Title: The Dark Lord's Best Plan And The Ruse That Would Never Work

Author: tangledhair Rating: R Pairing: Severus Snape/Harry Potter Disclaimer:  Characters belong to JK Rowling's Harry Potter Series Feedback: yes, please. Beta: Wintermoon2 Archive: Part of the From Dusk till Dawn Severus Snape/Harry Potter Fuh-Q-Fest at http: www . kardasi . com / HPSS / storyindex . htm Challenge:  35. When Harry finds the Mirror of Erised again, it's not his parents he sees, but Snape and himself. (Kira)  36. Voldemort forces Snape to seduce Harry. (Kira) 10,000 words.

A/N:  This story has been edited for content for fanfiction.net.  In order to read the full version, please visit

http: www . kardasi . com / HPSS / storyindex. Htm

The End

Severus Snape had been far more collected kneeling before the Dark Lord than he was now, sitting with Albus Dumbledore.  The moment he had entered the headmaster's office, his self-protective instincts had faltered, and Snape had dropped his mask.

"It's over, Albus," he said, aware that while his hands were shaking his voice was not.

Dumbledore looked at him sympathetically, but said quietly, "Why don't we see what Harry has to say about all of this?"

Snape slammed his hand down on the armrest of his chair.  "I don't want to see what Harry has to say about all of this!  I will not do it!!"

Dumbledore's eyes sparkled with mirth and Snape felt the almost overwhelming compulsion to punch him before he had the chance to speak whatever it was he was thinking.

"Of course you won't, Severus," he said with a pacifying tone.  "But perhaps we can work out an illusion that will buy us some time."

Snape was dumbfounded.  His jaw actually dropped.  "Certainly," he began, "You are not considering…"

But that irritating twinkle told him that, as a matter of fact, he was.

The Ruse

Dumbledore allowed Snape some time to recover from all of the day's shocks before bringing in the other third of this plot.  The Potter boy entered looking as obnoxious as ever.  He gave Snape a practiced scowl that nevertheless revealed his true feelings.

Always his heart on his sleeve.  Always an open book.  Always an emotional moron.  This would never work.

Snape glared at the pathetic excuse for a savior of the wizarding world, who in turn looked away.  Snape quietly drew a deep breath, but made no attempt to quiet his loathing.  The boy must know he was despised in order for him to decline the plan.  If he had any hope at all that Snape might return his feelings…

"Harry, my boy, how is your training coming along?" asked Dumbledore lightly as a means of introducing a very serious topic.

"Er, fine, sir," he stuttered in his normally incoherent manner.

"And do you feel at this point that you will require the use of the auror training program this summer to hone your skills?"

Harry looked slightly off to the side, and Snape didn't have to use Legilimency to know what was going through his head, as every thought was clearly stamped on his face.  His pride pushed him to deny the use of further training, but fear of a reenactment of the more dangerous battles he had faced kept him from doing so.

As reluctant as he was, Snape did have to admit a grudging respect for the caution Harry had learned decades earlier than did most Gryffindors.

"Sir," Harry said tentatively, "I am confident in my training thus far.  My extra lessons are going quite well.  But I would like the possibility of auror training over the summer to remain open to me should we deem it necessary at the end of the year."

Snape was quite frankly amazed that he had managed to string together three coherent and thoughtful sentences.

"Of course, Harry," Dumbledore was saying.  Snape studied him and really didn't like the glint in his eye.  He knew suddenly that Dumbledore fully intended to convince Harry to participate in the plan.

"Albus, might we get to the point," snapped Snape, seeing no reason to prolong the inevitable. 

"Right you are, Severus, right you are."  Snape drew another long, quiet breath as Dumbledore began to explain the situation.  "Harry, Voldemort has put Professor Snape in a rather compromising position- such that he may have to take an early retirement from his service of the Dark Lord.  I'm sure I do not have to tell you that he will be in far greater danger out of Voldemort's service, as every Death Eater alive will be attempting to kill him.  It would be a great tragedy if we were to lose our beloved Potions Master and friend."

"Not to mention the Order would lose a most valued spy," Snape interrupted darkly.  He had no doubt that Dumbledore did care for his safety, but his driveling on about it made Snape uncomfortable.  He felt it necessary to downplay any suggestions that his death might be anything other than a relief to anybody.

Dumbledore nodded, his eyes twinkling knowingly.  "Yes," he said, "That is another, less relevant reason for this meeting.  The point is, Harry, there is a chance that you can help Professor Snape to maintain his role in Voldemort's inner circle until your graduation in four months."

"Me?!" asked Harry with a gulp.  "How could I help?"  He glanced briefly to Snape, who continued to glare.

Dumbledore turned to Snape.  "Do you wish to explain?"

"No," said Snape icily.  "I do not wish to explain, as I do not believe this to be a good idea."

"What?" asked Harry.

"Harry, Voldemort has come up with a rather complex plan for your abduction- to be perpetrated by Professor Snape, here.  He is to seduce you, and convince you to sneak away from the auror training camp after you graduate.  Voldemort believes that you would hold enough concern for Severus' job that you would keep secret your final destination.  He plans for you to go to Snape Manor, where a team of Death Eaters would capture and torture you until Voldemort sees fit to destroy you once and for all."

Harry stared blankly at the headmaster for several moments before abruptly bursting out laughing.  "I'm sorry," he said, wiping tears from his eyes, "But what on Earth could have possessed him to think that was a good plan?"

"Several of his student spies have reported to him about your little crush on me," said Snape scathingly.

Harry blanched, and Snape was sure that if he hadn't already been red from laughing, he would be so now from embarrassment.

"But all the same," said Harry a bit sheepishly, "It's common knowledge that you loathe me.  Voldemort's no fool.  He couldn't possibly believe you could pull it off."

Snape sat rigid.  The problem here was that Potter would not be able to pull it off.  How dare he insinuate the case was otherwise?!

"Apparently, Mr. Potter, he believed you would be an exceedingly easy conquest."

