"What did you want me to say, Hermione?" Harry demanded of the head floating in his fireplace as he paced his living quarters. "Did you want me to tell him I'm still in love him?"
"Yes," The witch said insistently. "Because you are, you know you are!"
"I'm not!" Harry snarled, rounding on his friend's visage. "I won't do this again, Hermione! I spent the majority of my Seventh Year in agony over him finding out how I felt, because I was afraid of exactly what happened. Don't you dare ask me to go through that again!"
"I won't, Harry," Hermione told him, her voice calm. "I'm sorry. But he has a point, you know he has. This isn't his fault. It isn't anyone's fault. Sometimes you have feelings for someone and things don't work out in your favor. You fell in love with him, and he didn't feel the same way. That doesn't mean you should blame him. He can't help the way he feels any more than you can…could." She corrected when he shot her a glare. "My point, Harry, is that you being angry at him for not loving you back is just as stupid as if he was angry with you for loving him in the first place."
Harry sighed heavily through his nose and sat on the couch. "Have I told you how much I hate that you're my voice of reason?" He asked softly. "I think you've actually become the voice of my conscience inside my head."
"I love you, too, you prat."
The Defense Master rubbed at his eyes tiredly with one hand while he tapped out a senseless rhythm with the other. "So what do I do?"
"Be his friend," The girl prodded. "That's all he wants from you, that's all he's ever wanted from you. So give him that. And don't do it in the hopes of gaining his favor, do it because it will make you both happy."
"I can't, Hermione," Harry whispered, leaning his chin on his hand. "I can't be his friend knowing that I once dreamed of more."
Hermione sighed as well. "I can't tell you what to do, Harry. I've told you what you should do, and I've told you what you can do, but you have to decide what you will do. You have to decide which is more important: your pride, or his happiness…Goodnight, Harry." Her head vanished from the fireplace, leaving him entirely alone with his thoughts.
Harry, in the end, chose pride. He couldn't bring himself to befriend a man he'd once loved, a man who had torn that love apart. But he also chose not to let that pride stand in the way of his duty to the school. The next morning he sent a message to Snape via Dobby, asking him to come to his office at his earliest convenience. When Snape came, Harry made his position clear.
Harry looked up at the knock on his office door. He sighed.
"Come in, Severus."
The door opened, and the Potions Master came into the room, closing the door. Harry hid a twinge of guilt at the shimmer of hope in otherwise stoic black eyes. He drew a deep breath to steady his courage.
"I can't be your friend," He began impassively. Snape frowned. "I've been advised to do so by a very close friend, but I simply can't. There's too much in me that still hurts after your rejection, and I can't let myself fall back into the habit of our closeness; a closeness I now feel was falsely won."
"Harry, I never-"
"I don't mean on your part, Severus," Harry interrupted, standing from his desk. "I mean from me. I let myself get close to you under false pretenses. At the time, I thought it was because you were offering your friendship, but I know now that it was because I sought only to explore the attraction I held for you. I'm sorry for that. I became your friend for the sole purpose of wanting to be more, and it wasn't fair to you. Now, though, I won't be such a fool to my own feelings. I loved you, once, and that left me bereft. I refuse to befriend you now, not knowing if it isn't under the same secret desire to achieve more. As I said, I can't be your friend. However, I will be your colleague. It was wrong of me to damage our working relationship with my own selfishness, and from now on I will treat you with the respect you deserve as a fellow instructor. I hope you can accept my apology for how I've mishandled your valuable time up until now."
Snape continued to frown as Harry held out his hand over the desk. Harry waited, refusing to fold until the man vocalized some refusal of his apology. He knew, from their time together in his Seventh Year, that the Potions Master made a habit of considering his options before ever agreeing to anything. It was an admirably Slytherin means of approaching uncertain situations, especially in comparison to the Gryffindor rule of storming head-long into things with nary a thought to prudence.
Finally, after a long, tense moment of silence, Snape's frown turned to a scowl of determination, and he glided around Harry's desk. The Defense Master turned to face him, his hand still outstretched. Snape stared at the hand for another moment before looking up to glare into Harry's earnest green gaze.
Harry let his hand fall. "Very well, Sev-" His words were cut off by a choked gasp of surprise as strong hands snagged at him with liquid speed.
Long fingers gripped the front of his robes, and his knee knocked against a drawer of his desk when he was dragged towards the irate Potions Master. His eyes widened and then slid shut as thin, pale lips descended on him in a kiss he had dreamt of so many times. The kiss was short-lived, and Harry was somewhat grateful. His knee smarted terribly, and combined with his confusion, it made him feel a touch of annoyance. He drew back, dislodging the hands rumpling his robes with his own grip on thin wrists. He frowned angrily.
"Why?" He asked sternly, raising an eyebrow to match the one his smirking companion had lifted.
"Because you didn't say 'no'." Snape answered with a shrug.
