Author: Medea Nevermore
Title: A Question of Circumstance
Rating/Codes: SLASH/R
Pairing: HP/SS
Summary: Challenge - Harry overhears Snape talking to Dumbledore. WHAT? Snape's *attracted* to him?!
Disclaimer: Don't own them, never will.
NOTE: Part of "From Dusk til Dawn - the Harry Potter/Severus Snape Fuh-Q-Fest" at http://www.kardasi.com/HPSS
Beta(s): Sue, Zevaringa
Warning: If you don't know what SLASH means, don't read this. For goodness sake, please don't. The thought just makes me want to cry.

Part I


Harry shouldn't have been wandering the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry so late at night. Especially so early in the start of his seventh, and final year of school. However, having missed a great deal of the welcoming feast in the Great Hall due to enthusiastic conversation with Ron and Hermione, he was quite hungry. So he found himself, well after curfew, sneaking down to the kitchens.

He could say that his actions were mitigated by the use of his father's Invisibility Cloak, helping him avoid detection. However, the loss of the Marauder's Map at the end of his fourth year was never more keenly felt than when he turned the corner of a hallway and found said hallway blocked not only by the Headmaster, but by Professor Severus Snape, Harry's nemesis.

He corrected himself mentally, reminding himself that their combined efforts had defeated Voldemort at the end of his sixth year. Harry still had nightmares about what the two of them had gone through in the effort to win that victory. He was fairly sure that even Snape hadn't escaped unscathed. He had noticed that while Snape had been staring at him during the welcoming feast, his glare had lacked its normal sneering anger. Instead, Harry had almost felt like a specimen being examined under a Muggle microscope.

None of which made any difference in the current situation. Potentially changed Snape or not being caught out of bed after curfew would still result in a significant loss of points and very likely a highly unpleasant detention. Having frozen at the sight of the two walking towards him, he moved quickly and silently to the wall, wedging himself behind a statue. Harry found himself silently thanking Snape for those lessons on moving stealthily. He recalled that Snape had been fully convinced that he would be the victim of the talents he taught Harry, and the Gryffindor smiled to realize that Snape had been correct.

"Albus, I'm not sure I can do this." Snape's voice rolled down the hallway towards him.

"Now Severus, I'm sure you're making more of the problem than it really is."

"Yes Albus, the fact that I'm having feelings towards one of my students isn't a big deal at all. The fact that I want to bend him over my desk and make him beg for me shouldn't interfere at all with my ability to teach." Snape's sneer would have caused tremors in the bravest of hearts. Harry was flabbergasted. Snape was attracted to a student?

Dumbledore just smiled, patted the Potions Master on the shoulder, and redirected the conversation slightly.

"You know, Severus, we have no rules against teacher and student relationships, as long as all parties are of legal age." Harry couldn't believe it. Dumbledore seemed to be encouraging Snape to act on his feelings. He just had to find out whom Snape was lusting after.

"Yes Albus, because the whole wizarding world wouldn't have a fit over the fact that I'm having feelings towards their personal savior. This is ridiculous. Why couldn't you have just let me take a year's hiatus, and deal with this elsewhere?" Snape seemed to be at the end of his rope, emotionally.

Hold on.... the way Snape said that.... it sounded as if he, Harry, was the object of Snape's affection. Harry knew his eyes had to be saucer-sized, and his mouth hanging open quite unattractively. He was sure if Snape could see him now he'd probably change his mind immediately.

In his shock, Harry missed the rest of the conversation as Dumbledore and Snape moved further down the hallway and around the corner. Harry shook himself and started moving forward again. He finally made it to the kitchens, and tickled the pear in the painting to open the door. After greeting the house elves, Harry collected a fair number of cakes, pies and pasties, and quickly made his way back to the Gryffindor common room.

Part II

After doling out the treats he had pilfered, Harry sat and stared into the fire. Ron and Hermione, having recently professed their love for each other, were so caught up in themselves that they didn't notice Harry's lack of participation in their conversation. For once, Harry was happy to be ignored. The conversation he had overheard in the hallway was spinning madly in his head.

Snape - wanted - him. That thought alone sent him chasing down new trains of thought, not to mention a few random hormonal surges. Harry had come to the realization last year that he didn't particularly care which gender his partner was, as long as there was affection and love involved. He'd done some experimenting, but had yet to find someone he felt he could truly commit to. What he did know was that both genders turned him on, and so that wasn't really an issue.

He thought about Snape. Tall, with long dark hair that he'd allowed to grow over the summer. Harry had noticed that it now fell well below his Professor's shoulders. Those dark, intelligent eyes that spoke volumes about both Snape's opinions and mood. He remembered the saying that the eyes were the windows of the soul. If that were the case, he thought, the former Death Eater must have a seriously irritated soul. He also knew that Snape had a fairly decent body from what he had seen during some of their missions in the battle against Voldemort, not to mention the time they'd both spent recovering in Madam Pomfrey's infirmary.

More importantly, he chose to deliberate on Snape himself, rather than just his appearance. He knew the man had a wickedly sharp intellect which left many of his colleagues and associates far behind. The man could make astonishing leaps in logic that bordered on sheer genius. He had one of the snarkiest personalities Harry had ever encountered, and he knew well enough that Snape had little tolerance for fools. Those most victimized by the Potions Master's razor sharp tongue were those who exhibited traits that the man couldn't tolerate, or considered foolish. The one thing the seventh-year Gryffindor knew for sure, however, was that Snape knew and accepted Harry as exactly who and what he was. Snape was probably the only person he'd ever met who didn't fall blindly for the mystique of the "Boy-who-Lived" legend.

That thought alone merited additional deliberation. The fact that since the destruction of Voldemort, Snape had treated Harry much like any other student in the school caught him by surprise. He had realized at the end of his fifth year that his Professor had an image to maintain to successfully allow him to perform his role as a spy for Dumbledore. This image included the ongoing abuse Harry had been subjected to since his first class with Snape. Once his role as a spy was no longer necessary, and his arm free of the Dark Mark, his behavior had changed overnight. That wasn't to say that he didn't subject Harry to the occasional embarrassing remark, but it was much more likely these days that Harry had actually earned the comment.

His mind threw up casual images of what a relationship between the two of them could be like. Unlike many of his past fantasies, these did not revolve primarily around sex. Instead, they showed communication, mutual understanding and awareness, shared time and space, a sense of family, and completeness. Gentle touches, and shared feelings swirled through his head. A relationship of equals.

Finally, Harry came to the realization that he would have to spend some time getting to know Severus Snape, not as a spy, not as a Professor, but as a person. Conveniently enough for him, his sixth-year Potions grade had been abysmal, and Dumbledore and McGonagall had arranged for him to receive additional tutoring from Professor Snape.

Part III

The next morning at breakfast, Harry watched Snape carefully from under his eyelashes. He made sure to look away quickly whenever the Professor's eyes came near him, not wanting to be caught so early in his effort to understand the man. He barely noticed what he was eating, or the conversation around him, until they received their class schedules for the year. Glancing down, he noticed that they once again had double Potions with Slytherin.

Well, that wouldn't be so terrible now. With the Dark Lord gone, and the Death Eaters jailed in Azkaban, things should change. True, there were a few who had escaped the Aurors, but their numbers were few.

Of course, the purge hadn't been limited to those who had graduated from the Slytherin House. Several Ravenclaws, and even an odd Gryffindor or two had been taken in. This would mean, hopefully, that the animosity between the Houses would be reduced going into the new school year, maybe even settling into a normal level of competition. Only time would tell, however. He looked forward to finding out.

Harry then noticed something unique about his schedule. First, his tutoring sessions with Snape had been added in. Three times a week, he would be meeting with the Potions Master privately to cover last year's curriculum. In addition, Divination had been removed from his schedule. A new class had been added. It was marked simply "Apprenticeship Pre-Studies" and listed a classroom.

He quickly showed his schedule to Hermione, discovering that she also had Apprenticeship Pre-Studies added to her curriculum. Her classroom was different, however. Ron's schedule did not reflect this change. They were confused, to say the least. Harry looked up to the Head Table, thinking to catch the attention of either Professor McGonagall or Professor Dumbledore. Instead, he found Snape's eyes resting on him. The dark, brooding eyes sparked something deep inside the Gryffindor seventh-year. He caught himself staring back at Snape, meeting his eyes confidently. Unlike previous years, however, Harry's eyes expressed no animosity. Instead, simple curiosity shone from his green eyes.

Snape's eyes flared in surprise, and he turned away quickly. With a quick word to Dumbledore, he stood and swept out of the Great Hall, ducking out the side door and probably heading towards his dungeons.