Harry sat back like he had been slapped.  He turned to Dumbledore and bit out, "And what, exactly, am I supposed to do to save Snape's life?"

Snape couldn't believe the disrespect, but before he could say anything, Dumbledore jumped in, "Maintain the ruse that he is fulfilling his orders.  This will buy us time- until the summer.  If at that point, we decide you are ready to combat Voldemort, there will be no reason for him to remain a spy.  If not, you will go on to auror training, and Severus will go into hiding until such time as you are ready."

Harry sat quiet for a moment.  Then he asked, "Why is a 'ruse' necessary?  Why can't Snape just report that he's doing… whatever?"

"Professor Snape is not the only person in Hogwarts who is reporting to Voldemort.  Several students are reporting to him through their parents, although to our knowledge, none have yet taken the Dark Mark."

"But this is supposed to be a secret anyway- how would anyone know?"

Dumbledore chuckled, his eyes twinkling.  "Students are more privy to illicit rumors than are teachers.  It is more than possible that many students could have suspicions about an affair between you and Professor Snape without any of the faculty suspecting a thing."

Harry stared at him wide-eyed, and Snape had to agree with the boy's apparent disbelief that Dumbledore would admit such a thing, regardless of the fact that that was surely part of Voldemort's own reasoning behind allowing secrecy for the sake of Snape's job.  Snape's teaching position had been his only argument against Voldemort's plan that would not come off as out-right disobedience, and Voldemort had refuted it almost immediately with the allowance of secrecy.

"If I were to agree to this," said Harry slowly, "What would it entail?"

Snape allowed a slight, vicious grin to part his lips.  "Absolute secrecy on your part.  Meaning there is a distinct possibility that your two closest friends, as well as your housemates and most of the school, will believe that you are actually having an affair with me.  You will deny it, of course, but show enough evidence to the contrary that rumors propagate among the student body but no suspicion is raised among faculty members, who of course, will not know of any agreement made here today."

"Minerva McGonagall-"

"Would have my head, Albus, and you know it."

"She is an Order member, and the head of Harry's House."

"And would watch him like a hawk to make sure nothing actually happened.  If someone noticed that she knew something but did nothing, it would blow our cover."  He sighed.  "Really, Albus, if we are to do this, I must insist on absolute secrecy."

"I haven't agreed yet!" interjected Harry angrily.

Snape turned a sneer back to him.  "And I am not yet convinced that you are capable of this."

Harry took a deep breath, turned to Snape, and said in a very business-like manner, "Professor, my entire life I have been set apart from my peers.  Time and time again throughout my Hogwarts education, something would happen that would lead to whispers and rumors and oftentimes blatant segregation of me from the rest of the student body.  If you honestly believe that I would be bothered by one more rumor, you have not been paying attention.

"As it is," Harry continued, "Your position as spy is very valuable to the Order, and since I have no particular wish to see you die, I will agree to attempt this… ruse… if you think you are capable of pretending not to loathe me for the next four months." 

Snape was astounded at the audacity.

Stage One- "Buying Time"

Three days later, Harry stood quietly at his cauldron in Potions class.

"Detention, Mr. Potter, for being distracting," said Snape in a low growl that was not nearly as fearsome as the voice he typically used when terrorizing students, and especially Harry.

"But I wasn't doing anything!" shot Harry before it occurred to him to keep his mouth shut.

"And five points from Gryffindor for talking back," said Snape, clearly amused.  The Slytherins snickered and Harry fumed, glaring down at his bubbling cauldron. 

Snape came up behind him and peered over his shoulder, standing noticeably closer than he normally did.  Harry looked up but Snape said nothing.  All at once it occurred to him that perhaps Snape was already putting The Ruse into action.  Harry felt a blush rising.  He had thought he'd have more time to prepare for whatever was about to happen.  He looked back down quickly to hide his embarrassment, and reached forward with his wand to stir his Blood Clotting Potion.

"You're stirring too quickly," said Snape slowly.  "Am I making you nervous?"

Again, the Slytherins snickered.  Snape lingered for a moment before he continued pacing the room, leaving a furiously blushing Harry blissfully alone.

"What was that about?" asked Hermione angrily as they headed to dinner.

"Aw, Snape's just being an arse," said Ron, sliding his arm around her soothingly.  "Surely after seven years you've noticed a bit of a pattern there?"

But Hermione turned to Harry with her eyebrows furrowed.  "No," she said, "That was different.  Is something up, Harry?"

Harry shook his head, carefully avoiding eye contact with his friends.  "Nah, Snape's just being a prick like always."

Ron laughed.  "Like you really think that.  Give it up, mate- everyone knows.  I'm sure you're just pleased as punch to be serving another detention with ol' Greasy Nose."

Harry gave Ron a sarcastic smirk.  "Of course! I just love scrubbing that man's floors!"

They all laughed as they entered the Great Hall, and Harry was relieved that the conversation had been diverted for the time being.  He still needed to figure out how to handle all of the intricacies of The Ruse.

He felt unexpectedly nervous as he headed to the dungeons for detention that night.  He had changed clothes, thinking it might be important for someone to notice that he was trying to look good for Snape.  Someone had, and Ron and his other room mates had thoroughly embarrassed him with teasing comments for every second of the ten minutes Harry took to get ready.  "That's eight and a half more minutes than you normally spend!" Ron had called out jovially down the stairs as Harry skulked away from the laughter.

He noticed his hands were shaking slightly as he pushed open the classroom door.  He quickly hid them in his pockets.

Snape was seated behind his desk.  "Close the door," he said without looking up.

Harry complied quickly, and then sauntered over and slid into the desk directly in front of Snape.  When Snape continued to mark essays, Harry decided perhaps he should speak up. 

"And what will my punishment be tonight?"

"Beheading, if I had any choice in the matter," said Snape coldly. 

When he continued to mark essays, Harry decided perhaps he should sit quietly and wait.  He stared off around the room for several minutes, until a shifting sound alerted him that Snape was ready to address him.

