Author Notes: Hello everyone and Happy Valentine's Day to those who celebrate it! Here's a small pre-Snarry one shot for the occasion. Enjoy :)
Summary: Having gone through a few less than happy Valentine's Day experiences, Harry plans to ignore this year's celebration. But perhaps that is all that is needed for Cupid to strike. Pre-Snarry one shot.
Appreciation: My grateful thanks to Patolozka, a friend and wonderful Snarry writer, whose Harry is charming and Severus adorable, for inspiring me with this at the eleventh hour (right smack in the middle of a busy week). Thanks, girl! :)
Warnings: A decided lack of snark and nastiness, replaced instead with mellowness, a hint of whimsy and loads of fluff. In other words, OOCness :)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the brainchild of JK Rowlings.
- Story Start -
Professor Harry Potter, Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, stood at the open doors of the Great Hall and looked inside. It wasn't dinner time yet, but the four House tables were full of students, chattering and laughing, or sighing and mooning.
The corners of Harry's lips turned down. In a futile attempt to escape today - namely lovelorn students who couldn't concentrate on lessons, the usual avalanche of suggestive Valentine cards and love potion-laced chocolates from people he had never met and never wished to, the pink and over the top decorations everywhere in the castle - he had gone for a walk in Hogsmeade village and found it was a case of jumping out of the cauldron and into the fire.
Hence, instead of walking into the Great Hall to have his dinner as he had every night for the past five and a half months - save for dinners with Ron and Hermione at their apartment, some at the Burrow and a couple of evenings spent in bed nursing a bad cold - Harry shook his head and walked past it instead.
He wasn't in the mood for company. Not tonight.
Not on February the fourteenth when he had no one to share it with. Ron and Hermione were celebrating their first Valentine's Day as a married couple, as were Neville and Luna. Dean and Seamus had hot dates for tonight, both of them taking suspiciously great pains to assure Harry, Ron and Neville that it wasn't with each other when they had all met at the Leaky Cauldron last Saturday afternoon.
With his hands shoved deep inside his trouser pockets and a tuneless whistle on his lips, Harry made his way to his quarters, nodding to a couple of giggling students he met on the way. He had had a cup of tea and a muffin earlier, but he was still feeling peckish.
Without conscious thought, Harry turned his footsteps in the direction of the kitchens. He rounded the next corner and came across a familiar figure striding towards him, black robes billowing as usual. The sight that would have once aroused feelings of intense dislike and a measure of trepidation in Harry now made him smile instead.
Severus Snape had not perished in the Shrieking Shack two years ago. When Harry had woken up in the afternoon, refreshed from his long nap after defeating Voldemort, he, Ron and Hermione had been summoned by Sir Nick to the Headmaster's office where to their amazement, they found the Potions Master standing beside the large desk. He was free of blood stains, life threatening injuries and more importantly, still very much alive.
With all the portraits of past Headmasters and Headmistresses looking on and smiling - Albus' being the widest - Snape had explained that Fawkes had appeared in the Shrieking Shack shortly after they had left him and saved his life by crying its healing tears on the deep gashes on his neck and chest. The phoenix had then given him a long look before taking off into the night.
Smiling a bit at the stunned expressions of the trio, Snape then offered his congratulations to Harry for defeating Voldemort and asked for the vial of memories he had surrendered last night, explaining that he wanted the other Heads of House to know the truth as well. As soon as Professors McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout hurried in, summoned by the other ghosts, Snape extracted several memories from the vial, placed them in Dumbledore's Pensieve and replaced the rest inside his head. He invited the other Heads of Houses to view his memories and followed them into the Pensieve.
Harry was not keen to relieve them again so soon, if at all, but Ron and Hermione grabbed his hands and jumped in after the others did. To Harry's relief, he found that Snape had let them witness his pivotal conversations with Dumbledore, not his personal memories of Lily.
With so many other deaths to mourn over, Harry had been more than relieved to find the bravest man he knew had survived Voldemort's evil. He had worked tirelessly to clear Snape's name after that with the aid of the other Heads of House. The result was that after a brief investigation by the Ministry of Magic, Severus Snape's true loyalties were splashed across the newspapers and by the time the new term started, he was once again the intimidating Potions Master of Hogwarts.
