Title: Eighth Year

Author: The Snowman

Giftee: Dementordelta

Word Count: 30,750

Rating: Adult

Pairing: Harry/Snape

Warnings: none

Disclaimer:All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: With Harry's luck, it would all go pear shaped and he'd end up married to Snape.

Author's Notes: Totally EWE.  Many, many thanks to my betas who will be named later, but all made this story much better. 
 
 

Part 1

***** 

Snape rubbed the back of his neck, his fingers ghosting over the raised scars from the snake bite.  The damage was beyond anything magic could repair, but he supposed he could live with it.  The alternative was something less than appealing. 
  
The door to his office opened, and he swore softly as Horace Slughorn glided in, waving the latest issue of the Prophet.   
 
"Let me guess," Snape said, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest.  "Mr. Wood has issued another scathing editorial on the evils of Slytherin House."  
 
Slughorn settled into the wooden chair in front of Snape's desk, and the chair groaned under his considerable bulk.  "Yes, Headmaster.  Now, he's calling for the abolishment of Slytherin House at Hogwarts.  He claims he has enough signatures to bring his petition before the Wizgamot.  If only something could be done to stop him."  
 
"Even if they hear him, which I doubt, I hardly think that he's going to win." It was a ridiculous idea.  And in any case, that idiot Wood didn't realize that the house a person was sorted into wouldn't change that person's nature.  
 
"Perhaps not that, but he's encouraging the public to speak out against Slytherins, not to give them jobs and not to sell them goods."  
 
"It's rather ironic that he, such a noted Gryffindor war hero, is now doing the same thing that Voldemort did during the first war with Muggleborns."  And yet, there was a certain amount of support coming around to Wood's way of thinking, even if there wasn't enough yet to cause a problem.  Damn Slughorn anyway for being right.  
 
"You'd think they've all forgotten that not all Slytherins sided with Voldemort.  The only one of us that's escaped Wood's wrath is you."  Slughorn cast an innocent look at Snape 
 
"You needn't give me that look, Horace.  I've done everything I can to convince the fool that he's wrong.  I've pointed out several times that some of the students from Slytherin came back to fight with Potter.  Even fighting against their own parents."  
 
"You might have mentioned the teachers fought bravely, too," Slughorn said, testily.  
 
It had already been a long day.  Was it really only mid-morning?  Snape pinched the bridge of his nose.  "I have done that as well.  He wants someone to blame for the deaths of his parents and uncle."  Snape wasn't completely without compassion, but Wood was taking his grief out on the wrong people.  "If he weren't blaming all Slytherins for his losses, I'd have more sympathy for him."  

"Too right.  He needs to be silenced."  

"The editorials can't be stopped.  He owns the Daily Prophet."  After his beloved uncle was killed, Wood, at the age of twenty-one, inherited full ownership of the  Prophet.   
 
"If only....no, perhaps not," Slughorn said, a little mournfully. 
 
Snape sent him a suspicious glare.  "Well?  What would you suggest?" 

***** 

"Good afternoon, Mr. Potter.  Thank you for coming."  Snape opened the door to his office wider and nodded for Harry to come in. 

 
Harry stepped in and looked closely at Snape.  Even if he wanted something -- and Harry was pretty sure that he did -- that was way too nice for Snape.  It was possible Snape wanted things between them to be less contentious.  And if Snape could play nice, then so could he.   "I have to say, sir, I was curious about the invitation."   

Snape nodded in acknowledgment of the respect, but before he could comment, Harry glanced over to the portraits and saw Dumbledore was in his frame and awake.  He made his way over to say hello.  "Professor.  It's good to see you.  How are you doing?"   

He heard Snape mutter something about portraits not doing anything. 

Dumbledore smiled back, looking pleased to see him.  "Fine.  Fine. My boy.  Are you well?" 

"I'm good.  It looks like I'll be back this coming year to finish up my studies.  I'm hoping I'll have a chance to chat with you."  Because there were some questions that he'd like answers for, such as why he'd had to find out everything from Snape's memories. 

"I'm sure that can be arranged.  But I think Severus wants to speak with you now.  Mustn't keep him waiting."  Dumbledore laughed, and nodded towards Snape. 

"Do have a seat."  Snape waved him to the chairs by the fireplace.  For a man who had been at death's door a few months ago, he looked healthier than Harry could remember him looking in all the time he'd known him.   

"I wanted to go over a few details with you privately about the situation for the coming year," said Snape, smoothing out his robes as he sat down.  
 
"What do you want to tell me?  That I'll get no special favors?"  He didn't expect any favors, but he wanted to make sure he got a fair break.   
 
"Actually, that wasn't what I wanted to talk about."  He cleared his throat.  "We are going to be very crowded this coming year.  Usually between the prefects and teachers, there is enough authority to maintain some sort of order.  However, we're going to have a double class of first year Muggleborns.  And many of the returning Muggleborns are now a year behind their peers." 
 
Harry had been so busy thinking about coming back to finish up his education that it hadn't really occurred to him about what it might be like once he got here.  "I guess it's going to be mad around here." 
 
"Add to that, many of the other children are traumatized from last year."  Snape's expression was more compassionate than Harry would have thought possible.  In fact, Harry was starting to wonder if this weren't someone Polyjuiced to look like Snape.   

"Right.  The Carrows hurt a lot of people."  During the investigation right after the final battle, it had become obvious that Snape had run interference between the students and the Carrows.   But even with it, both Neville and Ginny had told him about the nightmares they'd had all summer.  It was probably worse for many of the other students.

 
"What do you want me to do?" Harry asked.  There wasn't a question that he'd help if he could.

 
"There are several things, actually." 

Several things?  Damn.  He waited for Snape to go on. 

"The first and easiest task will be to help out with the younger students.  As you are no doubt aware, Miss Granger has been recruited to teach first and second year Arithmancy --" 
 
"And you want me to teach first year defense, as well as the D. A.?"  Harry asked.  They must be pretty desperate to have to resort to student teachers. 

"We will provide you with help, of course.  We're asking the rest of the eighth years to act as teaching assistants, or prefects." 

"Eighth years?" He'd never got to be a seventh year. 

"Anyone who was or should have been a seventh year, last year." 

"There's going to be some resistance from the rest of the houses.  And probably a lot from this year's seventh years."  Harry could see the seventh years doing more than pushing back.   

"We've decided to put the eighth years in a separate dormitory.  You won't take part in any of the house rivalries.  There are few enough of you that you'll all fit in the North Tower."  Snape paused.  "And no house sports." 

"No Quidditch?"  Harry sighed at Snape's nod.  "Can we play at all?" 
 
"I thought possibly as inter-house coaches.  You'd work with all the teams." 

That might not be too bad.  Especially working with everyone.  It might start to help heal the wounds caused by the last few years.  "What else?" 

"I want all of you to make an active show of getting along, not just tolerating each other.  And it has to start with you and the other student leaders." 

Student leaders?  Right.  "If you can convince them of that.  Or get them to agree."   Which Harry knew was not going to happen. 

"I'm quite sure that most of them realize that it's in their best interests."  Snape paused. "There's one more thing."   

That Snape was dragging this out did not make Harry happy.  "What?"  Despite everything, he wasn't sure he completely trusted Snape.   

"I don't expect that you know much about a formal Wizarding courtship, do you? 

"Not much beyond that it exists."  When the time came, which it wouldn't for a long time, he'd thought about courting Ginny with one of the old rituals.  But why would Snape care about that? 

"They've fallen out of favor in recent times, but in the past all pureblood marriages started with a formal courtship," Snape said, again looking right at him as if he expected Harry to know something that he was clearly missing.  Snape sighed when he didn't respond. 

"Okay.  Why the history lesson?" Harry finally asked. 

"I believe that a high-profile courtship would show a lot of respect for pureblood traditions and go a long way to heal some of the wounds of the last decade, especially if it were done by non-purebloods."   

Harry could see that going wrong in so many ways.  "You don't think they'd think you were mocking their rituals?" 

"I hope it would be seen in the way it was offered.  As a sign of respect for the old ways." 

"Why should you care about what the purebloods think?  I mean, you're Headmaster now."  This had to have a point, and Harry wanted Snape to get there already. 

"Despite Mr. Wood's concerted efforts, the purebloods still have a lot of power.  It's foolish to alienate them."  It was interesting that Snape thought the days of pureblood dominance were not over, or that they might come back. 

Harry knew he was missing something.  "So, who were you thinking of doing this with?"   

Snape took a breath.  "With you." 

Okay, he hadn't seen that one coming.  It totally explained the new and improved Snape.  He hoped the bastard was getting an ulcer being this nice to him.  "No.  No way in hell.  There is no way I'd ever agree to that."   

"I think this would be an excellent way for both of us to show some solidarity with old traditions," Snape went on as if Harry hadn't spoken, but his voice had lost some of its pleasantness. 
 
Harry shook his head.  He couldn't imagine why Snape thought he'd ever agree to this.  At some point in the future he had every intention of marrying Ginny.   "You already said that.  What part of no didn't you understand?" 

"Don't you understand that this could do a lot of good for a lot of people?"    

That was fine.  But Harry had already sacrificed enough and while he didn't hate or distrust Snape the way he did before, he didn't like him that much, and he really didn't want to marry him.  "I've already done my helping.  I don't think I need to do anymore.  Besides, I don't want to marry you." 

Amazingly, Snape laughed, full out.  He looked...different, better, not nearly so ugly and mean.   It took a second for Snape to catch his breath.  "I should hope not.  For the record, I don't want to marry you either." 

Harry blinked. "Then why are you proposing this?  I mean, doesn't it end in marriage?" 
 
"It does.  However, I hadn't expected that we would do more than begin the ritual.  We would be in the spotlight for a time, focusing on our participation." 
 
"You want to fake a pureblood courtship for the press?"  Harry wondered if he sounded half as appalled as he was. 

"Essentially, yes.  Unless you'd rather do it for real." 
 
"I don't plan to do it at all.  What made you think I would?" 

"It's in your Gryffindor nature to care about what happens to other people.  To correct the wrongs of the world."  And Snape made it sound like a vice. 

Harry laughed.  "You'd like to think that wouldn't you?  Especially when you want something from me.  I'm not ready to get married."  Especially not to Snape.  It was too much to ask. 

Snape gave him a look that said he was being selfish. "As I said, we won't complete the courtship --" 
 
"We're not going to start it, either.  It's nothing against you," Harry lied.  He wasn't even going to think about that part.  "I don't want to be involved with anyone."  Except that it might be interesting to participate, especially if he wasn't going to have to finish it.   With his luck, something would go wrong and he'd end up married to Snape.  

"There's the matter of the life debt you owe me," Snape said, baldly.   

That was very true.  Even though he'd done a lot for Snape in the last few months, the debt between them was not close to being satisfied.  Snape had just done so much for him over the years and, yes, he'd been a bastard while he was doing it, but he still had done it.  "There has to be another way." 

"There isn't.  I will make it worth your while."  Snape's tone was sly. 

As much as Harry didn't want to seem like he might even consider it, he didn't see how he could avoid it.  Besides there was something about the courtship idea that appealed to him.   "I need a better reason than helping people.  I've already done that once.  What else are you offering?" 

The smile on Snape's face wasn't pretty and it made Harry's stomach clench a bit.  Bargaining with a snake might not be the cleverest idea ever, but Harry suddenly wanted to see what concessions he could win from Snape.   

"What about help with your potions N.E.W.T.S.?  Even as hopeless as you are in the subject, if you're willing to listen to me and study, I will guarantee that you pass with an 'O'," Snape said with the confidence to make Harry believe it possible. 

Bloody Hell.  If he wanted to be an Auror, and he did, that was something he was going to need.  Harry had fairly certain knowledge that Snape was a horrible teacher, but the Half-Blood Prince had been as good as Snape was bad.  "That might be a good start.  What else are you offering me?"

"What else do you want?  I doubt you'll need my help in Defense.  And I won't help you do anything that's wrong or immoral." 

As if Harry would ask for anything like that.  "I don't want you to be nasty to me and my friends anymore." 

"You must realize I have to maintain discipline amongst the students.  I can't favor you, especially if we're courting."  He met Harry's eyes.  "I won't." 

If they were courting, he'd expect to be favored, at least a little.  He could see by the set of Snape's jaw that he wasn't going to give Harry any leeway.  "I'm not asking that you favor us, just be fair.  Are you going to be teaching, too?" 

"Unfortunately, the only teacher I was able to retain for Defense this term is woefully inexperienced.  I'll be handling N.E.W.T.S. level Defense for seventh and eighth years. So that you and the other students have a chance of passing it."   

As the Wizarding world dug out from the wreckage of Voldemort, there was a shortage of all kinds of people.  "Well, we'll all be taking that.  I want you to give us an even break." 

"There's no reason to victimize you and your friends any longer.  However, you will tell no one of this."  Snape pointed a long pale finger at him.  "Or I promise you I will make your life a living hell."  His expression changed, becoming expectant.  "Do you agree to the courtship?  To courting me." 
 
"Wait.  Courting you?  I thought you were going to court me." 

"It needs to be initiated by the student in a student-teacher courtship." 

Nothing was ever easy, was it?  Harry let out a long slow breath.  "You know, I just can't believe you actually expect me to court you?" 

"I do expect it.  Or I might have to remind you again of that life debt.  But it won't come to that, will it?" 

Closing his eyes, Harry counted to ten.  While he was intrigued by the idea of the courtship, in and of itself, he was not enamored of the idea of courting Snape.  That said, he did owe the bastard and they both knew it.   "Just until school ends.  And only if I can get Ginny to agree to it." 
 
"Why?  I'm not going to court her." 

 
"But I am.  Eventually.  I've hardly had a chance to live without Voldemort hanging over my head.  I'd like to enjoy my life before I commit to anything else."  Harry wasn't interested in getting married now, but he wanted to keep his options open.  Ginny was one of those options. 

"So, do you agree?" 

"I want something for myself in return for all of this." 
 
"Aside from the potions help, and being nice to your friends, what else do you want?"  Snape closed his eyes and his jaw tightened, but he didn't explode.   
 
"I want you to teach me to fly," Harry said.  The look on Snape's face was priceless.   
 
"What?" Snape choked.  "That is so...frivolous." 
 
"Exactly.  I'm going to work hard this year, but I want something fun to do, too."  He hoped that the coming year would be fun and normal.  That was really the one thing he wanted more than anything else.  Well, except maybe to have a year at school where no one tried to kill him or his friends. 
 
Snape shook his head, his expression exasperated.  "All right, I will make time to teach you to fly.  It's actually not that hard.  It just takes a bit of concentration and a lot of power." 

 
"You do know that I prefer women?" At least, he thought he did.  But it was probably better for Snape to think that he knew it for sure. 
 
"As I said, it doesn't matter.  The courtship mostly consists of taking long walks and talking about what we want our lives together to be like." 
 
The idea of planning out his life sounded so foreign.  He'd never had a chance to even think about it before.  "Since we're not going to be living together ever --" 
 
"I'm sure we'll find things to talk about.  Or not.  All I care about is that we announce the courtship and then are seen together and seeming to be of an accord." 

Nothing in his life to this point ever worked that well.  And as much as he hoped that would change, he wasn't convinced that it would.  "What's the catch?" 
 
"There isn't one.  Unless you count the asking."  Snape smiled at him and it wasn't a nice smile at all.  "You have to do it.  In front of the entire school." 
 
"Great," Harry said, his stomach starting to churn.  That should be loads of fun. 
 
"On your knees." 

Of course.  Because it had to be the maximum humiliation for him.  "Fine.  You should get a kick out of that." 

"It's for the greater good." 

Yeah.  Right.  It was always for the greater good.  "All of this because Oliver is being a jerk?" 
 
"Not only because of him.  Though I would say that Mr. Wood always did have the unfortunate tendency to speak before he thought.  It's a typical Gryffindor trait."  Snape looked pointedly at Harry. 
 
In this case, he agreed with Snape about Oliver, even if he didn't about the rest of his statement.    "Hermione is furious with him.  He's shooting his mouth off without even knowing what he's talking about.  Some of the Slytherins did come back to fight with me." 

"Not enough of them to satisfy him." 

 
"I still can't believe he's calling for dissolving Slytherin House at Hogwarts.  It's insane." 

"Not to mention painting all of us as evil." 
 
"All except you.  You're the shining star of Slytherin.  Of course, Oliver's saying that you were so brave that you should have been sorted into Gryffindor." 

"As I said, he's stupid and insulting.  However, too many people are listening to him." 
 
"Which is why I'm agreeing to do this."  Harry met his eyes.  "And this will clear the debt between us?" 

"Yes.  Read up on the ritual.  I think we should start the second week of classes." 

"Besides Ron and Hermione, who else is coming back?" Harry asked.  If he was going to have to deal with this, knowing in advance who would be there would help. 
 
"Several students were able to take their N.E.W.T.S. at the end of the summer.  There are less than two dozen from all houses who for one reason or another will need to complete their seventh year.  Neville Longbottom, Millicent Bulstrode, Blaise Zabini -- both of whom, if you remember, were among those that fought on your side. 

Harry nodded.  "I was surprised that any of the Slytherins actually came back.  I was expecting all of them to act like Parkinson." 

"Unfortunately, she is coming back, too."  It was pretty clear from his tone that Snape wished she wasn't. 
 
"You're going to let her?"  Because if there were one student not to let back in school, it would be her.  He still had nightmares where she stood up and pointed him out to Voldemort and no one stood in his defense.   
 
"Her grandmother thought that she'd be safer here." 

 
"If someone doesn't kill her." 
 
"I doubt that will happen.  There are still a few Voldemort supporters and their children are coming to Hogwarts.  She'll find others to support her cause." 
 
Unless he was given no choice, he'd just stay out of her way.  "Who else is coming back?"  

"Michael Corner, the Patil twins and Ernest McMillan and Hannah Abbott.  And Draco Malfoy." 

"Malfoy?"  Harry hadn't heard much about any of the Malfoys all summer.  He'd testified at Narcissa's trial and the account of what their life had been like under Voldemort seemed like punishment enough for all of them.   He'd said that in interviews, and between that and the public apology issued by the Malfoys, public opinion had eased to indifference. 

"I'll ask that you be civil to him this year.  I'm going to ask him the same thing." 
 
If Malfoy were civil to him, then Harry could be too.  "What about Goyle?"   
 
"He is coming back, as well." 

"You know, all I really wanted from this year was to get in trouble for not doing my homework." 
 
"If you're not going to do your homework, then why are you bothering to come back." 
 
"Now who's being dense?  It was just --"  He stood.  "I want to get through a whole year without anyone trying to kill me." 

"I hope that I can promise you that."  Snape stood as well.  "Are we of an accord?"  He held out his hand for Harry to shake. 

Harry took it.  Snape's palm was rougher than Harry would have expected.  "Yeah. I think we are."   

He moved towards the door, and then grinned.  "How hard was it to be this nice to me?" 
 
Snape bowed slightly.  "Harder than you can imagine." 
 
