"Um. I could do it. If all you need is someone to watch the front. I know a thing or two about potions..."

"You'd do that? Even though you just got back?"

I've nothing better to do. As long as you don't think that Snape will blow a gasket or something."

Oh, he won't. He'll never know." Hermione gave him a conspiratorial wink. "The price list is in the drawer under the cash box. We don't negotiate."

Harry nodded and took the stool behind the counter. Hermione would kill him if she knew what he was planning. Taking out the price list he perused it.


Severus glared when he walked in and found Granger staring at a piece of paper that she quickly shoved into her pocket when he came in. "You've been acting awfully odd of late."

Granger worried her bottom lip between her teeth for a moment; never a good sign. "I know. Severus, I wanted to talk to you."

"If it's about that shop that just opened down the Alley then I do not want to hear it. Our customer base will return, I've no doubt about that. It's just--"

"I've been offered a position there."

Severus jerked. He didn't know if he was more surprised that Granger had interrupted him or because she was actually considering his employ. "Excuse me?"

"I've been offered a position there as a brewer." Granger whispered.

Severus was silent for a moment before pushing past Granger into the backroom.

"Did you hear me, Severus?"

"Yes, I heard, what do you want me to say about it?"

"Anything!" Granger's voice was entering that obnoxious register that set Severus's teeth on edge.

"I wish you luck in your future endeavours."

"You're not going to offer me the same to keep me in your employ?" Granger sounded disappointed.

"Of course not. You're not ready for the position of a full time brewer. You've years more before you reach your potential to work unsupervised. Whoever is running that sub par shop obviously knows nothing about potions." A smirk turned Severus's lips up the barest fraction. "They'll be shut down within a month."

"I'm not so sure about that, Severus. From what I understand, the proprietor has been in the field since he left school and is considered one of the brightest brewers of his age."

"Well, I haven't heard of any prodigies of late."

"He worked in the States."

"Backwater heathens. They know nothing." He lifted his hand when Granger opened her mouth to start in on what would probably be a tirade about how he shouldn't say such things. "Not another word, Granger. If you want to go, go. I shan't keep you."


"Just do me one favour before you leave and call that woman you get to work the front of the shop. Offer her the position full time."

"Yes, Severus. I'll do so by the end of the week."


"How is the research going?"

Harry rubbed his eyes, and dropped his quill. He'd have to go out into Muggle London and buy some proper pens. He didn't mind the parchment so much, but quills lost their appeal after writing with them for seven years.

"It's still all theoretical. I've some way to go before I can actually start working on the final product, but I think that it's going quite well."

Ron grinned. "Then can I take you and Hermione out for a bite to eat? Think she can stop for a minute?"

"I don't know, I've left her alone since this morning. She was in a mood when she came in. Ran into Snape."

Ron narrowed his eyes. "Bet he was rude. Should have offered her the position of brewer when you did. You might be one of her best mates, but if Snape had offered to promote her, she'd have stayed working for him."

"Oh, I know, but I also knew that Snape would never offer her the position of brewer. It's just not done as far as he's concerned." Harry pushed away from the desk and toward the door that separated the offices from the labs. "I'll go see if she can stop." The door swung shut behind him leaving Ron in the office area. The deal that he'd cut with his friend was that he could come into the shop when he wanted and could even come into the back offices, but the labs were absolutely off limits.

Hermione was hunched over a cauldron. She swatted a lock of hair out of her face irritably. "Stupid potion," she muttered.

"What's wrong?" Harry pulled the potion formula from where it was lying next to her on the workbench and took a look. The potion was one of their biggest sellers, which had been why Harry had assigned it to Hermione in the first place.

"It's not changing to pale teal like it's supposed to."

Harry nodded and dipped a ladle into the cauldron pulling up a sample. He sniffed it and then dripped a bit onto the tip of his tongue. It was slightly more bitter than it should have been. Looking down at the ingredients, Harry picked up the vial of dragon blood, and added a drop at a time, stirring the potion five times between each addition until the color turned. "It should be fine. We can leave it for a bit. Want to go for lunch? Ron stopped by."

Hermione nodded and took the ladle from his hand and took it over to the sink to wash it. "Only if you explain why you added more dragon blood."

"I'll write it all out for you when we get back from lunch. Basically it was bitter, and the taste told me there was too much beetle wing. I'll have to talk to our supplier. I know you always check your weights, so there might be something off in the quality."

Hermione shook her head. "You really did learn while you were away, didn't you?"

Harry smiled his lopsided grin. "I didn't have anything better to do."



I know that you weren't expecting to hear from me, but I really wanted to tell you a bit about this place. It's nothing like what you'd expect. In reality there are only a couple of major differences between how you run your shop and how this one is run. I'm sure that's not what you wanted to hear, but nevertheless it's true.

The proprietor here doesn't do all the brewing himself: he oversees us, and gives us his potions formulas for brewing, but in the end we stand or fall on our own. He personally checks all the potions before Justin or I am allowed to bottle them.

He's also heavily research minded, like yourself, and he spends a lot of his afternoons slaving away over his own cauldron with his experiments. He keeps muttering about how he needs to find another potions specialist to collaborate with, and I keep thinking of you. I think that you'd work well with him, if you gave yourself the chance, but I know that you won't, so I haven't brought up the possibility to him.

I do wish I had had the opportunity to learn more before I came here. I could have benefited from more of your knowledge. I wasn't as prepared for the switch as I thought I was. As you had said.

All the best,

Severus grunted and put the letter at the bottom of his pile of papers. He had enough to do without having to pay attention to some sentimental tripe scribbled down by some silly girl. All his grooming to get Granger up to snuff on the main potions they sold was being used by some other brewer now. There were more important matters to be dealt with, like the potions maker who had started to write articles in some of the major potions journals about the same thing that Severus was researching himself.

The worst part of the whole thing was that this other potions maker was further in his research than Severus was.

This was disastrous. He'd spent years coming up with the premise and had only told one other living person of it, but now, here it was, splashed across the pages of the Journal for Therapeutic Potions that he subscribed to.

Severus already despised this HJ Evans fellow. His language was rather mixed, he used terminology that Severus had never heard of before as well as methods that weren't approved by the Wizarding Society for British Potion Brewing, but he was still being published. Granted, the journal wasn't only for British potion brewers, but - in Severus's opinion - they were the only ones that really mattered.

Pulling a piece of parchment out of his desk drawer, Severus dipped his quill into the nearby inkpot and started to pen a letter to the journal, asking for an address to direct correspondence to HJ Evans.


I must admit that I never thought that Severus Snape would contact me regarding my research. I'm pleased to know that my subject matter has been well accepted by our colleagues, but the true measure of its worth is its being addressed by you.