Not quite the same man though, Harry reflected as he lifted a hand in greeting. Snape's abrasive behaviour had undergone a startling change now that he was finally freed from the long and crushing burden of being a double spy, and the shorter but no less heavy burden of being regarded as Albus Dumbledore's murderer. He was still as lean as ever, but the menacing scowl and greasy hair of old was gone, replaced by a more genial expression and a cleaner, healthier appearance.
Harry was at first uncertain of how he should deal with the sudden absence of the caustic tongue and knife sharp words that had marred his six years of schooling. As Snape persisted in his much improved behaviour though, Harry found himself exchanging brief pleasantries with his ex-professor whenever they bumped into each other, like now. It certainly made for a more enjoyable life here in Hogwarts.
"Good evening, Potter," Snape greeted in his usual deep voice. "I would expect you to be in the Great Hall right now, enjoying the nauseating shades of pink tinted courses the house elves have undoubtedly prepared for us."
"Good evening, Snape," Harry replied. "Nope, that would ruin my appetite. In any case, I had a cup of tea in Hogsmeade earlier. What about you?"
"I am not hungry either. I shall spend the evening in my rooms, grading a stack of unintelligible essays that the third years have seen fit to turn in."
Harry smiled. "I shall be doing the same with the second years."
"I believe the best Valentine's Day… is one spent alone."
Harry's lips twisted. "You won't get any arguments from me there, Snape. Goodnight, then."
- o -
Fifteen minutes later found Harry sitting on his sofa in front of the fireplace and staring morosely at the flames, ignoring the stack of parchment on the coffee table in front of him. This was his first Valentine's Day where he didn't have to worry about anything - not Dark Lords nor Death Eaters, not ominous prophecies nor anxious girlfriends... so what was he doing about it?
Recollecting past Valentine's Days, as if that was likely to cheer himself up. He did it anyway.
Like the time when he was nine years old and had spent the entire day cleaning Number Four Privet Drive while Aunt Petunia hummed to herself in the kitchen, fixing an elaborate dinner and Dudley stuffed himself in front of the television, scattering crumbs on the carpet and sofa that Harry had vacuumed just that morning. After Dudley had gone off to spend the evening with Piers Polkiss, Harry had been given a small dry sandwich and a glass of water and then locked inside his cupboard under the stairs. He had spent the next few hours listening to the sounds of Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia laughing and enjoying their dinner, watching a romantic comedy on television in the living room and then going upstairs, giggling and bumping into each other.
Then there was his second year here at Hogwarts when that idiot Lockhart had hired dwarfs to deliver Valentine greetings. Harry could still picture the menacing scowl of that surly dwarf that had tackled him to the ground when he had tried to make a run for it. He could smile now - albeit painfully - at the horrendous poem the then eleven year old Ginny had sent him, but he remembered wanting to die right there and then at that time especially since Malfoy had witnessed his humiliation and was crowing over it.
Well, if that had been humiliating, then his disastrous date with Cho Chang at Madame Puddifoot's in his fifth year was absolutely dismal, what with him feeling confused and bewildered and Cho weeping over Cedric. Harry could still remember what his cup of cold coffee sprinkled with confetti looked like and how his first kiss with the girl of his dreams, instead of being a worthy memory, had turned out 'wet' for want of a better description.
Last year's Valentine's Day was the worst. Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione had gone on a double date at a Muggle restaurant, taking a break from studying for their NEWTs - Ginny doing her final year at Hogwarts and the other three studying for the same on their own. Harry had tried to muster up the enthusiasm the others were displaying, doing his best to ignore the fact that this date still felt more of an obligation than something he was eager to partake in. That feeling had intensified when he found himself paying more attention to the good looking waiter in the fancy restaurant than the red haired girl sitting beside him. Later, when Ginny had pressed him for kisses, Harry had felt even more awkward, his embarrassment increasing when she pressed against him and found to both their mortification that unlike his sixth year, he wasn't the least bit interested in taking things any further.
Their official parting the next day was more amicable than it could have been, something he was deeply thankful for. It didn't change the fact that he had greatly disappointed Ginny Weasley and her family, especially Molly.
What with the bitterness of his first memory, the humiliation of his second, the letdown of his third and the reality of the fourth, Valentine's Day should be outlawed, Harry thought to himself and slouched lower on the sofa. To add insult to the injury, he was even hungrier than before. The muffin he had eaten had long since been digested, its calories used to fuel his walk back to Hogwarts. His stomach was not interested in his maudlin ruminations, too busy informing him that it wasn't going to give him any peace of mind unless he fed it something quite substantial.