***** 

"It was so weird.  He didn't try to bait me at all.  He did, however, ask me to do a couple of things.  Like teach defense," Harry said, resisting the urge to get up and pace around the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. 
 
"Well, you knew he was going to ask that after he asked me to teach Arithmancy.  You agreed, didn't you?" Hermione asked, opening her sandwich and taking the tomatoes off it.  "What else did he ask you to do?" 

"Of course, I agreed.  The big thing was this formal courtship thing he wants me to do with him."  Harry hadn't had a chance to look up the details. 

"A formal courtship --"  Ron choked on the sandwich he was stuffing into his mouth.  "No way." 

"We're not going to do it for real.  It's a ploy to show us getting along.  And make Slytherin look good in the press."  Even as he said it, he wondered how well it was actually going to work.   

 
"Good thing it's not real.  You wouldn't want to end up married to that git," Ron said.  "Have you told Ginny about this?" 
 
That was a sticky subject.  Harry could feel his face turn red.  "I will.  I was going to go by the Burrow tomorrow.  She's not going to like it, but then, I don't either.  But I owe him."  And even if Ginny didn't agree, he would still owe Snape.   

"Actually, he owes you for a lot of things.  I am surprised he'd even ask."  Ron didn't look pleased about it, either.   

"What was I going to do?  Say no?  You know what Oliver's doing.  And I still owe Snape more than he owes me."  Besides, the courtship itself wasn't the issue; it was the Snape part that he was dubious about. 

"After you testified at his trial, you convinced Kingsley to hire him back as headmaster.  That should have been enough for him."  Even Hermione sounded like she thought he shouldn't have agreed.   
 
"I think he'll do a good job as Headmaster.  It's not going to be easy for the next couple of years.  McGonagall didn't want to do it."  Harry wanted to make sure that Snape had had a shot at a decent life.  After everything, he deserved something good. 

"It's a lot to ask of you.  You saved his life," Ron said.   
 
"I just went to get his body and found he was still alive."  Okay, so it was before he'd got any sleep, but he wasn't going to be able to sleep knowing Snape's body was lying in the dirt of the Shrieking Shack.  Even if he was a bastard, he deserved better than that. 
 
"You got to him in time to get him out of the coma he'd gone into.  If you'd waited, he would have died," said Hermione.   "He owes you a life debt as well." 
 
"What were you thinking, mate?  You should have waited," Ron added with a laugh.  At Hermione stern look, he bristled.  "What?" 

"Ronald, I've told you before that you need to think about what you're saying.  I'm proud of Harry for saving Snape's life."  Hermione's tone was admonishing, usually that annoyed the hell out of Harry. 

Except this time, he agreed with her.  "I wouldn't have wanted Snape to die.  Don't you think that enough people died?"  The thought of anyone else dying made his chest hurt.  And given everything, Ron should feel the same way. 
 
"Fine.  I didn't want him to die, either."  Ron put the sandwich down, and closed his eyes for a second.  "But that doesn't mean I like him any better than I did two years ago." 

"Grow up," Hermione snapped.  "It's silly to continue to hold a school-boy grudge like you are.  Get over it." 

Ron's face went red, and his shoulders tensed up.  "Give it a break.  I'm getting kind of tired of this --" 

"I'm just saying," Hermione's jaw tightened and her voice went up a notch. 

Harry opened his mouth to say something that would hopefully not make the situation worse.  Things between them had been tense for a while now.   

Before he could say anything, Ron tossed his sandwich to his plate and stood.  "Forget it.  I'll see you both later."  He Disapparated.   

The silence after the soft pop stretched out for a moment.   

"What just happened?" Harry asked.   

The look on Hermione's face was a blend of anger and resignation.  "It's the same thing it always is.  He's angry at me for not agreeing to a pureblood marriage contract." 

"What's the problem with it?  I mean, you and he were squabbling all summer over it, and I never understood why."  And he'd avoided asking in hopes they would work it out before it became a big issue.   

"A pureblood contract is for life, with no divorce."  Hermione sounded just appalled by the idea and Harry agreed with her.   

"Surely they don't use anything like that anymore."  Because Harry could not believe they were so short sighted. 

"Bill and Fleur were married using that contract." 

Now that she mentioned it, Harry vaguely remembered that from the wedding, but really, he'd been too distracted right then to worry about the details.  "Aren't there more than one kind of contract?" 

"Of course there are.  There are many variations and some are even worse.  Molly and Arthur have a fidelity clause in their contract.  They can't be unfaithful.  Ron wanted that, too." 

"How could that be enforced?"  Harry shivered.  Now that he thought about it, he'd wished he hadn't because with magic there were way too many possibilities and all of them were bad.   

"I didn't ask, but I'm not going to agree to the equivalent of a magical chastity belt at eighteen."  Hermione sighed.  "And Ron doesn't want to wait to get married, either." 

"What did Ron say about the fidelity clause?" 
 
"That if I wasn't going to cheat on him, it wouldn't be an issue."  She mimicked Ron's whiney tone perfectly.  "I've tried to talk to him, but you know how he is." 

Only too well.  Harry forced a laugh.  "He's being pissy --" 
 
"And possessive.  I hope that once school starts he'll have something else to focus on and relax about the whole marriage thing." 

"I hope so, too.  A lot is going to be going on at school this term."  And Harry was ready to get to it.  He wanted to go on with his life. 

"Speaking of that.  Why did you agree?"  Trust Hermione to know there was more to it than what he'd said. 

Looking back on the conversation, Harry saw that he'd been led along.  Still, he'd won a few concessions from the bastard.  "He forced the issue.  Besides I want to pay him back for everything he's  done for me." 

 
"Is that all?" 

He met her eyes.  "What else could there be?" 

"All of the unresolved issues from the last seven years, perhaps?" 

"I owe him.  We both know that.  He did a lot for me...even if he made my life miserable while he was doing it.  I've misjudged him." And that bothered Harry. He'd completely misread everything Snape had done and his reasons for doing it.  Everything else aside, this was a way to make it up to him. 

 
"Being brave does not make him nice."   

"I know that."  But Harry wanted to try to look beyond it.  Snape had done too much for everyone to keep hating him. What a life Snape led.  He'd never had a chance to be happy.  That just seemed so sad. 

Hermione stood up and reached down to pick up her carry all.  "I should get going home." 

"Not going to talk to Ron again?" 

"I think I've had enough for today."  She Disapparated.   

***** 

"Ginny," Harry called as he jogged into the yard outside the Burrow.  It was late in the day, and the end of summer heat seemed to shimmer in the air.  Ginny walked toward him, carrying her broom.  The hair on her forehead was wet and stuck to her brow.   

She smiled as she saw him, and set down her broom.  "I was practicing.  I'm hoping to play a lot this year.  We didn't play at all last year." 

"I heard.  I'm not going to be playing this year." 

"I heard that from Ron.  It's too bad.  We would have been a great team."  She smiled.  "Maybe we could go a couple of rounds before we go back to school." 

"Sure.  Um...I had a talk with Snape yesterday.  And," he paused and took a breath.  How was he going to put this?  "He wants me to do him a favor to help out the Slytherins." 

"Why?  Why would you bother?" She already didn't sound happy.   

"Because they are not all bad.  And you should know that."  He was surprised he'd even have to say it to her. 

"There's a lot more bad there than good, that's for sure.  I don't think I need to remind you who made up most of Voldemort's ranks?"  She folded her arms over her chest.   

"You're starting to sound a lot like Oliver Wood." 
 
"He's very upset.  But sometimes, he does make a lot of sense." 

"He's condemning all people just because they were sorted into a house.  That doesn't really make sense."  And Harry could not believe he was having this conversation with Ginny.   

She let out a long sigh.  "I know sometimes he goes over the top.  I don't think they should abolish Slytherin House, but you know, a lot of them aren't nice people."   

"That doesn't mean they should be persecuted."  Harry sighed too.  "I don't want to argue about Slytherin, except that I'm going to do this favor for Snape." 

Her eyes narrowed.  "What does Snape want you to do?" 

"Some kind of formal courtship --" 

"What?  You're joking?  I can't believe you'd leave me for Snape!"  Her voice rose up a notch. 

"I didn't leave you --" 
 
She took a breath and nodded almost visibly pulling back.  "I know.  I didn't mean it like that.  It's just...Snape.  He's going to court you?" 

"Actually, I think I'm the one doing the courting."  And that was just one more thing with all of this. 

"I know we agreed to wait, and all, but I can't believe you're going to marry --" 

"It won't be real.  We're not getting married." 

Now she looked shocked.  "You're going to fake a courtship?" 

"Well, yes.  I don't see the problem."  But actually, he did.  Faking a courtship that was supposed to be public seemed like asking for trouble.   

"Harry, that's just wrong.  You don't do things like that.  You just don't."  She shook her head and then stood up.  "I can't believe you'd use one of our rituals this way." 

And Ginny's reaction was just reinforcing the idea that maybe they should do more than nominally go through the motions.  "Would you rather I was actually going to court him?" Harry asked. 

"At least it would be honest."  She sighed.  "No.  You're right.  I'd be much more upset with it if you were going to marry him." 

"So, you're okay with this?" 

"No.  I'm very annoyed at you.  But we're not dating now --"  She held up her hand.  "We're both too young to get married.  I want to play professionally for a few years before I think about settling down." 

They agreed on that, at least.  "I want to get through my Auror training, too." 

"It's not my place to make a fuss.  But you'd better not marry him."  She waggled a finger at him, but at least she smiled when she said it.   

*****

Part 2 

Despite their slightly elevated status, the eighth years were still expected to ride the train, which had added several cars to accommodate the extra students.   

Once they were under way, Harry called a meeting of the eighth year students in the dining car in the back of the train.  There were about fifteen from all houses.  He wanted to make sure they were all on the same page about the coming year.  It could go pear-shaped really quickly if they weren't. 

 
"Thank you all for coming," Harry said, standing at the front.  He squared his shoulders.  "I know this is all a bit strange." 
 
"Who died and put you in charge of us?" Pansy Parkinson asked, her tone was vicious.  She was sitting off to one side, by herself. 

Before Harry could say anything, Blaise Zabini stood up and said, "Voldemort.  And I'll thank you to remember that." 
 
"Blood Traitor," she hissed, but her shoulders slumped when no one even looked at her. 
 
It was going to be a long year, Harry could tell already. 
 
Zabini just laughed.  "You were saying, Harry?" 
 
Harry shook his head to clear it.  A Slytherin had just stood up for him.  Admittedly it was Zabini who had come back to fight with him.  But still, it was weird and amazing.  "Um...thanks, Blaise.  And yes.  I was saying that we're all going to have to make an effort to get along.  We need to be examples to the rest of the school." 
 
Malfoy stood and said, "Not that I'm unwilling --" 

Ron snorted rather loudly.  They really did need to get along, and Malfoy was going to be the key in helping with that.   

"But how exactly do you propose we do that?" Malfoy asked, his tone light with none of his usual sneer present.  "We've made careers of hating each other." 
 
Oh, he knew that only too well.  And there was some part of him that did not want to let it go.  But it would serve no one to hold a grudge.  "It's not going to be easy.  But I think one way would be for us to call each other by our given names.  So, what do you think of that...Draco?" 
 
"I think that's a good start."  He inclined his head.  "Harry." 
 
Ron looked like he might choke, but Hermione looked chuffed.  "I think that if Harry and...um...Draco look like they are getting along, everyone else will fall into line." 
 
"But it's lying!" Pansy said.  "We all hate each other.  And with good reason." 
 
"Actually," Hermione said.  "We don't know each other.  We've accepted house rivalries without question --" 
 
"Shut-up Mudblood, I wasn't talking--" 
 
"No, you shut-up Pansy," Malfoy said.  "I'm tired of you spewing that kind of crap.  It's what caused --" 
 
"You believe it, too!  All of this is an act to get in good with them."  She stood up and pointed at him.  "You're a pureblood and you know you believe that she doesn't deserve to live."  She looked right at Hermione.  "Just like I do." 
 
Shaking his head slowly, Malfoy faced Pansy.  "I might have believed that once, because my parents told me to, and I love them, but I don't believe it any longer.  And I don't think anyone who's actually spent any time with the Dark...Voldemort could think he was anything other than mad." 

More strange and amazing than Zabini defending him was Draco Bloody Malfoy defending Hermione.  Harry couldn't wrap his mind around the world changing that much.  And there was some part of Harry that knew Malfoy wanted something in return. 
 
"You're lying!  He was our Lord.  And Potter killed him.  We should be doing everything we can to see he pays for it."  She snarled at them, her face ugly with hatred.   

"Are you threatening Harry?" Ron had stood and moved slightly in front of Harry to glare menacingly at her.  "Because that wouldn't be a good idea." 

Harry wanted to push him out of the way and say that he could fight his own battles, but before he could open his mouth to say anything, Malfoy moved to stand beside Ron.   

"He's right.  It wouldn't be a good idea at all," Malfoy said with as much menace as Ron had used.  More perhaps.   

Pansy seemed to shrink in on herself.  "I'm not threatening anyone.  I'm just saying --" 
 
"Don't.  Okay, just shut up," Ron said, staring her down.   
 
"I don't care what you have to say, Blood Traitor."  But Pansy's face had gone red and her tone had lost some of its belligerence.   
 
"You've already used that line once," Malfoy said.  "Sit down and shut up or you can turn right around and take the train back home." 
 
"You don't have the authority to do that." 
 
"He might not.  But I can get it."  Harry was fairly sure that Snape would back him up on this.  "Now do as Draco says.  Just shut up."  Harry turned to him and held out his hand.  "Thanks." 

Malfoy smiled and inclined his head, reaching out to take Harry's hand.  "Like you said, we have to work together if we're going to counteract this kind of attitude."   

He glanced at Pansy.  She was furious.  They hadn't heard the last of this. 

*****

 
A week later, Harry watched as Ron stalked off in one direction and Hermione went in the other. 

"That was quite a spectacle."  Snape was standing behind him.  
 
Harry started.  "Fuck.  How much of it did you see?" 
 
"Language, Mr. Potter."  Snape smirked.  "I heard enough of that scene to know that Mr. Weasley is acting like an idiot.  More so than usual."  
 
Harry hated to agree with Snape.  "Yeah, I don't know what's got up his nose." 
 
"It's painfully clear that he's worried about losing Miss Granger," Snape said, making it sound like a foregone conclusion.   
 
Harry didn't want to even think about that possibility.  "Why?  Do you know something I don't?" 
 
"You don't pay any attention to what's going on around you.  He's acting out classic insecurity." 
 
"But why?  Hermione loves him."  Harry was pretty sure that Hermione had had a crush on Ron since third year. 
 
"Does she?  I think she may see she has other options now," Snape said, his eyes looking away from Harry and across the grounds.  "She may wish to pursue them." 
 
Harry was appalled at the thought that Hermione could want someone other than Ron, even if Ron was being an idiot.  He'd come around.  He always did.  "I can't believe you'd say that.  You don't know either of them that well." 
 
"On the contrary, I know both of them very well.  I've spent years watching them interact."  There was something too serious in Snape's expression, like he had been observing them for years.  Okay, maybe he had been.   
 
"I think you're wrong.  On both points."  But mostly he hoped Snape was wrong.  He wanted Ron and Hermione to be together.  Like they were supposed to be. 
 
"We shall see.  Now, I think it's almost time for lunch.  Your big performance will be Monday night at dinner."  Snape held out his hand for Harry to precede him onto the path back to the castle. 
 
He was not looking forward to that dinner.  "Fuck." 
 
"Language --" 

He wished that Snape would stop saying that.  It wasn't as if he were a child to be chastised anymore.  "Speaking of performances, when are you going to start my potions lessons?" 

"I shouldn't be surprised to hear that you are behind already." 

"I'm not behind."  Yet.  But Harry could see it happening. And Slughorn seemed to think he was some kind of potions genius.   

"We can meet on Thursday nights.  8:00.   And don't think to be late."

 
***** 

"I ask that I be allowed to court you, Severus Snape.  In a proper courtship, with all due respect to rituals and with proper chaperones until I finish school."  Harry was kneeling on the hard floor in front of the teacher's table, with his wand held out in supplication, and feeling rather like an idiot.  It was clear that Snape was enjoying it.  He looked like he was trying not to smile. 

Just about everyone in the hall looked shocked into next week.  Harry couldn't blame them.  He was rather surprised to find himself here as well.   

Rising slowly, and making a show of straightening his robes, Snape moved around the table to stand directly in front of Harry. 

"I'm honored by your offer and I accept."  Snape's voice was low and tight, his eyes flashing with something that might have been humor.  Snape touched his wand to Harry's and a shower of multi-colored sparks lit up the air for a moment.  "We will discuss this in more detail after dinner." 

Dinner took forever after that.  Everyone wanted to ask about the courtship and Harry really didn't want to talk about it yet.  With his stomach roiling, Harry didn't eat much.  Afterward, he and Snape sat in the empty hall. 

"Do you actually think this is going to work," Harry asked, because he still had some severe doubts that it could do what Snape hoped it would. 

"Leave the thinking to those who know how to do it," Snape said, sounding tired rather than insulting.  "I believe this  will give the students something else to focus on instead of their differences.  Have you read up on the ritual as I asked?" 
 
"Is there going to be a test?"  Harry meant it as a joke, but Snape's sour look said he'd not taken it that way. 

"It's not that complicated.  I'm sure even you can make it look as if you're doing it correctly."  There should have been more venom in his tone for it to really be insulting.   
 
Harry shook his head.  "I was thinking that we might actually do the courtship.  I mean, if we fake it, and don't go through all the steps or follow the rules, people will know and think we have no respect for the old rituals." 
 
Snape choked and gave Harry a disbelieving look.  "I had no idea that you felt that way about me, Potter" 
 
Harry laughed.  "I'm actually a lot more interested in the ritual than I am in you.  And why don't you call me Harry when we're alone." 

"Are you aware that at the end of this we're supposed to get married?"  And Snape sounded horrified at the prospect. 
 
Which was a good thing.  While he might appreciate everything Snape had done for him, Harry did not want Snape to think he was interested.  Not like that, anyway.  "We will break it off before it's complete.  Which as you know is perfectly legitimate.  We don't suit each other." 
 
"Beyond the formal asking and the formal signing at the end, there isn't much that's set."  Snape smiled then.  "Except the betrothal gift.  Which is supposed to show the requestor's esteem." 

"Since we're going to break it off before then, no gift." 

"Pity," Snape said and then cleared his throat.  "The courtship is done so that the participants can get to know each other before they wed." 
 
"I was hoping you'd be willing to talk about my mum."  Harry took a breath.  It was his best shot at ever learning anything about her. 

"I should have known you'd want that.  In fact, I'm surprised you didn't make it part of the terms of your cooperation.  It's more logical than that silly request to learn to fly. And being nice to your friends." 

He'd thought about it, but he did want to learn to fly, and being fair to him and his friends wasn't silly. "Are you trying to bait me?" 
 
