"Harry Potter is getting married."

"I expect the Wizarding World will go mad with joy, save for the witches under 18, who will all expire from grief. Why is this news of any interest to me, Headmaster?" Snape tapped one finger on the desk, clearly signaling his intense desire to be anywhere else than involved in yet another conversation about his most troublesome and undeniably effective former student. While he didn't like the irritating whelp, the boy had finally fulfilled his promise and reduced Voldemort to ashes and bad memories, for which service Snape had managed to dredge up a certain amount of patience when the name Potter was mentioned.

"It is of concern to you, Severus, because he has requested that you stand for him at the wedding."

If Snape had been standing, he would have sat abruptly. As it was, his fingers stilled and his eyes darted to the benign face of his Headmaster. That serene blankness worried him; Dumbledore was hiding something and Snape's long experience with the man told him it was a strong emotion. Of course, he himself was feeling several strong emotions just at the moment. Shock vied with amazement and no little amount of horror at the very idea of standing for Harry Potter at his wedding. Disbelief snarled within him but slunk away when he realized that Potter would never play such a prank on the Headmaster. Could it be genuine?

"Let us be perfectly clear here, Headmaster. Harry Potter has written to you, his mentor, to ask if I will stand for him in place of his parents on his wedding day?"

"Tomorrow," the Headmaster reminded him. The chiding tone suggested that Dumbledore knew that Snape had received, read and incinerated his invitation to the presumably happy event without bothering to send a reply. After all, every professor at Hogwarts and a good number of the house elves had been invited to the wedding, which was to be held at the castle in any case. He had understood that Potter had been forced by circumstance to invite him; his intended gift to Potter was to have been his absence.

"Well, Severus, what shall I tell him?" Dumbledore dipped his quill into his ink pot and held it over a sheet of parchment, face as calm as if the world had not suddenly shifted to the left by several degrees.

"Why not you?" he asked abruptly, still too shocked to be politic.

Neither Dumbledore's expression nor his quill shifted a jot. "Because he has asked you, Severus. Apparently you did not reply to his wedding invitation, therefore he has applied to me to determine your acceptance of this honor. Now, what shall I tell him?"

Snape had been asked to stand for several former students in years past. Slytherin House had more than its fair share of orphans and many of them had turned to him in place of missing fathers and mothers for the traditional blessings and spell-castings. To be asked to be one of the first to move within a couple's magical bonding was an expression of deepest trust. In the absence of his own children, he had been genuinely touched to participate in what would otherwise be a ritual always beyond his reach. And now Harry Potter had requested that Severus Snape help to join him to his beloved. Who happened to be a Muggle-born Greek witch who had never laid eyes on him before. Amazing.

"I meant, why not you?"

Dumbledore's benign expression only deepened a fraction but Snape sensed that he had touched a nerve. "Perhaps you should ask him yourself when you reply." The Headmaster handed him the quill, then rose and quitted his own office.

The morning of Harry Potter's wedding dawned cold and cloudy. By noon, snow was falling in decorative feathers that looked well as they drifted down from the charmed ceiling of the Great Hall. By one p.m., the Hall was crowded beyond capacity and the sea of whispers sounded like brooms in the snow to Snape where he stood on the dais beside the girl's parents. Andromache, he reminded himself. Her name was Andromache and she clearly adored Potter but there looked to be enough determination in that chin to stand up to whatever nonsense the boy would bring into her life. Dumbledore sat with the rest of the staff, in places of honor within the first ranks of chairs. No doubt he, too, heard all the musings on why the dour Potions Master now stood, imposing in midnight blue and silver, waiting for the couple to stand before them and plight their troth and be blessed in turn.

The whispers would turn to a roar if they knew why the Potions Master stood ready to lay his wand upon their clasped hands and whisper the charms that went back to Merlin and Morgana. If they knew what Potter had said to him last evening.

He had sent his reply from Dumbledore's office and that single word scrawled upon a scrap of parchment had brought Harry Potter to his door not an hour later. Who had handed him a pensieve and then said only, "Because you were the only one who ever tried…" the sentence had trailed off and the serious green gaze had met his fearlessly.

"If you agree to do it, sir, send the pensieve back. If I haven't heard by midnight, I'll know your answer." Potter had straightened a fraction then, and said, "No matter what your answer, Professor Snape, thank you."

With that, the impossible man was gone. If Snape hadn't been there to witness it, he might have thought that Potter had merely irritated the Dark Lord to death – he certainly possessed the power of awesome annoyance.

After minutes of fruitless speculation, Snape had finally sighed, bowed to the inevitable and looked into the damned pensieve. Though he had formed no expectations for its contents, he was shocked at what he found. He saw …

/Himself, skidding into a Ladies' lavatory, leg bleeding and astonished at the sight of Potter still alive, unflattened by a mountain troll/

/Himself, wishing Potter well before his first Quidditch match, the words practically twisting out of his clenched jaw/

/Himself, waving his finger in Potter's slack-jawed face after that stupid incident where those two idiots had nearly been flattened by the Whomping Willow/

/Himself, staring at Filch's petrified cat and blood scrawled tauntings of the so-called Heir of Slytherin and pointing out the glaringly obvious, that Potter and his little friends couldn't possibly have been the authors of that particular bit of mischief/

/Himself, holding Sirius Black at wandpoint/

/Himself, flying backward as Potter's Expelliarmus knocked him through a wall/

/Himself, shoving Potter and Granger behind him in a fruitless attempt to keep a transformed Lupin from savaging them/

/Himself, throwing Legilimens after Legilimens at the boy/

… and still more.

At ten minutes to midnight, he had sent the pensieve back.

Just ten minutes ago, he had stood with Potter in a small room off the Hall and they had looked at one another, unsmiling and stiff. Then Potter had taken out a silver chain, the traditional gift of a bonded child to his parents. With a sense of unreality, Snape had inclined his head and Potter had slipped a beautiful chain of silver leaves around his neck. When he had noticed that they were wrought in the shapes of willow leaves, he had nearly smiled.

"Potter," he asked, trying one last time to understand how that series of events could ever have brought him to this moment.

That serious green gaze fixing on his again, maybe consciously leaving himself open to the skill of the Occlumens. Then only, "Because you tried to make me be a child when everyone else wanted me to be a hero." A faint smile, an echo of the happy grin he knew was the man's more usual expression.

Now, Snape's left hand cool beneath the clasped hands of the couple, his wand hand laid atop them, he began whispering the words of the incantation. The silver links on his chest jingled softly as he raised their joined hands higher, speaking the blessing of a childless parent over a man who had never been allowed to be anyone's child.

While he might never come to understand or even like Harry Potter, it was oddly comforting to know that the boy knew that he had tried.