Dumbledore stood, and clapped his hands for silence. As the students looked at him curiously, he began to speak.

"Some of the seventh-year students may have noticed changes in your schedules. Several of you have been chosen for our Apprenticeship program, should you choose to accept the opportunity. The Apprenticeship program allows you to explore the possibility of an academic curriculum after your time at Hogwarts has ended. More than a few of our Professors have expressed an interest in taking Apprentices at the end of the year, and so we have re-instituted this program, which we had discontinued after the first rise of Voldemort. You will kindly report to the classroom assigned, and you will be provided additional information. Now, enjoy your first day of classes."

With that, the day began. Harry returned to the Gryffindor dormitories to gather the books he would need for Transfiguration, his first class of the day. From there, he would be off to Charms, and then Apprenticeship Pre-Studies before dinner. After dinner, he had Potions tutoring with Snape.

Part IV

Harry arrived at the new classroom somewhat apprehensively. He had no idea what to expect of his Pre-Apprenticeship Studies class, and had learned long ago that caution should far outweigh bravery in unknown situations. Snape had taught him that. So, with a great deal of caution, he opened the door and entered the classroom. Before him was a sight he would have thought he'd be cold and dead before seeing.

Sirius Black and Severus Snape were sitting together at the teacher's desk, quietly discussing something. They had both looked up when he entered. The fact that they were willingly in the same room should have killed him from shock. The fact that they weren't fighting almost made him swoon. Had the world come to an end while he walked from the Great Hall to the classroom? He would miss his friends, he supposed. After all, he must be dead.

"Stop gaping like a fish, Potter and come in." Snape's voice held its normal acidic tone, garbed sweetly in his dark, velvety voice. It served to shock Harry into movement, and he walked to the front of the classroom.

Sirius was looking at him with laughter in his eyes. Harry's greatest news over the summer had been that Dumbledore had hired his godfather as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor after he had been cleared of all wrongdoing. Sirius had indicated that he was only planning on holding the post for a couple of years. Something about a motorcycle shop, new forms of transportation, and fighting off the competing flying carpet market.

"Am I dead?" Harry asked, sure that this must indeed be the case, seeing as no one in the room was either wounded or restrained.

"Don't be silly Harry. Snape and I can be in the same room together, we just don't prefer to be." Sirius' answer seemed to snap the young man out of his daze. He sat in the first seat in front of the two Professors, and stared openly at them.

"Harry, a number of Professors have indicated an interest in having you as an Apprentice. However, given your unique talents and your interests, Snape and I suggested a more tailored curriculum than a normal Apprenticeship would allow. Professor Binns had indicated at the end of last year that you had shown a great deal of interest in the history of both defensive magic and the Dark Arts. All of the previous Defense Professors have indicated you have a strong talent in defensive magic. More importantly, Snape mentioned that having had the link you did with Voldemort, you should learn about and fully understand the Dark Arts. We would like to create an Apprenticeship program for you that would allow you to explore your interests." Sirius' explanation of the situation caught Harry's attention.

"What you need to understand, Potter, is that this course of study would Apprentice you to more than one Professor at Hogwarts. You would spend time with many of us, learning what you need to know. It would put you in an excellent position, however, to take a teaching position at Hogwarts in the future, if that interests you. Black here has indicated more than once that his tenure will be limited to the next two years."

Harry couldn't believe that Snape, who had hoped to gain a sabbatical to escape his feelings for Harry was the one Professor who had caught on to his strong attachment to the school and his unhappiness at the idea of leaving it forever. He found himself thinking back to the time they had spent together between missions, preparing or recovering. He realized he had mentioned these feelings more than once to Snape. He was amazed the Potions Master had actually remembered.

"Sirius, Professor Snape, do you have a curriculum established for this?" Harry was quite proud of the fact that his voice came out firm and strong.

"Yes. We've been working the past few weeks to establish a base curriculum for you to follow this year, which will help determine the curriculum for your Apprenticeship when you finish your seventh year here at Hogwarts. Snape and I would be your primary instructors, but you will spend time with several others."

Harry knew his eyes had to be shining with excitement. He didn't know what to say. It was as if his deepest wish had come true. He wouldn't have to leave Hogwarts at the end of the year. He would be staying, and learning about things that interested him. He even had the chance, eventually, to teach here at Hogwarts.

"Well, Potter? What's your answer? Are we going to do this, or can I get back to grading essays?" Snape's voice cut blade-thin through Harry's thoughts.

"Professor, my answer is yes." Harry could have been mistaken, but he thought he noted a gleam of approval in Snape's eyes at his response.

"Very well, Harry, then we'll begin by reviewing the curriculum, and see if there's anything you want to add." Sirius pulled out a scroll from the desk and beckoned the young man closer. Harry leaned over the desk to look at the educational outline. He was practically glowing with excitement, and it only grew as he read down the list. Sirius and Snape would be taking turns instructing him throughout the year. Sirius would focus on defensive magic, and Snape would help Harry explore the Dark Arts and their history.

How convenient, Harry thought. He had been given even more time to spend alone with Severus Snape, getting to know him.

Finally, their scheduled time was up, and Harry left to return to the dormitories before supper. He looked back on his way out the door.

"I want to thank you both. I know this will add to your workloads, and take up a lot of your free time. I'm not sure I can express to you how much this means to me, but I greatly appreciate it." With that, Harry walked out the door. He completely missed the stunned look on Severus Snape's face.

Part V

Harry reported to Snape's private workroom that evening to begin his tutoring in Potions. He knew that this time, at least, was likely to be an uphill battle. The Professor had been very upset with Harry's scores at the end of the last year. Given the amount of time they had spent together in fighting Voldemort, Snape could understand the young man getting a lower grade, but Harry's Potions grade had been substantially below his other grades. So, Harry's first task would be to convince the Potions Master that he really was interested in Potions, and ready to learn.

When Harry had first started learning about Potions, he had found them boring. After seeing the speed with which one could save or take a life using the right potion, his opinion had changed. While he knew he'd never have Snape's gift for potion making, he did want to learn more. There were few in the world that could truly compare to Hogwarts' Potions Master in skill. Harry was actually looking forward to what he would learn. What he feared was Snape's sharp tongue, and vicious temper.

He knocked quietly on the door to the workroom, knowing that he was right on time for his session. It wouldn't do to be late and upset the Professor before it even began. Harry was planning on using this time to learn more about Snape, and hopefully become comfortable in his presence. He needed to know and understand more about this complex man, and why his dark eyes lit fires deep inside the Gryffindor that he didn't truly understand.

"Enter!" Snape's voice rolled through the wood of the door, sending shivers down Harry's spine.

Harry opened the door and entered the workroom. He was surprised speechless for the second time in one day. It looked nothing like the Potions classroom. True, there were still shelves of potions ingredients, and tables and cauldrons. However, this space looked more like the lair of a mad scientist from a Muggle movie. Tubing, beakers, flames, colors, liquids, bubbles surrounded him. He couldn't see Snape for all the various items surrounding him.

Harry jumped in surprise as the Professor's hand landed on his shoulder from behind. He spun around and found himself face to face with the focus of his fascination. Dark eyes laughed at him from just a few inches above his own. He'd grown over the summer, after all. A smirk twisted the lips that faced his nose. That smirk did things to Harry he wasn't expecting, in combination with those dark, piercing eyes. He could feel his knees going weak as Snape held his eyes.

"So you've learned the virtue of punctuality Mr. Potter. I am impressed." That voice again. It rolled over his skin like velvet.

Harry just stared. He had no idea what to say. He was so caught up in his own thoughts, and sensations, that the idea of responding just wasn't possible.

Snape's eyes sharpened on him, piercing his own, as though delving into his mind. For the second time in one day, he saw the Professor's eyes widen with surprise before he swiftly turned and walked towards a table in the back of the workroom.
"Come along, Mr. Potter. We have quite a bit of work to do, and only a year in which to accomplish it, if you wish to pass your N.E.W.T. in Potions." Harry followed that voice. He thought he might follow that voice anywhere it lead him. He shook himself suddenly. Finally, reality intruded once again, and he was able to think a bit more clearly.

"Yes, sir." He responded. "Where are we to begin?"

Part VI

The next few months brought a great deal of insight into the nature of Severus Snape. Between his Pre-Apprenticeship Studies and his Potions tutoring, Harry was spending about 10 extra hours a week alone in the company of his Potions Professor. Snape had been distant at first, obviously trying to maintain a sense of decorum. Harry's natural enthusiasm for life, and his determination to get to know the man had slowly but successfully changed the dynamic of their working relationship.

