AN: This tale started out as an Adventdrabble that just wasn't able to be finished in time. It's also a present for Lizzy0305 for drawing the cover for The Granter, at least the first 10K are. The rest is her birthday present. Yen has been nice enough to edit this one, but it does mean that it will be coming out on her schedule not mine. ^-^
Chapter 1: Lily's Potion
"Just drink it, Sev." Red hair blocked the glaring green eyes. "It won't hurt you, I promise."
Severus tipped the cup from side to side, watching the light glint off the red liquid. It wasn't as thick as his Mum's cherry cordial, nor was it as thin as Dad's sherry. It reminded him of strawberries around the edges where it was thinner and the light filtered through it.
Next, he sniffed it. He didn't recognise the smell as any one thing. Instead, there were a host of things it called to mind: warm apples eaten under the summer sky, the scent of rich soil in the greenhouses at Hogwarts, the breeze from swinging on the swings as high as you could. None of those would account for the bright red colour which was the reason why he was wary.
Small hands pushed the glass closer to his face. "Now, Sev."
Severus looked into the bright green eyes, taking in the anticipation brightening her face, and drank the red liquid. It slipped down his throat, roared in his ears, caused his breath to stutter, before it created a pit of fire in his belly that rushed through his entire body. Trembling and starting to sweat, he looked at his friend and wondered just what this was. Lily's beaming smile stop his grousing before it began.
"Well? Do you know?"
"Know what, Lily?" Severus set the cup down carefully on the park bench, his eyes searching her face as a small tendril of fear curled around his heart. "What is this drink supposed to do?"
Lily picked up the cup and sat in its place. "It's supposed to help you recognise who you're destined to be with, or ..." she frowned slightly, "rather, who would be the best fit for you. Not a soul bond or anything, but..."
Severus felt another spike of fear, this one clawing its way up his spine, his eyes widening. "You gave me a potion, one you're not sure what it would do?"
"Of course not, Sev." Lily shook her head. "I researched it carefully and spent a good part of the summer brewing it."
Severus sent his mind on a frantic search for what the potion could be, but couldn't draw up a single one that he had found – not even in the restricted section. "Where? Where did you find it?"
"It's in the library – not Hogwarts, but the one here in town. I know it's really a potion, Severus." Lily's frown was nothing compared to the one Severus knew he was showing her. "It's supposed to tell you who's the one for you."
"And just how are you supposed to know? Angels appear and blow their horns?" He looked about as if hunting for said angels.
Lily shook her head. "No, silly. It's supposed to be a feeling you can't shake. Deep in your heart – you can feel them lodging there."
Severus stared at Lily and could honestly say his heart was only reacting to fear not the potion that was still burning through the rest of his body. "Why should I want to know this, Lily?"
She laughed. "It'll be great for both of us to know who we should chase after, shouldn't it? Next year we can spend less time worrying about whom to trust our hearts to and more time studying for our OWLs. It'll be easier if we knew who we get to be with. We can learn all about them and magically love will blossom."
"Lily …" Severus stopped for a moment, trying to think how to say what he was thinking. "What if the knowledge is more harmful than helpful?"
Lily laughed. "How can knowledge hurt, Sev?"
"Can you still bring a dying flower back to life?" Severus knew she couldn't. It was accidental magic, something you learn not to do during your first year at Hogwarts.
Lily shook her head, her gaze drifting off to the flowers that surrounded them.
"Knowledge, learning, prevents you from doing so. It prevents you from allowing your magic to flow the way it used to. It's a good thing, but it also stops you from doing something that was once so natural to you. What if knowing who it is stops you from going with the flow and then connecting with your destined person?"
Lily slumped on to the bench, her eyes filled with remorse. "Sev … I'm sorry. I didn't even think of that. Oh... what if I..." She leant forward and rested a hand on his arm.
Severus shook his head. "It's fine, Lily. Just promise me you won't take it."
"I promise, Sev."
Severus Snape, feared Professor and Potions Master of Hogwarts glared at the first years as they settled down for Welcoming Feast. He glanced at Harry Potter at the Gryffindor table, the boy's thin face showing awe and an excited smile as the huge platters of food magically appeared, only to sneer and return his attention to his plate. Deep in his heart, an organ many would say he didn't possess, he could feel Harry making himself a home there. It felt like he was under a warm blanket, settled on his sofa with a good book, and a hot cup of tea – only better. It felt like he had finally found home.