Sighing, Harry got to his feet. Time for another walk to take his mind off of his romantic troubles, or lack thereof. At least the kitchens should be free of today's commercialised decorations.
- o -
When Harry reached the staircase leading down to the kitchens, he was surprised to see a very familiar black robed figure on the bottom step.
The figure whirled around, a startled look showing on Snape's face before it was masked.
"This corridor leads to the Hufflepuff common room and the kitchens. I thought you weren't hungry."
Black eyes narrowed up at him.
"I could say the same of you."
"I wanted a glass of warm milk with honey," Harry replied as he came down the steps.
Snape's chin lifted a tiny bit.
"I wanted a glass of hot honey with lemon," he countered.
Harry was willing to bet Snape was lying through those crooked teeth of his and his lips quivered when he saw the man squinting suspiciously at him. Then he shrugged, hoping his stomach would be placated with said glass of milk.
"Shall we?" he asked and gestured in front of him.
With a brief hesitation, Snape nodded and fell into step beside him.
Well, Harry thought philosophically, at least he wasn't alone. Not right this minute.
- o -
"You need to tickle the pear."
"I know how to get in," Harry muttered, but did just that. He smiled when the pear squirmed, giggled and turned into a green door handle. Reaching for the handle, he blinked when his hand was slapped away.
"Tickle it again," Snape ordered.
Harry frowned at him, rubbing the back of his hand. "What, the handle?"
Harry frowned, turned back to the painting and tickled the handle. It turned back into a pear, squirmed, giggled and started bumping into the other fruit. Each fruit it bumped into immediately started squirming and giggling and rolling around in turn.
Unaware of Snape watching him, Harry stared at the painting, a smile of almost childish delight spreading over his face as a Granny Smith toppled off of the side of the dish, pushed by a bunch of chuckling purple grapes. Bananas fell off on the other side, thanks to a determined nectarine. Soon, the entire dish was empty and all the fruit were lying on the painted surface below it, still quivering with leftover giggles.
"Awesome!" Harry declared, still grinning. "What happens if I- wait, what?"
The entire door was melting away before his eyes, portrait and all, revealing an enormous high-ceilinged room. Then several things registered in his senses, one after the other.
The echo of high pitched giggles, magnified a hundred times, overlapping and beating against his eardrums, sounding like a thousand demented children in a cave, giggling over a joke.
What the hell is that?
The dim atmosphere of the kitchen with the only light coming from the huge, lit fireplace set in the far wall.
Why is it so dark?
The strange absence of movement in a room that was always bustling and humming with activity.
Where are all the house elves?
Apart from the four long tables and a shorter one placed at the far end that mirrored the tables in the Great Hall above, there was another row of small square tables placed alongside one wall, from which similar faces, all with large, bat-like ears and bulbous eyes were turned to him and Snape.
There they are. Having their... er, dinner.
Standing frozen in the shadowy doorway with Snape beside him, Harry saw a familiar figure with fluffy clouds of white ear hair marching up to them in the centre aisle between the tables. As Kreacher came closer, the look of severe disapproval stamped on his face was clearly visible.
"There is no need to make all the fruit fall off of the plate, good sirs," he admonished in his deep bullfrog voice while still a good twenty feet away. "I am not sure how you knew about that, but just that one pear's giggle is loud enough to rouse the deafest of house elves from the deepest of sleep. Imagine that being magnified a thousand - why, Master Harry - I mean, Professor Harry Potter, sir! And Master Potions Master, sir!"
Kreacher shut his mouth with a snap, his wrinkled face now twisted in a comical mix of annoyance and embarrassment. A silence descended, the kind awkward enough to be spelled with a capital 'A'.
Last September, Harry had insisted that Kreacher come with him to Hogwarts. He still remembered how he, Ron and Hermione had to abandon Number Twelve Gimmauld Place after that Ministry of Magic incident without any way of informing Kreacher they were now on the run. He also didn't like the idea of leaving the old elf all alone in that large, gloomy house now that he was teaching and living here. Kreacher had protested at first, insisting that he wanted to guard the house belonging to the last descendant (by adoption) of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black and that he would be miserable elsewhere, but Harry knew for a fact that he was enjoying his life here and his position as Night Supervisor of the kitchens.
Harry was disrupted from his thoughts by a chorus of gasps, exclamations of 'Professor Harry Potter, sir!' and the screech of many chair legs scraping across the stone floor. He stopped himself from taking a step back as the other house elves abandoned their dinners en masse and rushed up to him, bowing low.