This was never more apparent than in their last tutoring session before the Christmas holidays. Harry no longer knocked on the workroom door, but simply gave the password and strode in. Snape greeted him with a glance, and pointed with his chin to the worktable they were going to be using for this session. Rather than his usual black suit and robes, the Potions Master was wearing a Muggle pullover and jeans. If Harry wasn't mistaken, those were Nike tennis shoes on his feet as well. Obviously his Professor had decided to dress down. He'd seen Snape in less than his usual uniform, but nothing so casual until now.

Harry had to admit the sight was a good one. Snape's work attire was bulky, making him look larger than he actually was. In reality, the man was lean, and fairly muscular. The Muggle clothes accented his body, rather than covering it wholly. He also noticed that Snape had become aware of something Harry had discovered over a month ago. His Professor's hair was becoming quite long, now falling past his shoulders. Snape had finally given in, and it was now tied back neatly at the base of his neck.

The Gryffindor youth found himself grinning at the sight. He'd managed to grow past the "weak in the knees, speechless fool" reaction of his first session fairly early on. The burning sensation that Snape ignited inside Harry, however, continued to grow. He had realized by now that Snape's admitted desire for Harry went both ways. He knew, however, that his Professor wouldn't act on his feelings while Harry was still a student at Hogwarts. If he'd learned anything in his persistent questioning of Snape, it was that he took his position as a Professor very seriously and would not endanger it, even for his own pleasure.

So Harry worked patiently. He allowed himself to become comfortable and more casual around the Potions Master. As he walked in the workroom, he deposited his book bag near his stool, and took off his robe. He had learned early on that Snape didn't seem to mind if Harry left off his normal school uniform for their evening sessions, and had taken to wearing Muggle clothes himself under his robes. Today's outfit consisted of oversized, handed down jeans, and a t-shirt that read 'My pets don't like you'. Snape looked up and snorted in humor at the sight.

"Potter, I don't know where on earth you get those ridiculous t-shirts." Obviously Snape hadn't forgotten about the gag gift from Hermione that read 'Quit Looking at Me' which Harry had appeared in earlier in the week.

"I keep telling you, sir, they're gifts. You can't blame me for the sense of humor other twisted Gryffindors might have." Harry's green eyes were full of innocence.

"And who, may I ask, should we blame for Wednesday's offering?" Oh. Harry had forgotten about that one. That one had been from Draco. The two had become friends quickly this year, after a few tense moments. Snape had actually been the driving force behind their mutual understanding. Apparently Draco was related to Snape, through his mother.

The Slytherin seventh-year had, with a great deal of humor and full knowledge of Harry's lack of concern on the gender of his partners, not to mention a strong suspicion of Harry's interest in Snape, gifted the young Gryffindor with a t-shirt. A t-shirt that only displayed the phrase 'Boys Smell Nice' around his Professor. It had led to a few highly embarrassing moments, when Harry realized what had been a plain green t-shirt now displayed messages solely for Snape.

"That, sir, would be Malfoy. I believe his sense of humor runs in his family? I hear there are some fairly twisted folks in those bloodlines." By now, Harry was setting up his supplies for the evening's exercise, and ignored the sharp look Snape threw his way.

"Does that mean then, Mr. Potter, that I have you to thank for the crimson red hair with gold stripes my nephew is currently sporting?" Once again that voice rolled over his skin, making the fine hairs on his arm stand up on end.

"I don't know what you're talking about, sir. I haven't seen Draco all day."

Snape moved to stand behind Harry, monitoring his preparations. Harry could feel him lean over him slightly, looking at the table. He could feel certain parts tighten lower down at the feel of the strong male presence behind him. All he wanted was to lean back into that strength, letting it hold him up while strong arms wrapped around him. He almost whimpered, and then caught himself quickly. He brought himself sharply back to the subject.

"Besides, I'm sure it will wear off overnight. Those kinds of charms usually only last a day or so."

"Hmmm….." Snape's breath moved over the back of Harry's neck. His knees trembled. So much for Harry having overcome that particular reaction. He was beginning to think the man did it on purpose. "Shall we begin then?"

They worked side by side, with the Potions Master explaining each step in the process in much more detail than he would have in class. They had determined early on that Harry's deficiency in Potions had to do with his lack of understanding regarding ingredients and how they worked with each other, as well as not fully understanding the importance of the steps of preparation. Their focus had been on making sure he understood each step and could explain and describe each ingredient in each potion. As a result, his grades in Potions had improved remarkably. Yet neither of them had suggested bringing the tutoring sessions to an end.
At the end of the session, rather than packing up and leaving right away, Snape gestured towards the fireplace on the far end of the room and the chairs and couch around it. They had taken to talking after their sessions, both to relax and because they seemed to enjoy it. Their topics ranged greatly. Snape now knew about Harry's childhood with the Dursleys. Harry knew about his Professor's early experiences with Lily and James, and the rest of the Marauders. They had yet to touch on their experiences with the Death Eaters or Voldemort.

Harry sat comfortably in what he had come to think of as 'his' chair, to the left of the fire. Snape preferred to sit on the right of the fire. Between them sat a worn coffee table, with tea, juice and sandwiches. He noticed the house-elf had snuck a few cakes on the tray as well. They had begun that habit when they realized that Harry was the person Snape was ordering a second cup for.

This time, Harry wanted to ask about why Snape had joined the Death Eaters. He knew, however, that it was an intensely personal question and wasn't sure how to ask. So he sat quietly, deliberating about the best way to approach the subject. Snape, however, wasn't so patient.

"Spit it out Potter. Whatever it is that's spinning around in your mind, just let it out before you make yourself dizzy. A quiet Gryffindor is sure to sour my stomach with fear of what you might be plotting."

"Sir, why did you join Voldemort?"

Snape stared at him, flabbergasted by the question. He certainly hadn't been expecting that from Potter. However, it got him thinking. Over the past few months, he'd gained a certain amount of respect for the young man, and given that they had worked together to bring Voldemort to his rather embarrassing end, perhaps he owed Harry an answer.

"Would you accept sheer stupidity as an answer, Mr. Potter?"

"What do you mean, sir?"

"I was young, and stupid. I had never been very popular, and the few friends I had, Lucius among them, were all choosing to follow Voldemort. I was full of anger at the world, at the Gryffindors for their treatment of me, and at everyone who had judged me because I was a Slytherin. You'd be surprised how many people don't see the layers that make a person Slytherin. Lucius and his folk were only one type of those who are produced by my House. Did you know that Albus was a Slytherin?"

"No sir, I didn't. It doesn't surprise me however. Only a Slytherin would think like he does." It was a backwards compliment to the House, but a compliment nonetheless. Harry understood what made a Slytherin a Slytherin better than most. "So basically you joined Voldemort because you were an emotional teenager?" The idea of Snape with normal teenage emotions made Harry smile.

"That's the sum of it, unfortunately. Add to that the fact that I had no understanding of what his Death Eaters actually did, and it was a formula for disaster." Snape stared into the fire, his eyes hooded. "The night I witnessed my first murder, I ran to Albus. I wanted out, but by then it was too late. Once you serve, you can never leave. The Dark Mark makes sure of that. All I could do was spy and try to save others from inside the serpent's nest."

Harry looked at the brooding Potions Master. He had seen what Voldemort did to his followers. He'd spent three days chained to the wall of Voldemort's 'throne' room, watching him punish, torture and abuse his Death Eaters. He'd seen Snape put under the Cruciatus Curse several times. He'd seen the Dark Lord have his servants beat and rape each other for his entertainment. He'd seen the scars that traced Snape's body, a roadmap of his service to Albus Dumbledore, disguised in the shadows of the Dark Lord's name. It gave him great joy at that moment that the poison the Professor had fed Voldemort weakened him enough to allow Harry and Snape to finish him off, once and for all.

"That must have been a terrifying choice to make." Harry's soft words broke the silence that had fallen, as they each lost themselves in their thoughts. "I'm not sure I would have been strong enough to make it, and perform the task successfully." Respect laced his words.

"On that note, Mr. Potter, I send you off to your dormitory for the evening. I still have a great deal of marking to do tonight." Snape ushered Harry out of his workroom, and the Gryffindor youth wandered back to his dormitory, lost in thought.

Part VII

Harry was alone in the Gryffindor dormitories for the Christmas holidays. Hermione and Ron had both returned home for the holidays, as had the other students. In all of Hogwarts, only Harry and Draco remained at the school over the holiday. Harry because he'd slit his own wrists before returning to the Dursleys again, now that he didn't have to. Draco remained because his mother was in St. Mungo's.