Snape gathered the parchments and headed to his office through the back door of the classroom.  "Come along, Mr. Potter," he said brusquely.  He stood aside at the door to allow Harry to enter first, and then cast a silencing spell on the classroom and an alarm charm.  He closed the office door behind him, locked it, and cast a silencing spell on the office as well.  "The alarm charm will let us know if someone has entered the classroom.  I have charmed this sneakoscope to flash blue to let us to know if the person has come to spy on us, or is simply looking for me.  It will come in handy, I can assure you.  Have a seat."

Snape sat at his desk and Harry perched on one of the two uncomfortable chairs that sat facing it.

"Tell me, Mr. Potter, are you a virgin?"

Harry's eyes widened in surprise and his mind reeled as he tried to decide how to answer that question.  He settled on, "Excuse me, but how is that relevant at all?"

"Because, Mr. Potter," Snape began, as though speaking to a small child, "The purpose of this ruse is to buy time.  If you have a reputation among the students as rather… experienced… then it would stand to reason that the seduction would happen quickly."

Harry narrowed his eyes angrily.  "And here I thought that 'easy conquest' jibe was just the normal bollocks we come to expect from the socially inept Potions Master.  I had no idea you were serious!"

Snape smiled nastily.  "I will take it from your inappropriately defensive response that in fact the answer to my question is Yes.  Do you disagree?"

Harry glared at him while Snape paused.

"Good.  I had been worried that should things appear to proceed too quickly the Dark Lord would decide to truncate his plan and demand an early abduction.  But your sexual naïveté allows us the ability to make it appear that things are progressing slowly, which will hold the Dark Lord's patience in check."

Harry bit back his anger to the best of his ability.  He was beginning to think about telling Snape where he could stick his ruse.  He was here out of concern for Snape's safety, after all.  The least the man could do was not actively humiliate him as they discussed the details.

Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to say evenly, "How exactly are you planning to proceed?"

Snape tapped his fingers on his desk.  "Well, the first stage should be to quiet this crush you have on me, in order to buy us more time.  It would look suspicious if you suddenly began declaring it was over with no apparent reason behind it.  But since I should already be trying to seduce you, the easiest thing to fake would be that I push you too far too fast, and you run away- your virginal innocence having been offended."

Harry felt his cheeks burning, but couldn't tell if anger or embarrassment was the cause.

"You will say nothing about what happens here tonight.  People who are watching me will believe that I attempted something inappropriate; others will assume it was just an exceedingly nasty punishment.  Everyone will agree that your crush has ended, at least for the time being.  This will continue for three to four weeks, depending on how long you can manage to not make googly eyes at me in class."

Harry gritted his teeth.  "And after that?"

"After that, I will start again, but this time much more slowly.  You will eventually 'come around'.  I will remain in Voldemort's inner circle.  You will complete your training and then fulfill your destiny, and then we'll go our separate ways and live happily ever after."

Harry was outraged at Snape's continued nastiness.  But he saw through the verbal assault.  Snape was just as nervous about this as he was—which would explain why the first month of his plan required that they spend no actual time together.  He just wanted time to get his thoughts together.  That was fine by Harry, but he couldn't resist pointing this out, since Snape was insisting on being so disagreeable from the outset.

"I can't help but notice that you're acting more hostile than normal, Professor."  He looked at Snape knowingly.  "And this plan to prolong the inevitable doesn't really seem your style.  You're not scared, are you?"

Snape glowered and leaned forward in his chair.  "Listen to me, you insolent brat.  I will not pretend to understand why the headmaster saw fit to put my life in the hands of a hormonal child.  But you agreed to this arrangement, and that means you will not question my judgment about how best to maintain my place among the living, do you understand?"

'Ah, struck a nerve,' thought Harry triumphantly.  He sneered and responded, "The way I see it, we're partners in this arrangement.  So I would appreciate it if you would keep the hostilities to a minimum."

Snape sat back and gave Harry a long and calculating look.  Harry felt his resolve begin to weaken under Snape's stare.

"What do you expect to get out of this?" asked Snape in a low, creeping voice.  He stood up and stalked slowly toward Harry, who watched him in alarm.  Snape leaned over Harry's chair, taking hold of the armrests and leaning forward so that Harry had to push back in his seat.  "Do you think I'm going to come around?  That we're going to fall in love?"  He turned his head so that his breath ran over Harry's neck as he whispered in his ear, "Or do you simply wish to fuck me?"

Harry shifted uncomfortably and Snape laughed, low and menacingly.  He stood up to his full height, towering over Harry, his robes rubbing up against Harry's legs.  "I assure you," he said, sniffing as though Harry reeked of rotting fish, "That will never happen.  You may go."

Snape made no move, so Harry had to slide out of his seat to avoid pressing himself up against the Potions Master.  But Snape caught his arm and very roughly pulled him close.  With his other hand he grabbed Harry's chin, squeezing his fingernails into His cheeks.  He got right into Harry's face and said venomously, "You are an arrogant, obnoxious, and idiotic child.  I do not look forward to our working together.  But if you do anything that puts my life in danger, so help me, Potter, you will pay."

He shoved Harry away roughly.  Harry stumbled over his chair, but quickly made his leave.  He cursed all the way to Gryffindor Tower, failing to notice certain people watching him as he passed them in the hallways.

"Harry, you look terrible!" exclaimed Hermione as Harry climbed through the portrait door into the common room.  "What did he do to you?"

"Nothing," said Harry angrily.  "I'm going to bed."  He stormed past his friends, and stomped up the stairs furiously.

"Blimey," said Ron once he was sure Harry was out of earshot.  "What a bastard!  Harry's had a crush on him forever.  I can't imagine what Snape did that could make him that mad."

"It was just a crush anyway.  It wasn't like Harry was in love," said Hermione reasonably.

"Do you think it's over?"

"I hope so," she said.  "It was funny and all, but… I don't know.  I mean, Snape!"

Ron shuddered in agreement.

Stage Two- "Slow Seduction"

It was just over three weeks before Harry looked up during Potions class and made eye contact with Snape.  Snape sighed to himself, disappointed that his grace period hadn't lasted longer, and promptly found a reason to assign Harry detention.