You are without a doubt, the foremost expert in this particular branch of potions, and I couldn't, in good conscience admit to not being the least bit inspired by you. I'm sure you're thinking that I'm just going the flattery route, but I assure you that is not the case. I have no intention of doing so.

My desire to work in this field is completely selfish, having watched a dear werewolf friend of mine pass away recently due to complications with his lycanthropy.

As our interests are mutually aligned, I was hoping that you might not be opposed to meeting to discuss the research I'm sure we're both conducting.

HJ Evans
Lightning Quick Potion Solutions
Diagon Alley

"Of all the miserable luck!" Severus slapped a piece of clean parchment onto the desk and wrote two words in his neat black writing before sending it off.

This was much worse than expected. The person who had bought the old Quality Quidditch Supply store and turned it into a potions shop, the person who'd stolen Hermione Granger from his employ, and the person that Severus had been struggling to find out about for over two bloody months was only a few steps away from his doorstep and just propositioned him about discussing their mutual research. The nerve of the fellow. It was unconscionable.

Severus spent the rest of the day fuming.


"'Certainly Not.' I'm going to assume that this is from Snape. He must not have liked the fact that I set up shop down the street from him."

Hermione sighed, and straightening her shoulders, added the next ingredient drop by drop waiting for the change in colour impatiently. The problem with running this sort of experiment was not knowing when the potion would react to the next ingredient added. Sure Harry had a guess, but that wasn't quite as good as knowing for sure.

"Nothing." Hermione jotted down her observations, and pushed the beaker aside. "Why'd you owl him in the first place?" Ladling out another 600 millilitres of base into a new beaker, she took up the next ingredient. "And are you sure I can only add up to fifty drops?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah, trust me, you don't want to add too much of anything. Take things slowly, and if no reaction has happened by fifty drops, none is going to." Harry ladled another 600 millilitres of base into a beaker and pulled it toward himself as well. "You don't need to help me, you know, though I do appreciate it."

"I know. I don't mind it actually. It's interesting. I'm learning a lot, Harry, even if I'm a bit put out that I didn't learn all of this before you."

"Well, I had a reason to." Harry paused at his fifth drop and looked toward the door. Hermione knew that he was looking at the picture of him and Remus that sat on the corner of Harry's desk. When she heard about Remus's death, she'd been broken up about it, and she knew that what she'd felt could only have been a drop in the bucket compared to how Harry must have felt.

"How long do you suppose until we find the right combination?"

Harry shrugged. "If it's not one of these, then I'll have to go back to the theory. I wish Snape had agreed to meet and discuss things."

"Well, you are stealing all his business."

"And you'd think that'd be enough to drag his Snarkiness out, if only to belittle me for his own peace of mind." Harry laughed. "I bet that he's just put off about the Boy-Who-Lived knowing a thing or two about potions."

Hermione paused and stared down into the liquid for a minute. "Actually, Harry, I don't think that he realises he's dealing with you."



I fear I have reached a dead-end in my research. The only work I have found dealing with the issue has been published by you, and even that was theoretical. I was hoping that we could meet to discuss your work in the field.

I think that we're striving toward a mutual goal, and our individual expertise can help each other rather than hinder.

Consider it.

HJ Evans

"Of all the stupid-" Severus glared down Diagon Alley at the other shop. This was getting him nowhere. Now that he knew where the charlatan was located, he should have gone and told him to cease and desist selling and researching potions.

The fool obviously knew nothing about potions whatsoever regardless of his rather insightful articles written in the Journal of Therapeutic Potions. In fact, Severus had every intention of going over there immediately and setting the upstart straight.

Storming out of the shop, he made a beeline for the other shop, not paying attention to the witches and wizards that were flinching away from him right and left. He'd taught quite a few of the imbeciles; they should be perfectly aware of his volatile temper.

A bell jingled as he shoved the shop door open. It was, unlike Severus's, very well lit, and - much to Severus's chagrin - like Severus's, very well organized. The proprietor had put quite a few more extra or alternative potions out than what Severus had, and Severus could only assume it was due to the fact that he'd stolen Granger right from under him.

Dennis Creevy stood behind the counter ringing up the purchase of what Severus was sure was an inferior potion. He waited, not patiently since being patient was not his forte, but he waited nonetheless, his toe tapping on the polished wood floors as his gaze swept across the rows of shelves.

"Can I help you, Professor?"

"I am no longer a professor, Mr Creevy."

Creevy flinched, but continued, "I know that, sir, but calling you anything else just seems wrong. What can I do for you?"

"You can direct me to the proprietor of this establishment." Severus couldn't keep the sneer off the last word.

"I'm sorry, sir, but he's not here right now. I can get Hermione or Justin for you, though."

"Bring Granger out at once!"

Creevy nodded, and scurried through the door behind the counter. "Hermione! You've a visitor--"

Snape paced to the closest shelves. Brightly coloured bottles denoted the strengths that were then written out neatly on a label with a helpful note at the bottom: Have any allergies? Ask one of us if you can take this! Severus snorted. Idiots shouldn't buy potions if they didn't know what went into them.

Creevy came back out, wiping his palms on his apron. "She'll be right out; she just has to finish something off. She and Justin are really busy today since-"

The door swung open cutting Creevy off. "Can you excuse us, Coli- I'm sorry, Dennis."

"Sure thing. I'll just go and pull that box of Contraceptus down to restock it."

"Thank you."

Hermione watched as Dennis went into the back room. "I keep confusing him with his brother, but I don't think he minds." Hermione sighed. "It's good to see you, Severus, though I can't say that I'm surprised."

Severus crossed his arms over his chest. "So you know that your employer has been owling me?"

"Of course." Hermione met stare with one of her own. "He complains to me every time you turn him down to meet. He's stuck, you see."

"And I should give a rat's arse, why?"

Hermione shrugged. "Remus Lupin went to him after he became allergic to the Wolfsbane. Came up with a few other potions that eased the transformation, some even helped him stay sane. None of them worked as well as the Wolfsbane though, he knows that."

"That is because you can't remove the actual wolfsbane from the potion."

"But-" Hermione shook her head and sighed again. "Yes, well, he's not going to stop trying."

"When will your employer return?" Severus tapped his fingers on the top of the counter.

"Next week, he's attending a potions consortium in California this week. I'm sure you're aware of it." Hermione smiled. "I believe you informed them, that any conference that doesn't take place on European soil is not worth your recognition."

"I shall return next week to talk to him then."

"You could just wait for the conference in Geneva. He's going to that one too. In fact, he's speaking there. Against you, of all things."

He's the other on the panel?" Severus hadn't been informed of this. He would have refused had he known.

Hermione nodded. "I wish I could attend, but if he's gone Justin and I have to stay, in case there is a need for more orders. We're all to go to the British consortium beginning of next year, though. I'm looking forward to it."

Severus didn't reply, just turned on his heel and made his way out.