"Not especially.  Just insult you."  Snape smirked at him.  "Which I find impossible not to do." 

"You're teasing me?"  Harry put his hand on his heart.  "I'm not sure I'm ready for that." 
 
Snape actually laughed at him, but after a moment, his smile dimmed.  "What did Miss Weasley say to this?" 
 
Okay, so getting him to talk about his mum wasn't going to be as easy as that.  He'd bring it up again.  "Ginny was pretty annoyed with me.  But neither of us is ready to settle down yet.  So, she and I have some time to work it out."  Harry paused for a moment.  "I've been reading up on the ritual.  Even though there isn't much to it, do you want to do it for real, actually let me court you?" 

There was a sly look of speculation on Snape's face, but then he smiled.  "I've never had a chance to participate in any of the pureblood rituals my mother taught me.  And yes, I'd like to." 

"Great.  I understand that we'll only be able to meet in public or with a chaperone.  When you're giving me flying lessons, we'll need to have one, won't we?"  That was going to get old really quickly, but he could see the necessity of it.  "What about the potions lessons." 

Snape frowned.  "Already thinking of ways to break the rules --" 
 
"Nope.  I'm thinking Hermione might like the lessons, too." 

"I think for the potions lessons, leaving the classroom door open will suffice.  If anyone wishes to join us, they may do so."  Snape shook his head when Harry opened his mouth to say something.  "It's as public as the Great Hall." 

Close enough, Harry supposed.  It wasn't that public.  And, while on the one hand, he was sure nothing was ever going to happen other than potions lessons, on the other, it wasn't in the spirit of the courtship.  "What about flying?" 
 
"When we are outside, it's considered public.  As is working in here."  He moved his hand around to indicate the empty Hall. 

"So pretty much, we're not going to have chaperones." 

"Not when we can leave a door open to allow anyone to enter the room where we are.  It's more symbolic to show that we aren't doing something we should not be.  Do you to want ask someone to chaperone us?"  Snape didn't look like he liked that idea very much. 

And Harry didn't care for it either.  He could just hear Hermione or Ron on the subject.  "Not especially." 

***** 

Harry rushed into the classroom they had agreed to use for his potions lessons.  "I'm so sorry I'm late --" 
 
"Spare me your worthless excuses.  I realize you think you are special and needn't adhere to even the most basic rules of etiquette, but to keep me waiting when I am doing you a favor, is beyond the pale."  Snape's tone was so sharp it could have scraped the paint off the walls.

 
He took a breath and looked down, feeling contrite.  "I'm really sorry.  I was --" 
 
"I do not wish to hear what you were.  If you can't deign to be on time for the first lesson, you don't deserve to have them."  Snape left the front of the room and headed for the door. 
 
"Wait.  Please.  I'm sorry.  Just listen." 
 
Snape stopped next to him, and folded his arms over his chest.  "I can't imagine that you would have anything to say that would excuse this rudeness." 
 
He did, but the first words out of his mouth were going to be bad.  "You have to let me finish --" 
 
"I don't have to do anything." 
 
"I fell asleep.  But --" 
 
"What?  You were sleeping!"  Snape's face was red and he turned to leave. 
 
Harry put a hand on his upper arm.  "None of us have been sleeping well this term --" 
 
"And you believe that I would care about this?" 
 
"Malfoy...Draco woke us up screaming Charity Burbage's name last night.  For the third night in a row.  Last week it was Crabbe's name.  But then he was competing with Neville and his detentions with the Carrows.  Being back at school has triggered so many memories." 
 
"What did he tell you about Miss Burbage?" 
 
"That he watched Voldemort feed her to his snake while she hung upside down over his dining room table."  Harry closed his eyes.  He could not imagine being forced to watch something like that and know that if you tried to do anything, you'd be next. 
 
"While she screamed for me to help her," Snape said with absolutely no inflection. 
 
"Oh, God.  Oh, God."  Harry wanted to say something, anything, that would make it better, but there wasn't anything that ever would.  He put a hand on Snape's arm.  It was all he could think of to do. 
 
Snape took an audible breath and pulled away from Harry, but slowly.  "Perhaps you should all learn silencing charms." 
 
"It does help to talk about it.  We are all having nightmares, just some of them are worse than others." 
 
"You are as well?" 
 
Harry nodded.  "It's nothing new for me.  Didn't you ever wonder why I wandered around the school in the middle of the night?" 
 
"I assumed it was your utter disregard for the rules." 
 
Harry laughed.  "Partly.  But I couldn't sleep.  Or really, I didn't want to.  But Ron and Neville and Draco aren't used to it.  They like to talk a bit after we wake them up." 
 
"Mr. Malfoy talks to you?"  Snape seemed to find that hard to believe. 
 
"Yeah.  After a really bad one, everyone talks." 
 
"Except you?" 
 
"Pretty much."  Harry looked at him.  He didn't want to talk about his nightmares, not with Snape.  Not if he could avoid it.  "I don't --" 
 
Snape let out a breath.  "Let's have the lesson.   It will get our minds off the things we can't change."  He moved back into the room, going to the workbench and nodding for Harry to join him. 
 
"What are we going to start with?" Harry asked as Snape pulled raw ingredients out of the potions container on the table.   
 
"Advanced medicinal potions.  There is always at least one on the N.E.W.T.S., possibly two.  They require both precise ingredient preparation as well as precise brewing." 
 
"So, why are we starting with the hardest one?" 
 
"So that when you master it everything else will fall into place." 
 
Harry wasn't sure that made much sense, but he wasn't going to argue with Snape over it.  He was going to give Snape every chance to teach him to do this right. 
 
For almost half an hour, Snape lectured him on the proper ways to slice and dice and crush the ingredients.  He allowed Harry to ask questions and then stood over him while Harry attempted to follow instructions. 
 
"No.  Not like that," Snape said for the third time.  "You will render the whole potion inert if you cut it that way."  He took a breath.  "Watch again and do try to pay some attention." 
 
Harry watched carefully as Snape sliced in to the long narrow root, cutting it into thin strips.  It didn't look that different from what he had done, but the results were straighter.  When he said that, Snape snorted, but didn't explode the way Harry expected.  Snape took another deep breath and started to explain again. 
 
Watching Snape's hands closely, Harry noticed how long and tapered his fingers were.  They had once been potions stained, but now the skin looked white and clean.  His fingernails were clear and clean as well.  As Snape slivered the roots, Harry noticed how graceful his movements were.  It wasn't something he would have thought would be interesting.  He was mesmerized by it. 
 
"Potter!" Snape's tone was annoyed.  "You're not paying attention." 
 
Oh, yes he was.  Probably more than he should have been.  "I am so.  Let me try it now."  Harry took out a whole root and cut into it and it looked somewhat better than his first two attempts.   
 
"You're approaching marginally adequate," Snape said.  "Perhaps you can be taught after all." 
 
"Thanks so much."  Harry kept going. 
 
***** 

At dinner two nights later, Harry received a note from Snape asking him to meet him at the side entrance to the courtyard.  When he got there, Snape bowed slightly and held out his hand for Harry to start down the path towards the lake. 

"You know, it's going to be too cold pretty soon for these walks," Harry said, shivering as a cool fall wind rustled the leaves on the path. 

"By then, you'll have enough to keep you busy with school work and we can sit in the Great Hall while you do it." 

Harry snorted.  "What about using your office instead?  At least it would be quiet.  Besides the Great Hall isn't conducive to talking about anything." 

"Chaperones?  I am not going to open my office to Miss Granger."  Snape's robes dragged on the rocky ground as he turned down towards the path to the lake. 

Since they couldn't be in his office without the door open or some other way to make it seem like they were not in private, "What about the portraits?" 
 
"They can't actually do anything should I attempt to you ravish you."  Snape's tone said he was pretty unlikely to try it. 
 
Harry was okay with that.  "Well, they could tell McGonagall, and she'd come to rescue me and yell at you."  

Snape laughed.  "Oh, that is a deterrent." 

Harry thought for a second.  "Well, can we leave the door open?" 
 
"We could, but to get up to my office, you'd still need a password for the Gargoyle."  Snape's brow creased.  "I could simply tell it to allow anyone to pass for the time you're in my office." 

"I don't think you're going to seduce me." 
 
Snape snorted inelegantly.  "Not this week." 

"Well, we won't have to worry about it for a few more weeks." 

"So, you'd like me to seduce you, then?"  Snape's tone was silky.   

Harry's eyes snapped to Snape's face.  Snape did not just say that.  Especially not to him.  Not at all.  To anyone.  "What?" 

"I apologize.  That was a joke."  There was ever so slight a flush on Snape's face.   

"First, you tease me.  Then make a racy joke.  I didn't think you even had a sense of humor."  As soon as he said it, he glanced at Snape.  It was too easy to forget who he was, and start to think of him as a friend or at least an ally. 

But Snape's mouth twitched.  "I haven't had a lot of reason for it to show in recent years." 

"I've known you for seven years," Harry said, relaxing.  "And I've never seen a even a hint of it."  But now that he had, he was pretty sure he wanted to see it again.  Something about the idea that after everything Snape could joke, delighted Harry.  It gave him a weird kind of hope. 
 
"That's still recent enough to understand my bad temper.  And you don't know me at all."  Most of the teasing tone had left Snape's voice.   
 
Harry inclined his head.  "You're right.  So, tell me about you and my mum." 

"You saw the memories.  I have nothing further to say beyond that."  Snape walked a bit of a distance away from him.  He stood with his back stiff and straight, staring out at the lake. 

Should he apologize?  Harry opened his mouth to do so, when Snape exhaled sharply.

 
"Of course you'd want to know about her," Snape said, quietly.  His stance completely closed off.   

Harry did want to know.  He'd had so many people tell him all about his father, but not nearly as many said anything about his mum.  Especially what she was like as a child.  "I won't ask it if it hurts too much to say." 

"What do you want to know?" Snape asked, but he seemed...Harry didn't know exactly, maybe reluctant or unhappy.  If Snape didn't want to talk about it, Harry had given him an out. 
 
"I don't know.  I just want to hear stories about her.  I mean, I know what happened, but I want more than that."  Harry wished he could put it into words better than he had.  He wanted to get a sense of who she was.  And at this point, beyond Petunia, there wasn't anyone else to tell him. 

"Let me think about it, all right?"  Snape turned back to look at him.  "Is there something else you'd like to talk about or should we return to the castle?" 

"You know that Parkinson is spending a lot of time in the Slytherin common room?"  He wasn't sure she was actually doing anything wrong, but it disconcerted him that she rejected all attempts at a truce so viciously.  

Snape breathed out an obvious sigh of relief to be off the topic of Lily.  "I've heard.  She is stupid beyond belief.  Trying to sow such discord will not further her cause at all." 

"Aside from a couple of seventh year purebloods, she's being ostracized by nearly everyone."  For which Harry was grateful.  He didn't want to have to worry about survival, his or hers. 

"As well she should be.  That display in the Great Hall last year was completely unbecoming a Slytherin."  Snape's voice dripped with disdain. 

Harry snickered.  "I don't want her to rile up the remaining Voldemort supporters and try and take over." 

"She isn't that smart."  

The sun was starting to set across the lake.  "I hope not.  Don't take this wrong, okay, but you've been awfully nice lately." 

Snape laughed again.  "Only you would complain about it." 

"I'm just noticing.  And wondering about it."  Even given everything that happened, it still didn't make sense to him.  Harry hated a mystery.   

"I'm not nice."  It was said by rote.  Not that he wasn't sure that Snape meant it with all his heart, but there wasn't any heat in the words.   
 
"Okay, maybe you're not angry then." 

"This isn't an appropriate topic for conversation."  But Snape didn't seem annoyed or ready to explode or any of the old Snape emotions Harry was used to. 
 
"Actually, after your joke, I think I can get away with anything." 
 
Snape pointed a finger at him.  "Don't try to push that too far." 

"We're supposed to be courting.  You know, getting to know each other," Harry said, restraining the urge to bite Snape's finger. 

For a moment, it seemed like Snape might not answer, but then he sighed.  "It is possible that I have less to be angry about." 

"What changed?" 
 
Snape shook his head.  "Don't be dense.  The entire world has changed.  Why wouldn't I change with it?" 
 
He had only ever considered how his world might have changed in the last few months. "I just thought....  You're right, of course.  I should have considered that."  

Snape nodded, approvingly.  "So, perhaps you've grown up some as well." 
 
With a laugh, Harry put a hand over his chest.  "Be still my heart.  Was that a compliment?"   

"Certainly not, merely an observation."  Snape's lips twitched.  "And clearly an incorrect one, I see." 

A cool wind blew across the lake.  Harry shivered. 

"We shall do this again tomorrow night," Snape said, holding his hand out for Harry to start back down the path to the castle.   

***** 

Snape felt someone cross his wards right before the knock on his office door. There weren't that many people who had his password. Even Potter didn't have it yet.  

He opened the door to find Draco on his stairs. "You had better have a good reason for bothering me at this hour of the night." 
 
"It's not past curfew yet, headmaster. And I've been summoned to Professor McGonagall's office," Draco said, holding out a bit of parchment.  

"What have you done?" Snape asked. McGonagall wouldn't have sent for Draco if there weren't something wrong. 
 
"The only thing it could possibly be is that I started a courtship with Hermione Granger today." There was a definite smirk on Draco's face. 

Snape bit back a snort. "Well I must say I'm surprised to hear that." 

"I thought I made it clear that I wanted her."  They had spoken before school started, and Draco had got it into his head that the way to redeem his family name was to marry Granger. 
 
Snape had pointed out all the flaws in that plan, but as usual, Draco did not listen.  "You did mention it. However, I didn't actually expect you to get her to agree to anything." 
 
"It's pretend. As fake as your courtship with Harry Potter." Draco met his eyes. "And we all know how fake that is." 

He probably shouldn't address the tone Draco had used, but it sounded as if he knew something he didn't. "What are you implying?" 
 
Draco raised an eyebrow. "I'm only saying that it would do Slytherin no end of good if you were to marry Potter." 
 
Snape did snort this time. "That would presuppose that either he or I were interested in something so preposterous, which I can assure you, we are not." 

"I can see why Potter might not be, but why wouldn't you be? It would do nothing but good for your reputation. Especially after you leave the headmaster job." 
 
Even if Draco were correct, his intentions were not something he would discuss with anyone.  "What do you require from me?" 
 
Draco let out a long, slow breath. "I want you to come with me to deal with McGonagall. She's going to try and talk Granger out of the courtship.  I don't want that to happen." 
 
"Why not ask your head of house to accompany you?" 
 
"Slughorn won't see any advantage to helping me." 
 
He was correct, of course.  "All right. But you will not mention Harry Potter to me again." 
 
Draco bowed slightly, but he had a knowing look on his face.  
 
***** 

Snape looked up from the pile of parchments on his desk as Harry came into his office.  It was nice to have a quiet place to study.  And after the first few times, Snape stopped making snarky comments when he showed up.   

Harry sat down on the comfortable sofa and pulled his books and the essays that needed grading out of his pack.  "How was your day?" 

"About the same as yesterday.  You needn't make small talk.  Or entertain me." 

Harry was beginning to be able to read through what Snape said to what he meant.  "If we don't talk to each other, how are we going to get to know each other?" 

Snape looked like he'd eaten something sour. 

Harry just laughed. 

"I understand that Mr. Malfoy has initiated a courtship with Miss Granger," Snape said after a moment of silence.  "I find the dynamics rather interesting." 

Even knowing it wasn't any more real than his courtship, the very thought of Malfoy -- even the new and improved version -- courting Hermione made his stomach knot.  That Hermione was doing this because she was angry with Ron didn't help.  Harry couldn't quite trust Draco to do the right thing.  "Yeah, so do a lot of other people." 

"I expect that will keep the students talking about it, especially if they actually appear to be spending time together." 

"I don't know about that.  But maybe Millicent and Hannah can help.  They've initiated a courtship, too."  

"They hardly count as they've been dating since last year." 

"I didn't know that."  Had Hermione known about it? 

"Why do you think Millicent returned to fight with you -- against her own parents?" 

What?  Wait.  "I thought she believed --" 

Snape was shaking his head.  "She did.  But it came from dating Hannah.  Surely you realize that many of our beliefs aren't logically obtained."

 
"You would know."  As soon as the words left his mouth, Harry realized what that sounded like and held his breath. 
 
But all Snape did was let out a long sigh.  "If I were smarter, I would have gone with my heart." 

"Then you wouldn't be standing here now, would you?" 
 
"Or you might be my son," Snape said.   

It wasn't actually the first time Harry had thought of that, but it seemed...so impossible, so outrageous that he couldn't consider it.  "How likely was that?" 

"Truthfully, not very.  Especially after Regulus Black kissed me in fourth year." 

That wasn't quite what Harry had been expecting, and he wasn't sure he wanted to go there.  "So, if you're gay, you never thought to have kids anyway." 

"Actually, that's not true.  I rather like children.  And I wouldn't mind having some of my own." 

"I'd like to have two or three kids someday." 

Snape raised an eyebrow at that.  "Oh, really?" 

He didn't want to hear Snape eviscerate him for what he wanted.  Nor did he want to defend it, or be ridiculed for it.  "What's the deal with Malfoy?" 

Snape blinked.  "Pardon me?" 

"Why did he do it?  Ask Hermione, I mean." 

"As I understand it, the idea came from you?" 

That was beside the point.  He'd been worried that people weren't paying enough attention to his courtship with Snape, and Neville had suggested that maybe a pureblood and a Muggleborn courtship might be another idea.  "I didn't expect him to jump up and ask her.  Not that quickly.  It seemed almost planned."   
 
"Which would be rather difficult, all things considered.  He did as you wished, and you're complaining.  Is there no satisfying you?" 
 
"You know what I mean."  Harry slanted him a glance.  Not for the first time, he wished he could tell what Snape was thinking, but Snape was too good at hiding everything for Harry to even have the slightest idea.  "And I'm pretty easy to satisfy.  As long as I understand what's going

on."

 
Snape returned his look.  "You must spend an inordinate amount of time dissatisfied." 

There was definitely a double entendre there somewhere and he was sure that Snape knew it.  "Ha ha.  I know he must have an ulterior motive.  Two years ago, he wouldn't have spit on her if she were on fire." 

"I'm sure you're aware that a lot can happen in two years," Snape said. 

You could spend the winter living in a tent, and searching for bits of someone's soul, or you could almost die of a snake bite, or you could have the darkest, sickest megalomaniac living in your house, torturing people over your dining room table.  "It still doesn't explain all of it." 
 
"It does help though, doesn't it?  And like us, the courtship is for show.  It shouldn't matter what his reasons are for doing it." 

Maybe Snape believed that, but Harry had seen the triumphant look in Malfoy's eyes and it had made him damned suspicious.  "I can't help thinking there's more there than Malfoy wanting to help out." 

Snape shrugged.  "Are there more courtships coming?" 
 