Three weeks without detention from Snape had been a personal record for Harry.  Snape had hoped against hope he would have been able to stretch it to five.

He had decided almost immediately that, as obvious as Harry was about the emotions he was feeling, a bit of method acting would be the way to go.  So, in order for Harry to act like Snape had scared him away, Snape actually had to scare Harry away.  He spent the next week assuring the Dark Lord that once the shock wore off, the boy would begin thinking about what Snape had offered him, and would begin wondering if he had made the right choice in running away from it.

Snape assured the Dark Lord that, in order to avoid a repeat of last time, he was going to take his time this time.  If he could get the boy to actually fall in love with him, Snape could also assure their relationship would last until the end of term and that Harry would sneak away from auror training.

In actuality, Snape thought he should allow Harry plenty of time to make googly eyes at him before beginning to pretend he was having sex with him.

Snape growled to himself.  This was never going to work.

"Did you do it on purpose?" Harry asked that night in detention, and Snape loathed him for being so innocent.  He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose.  Harry took that as an answer in and of itself.  "I thought so.  I would commend you on managing to act like such a bastard if I didn't think you really were one.  All the same, kudos to you for earning yourself a few weeks to hide from me." 

Snape kept his eyes closed because he wanted more than anything to slap the boy across his overly emotional face.  Actually, Snape mused, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea.  He could not very well take House points from Harry while he was supposed to be seducing him, but physical violence was always an option so long as it did not leave telling marks…

"Mr. Potter," he began in a low growl, "If you understood that that was all part of the Ruse, why did you not allow it to continue for a few more weeks?"  He opened his eyes and caught Harry up in his piercing stare.  "Did you not realize that your blatant eye-contact with me means that you will now have to begin acting as though you are having an affair with me?"

"Wait," said Harry sardonically, "You're telling me that people are watching me close enough that simple eye contact is sufficient to tie your hands into moving forward in the plan?  I don't think so." 

Snape's face remained inexpressive.  He did have a point.  These were just kids after all.  It's not like he was dealing with Lucius Malfoy and the like. 

"Don't blame me for this situation," said Harry.  "I didn't get you into this mess.  I'm just trying to help you out of it."

Snape sighed deeply and impatiently, not knowing how else to react.  Impatience always gave him the upper hand with students.

"The next stage begins tonight," he said irritably.  "I am going to begin giving you detention at every opportunity.  I will be assigning you tasks that will require us to spend time together.  During this time, you are supposed to be falling in love with me, but you are not yet to pretend that our relationship has changed in any way other than me being less hard on you.  I will let you know when you should begin sneaking about as though you have a secret.  For now, you are simply to pretend to be enjoying any crush or fantasy you used to possess."  And Snape was fairly sure that after their last encounter, the crush had been firmly squashed. 

His plans for the next few weeks included productivity.  If he were going to have to spend time with Potter, he would make use of the boy.  So, that night, they organized his storage room, and made note of which potions he needed to replenish.  Madam Pomfrey had also recently given him a list of medi-potions, and Snape also brewed potions for sale at various shops in London.  With an assistant on hand, Snape would surely be able to make his way quickly through the lists.  And perhaps the extra practice would help Potter with his abysmal potions abilities.

Snape had also planned on behaving normally toward the boy.  His fearsome demeanor had apparently been what attracted Harry to himself, so there was surely no reason for him to change his behavior patterns in his attempt to portray seduction.

But three days later, in detention once more, Harry looked up from his work area where he was carefully extracting bobotubor pus, and said calmly, "Professor, would you mind dropping the hostilities?"

Snape looked at him blankly.  "I beg your pardon?" he asked.

Harry turned to the sneakoscope, which was sitting still, but he dropped his voice nonetheless as he continued, "I am trying to help you," he motioned with a vial of bobotubor pus, "In more ways than one.  Moreover, I am a legal adult now and we are not in class, so would you mind not yelling at me to hurry up when you know good and well that you cannot rush this process?"

Snape narrowed his eyes.  In truth, he yelled at Harry out of habit, and only vaguely remembered having just done so.  All the same, "Mr. Potter, it is a common misconception among youths such as yourself that managing the simple feat of living until seventeen years of age means that they have somehow earned all manner of respect from their superiors and elders, when in fact they are still students and quite naïve in the ways of the world. 

"But I promise that once you have proven to me that you have actually grown up a bit, that should the occasion arise that you are working in my potions laboratory, I will then allow you to extract bobotubor pus without my looking over your shoulder.  Agreed?"  Snape's tone was curt and left no room for argument.  He turned back to his calculations.

But Harry said quietly, "No sir, we are not agreed."  Snape fixed him with an incredulous and biting glare, daring him to continue.  Harry did.  "I don't know what epic feats one must complete in order to meet your criteria for having 'grown up a bit', but I would like to call you to mind that while it is true that I was born into the title of 'Boy Who Lived', it is also true that I have lived up to that title on the seven separate occasions that I have now faced off against Voldemort and/or a pack Death Eaters.  I have also stood against the Ministry of Magic and successfully gotten it to cease corrupt practices that were killing witches and wizards.  And, I might add, I have also suffered more loss in my seventeen years than most people twice or three times my age.  Does any of this count toward my having grown up a bit?"

Snape raised an amused eyebrow.  "Mr. Potter, that outburst alone is sufficient to prove to me that in fact, you have not grown up at all."

Harry nodded.  "Ah, I see.  Well in that case, let me point out that you are the one who has not been capable of getting past boyhood arguments.  So even if all of my accomplishments haven't raised me to the status of adult in your eyes, surely your failure after 20 years to forgive a prank should lower you to status of a child!" 

Snape's glare darkened and he looked ready to attack.  Nevertheless, Harry continued, "I'm no happier to be here than you, but we're stuck together for the next three months, and I would find it far easier to pretend to love you if I at least did not despise you.  So I once again ask you to drop the hostilities.  Agreed?"

Harry turned back to the slow and exacting job of extracting bobotubor pus.  Snape watched him for several minutes, but Harry did not falter under his intimidating glare.