Returning to his shop, Severus pulled the old journals off the shelf, marking each article that HJ Evans had written and started dissecting them. The first was co-authored with a man who's initials were RL, and now that made sense. Remus Lupin. Hermione said that this HJ Evans fellow had worked to create a potion that would work like Wolfsbane without the key ingredient. It was something that Severus himself was trying to perfect. A synthetic Wolfsbane that wouldn't degrade the health of the person taking it.

It was the modern equivalent to finding the alchemic miracle of turning lead into gold.

So Severus shouldn't be surprised that he wasn't the only potions brewer out to find it, but it rattled his nerves that Lupin had helped another brewer. Lupin was his guinea pig and no one else's. After all that tripe about how he just wanted to be off the potion before the toxins destroyed all of his internal organs. How he just wanted to spend his remaining months living. After all of that, he let some other person test potions on him. The liar.

Severus swallowed. Maybe he should meet with HJ Evans at the Geneva conference. Maybe he could see the notes he'd taken during Lupin's final months. The idea had merit.


There was nothing like meeting with hundreds of other like minded individuals, Harry thought as he stepped off the Portkey arrival platform and lugged his suitcase to the front of the hotel to check in.

The best part of it all was that no one in the potions community really cared that he was the Man Who Did In Voldemort or whatever they were calling his heroic exploits this year. No, potion brewers only cared about one thing. Potions. If he was known it was only because of his work in finding an alternative to Wolfsbane.

The original Wolfsbane created by Damocles Belby and the further adjustments made to it by Snape had been marvels of accomplishment when the articles were first published. Snape's work had been solid and fixed many of the issues that were inherent in the original potion. He'd been lauded in his field, and it was that singular accomplishment more than anything else that had boosted him to his position in the community. He didn't need to follow it up with any extensive research, but he had and it had increased his recognition among brewers.

When Harry realised this after he'd taken an interest in potions due to Remus's illness, he'd read everything the man had written on the subject as well as most of his other books as well, finding elements in them that related to the Wolfsbane potion whether he was meant to or not.

With that knowledge and the statement that Severus had made that it could be possible to find a replacement for the key ingredient in Wolfsbane as he and Remus packed up to go somewhere, anywhere that wasn't England, Harry started his own research into the matter. Just tinkering really. It gave him something to keep his mind busy as he took care of Remus.

He never thought that he'd make it his goal after Remus died, or that he'd be fighting to hold his own against Snape in the spotlight.

But he was, and it wasn't such a bad place to be.

"Here you are, Mr Potter. Your room key and a map of the grounds." The front desk clerk glanced down before looking up at him again, and Harry got an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. "You aren't the Harry Potter, are you? The Man Who--"

"Of course not, I'm Harry Evans, the man who's speaking against Severus Snape at this meeting. How good to know that you follow Potions. I must be off now!" Harry grabbed his key and fled.

Wiping his hand against his forehead, Harry rested against the outside wall of the in hotel bar. A firewhiskey wouldn't be so bad right about now, but Harry didn't want to drink. He hadn't picked up a glass of alcohol since his potions mentor in the States had pried the last one out of his hands over two years ago when Remus died. He'd promised the old man that he wouldn't drink anymore, and he didn't.

Harry caught sight of the sweeping black robes that Snape still wore out of the corner of his eye and watched as he approached the lift to take him up to his room. Harry could only hope that his room was on the other side of the hotel. There was something about Snape that still made him nervous and probably always would. If he could just get through the discussion, then he'd be fine.

Maybe things would turn out better than he thought. It wouldn't take much.


Severus folded the piece of parchment according to the directions, and launched it out the window. At least the hotel didn't bother with owls or messenger pigeons or any of the other undesirable things that Severus had found perched in the corner of his room as a way for room to room connection.

It was times like this that Severus wondered how long it would take before the Wizarding World incorporated a telephone system. It probably would happen about the same time that they introduced Wizarding programs on the telly. There were some things that were just too Muggle.

It didn't take long for a paper airplane to come soaring into his room, and for that Severus was glad.

Of course.

I knew you were bound to come around sooner or later.

He had another hour or so until he would meet HJ Evans down at the bar, and Severus spent his time wisely, refreshing himself on all the research that the man had published and girding himself for an argument about many of the points that he thought could be clearer or were outright wrong. Then at the end, he'd demand to see the man's early research notes.

There was little that could go wrong.


Something did go wrong straight away. Harry bloody Potter was sitting at the hotel bar. Severus found a seat as far away from him as possible and stationed himself so he could keep an eye on the two entrances.

Growling low in his throat, he watched as Potter caught sight of him, picked up his glass and made his way over. Without so much as a by-you-leave, he pulled out the chair across from Severus and sat down.

"It's been a while."

"And it should be even longer. I am waiting for someone, Potter."

Potter narrowed his eyes in the same manner that Granger had at their last meeting.

"What is it? You're acting as if I'm missing something that should be dreadfully apparent."

"Well, I just thought that we'd arranged to meet for drinks and discuss things, but obviously I'm mistaken."

"Potter, I don't know what fantasies you've been entertaining, but I guarantee you that the last place I want to be is at a bar with you drinking and discussing things."

"Really? Then maybe you need to do more research into who you're inviting to meet with you to do just that, don'tcha think?" Harry stood, his glass still in hand. "Let's try this again." Reaching out his hand toward Snape, he introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Harry James Potter, but I don't publish under that name. I publish under my mother's last name. HJ Evans. Sorry for the confusion. You're Severus Snape, right? I've read everything that you've published and not only on the Wolfsbane potion either. You're expertise in the field of therapeutic analgesic potions is really astonishing. I can't believe that I learned from one of the foremost potions experts of his generation. I might have paid more attention in class if I had known." Potter grinned sheepishly. "Who am I kidding? I would have been just as rude and obnoxious because I hated you when I was a kid. And though I know it makes no difference, I don't hate you anymore."

Severus stared at the hand extended to him with disgust. He motioned toward the seat that Potter had been sitting in prior to his reintroduction.

With a raised eyebrow, Potter sat back down.

"What is the meaning of this, Potter?"

"I don't get what you mean. I've been trying to arrange a meeting for months to discuss the Wolfsbane potion with you, but you've been rather recalcitrant on the matter."

"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm here for one reason and one reason alone, and that is to demand that you show me the early notes you took when you were testing your experiments on Lupin."

A shadow crossed Harry's features, and his shoulders tensed. "Even if I wanted to give you those notes, which I don't, I can't. I don't have my copies anymore."

"What?!" Severus set his glass down with a bang.

"I don't have my copies of them any longer. I destroyed them along with most of my early research, back before I even thought about publishing anything."

Severus was appalled. "You destroyed-"

Potter shrugged and gave a rather self-deprecating smile. "Yeah, I did. Set fire to the lab and caused a huge explosion. The local authorities were rather narked at me."