"Master Harry Potter, sir! Master Potions Master, sir! What can we be doing for you two sirs?"
"I'm sorry, everyone," Harry apologised quickly. "We didn't know the fruit would giggle so loudly-"
"Or that the sounds of their mirth could be heard inside here," Snape added, sounding regretful.
"And magnified a thousand times, don't forget that," huffed a still annoyed Kreacher, looking from one wizard to the other. His arms were held stiffly at his sides as though prevented from being folded across his chest by sheer force of will.
More than used to Kreacher's acerbic behaviour - this was considered mellow for him - Harry glanced sideways at Snape, standing ramrod stiff. Although twenty years older than him and a full head taller besides, something about the repentant tilt of that dark head and the slight hunch to those narrow shoulders brought to mind the gawky teenager Snape had once been, briefly glimpsed through a Pensieve in what felt like a lifetime ago.
A curious sensation blossomed in Harry's chest, not the panicky flutterings he had once felt for Cho nor the roaring monster that had once existed for Ginny, but something gentler, something warm that... ached. Before he knew it, he had wrapped a hand around the thin arm closest to him and was squeezing it.
Ignoring the startled glance down at his hand, Harry looked back at the tables alongside the wall and realised that Valentine's Day wasn't just being celebrated above, openly in the Great Hall and steathily in empty classrooms, but here as well. Each of the small tables was draped with a red tablecloth and held two pink candles, their lit tips winking at him.
Dragging his gaze back to the waiting elves, Harry was relieved to note they didn't look as upset as Kreacher.
"I'm sorry," he repeated all the same, "I hope we haven't spoiled your dinner."
They smiled at him before turning to Kreacher with expectant looks on their faces. With a heavy sigh, the old elf relaxed both his stand and his posture, arms crossing over his thin chest and the fake locket he still wore with pride.
"Well, since you two are here..." he drew himself up to his full height, "what can we do for Professor Harry Potter and Master Potions Master sirs?"
As one, the elves turned back to Harry and Snape, beaming wider and looking up at them expectantly.
Harry shook his head, unwilling to trespass on their personal time any longer.
"Nothing, thank you. We uh, we just dropped by to... erm-"
"Professor Potter thought his day would be incomplete unless he came down here to personally wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day," Snape drawled.
Ignoring the now beaming smiles of the elves, Harry snatched his hand from Snape's arm and glared at him. So much for feeling sorry for the man!
"And Professor Snape thought his day would be incomplete unless he showed me what else the pear in the painting could do," he shot back.
As Kreacher went back to scowling, Harry decided that Snape's glare was one of the best he had ever received. It was too bad, he thought irreverently, that he no longer found it as frightening, its effect somewhat diluted by the bright red spot on each lean cheek.
A pointed throat clearing made the two of them look back at Kreacher. Then another elf made its way to the front and smiled shyly up at Harry.
"Can Winky get Professor Potter, sir, something to eat? Or drink?"
"Winky!" Harry beamed down at her. When he came down to the kitchens during his first weekend here, he had been pleased to see she had finally gotten over her despondency of being disowned by Crouch Senior. She stood there with her hands neatly folded, her ears alert and her tea towel - which she had insisted on wearing instead of regular clothes - a pristine white.
"No, thanks," he told her. "We're not hungry-"
The loud grumble from his stomach protested the contrary, as did the answering one from Snape.
"Speak for yourself," Snape muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
Kreacher took a step forward and clapped his hands once.
"Right then," he boomed. "Dining couples, return to your meals! The rest of you, prepare a table. Hop, hop!"
"Well, if it isn't too much trouble," Harry began and trailed off when his words were ignored. Three quarters of the elves went back to their tables, large ears drooping slightly while the remainder started bustling about.
In the space of six seconds, a small table was placed a few feet in front of them and a red velvet tablecloth spread over it. Two long pink candles in glass holders were then set down along with a tiny arrangement of roses and ferns.
"It seems like we are unable to avoid today's silliness altogether," Snape said dryly.
"So it would seem," Harry agreed as they were ushered to their table.
As soon as they were seated, the candles were lit and red napkins arranged on their laps. They were served with piping hot clam chowder and asked to choose one of two available mains - grilled chicken with mushroom gravy or pan fried red snapper in tomato sauce.
"Please enjoy," Kreacher said with a low bow and backed away.