They did not speak again for the rest of the detention, but Snape spent quite some time thinking on Harry's words.  By the time Snape gave him detention again the next week, he had made up his mind.

"Mr. Potter," he said as Harry entered the potions lab, "Today we are working on three different pain draughts, each of which requires quarter-inch cubes of willow bark.  Would you kindly prepare that while I set up the other ingredients?"

Harry smiled at him and set to work, and Snape felt a spark within him that told him he had made the right decision.

Word was soon around school that Snape was having Harry help him with potions during his detentions.  And it had not escaped notice that even though Snape no longer yelled at Harry as much as he used to, he was assigning him more detentions than ever.  Most of the students assumed that it had occurred to Snape that Harry was not quite as bad at potions making as he had always assumed, but that in order to save face, he was assigning detentions rather than asking Harry to be his assistant.

Several of his dorm mates asked Harry suggestively how he was enjoying his detentions lately.  Harry just waved them off, telling them that his crush on Snape was ancient history, but he knew he was blushing as he said it and no one really believed him.  He also knew that that wasn't necessarily a problem.

The detentions themselves were going far better than the first couple.  Snape was actually being pleasant with him nowadays.  During brewing downtimes, they would drink tea and chat about potions and politics. 

Even though he knew about Harry's involvement in Ministry politics, Snape was surprised at Harry's level of awareness about governmental goings-on.  Harry knew the names and jobs, as well as personal strengths and weaknesses, of nearly every Ministry employee.  Like everyone else, he was sketchy in his knowledge about the Department of Mysteries, but he understood the workings of the other departments far better than did each department's own employees.

Similarly, despite being fully aware that his professor was a Potions Master, Harry was astounded at Snape's knowledge on the topic of his craft.  Listening to him answer Harry's questions about various potions and theories, Harry could for once appreciate the beauty of the magical science.  And he wasn't sure if it was the extra practice, or merely that Snape was off his back nowadays in class, but Harry found his potions abilities improving dramatically.

He also found that his crush on Snape had redeveloped.  He caught himself staring at the man while he worked.  He was graceful in his craft, purely focused, and a raw sort of power seemed to emanate from him that Harry found seductively enrapturing.  Harry knew that Snape noticed his looks at least some of the time.  And although it was surely just his own wishful thinking when he thought Snape was watching him as well, he was fairly certain that Snape did not mind Harry's crush on him as much as he once had.

Ron nudged him sharply in the ribs, and Harry realized he had spaced out again, staring at Snape while he lectured.

"Ow," he hissed, scrambling to catch up on his notes.  "That hurt!"

"Detention, Mr. Potter," said Snape without skipping a beat.  He promptly returned to his lecture.

Harry tried to look disappointed.  He glared at Ron, who grinned back.

"You should be thanking me," he whispered quietly.  "More time alone with darling Snape."

Harry flushed and hissed, "Shut up, Ron!"

"And another for tomorrow night," wove Snape seamlessly into his lecture.

Harry looked down, blushing harder, but then felt eyes on him.  He turned his head and saw several of the Slytherins watching him.  He narrowed his eyes and they looked away, smirking knowingly.

That night, as he set his book bag down by the door of the lab, Snape said, "Our potions for the next few nights require a lot of time to brew undisturbed, so we will have a goodly amount of downtime."  He smiled, and Harry's heart thudded in his chest.  "Do you play chess, Mr. Potter?" 

Harry just nodded.

They went about brewing the potion as normal, and they sat down to a quiet game of chess, but Harry's focus was off as he replayed endlessly in his head the picture of Snape smiling at him. 

He was flustered, and couldn't look him in the eye all night.  But he did notice Snape frowning as he watched him, as though searching for something.

After a few hours he asked, "Is there something the matter, Mr. Potter?  You seem distracted tonight."

Harry shook his head, but said nothing, not trusting himself to say anything on the matter, lest he give himself away.  He kept his eyes averted, and hoped that Snape couldn't see enough of his face to know exactly what was distracting him tonight.

Snape was silent for a moment more, and then said, "It's time to add the Devil's Snare.  Shall we finish this game tomorrow night?"

Harry made a noncommittal noise and headed back to their work area.  He lifted the large bowl of dried and powdered Devil's Snare and brought it to the bubbling cauldrons.  Snape carefully stirred it into the pots, spoonful by spoonful, and Harry thought he was standing rather closer to him than was necessary.  He wondered if Snape was purposefully teasing him, or if he was even conscious of the effect his proximity had on Harry.

As though catching himself, Snape paused and suddenly took a step away before continuing the brew.

Harry was glad to go that night, wanting nothing more than to hide behind the curtains of his four-poster.  But once he was secluded in his bed, he found himself quite unable to sleep.

And so, Harry was exhausted as he headed down to the dungeons the next night for yet another detention.  He was toying with the idea of asking Snape to allow him to nap instead of finishing their game, but he somehow thought that, regardless of his recent pleasantries, the professor would be rather reluctant to allow Harry to do something he wanted.  He was still Snape, after all.

"Harry, come here," said Snape urgently as soon as he entered the classroom. 

Harry dropped his bags and complied; something was wrong.  As he approached Snape, he noticed that his eyes were tinged with red and that his hands were shaking slightly.  Harry knew the symptoms of Crucio.  "Professor," he gasped.

Snape shook his head, but when Harry protested, he held up his hand.  "Harry, I've had worse," he stated definitively.  "And we have bigger problems on hand."

"What happened?" asked Harry, his voice as low as Snape's.

"The Dark Lord has gotten impatient.  He has ordered that I begin our sexual relationship.  I requested more time so that I didn't scare you away like last time, but he was adamant that four weeks of camaraderie in potions brewing should be ample time-"

"And then he tortured you?" hissed Harry.

Snape nodded matter-of-factly, "For lack of obedience, yes.  Listen, Harry, you don't have to tell me why you were so distracted last night, but I do need to know if something has happened to make you rethink your involvement with me—with this plot," he added hastily.