"Why would you do such a thing?" Severus leaned forward despite himself. The destruction of research was only done by the desperate and for desperate reasons.

"I wanted nothing to do with potions after Remus died. And I certainly wanted nothing to do with the work I had done on the Wolfsbane. So one night when I was astonishingly drunk - there were many of those nights at the beginning - I decided to send everything up in smoke. I wasn't expecting the explosion; I'd forgot about the volatile components I kept locked up in the lab. Woke up in hospital handcuffed to the bed and charged with arson." Harry shrugged.

Severus just blinked; there really wasn't anything to say to that.

"Spinner, the old potions instructor that I had worked with occasionally, explained to the police that it was an accident. That I was working in my private lab on something or other and the reaction got out of hand. The charges were dropped and I was released once my burns had healed. Spinner wasn't too pleased with me, and was even less so when I told him that I was discontinuing my research. Said that being sentimental had no place in work. But I was adamant that I didn't want to work on the potion anymore. Three months later the first paper was published."

His brow creased, Severus stared at Potter. "But your first paper was co-written with Lupin."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, we'd been working on it while he was still alive. I had given a copy to Spinner along with a copy of my notes to go over. We wanted someone to look it all over. He sent the paper to the journal without telling me."

"So your notes and your preliminary research are gone?" This meeting wasn't going as Severus had planned at all.

"Not really. Spinner just doesn't trust me with the copies anymore. He kept them and I had access to them whenever I needed them. He thought, and sometimes I think that he might be right, that I'd try to destroy it all again, if those notes and journals were in my hands. He owled a set to Hermione and told her to keep them locked up in her flat except for when I needed them." Potter shrugged. "It works. Keeps me from getting sentimental, I suppose. I treat those notes and journals like I would anything else I check out of the great bibliothèque de Hermione."

"Is that why you stole Granger from me? So she could be your personal librarian?"

"Not at all. She's my friend, she's smart, and eventually I'd like to bring her into a more active role in the research. She does run some of my tests for me. She's learning, though she says she's not happy to be learning from me." Potter smiled again. "I think she'd rather be learning from you."

"No doubt you're an awful instructor."

Potter laughed. "I wouldn't know. She says it's because she's supposed to be the smarter one, so it gets on her nerves when I tell her that what she's doing won't work or I fix one of her mistakes. I don't have a problem accepting that as an excuse."

Severus paused. This really wasn't going at all how he planned, but no one could ever say that he didn't know how to adapt to an unexpected situation and Potter wasn't being nearly as insufferable as Severus would have expected. "I have a proposition for you, Potter."



I really don't know what to do. Harry hasn't come back to the shop since he went to
Geneva. I don't mean to sound like Justin and I can't handle things here, we're managing, but the custom potion orders are all on hold until Harry's return, and I don't know when that'll be.

Some of the customers are quite displeased; I was hoping that I could send them over to you. I'm sure that you need the business.


Severus grunted and let the sheaf of parchment drop onto the desk. "Stupid girl."


If you pulled your nose out of that book, you'd know that I received a letter from your disgruntled shop girl and that you've sent her into a panic with your rather unsurprising disappearance."

"Oh." Harry turned the page without looking up.

"Are you listening to me, Potter? I dislike being ignored." Severus crossed his arms and glared at the mop of hair sticking out from behind the thick tome that he'd settled into that morning. "Owning a shop takes responsibility. You've orders that you've not filled, and your customers are annoyed."

Potter waved his hand, holding up one finger signaling for Severus to hold on for a minute.


The book snapped shut and was slammed down on the desk. "You are the most impatient bugger that I've ever met. No wonder it was impossible to learn anything from you." The chair skidded back and bumped against the table that held the remains of lunch, tipping over the pitcher of ale.

Flexing his fingers, Severus wondered again - for the first time in some years - what it would feel like to strangle the Boy Who Lived.

"You should be happy, Snape, you'll get your business back. Though, I suppose you're right. I should be going." Grabbing the book and shoving it under his arm, Potter grabbed the last remaining meat pie and shoved it into his mouth before brandishing his wand and banishing the mess. "I'm borrowing this," was muttered around a full mouth as Potter stalked from the back room and left the building.

Severus watched his progress down the street, pointedly ignoring the thought that it was somewhat pleasant seeing Potter absorbed in something productive and decidedly not troublemaking.

It took him a few minutes to realise that Potter had indeed left with one of his rare first editions on potions. He'd kill the brat yet.



"Creevy! Go get Potter!" Dennis jumped from behind the counter where he was writing up an order for an elderly witch. His eyes bugged out, but he didn't move. "NOW!"

Go on, dear. I'm sure the grumpy man has his reasons." The diminutive witch patted Creevy's hand before the whelp took off, the door to the back room swinging in his wake.

It wasn't Creevy that returned moments later, but a rather flustered Granger. Brushing her hair out of her face, she glared. "Must you terrify Dennis, Severus?"

"Where's Potter?"

"Working. I can't bother him now. He has three potions going and he's reading some really dusty thing. If I talk to him, I think he'll blow the place up."

The little witch that was still waiting at the counter squeaked and started heading toward the door.

Severus ran his hand across his face. "That's my 'really dusty thing' that he's reading and I'd like it returned immediately."


Yes, Granger, mine."

The door to the back room swung open again. "Stop squawking. I said I was only borrowing it. If you hadn't tried to tear me a new one, I would have finished the section I was reading and been on my way." Harry pulled a handkerchief from a pocket in the utilitarian apron he had on and wiped his face. "Hermione, can you please go back there and help Justin. I have him stirring the custom orders, but I think the timing is going to overlap, and it'd help to have two people back there. Steady strokes."

Hermione rolled her eyes at Harry, but started toward the backroom regardless. "Tell him that he shouldn't scare away our customers."

"Sure, Hermione." Harry waited for the door to close before he turned and stared at Severus for a long moment. "I have a proposition for you, Snape."

Severus jerked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. "What?"

"I think that we should combine our shops. You can come and work for me." Harry gave him that ridiculous lopsided grin he had a tendency to release when he thought it could get him something that he wanted.

"I think not. Now, if you'll just return my property to me, I'll be on my way, and I will cease to terrify your customers."

"Actually, I'd be fine if you just stopped terrifying Dennis. I'll run short of calming draughts if you don't, and then where would my fledgling business be?" Harry crossed his arms over his chest. "Why not? You've not even heard the terms of my offer yet."

"I know you well enough that I don't need to hear them to know that I don't want to." Severus crossed his arms.

Harry started ticking reasons off on his fingers anyway. "You wouldn't have to deal with the accounting any more. You could work on your research and custom potions only. You'd have a steady income that wouldn't fluctuate depending on sales."

"I thought your business was just budding?"

Pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers, Harry took a deep breath. "But I have more capital than you."