Harry's frown deepened into a scowl. His annoyance grew exponentially, and he felt he could reasonably call it fury as he threw Snape's hands down and away from him.
"Get out. I will not be made fun of, Snape, and I will not let my heart be your plaything. If you don't want to work amiably together, then that's fine, but don't think I will let you treat me so brashly," Harry growled. He picked his wand up from his desk without looking away from the frowning black gaze and spelled his door open so violently that it bounced off of the wall.
"Harry, I'm in l-"
"Don't you dare, Snape. Don't you utter those words, turning this into some gross fallacy just because you can't accept my decision. I would rather suffer a thousand broken hearts than hear you proclaim lies," The Gryffindor took a step back. "You've given me your answer, and now you need to leave. I'll send Dobby with my final draft of our joint lesson."
"I said 'no', Harry, and I'm not leaving," Snape snarled, scowling now as well.
Harry glared silently, refusing to back down.
Someone at the door cleared their throat. "Harry, I wondered if I might borrow-"
"Not now, Headmaster." Harry ground out without turning.
"It will only take a moment of your time, m'boy. I need Severus for-"
"Not now!" Both Masters shouted, neither one looking away from the blazing eyes of the other. Harry lifted his wand at the same time as Snape, and the door slammed shut on the concerned blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore.
"Why?" Harry demanded again in the still silence.
Snape's scowl deepened. "I have already given my answer."
"And you're a laugh riot for having said so," Harry growled. "But it isn't an explanation. If you won't leave, then you owe me that much."
"Will you let me explain, then?"
"As long as you do not say those words."
"They are the truth, Harry!"
"They're not!" Harry shouted. "If you felt so strongly for me, you would never have turned me away the night of the Leaving Feast."
"I had to!" Snape shouted back. "You were still my student, Potter! I risked my job if I so much as touched you that night!"
"That's bullshit, I'd already finished my NEWT's! I'm tired of you standing behind your excuses!"
"Read a book, Potter! By school statute, you're still the responsibility of Hogwarts, still my responsibility, until you step off the train at Kings Cross! You already had one professor try and take advantage of you; I wasn't going to be the second, no matter how I felt!"
Harry's brow furrowed and he pursed his lips. "Not even after I threw myself at you?" He asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
Snape sighed, his scowl softening. He reached towards Harry, but stopped just short of touching him. "You will find, Mister Potter, that I have excellent self-control."
Harry found that, of everything Snape had said thus far, that that was the most believable.
"You could have said," He pointed out, thinking he'd finally caught Snape in his lie. "If you really felt so strongly, you could have just explained your position. Why then, did you instead let me feel as if I had done something wrong? As if I was foolish to have hoped?"
"What did you want me to say, Potter?" Snape demanded, crossing his own arms over his chest. "You said it was just an ego-trip! Had I told you of my feelings then, then I would have looked the fool. I had planned to court you properly when you returned as my assistant, a post you refused! I tried to explain in my letters, and they went unanswered! What more could you have expected of me? I understandably assumed that my feelings ran deeper than yours, but I was at least willing to put them aside for the sake of our friendship. It was you who made it clear that you wanted nothing more to do with me!"
"I never read your letters!" Harry said hotly. "Why would I have, when thoughts of you only reminded me of my broken heart?!"
"That is not my problem!" Snape snarled. "You should have had more faith in me! Even if you had assumed my rejection stood, you should have had more faith in our friendship, which you abandoned, and allowed me to explain!"
Harry continued to glare for a long moment before slumping in defeat. "You're right."
"Don't be an ass," Harry muttered darkly. "I said that you're right. I should have given you the benefit of the doubt. I let my emotions overrule my good judgment and…I'm sorry."
Snape eyed him critically. "I believe you. But do you believe me when I say that I'm in love with you?"
Harry frowned uncertainly. "Still?"
Snape smiled and unfolded his arms. Harry let himself be drawn into the encompassing strength of those extremities. He fisted is hands in the thick fabric of Snape's robes as thin lips descended on him again.
Harry smiled a little ashamedly. "Good, because I doubt this will be the last time my idiocy will come between us."
Snape smirked. "While trying, your Gryffindor-ish tendency to let your heart rule your head is one of the many reasons I am so enamored with you. And, I'm sure, my own failings will cause their own problems."
Harry blushed. "But we'll face whatever arises together, right?"
"I would have it no other way, Harry."
The Defense Master chuckled as they shared another chaste kiss. "Good," He repeated when Snape had pulled away. "Then could you walk me down to the Infirmary for a pain potion? I think you bruised my knee when your Slytherin stubborn streak pulled me into the drawer of my desk."
Snape smirked and Harry gave a squawk of surprise when he was swept up into the man's arms. He wrapped his arms around a pale neck, staring nervously at the floor below him. Snape chuckled warmly, and Harry glared at him.
"It would be my pleasure, Professor Potter."