Harry was caught off guard.  "Erm, no," he stammered.  "What could have happened?"

Snape shook his head and looked around absently.  "The way you were acting last night, I thought you had found a romantic interest, and were feeling guilty about being with me."

Harry looked at his professor with concern.  He was clearly agitated, and not at all acting like himself. 

"Well it seems I have finally managed to disguise my feelings from you," he said with fake light-heartedness.

Snape turned back to him, looking cross, but then laughed suddenly.  Harry smiled warily and Snape put his hand on his shoulder and leaned in.

"Harry, he wants me to brew a lust potion with you tonight.  He wants me to tell you that it's for some shop or other, and to somehow force you to drink it if the fumes aren't enough to 'do the trick' so to speak.  Are you up to this?  I need to know now."

Harry nodded, staring hard at his professor.  "Are you up to this, do you think?"

Snape took him by the arm and pulled him over the cauldrons.  "It's a simple enough potion.  It takes one hour and five minutes to brew.  In one hour and fifteen minutes, we will be locked in my office, and someone will be in this classroom listening at the door.  Now, watch my wand movement.  Dissipatio.  Now you."

Harry emulated Snape, casting the spell on himself.  He felt light-headed for a second.  When his breathing returned to normal, something felt different.

"That will keep the fumes from getting to you.  If you smell anything, recast it, but do so quietly.  Let's get to work."

Harry kept his eye on Snape as he methodically began preparing the potion.  He had a rhythm about his brewing style, and Harry watched as he relaxed into it.  His eyes cleared, and he once again moved with his normal deft elegance.

Harry, on the other hand, was shaking in his nervousness.  Snape caught his eye several times with what Harry assumed was meant to be a comforting look, but Harry was all the more uncomfortable because it was coming from Snape.  He dreaded what was coming, mostly because he secretly hoped that Snape was breathing the fumes and would fall into his arms, or some other nonsense fantasy, and there was no way on Earth anything was actually going to happen. 

Harry was a mess.

And he was tired too, he realized, as the hour/five drew to a close.  He yawned, breathing deeply, and realized an unfamiliar scent was tingling his nose.  In an almost blind panic, he reached for his wand, but Snape caught his arm gently and shook his head.

"Be strong, Harry," he said pointedly. "I know you're tired, but we've only got a few more minutes left."  And from the look in his eyes, Harry knew they were already being observed.  He tried not to turn to the door to catch a glimpse of the spy.

Harry really couldn't tell if the fumes were going to his head or if it was his own desire knowing the time was near, but he was bristling under his robes, pleading with whatever gods might want to listen that Snape be breathing the fumes.

"Done," said Snape.  Harry turned to him, and Snape was looking him over in an appraising way, melting him with a sly smile that was far too suggestive for Harry to stand.  He cast a protective spell over the potion and stepped closer to Harry.  "Would you help me with the invoices?" he asked, leaning in.

Harry swallowed hard, and nodded, unable to speak.  They stood there, far too close, for a moment more before Snape backed Harry into his office and closed and locked the door.

"I'm sorry," whispered Snape as he pulled Harry further into the office.

Harry ran his fingers across Snape's chest, intoxicated with the feel of his muscles through his robes.  "What for?" he whispered back, leaning in.

"Your spell didn't last," whispered Snape, pushing Harry to arm's length, looking away.

"Did yours?" Harry asked before he could think better of it.

Snape stepped away, and Harry leaned back on Snape's desk, dejected.

"You need to make some noise," said Snape, almost silently.

Harry looked around him, wondering what sort of noise he should go about making.  Then he grinned to himself, kicked his shoes off and slid up onto the desk so that his feet dangled over the side.  He began to knock them against the side of the desk—a rhythmic pounding.  He closed his eyes and imagined another cause for the beat on the desk.  He was too drunk from the potion fumes to feel silly, and he tried not to wonder if Snape was watching him.  He tried to forget Snape was in the room.  It was just Harry and his fantasies.  It was just Harry.

"Moan, Harry," Snape growled in his ear.

Startled, Harry opened his eyes and saw a ravenous-looking Snape leaning over him, and he was overcome.  He snaked his arms around Snape's back and pulled him down onto himself, on the desk, vaguely aware of the flashing blue light of the sneakoscope.

Snape pressed hard up against him and buried his face in his neck.  "Moan for me," he said again, dragging his lips across Harry's throat.  He bit down tenderly on Harry's jugular and Harry yelped, thrusting involuntarily.

Snape grabbed Harry's behind and pulled his legs around his waist.  He pressed in and Harry felt their erections through their clothes.  He desperately tugged at Snape's robe, but Snape pulled his hands away and pinned his arms down.  He thrust into him and Harry groaned at the sensation, only wishing for more.

"I'm sorry, Harry," Snape whispered again.  "I didn't want it to be like this."

And Harry came.

Stage Three- "Sex and Love"

Snape sat at his desk in his office, tapping his quill against a piece of parchment.  He was not distracted.  He was not wondering if Harry was going to be sneaking in tonight. 

They were two weeks into Stage Three now.  It had been two weeks since that blasted Lust Potion Fiasco, and Snape was highly uncomfortable with this stage.  He and Harry had to give several people reason enough to believe that they were involved in a highly active sexual relationship, which meant that they were spending a lot of time together, locked in his office.

Snape didn't bother to set out potions ingredients before Harry's detentions.  He locked the door as soon as Harry arrived and cast a silencing spell on the room.  Sometimes, he didn't even bother to give Harry detention.  Harry would sneak over most nights anyway.  Rumors were flying around the school and Harry had admitted to feeling uncomfortable around his friends now.  He was an honest person and he hated lying to them—and Snape regretted that he had to.  They asked questions he couldn't answer and they were more than a little angry about that.  So Harry avoided them most nights.

Locked in Snape's office, he would do his homework.  Then they would drink tea and play chess, or work on one of Snape's outside potions jobs.  Sometimes Harry would complain about the idiotic things the Ministry was trying to convince him to do. 