Severus served himself and stabbed the slice of roast viciously. 'It was a real potion.' He had begun to doubt it as nothing triggered it for the past sixteen years. Part of him believed he was to go through this life with no one, part believed that Lily's potion didn't work, and now after all these years, it finally activated, and for the worst possible person. This was going to affect every one of his dealings with the boy. It was going to make it harder to be cruel to him, harder to watch him fight the Dark Lord when his time came. 'At least I'm naturally abrasive. It might save us both.'
Mentally cursing his luck, he tucked into his meal.
"Really, Severus, just a simple answer would suffice." Minerva leant over her desk, fixing a frown on her face.
Severus paced the length of the room once again before returning the look in spades. "Simple answer? Do you honestly think that there is a simple answer?"
The Headmistress' look said she did, and Severus knew she was right, but would never tell her so. No, even now, after the war, he was a contrary person. He kept his face blank as Minerva deepened her frown.
"Honestly, Severus, it's an easy question. What do you want for Christmas?" Her 'just think' was heavily implied, but luckily unsaid. Both of them knew Severus would act poorly to it.
Severus' eyes narrowed as he thought, his entire focus directed into his head. It was nearly like stepping into his own mind. Moving through his compartmentalised mindscape, he tried to find an answer to her question. His immediate answer was one that would shock and possibly irritate the Headmistress. Not that doing either of those would bother him, but it was his secret, one he guarded jealously.
His mental feet walked a well-worn path, stopping almost by habit at the section of himself that contained what he thought of as his Dark Side. It was the section of his personality that made him such a good Death Eater – one that Voldemort never questioned. 'It's amazing I don't have multiple personality disorder. At least, I don't think I do. No one says I attempt to go by different names, nor do I have memory lapses.'
Leaving that thought and the locked off part of his personality, he continued on towards his Light Side. Stepping through the barrier, his breath caught and his nether regions were taking notice of the sight that greeted him. This was what he wanted for Christmas, something he would or could never have. His Harry, his Imp, smiled at him and Severus wondered if he was wearing anything besides the long socks. It was hard to tell with the way the man was sitting. His muscular legs were crossed and he was holding a red stocking – a Christmas stocking – in a manner that covered his bits and his arms covered his hips. Everything Severus was capable of seeing was bare except where the socks were, and he let his hungry eyes run over every inch of the man.
"Why are you sitting like that on the cold floor?" Severus' tone was abrupt, scolding even, but the green eyes just flashed with amusement. "Really, Harry, you are not adequately dressed for the dungeon's temperatures."
That comment brought a smile to the other man's face. Yes, a smile. This was his Gryffindor. He had watched the real boy grow up, studying his expressions and mannerisms. He has secretly enjoyed the courage that defined him as a hero, the spirit he had shown, and the loyalty that was the thread holding him together. The Harry who had lodged himself into Severus' heart had grown as the real boy had and had gained the traits of the real one, both good and bad.
"I'm a wizard, Severus. Warming charms do work," Harry laughed.
This was what he wanted – to be with someone who could handle his personality. The lights on the tree next to Harry caused his bare skin to glow in patches, drawing Severus across the room. He wanted to brush his fingers from one patch of light to another across the lightly tanned skin.
Severus glanced about, attempting to see what or who called his name. Seeing nothing, he ignored it. His fingers ghosted over Harry's shoulder and into the unruly black hair. Laughing green eyes were watching him, inviting him, as he leaned closer. Their lips lined up with the ease of practise.
"Severus Snape!" A hand hit a desk, the sharp sound yanking his attention back to the room.
Severus glared at Minerva while mentally scolding himself. He knew better than to visit Harry while in public. Luckily his coat hid any physical reaction to his thoughts, though he couldn't be sure if his face was lightly flushed.
"Easy, yes, but it's something that would be very difficult to grant," he snapped. Harry was not interested in males as partners. The boy had only dated girls while at school, and the tabloids told nothing about his preference changing.
"That's to be expected." Minerva huffed, "Just say it."
"My freedom." Severus watched as surprise flitted across her face. "My freedom from students, from teaching, from papers to grade."
She compressed her lips before sighing. "You're already retiring at the end of the year."
"True, but every time it comes up – anytime a replacement is interviewed – you and the rest are derisive about it." Severus paced about, stopping to glare at Albus' portrait who was conveniently asleep before whipping about to face the Headmistress. "You're not granting me my freedom, you are begrudging it."
Minerva sank into her seat, her hands resting on the desk top. "Very well, Severus, I'll grant you your freedom, but you have to promise to visit."
Severus raised an eyebrow, but nodded after her stern look. There, Harry would stop scolding him for leaving and would have a warmer place to traipse around in unclad.
"Good, now what present do you want under the staffroom tree. Give me more than one option."