"Blaise is trying to convince Ron."  Harry didn't think he'd be able to, but that wasn't for him to decide. 

"I had thought that Weasley was --" 
 
"Yeah.  But Blaise isn't taking no for an answer."  It was a constant sore point for Ron, but almost everyone else was amused by the whole thing. 

"And perhaps Weasley is secretly flattered by the attention." 

Harry had considered that, but really, Ron was straight.  "I don't think so.  He'd seriously cheesed off Hermione by ordering her not to accept Malfoy's offer." 

"Among other things.  All of which prompted her to do it.  He is not known for thinking before he speaks or he would have at least considered what she had to say." 
 
"Ron should have known better."  But he hadn't been thinking about what Hermione wanted for a while now, and he was probably out of the habit. 

"Indeed, he should have.  But that has never stopped him from choosing a stance and then clinging to it with all his might." 

"That's worked in our favor many times."  Harry had been grateful for Ron's tenacity more times than he could count over the years, but he was pretty sure that same tenacity was going to bite Ron on the arse this time. 

"It won't help his cause this time," Snape said, as if it needed one more confirmation.   

*****

Part 3 
 

"Tell me about my mum," Harry said sitting down on the sofa in Snape's office.  The more time he spent with Snape, the more time he wanted to spend with him.  And no, it wasn't the time to even consider that.   

"Do come in, Mr. Potter.  Make yourself at home."  Snape sounded long-suffering.   

Harry thought it was kind of cute.  If such a word could be used in the same sentence with Snape.  "I will, thanks.  Tell me about --" 

"Don't you have grading or homework to do?" 

"Both as it happens, but I've waited...."  And he had.  It had been weeks since all of this started, and he'd been patient.   

"So you have."  Snape moved from his desk to pick up several books on the chair beside the sofa.  He seemed to be buying time as he busied himself with stacking the books on the table and then seating himself in the chair.  Even then, he didn't start immediately.  "I think you know that I met your mum when we were about nine.  We would meet in the park that was between our two homes." 

"Where did she live?  Petunia never said anything.  I got the impression she was embarrassed by it." 
 
"Your mum's family was better off than mine.  That much I do know.  Beyond that, I can only hazard a guess that your aunt would not be satisfied by much." 

Clearly he knew Petunia well because that was the truth of it.  "Did you actually ever go to her house?" 

Snape shook his head.  "She invited me more than once, but I never went." 

Harry didn't say anything.  It was obvious why Snape never went. 

"Your mum and I would talk for hours about the wizarding world that we were both destined to enter.  We would play games and run around and fight about things.  Mostly about your aunt, who was totally Muggle and quite mundane.  I loathed her as much as I loved Lily." 

"I'm not crazy about her myself," Harry said.  "Though I will say that Dudley hasn't turned out as bad as I always assumed he would." 

Snape raised an eyebrow at that. 

"He and I have talked a few times since it all ended.  He had a lot of time to think about things and he actually did.  He's finishing up school and going on to Uni." 
 
"I'd rather thought he was hopeless." 
 
"Yeah, so did I.  Turns out the older Dudders got, the more interested in the world around him he became.  Seems he doesn't think I'm quite the freak he was once told I was."  If Harry didn't know better, he would think that Dudley had become fascinated by magic. 

"You're not thinking of being friends with him, are you?"  Snape's disdain was obvious. 
 
"We've met in Hogsmeade for dinner a couple of times.  He's my family."  Harry had to admit he was surprised that he was even considering having anything to do with Dudley bloody Dursley, but he'd enjoyed the dinners and was actually looking forward to more.  The world had changed and maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. 
 
"As I was saying, Petunia was as jealous and petty as Lily was generous.  She would try and ruin our games.  Finally, Lily stopped letting her come with her to the park."  Snape paused for a moment.  "She'd come anyway.  And tell your grandparents about whatever trouble we got into.  However, Lily could do little wrong in their eyes, and that annoyed Petunia even more." 

Harry'd just bet that it did.  He could just see her.  Her face all pinched tight, her lips in a straight line, and her cheeks red with frustration.  It was about how she looked most of the years he'd spent with her.  "What happened to my grandparents?" 

"The Evanses?" 

"Either side, actually.  No one has ever said."  It only occurred to him now that he should have asked sooner.  Not that it would have mattered that much since they were all gone now, but it would have been nice to know. 

"Mr. Evans died of a heart attack when Lily was fifteen.  I suspect that was part of why she never forgave me --" 

"You didn't have anything to do with it, did you?"  Harry just looked at him.  Snape hadn't been a Death Eater then, but.... 

"No.  But she expected me to stand by her -- I went to his funeral only a few months earlier.  I shouldn't have  said that to her --"  He stopped and ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it away from his face for a moment.  It was too long and thick to stay back without something to hold it. 

Harry wanted to agree that Snape shouldn't have done a lot of things, but that wouldn't help the situation.  He just let Snape be for a moment, studying him.  The months without stress had given Snape a slightly healthier look, but he was still one ugly git.   

Snape cleared his throat.  "Your grandmother was struck by a lorry just after seventh year ended.  I tried to offer my condolences, but too much time had passed.  Your father and Black wouldn't even let me in the door." 

His father and Sirius could be such prats when they wanted to be.  Snape probably could have comforted his mum.   

"By that point, I was marked.  I shouldn't even have been there, in any case." 

"It was nice that you tried." 

"I would have been better if...."  He stopped and took another breath.   

Harry waited a minute.  "Do you know what happened to my other grandparents?" 

"Robert Potter died the summer of James' third year.  Voldemort killed him as an example of what would happen to other purebloods if they did not support Voldemort." 

"He was anti-Voldemort?"  Harry shouldn't be so surprised by that.  "I didn't know that." 

"Why would you think otherwise?  From all that I've heard, he was very forward thinking.  He would have welcomed Lily into the family." 

"And my other Grandmother?" 
 
"She did welcome Lily.  She was alive when James and Lily left school.  I don't remember seeing her listed as a guest when they married, but that doesn't mean anything." 

"How did you see the guest list?" 

"It was in the papers."

 
Harry nodded his acknowledgement of that.  "I wonder if she was alive when I was born." 

"She was old when James was born, or at least old to be having a child.  I doubt she's alive now." 

The possibility that she might be never even occurred to him.  But God, what if she were alive?  That would be spectacular.  Except...except that if she were, what possible reason could she have for letting him go to Petunia?  Harry sighed.  Blood Magic.  Dumbledore.  "How could I find out what happened to her?"  Because he really wanted to know. 

"I'd try the Hall of Records in the Ministry." 

"Do you think Dumbledore might know?"  Harry looked at the empty frame.  Most times when he was up here, the frames were either empty or the occupants were asleep. 

"He's a portrait.  Not a person." 

"Yeah, but do you think..." 

"Ask him when he turns up." 

"I will."  Harry grinned at him and stood up.  "I should get back to the common room.  I'm on patrol later with Ron." 

"The joys of academic responsibility." 

Harry had started for the door, but turned around at that.  "I rather enjoy it.  Teaching that is.  Patrolling the corridors is tedious." 

"I hated every second of it."  Snape inclined his head with a small smile.  "Teaching that is.  I rather enjoyed terrorizing the students I found out after curfew." 

"It showed."  Harry wasn't resentful anymore, well not too much.  He understood that there had been a reason for it all.  

"Before you leave," Snape got up and went to his desk.  Opening the middle draw he took a phial out.  "This will help you to sleep.  You may share it with your dorm mates." 
 
Harry rolled the phial between his fingers.  It was clear liquid.  "What is it?" 
 
"It doesn't have a name, but it will give you pleasant dreams." 

"If you don't know the name, how do you know it will work?"  The last thing he needed was to get less sleep than he already did. 

"I never gave it a name.  I know it will work.  One drop under your tongue before you go to sleep.  No more than that or you won't want to wake up.  Out."  Snape pointed towards the door. 

Harry smiled at him. "We'll put it to good use.  Thank you so much."   

"See that you do."

 
***** 

"Harry," Neville called, coming around the corner from one of the greenhouses. 

It was snowing lightly and Harry wanted to get inside before it picked up, but he stopped and waited for him.  "Something wrong?" 
 
"No.  No.  I've just been trying to get a second alone with you."  Neville put a hand on Harry's arm to direct him off the path. 
 
The muscles in Harry's back tensed.  "Why?" 
 
Neville didn't look at him for a second, and then he met Harry's eyes.  "I was going to ask if you'd mind if I asked Ginny out." 
 
Harry's first inclination was to say that he did mind.  A lot.  But that wasn't fair at all.  He'd been enjoying his time with Snape, probably more than he should be.  "I guess you should be asking her and not me." 
 
"I don't want to mess up our friendship.  I mean, I know you're not really courting --"  Neville looked around.  "I don't want to intrude."

"Like I said --" 

Neville took a deep breath and squared his shoulders.  "It won't be fake.  I mean, I really want to ask her out." 

"I know that.  Do you want to marry her?" 

"Not right this second, no."  He let out a breath that sounded like relief.  "But I wouldn't discount the possibility." 

Even though he was angry, Harry forced a smile.  There was nothing he could do about this without calling off his courtship with Snape.  And he wasn't going to do that.  "I'm not ready to get married either." 

***** 

Snape added a log to the fire in his office and turned to look at Potter.  "Are you aware that Longbottom has been dating Miss Weasley," he asked softly.  In all likelihood, Potter knew, but if he didn't, Snape didn't want to inflict the information carelessly. 

 
Potter looked up from his book and sighed.  After only a week, his eyes had lost the dark rings of someone who hadn't slept well in a long time.  "It's not as if I can do anything about it." 
 
"Do you want to?" Snape sat down in the chair beside him. 
 
"I'm not sure.  She doesn't belong to me.  And I'm making a big show of dating someone else. And she's not happy about it."  
 
"Would you be?" 
 
Potter's eyes narrowed and he took a breath.  "I'm not.  But I suspect that Neville is a lot more serious about it.  And that he really wants her." 
 
"The question would be what she wants," Snape said. 
 
"To play professional Quidditch, I expect.  Other than that, I don't know." 
 
That was something of a surprise, Snape would have expected Potter to care more.  But then, advanced planning of any kind was not Potter's strong point.  "You haven't asked?" 
 
"I haven't had time...or the inclination, I guess."  Potter added the last bit hesitantly. 
 
"You're not as keen on her as you once were?"  He'd thought Potter had his whole little perfect life planned out for him.  Or maybe Potter just wanted that normal life and had no real idea on how to get it.  Which now that he thought about it was probably closer to accurate. 
 
"You're being awful nosy, aren't you?"  
 
The words lacked the bite that Snape might have expected.  "I'm merely curious.  I don't wish to participate in a dreadful scene." 
 
"Which wouldn't happen anyway.  It's not that I don't care about Ginny.  I do.  But there's so much out there that I haven't done.  I want a family, but I'm not ready to be a father today.  Or even next year." 
 
"I think that's very wise of you."  The words were out of Snape's mouth before he could stop them. 
 
Potter's eyes went wide.  "Did you just compliment me?  Because you know, I think that might be the second time in as many months." 
 
"It wasn't a compliment.  Merely an observation." 
 
Potter grinned.  "Of course not." 

It was possible that Potter might be slightly more perceptive than Snape gave him credit for, so he'd do well to be more careful in what he said to the boy. 
 
***** 

A noise sounded at the end of the Hall, breaking Harry's concentration on the first year defense papers he was working on.  He sighed as two third years got into a scuffle at the other end. 

"Pickering!  Jackson!  Stop that right now."  Harry stood up and made his way over to them. 

"He started it," Jackson sneered.  "Said Slytherins are worthless." 

"Did not.  Said you were a worthless Slytherin."  Pickering yelled back.   

"Stop it.  Right now."  Harry folded his arms across his chest and glared at both of them. 

Pickering, who was a Gryffindor, looked betrayed, but said nothing, and Jackson just looked smug. 

"I don't care who started what," Harry said.  "If I catch you both fighting again, I'll give you a detention.  Five points from both Slytherin and Gryffindor.  Now get to your common rooms." 

Both boys looked at each other and snarled.   

"Now."  Harry kept his voice even, but he wanted to smack them both. 

This time, they didn't hesitate. 

"As surprising as it is, you handled that very well, Mr. Potter."  Snape appeared out of the shadows. 

"I've had far too much practice this term," Harry said with a deep sigh. 

"Come sit down," Snape said, moving across the room to sit at the eighth year table.  "Winky."

 
The elf appeared.  "What can I be doing for the Headmaster?" 

"Bring Mr. Potter a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of biscuits." 

"Thanks," Harry said with a smile, sitting down across from him.  The Hall was finally empty.  It was close to curfew.  

"You're a growing boy." 
 
A solicitous Snape was a curious thing and it gave him a warm feeling in his belly.  "Is this part of the courtship?  You take care of me?" 

"It's part of being headmaster.  I take care of everyone." 
 
"Or not." 

Snape inclined his head to the biscuits that had appeared alongside a mug of hot chocolate.  "As I was saying." 
 
Harry took a sip.  "Perfect.  Thanks.  I am hungry." 

"Then eat.  I'll leave you to it," Snape said, starting to rise.

 
"Don't go, yet."  Harry waved him back down. 

Snape raised an eyebrow.  "Do you require something else?" 

"I haven't talked to you in a couple of days." 

Something in Snape's expression softened.  "It has been quite busy, hasn't it?" 

Harry bit into one of the iced biscuits and sighed.  "That would be an understatement.  I think it's getting worse as the holidays come closer.  I can barely keep control of my class.  And they're only first years." 

"With an attention span less than a newt's under the best of circumstances."  Snape's expression turned serious.  "I've heard you've done well so far." 

That deep, warm feeling invaded Harry's chest again.  It was nice to know he could succeed at something that was positive.  "I'm surprised to find I like teaching." 
 
"You've mentioned that.  I find it hard to believe.  Just give it a bit of time, and you'll change your mind." 

"You hated it, didn't you?" 
 
"Yes.  Passionately." 

"Why did you come back as headmaster?"  Because even if he weren't teaching that much, he was still dealing with the students.   
 
Snape looked at him as if he were mad.  "I'm the most prominent Slytherin in Wizarding England, right now." 

"Do you hate being headmaster, too?" 
 
Snape was silent for a moment.  "No.  There is some satisfaction in knowing I'm doing a good job.  That despite the hardship of the job, it's working." 

Harry understood that. 

"You should be getting to your common room.  It's after curfew." 

"Sure."  Harry gathered up his books and papers.  "I wanted to ask you what you're doing for the holidays?" 

Snape looked startled.  "I haven't had time to think about it." 

"I'm going to the Burrow for Christmas Eve and Day.  I think you should come with me."  He'd thought a lot about it; he didn't want Snape to spend the holidays alone. 

"Certainly not," Snape said without hesitation. 

"Why?  We're supposed to be courting.  It would look odd if we're not together at least for some of it."   

Snape sighed.  "I would rather not participate in the spectacle of a Weasley Christmas." 

"I love the Weasleys.  And all of them will be there.  It will help if you're there, too." 

"What makes you say that?"  Something subtle changed in his expression. 
 
"It's going to be the first one without Fred.  I think having people around will help Molly and Arthur."  Harry coughed.  "I already asked, too." 

Snape was quiet for a moment.  "All right.  I shall be there on Christmas Day.  For a few hours." 
 
"Christmas Eve for dinner as well.  You won't have to stay over if you don't want to, but you should be with me for both days." 

He opened his mouth and then closed it.  "Fine. 

***** 

Snape sighed and sunk deeper into the corner of the room.  Why was he here again?  Oh, Right, Harry and his infinite capacity to expect people to do as he wanted.  Still, Snape could have said no.  He wouldn't have minded the peace of his quarters.   

In any case, he'd be back there tomorrow after dinner, and Minerva had agreed to cover for him until then.

 
"Severus," Arthur said his tone slightly less jovial than usual.  "How are you?" 

All he wanted was to be left alone and out of the spectacle of Miss Granger and Mr Weasley fighting over Draco, and the rest of the clan pretending that they didn't see what was going on between those two.    

"I'm quite fine," Snape lied, also pretending to be well-behaved.  He was quite good at it.  Fortunately, he wasn't required to do it very often.  "Thank you for inviting me." 
 
"You're very welcome."   

Snape doubted that. 

Arthur cleared his throat.  "About the courtship --" 
 
"You do know it was for show?" Snape said, wanting it to be true more than it actually was. 

"Except perhaps it isn't." 

Snape met his eyes.  "Why would you even think such a thing?" 

"I suspect that it would be in your best interests and that of Slytherin, if the ritual were...more real than not." 

Well, Arthur wasn't stupid, despite being a Gryffindor. 

"If, and I do mean if, Potter were interested it might be.  However, I can assure you that he is not."  Which all in all was too bad.  Not that Snape was interested in him like that, but Harry wasn't hard on the eyes.  And Snape would not say no to a fuck or three.  But it would no doubt cause more trouble than it was worth in the long run. 

Harry laughed at something Granger said, and Snape looked at him.  Definitely not hard on the eyes.   

Arthur followed his gaze and seemed to follow his thoughts.  "If he were interested, it might be best to leave it until he finishes school." 

Snape agreed, in theory at least.  "It will never become an issue." 

"I hope not." 

"Arthur," Snape said when he would have walked away. 

He turned back.   

"What do you know about Potter's grandmother?  The Potter one."   Snape hated a mystery.   

Arthur's eyes widened and he scratched his head.  "Not much.  She was older than my parents.  I suspect that she died years ago." 

"You don't know for certain?"  No one he'd talked to knew anything with any certainty.  It was amazing that an old woman could disappear so thoroughly.    She'd had to have had help. 

"I haven't seen her since Lily and James' wedding."

 
"She was there?  She wasn't on the guest list."  Though it had been years ago, Snape remembered that she wasn't listed.  For what should have been a society wedding, the guest list hadn't been that big.   
 
"After Lily's mum was killed, it was rumored that she was next on Voldemort's death list.  She may have gone into hiding." 

Like James and Lily had.  "So there's a possibility that she's alive." 
 
"Oh, I doubt it.  No one has seen or heard from her in years." 

Well, if she didn't want to be found.  "If she were in hiding --" 

Arthur's brow creased.  "With You-Know...Voldemort dead, you might try sending her an owl." 

It would not be that easy.  Snape was sure of that.  "I think there are other means." 
 
Arthur smiled.  "I suspect that Harry would be extraordinarily grateful to find some family." 

"He's already found a family.  This would just add to it." Snape frowned.  He shouldn't have to remind Arthur of that. 

"So he has," Arthur said, "So he has." 

After a brief pause, Arthur left him. 

Before Snape could enjoy his reprieve, Harry took his place.  "What were you two talking about?" 

"You.  What other topic of conversation could there be?"  Which, for what it was worth, was true. 

"Right.  You could at least pretend to be having a good time."  Harry clearly expected him to make an attempt. 
 
Though why he would, Snape couldn't guess.  "I am.  Pretending that is."  He wasn't having an awful time.  It could have been much, much worse. 