Snape had to work especially hard to maintain a professional relationship with Harry.  They had gotten to know each other well enough to joke from time to time.  Several times, Snape had found himself in the uncomfortable situation of holding Harry's eye while they talked and knowing, despite Harry's Occlumency shields, exactly what he was thinking.  Worse was that Snape thought about the same thing as well.

He had realized early on into the Ruse that he had far less reason to loathe Harry Potter than he had previously thought.  But less than a week before the Lust Potion Fiasco, Snape had found himself dreaming about the rather attractive and surprisingly intelligent and mature youth.  He had decided that it was just a side effect of the situation they were in, and tried to dismiss the dreams as inconsequential.  He damned himself to no end for his lack of self-control that night, though.  Potion fumes or no, he never should have laid a hand on the boy.

Because now it was there, looming over them.  They never spoke about it, but it hung there while they awkwardly pretended it did not.  Snape knew that Harry wanted more—that he thought of that night as an entirely unfair tease.  Snape couldn't disagree, but he bit back his own desire.  He tried not to joke with, or stand too near to, or hold prolonged eye contact with, Harry.  But after six weeks, they were as near to friends as anyone could be with Snape, and these things came so naturally.

The sneakoscope did not light up blue, but Snape was sure he heard a faint rustle and the click of the door, so he knew Harry had arrived.  He used his invisibility cloak because that's what he would have done.  So Snape always left the doors closed so that perhaps someone might notice the door opening and closing of it own volition, and might notice that Snape always cast the locking and silencing charms soon thereafter.  Someone had—and Voldemort was pleased.

"Harry," said Snape as soon as he had cast the usual charms.  Harry appeared from underneath his cloak, his eyes averted.  "Do you have much homework tonight?"

Harry shook his head and said quietly, "No sir," his voice cracking just a bit.

Snape looked at him with concern.  "Is your scar hurting?"  He walked over and put his hand on Harry's shoulder, leaning forward to catch his eye.

Harry looked up and Snape saw he was blushing.  His eyes flicked down and up swiftly, and Snape understood and stepped quickly away.  He was not wearing his robes tonight—just some loose-fitting slacks and a short-sleeved shirt.  He had dressed this way because of his plans for the evening.  He was not dressed this way to impress Potter.

Snape drew himself to his full height and took on his most business-like tone.  "Mr. Potter, this evening you will be helping me to locate a cauldron in one of the dungeon storage rooms."  One didn't wear robes when rummaging through dungeon storage rooms.

Harry held his eye carefully so that he would not be tempted to continue to check out his professor.  "Don't fancy the ones in here, then?"

Snape smirked and said, "This one has a time-extending charm on it.  Without it, the Anti-Age cream that I have been commissioned to brew takes close to thirty years to complete."

Harry cocked his head to the side to think on that one, looking up to the ceiling.  Snape cursed himself for taking the opportunity to admire him. 

"Where is the storage room?" asked Harry.  Snape looked back up, knowing he had been caught.

"On the lowest level of the castle," he replied unashamedly.

Harry smirked.  "And how do we get there, exactly?"

Snape hesitated for only a fraction of a second, but he knew Harry noticed.  "We use your invisibility cloak."  Harry raised an eyebrow.  Snape continued, "Of course, if you are unwilling, you can do your homework and leave, and I can find the damned thing myself later on tonight."  His voice had a bit more of a bite in it than he had intended.

"No, it's okay," said Harry, holding up the cloak.  "We'll, um," he began to blush again.  Snape looked around as though he hadn't noticed.  "We'll have to stay close together.  When we were eleven, we could fit three of us under it easily, but not so much anymore."

"Well, if you think you can keep your hands off of me for fifteen minutes, that will be fine," said Snape brusquely, and Harry smiled.

"I'll do what I can, but no promises," he replied, and smiled wider when Snape blushed.

It was actually closer to a thirty-minute walk, since they had to move very slowly in order to stay concealed under the cloak.  The two men were hot up against each other, but resolutely saying nothing, pretending they were both unaffected.  When they finally reached the storage room, Harry moved quickly away, trying to hide his nervousness under light conversation.

"So what does this cauldron look like anyway?"

"Bronze," said Snape, turning away and taking deep, quiet breaths to calm himself.  "But there are several of that color down here.  The one we're looking for has a black rim and handles."

"Oops!" said Harry amidst the dull thuds of cloths falling.  He had knocked over some of the older Slytherin tapestries that were stacked against the wall.  Snape looked over and saw Harry enveloped in clouds of dust.

"Be careful!" he snapped.  "Some of those tapestries are as old as the school."

"Sorry, I… oh!" 

Harry gasped, but then doubled over coughing from the dust.

"What is it?" asked Snape over his shoulder, as he rummaged through a large trunk holding several cauldrons with various charms.

"The, um, the Mirror of Erised," said Harry shyly.  "I always see my parents.  Would you mind if I, uh, just take a quick look?"

Snape mumbled incoherently, knowing that Harry would look whether he gave him permission or not.  The Mirror of Erised was a powerful attractor, which is why Snape had hidden it under those tapestries when Dumbledore had asked him to store it in the dungeons five years ago.  He pulled out a cauldron that he thought might be the one, and quickly cast a few spells on it to make sure it was.

"Well, that was easy," he mumbled.  He had expected a long search.  "Harry, we can go—I found…" He trailed off when he saw Harry.  He was clutching both sides of the mirror white-fisted and was hunched over as though he were going to be sick.  "Harry?"

Snape made his way over very quickly, and gently touched Harry's back, once again leaning forward to catch Harry's eye.  His breathing was ragged, his hair damp with sweat, and Snape was worried as Harry slowly turned his head.

"Professor," he breathed.

He caught Snape's eye and Snape was momentarily stunned by the lust that took hold of him.  Without thinking, he glanced up to the mirror and saw himself, naked, and pounding pleasurably into a screaming Harry Potter. 

"You see it too?" whispered Harry, hoarsely.

Snape didn't answer, his eyes glued to the image before him.  And then he felt Harry's lips on his and he lost all self-control.