He woke early the morning of Christmas Eve. Freshening up for the day, he slowly made his way down to the Great Hall for breakfast. He loved to look at all of the decorations Hogwarts staff had charmed, created, or hung for the holidays. The floating sprigs of mistletoe were always amusing, and had resulted in a number of quite hilarious moments while the student body was still in residence. Making his way into the Great Hall, Harry saw Draco and a few of the Professors sitting at the Head Table. One of the truly wonderful things about this holiday was that because so few students remained, they got to eat with the professors, rather than being exiled to their House tables.

Harry plopped down in the seat next to Draco. He noticed that the crimson and gold had finally fully faded from his friend's hair. Harry's 24-hour estimate had been a little short, apparently. He hadn't realized he'd been that annoyed with the Slytherin when he'd cast the charm. It had taken a week to wear off.

"Morning Potter." Draco wasn't much of a morning person, and tended to be short and terse until fed. Harry thought his friend's stomach ruled his brain, and told him so frequently. Which usually earned him a sound thwack in the back of the head from the irate blond.

"Morning Draco." Harry began filling his plate, and like all young men his age, set to with gusto. The two made quite a picture, bent over their plates shoveling food in their mouths. Neither noticed when Professor Snape entered the Great Hall and gracefully sat next to Harry. Their first inkling to his presence was when he reached past Harry for the salt, having asked twice and been ignored.

Both young men turned to look at him, blinking. He sneered at them, obviously disdainful of their inability to detect his arrival. They just continued to stare, and blink.

"What?!?" Snape finally had enough of being stared at, and snapped the question at them in exasperation.

"Uncle Severus, you're wearing Muggle clothing in the Great Hall."

Snape looked down at himself. True, he was wearing jeans and a pullover. It was the holidays, and the school was empty, except for the other Professors and the two boys, both of whom had seen him dressed like this before. He looked up again to glare at the two of them.

"And your point is?" Obviously the Potions Master saw nothing wrong with his attire.

"Sir, its just that, well, we've never seen you so, um, well, dressed down outside of your rooms." Harry worked hard to provide a diplomatic answer.

"Well, seeing as how I'm taking you both to Diagon Alley, and then Muggle London today, I thought it appropriate. If you'd rather I escort you in my normal teaching attire, I can oblige you."

The two students rushed to assure Snape that they were perfectly happy with his attire, and that he looked quite fine for their surprise outing. The idea of spending a day at Diagon Alley rather than moping around the halls of the school had them practically bouncing in their seats. Neither had been given much opportunity to buy Christmas gifts, and this was the perfect opportunity. Between their regular class load and their Pre-Apprenticeship Studies, both boys had been overwhelmed with schoolwork. Draco was working with Professor McGonagall, who was planning to Apprentice him in Transfiguration at the end of the school year. Harry, of course, had been kept busy between Sirius and Snape.

As he finished his meal, his thoughts turned to Sirius, who had returned to his family for the holidays. He hoped that everything was going smoothly for him. Returning to parents who had condemned him as a murderer, and then learned they were wrong must be heartbreaking. He knew Sirius would write to him and keep him updated, but he worried anyway. He loved Sirius, and wanted his godfather to be happy. Remus had gone with his godfather, and he hoped that would be enough moral support to keep the freed man's spirits up. Harry had made up a special gift for Sirius this year, an album of pictures of Harry from his first six years at Hogwarts, during which his godfather had either been in Azkaban or on the run from the Aurors. He knew that would help Sirius through the holidays.

Finally breakfast was over and it was time to head out on their shopping expedition. They waved goodbye to the other professors, and ran to gather their things, meeting Snape again in the entrance hall shortly thereafter. They moved to the great fireplace at the end of the entrance hall, and Floo'd to the Leaky Cauldron.

Part VIII

Professor Snape could not have predicted how exhausted he would be after a day of shopping with two seventeen-year-olds. They dragged him from one end of Diagon Alley to the other. Then they dragged him out into Muggle London. Most times, if the store didn't interest him in the least, he'd wait for them in the street, enjoying the brisk weather. However, there were a few stores he thought it prudent to supervise them in. They were allowed very little time in the Weasley twins' new store, and were fiercely monitored while there. They were allowed unlimited shopping time, however, in the Quidditch supply store.

Finally, they ended up back at the Leaky Cauldron. All three were burdened with packages from their adventure, although none of them had a great deal of family to buy for. They ordered a quick dinner before returning to Hogwarts. As they sat, enjoying the holiday atmosphere of the pub, Harry had an epiphany. This is what family felt like. Sitting here, with two people he cared about, would protect fiercely with his life, and whom he knew would do the same for him. This must be what family was like. He had always felt close to Hermione and Ron, but neither of them needed him the way he needed them. Severus and Draco needed him.

More importantly, neither would be leaving him at the end of the school year. Neither would Hermione, come to think of it. The more he thought about Hermione, the more surprised he became. He had noticed recently that she had been spending more time with Draco and himself, and less with Ron. Apparently their budding relationship was coming to an end. Harry had surprised Ron with Lavender Brown a month ago in a hallway, groping each other frantically. He realized that Hermione must have discovered the truth as well. Why she had attached herself to Draco and himself, however, was another cause for speculation.

Harry turned his head to the right, and stared at Draco. Pieces began to click in his head. His eyes widened as he reached a logical conclusion, images of the past month flitting through his head.

"You've been flirting with Hermione!" The words fell out of his mouth in shock.

Draco looked up in surprise and turned a bright, beet red. He looked across the table to his uncle, who was staring with an expression of shock identical to the one on Harry's face. The young Slytherin pushed his plate away, folded his arms on the table, and planted his face firmly in them.

"Its true, isn't it Draco?" Harry demanded. "You and Hermione. No wonder she's been hanging around the past month, after ignoring me for this first half of the year."

Draco moaned into his arms, obviously embarrassed. Both Harry and Draco were startled by the snort that came from across the table. It was followed by a chuckle, which slowly made its way into a roaring laughter. The Slytherin and Gryffindor youths stared in shock as Snape laughed himself silly at the revelation. Tears were running down his face by the time he pulled himself together again.

"I don't wish to discuss it with either of you right now." Draco's tone was prim and aristocratic. He was obviously uncomfortable discussing the topic at this point.

"Its okay, Draco. I don't mind. Its not like I was interested in Hermione that way anyway. I was just surprised, that's all." Harry rushed to reassure his friend, afraid that he might have gone too far.

"I understand, Harry. It's just not something I'm used to. The idea of the only Malfoy heir dating a Muggle-born Gryffindor is somewhat mind-boggling. It gives me fits when I think about it. If this got back to my mother, she'd probably never be released from St. Mungo's."

"I swear I won't breathe a word of it, except to mercilessly tease Hermione about it." Harry solemnly vowed.

"Uncle Severus, you can't tell a soul. Promise me!" Draco's pleading eyes were one of the few things that could bend Snape's will like a twig.

"Very well. We'll forget this conversation has taken place. Let's return to Hogwarts now, shall we?"

As he ushered them towards the fireplace, Snape rested his hand on Harry's back, guiding him gently. Harry's skin heated under the touch immediately. Again, he felt his knees go weak. He was going to have to look into braces for them if this kept up. Snape's touch was addictive. Harry resolved to experience it more often in the near future.

Part IX

Christmas morning arrived with a soft snowfall. Harry awoke alone again in his tower. Making his way slowly down the stairs, his eyes widened at the stack of presents waiting for him in the Gryffindor common room. He settled down in front of the pile, unable to do anything but continue to stare at them. Finally he snapped out of it, noticing the hot chocolate service that had been left on the table for him. Pouring a cup, he turned back to the presents, and picked them up, one by one.

Sirius had outdone himself. Between his godfather and Remus, there were four gifts. They ranged from emotional, to gag gifts. He was smiling happily after opening them all. The addition to his photo albums was very welcome. The box of new jeans and shirts also cheered him greatly. Snape would have a fit at the various lines printed on the rainbow of t-shirts and pullovers Sirius had bought. The box of supplies from the Weasley twins' store would provide him with endless fun over the rest of the school year, and into the summer.

Ron and Hermione stuck to what they knew. He received a book on Quidditch strategy from Ron, and a book on the history of the Dark Arts from Hermione. She had been so excited to discover his course of study and Apprenticeship, and to share hers in Charms. Hagrid sent his usual treats. Mrs. Weasley had gifted him with yet another sweater, in crimson and gold, and cakes and cookies.