Over Snape's shoulder, Harry saw the elderly elf trotting back to the far table at the end, where the other elves who had prepared their table sat. His gaze moved to Snape and he found the man looking back at him, one eyebrow raised in a familiar fashion.
"So much for your honey milk, Potter."
"So much for your honey lemon, Snape," he countered and tried his soup.
"It's good!" he exclaimed.
He watched as Snape sampled his own soup and gave a curt nod of approval.
"Excellent," he pronounced, his deep voice slightly louder than usual.
Noting the perked up ears and resultant grins on the house elves' faces that were within earshot, Harry felt another burst of that same warmth in his chest. Life after Voldemort had indeed mellowed Snape and no one appreciated it more than Harry.
Again, it was Kreacher who came to clear away their soup bowls and bring their main course - Harry having selected the chicken and Snape the fish. Other than praising the dishes, they ate mostly in silence.
Snape seemed preoccupied, his eyes darting from his plate to Harry's and then to their surroundings. Harry felt strangely tongue-tied in the man's presence, distracted by the rose scented candles and how the soft glow was highlighting the glossy sheen of Snape's hair and the paleness of his skin...
Harry took a large gulp of water and forced himself to look away, little realising how similar his skittish gaze was to Snape's.
It was while they were on their dessert, semi sweet chocolate mousse topped with fresh strawberries that Harry heard a small throat clearing. He looked up to see those enigmatic eyes on him, a tiny flame reflected in each black orb.
"I have changed my mind," Snape said carefully, "about what constitutes a good Valentine's Day... Harry."
A small frisson of surprise danced up Harry's spine at his given name. He smiled and raised his eyebrow in silent enquiry.
"It is not one that is spent alone, but shared with a friend."
Harry's smile faltered, elation that Snape had used his given name at last mixing with pride that the man considered him a friend, mixing still further with a curious pang of disappointment.
"A friend," he echoed blankly.
In the tiny silence that followed, Snape's small smile vanished and his eyes became unreadable. He put down his dessert fork.
"You seem... displeased, Potter. It seems I have read too much into our admittedly brief interactions over the past few months."
The finality with which he stood up made Harry's heart skip a beat.
"No - wait!" He jumped up, one hand shooting out to grab Snape's wrist, finding the bones surprisingly fragile in his firm grip.
"I'm not displeased! Just surprised, that's all," he confessed. "I never thought you would ever consider me your friend."
Snape looked down at his hand and then up at him, his eyes still expressionless.
"But you are disappointed," he said. It wasn't a question.
Harry tightened his grip on Snape's wrist, that same ache spreading in his chest at the sight of that slightly bowed head and rounded shoulders. He had never had much luck where this day was concerned. Would this be another doomed attempt to be remembered with regret, or a much hoped for chance of happiness?
Taking a deep breath, Harry decided that one way or another, he had to know.
"Yes," he said honestly, the shocked dismay on Snape's face lending him guilty hope, "but only because I just realised I wanted more... Severus."
The dark eyes widened, hope flaring in them like twin flames. Then Snape covered Harry's hand with his free one, an uncertain smile hovering on his thin lips.
"In that case, I should tell you that I too, want the same thing," he admitted.
Harry's knees almost gave out from under him in sheer relief. He smiled at Severus, a smile that widened into a grin right before loud applause sounded.
Jumping at the sound, they looked around to see all the house elves standing up, beaming at them and clapping as though they had just given a performance. Harry blushed and turned to Severus who looked like he had been caught with one hand in the proverbial biscuit tin.
"Aren't house elves supposed to be discreet?" Severus muttered, looking both embarrassed and vexed.
"Yes, they are, but somehow that doesn't apply when it comes to me," Harry apologised with a chuckle, feeling ridiculously cheerful all of a sudden. He blinked when Severus took a step closer, dark eyes gleaming with something that made his heart skip a beat.
"Well, with so many witnesses, Harry, you won't be able to deny anything after this," Severus drawled.
"What do you mean by 'this'?" Harry asked.
Severus just took another step closer, bent his head and pressed his lips to Harry's in a brief, hard kiss.
"I meant this," he whispered before raising his head.
Harry laughed, feeling lightheaded and breathless and very much like he could fly right up to the moon. He grabbed Severus and pulled him down for another, longer kiss.
"Oh, I have no intention of denying anything," he declared, "especially my best Valentine's Day ever!"
- End of Story -
A/N: Thanks for reading! Please review :)