"Dinner will be ready soon." 
 
"Oh, joy." 

"Oi.  Molly's a good cook." 

"I don't dispute that."  It was the many hordes at one table all vying for top voice that set Snape's stomach on edge. 

"Let's go sit down." 
 
"Do I have a choice?" 
 
Harry elbowed him.  "None." 

***** 

"Harry, dear," Molly said as he brought some empty trays into the kitchen after an enormous dinner.  She set them in the sink and waved her wand.  The dishes started to wash themselves.  "Did you get enough to eat?" 

Harry groaned and rubbed his belly.  "I doubt I'll ever eat again." 

"At least until breakfast."  Molly laughed, but her smile quickly faded.  "It's been," she took a breath, "so different this year." 

"I know.  I miss Fred, too."  And Remus and Tonks.  Harry's heart twisted as he thought of all the people who were missing. 

Molly's eyes got glassy for a second, and then she took another breath.  "That isn't all of it, either.  I mean, Bill and Fleur are married.  Percy is very serious about Audrey.  It's good to see all of my children starting to settle down." 
 
Her tone said she'd included him in that.  "Not me, I don't think." 
 
"You're courting Severus."  And she sounded as if she believed that he might stay with Snape.     

Harry bit back a different kind of groan.  He'd told Ginny and he'd expected she would have told Molly that it wasn't real.  "I thought you knew --" 
 
"I do.  I'm not sure I believe it though.  You both seem...compatible with each other.  And after everything that's happened, I'm not surprised." 

Some part of him wanted to emphatically deny the possibility of being happy with Snape, but it would be a lie.  "I would have thought that would...bother you." 

"Severus isn't the man we all thought he was for so long." 

"He's been...good to me this term." 

"He gave you that potion that helped Ron to sleep.  I'm grateful for that." 

"Me, too."  He probably hadn't thanked Snape enough for that, either.  It had made a big difference for all of them.  "Even with that --" 

She smiled faintly.  "I want you to be happy, dear." 

As unlikely as it seemed, he'd started to like Snape, to think of him as a friend, maybe more.  But that didn't mean he wanted to marry the git.  "I'm not ready to get married yet.  To anyone."

 
"I suspect you want to go out and have some fun, first."  There was only the faintest hint of disapproval in her tone.   

He nodded, glad that he didn't have to explain it to her.  "Yeah.  I thought you would be more upset about me and Ginny." 

"I would have liked to see you together.  But she tells me she's not ready to settle down yet, either."  Molly sighed.  "And that she's enjoying Neville's attentions." 

He didn't want to hear about Neville and Ginny.  "I thought --" 
 
"That I would try to force her into something like marriage?  No.  I wanted to be a mother and that's exactly what I did.  Ginny wants to play Quidditch professionally.  I'm not going to stop her." 

He doubted that anyone could stop Ginny when she made up her mind to do something.  It was one of the many things he loved about her.  

Molly smiled at him in a way that made Harry's heart warm.  "I want you to be happy just as much as any of my other children." 

His face heated.  "Thanks.  I really don't think that Sna...Severus is the one to do that.  I was hoping when this ends that me and Ginny..." 
 
Molly's expression changed slightly.  "I've always hoped that, too.  But Ginny may have other plans now." 

"I know."  Before Neville had spoken to him, he'd never considered Neville and Ginny as a possibility, but after seeing them together as a couple, he could see it.  It bothered him less than it should have done.  "Things are changing." 

"In some ways, I'm glad.  I'm going to be starting a job myself in the new year." 

That was really a surprise.  "I thought --" 
 
"As I said, I enjoyed having children, but they are all grown now.  I'm going to be working with Andromeda, helping to deal with the war orphans." 

Well, if there was a career that perfectly suited Molly that would be it.  "I guess there are a lot of them."   

She sighed and nodded.  "I'm afraid so.  And the children of Death Eaters have it much worse than the other children." 

"It's wonderful that you are going to be helping with that." 
 
"How could I not when the need is so great?"  She sighed again.  "I always thought that Ron and Hermione would be together, too.  I just don't understand what happened."   

Harry had thought that Molly was encouraging Ron.  "Ron is insisting on a very restrictive marriage contract.  The same one you and Arthur used." 
 
Molly's eyes narrowed and she looked cross.  "And Hermione doesn't want that?  Why not?" 
 
"Because she's eighteen and doesn't want to be stuck forever.  People change over time, you know that." 
 
"But you can always break the contract.  I mean, you're not supposed to, and you shouldn't go into a marriage with the idea that it will be broken, but...."  She shrugged.  "Sometimes it happens." 

"How do you break an unbreakable contract?" 
 
She looked at him like he was crazy.  "The unbreakable contract is mostly symbolic, something that would show that your intentions are serious.  But most people know deep down that it's not that permanent and so it doesn't create a permanent bond."   
 
That's what McGonagall told Hermione.  That the magic worked on intent and if someone didn't really believe in the magic, they wouldn't have a completely unbreakable bond.  "I don't think Ron thinks of it that way.  I think he believes that it's actually unbreakable." 

Her face was sad.  "That would make it more difficult to dissolve. Probably impossible."   

"Yeah.  And that's why I don't think Hermione is going to give in on this.  She also sees it as unbreakable." 
 
"I can try to talk to Ron about it."  Her tone said she knew very well that it wouldn't work. 
 
"I'm not sure he'll listen at this point, even to you."  Harry doubted he'd listen at all until it was too late.  If it wasn't too late already.  

She sighed.  "Once he gets something in his head, he isn't likely to change his mind unless he's forced to." 
 
"Or even then."  And that was the bottom line, wasn't it? 

*****

Part 4 
 

Harry came upstairs a week into the new term to find Snape kneeling on the floor, clearly finishing a floo call.  He looked strange, or stranger than usual. 
 
"Is something wrong," Harry asked. 
 
"No.  Not exactly.  Why don't you sit down?" 
 
Something in that tone sent a chill down Harry's spine.  "What is it?" 
 
Snape took a breath and sat down beside him.  "I've been researching your Grandmother Potter, whose name was Rose, by the way." 
 
"Why?  I thought she was dead."  Harry hadn't considered that she could be anything else, and looking at Snape he could see he was right.   
 
"She is.  But I can't stand a mystery." 
 
"I'm assuming that there's more to it than that."  Or Snape wouldn't have even mentioned it. 
 
"She didn't die before your parents.  In fact, she died only a few years ago." 
 
"A few...when?" 
 
"About five years ago." 
 
Harry would have been about thirteen.  Already at Hogwarts.  "But...how?  Where was she all this time?"  He tried to keep the hurt out of his voice, but he could see that Snape heard it.   
 
"As I assumed, she had been in hiding.  She was from an old Wizarding family, and Voldemort wanted to teach her family a lesson." 
 
"Was she killed by Voldemort?"  Not that he could do anything about it if she were. 

 
"It seems unlikely.  She was in a coven in Canada.  They seem to think she died of old age." 
 
"Why didn't she --" 
 
"She had been in contact with Dumbledore.  But he -- and as far as I can tell she -- deemed it unsafe to let you know." 
 
More anger and hurt seared into Harry.  "Unsafe?  For me to have a grandmother?  Or any relative who might treat me better than shite?" 
 
"It's likely that Voldemort would have killed her if she'd come out of hiding, or worse, he would have used her to bring you to heel.  In the last years of her life, she was ill and weak." 
 
If he had known maybe he could have helped.  "But --" 
 
"Before that, she couldn't have taken you because of the blood magic that kept you safe.  It came from Lily, not James.  I'm sure that Dumbledore told her that." 
 
"Have you talked to him about it?" 
 
Snape shook his head.  "The portrait is only an image.  It's not really the person.  You know that." 
 
He'd had a chance to talk to Dumbledore enough to know it.  Some of Harry's anger receded.  Snape was right.  Everyone who was close to him had become a target.  A grandmother with a tie to the past would have been even more so.  He sighed and blinked his eyes a few times to get rid of the sting.  Still, it would have been so nice. 
 
Snape didn't say anything for a few minutes and then he put a hand on Harry's arm.  "All right?" 
 
"Why did you..."  Harry shrugged.  Even finding out she was dead was better than not knowing.  He wanted to understand how she could have stayed away. 
 
"I told you, I hate a mystery." 
 
"Yeah.  I get that."  He looked at Snape, who was not meeting his eyes.  Was there more to it than what he'd said?  Harry couldn't quite credit that, but maybe Snape was getting to like him, too.   It was still a lot of trouble for him to go to for not much gain.

 
"Do you have studying to do?" Snape asked. 
 
"I do but -- 
 
"No buts.  Get to it or I shall throw you out." 
 
Harry met his eyes and could see nothing else behind them.  But he'd never been that good at reading Snape.  That Snape had gone to this much trouble for him, touched Harry deeply. 
 
"Thanks.  I really do appreciate what you did," he said, opening up his book. 

Snape didn't say anything, but he looked pleased. 

***** 

A night or two later, Harry crept into the eighth year boys' bathroom after everyone had gone to sleep.  It was almost as big as the prefects' bath, and more importantly, lacked Myrtle, who had a real tendency to kill the mood.  Harry wasn't up to performing for a ghost or anyone else for that matter. 

Snape's potion had stopped the nightmares, but he still wasn't sleeping that well.  He put on the taps, adding enough oil to make it easy to move his hand against his skin.  The water was perfect when he slid in. 

Closing his eyes, he ran a hand down his chest, tweaking a nipple as his fingers passed.  He never had enough time for a long, slow wank, except at night.   

He closed his eyes and tried to call Ginny's image up, but it kept morphing into dark hair and scarred skin.  There was no way he was going to wank to Snape.  He might like Snape a lot more than he'd ever believed possible, but that didn't mean that he should be thinking about him now.    

Next, he tried to think of Luna and that just made it worse, since he wasn't really attracted to her.  And he wasn't even going to try Hermione.  Ron would find out and kill him.  Or maybe Malfoy would.  He wasn't going to think about that right now, or he'd never get it up.

 

The new seeker for the Hollyhead Harpies was hot.  She had dark hair and a wide mouth.  That would do.  Except that her hair got long and lank, then her mouth thinned, and there was Snape again.  Harry was ready to give up.   

Maybe he should just give in.  It wasn't as if he hadn't touched another boy either.  In fact, it had always been so much easier with boys.  He'd never been tongue-tied or hesitant with a boy, even the first time with Oliver.   

Girls, on the other hand, always had him so confused that he'd never known what to say, let alone what to do with one.  If Ginny hadn't led him along, he'd never have figured out what to do.   And it had been very nice with her.  He'd liked it a lot.  Girls were soft where boys were firm. 

But Snape wasn't a boy and doing it with him would be as complicated as doing it with a girl.  Even if he did know what to do, there were too many emotions involved.  Plus, he didn't want to like Snape like that, even if he did.   

He took his prick in his hand.  There didn't need to be a fantasy.  He'd just get it over with as fast as he could even if it wasted all this hot water. 

Finally, Harry gave up and closed his eyes.  His mind drifted over Snape's face and then his body.   He'd bet Snape's tongue licking over his chest would feel like anyone else's.  It wouldn't be that bad.  No, in fact, it would be good.  Very good, indeed.    

In his mind, Snape's hand stroked over his chest again, and then moved lower, carding through his pubic hair, fluffing it in the water.  After what seemed like forever, Snape finally took hold of his prick, stroking too lightly for it to matter.  

Harry moaned.  "Please, Severus.  Please." 
 
The hand on his prick moved at a maddeningly slow pace, just enough to pull the strings of arousal a little tighter without breaking them.  And Harry really wanted them broken.  He begged for it, but his tormentor refused to listen. 

The tension crested, and Harry came, arching up to steal a kiss that was never given.  He crashed back into the warm water, feeling mostly satisfied.  But something had been missing and he was now very much afraid he knew just what it was.  He'd wanted it to be Snape's hand for real.  And more than that, he wanted to fuck Snape and have him fuck him. 

"Oh God, I'm so bloody screwed."

 

***** 

"You know, I never thought it would be like this," Harry said, sitting down beside Hermione in the common room late one afternoon in the early spring. 
 
"Like what?"  She looked up from her book. 
 
Harry shrugged and could feel a blush start.  "I didn't expect to, you know, like him this much." 
 
"Yes.  I do know," Hermione said softly, looking down and closing her book. 
 
Now, that was a surprise.  "Better than Ron?"  He'd hate to see Ron hurt, but that had almost been a foregone conclusion when Ron wouldn't consider a compromise. 

 
"Different."  And then she blushed, too.  "He's so intelligent.  He gets my jokes, no matter how esoteric they are."  And then she sighed.  "He's impressed with my intelligence." 

"What about his prejudice?  I'm mean he can't have changed that much."  That was going to be a big problem if Hermione actually got involved with him. 

Hermione's brow creased.  "I think he's changed.  He just couldn't fake that for long." 
 
Harry wasn't so sure.  If Malfoy wanted something, he'd go a long way to get it.  "It's sort of ingrained, isn't it?" 

"Maybe not as much as you'd think."  She sounded awful sure.  "What about you and Snape?" 

It wasn't like Hermione to avoid a subject like that.  What did that say about Malfoy?  He probably had her completely fooled.  Which might not seem like Hermione, but it was possible she was pretty gone on him and he was exploiting it.  He'd better have a talk with Snape about it.  At least he knew Malfoy well enough to warn him off without triggering an incident.   

"Snape knows about the war.  About everything we went through.  He was there going through it, too.  In some cases, worse than us." 
 
She nodded.  "You're starting to...develop feelings --" 
 
"Ones that aren't negative, yeah.  I've also thought about...."  Harry blushed.  He couldn't quite believe he was thinking of Snape in those terms, but it was hard to deny when he was wanking to it. 
 
"That's a bigger issue.  Ginny?" 
 
"I don't know.  The thing is -- I want a family.  Maybe not this week, but I do want children in the future." 
 
"You do know that --" 
 
Harry held up his hand and made a face.  "Don't even say it, okay?  I know.  And there is no way that is going to happen on my watch." 
 
"Why not?  I mean, if you're both men and you want children."  Hermione had that disapproving look on her face that she got when he said something she thought was stupid.  Which really was a lot of the time. 
 
"I just can't wrap my head around that.  I was Muggle-raised.  I can't get past the idea that men don't do that."  Harry tried to imagine it and he shuddered.  No.  It wasn't something he could even consider. 
 
"Maybe --" 
 
"I'm not there yet either.  What about you?"  Maybe Snape would be interested, but Harry wasn't ready to consider him in that role.  Not yet, anyway. 
 
Hermione's face went red again.  "I don't know.  He's so very good looking.  Don't you think?" 
 
"Not my type, you know."  Harry laughed.  He wasn't going to tell her that Malfoy's looks always struck him as too cold and too blond and too aloof to be appealing. 
 
Surprisingly, Hermione's eyes dropped again.  "I wouldn't mind...." 
 
"Me either."  At her look, he laughed again.  "Not with Malfoy." 
 
"Really?"  Her eyes were wide, but she didn't look horrified. 
 
"Yeah.  There's always been something between us.  Admittedly a lot of it has been anger, hatred and distrust, but I know now most of it was required.  We both had roles to play."  Admitting it out loud wasn't as hard as he'd thought.  Though Ron would probably do his nut when he heard.   
 
"True.  But...you know, what about attraction?  He's...well not so...." 
 
Harry did know.  And yeah, it did matter, but weighted against some other factors like the length of his fingers or the way he looked when he laughed out loud, well, "It matters a lot less now." 
 
"I mean if you compare...Ginny?" 
 
He could see that Ginny was gorgeous and athletic, and he really enjoyed the time he'd spent with her, but that didn't take anything away from what he felt with Snape.  Or the fact that he wanted to put his hands on Snape's bare body as much as he did Ginny's.  Maybe more.  "I didn't say it made any sense."   
 
She laughed.  "None of this does.  I feel like we've deviated from the plan.  When the war ended, I was so sure I knew what I wanted.  And now, now I'm not as certain anymore." 
 
Harry did not have a problem with that at all.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  "Oh, I knew I didn't know what I wanted --" 
 
"I thought you always had this idea in the back of your head, just like I did." 
 
Oh, he'd always wanted a normal life, and really, he still did.  But he wanted to know what his choices were before he made any.  "I have a vague idea.  But as I've said, there's too much I don't know, to know what I want right now." 
 
"That makes sense."  She looked at her watch.  "It's almost dinner time." 
 
"I think I'm going to go up to his office and study after dinner."  He gathered up his books and papers.  "Are you coming down?" 
 
"In a minute, I want to finish up this section."  She opened up the book again. 
 
"Okay, I'll see you later," Harry said as he pushed the door open. 
 
*****

 
"The last time I checked, this was my office," Snape said, coming in after dinner to find Harry ensconced at his desk, grading papers. 

"Courtship.  You know.  Besides, it's wonderfully quiet in here."  He glanced at the portraits -- half were asleep and the other half were empty frames. 

Snape sighed.  He liked the way Harry looked at his desk.  "I'm sure that it is, but that is my desk, and I'd like to use it." 

"Why don't you use the one in your quarters?"  Harry didn't bother to look up. 

It really should have annoyed him more than it did.  He didn't want to find anything Harry did endearing, but more and more he'd been unable to help himself.  This could lead him to disaster.  "This one is mine.  You presume too much." 

By all rights, he should be shouting with rage.  He should be so angry he was spitting; instead, all he could do was try not to smile.  And if Harry found out, he would no doubt exploit the situation to the fullest.  Something had to be done before he humiliated himself.   

"Do I?  Presume too much I mean?"  He blinked, his eyes boring into Snape.  

"You bloody well know that you do."  Snape bit the inside of his mouth.  Perhaps the pain would knock him to his senses.   

"You're not yelling at me."  Harry's smile was cheeky.  And not at all adorable.   "Come on, admit it.  You're getting used to me.  Maybe even starting to like me."   

Snape folded his arms over his chest and scowled.  "I doubt that very much." 

Something in Harry's face changed slightly and he blinked.  "You still don't like me?" 

Every instinct said to deny the possibility of liking Harry, but he couldn't look into his eyes and lie about it.  He just couldn't.  "I didn't say that." 

"What did you say?"  There was a suggestion in Harry's voice.  One that Snape had not heard before and was very much afraid of right now. 

Snape pointed his finger at him.  "This is a very inappropriate conversation."  And one that would only lead to places that Snape didn't want to go.  Ridicule from Harry would infuriate him. 

"You shouldn't point your finger at me like that," Harry said, standing up and moving around the desk in a predatory manner. 

"And what are you going to do about it?"  Snape considered lowering his finger, but he was caught by the look in Harry's eyes.  He hadn't expected to see that look, ever.  It made his prick twitch and start to fill.  It started an ache deep in his belly, something he hadn't felt in years.   

Oh, sweet Merlin, Harry licked his lips with almost deliberate slowness.  He might only want one night, but Snape was hard pressed to even think about turning down such a blatant invitation.  Even though he knew he should.  This could only end badly.   