Severus snorted. "I find that hard to believe."

"My reward for killing Voldemort was quite substantial, so much so that I don't need to work, but I like brewing potions, so I started this shop. It will be lucrative eventually. More so if I can bring you in. But that's not my main goal in offering you the position."

Severus settled one long finger against his lips. "And what, pray tell, is your main goal? The use of my vast potions knowledge to further your research so that you can become even more famous? I'm sure the prospect appeals to you."

"Actually, I just want access to your library. I've seen enough of it over the last week to know that I need those books to further our research. Equal credit, Snape. Take it or leave it."

He didn't move for a moment, his eyes locked with Potter's. As Potter had learned that he needed Severus's library of potion manuscripts, Severus had learned that he needed access to the early research that Potter had done while working in the States with Remus.

The discovery that he needed Potter was disconcerting enough to make him ill. The discovery that he wanted to work with Potter was enough to shock him into moving. Without a word, Severus turned on his heel and stomped out of the shop.

He managed to hear Potter's sigh before the door closed behind him.


"Harry, stop."

Shaking his head, Harry rubbed at his tired eyes. "Can't. I'm almost there, Hermione. I can feel it. Something is going to work, and if I go to sleep, then I'll never get there."

Hermione sighed. "You're in the same place that I left you last night when I left. Hours after the store closed, mind you."

"I'm not. I've made it through 3 trial base runs. That's-" Harry squeezed his eyes shut for a minute. "That's about 12 hours of work."

"Physical place, Harry.
Why are you pushing yourself so hard? I just don't understand. You can't love potions that much." She sounded worried.

Harry swallowed. His throat felt incredibly dry all of a sudden, as did his eyes. Any moment they were going to start watering, he just knew it. "I'm fine, Hermione, really. Can you just get me some coffee, please? Strong and black preferably. Thanks."

Huffing and muttering that she was going to get Ron and maybe even owl Severus, Hermione took off through the door, snapping at Justin to keep an eye on their boss while she ran her assigned errand.

There was a long pause before Justing came over. "You all right, Harry?"

Harry sighed. "Fine, Justin. You know Hermione. She just worries."


Harry realised that he wasn't tired enough to miss the uncertainty lacing Justin's words.


It was all wrong. All of it. Three nights of steady work and it was all shot to hell because of one fucking faulty reaction.

He'd never look at another fucking potion again. He swore it.


"I knew something was wrong. I shouldn't have gone to get the coffee like he asked. I knew, Ron!" Hermione drew in a shaky breath. 'I should have just grabbed his arm and Apparated him straight to his flat, but I didn't. Why didn't I?"

Ron ran his hand up Hermione's back. "Come on, love, I'm sure it's not as bad as all that. It was probably an accident. You've seen what Neville manages to get himself into, it's probably something just like that."

Hermione stiffened. "He flung the cauldron across the room, Ron! Justin was there. He could have destroyed the whole building! He was too tired to focus properly. Stressed out from all the work he's been doing and the dead ends he keeps slamming up against. I've been watching him, but I haven't done anything!" Hermione finally collapsed against Ron's chest and sobbed.

Not knowing what to say to any of that, or maybe knowing that nothing he could say would stop her tirade, Ron combed his fingers through Hermione's hair and just let her cry it all out against his jumper. It wasn't like Harry was going to die, or like he burned the whole shop to the ground. A minor explosion in a room designed for containment of a blast wasn't something to get as worked up about as his wife seemed to think.

Harry hadn't done the smartest thing, but a bloke had to let out his frustration somehow, and Ron knew that Harry certainly wasn't doing so in the sack. He'd told him that much.

That's what he'd have to do then. First, he'd go to Harry and ask about taking Hermione on vacation. He had some time due to him at work, and Hermione probably did as well. Then when they got back, he'd start setting Harry up on dates. He was certain that there'd have to be a handful of eager blokes willing to boff Harry Potter.

The door to the lounge opened and Snape stalked through. "Do stop your caterwauling, Granger. The imbecile will live yet, I'm told. Nothing can do in the magnificent Potter. If blowing up a building didn't keep him down for long, I doubt a little conflagration like this would do it."

Pulling a handkerchief out of her pocket, Hermione sniffled into it before coughing a bit and smoothing out her skirt. At least she was trying to pull herself together even if her eyes were still red and puffy and her face was all splotchy. Ron loved her anyway. He pressed a kiss into her hair.

"Severus, you came!" Hermione pulled in another shaky breath. "I'm so glad. You've got to talk to Harry. He's pushing himself too hard. It's not even clear why."

"Nothing in this universe or any other will ever be able to explain Potter, it's a fruitless endeavour. You could spend the rest of your days aimlessly striving toward that goal and all you'll meet is failure."

"Severus!" A bit of the worry had left Hermione's voice only to be replaced with exasperation.

"Do shut it, Granger, I was in the middle of a tirade about Potter."

Hermione glared. "Why can't you do something to help him?"

Severus sighed and stalked to the door of Harry's room. Pushing it open, he poked his head through and growled, "I accept your damn offer, Potter, so stop trying to blow yourself up. It causes Granger to suffer a nervous breakdown, and I don't want her medical bills diminishing the amount of my pay. I'll start Monday at 7 o'clock. I expect you to be there."


"Finch-Fletchley, you're free to go once you bottle those three potions you've been working on. Label the boxes, but leave them out for Creevy to shelf in the morning. Those will now be standard stock potions that you'll be responsible for keeping track of."

"Yes, sir. I'll do that and then be on my way. Have a good night, sir."

Severus grunted as Justin walked through the door separating Snape's lab from Harry's.

Justin smiled at Harry where he was standing over a sheaf of parchments scribbling on them with one of his pens. "See you tomorrow, Harry. Don't work too hard."

"Thanks, Justin, have a good night yourself." Harry looked up. "Hey, how is Su Li working out?"

"She's doing fine. Not so comfortable around Snape, though."

Harry hummed. "Think she can handle some calming draughts and Pepper-Up on her own?"

Justin nodded. "Thinking of keeping her around? We've been even busier since Snape came on board."

"I've been thinking about it. Hermione comes back next week, but from Ron's conversation, it sounds like I might have to have her working the front for a while." Harry lifted a finger to his lips and winked.

Justin laughed.

The door separating the labs swung open as Severus stalked through. "Potter, I demand that the next person you hire be a former Slytherin and older than yourself."

Harry shook his head. "Goonight, Justin."

Justin made good on the opening for his escape.

Turning back to look at Severus, Harry said, "I'll think about it." He pushed away from the bench and follwed Severus back into his lab. Looking over his shoulder into the cauldron, Harry tried to figure out what the man was working on.

Snape was shaking his head. "This isn't working either. I'll have to scrap the whole lot, I can't even rework it into something that we can sell."