That left two presents Harry couldn't figure out. Who else would send him gifts? He picked up the first. Reading the tag, he realized that Draco had gotten him a gift. He had picked up a gift for the Slytherin while they were out, but hadn't expected a gift in return. Opening it, he found a small mirror in an ebony frame. The note included indicated that this was a messaging mirror. Draco had the other mirror, and with them, they could communicate no matter how far away they were from each other. He tested it immediately, muttering the activation words. He smiled when Draco's face appeared in the glass. After wishing his friend a Happy Christmas, he put the mirror to the side and turned to the last present.

It was obviously a book, and a heavy one at that. Opening it, he found "Potions, Ingredients, and Instructions – A Student Guide for Excelling in Potions Making". It was a worn copy, and obviously much-loved. Flipping the cover open, he found a note from Snape. Reading it, Harry realized that this had been Snape's book, and that he had passed it down to Harry. Flipping through it, he could see notes in the Potion Master's meticulous script in many of the margins. He felt a tightening in his chest when he realized that his gift was a sure sign that Snape cared for him.

He hoped that Snape and Draco liked their gifts. Draco had received two. First, a copy of the Muggle book "How to Make Friends and Influence People", as a joke, and second, a friendship ring, which paired with the one Harry now wore on his right hand. He had sent a third ring off to Hermione. When she returned from the holidays, they would cast the spell that would allow the three of them to use the rings to be aware of each other's location, safety, and happiness.

Snape's gifts had taken Harry a long time to choose. First came the shirt. It read simply 'I know Unforgiveables and I like to use them' across the front. Then came the true gift. With Sirius' help, Harry had made Snape a copy of the Marauder's Map with instructions on how to use it. He winced in sympathy for the students who would no longer be able to sneak about undetected.

Finally picking up his gifts and putting them away, Harry slipped on jeans and a pullover that read 'Good students are just bad students who haven't been caught yet' and headed down for the Christmas meal. He ran into Draco in the entrance hall, and they walked together into the Great Hall. Harry looked up at the table and burst out laughing. Snape was wearing the shirt Harry had given him. Draco followed Harry's gaze, and started snickering. The Professor merely gave them a sardonic look, and beckoned them to join him at the table.

Harry spent the meal reflecting on the joy of having a family, no matter how unusual. The teasing, sharp comments, and occasional bit of thrown food between the two students cheered him endlessly. Snape's occasional comment simply added to the pleasure he got from the meal. He knew he had to be positively glowing with happiness. Looking up, he caught Albus Dumbledore's eyes. The Headmaster was smiling at him as if he could read Harry's mind. He gave Harry a nod, and turned to talk to Professor McGonagall.

Later that night, after a small but satisfying snowball fight with Draco, and a supper of feast leftovers, Harry returned to the Great Hall. Conjuring up a cushion, he sat himself down in front of the large Christmas tree. The Hall was dark, and the lights of the tree glowed magically. He let himself relax and his mind drifted from thought to thought carelessly. At the center of his thoughts, as always, stood Severus Snape. He knew he was falling in love with his Professor.

"Up so late, Harry?" Dumbledore's voice woke him gently from his thoughts.

"Yes, sir. I wanted a chance to sit and think. I couldn't come up with a better view to do so."

"What thoughts are crowding your mind on so happy a holiday, Harry?"

Harry looked at Dumbledore. He knew that Dumbledore had told Snape that there were no rules against a teacher/student relationship at the school, as long as Harry was of legal age. He decided to tell the Headmaster the truth.

"I'm in love with Professor Snape." There, he'd said it out loud. It was real to him now.

"Are you sure, Harry? Severus has been through a great deal of pain in his life, and I would hate to see him be hurt again, if this is only infatuation."

"I'm sure, Professor. I've spent all of this year getting to know him better. He and Draco feel like a family to me. I feel connected, welcomed, loved with the two of them. It's just that the love I feel with Professor Snape is different. I know that he wants me, I'm just not sure how to proceed."

Albus gave Harry a sharp look. "How, exactly, can you be so certain of that, young man?"

Harry looked guiltily at the Headmaster. "Well, you see sir, it was a question of circumstance." Harry proceeded to tell Dumbledore about the conversation he had overheard, his thoughts on what he'd heard, and his decision to get to know Snape better. "Its almost like providence, sir. If I hadn't overheard the conversation, I might never have come this far."

Dumbledore looked at Harry and smiled. "Harry, I can see you are truthful and sincere in your intent. As such, I can give you only one piece of advice. Severus will never willingly put his heart at risk, so you must approach him. It may take you time to convince him, but you can succeed. Be prepared to work for it, however. It will not be easy."

Harry smiled at the Headmaster. "I know, sir. Thank you." With that, Dumbledore took his leave. Harry sat a few more minutes, and then got up to head back to his dormitory. Distracted, he wasn't aware of the shape ahead of him, and therefore ran smack into the front of Severus Snape. Rebounding from the impact, he fell flat on his rear. He looked up to see a smirk gracing the face he had come to love so much.

"Fine. Run me down and leave me on the floor. See if I care." Harry sulked cheerfully from his position on the floor. Snape reached a hand down and helped him to his feet.

"To be honest, Mr. Potter, I was the victim in this traffic incident." Suddenly Snape stopped speaking. He looked down at Harry quizzically. The young man had the strangest look in his eyes.

Harry made a quick decision, and reached out his right hand. He laid it gently on Snape's cheek. The Professor's eyes flared with surprise at the gentle touch. They closed in shock as Harry leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips. Because of the slight height difference, Harry had to lean forward, resting some of his weight on Snape's body as he kissed the man, pressing their bodies together. Heat coursed through his body, and he could feel the reaction coursing through the Potion Master's body as well. He felt an arm come up around him, holding him in place.

Finally Harry pulled back, in need of air. He looked Snape in the eyes, trying to express his feelings with a look. The questioning gaze he received in return convinced him he had begun his task well.

"Goodnight, Professor. Happy Christmas." With that, Harry was off, headed towards the Gryffindor dormitory.

Snape stared after him, one hand on his lips, and an expression of surprise and need on his face.

Part X

Over the next few days, Harry saw very little of Professor Snape. The man seemed to be going out of his way to avoid meeting up with him. He skipped meals, and disappeared the moment Harry entered a room. Finally, the day before all the other students returned, the Gryffindor youth decided to hunt Snape down and talk.

Rather than knocking on the workroom door, Harry simply muttered the password and entered. He saw the Potions Master sitting across the room in front of the fireplace. Harry walked swiftly through the room and knelt next to Snape's chair.

"Sir, I think we need to talk."

"Go away, Mr. Potter. You've done enough damage as it is." Harry was surprised. He had expected Snape, when faced with his presence, to pretend nothing had happened, or to retreat behind his wall of snide remarks and icy demeanor. He hadn't expected the pain he saw in the Professor's face. No, if he would do this, he would address the man he loved correctly.

"Severus." Harry's soft voice caught Snape's attention. "I didn't kiss you to hurt you. Nor did I kiss you to embarrass you, or for any prank, joke or gag. I kissed you because I wanted to. I've wanted to for months now."

Severus looked in his eyes, and for the first time, Harry saw the sheer need in the man he had once hated. He saw a need for love, for passion, for touch. The same need lived constantly within the Boy Who Lived. Harry suddenly saw the truth in Dumbledore's words. This would not be easy. Snape would not give in to such a deep need easily. More importantly, he wouldn't trust quickly. They had become friends, and good ones, but the transition to lovers would take time.

Harry reached out his right hand again and touched Severus' cheek gently. He was surprised when the dark-haired man leaned into the touch, instead of pulling away. He let his hand trace up over the sharp cheekbone, and into the long, dark hair. Running his fingers through it, he wondered how he could have ever seen it as greasy. It was nothing of the sort. It was soft, and luxurious. It ran like silk over his fingertips.

He stared firmly into those dark, ebony eyes. He tried to say with his own green eyes what Snape was not yet willing to hear from his lips. Harry put all of his growing love, warmth, kindness, and affection into that look. As he continued to run his fingers through Severus' hair, the look took on a deeper aspect. Desire bled into his eyes, mingling with the other emotions.

Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to those of the man he loved. His eyes closed at the soft, warm touch of Severus' mouth. He put nothing dangerous in that kiss, nothing that would provoke, or stir. Instead, he made it a kiss filled with warmth and affection. Pulling back, he opened his eyes to meet the Potions Master's.

"I kissed you because I wanted to. It felt right, and it was right." Truth rang clearly in Harry's words.

Snape looked absolutely stunned. "How is this possible?"

"You opened yourself up to me. You let me see inside the walls you maintain so firmly against the world. You let me into your life and you gave me family, and so much more. Even before that, before you gave me all those things, I wanted you."