"What would you like me to do about it?"  Harry crowded into his space, right up against him.  And then took the tip of Snape's finger between his teeth, and bit down.  Not hard enough to actually hurt, but enough to startle Snape out of his thoughts. 

"Potter!" 

He looked up at Snape, unrepentant.  Indeed, there was sly amusement in his eyes.  "You keep pointing it at me." 

"And that gives you the right to assault me?"  Snape wasn't happy about the lack of depth in his voice.  He should sound firm, commanding.  Like he was in charge, not like he was about to give in.   

Harry's smile widened, his eyes lighting up.  "That wasn't an assault.  It was barely even a bite." 

"Potter," Snape said, warningly.  This shouldn't be happening now.  Not with everything else.  His aching prick disagreed, rather emphatically.  Snape tried hard to ignore it.   

"You should really call me Harry."  Harry slid his arms around Snape and pulled him close.  He threaded one hand into Snape's hair, and pulled his head down into a kiss. 

Snape could have struggled, probably should have done, but Harry's mouth was soft on his, lush, and it had just been too long since he'd kissed anyone.  He moaned and opened his mouth to Harry's tongue.  Delicious sensations rolled over him as Harry deepened the kiss. 

Before Snape's brain was fully engaged by the lushness of Harry's mouth, he pulled away.  Harry started to protest. Resisting the urge to kiss him, Snape put a finger to his lips.  "Not here."  

Harry looked around.  "Where?" 
 
Did he really want to do this?  His prick was screaming yes, and the look on Harry's face said he wasn't going to be denied.  It had been so damned long.  "This way." 
 
He led Harry through to his private quarters and then into his bedroom without stopping.  As soon as he crossed the doorway into his bedroom, Harry turned him around and pushed him against the wall.   

Snape moaned as Harry's mouth connected with his neck.  The magical scarring had left the skin very sensitive, and Harry seemed to realize that.  His tongue delicately licked along the lines and dips in his skin, heat rising in Snape.  He turned them, and pushed Harry against the wall, his hands sliding down Harry's strong chest. 

He was much shorter than Snape, but surprisingly well built under his robes.  And it had become imperative that Harry be divested of those robes.  He had no patience for long drawn out seduction, even if he were an expert on such things, which he was not.  A wordless murmur and Harry was naked. 

There was no protest, and Snape pushed into him, leaning down to take his mouth again in a long slow kiss.  Harry's mouth was paradise found, wet and hot and slick.  Snape savored it, licking slowly, thoroughly.  While his tongue worked on Harry's mouth, his fingers slid ever so slowly down Harry's chest.  The hair wasn't thick there, but it might be as he aged.   It was lovely to card through, either way.   

When Snape tweaked a nipple, just hard enough for Harry to feel it, Harry arched appreciatively into the touch.  Snape reluctantly left his mouth to move down along his neck.  Harry moaned again.  That sound ran down Snape's spine, straight into his groin.  His already hard prick, started to throb. 

His hand wrapped around Harry's surprising girth and a few strokes was all it took.  Harry erupted into his hand with a long slow groan and then slid down the wall. 

Snape knelt beside him, still fully dressed.  "Don't think about sleep." 
 
"Wouldn't do that."  Harry waved his hand and Snape was naked. 

Some part of him would have rather done this in the dark.   He was neither young nor beautiful, but looking at Harry, he didn't seem disappointed with what he was seeing.

 
Harry licked his lips.  "I think the bed will be more comfortable for what I have in mind." 
 
"And just what do you have in mind?" 
 
"I think I'm going to fuck you, and then you're going to fuck me." 

A shard of pure lust raced down Snape's spine.  He couldn't imagine anything he wanted more.  "I see.  And do you plan to let me recover from one before we embark on the second?"

 
Harry looked confused for a moment, but then he smiled.  "We can do it again in the morning." 
 
"You can't spend the night here."  Snape stood and pulled Harry to his feet.  He waved his hand, and the sheets and duvet folded themselves onto the end of the bed.   

As soon as they were both horizontal, Harry slid on top of him, kissing him hard.  He started to move down Snape's body, licking and kissing along the way.  Snape's mind spun out, leaving only sensations.  Harry's mouth was hot and talented.  He didn't hesitate to take Snape into his mouth, sucking softly and then with gusto.   

Snape moaned as he thrust into Harry's mouth, wanting it to last forever.  It didn't.  He came embarrassingly quickly.  But the rush of heat and light that filled him was worth the quickness of the pleasure. 

He was turned onto his belly.   

"Accio oil," Harry said, and a vial came flying from his robes. 

"What do you think you're going to use that for?  Snape could not believe Harry intended to use some inferior product on him.   

Harry shrugged.  "Lubricant.  We need it." 

"Not that brand, I can assure you.  I have something perfectly blended for this type of activity." 

"Of course you do.  Where is it?" 
 
"In the bedside drawer." 

Harry reached over for it, and then pressed Snape back into the bed.   

"Use a lot of it." 
 
"Right." 

Harry slid one finger then another into him, and Snape pushed back.  It had been a very long time and it wasn't quite comfortable yet.  But Harry kept on, and finally hit the right spots.  Snape sighed.  Yes, this would be good. 

After lengthy preparations, Harry finally sank into him and sighed.  "Yes.  Oh, yes.  Beautiful." 

Snape shuddered, needy and ready and waiting.  "Before you congratulate yourself on a job well done, you might do the job." 

"I suppose I could do that."  Harry flexed his hips taking hold of Snape's and pushing himself deeper. 

"Wouldn't want to trouble you," Snape said, through his gritted teeth.  Harry's hips pressed in and then pulled out, very slowly, and he let out a pleased sigh. 

"No trouble, really.  I don't mind."  Harry changed his angle a bit. 

Perfect.  Harry hit pay-dirt quickly, and Snape's body sang with the accuracy.  "That.  Do it again." 

"I'm trying." 

"Try. Harder."  Snape arch his back and attempting to angle into Harry's thrusts. 

"You're so damned bossy." 

"And you're slow," Snape panted.  "I mean that in all ways, too." 

"I could pull out." 

"I'll hex you if you do." 

Harry slammed into him, hard.  And then, finally, took hold of Snape's hard, dripping prick.  "No you won't." 
 
"No I won't."  Snape shut his eyes, thrusting into Harry's hand and then back onto Harry's prick.  The double sensation sent him over the edge with a groan. 

***** 

Snape looked down at Harry, sprawled in the ruin of his bed.  As enjoyable as this had been, he should have waited.  It could cause him a great deal of trouble in the long run. 

While Harry was teaching and of age, he was still technically a student.  And that could give the Ministry the means to sack him.  Losing his job would cause him no end of problems personally and what it would do to the other Slytherins would be worse.  He should have remembered that before they started.   But it had been too late as soon as Harry looked at him. 

They had broken the bounds of the courtship, but he was quite sure that they weren't the first to have done so.  There was no magical binding on them not to.  It was just expected that they would wait. 

On the other hand, if someone were to find out, it might work out in his favor.  If he were to bind himself to Harry, even for a few years, it could benefit everyone involved.  There was some risk in that idea.  A lot actually.   

Harry rolled over and blinked up at him.  "Mmm...  That was --" 
 
"Inappropriate."  Snape tried to sound like he cared, but it was clear from Harry's smirk that he'd failed rather miserably.  

"A bit late in the day to worry about it now." 

Snape chuckled.  "You are correct.  However, you can't stay the night, so don't get comfortable." 

"Of course not."  Unselfconsciously, Harry sat up, letting the bedding fall around him.  He reached over and pulled Snape into another slow kiss. 

"How about waiting a bit longer before you send me on my way?" 

"You think a lot of my stamina." 

Harry's hand found him half hard.  One of Harry's fingers running over the head of his prick was enough to firm things up nicely.  "Do I?" 

"I suspect I'm inspired."  Or it had been so long that he was going to take anything he could get. 

"Good. Stay that way," Harry said, pulling Snape on top of him. 

***** 

Hermione was waiting for him when Harry got into the common room at nearly dawn.  He hadn't meant to fall asleep again, but Snape had worn him out in the most wonderful of ways.   

"Where have you been?" she asked, yawning.   

"Couldn't sleep," Harry lied.  There was no way to keep it a secret if he told anyone, even Hermione.  And it seemed the walls had ears these days. 

She gave him a look.  "You never came back from --"  And then she went red.  "No." 

Harry shrugged.  He probably shouldn't tell anyone, so he didn't meet her eyes. 

"Do you know how much trouble he can get into for that?  You too." 

Harry shook his head.  "We won't get caught." 

"Famous last words." 

***** 

"Mr. Potter, please assist me," Snape said from the front of the class.  He pointed to the spot right next to him and smirked. 

Bloody Hell.  Harry hated it when Snape used him as a demonstration tool.  Usually he could defend himself well enough, but Snape had the tendency to take his defense apart.  And in the last week, he'd started to use some really unfair tactics. 

"We're going to learn about different kinds of shields."  Snape looked around at the class.  "Mr. Zabini, what is a Newburg shield." 

Zabini looked surprised to be asked.  "Um..." 

"Miss Granger?" 

Hermione gave a fairly long-winded description ending with, "basically it's a personal protection spell.  You can't cast it for someone else." 

"Correct."  He looked at Harry.  "You will cast it silently while I try to hex you." 

Harry nodded.  What choice did he have? 

Without warning, Snape sent a stinging hex his way.  Harry got his shield up in time. 

"Um...why this one instead of Protego?" Ron asked. 

"Does someone want to answer Mr. Weasley?  Miss Parkinson, perhaps?" 

She'd been standing at the back of the class with her arms folded over her chest.  "You can cast this wandlessly or silently, like Potter just did.  You don't have to pull your wand on someone." 

"Essentially correct."  Snape stepped close to Harry. 

So close that Harry could smell the aftershave he'd used this morning.  And that led him to think about some of the other things they'd done this morning before he'd gone back to his dorm.  He tried not to lean into Snape.   

Because he was distracted, which no doubt Snape counted on, Snape was able to hit him with a pushing hex that knocked him rather painfully to the ground.  That got a laugh out of everyone and didn't do anything to help with his now hard prick. 

"Pay attention, Mr. Potter. Or you will get yourself killed next time."  Snape's tone was nasty, but he held out his hand to help Harry up.   But at the same time, that voice slid ever so pleasantly down Harry's spine.   

Harry closed his eyes and sighed.  He'd get Snape for this.  Maybe at lunch. 

***** 

This morning's class had left Harry aching.  He'd tried a quick wank in the boys' toilet and even though he'd come, he was hard as a rock as soon as his mind drifted back to Snape.   

He marched up the stairs to Snape's office.  He didn't care who was in there.  The door opened before he got to the top of the stairs.   

"Mr. Potter --" 
 
Harry pushed Snape against the desk and plastered his mouth against Snape's.  That shut him up.  This was all Snape's fault.  Harry was going to make sure that Snape took care of it, too. 

"Not in  front of the --" 

"Obliquius!"  Harry waved his wand and all of the portraits had oblique panels in front of them.  He'd told Hermione that he needed a spell to block a portrait and hadn't told her why.  And fortunately, she didn't ask.  

"Where did you learn to do that?" 
 
"Shut it,"  Harry growled, his fingers already reaching for the buttons on his trousers, freeing himself.  He took Snape's hand and wrapped it around his aching prick.  "Do something." 

"You seem to have a problem, don't you?"  Snape's chuckle was evil. 

"It's your fault.  Fix it." 

"Demanding.  What will you give me in return?" 
 
"Anything you want."  Harry thrust up into his hands.  "Please." 

Snape kissed him hard.  His suddenly slick hand moved wonderfully on Harry.   

He groaned, thrusting up in that perfect tunnel Snape had created for him.  God, it felt so good, so right.  Heat raced down his spine, making him shiver and thrust harder.  There was no holding back and Harry came with a whine, gasping for breath.   

As everything righted itself, Harry leaned into Snape, burying his face in Snape's robes.  The smell of him washing over Harry as much a comfort as it was a turn on.  "Mmm...thanks." 

"You're not done yet, Harry."  Snape pressed his hard prick into Harry's hip.  "I do think we should take this out of the office." 

"Good idea."  Harry tried not to squirm as Snape tucked him back into his pants and zipped him up.   

They made it as far as the sitting room. 

"What can I do for you?" Harry asked palming the front of Snape's trousers. 

"You.  On your knees."  Snape sat on his sofa and spread his legs enough for Harry to kneel between them. 

Harry chuckled and knelt, nuzzling the still-clothed prick.  He loved the smell and the taste of Snape.  A quick spell divested Snape of his trousers and pants, and Harry buried his nose in the lush hair between Snape's legs. 

There wasn't much time for preliminaries, so Harry got down to it, taking him into his mouth and as far down his throat as he could.   He hadn't been at this long enough to take all of Snape, but he'd get there one day.  Snape didn't seem to have any complaints, indeed he was making a lot of pleasured noise.  It was such a turn on to reduce this man to incoherency. 

It didn't take long before Snape was coming with a soft moan.  He pulled away almost as soon as he came back to his senses, but not before his hand stroked along Harry's cheek.  "We don't have time to linger." 
 
"I know.  I have class in a few minutes.  But God, I needed that." 

Snape laughed and reached for his neatly folded trousers.  "I'm happy to oblige."   

*****

Part 5 

A week later, Harry had just rushed into the Great Hall, late again for breakfast, when an owl delivering the post dropped the Prophet onto his plate.  A gasp went through the hall as everyone opened the paper and read the headlines.  "Boy Who Lived caught In Flagrante Delicto with Hogwart's Headmaster." 

How could someone have got that picture?  It was impossible.  But there they were.  Snape was leaning against his desk, and Harry was leaning into him.  They were mostly dressed and where they weren't their robes were draped in such a way that, while it was obvious what they were doing, it left them modestly covered. 

It was from two days ago when he'd been so turned on from Snape teasing him during defense.  Bloody hell.  He or Snape should have heard them. 

"Oh fuck," Harry said, and glanced up at the head table.  Snape's face was white and he shook his head slightly. 

"Harry?" Ginny said.  She was standing next to the eighth year table.   

He would have expected her to be livid, but she just looked kind of sad.  "Ginny." 

"Is it true?" 

He nodded.  "I'm sorry." 

She sat down beside him.  "It's...well, I'm not completely surprised.  I didn't understand why you agreed to it.  But if you'd prefer --"

 
"Thing is, I don't.  I mean, I didn't.  I wouldn't have thought that --"  Harry's face was hot, and the skin felt like it was stretched too tight across his cheekbones.  

"You don't have to explain.  I've been pretty serious with Neville."  There was still way too much tension in her tone.   
 
It probably had more to do with the situation than with her feelings for Neville.  He rather thought that she was telling him good-bye.  "I just...I don't know how it happened." 

"I think it's pretty obvious." 

"No.  I don't mean that.  I mean how someone caught us without our knowing." 

"It's common knowledge that when you're up there, the wards on the Headmaster's office are down." 

"But we'd have seen someone, or at least heard them."

 
"Not if they were using an invisibility charm.  Harry, you were pretty distracted."  Ginny nodded towards the paper that was still lying open on the table.  "You know, you're going to be in big trouble."  

"She's right," Hermione sat down on his other side.  "They can, and probably will, expel you for this.  And I'm sure they will sack Professor Snape, too." 
 
"Well, maybe not," Draco said.  "They might make you marry Severus." 

"I don't want to get married." Harry groaned.  He wasn't going to let Snape get sacked for something that was his fault as well.  That just wouldn't be fair. 

"It's better than being expelled, mate."  Ron sat down across the table.  He frowned at Draco, who just shook his head.  "But Harry...."   There were just too many questions in Ron's tone. 

Harry wasn't going to defend Snape to anyone now.  "God, why do these things happen to me?" 

Ron scratched his head.  "What I don't get is what you were doing in the outer office?  I mean, if you were going to do that, then why not go into Snape's quarters?"   

"Because we were stupid enough to think that if someone came up, we'd hear them. 

"Clearly, not" Hermione said and there was that 'I told you so' tone in her voice. 

Before he could say anything, there was a loud laugh at the Slytherin table and Pansy turned around to smile nastily at him. 

"There is no way she could have had anything to do with it, is there?"  That would raise the whole thing up a level. 

"Don't think that," Draco said.  "She is devilishly good with Charms." 

"What would that do?" Ron asked.  "Could she have cast 'Notice Me Not' well enough not to be seen at all?  And how did she get that picture without a flash?" 

"It's actually possible.  If she were strong enough magically, she could do both."  Hermione looked at Draco.   

"It's not an easy spell.  But she's good enough to cast it.  Or she was last year," Draco said.

 
***** 

"Is there some way to mitigate the damage from this?" Snape asked, his chest tight.  He hadn't expected the Minister for Magic to show up.  And being sacked would destroy the last Slytherin role model, not to mention making his life infinitely more difficult.  He could hear that imbecile Wood's invective being written.  

"You'll have to marry him."  Kingsley said, his arms folded over his chest.  "He's Harry Potter, and of age, but he is also a student here." 

"Do I need to remind you that he's actually teaching?" 

"It doesn't matter.  All anyone cares about is that you are taking advantage of a student."  Kingsley's tone was neutral.   

And Snape wasn't sure Kingsley didn't believe that as well.  As to marriage, Harry would be the biggest obstacle to that.  Snape would do anything to keep his position.   "As if anyone could take advantage of Potter.  I doubt he'll want to marry at his age."   

"That's too bad.  The scandal is going to be too much for even his reputation.  And let's not discuss what it will do to yours." 

Snape could feel a headache coming and rubbed the bridge of his nose.  "We were courting --" 
 
"That's the only reason you're going to be allowed to marry and retain your position."  Kingsley folded his arms over his chest.   

"And if we don't?"  Because there was always the possibility that Harry would refuse. 

"Then you'll be sacked and Harry will be expelled.  Not only that, he won't be able to sit his N.E.W.T.S., which will make being an Auror very difficult.  The Wizengamot is very upset by the precedent this sets." 

Kingsley looked upset, too. 

"I'll send for him.  Can we put it off until the end of the year?" Snape sighed and knelt by the fire to floo a note to Minerva.  Perhaps if they postponed it long enough, it would all blow over. 

 
"No.  You might get a week or two of grace to arrange things.  That's it." 

"Do you know where the pictures came from?" Snape asked.   
 
"No idea." 
 
"We should have heard whomever was on the stairs."  Snape held up a hand.  "I may have taken down the wards, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid." 
 
"He's right.  I cast a wordless noise enhancing charm each time I came up," Harry said as he came into the room.  "I don't know how this happened.  Draco and Hermione think there is a charm that will keep a person totally silent." 

"If you both had waited, it wouldn't have happened," Kingsley said, in that admonishing tone that usually sent Snape around the bend.   

Harry looked at them, looking braced for the worst.  "All right, tell me the bad news." 