Harry paused and picked up the piece of paper lying on the top of the bench. "But will it kill plants?"

"What?" Severus glared.

"Sprout wants a miracle growing fertilizer. If it won't kill plants, than we might be able to use it as a base for that, or at least as a starting point. If your ingredient list is anything to go by, anyway."

Just tell the old cow to spread some threstral dung on them and be done with it. I don't have time for that silly old bint."

"You want to write the letter to her or shall I?" Harry rolled his eyes.

Harry couldn't tell if Severus gave a huff or a small laugh. "You, of course, I only get paid to brew custom orders and conduct important research."

"When is your contract up for negotiations, again?"

"We decided that I was free to go whenever you became too much of a bother, which I can now guess will be precisely one week after we finish our research which will give me just enough time to steal all of it and claim it for my own."

Harry laughed.


Harry pulled down a silver cauldron and poured some water from his wand into it.

"What are you doing, Potter?"


"On a love potion?
I can't think of anything else you'd currently be working on that requires a silver cauldron. It's obviously not Wolfsbane related."

"Think outside of the box, Severus." Pulling a piece of paper from his pocket, Harry eyed it before going over to the shelves and finding the pre-measured ingredients he had Su Li prepare before she left for the day.

"I believe the goal of this research was to keep a werewolf's health from deteriorating due to long term exposure to Wolfsbane."

"Yes, we're working on combating the effects of Wolfsbane poisoning. Your point?" Harry poured the contents of one jar into the cauldron and watched it bubble for a minute before adding the next as he stirred counter-clockwise.

"I don't believe that switching Wolfsbane poisoning with silver poisoning will be conducive to our research, Potter."

"You're probably right, Severus. Good thing that what I'm doing won't lead to silver poisoning in a werewolf."

How do you know?"

Harry spooned the next component slowly keeping a close watch on the colour. After it turned a muddy red, Harry looked up. "It's an old potion; one of the bases that I worked with about four or five years ago."

Severus took his cauldron off the heat and set it aside before walking over to where Harry was working. Leaning against the opposing table, he watched Harry weigh ingredients and add them into a second cauldron with an acidic base solution slowly heating in its depth. Turning back to the silver cauldron, he stirred it again before turning the heat down.

The glass titration set with its basic solution was already ready, and Harry moved the small cauldron under it. His fingers turned the small glass knob slowly, letting a stream of blue liquid fall into the cauldron until he reached 30 millilitres and then he turned it off before setting it to drip one drop every 5 seconds.

The formula came out of Harry's pocket again. "Are you just going to stare at me all night?"

"I am not staring at you; I am watching your experiment in progress."

"Sure." Formula back in pocket, Harry moved to grab another stirring rod. He let it slip through his fingers until he grasped the small ball at the end between his thumb and forefinger. The ball at the opposite end had just touched the top of the liquid, and Harry pulled it back out. Placing the drop on a small glass slide, Harry held it up to the light.

"Expecting to find little organisms wondering around in your still acidic sludge, Potter?"

"Nope. And don't tell me you've never done this, I've seen you."

Severus huffed. "But you've an entire process that makes no sense."

"It makes perfect sense to me. Besides, you're one to talk, half the things you do make no sense to me." Harry repeated the process with the stirring rod three more times, five minutes apart. "Hah, the bead is holding." Stopping the titration, Harry moved the cauldron out from under the glass pipe and started to pour it into the mixture inside the silver cauldron.

"So tell me, Potter, did this cack actually work?"

"Depends upon your definition of work."


Harry shrugged. "It didn't do what I had originally hoped it would, but yes, it worked in its own fashion." Harry grabbed a thick glass spoon in his hand and slipped it into the mix to start stirring. For some reason beyond his understanding, Severus found himself interested in the way that Harry stirred. Which was ridiculous. He stirred just the same. Or did he?

Harry had a casual hold on the handle of the spoon. The grip allowed for the handle to slide through his fist as the potion resisted the movement-- quite unlike Severus's own firm grip that met the resistance and forced the potion to mix.

Unexpected - to Severus alone, apparently - the potion started to congeal and Harry pulled the spoon out.

"It'll be ready to work with in the morning. You done?" Harry waved at the cooled cauldron that Severus had set aside when he went to watch Harry work.

"In a moment." He moved back to his cauldron and decanted the now clear liquid into a glass beaker and held it up to the light looking for any cloudy residue. There was none. Perfect.

"Want me to wait?"

"For what?"

I thought that we could maybe grab a bit to eat at the Leaky Cauldron before calling it an evening. I skipped lunch, and so did you."

Severus didn't agree verbally, just nodded and set about to scraping the precipitate out of the bottom of his cauldron before filling it with soapy water. Rolling up his sleeves, Severus scrubbed the cauldron quickly and rinsed it before setting it out to dry overnight.

When he turned around, he was surprised to find Harry staring at him. "What is so fascinating, Potter?"

Harry shrugged. "You make cleaning cauldrons look so easy. Not like school."

"This was easy because the reaction proceeded as planned. Things rarely proceeded as planned while teaching a room full of--"'

"Dunderheads." Harry finished for him. "I'm sure. I'll never teach. I hate it."

Severus shrugged, and grabbing Harry's shoulder, he directed him out of the lab before his eyes lit on something else he wanted to do before leaving. "You are buying, you realise that, Potter."


It was easier working in the same lab after closing, Harry thought before calling out "Was that the type B that you were working on last night?"

Severus raised one eyebrow. "I left my brewing diary on your desk, why don't you tell me."

Harry looked up and glared from where he was rolling the now putty-like solid out into a thin layer.

"Yes, Potter, it was." Severus paused in his next step to watch Harry for a moment. "What are you doing? Making cookies?"

Harry shook his head. "No. Can I have about 100 millilitres of the type B when it's ready?"

"Whatever for?"

For the experiment I'm running. I already have a sample of type F and type M. Those are the ones that I think will work best. So can I?"

Severus nodded.


Once again, Severus found his eyes drawn to Harry's hands and the way they were cutting the opaque putty into neat squares. Pulling two vials out of his pockets, Harry started pouring the liquid into a makeshift cup that he created out of the squares.

Severus shook his head. He'd never understand Potter. Ever.


Harry dropped a Knut-sized disk onto Severus's desk. "It's a week before the full moon. You've anyone lined up?"

"A handful, as we've agreed. Why and what is this?"

"The stuff I want to try out. The disk will dissolve on the tongue. It's that weird experiment that you've been watching me run. The putty acts as a purifier, or a magnet if you'd rather, it pulls the non essential components out of the solution and absorbs them - including the water - and congeals the rest into a homogenous mixture."

"And what gave you this great idea?"

Harry ducked his head, but Severus could still see the flush climbing up neck and behind his ears. "Nothing. Just a crazy idea I had one night."

Very curious. Severus narrowed his eyes. "I see. Are you sure?"