The stunned man reached out a shaking hand, and laid it on the seventh-year's cheek. Harry, who loved the look of Snape's hands, was very happy to realize that they were soft, strong, and gentle on his face. Mimicking his love, he leaned into the touch, enjoying the feel of it.

"I'm not sure I can do this, Mr. Potter." Snape's voice nearly broke with that confession.

"My name is Harry, Severus. You should get used to using it. I'm going to be here a long time. You made sure of that, remember?" Harry looked Severus in the eyes again. "I'm not sure how to do this, myself. I've never felt like this about anyone before. I've never enjoyed being touched like this before. Perhaps we can take this one step at a time. After all, its not as though I'm leaving at the end of the year, like all the rest are."

"Perhaps you are right, Harry. Let us take this one step at a time." With that, Severus kissed him gently on the lips, and ushered him out the door, and on his way.

Looking at the closed door behind him, Harry knew he had a challenge before him. It was a startling realization that Severus had an equally difficult challenge to face. Neither of them had been given much love in their lives, and both were untrusting. They had learned that lesson well.

Part XI

Harry's first task after classes began again was to figure out how to explain to Sirius what he was doing. He at no point considered trying to hide his feelings from his godfather. Sirius might not like Snape personally, but his attitude had changed remarkably since the day Snape carried Harry home after their defeat of Voldemort.

He finally managed to corner Sirius after his Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Wincing at the thought that he was going to be late for Potions, Harry stayed after class. He had told Hermione ahead of time to inform Professor Snape that he was going to be talking with his godfather, and would bring a pass when he arrived.

"Sirius, can I talk to you privately?"

"Sure Harry, hold on a second." Sirius closed the door behind the last of the departing students. He then turned to face his godson with a serious look on his face. "This is about Snape, isn't it?"

"How did you know?"

"Harry, I may have spent twelve years in Azkaban, but I'm not blind. Nor am I stupid, for that matter. I've been watching you both. You're falling in love with him, aren't you?"

"More like fallen, at this point." Harry was happy to see that Sirius wasn't angry at this point. As a matter of fact, his godfather looked concerned, more than anything.

"I thought as much. Remus remarked on it as well, when he visited Snape before the last full moon. He said the man looked as though his whole world had turned upside down." Harry felt a moment of guilt. The full moon had fallen two days after he had kissed Severus. "What exactly did you want to talk to me about?"

"Well, mostly I just wanted to tell you, so that you wouldn't kill Severus as things progress. If they ever really progress."

"Snape's taking his time is he? Well, that's to be expected." Sirius' offhand comment sparked Harry's curiosity.

"Why would that be the case, Sirius?"

"Harry, you saw what the Death Eaters do to each other. When Snape joined, he joined with Lucius Malfoy. They were, well, to be blunt they were shagging."

Harry could feel his stomach churn. He had heard Lucius attack Severus while the Gryffindor had been hanging in chains on Voldemort's wall. He'd had no idea what that would have meant to Snape, besides the trauma of the rape. Harry had been lucky to escape wounded, but free of that particular act. Snape had not been so lucky.

"You understand now?"

"Yes Sirius. I understand now. I can also cheerfully say that while I've never regretted killing Lucius Malfoy, if I had, I no longer would." With that, Harry took the pass Sirius handed him, and headed off to Potions.

Harry stormed down the hallways to the Potions classroom in the dungeons. He was angry and he was in a hurry. He didn't want to be too late and miss too much of the class. While his tutoring was helping him develop a certain aptitude for potions-making, he needed all the class time he could get before his N.E.W.T.s were upon him. More importantly, he had a good idea that Severus would be concerned about the fact that he'd stayed late to talk to Sirius. His Professor was probably coming up with wild theories and wondering when exactly Sirius Black was going to show up on his doorstep to pummel him for daring to touch his precious godson.

Finally reaching the classroom door, the seventh-year Gryffindor paused a moment to catch his breath. It wouldn't do to make a complete ass out of himself by showing up red and puffing, either. He could hear industrious movement inside the room and a distinct lack of conversation, indicating the class had moved to making potions rather than listening to Snape lecture. Finally a bit calmer, he opened the door and walked into the classroom and up to the Potions Master's desk.

"Professor, sorry I'm late sir. I had to speak with Professor Black. Here's my pass." Harry smiled at Snape, trying to reassure him with a look that his godfather was not currently rampaging through the hallways planning the man's death. He was very careful to hide his anger behind his eyes.

"Very well, Mr. Potter. I trust you can find your seat and get to work? The others have begun without you." Snape glanced at him while taking the note, and seemed reassured by Harry's silent message. He turned away and went back to his grading.

Harry took his seat and began work on the day's potion. While his ingredients were brewing merrily in his cauldron, his mind began to wander. Sirius' words came back to him, and his imagination threw up images of the abuse Lucius Malfoy had heaped upon Severus while they had been held captive, waiting for the slow-acting poison to work its way through Voldemort's body. The knowledge that Malfoy and Severus had been lovers beforehand caused a slowly growing haze of red to tinge his sight. Harry had a sudden, maddening epiphany. He now had an idea where the scars he'd seen on Draco may have come from, as well.

The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. How someone could hurt his loved ones in that manner was beyond him. If he knew one thing about the dark-eyed man, it was that he was absolutely loyal, and a betrayal of that was a terrible thing. As for Draco, he had lived for so long just to please his father. Harry's anger continued to grow. It seemed as though his body couldn't hold the rage brewing within him. The fact that he'd killed Lucius Malfoy meant nothing. He wanted to raise the man from the dead and kill him again. That thought seemed to be the trigger to release his anger, and it streamed out of his body at a lightening-fast pace.

Glass shattered throughout the room. Cauldrons exploded. Wood began to scorch on tabletops as his anger flowed through the room. The sound of screaming filtered past his ears, but he couldn't hear through his anger, he couldn't see the damage around him. His rage seemed to burn within him, scorching everything it touched.

"Harry!" A blow landed across his face, distracting him. The blow was quickly followed with a dousing of cold water. He snapped back to reality to see Snape and his godfather staring at him cautiously.

Harry stared at Sirius and Snape. He was completely soaked, and the cold hit him right away. He quickly began shivering. It seemed as though he was chilled to the very core. Looking around, he could see the massive destruction he had unleashed on the classroom. There was very little left intact, except the stool he was sitting on.

"What happened?" He looked fearfully back at them.

"You lost control Harry. You lost control of your power." Sirius was looking at him intently.

"Mr. Potter, what on earth were you thinking about to set you off like this? This is a first year reaction, with the strength of seven years of training behind it. Someone could have been seriously hurt." Snape's cold tone cut Harry to the bone. The shivering escalated to shaking, and his whole body trembled. It seemed as though the cold was swamping him, pulling him under dark waters. Faced with the anger and disdain in Severus' face, Harry chose to allow himself to be dragged under.

The Potions Master caught him as he fell forward into unconsciousness.

Part XII

When Harry woke next, it was to find he had been firmly ensconced in the infirmary. Sitting in the chair next to his bed was Albus Dumbledore. The Headmaster had a concerned look on his face as he gazed at the young Gryffindor.

"Sir? What happened?" Harry's voice came out dry and soft.

"Well Harry, it seems you lost control of your strength for a moment or two. Not an uncommon thing, but its been quite a while since we've seen it happen so dramatically. I believe the last time we'd seen such large-scale destruction was when poor Severus exploded. He blew up the Care of Magical Creatures corral."

"But what caused this Professor? I could have hurt someone." Harry blanched at the thought of accidentally harming one of his friends, or anyone for that matter.

"Harry, you must understand that you are a very gifted young wizard. You are also a wizard finishing what the Muggle world would call 'puberty'. Towards the end of that phase some male wizards have problems controlling their anger. It can result in a loss of control of their magic.

"Now Harry, can you tell me what made you so angry?"

"I was talking to Sirius, and he told me about Professor Snape, and how he had been… involved with Lucius Malfoy. All I could think about was what Malfoy did to him while we were trapped there. Then I thought about Draco. It just kept spiraling in my mind. I couldn't seem to stop it. People I loved had been hurt badly, by someone they had cared about. I just lost all sense of sanity." Harry looked at his hands, draped casually in his lap. It hurt to admit to a loss of control caused by his emotions. Snape had taken such pride in teaching him to control his emotions and reactions.

"Well then, Harry, it seems I have Mr. Malfoy to thank for the destruction of two of my class areas now. A blessing he's gone on, and hopefully won't cost me any others." With that, Professor Dumbledore patted Harry gently on the head and walked off. He passed Severus Snape in the hallway, the dark-haired man moving towards the infirmary.