There was no use sugar coating it.  Snape drew in a breath and said, "The only way to avoid being sacked or expelled is to marry.  Now."   

"Fuck." Harry looked resigned, rather than ready to explode. 

"I think that was the problem to begin with."  Kingsley's remark was dry.  Maybe he wasn't as angry as he seemed. 

"I'm sure there will be dire consequences to both of us if we don't, correct?"  Was Harry looking for an excuse to give in?   

Kingsley nodded. 

"All right," Harry said with a shrug. 

"You agree?"  Snape asked, astonished.  There should have been yelling and recriminations and stubbornness.  And then, after hours of tantrums, finally, he should have given in with bad grace.  It almost seemed as if Harry wanted to get married.  Which of course, was ridiculous.   

"You're surprised?"  Harry folded his arms over his chest.  "It's not like I'm not guilty as charged." 

***** 

"Potter?" Snape said as Kingsley left his office.  "I'm surprised you acquiesced so easily.  Now, tell me why?"  Sex and an arrangement was one thing, this easy acceptance was another.  Snape couldn't risk not knowing what was going on with Harry. 

Harry gave him an annoyed look.  "What was I supposed to do, let you take the blame?  I started it.  I'm annoyed, but there is nothing I can do about it." 

This had gone a lot better than he'd had any right to expect.  And even with the scandal, he'd come out ahead of the game.  Harry, however, had a right to be bitter. 

"You could simply refuse."  And Snape had expected him to refuse, at least at first.  He would have been forced to heel eventually, but Snape hadn't even begun to believe it would be without cost. 

"As if they wouldn't take it out of my hide.  And yours.  It wasn't worth fighting over.  We can marry for a year and a day and that will satisfy everyone.  If we end up getting along, we can renegotiate the contract when the time comes.  If not, we go our separate ways."

 
It wasn't the contract he would have chosen, but it made sense.  And it gave him time to deal with the issues that arose from this.  "How exactly did you know about that particular contract?" 
 
"Are you kidding?  Hermione has researched every kind of marriage contract known to Wizarding culture and tried to tell Ron about it."  Harry looked at him closely.  "Do you have a problem with that?" 
 
"I should have guessed as much.  And no.  I think that might be an excellent way out of our current predicament."  And if he would have liked to have stayed married longer, being Harry Potter's ex-husband would have its own cachet.   
 
"The way I see it," Harry said.  "We can get through the next year or two without killing each other and we'll make the best of it.  No offense, but I didn't want to get married at eighteen.  And yes, I know that we have no choice."   

"No offense taken.  I do understand that."  He wasn't going to tell Harry that he didn't mind the idea of getting married to him.  Didn't mind at all.  In fact, the benefits far outweighed the detriments. 

Before anything else could be said the floo flashed green and Narcissa stepped out.  She dusted off her blue robes and turned to greet them.   "Good day, Severus."   

Snape stood and glared at Harry until he stood as well.  The boy had no manners at all.   "Narcissa, it's good to see you.  Come in."  He held his hand out, politely.  "Please have a seat.  Can I offer you some tea? 

"I can't stay."  She moved gracefully across the room.  "Harry, it's good to see you, too." 
 
Harry inclined his head.  "And you, Mrs. Malfoy." 

"I've come to offer you Malfoy Manor for your nuptials." 

"How --" Harry started, but then closed his mouth. 

"That's very kind of you," Snape said.  He looked at Harry, who shrugged.  "We'd be happy to use the Manor for our wedding." 

"Very good, then.  I'll make the arrangements.  This Saturday?" she asked. 

"That's as good a time as any," Harry said with a sigh. 

"Aside from the Weasley family and Miss Granger, is there anyone you'd like to invite."  Narcissa asked, perfectly pleasantly. 

Harry smiled in thanks.  "Maybe the rest of the eighth year class." 

"Your cousin?" Snape remembered Harry talking about him. 

"I'm not sure Dudley is ready for this yet."  He'd send him a note to let him know.  But there was no same gender marriage in the Muggle world yet, and he wasn't sure how Dudley would take it.  Best not to find out at the wedding. 

Narcissa nodded.  "I'll see that invitations are dispatched today. Severus?" 

"No one you wouldn't have thought of already."

 
"Very good.  I will see you both on Saturday morning."  And with that, she breezed out again.   

Harry stood there shaking his head, looking sideswiped.   

"I am, after all, a friend of the family," Snape was compelled to point out. 

"Yeah.  Except for the spy part." 
 
"I was on the winning side and I protected their son.  It's beneficial to align yourself with the winning side." 
 
Harry just nodded.  "I guess so." 

***** 

"Come on." Someone pulled Harry into an abandoned classroom right after charms.   It happened so quickly that he never got a chance to do anything about it. 

"Wait.  What?" Harry blinked and pulled his wand. 

Parkinson stood there with her hands up, smirking.  "Don't hex me." 

"What's going on?"  Harry would just as soon hex her and ask questions later, but she wasn't doing anything and didn't even have her wand out. 
 
"I didn't want to be seen talking to you." 

"Why not?" 
 
She gave him an exasperated look.  "I just wanted you to know that I wasn't the one who took the picture in the Prophet

As if he were likely to believe that.  "Sure you weren't." 
 
"No.  really.  I wouldn't do that to Professor Snape." 
 
Harry laughed.  "Right.  Since he's such a big supporter of Voldemort." 
 
She winced at the use of Voldemort's name.  "He may have been that blithering idiot's man all along --" 
 
Anger raced through Harry. "Don't talk about Dumbledore that way!" 

"Do shut up and listen to me."  She folded her arms over her chest.  "Snape supports all of his Slytherins.  It would be foolish for me to endanger that." 
 
"Oh, right.  As if you've never done anything stupid." 
 
"Not as much as you have, Potter.  And I'd do it again."  Her eyes narrowed down to slits. 
 
Harry had no idea what she was going on about and was pretty sure he didn't want to know, but asked, "Do what again?" anyway. 
 
"I'd stand up and give you to the Dark Lord without a second thought."  She glared right at him.  "You're not worth my friends' lives." 

Oh, and that was just what he wanted to hear from her.  "I don't believe you didn't take that picture." 
 
"Believe what you want.  But I didn't do it.  I've got too much to lose." 
 
"You've already lost." 
 
"No, I haven't.  All I need to do is pass my N.E.W.T.S. and I've got an apprenticeship in charms waiting for me in Paris."  She smiled nastily.  "My family is very well connected.   But if I get thrown out of Hogwarts..."   

"Then why have you been pulling all this crap all year." 
 
"I've done nothing that could get me expelled.  Beyond that, what difference does it make?  I am not going to be one of your cows.  I'm not going to say I support you when I'd rather see you dead." 

Harry was starting to get a headache.  She wasn't saying anything new.  "Why are you telling me this." 
 
"So that you'll know it wasn't me."  She really believed that he'd believe anything she said.  What an idiot.  

"And why would I believe it?" asked Harry, shaking his head. 

"I don't care if you do or not."  She turned on her heel and walked away, her hair flouncing behind her.  

Harry watched her go.  If she hadn't taken the pictures, who had? 
 
***** 

"I had the most interesting conversation with Parkinson today," Harry said, as he walked into Snape's office later that night. 

"Indeed?  What did the imbecilic Miss Parkinson have to say?"  Snape didn't even look up from the papers he was reading. 

"That she didn't take the picture or send it to the papers." 
 
That got Snape's attention.  "I see.  And do you believe her?" 
 
"She makes a good case for it.  Says she doesn't want to be thrown out of school.  Though I doubt she could be expelled for that.  Is it possible that she has the family connections to end up in Paris?"  Harry explained about what she'd said about the apprenticeship.   

"It's possible.  The Parkinsons are one of the oldest and richest families in all of Wizarding England." 

"The thing is, she hasn't really done anything wrong.  All she's been is annoying.  And she refused to help out with anything." 
 
"Which was her right."  Snape rubbed the back of his neck.  "Which brings us back to who took the picture if she didn't?" 

"Right.  Any ideas?"  Harry knew it had to be someone at Hogwarts, but if it weren't Parkinson, then he had no idea who had either the talent or the motivation to do it.   

"We are not going to figure this out now.  Don't you have grading or homework to do?"  Snape sighed and looked down at the documents on his desk.  "And even if you don't, I do." 

"I guess you're right.  But this is going to drive me around the bend.  I want to figure it out."  Harry hated the unknown, especially when it was directed at him. 
 
"As if that will be anything new." 
 
"Don't you care?  You're going to have to marry me in three days."  And Harry really couldn't wrap his mind around that concept either.   

"Yes.  I did know that.  I'm rather busy right now." 

On the other hand, he didn't mind the idea of having sex on a regular basis.  "How busy are you?"  Harry smiled when Snape looked up. 

"You're insatiable.  Isn't that what got us into the predicament that we're in?" 

"Yeah.  So.  We're already damned.  We might as well enjoy it."   

With a resigned sounding sigh, Snape stood up.  "I suppose I'll have to accommodate you." 

"Sounds good to me."  Harry moved into his arms and breathed in the spicy scent of him.   

*****  

Harry never thought he'd come back to Malfoy Manor, and the idea that he was back for his own wedding was bizarre beyond all reckoning.  But here he was, about to be escorted down the aisle by a formally dressed Ron and Hermione.  They'd put aside their differences long enough to act as his escort.   

He tugged at the collar of his robes.  It was starchy. 

"Ready?" Hermione whispered and tilted her head towards the door. 

Harry nodded. Ron pushed the wide double doors to the main ballroom open and then took his place beside Harry.   

He wasn't ready for this.  Oh, the sex was great, but Harry didn't know anything about being a husband.  The bigger problem was that he wanted Snape.  Had come to like him a lot, more than he would have ever thought possible, especially at the beginning of all of this.  And while Snape might tolerate him, Harry was pretty sure he didn't see Harry quite the same way Harry saw him.   

It was also possible that Snape might want someone else later on, but Harry had a year to convince Snape that they should make a go of it.   

He and Hermione and Ron moved to the opened door, and everyone in attendance -- and it looked like a lot of people -- stood.  Hermione took one of his arms, Ron took the other, and they started down the aisle. 

When Harry got to the front, he turned back and after a count or two, Snape started to walk towards him, flanked by Narcissa and Draco.  Snape's expression was neutral as he moved to stand beside Harry.  Together they turned towards the tufty-haired wizard that had married Fleur and Bill. Was he the only wizard around who did these sorts of things? 

The words were simple and binding.  Harry felt the magic of the bond settle over him.  It couldn't be broken until a year and a day had passed.  He could feel Snape's regard for him, and right now it felt too good to think about breaking the bond.  Maybe Snape felt the same way. 

As the ceremony ended, Snape turned to him and kissed him.  Once he started, Harry wanted to fall into the kiss and never come out again.  He raised his hand to trail his fingers across Snape's cheek, and Snape's hand found the small of his back.  They moved closer and the kiss deepened until someone started to clap.  The noise was pretty loud, so they pulled back and looked at each other.  Smiling.  

"There is that," Snape said. 

Harry just nodded and then turned towards the crowd.  There were varying degrees of emotions, both good and bad, on everyone's faces.  It was going to be a long night.  "I guess we'd better feed them or something." 

***** 

"Well, at least the food is good," Harry said, popping another bacon-wrapped scallop into his mouth. 

Severus smirked at him.  "You expected anything less than the best from the Malfoys?" 

"I guess not." Harry hadn't expected anything at all, really.  He was glad they'd arranged everything.  Harry would have just gone to the Ministry and done it in an afternoon.  Now, everyone got to say they'd gone to his wedding.  And, of course, Malfoy was getting something out of this as well. 

Speaking of that, he saw Malfoy leading Hermione across the room towards Narcissa.  Hermione caught his eyes and signaled for him to come over.  "What's going on with that?"  

Severus looked where he'd indicated and his eyes widened.  "Well, isn't that interesting?  I believe that Draco is going to introduce Hermione to his mother." 

"They've met.  More than once.  And really not under the best of circumstances." 

"You really know nothing about this culture, do you?"  Severus' tone was something less than disparaging, but it wasn't very nice either.   

Harry felt his lack of knowledge keenly much of the time.  "No, I don't know much about it at all." 

"When I say he's going to introduce her, I mean that he's going to let his parents -- or in this case parent -- know that he's made his choice and that it is his intention to marry her."  Severus took Harry's wrist.  "You should be standing with Granger right now." 

Harry had just been about to say the same thing.  "She knows what's going on?" 
 
"Of course she does.  He wouldn't be doing this without telling her first." 

"Oh, he might." 
 
"Don't be ridiculous, it's simply not done that way.  She knows." 

They came to stand beside Narcissa and Andromeda.  Draco and Hermione joined the three of them.  Draco met Harry's eyes and nodded his thanks. 

"Mother," Draco said, clearly pitching his voice to carry. 

She looked up and blinked.  The room had gone eerily silent.  Harry could almost believe that she didn't know what was coming.  "Draco dear?" 

"I'd like to introduce you to Hermione Granger.  She's at the top of our class." 

Narcissa smiled slowly.  Oh, yes, she'd known what was coming.  She turned slightly and held out her hand.  "Miss Granger.  It's a pleasure to meet you." 
 
Hermione took her hand and inclined her head ever so slightly.  "The pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Malfoy." 

And that was it.  Hermione complimented her on the lovely flower arrangements.  Narcissa said something equally as innocuous.  Everyone went back to talking and eating.  The whole thing took less than thirty seconds and seemed anticlimactic to Harry. 

"Is there a problem, Potter?" Severus asked, as they started to wander away. 

"That just didn't seem like much of anything." 

Severus' snort was incredulous.  "You just witnessed someone from one of the oldest pureblood families in Wizarding Britain accept a Muggleborn witch as her only son's choice for spouse.  I'd say that that was fairly significant." 
 
Harry scratched his head.  "Is that what that was?"  Because, really, he didn't see that. 

"Look at Mr. Weasley." 

Harry looked across the room and Ron had a stricken look on his face.  George had his arm around him in a comforting kind of way. 

"I'm going to talk to him," Harry said, as he stepped away from Severus.   
 
"You do that." 

Harry made his way across the room.  "All right, Ron?" 

Ron stepped away from George.  "Yeah.  Fine."  Then he took a breath.  "I just didn't think he was that serious about her." 

"I think maybe you underestimated her interest as well," Harry said, but didn't say that Ron should have seen this coming. 

At Ron's look, George shrugged.  "She had to know what he was going to do." 

"I suppose she must have done," Ron said, bitterly.  "I just can't believe it, you know.  I mean, I thought she was just...trying..."  He sighed.  "I just never thought she was serious about him." 

"When all of this started, I don't think she was.  But you know, they actually have a lot in common."  And that was probably the last thing that Ron wanted to hear right now.  Harry was such an idiot.  He should never try and comfort anyone.  He opened his mouth to apologize, but Ron waved him off.   

"I need a drink," Ron said, pushing away from the wall.  "Several in fact." 

"You think he'll be okay," George asked, after Ron had disappeared into the crowd. 

"I don't know," Harry said.  "I think he took it for granted that Hermione would always be there and willing to do what he wanted." 

That got a snort from George.  "Amazing thing about smart women, they have minds of their own."   

Smart men, too.  Harry didn't add. 

*****

Harry came upstairs.  Doors lined both sides of the hall, and he had no idea which room was his and Severus'  Bloody hell, he'd have to go find a house elf or something.  This was some way to start a wedding night.  He could just hear Severus laughing at him. 

"You're up one more level.  Last door at the end of the hall," Malfoy said, seeming to appear from nowhere. 

"Where did you come from?"   

"Down there."  Malfoy pointed to an open door about half way down the long hallway.  "The second floor is for guests." 

There were a lot of things that Harry would have liked to have talked to Malfoy about, like what happened between him and Hermione at the reception, but right now, he had a wedding night to get to.  And, really, that was a whole lot more important, not to mention more enjoyable.  "Thanks." 
 
As Harry would have moved by him, Malfoy put a hand on his arm.  "Don't hurt him, okay?" 
 
"I wouldn't do that." 
 
Malfoy looked at him.  "You don't understand, do you?" 
 
He didn't.  And that made him nervous.  "Of course, I do.  And I won't hurt him."  And hopefully Severus wouldn't hurt him either. 
 
Malfoy's eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth, but then closed it again.  "You should go to Severus before he starts to think you're not coming." 
 
Closing his eyes, Harry forced himself not to laugh nervously and make a joke about coming.  "Thanks."  He moved towards the stairs up. 

***** 

The door at the end of the hall was slightly ajar, and Harry slipped through it and closed it firmly behind him. Severus was sitting in bed, reading, the covers drawn up to his waist and his chest was bare. 

Harry licked his lips.  As it usually did, the sight of Severus waiting for him had him hard to the point of aching. 

"Get your kit off and into this bed, right now," Severus said with a slight edge to his voice as he set his book aside.  "What are you waiting for?" 
 
"Are we in a hurry?" Harry asked. 

"Not especially, but you've kept me waiting." 

"I'm sorry.  I got lost."  Harry tossed his robes onto a chair and pulled off his tie. 

"Of course you did."  Severus's tone was amused. 

"I've only been here one other time, and really, it wasn't under the best of circumstances."  Harry wasn't going to think about that now, or it would totally kill the mood.  He undid his trousers and pushed them off his hips. 

"You might have asked someone." 

"Malfoy found me."  Naked, Harry stretched his hands over his head and watched Severus' eyes trail down his body.  His prick tightened even more. 

"Bed.  Now," Severus ordered hoarsely.   

"Feeling bossy, are you?"  Harry didn't have a problem with that.  He lifted the duvet cover and slid in. 

"You have no idea."  Severus rolled over, pinning Harry beneath him.   

"I think I'm going to find out.  Yes?" 

"Oh, yes.  I do think you're going to find out."  Severus' tone was low and soft with promise. 

A tremor slid along Harry's spine as Severus leaned down and kissed him hard.  Harry's last coherent thought was how could lips so thin feel so lush? 

After that, the world was reduced to a throb of pleasure that never seemed to end.  Severus laid him out and started with his mouth, slowly working his way downward.  He seemed in no hurry at all, leisurely licking each inch of Harry's neck as Harry squirmed beneath his wet tongue.    

Even though the sensations and the slow pace were maddening, Harry wasn't about to rush him.  His aching prick dripped onto his belly.  Severus lapped at the pre-come  

Harry whined, "Please."  

He arched up as Severus' teeth worked one of his nipples, and then moaned as it left to work on the other one.  Delicious sensation raced down his spine with each lick and nip and kiss. 

The kisses pressed to his belly made his heart ache.  Harry closed his eyes and arched into Snape's kisses, sliding along with the sensations.  As he had done for years, Severus would take care of him.

It was as if Severus thought him precious or fragile.  Harry wanted to say that he wouldn't break, but he didn't retain enough of his oral skills to speak. 

Despite having had sex with Severus for the last couple of weeks, Harry hadn't expected it to be like this.  This good or this right or this tender.   