"That I want to test it? Of course."

Severus sighed. "All right, Potter, we'll test it."

"Thanks, Severus."


Hermione coughed. "Severus is packing up his desk, Harry. What happened?"

Harry looked up from the collection of data they'd collected from their trials with the werewolves over the last few months. Hermione looked worried. "What?"

"He has a box and he's putting all of his things into it."

A lump settled into the pit of Harry's stomach and pushed off the stool he was sitting on. "Watch that," he snapped.

Harry rushed into the offices and stared at Severus as he placed object after object into the box that Hermione had mentioned.. "What are you doing?"


"Why?! You're not allowed to quit."

Severus gave a heartless laugh. "It's over, Potter. You win."

"Win what?"

"Everything. You're the one that solved the mystery. It was your gelatinous muck that made the whole thing possible."

"But I couldn't have done it without you." Harry swallowed. "We needed the type B to make it work. My gelatinous muck didn't work by itself."

"If I remember correctly, you were highly involved in creating type B. My overall contribution to project was less than yours. You shall have the glory."

"I don't want the damn glory! I've enough of that."

"Of course, how could I forget? Potter, the martyr. Always so willing to sacrifice the limelight." Placing the last bauble from his desk (a gleaming silver paperweight that Potter had given him for Christmas) Severus shoved the lid on the box and straightened. "Maybe I don't want you to share the spotlight this time, Potter. This way I get out of helping you write the paper."

"The paper is nothing now that the research is done. We've spent months working together on this, and just because I remembered some stupid accident that happened back when I was first starting and turned it around to work for us, you get all huffy. I thought that we were in on this together."

Severus shrugged and picked up the box. Without looking back, he walked out of the office area and out of Potter's potions shop.


Aconite Vacuus
Severus Snape and HJ Evans
A look into the possible solution for a Wolfsbane Potion equivalent without long-term degenerative effects on subject.

Severus slammed the journal down onto his desk.

Bloody Potter. He just couldn't leave well enough alone.


"What the hell were you thinking, you bloody fool?" Severus slammed the journal down on the bar.

Harry blinked up blearily at him. "Severus, I don't know what fantasies you've been entertaining, but I guarantee you that the last place I want to be is at a bar with you drinking and discussing things."

Severus snatched the whiskey glass cradled in Potter's hands and slid it back toward Tom. "He's not to have another drop, do you hear me?"

Tom nodded and quaffed the remaining whiskey himself before turning and sliding the glass into the tub of soapy water he kept behind the bar.

"That wasn't on, you know. Stealing a man's alcohol like that."

"You wrote the paper and put my name on it, you idiot."

Harry shrugged. "Mine was on there as well, in case you didn't notice."

"Mine was first. I don't know what kind of imbecile you are-"

"I couldn't have done it without you, all right. I never would have thought to try the putty if it wasn't for you. So just shut your mouth and enjoy it, you cranky wanker." Harry tilted his head toward Tom. "Hey, can I have another?"

Severus pulled his wand behind Harry and pointed it at Tom.

Tom coughed. "Sorry, Harry, but your mate there doesn't want you to have anymore, and I think that maybe he's right."

Harry was about to protest, but Tom took off, muttering an apology about how a customer at a table in the back was signalling for his attention.

"You're a right shit, Severus, you know that."

"You have a tendency toward alcoholism. I will not support your addiction."

Harry harrumphed and pushed himself away from the bar. "That's all right. Bloody fine. I'll just go and see Ron and Hermione. The baby is almost here, you know. Just a couple more months. Ron and I will share a celebratory drink." Sighing, Harry slid to the floor.

"How much did he have?" Severus glowered at Tom.

"Dunno, six or seven, neat."

"That's just bloody perfect. Help me get him into a room upstairs. NOW!" Severus snapped when Tom hesitated. "Unless you want an unconscious Potter to be photographed in your pub looking half dead. Just think of the way that blasted Skeeter woman could spin that story."

Jumping into action, Tom grabbed Harry under one arm while Severus managed the other and between the two of them, they dragged his body up the stairs and down the hall. Harry only managed to lose one trainer on the way.


"I think I'm going to be ill." Rolling onto his side, Harry curled into as compact a position as possible, hugging his sides and rocking.

"Tell me, Potter, when was the last time that you drank?"

"Three years, two months and 12 days."

Severus quirked an eyebrow.

"Shut up."

Dropping an ice pack on Harry's head, Severus leaned back and watched Harry groan and whinge. "Do not think that your theatrics will get you out of this situation, Potter. You're a grown man, and it's about time that someone held you accountable for your actions."

"You're treating me as if I was a sixteen year old little shit again. I'm not."

Huffing, Severus moved to the doorway and crossed his arms. "If you want to be treated like the adult that you say you are, Potter, it would behoove you to behave as one. This does, unfortunately for your diminutive behavioural intellect, mean that throwing a fit, publishing a paper under a name that you had no permission to use, and then proceed to get pissed out of your bloody mind are not things that you should do." He slammed the door on the way out.


Yorkshire was quieter and the need for a quality brewer in the area allowed Severus to set up shop quickly and start, not a booming business, but one that allowed him to keep his head above water, at least. He would never have the knack for marketing that came naturally to Potter, and he disdained "sales".

The snow in winter was the largest pitfall to the whole mess. The greying slush stuck to his boots and the edges of his robes as he climbed the hill to small shop he kept huddled next to other Wizarding shops outside of Hull, away from the prying eyes of Muggles with their questions about noxious smells and visits from health inspectors.

He banged the toe of his boot on the bottom step before climbing the three steps onto the landing to unlock the door. The only problem was that the door was already unlocked. Drawing his wand, he edged inside and stood still, letting the darkness shield him. There were reasons that he always wore black and at least the bit of snow that had fallen was no longer shining bright on his robe, having melted away.

Someone was moving about in the back of the shop where Severus did his research. He cursed. He'd just published the first of a series of articles in the Journal for Therapeutic Potions last month and, no doubt, someone was trying to steal it all! Wand out, he pushed the door open, only to find Harry sodding Potter sitting behind his desk, stocking-clad feet propped up on the work surface, thumbing through his notes.

"What the bloody fuck do you think that you're doing, Potter?"

Potter shrugged. "Well, I was looking for you, but I got here too early for your shop to be open, and, in case you didn't notice, it's blistering cold outside--" He closed the notebook, keeping his finger trapped tight between the pages. If he got any grease or dirt or Merlin knew what else on the pages, Severus would kill him. "Why the fuck did you pick Yorkshire of all places to move to? It's miserable."

"And without a proper brewer since my mother passed. There was a need to be filled. I had the talent and the inclination. And as long as your little shop remains in business, Diagon Alley will not be a suitable location for me to do business." Severus moved to turn up the other lamps in the office. "Now, if you don't mind, please see yourself off. And if you manage to slip on your way down the steps and break your neck, I'd appreciate it. Yorkshire is bloody miserable."