"Albus, is he okay?" Snape's normally strong voice seemed strained with concern.

"He will be. Much like you, my friend, he will have to learn to control himself. It's too bad this couldn't have happened outdoors. I'm afraid your classroom will require a great deal of work to renovate."

Severus waved his hand negligently in the air. "I've taken care of it Albus. The damage has already been repaired, and the mess cleaned. My supplies will arrive tomorrow to replace those destroyed. I should be ready to resume classes on Monday."

"Very well. I take it you are going to visit young Mr. Potter?"

"I was… harsh… with him when he came out of it. I have to correct that. He didn't deserve the coldness I showed him. It was just so eerily reminiscent of that day, so long ago. Has he told you what set him off Albus?" Snape's eyes were curious.

"Once again, Severus, Lucius Malfoy seems to have caused the destruction of a classroom at Hogwarts." With that, Albus drifted off down the hallway.

Snape stood staring at the Headmaster's back as he walked away. What could the deceased Malfoy have done from beyond the grave to set Harry off like that?

"Its my fault." Black's voice came from an alcove nearby.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Harry wanted to tell me about the feelings he was developing for you. As if I hadn't seen it myself already." A deep sigh. "I warned him it wouldn't be easy, given what Malfoy had done to you."

"Ah." Severus understood now.

"I was going to go see him, but I think you should talk to him first. He seems to draw a great deal of confidence and stability from being in your presence. I'm afraid seeing me might just remind him and start the loop all over again." With that, Sirius walked away from the infirmary, headed towards his rooms.

Severus strode into the infirmary, nodding to Madam Pomfrey as he passed her. Potter was in the last bed in the row. The young man just seemed to be sitting there, staring at his hands. The Potions Master could empathize, having felt the same way he was sure Harry was feeling right now, after his own spectacular blow-up almost twenty years ago.

He sat quietly down in the chair next to the bed and without thinking, reached a hand out, taking one of Harry's. He wrapped his hand around the slightly smaller one, and laced their fingers together. Looking up, his dark eyes met sad green.

"Mr. Potter, if you are going to sit here and feel sorry for yourself, I am going to leave. I have no patience for self-pity, and no time for mournful wailings. If, however, you would care to discuss what has happened, I would be more than happy to do so."

"Harry."

"I beg your pardon?"

"My name is Harry. Remember, you are supposed to get used to using it. You said you would."

"Very well, Harry. Do you care to talk about this?"

"Did I hurt anyone?"

"No. As soon as I realized what was happening, I evacuated the room and sent Weasley and Granger for Black. I should have noticed sooner. These things give off warning signs. I'm surprised I didn't catch it." Snape looked suspiciously at Harry.

"I was… hiding it from you. I didn't want you to know I was angry."

"Oh." A pause.

"So, Black says you told him about… us?"

"Yes. I didn't want any misunderstandings, or misconceptions. He didn't seem surprised, however."

"I get the feeling we may be the only ones surprised by this, Harry."

"I think you may be right, sir."

"Severus."

"What?"

"Its my name. You should get used to using it, Harry."

With that, Severus kissed Harry gently on his forehead and stood to leave.

"When you're ready to talk about the whole thing, come find me. I'll be in my workroom or my quarters. You have the password to both." Turning swiftly on his heel, Snape strode out of the infirmary.

Part XIII

Harry stood before the door to Severus' chamber. Madam Pomfrey had released him earlier, suggesting only that he make sure to rest quite a bit to recover from the large expenditure of energy. Now he stood preparing for the conversation he knew was coming. He was strapping a bit of steel to his spine, metaphorically speaking, when the door opened in front of him.

"Merlin, Potter! Don't just stand there in the doorway like an idiot. Come in, or go home." Draco's cheerful face greeted him from the other side of the doorway. He grinned in response and stepped forward into the private chambers of the Professor he had once feared, and now loved. It cheered him greatly that the young man who was swiftly becoming one of his closest friends was there as well. Draco wouldn't throw himself in front of Harry to protect him from an angry Snape, but he'd at least trip his uncle to give the Gryffindor time to run.

Harry moved into the rooms, surprised at what he saw. In the time he'd gotten to know Severus, he'd still never been invited into the man's private space. The closest he'd gotten was the workroom. It was a dark but cheerful space. There was a lovely fireplace, with comfortable chairs and a couch. A worn coffee table sat between them. Warm, colorful carpets covered the stone floor, and cheerful hangings covered the walls. That's not to say they were un-Snape-like, just not gloomy, as he'd expected. He watched as Draco traipsed over and tossed himself flat on the couch, from which he'd apparently just risen. Severus sat where Harry would expect him, to the right of the fireplace.

The green-eyed young man gathered his courage again, and strode over to the empty chair, settling into it easily. It was, after all, a very comfortable chair. He'd have to talk to Severus about claiming it as his, sometime in the near future. First, he'd have to face what was likely to be the most embarrassing conversation of his young life. Taking a deep breath, he looked at his love.

Their eyes caught and held. Where he had expected to see coldness, or possibly anger, Harry saw only concern, and curiosity. He could feel his own eyes widen in surprise. He'd expected Severus to be furious about the destruction of his classroom after reassuring himself that Harry was okay. Instead, the dark-haired man simply sat and waited for him to speak.

"It was the thought that someone you trusted like that could hurt you in such a way. It made me furious. Then, it came to me that if Malfoy could do that to you, what might he have been doing to Draco as well? The thoughts kept spinning in my head, and I kept seeing the scars that each of you bear. Can you understand? I got trapped in the anger and couldn't find my way out before it exploded."

Both Slytherins stared at him in surprise. If they didn't close their mouths soon, he'd have to take a picture. It was, after all, quite amusing. Two of the cleverest men he knew, made silent by what was simply the truth. He'd have to write this one down in his journal, so as not to forget it.

"Harry, my father was an ass. That's all there is to it. He was a twisted fuck who got off hurting other people. He's dead now. Have I remembered to thank you for that?"

"Twice."

"Draco's right, Harry. More importantly, you cannot change what has happened in the past. All of us have wounds to heal from. The key is, that when you deal with them, you not get lost in them." Severus' voice rolled over him, soothing his nerves, and melting his spine just a bit.

"You don't understand. I haven't had a family my entire life. I had people who hated me for my power. Who locked me in cupboards, hit me, and tortured me for being what I was by birth. I've finally found the family I needed, in you two and Sirius, and I find out that you were hurt in such a way. It was maddening. I know my response wasn't logical, but please try to understand my mental state going into your classroom."

Again, Harry was faced with two gaping Slytherins. He really did have to invest in a camera. He couldn't keep missing moments like this in his life.

"You think of us as family?" This was from Draco, who had moved from the couch to sit on the coffee table in front of Harry.

"Of course I do, you silly git. Why else would I waste the time coming up with a charm to make your hair crimson and gold? That's a joke you save for a sibling, a brother. Not some silly Slytherin." Harry brushed off Draco's surprise. Looking at Severus, he missed the subtle narrowing of Draco's eyes, a look that promised revenge.

"Of course, Severus, I see you as a different type of family, but Draco figured that out a long time ago." The two young men grinned at each other at the reminder of why Draco had been charmed with the colorful hair. The red, at least, had matched Harry's face when Snape had looked at him and seen 'Boys smell nice' scrawled across his shirt, effectively outing the Gryffindor.

"On that note, I'm off to bed. G'nite Harry, Uncle Severus." With that, Draco was out the door and off to the Slytherin dormitory.

After waving goodbye to his friend, Harry returned his gaze to Severus' face. The man still looked fairly floored. Giving up on propriety, Harry took a page from Draco's book and moved to sit on the coffee table, facing the handsome, dark-eyed man. He reached out and took both of those long, sensual hands in his own, unconsciously repeating Snape's earlier motions when he laced their fingers together.

"I should have told you this sooner, Severus." Harry grabbed his courage with both hands and rushed on. "I heard you talking to Dumbledore the first day back at school in the hallway." He watched Severus' face pale at the words. "No, hear me out. I was surprised, and I went back to my common room to think about it. I suppose you've figured out by now that I'm okay with the idea of being with a man? Good. I thought about what it would be like to be with you. No, stop that. Not sexually. That came later. I thought about what it would be like to touch you gently, to hold you and be held by you. To work by your side and to spend my days, and nights with you. The idea wouldn't leave my head. I had to find out more about what could happen."

Severus was looking at him with a stunned look, and Harry could see that his love was quickly losing his courage and preparing to hide once again behind his scathing vocabulary and cold masks.