He grabbed fistfuls of Harry and pulled him close, sucking him in and letting himself go.  Their bodies pressed forcefully together and they were lost in bruising, biting kisses.  They tasted each other maniacally, as though their very lives depended on it.  Snape's hand was in the youth's hair, tugging his head back so that he gasped and Snape had open access to his slender neck.

Snape loved that neck—had been dreaming about it for two weeks, since the last time he had been so close.  He felt Harry's hands snaking around him, untucking his shirt, and fingering the smooth skin of his lower back just above his pant line.  He bit into Harry's throat once again, and felt his fingers freeze for a moment, and then claw into him, scraping up his back to his shoulder blades, pulling up his shirt as he went.            Snape leaned back and let Harry pull his shirt off over his head.

"Oh, Merlin!" gasped Harry, eyeing the carefully sculpted chest before him.  He reached forward to touch, but then found himself sucking those luscious nipples, his hands groping lower and lower.

And that was when Snape decided that Harry was wearing entirely too much clothing.  He held him back, tugging at his robes fiercely.  Harry stumbled slightly with the sound of ripping fabric, but the robe was gone.  They kicked off their shoes while Snape pulled Harry's shirt over his head and an instant later, their bodies slammed together—flesh on flesh.  They were slick with sweat, gasping into each other's mouths.  Harry reached down and began fumbling with Snape's belt.  Snape grabbed his hands away, forced them up so that he held them on either side of Harry's head.

He looked Harry hard in the eye and Harry melted a little at the sight of him. 

"Harry, are you sure?"

Harry felt something snap inside and his eyes suddenly matched Snape's intensity.  "More than I've ever been," he replied.

Snape let his wrists go and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him easily into another kiss.  Harry moved his hands back to Snape's belt, and Snape followed suit.  They quickly divested each other of their remaining clothing and moaned in pleasure as they rubbed against each other, their erections touching electrically.  Snape bit Harry's neck again in that seemingly especially sensitive spot.  Harry squeezed his eyes shut and began thrusting against him.

"Turn around, Harry," said Snape in a low, poisonously seductive voice.

Harry moaned at the sound and did as he was told.  He felt a broad hand with splayed fingers on his back, pushing him to lean forward.  He opened his eyes and found himself staring into the mirror, seeing himself as he was.  He grabbed the sides of the mirror once again, and looked up into Snape's eyes in the reflection.

(edited for ff.net)

Harry moaned as he watched Snape and himself in the mirror.  He couldn't believe this was happening, but he didn't want it to ever stop.

(edited for ff.net)

"You're beautiful, Harry," he said, and began a steady rhythm of thrusts and strokes and their moans filled the dusty room.  They watched their reflections, and when the Snape in the mirror pounded harder, Snape followed suit, knowing that Harry wanted it.  And when the Harry in the mirror arched his back sharply, Harry did the same, knowing it was Snape's desire.

And Snape could feel a tightening in both himself and Harry, and he knew their climax was coming.  "Say my name, Harry," he whispered, and then again more urgently.  "Say my name."

They came together, Harry screaming "Severus" as they did so.  Snape leaned forward, panting against Harry's back and then slowly pulled himself out.

Harry stood up gingerly and turned about and then he and Snape were in each other's arms, kissing.  Then they were on their knees, kissing.  Then they were lying on their clothes, wrapped up in each other, having forgotten all else.

The Beginning

"Where are you going to be?"

"Hogwarts," said Snape, looking out over the courtyard.  "It's the safest place, really.  They'll know I'm here.  But they won't be able to get to me."

Harry sighed.  He had graduated two days previously and they had decided he should continue with his auror training before attempting a final showdown with Voldemort. 

"I don't want to go," he said.  "It doesn't feel right to leave you in danger."

Snape smirked.  "It's not right to put you in danger.  You're the important one, here."

Harry scowled at him.  "You're important to me," he muttered angrily.

Snape smiled and slung his arm around Harry's shoulder, still looking out over the courtyard.  "I'll be fine," he said.  "After seven years of trying, the Dark Lord's best plan to get to you involved having a traitor to seduce you."

"You know, I kind of liked that plan," said Harry lightly.

Snape raised an eyebrow.  "I suppose it did work to an extent.  And just think… once you're back there will be no more sneaking about."

"Hmm," mused Harry.  "No more spying, no more sneaking around for a quick shag.  What are you going to do without all the subterfuge?"

Snape cut him a look and Harry grinned.  "It'll be a new life, that's for sure," said Snape.  "Did you get a chance to talk to Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley?"

Harry nodded, with a look on his face like he was overwhelmed and relieved at the same time.  "Yeah," he said.  "Yesterday.  They are so pissed at me.  Not that I don't deserve it.  I mean, I have been lying to them for almost four months."

"You had your reasons.  Do you think they'll forgive you?"

"Oh yeah.  Already did, as a matter of fact.  But um," Harry gave Snape a devious smile, "Hermione wants to get to know the real Severus Snape—the one I fell in love with."

Snape scoffed.  "Did you explain to her that you're the only one who gets to know that one?"

Harry laughed.  "Sorry.  Tried.  But we're going to be spending some time with my friends once…" he trailed off, and then added bitterly, "Once my training's done, and once I kill Voldemort, and once the war's over, and once you can come out of hiding, and Merlin, Severus!  How did we ever get wrapped up in all of this?"

Snape squeezed him closer.  "Doesn't matter.  It'll all be over soon."  After a pause, he said, "Come on.  Your escort will be here shortly."

Harry nodded and they returned to the Entrance Hall.  They stood in silence for a few moments until Dumbledore arrived with McGonagall and several aurors.  McGonagall swept over and hugged Harry brusquely, whispering words of encouragement for the strict regimen of training in the coming months.  Dumbledore patted him on the back and wished him the best of luck. 

But before he left, Harry turned and extended his hand to Snape.

"Professor," he said, his voice almost impersonal.

"Mr. Potter," replied Snape, shaking his hand.

And though it broke his heart to go, not knowing what the future would hold, Harry turned and walked out the front door, without turning to look back.