Potter chuckled. "At least you still retained your sense of humour." He paused to lick his lips. "I read your article."

"Excuse me if I'm not surprised. You do, after all, subscribe to the journal it was published in."

"You didn't have to send in that retraction regarding the Aconite Vaccus."

"I assume the sales are well? Since you still own the proprietary rights to the formulae and no other brewer can make it, you must be making quite a pretty penny."

"Not really. I sell it at cost including brewing time. No profit whatsoever to speak of. I don't want to make money off of it. I worked on it for Remus." He paused. "I'm not the only one who can brew it. The rights on the formulae contain your name as well, you know. A retraction in a scholarly journal can't change that." Raising his hand to the back of his neck, Harry gave a sheepish grin. "I might have forgotten to mention that fact the last time that we talked."


"It's not like you have to sell it at cost. Charge as much as you like. It's not what I came here to discuss."

Severus grabbed the utility apron off the hook and made his way into his lab, pushing up the sleeves of his shirt as he went. "I don't think that we have anything to discuss, Potter. You got yourself in, now you can get yourself out."

Potter followed him into the back lab. "We do, actually. I never explained why I was so upset at you."

"I believe it was decided that it was due to your immaturity."

"No. You decided that it was due to my immaturity. I decided that I was upset that all of it only meant the potion to you."

"Do attempt to make sense, Potter."

"All that time and the only thing that you cared about was the potion. That the research came out. You were narked when it wasn't you that figured it all out, but what you don't get is that it was because of you." Harry drew in a deep breath. "All those conversations on theory and application and everything else. I couldn't have refined the technique for the purifier if it weren't for those, and I never would have though of a two component system if we hadn't worked so well together."

Severus turned away from the table that he was staring at and focused on Harry. He was looking down at the juvenile trainers that he still insisted on wearing and pulling at a loose thread hanging from his sleeve. "Your meaning?"

Harry shifted. "Well, once we got over the initial bumps, we worked well together. You had more theoretical knowledge on how everything worked, but I had these stupid ideas that weren't accepted. It was still trial and error, but I say that the stupid ideas would never have come about without you there to tell me how stupid and idiotic they were and that I should do something productive with my brewing time. It made me want to prove you wrong, see?"

"Not in the slightest."

Groaning, Harry turned away. "Well, no one can say that I didn't try. By the way, Hermione and Ron are looking into buying a house near Leeds. Ron's been transferred to the Auror force there and Hermione was hoping that you may want to hire her."

"And the silly bint can't ask me herself?"

"She thinks that you're still mad that she left your shop in Diagon for mine. I do suggest that you hire her as a brewer primarily. It'd be a waste otherwise." Harry stepped out of the lab, and Severus listened for the banging of first his office door and then the jangle of the bell over the front door as it opened and closed.

Leaving the lab, Severus collapsed into his chair behind his desk and opened the research that he'd taken with him from Harry's shop to start reading it over.


"What are you doing out here, Potter?" The noise of Granger's and Weasley's housewarming party drifted out of their new house. It was much quieter and there were no obnoxious former students that he had to deal with. Just Harry.

Harry shrugged and pushed off of the tree he was leaning against. "Catching my death, no doubt. Go ahead, lecture. I'm waiting for it."

Shaking his head, Severus brushed past Harry and looked down the hill toward the lights of Hull glinting in the distance. "I could care less if you do."


Severus knew he moment that Harry came to stand next to him, but not from any innate sense of the man's presence, he told himself. It was just that the wind died down on his right, and Severus could feel the heat radiating off Harry from where he was standing. "Yes."

"I read your rebuttal of my recent work."

"Well, someone had to point out your idiocy."

"You could do it better and more often in London." Harry's shoulder bumped Severus's arm.

Looking over, Severus caught sight of Harry looking at him from the corner of his eye. His face was still turned toward the orange glow of the city, but his attention was completely on their conversation. It was rather pleasing, in Severus's opinion, not that he would ever tell Harry such a thing. "I cannot leave the new shop. We've expanded."

Harry's eyes left him and a bit more colour crept into his already red stained cheeks. "Yeah, I guess that makes sense. It seems like quite the thing. You wouldn't be having this party in the bitter cold of February if that wasn't the case. Doesn't mean that a bloke can't wish." He paused. "I could always come and work for you."

He couldn't help himself. The tiniest chuckle escaped from between Severus's lips. "You're the better businessman, Potter. Your shop in Diagon is more successful that I would have ever managed to make mine, and it's not the novelty of buying potions from you that made it that way. You're decent at it, truth be told."

"That's practically a compliment."

"Well, do not get used to them. I have every intention of pointing out your idiocy whenever possible."

"Over dinner?"

Severus stopped and turned to look at Harry through narrowed eyes. Harry's fists were stuffed into his pockets and he'd pulled up his scarf so that it hid the lower half of his face from view as well, and the hat perched on Harry's head did the rest. It couldn't hide his slumped shoulders or the way the toe of his boot was pushing the snow into small pile in front of him. "Dinner?" Severus asked.

"Yeah, dinner. Better than flirting through a scholarly journal, don't you think?"

"I do not flirt."

Harry glanced at him for a single second. "But I do. Don't make me embarrass myself, all right."

Severus snorted. "Oh, I don't know, Potter, I think you're doing a marvelous job so far."

"You're a right git." He coughed. "I wouldn't mind dinner, you know. I wouldn't mind a bit more than dinner, actually, but I'll settle for dinner."

"Settle for it?"

"Yeah. I figure I can work on you until you give in. It worked before, didn't it?" Harry shrugged again and looked up until he caught Severus's gaze. "Didn't it?"

"I believe I only gave in because you practically blew yourself and your lab up."

Harry's grin got a bit bigger. "I could try doing that again."

"I would not recommend such a course of action."

"If it gets the desired results. We brewers are an unscrupulous lot, you know."

The silence that fell between them wasn't as uncomfortable as Severus thought it would be. Everything uncomfortable about it was focused on the fact that Severus could not manage to stop looking at Potter. He'd missed their repartee as well. He hated the whelp for that.

Harry shuffled from one foot to another and then coughed. "You--"

"Shut up, Potter; I'm thinking."

Harry's tongue darted out to moisten his dry lips.

Severus nodded, decision made. "I do not approve of fraternizing with a colleague."

"Right." Harry turned away.

"Which is why you cannot, under any circumstances, come to work for me."

A grin turned up the corner of Harry's lips. "I thought it was because I was a good businessman."

"Don't argue with me, Potter."

"Flirt. I think I'm flirting, but if you want me to stop."

Severus's hand fisted in the scarf at Harry's throat. "Don't."


They didn't notice the snow start to fall as they kissed.