"No. No more hiding Severus. Hear me out." Harry watched as Severus gathered up his own courage, and nodded. "I decided I needed to get to know you better. I knew you better than most, but not like Dumbledore knew you, or Draco even. I wanted to know what you were really like."

"And what did you find, Mr. Potter?" Severus was having a hard time with this, Harry could tell.

"I found a man I could love unconditionally. A man who loves with his whole heart and will risk everything to save the ones he loves. A man who loves his work with a passion I hope to find in my own. A man who makes my knees weak when he touches me, and melts my spine with his voice." Harry took a deep breath and looked Severus directly in the eyes, catching and holding the gleaming dark ones. "I fell in love with you. Dumbledore confronted me on Christmas, and I talked with him about it. When I left him, I ran into you in the hallway. You know what happened then."

"Is this some sort of joke, Mr. Potter? You heard my conversation with Albus and decided to exploit me?" Snape was retreating quickly. Harry had to do something now, before it was too late. Making a decision, he abandoned the table and straddled Severus in his chair, holding him in place.

"Harry."

"What?"

"Remember, Severus? You should get used to calling me Harry. You will be doing so for a very long time."

Snape was silent, staring at him with eyes full of pain. He had to make that pain leave. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to the strong, soft ones in front of him. Unlike the previous kisses, however, there was nothing innocent about this one. It was hot, and hungry. His hands slid up into that long, sensuous black hair and held his love firmly in place. Harry traced those lips with the tip of his tongue, a temptation Severus couldn't resist.

With a moan, he opened his mouth for the young man, tongue reaching out to run softly along Harry's. His hands clenched in the robes surrounding the incubus straddling him. With a firm tug, he tore them open, and off. Severus' hands moved next up under Harry's shirt and running firmly over the soft, warm skin. He pulled the Gryffindor to him firmly, pressing their bodies together.

Finally Harry pulled back, gasping. His face was flushed, and his body overheated. He wanted badly to take this further, but he needed to know first.

"Severus?"

"Hmmm…?"

"Before we take this any further, I need you to understand something."

"What, Harry?"

"I've experimented quite a bit, but I always wanted my first real experience to be with someone who loved me, and that I loved. It means a great deal to me. I need to know if you…."

"Love you?"

"Yes."

"Harry, let me reassure you. I fell in lust with you while we were working together to defeat Voldemort. I fell in love with you one day over my workroom table while teasing you about one of your shirt slogans. I realized I was in love with you when I opened your gifts at Christmas."

"All right then." With that, Harry grasped the hem of his shirt and pulled it up over his head. He tossed his glasses towards what he now thought of as his chair, and leaning down, nipped gently at Severus' lower lip before resuming the hot, hungry kiss. Severus' lips slid off his and moved along his chin, kissing and nipping softly, and then moving down his neck. Soft teeth and suction applied to the base of his neck had him moaning with pleasure. He decided his lover had on far too many clothes, even if they were the Muggle shirt and jeans.

His fingers flew down the buttons of the older man's shirt, reaching the bottom, his hands moved back up to push the shirt off completely. Pale skin greeted him, and he knew he had to taste it. His lips and tongue moved with swift efficiency over Severus' torso, nibbling, licking and sucking. He made careful notes as to which actions caused his lover to make that sweet gasp he was coming to love. He felt the older man's hands clench at his waist, his only warning as he was lifted, and then lowered gently onto the coffee table.

Strong, sensual hands were working at his waistband, and he quickly found himself divested of both jeans and boxers. He would have thought he would feel self-conscious lying nude before Severus. Instead, he felt supremely confident. He was wanted here, and loved. The look in his love's eyes was one of appreciation, and desire. Harry knew his erection was jutting forth proudly, a bold sign of his desire for Severus. He gasped and closed his eyes as one of those incredible hands wrapped around it, fingertips running up and down the length caressing every inch. Those hands could quickly drive him mad, he decided.

He cried out hoarsely when a warm tongue drifted lazily up the length of him, before drawing him into a warm, wet mouth. Those hands clenched his hips, tightening and releasing in tandem with Severus' movements up and down his cock. His own hands tightened on the sides of the coffee table as soft, mewling sounds escaped his mouth. A soft scrape of teeth and a peculiar rubbing of tongue, and Harry lost all control. His hips thrust up and his back bowed as he came, crying his lover's name into the dark room. He could feel the fluctuation of Severus' throat as he swallowed, and then the soft swipe of his tongue as he cleaned Harry gently.

As Severus pulled back, Harry sat up and leaned forward, capturing his mouth again. His tongue teased its way through the older man's lips, exploring hungrily. Finally he sucked Severus' lower lip into his mouth and gently released it as he sat back.

"I love you Severus. I will always love you. I am going to stay here, at Hogwarts, with you forever. I want to go to sleep next to you every night, and wake up to see you every morning."

Severus held a hand out to him, and pulling him to his feet, led him to the bedroom. Standing before the large, inviting bed, Harry unfastened the older man's jeans and quickly divested him of both those, and his boxers. Looking at the nude man before him, he let his appreciation and desire shine in his eyes. His lover was truly beautiful. Not an ounce of fat to be found, but not hard and unyielding. Firm, warm, and delicious, Harry decided. Just as he was about to test that last, he found himself pushed firmly back onto the bed.

He watched as Severus reached into the nightstand and pulled out a bottle of clear oil. Grinning, he slid up on the bed to a more comfortable position as the older man coated his fingers with the oil. Harry closed his eyes and relaxed. They snapped open again as he felt one of those long, sensual fingers probe him gently. His grin returned as he met his lover's eyes.

"Please?" His plea was answered when the finger slid gently into him. His breath caught, and his cock stirred to life again. The feeling was unique, and powerful. His hips rocked gently in rhythm with Severus' finger. Lost in the movement, drifting in the sensations he barely noticed as other fingers were added, and he was carefully stretched. All he could do was feel. He'd left thinking behind in the sitting room.

The bed shifted and he looked again into Severus' eyes. His lover was propped over him, hot eyes asking a silent question. He could feel the older man's erection bumping him gently as fingers abandoned his body.

"Please!" Again he begged, and his plea was answered. He gasped and then cried out as Severus slid into him. It burned slightly, but he had been well prepared. The pain he had expected never appeared. He realized the oil his love had used must have had a slight numbing agent in it, to ease the entrance.

Severus stilled over him as he was finally fully seated. His body shuddered as he fought for control. Harry reached up and pushed the long, luxurious hair back, and pulled that gorgeous mouth down to his own. He thought fleetingly that he should have felt some discomfort, what with his knee up over his lover's shoulder, but he didn't. He kissed Severus lovingly.

Pulling back, Severus slowly began to move. It took Harry a few thrusts to figure out how to move in tandem with his lover, but once he had, the pleasure mounted. The room was filled with soft moans and gasps as they moved together. They found that their fingers were again entwined, pressed back into the mattress. The pleasure grew and their pace increased. Harry could feel it climbing inside him, hot, shining and bright. When Severus took his cock in his well-oiled hand and began stroking, Harry was lost. He cried out and came, shooting between their bodies. Severus followed quickly, moaning Harry's name and coming deep inside the young man. Finally he shuddered and pulled out gently before rolling to the side.

Reaching out, Severus ran a finger gently down Harry's face. Giving him a short, sweet kiss, he smiled. Harry smiled in return, lacing his fingers again through his lover's hair.

"I love you Harry."

Harry's eyes shone at the words. He kissed his lover again, and moved away briefly to grab a soft cloth to clean them with. When they were clean, he moved closer, resting his head on Severus' chest.

"So, Harry…"

"Yes Sev?"

An eyebrow was raised at the new nickname, but his lover was not going to be thrown off the track.

"How, exactly, did you manage to overhear my conversation with Albus?"

"Well Sev, you see, it was really a question of circumstance."

Part XIV

The next morning Harry awoke to the sound of Severus laughing. He decided he quite liked that sound. Now if he could only figure out what his lover was laughing about. Sleepily opening his eyes, he gave the older man a questioning look.

Rather than answering, Severus conjured up a small mirror and held it in front of Harry. The Gryffindor's eyes widened when he saw his reflection. Instead of his normally dark hair, he was sporting a lovely new shade of silver-highlighted Slytherin green. Groaning, he rolled over and planted his face firmly back into his pillow.

Severus simply laughed again, and then curled around the younger man, kissing him gently on the back of the neck. Hair colors were forgotten as that small kiss led to a mapping of Harry's body, and on to other things. As he felt himself succumbing to his lover's touch, Harry made a mental note to plot revenge against his newly-declared sibling at a later time. Right now, he had more important things to do.

End.