When Severus' mouth closed over his prick, Harry's hips nearly came off the bed.  "Oh God, oh God," he moaned. 

"Not hardly."  Severus laughed around him sending lovely vibrations cascading through Harry.   

And then Severus set to work in earnest, his mouth hot and wet on Harry.  Just before Harry was going to come, Severus lifted his head. 

"Finish that or I'll hex you," Harry promised with a snarl.  "I need to come.  Now." 

"Patience is a virtue."   Severus flipped him over and kissed the small of his back, his mouth moving ever so slowly lower. 

When Severus's tongue made intimate contact with his hole, Harry whimpered softly, "Please." 

Thankfully, Severus' mouth was too busy to reply.  The tension in Harry's body built and built until it was too intense to survive.  Harry moaned, reaching beneath him for his prick and trying desperately to stroke himself.  The angle was bad. 

"Please," he whined again. 

Somehow Severus' hand replaced his and that was all he needed.   Harry came long and hard, his mind filled with pleasure and joy.  

As he came down off the high of orgasm, he felt one of Severus' long fingers breach him.  The pleasure started again before he could come all the way down.  And the pressure and pleasure built as Severus prepared him for part two.   

Severus slid into him and the world dissolved into pure bliss, almost too intense to be borne.  As he went down in flames a second time, his mind filled with Severus, he thought he heard Severus' shouting out his pleasure as well. 

Sleep overtook him before he could do more than throw an arm around Severus and cuddle him close.   

***** 

Snape woke with a start.  The bed beside him was cold and empty.  Where had Harry gone?  He glanced around and saw him silhouetted against the French doors that lead to the balcony. 

He sat up.  "Potter..."  No, that wouldn't do at all.  "Harry.  Are you all right?" 

"Severus?" Harry turned and, even in the dim light coming through the glass, Snape could see his frown.  Probably rethinking the whole thing. 
 
Snape forced a laugh.  "Were you expecting someone else?" 

"You'd better hope not."  Harry's laugh sounded just as forced. 

"Are you having trouble sleeping?  Do you need something?"  Snape would have hoped that all the sex they'd just had would have satisfied him enough to pass out.  Though this was Harry and he never slept well.   

"I'm still wondering about the picture." 

He wished that Harry would just let it go.  But typical Gryffindor, he was like a dog with a bone.  "I know it offends your sensibilities, but the chances are that you're not going to know who did it." 

Harry came to sit on the edge of the bed.  He put his hand on Snape's thigh.  "The thing is that I think I do know." 

"There is no way to know.  I doubt the Prophet will tell you."  Not for certain and not without proof one way or another. 

"I asked Oliver, but the picture was sent anonymously to his news staff, and he couldn't find out anything for me."  Harry just shook his head.  "I don't want to accuse anyone.  But think about it. There weren't that many people who were capable of getting the picture.  Not at Hogwarts.  And there weren't that many people who were going to profit from having it in the paper." 

"The paper itself profits greatly.  Anyone who wanted to hurt you or me."  And really, there were a lot of people who would like to do either of them harm, especially this kind of harm.  Something that has the potential to do a lot of damage with very little risk.  They couldn't be sent to Azkaban for that picture. 
 
"We weren't really hurt, were we?  Not in any way that will matter next week or next month."  Harry sounded too calm saying that.   

Come to think of it, Harry had never been that opposed to the idea of marrying him.  "Being forced to marry --" 
 
"Was not something you minded." 

Snape closed his eyes.  "I minded a great deal.  I would have preferred not to be forced into marriage with someone who will make my life difficult." 
 
"I won't.  I think you know that." 
 
"I do not.  You excel at making life difficult." 

Harry laughed again and this time it wasn't forced.  "I guess I do.  And I'll probably continue to do so.   As I was saying, though.  This marriage is not a bad thing for you." 

"What about you?"  And Snape wished he could call the words back as soon as he'd said them.  Giving Harry a way to humiliate him would not do in the slightest.  He opened his mouth to find some way to negate what he'd just said, but Harry leaned forward and put a finger to his lips. 

"That's just the thing now, isn't it?  I think I can live with this.  And you.  But I want the truth." 

Gryffindors always thought they wanted the truth and, really, they never did.  "The truth is this could have caused all kinds of harm to both of us.  You could have been expelled and I could have been sacked.  The Minister for Magic himself came down to deal with the situation."  Which in and of itself was a disconcerting notion. 

"But we were already courting.  It was a good guess to think that we would be allowed to marry." 

He was right about that.  "So, who else do you think had something to gain?" Snape asked, carefully. 

He could feel Harry's eyes on him, boring into him as if that would tell him the truth.  If it were there to see.   

"It might not have been about profit.  It might have been about seeing me tied to you," said Harry. 

"Why on earth would anyone want that?" Snape asked without any inflection in his voice.   

"I don't know.  I do know I would want to know their motives.  I mean, if it was because they wanted me for me, I might be flattered.  But if they wanted me for my name, then I might be upset, infuriated."  Harry cleared his throat.  "I might be inclined to get even." 

Harry had managed to work it out.  But more importantly didn't seem to be doing his nut over it and that bode very well for their future.   

"I think you're reading far too much into this.  You can't know who took that picture or why they took it.  I think you should worry about the things you have some control over," Snape said. 

"Perhaps you're right."  Harry stood and went over to his robes and pulled something out of a pocket.  Using his wand, he restored the postage stamp sized packet to a large box.  He handed the brightly wrapped package to Snape.   

"What's this?" 

"The end of betrothal gift." 

The warm feeling that spread through Snape's belly made him close his eyes for a moment.  "We never finished the courtship." 

"Close enough.  It's tradition for the person asking to give the person agreeing a gift.  I bought it for the end of school." 

"You were going to finish the courtship?" Snape choked out.  His heart started to beat very fast, and he had to take a breath.  That had never been among any of the possibilities he'd considered.   

He could see Harry's blush.  "I was going to see if you were interested in a term agreement." 

"But why?"  Because for the life of him, Snape could not imagine a world where Harry Potter actually wanted him without being coerced. 

Harry shook his head.  "I just --"  He shrugged.  "I like...need...  You know what happened.  You were there.  It helps to know that." 

Okay, Snape understood.  And it shouldn't have surprised him so much.  "You could have had that with anyone." 

"No.  I couldn't.  You know me.  I didn't realize how important that was until I had someone who did.  You didn't expect me to be anything other than who I am." 

It wasn't often that Snape couldn't think of anything at all to say, but this was one of those times. He looked down at the present.  It was meant to show the giver's esteem.   

He slid a fingernail under the binding for the paper.  The book was old and well-worn.  A rare potions text with great historical value.  It had cost a fortune and was something Snape would treasure forever.   

Snape ran a hand over the cover.  "A very appropriate gift.  Thank you."  He would find a suitable gift for Harry when they returned to school.  

"I'm glad you liked it," Harry said. 

Carefully, Snape set the book aside and pulled Harry down on top of him.  "Now, onto more pleasant things." 

Harry laughed, and bit his neck. 

***** 

Harry stumbled down the stairs, still exhausted, but not able to sleep anymore.  Snape had kept him up half the night after he'd given him the book.  And he still couldn't relax.  By all rights, he should have been a puddle of goo after that, but his mind kept working over the facts as if they would change with examination.   

"I'm surprised to see you down here," Ron said, looking up from his tea.  His eyes were red rimmed, but clear.  He'd probably had a hangover potion.   

"You know how well I sleep even under the best of circumstances."  Harry all but fell into a chair and then shifted as an ache made itself known.  

With a knowing smile starting across his face, Ron tapped the table and a cup of tea appeared before Harry.  He wrapped his hands around it and took a sip.  "Thanks." 

After a moment or two, Harry looked up again.  "I'm surprised you're here at all.  I mean, didn't you tell me you were going home?" 

Ron's face went red. 

Oh.  Harry laughed.  "I hope you enjoyed her." 

His face got even redder, and he looked away.  

What put that look on Ron's face?  "Who was it?"  Harry could think of no one who was there yesterday who would embarrass Ron like that. 

"Um...Blaise." 

"Zabini?"  Harry choked. 

"You know another one?  He was drinking with me.  Told me a tale of how he really wanted...but now that I'm thinking about it, it doesn't make much sense." 

"He tricked you?"  Because Harry would have to have a word or two with Zabini if he did. 

Ron shook his head.  "More like commiserated with me until we were both blind drunk." 

"You're okay with it then?" 

"Yeah.  I mean...it was okay.  He really knew what he was doing.  But...." Ron shrugged.  "I'm just not that attracted, you know?" 

Harry did know.  It had come as something of a shock to find out that he was attracted to Severus to the degree he was.   And that he liked the sex a lot.  "'It's different, but the same." 

"No.  It's different.  But you like it, don't you?" 

With heat suffusing his face, Harry nodded.  "Yeah.  I do.  But you have problems with it?" 

Ron grimaced at his choice of words.  "Not problems so much as...no connection to it.   I mean, physically, it was fine.  But...I..."  He shrugged again, clearly not finding the words.  "If I don't do it again, I won't feel like I'm missing out on something." 

He couldn't think about never touching Snape again.  "What about Zabini?" 
 
"He shouldn't listen at doorways," Zabini said.  He came in and sat down.  "I have my answer.  We do not need to discuss it further." 

Ron nodded and tapped the table with his wand again.  A cup of tea appeared before Zabini. 

"Thanks," Zabini said quietly. 

***** 

Snape entered the room with some trepidation.  As much as he wanted to speak to Lucius, it wouldn't be an easy conversation.  Lucius looked every inch the rich lord.  He sat in his high-backed chair, with one of his dogs at his feet.   

"You didn't come to the wedding," Snape said, taking the chair beside Lucius without being invited to sit.  He was not going to stand on ceremony with Lucius.  In fact, he wasn't going to stand at all. 

Lucius looked down his nose at Snape.  "Did you expect me to?" 

Actually, when Narcissa offered the manor, he had.  But he said nothing about his disappointment.  "What did you want to see me about?"

 
"Your manners are still sadly lacking." 
 
"So, you've told me many times before."  Snape didn't allow the tone or the look to annoy him.  He had been the victor, and they both knew it.  This saved Lucius' pride, and Snape wouldn't begrudge him the moment. 
 
Lucius let out a long sigh.  "I am dying." 
 
As much as Snape had known that was coming, it still prickled the back of his neck.  "By your own choice." 
 
"Perhaps.  I cannot live in this world." 
 
"Of course you can," he snapped.  And then sighed, too.  "You simply don't want to." 
 
"I do not.  This is not the world I envisioned." 
 
"Surely you're not still wishing The Dark...Voldemort won." 
 
"I haven't believed in him in a very long time.  He was a mistake.  One that cost me dearly.  However, many of his ideas were not wrong minded."   
 
Snape wanted to argue, but it wouldn't help the situation.  Lucius would believe what he wished, and nothing Snape could say would change that.  "There was a reason you wished to speak to me after all this time?" 
 
"It has only been a year.  And surely I'm allowed that after I found that a friend, someone I held dear, had betrayed me." 
 
"I didn't betray you.  I betrayed Voldemort.   And really, if he hadn't killed --" 
 
Lucius hand came down hard on the arm of his chair.  "Do not say her name!  I won't have it.  She led you --" 
 
"Oh, please.   Even you do not believe that," Snape said, taking a breath to rein back his annoyance.  It would do him no good to lose his temper.  "I assume that isn't what you wished to speak of, either." 
 
"It is not.  I wish to ask you about Draco and that...Gryffindor." 
 
"Miss Granger is the brightest, most powerful witch in her generation."  If Lucius had paid attention to what was going on around him, he would have known that. 
 
"Poppycock.  She's a..."  Lucius sneered.  "She can't be." 
 
"Oh, but she is.  She is a large part of the reason that Harry Potter survived to win against Voldemort."  And while he'd never tell her that, he was profoundly grateful for her skills. 
 
"I thought that was you." 
 
"I helped, to be sure."  He smiled at that.  "What did you wish to know?" 
 
"Why he is doing this." 
 
"You might ask him." 
 
"I've tried.  But he dances around the issue.  I had hoped that it was simply to save the Malfoy name.  But I suspect from his reaction, he may have developed...feelings for her." 
 
As much as he might have wanted to smile, Snape did not.  It was far too easy to develop feelings for noble Gryffindors.  Snape had already proved that.  "I suspect you're right.  She would not be so taken with Draco if he were not sincere." 
 
"I doubt she would notice.  Draco is a good catch." 
 
"Actually, she is a much better one.  Rumor has it she's up for the Ministry Secretariat Apprenticeship." 
 
"That can't be right.  It's never gone to anyone other than a pureblood."  Lucius looked shaken by the idea. 
 
"And don't you think that it's about time it went to someone else." 
 
"She's not worthy of it." 
 
"I'm not going to try and convince you that she is.  Because I doubt you would listen to me.  She's been awarded an Order of Merlin first class.  I think that means she can have her pick of apprenticeships." 
 
Lucius sighed again.  "I expect there is no stopping Draco at this point.  He's introduced her to his mother, and she's accepted for both of us.  I'm just grateful that I won't live to see it." 
 
"You could, if you chose to," Snape said, because he had to.  Lucius had already made up his mind that much was clear.  "You could choose to embrace the new world order."  If Lucius did have a change of heart, he was sure he could convince Harry it was genuine.   
 
Lucius snorted.  "It's a bit difficult when I want to cringe at the very thought of...them in the Ministry." 
 
Snape shook his head.  This was not helping either of them.  "Was that all?" 
 
"I understand that congratulations are in order."  That was said a bit less grudgingly, as if Lucius was resigned to his choice of husband.   
 
"They are and thank you."  Snape smiled slightly.  He wasn't going to let Lucius see how pleased he was by the turn of events.  "I don't expect it to last, but it will get him out of school and me another year as Headmaster." 
 
"A regular Dumbledore, aren't you?" Lucius sneered. 
 
Snape straightened his shoulders.  "I should be proud to do half so well." 
 
"Still Dumbledore's man?  He was a bastard of the first order." 
 
"Oh he was, but I'm his man until the end."  There were some things that Snape would never forgive the bastard for, but he was a brilliant man, and he had found a way to let Snape redeem himself.  For which he would be eternally grateful. 
 
"I'm growing fatigued.  You may go now."  Lucius' eyes were drooping.  "I won't see you again." 
 
"Good bye then."  Snape stood, his chest heavier than he would have thought given everything.  "I wish you'd change your mind." 
 
"I think not." 

***** 

After his breakfast, Harry went for a walk in the gardens.   Between last night and this morning, he'd come to the conclusion that perhaps both he and Severus were closer to an accord than he'd thought.   

He could only hope that Severus wanted him for the same reason he wanted Severus.  There was something there.  A connection.  Something that didn't make sense in the light of day, but that made Harry's heart fill with warmth when he thought about it.  Only time would tell, but he thought it might be something...that might last. 

And maybe Severus felt it as well.  Putting his feelings out on the table might be a way to find out, but it would also give Severus fodder to ridicule him if he were wrong.  Maybe he could bide his time for a bit, see what Severus was feeling.

One of those obnoxious white peacocks crossed his path and hissed at him.  Harry reached for his wand and then laughed.  "Go away," he told it.   

It gave him a dirty look and strutted away. 

Severus was sitting on a bench in the middle of the garden, staring off into space.  Without thinking about it, Harry sat down beside him.

 
"All right, Severus?" 

Severus blinked.  "Fine.  What do you want?" 
 
"I just saw you sitting --" 
 
"And you immediately assumed I wanted company?" 
 
It had been a long time since Severus had spoken to him in quite that tone of voice.  "Is something bothering you?" 
 
"What makes you think that?" 
 
"Oh, I don't know.  You just snapped at me for no reason." 
 
"There was a perfectly legitimate reason.  You are bothering me." 
 
Harry stopped and let out a sigh.  "What just happened?" 
 
"Pardon me?" 

Okay, so what did he say?  Harry shook his head.  "You don't usually speak to me as if I were an annoyance.  At least, not anymore." 

Amazingly, Severus looked down, his cheeks faintly red.  "I do not wish to talk about it." 
 
"It might help.  I know you saw Malfoy this morning.  Did he say something to--"  Harry paused and searched for a word that wouldn't sound too emotional  "--bother you?" 
 
"We didn't speak that long." 
 
"That didn't answer the question." 
 
"The question does not require an answer." 

Harry balled his fist on his knee.  No, he would not get angry.  "Okay.  When did you want to return to school?" 
 
"I am a private person.  I --"  Severus looked down again.  "It will not help to talk to you." 

"It might make you feel better." 
 
"Or more exposed." 

"Shall I go and hex Malfoy for you?" 
 
That got a small smile out of him.  "I think not.  He's not well." 
 
"That probably makes him more dangerous.  Wounded animal and all." 

Severus cocked his head to one side as if he were considering something.  "You are correct."  Severus stood.  "We should return to school after lunch.   Don't forget to thank Narcissa personally." 
 
"And I planned to write her a note as soon as we returned, thanking her again." 
 
"Actually, you should wait until tomorrow morning to do that." 

Harry would have asked why, but it didn't matter that much.   He stood too.  "Do you want to finish walking in the garden with me?" 
 
Severus nodded and held out his hand for Harry to precede him.   

***** 

After lunch, Snape and Harry flooed back to his office.  After dusting off his robes, Harry went straight into Snape's private quarters as if he owned them.  Snape stood there looking after him, shaking his head. 

"Being a bit presumptuous, aren't you?"  Snape followed him into the sitting room.  He braced his stance and folded his arms over his chest.  "In case you've forgotten, these are my quarters. 

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about." Harry smiled at him and once more Snape was hard pressed to stay annoyed. 

This wasn't a good sign for the future.  "Your presumptuousness?" 

"Your quarters."  Harry's smile faded as he paused for a moment.  "I want to share them." 

Oh, that would be such a spectacularly bad idea.  He needed to cut that thought off at the ankles before Harry even got that far.  "Not a chance in hell.  Why would you think I'd consider it?" 

"Might be that I just married you and that married people live together." 

They might in general, but having Harry live with him would make it all the harder to cope when he left.  Of course, if Harry did live with him, then he might be able to make him want to stay.  "Being married doesn't change anything." 

Mirroring Snape's stance, Harry folded his arms over his chest.  "Of course it does.  I'm not going to sneak around to sleep with you.  Or are you telling me you're not going to have sex with me anymore."   

Admittedly, the sex was far too good to give up.  "I don't see why you need to share my quarters to do that.  We've been doing fine the last week." 

"I want to spend the night.  Every night.  I hate having to leave a nice warm bed with you in it to go back to my cold dorm room." 

If Harry liked it well enough to fight, then maybe there was a chance for them to find something else as well.  "I'll think about it." 

"Good.  I'll go get my stuff."  Harry grinned and gave him a quick kiss.  Then he was out the door before Snape could say anything.   
 
Exactly where had he lost control of the conversation?  Oh, he knew when Harry Potter entered it.   

Severus Snape sighed and accepted his fate. 

*****

 

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