Chapter 17: Confrontations and Courting
by ataraxis

Harry trailed behind the other students, watching them as they chatted and horsed around with one another. Girls smiled shyly at the young men they were interested in, while the young men thought up ways to play practical jokes with the latest Zonko products. Harry was alert and aware, waiting for when his contact would approach him. Michael had told Harry just the other evening that he didn't know who would approach him, just that he would be asked if he 'wanted to visit Madam Rosmerta's pub for a Butterbeer.' That was the exact wording that would be used.

While 'Michael' looked around surveying his surroundings, he was always conscious of the weight of Severus' gaze upon his back. It made him feel loved, cherished, and all sorts of wonderful, romantic things. When this was all over, he would drop his disguise post haste and snog that man silly. Then he wanted to get down on bended knee and announce before the entire school that he wished to officially court the Potions Master, to show the taciturn man that Harry was very serious about the relationship they had started.

Harry wondered though that if he did that, if the Potions Master wouldn't hex him for making Severus a public spectacle, but hopefully only after reciprocating the assured to be intoxicating kiss. 'Ah, but what a way to die,' Harry chuckled quietly at the scene that he painted in his mind.

Harry shook his head and decided instead to change his plan to include a romantic dinner for two in his quarters, with tea and Tim Tams for after dinner. And who knows, maybe he could convince Severus to partake in a leisurely bubble bath for two while he popped the courting question. Harry felt a frisson of pleasure arch up his back at the thought of finally getting to see the other man naked. A week ago, he wouldn't have thought it possible that he could fall so easily and quickly in love, but Severus and he were truly close to being perfect for one another. If there were such a thing as soulmates -- Severus told him that the idea of people being soulmates was all a bunch of bunk, Severus was such a cynic -- he'd say that they were it. He'd have to thank Albus at some point for his meddling and scheming, maybe present the man with a lifetime supply of candies from Honeydukes.

As the students neared the edges of Hogsmeade, Michael Turner moved closer to the throng, hoping to encourage his contact to make his move sooner rather than later. Harry didn't want to be involved with the other students, but if any of them asked him to go to Honeydukes or before the wrong student invited him to The Three Broomsticks, he knew he wouldn't have the choice to decline.

Harry snuck a peek behind him and saw Severus skulking in his usual manner among the students who had loitered at the back. Those students were mostly the couples who had recently paired up and were wanting a moment of romantic privacy. Harry smiled at the sight and noticed Severus frown all the more. Harry whipped back around and decided that he truly better stay in character.

At the edge of the village, Harry was approached by a sixth year Ravenclaw student by the name of Joseph Pennyworth.

"Hey, you're Michael Turner, right?" Mr. Pennyworth asked.

Harry nodded his head and was then asked exactly what Michael had told him would be said. Harry mumbled a 'sure' towards the ground.

"Okay then, follow me. I have to gather a few more students to go with us. Most of the others are just staying here in the village today. Our leader likes to meet the more recent recruits without everyone in attendance. He says it allows him to focus on the needs of each member." Harry thought this was very fortuitous for him. If the new Dark Lord was mostly alone and with just a few young, inexperienced students around, he could perhaps challenge the man single-handedly.

Harry trailed behind Mr. Pennyworth as he had three more students join them -- Theodore Abbott, brother to Hannah, a fourth year Hufflepuff, James Summers, also a Hufflepuff, and Morgan Bradley from Ravenclaw. Afterwards, they discretely snuck behind Honeydukes and headed for the wooded area near the Shrieking Shack, which was where Harry noticed quite a number of the students the professors had figured were followers of the new Dark Lord had also retreated to. They looked to be dueling and practicing their defensive and offensive spellcasting, reminiscent of his time with the DA. That very thought gave him pause and made him wonder, if perhaps it wasn't Draco Malfoy leading this new group, but instead had been a member of his own student group all those years ago.

That made Harry wonder further if the Room of Requirement had been used for secret meetings these last few weeks, but surely Michael Turner would have mentioned that fact if it had been so. Some things just weren't adding up. Had Michael been a plant? Someone who had been told to lure the Headmaster and the Order into doing what the new Dark Lord wanted, having one of their own meet with the Dark Lord. Did the new Dark Lord know that Harry Potter was a Metamorphmagus? Had the accident that had occurred this morning not been an accident at all, but planned to make Harry take Michael's place?

All these questions swirled in Harry's mind as panic started to settle in his stomach. Harry swallowed nervously and Mr. Pennyworth noticed.

"Don't worry, Michael. Our Lord is quite a nice chap. You'll like him. I know you only joined a month before the school year ended and haven't been involved much yet in the weekly group activities, but once you've meet Our Lord, you'll be invited to participate. I'll tell you more about it when you get back."

And with that tidbit of additional information, Harry's panic receded. Michael couldn't tell him things, when apparently Michael didn't know.

"How are we getting there, wherever Our Lord is?" Harry whispered.

"There's a portkey waiting for you four to take. Our Lord sent me a message letting me know where it was." Joseph Pennyworth guided the young men to a tall, gnarled looking tree and circled it until he found what he was searching for. To Harry it looked like an everyday piece of litter, just a balled up sheet of paper. He watched as Mr. Pennyworth flattened it out and Harry saw writing upon it.

"It says that to activate, that one of you should just tap your wand on it and say, 'Godric's Hollow.'"

Harry almost gasped when he heard that, but clamped his lips shut tight. It unnerved him to know, that whoever was leading this new group might be someone who had been close to him, perhaps had even been a friend.

Joseph handed the rumpled sheet of paper to the four students, which they all grasped with caution. James Summers took the lead and tapped his wand on the paper and said the activation words. With a pull at his abdomen, Harry felt the portkey work.

The four students landed with a jerk and the paper they had been holding ripped apart into pieces, causing the young men to stumble and fall. They stood slowly and brushed themselves off, and they all noticed a fairly modest, two story house before them. Harry knew instantly that it was an exact replica of the house he had lived in as an infant, and the home Voldemort had attacked his family at. Harry had never come back to this place, and the sight of it filled him with horrible memories of that long ago Halloween day, just as he had known it would. Harry took a deep breath to still his nerves and to banish the memories that threatened to engulf him.

Michael took the lead and walked towards the open door of the house, and the others trailed behind, their steps slowing. Harry turned to face them and figured their anxiety would work to his advantage. "You know, let me go first inside and once I'm done, the next person can go in. That should calm your fears, okay?"

A chorus of okays were issued and Harry turned once more to the house that had not protected his mum and dad from the evil of Tom Riddle. Harry walked through the open door and into the bright spacious area of the living room where a fire was burning in the fireplace, which indicated the new Lord most likely had arrived via the Floo as the entire room looked bare. At first glance, the person seated before him looked remarkably like Draco Malfoy, with long blonde hair and clear pale skin, but something was off. As he stepped closer he realized that the man before him wasn't smirking or sneering, but was smilingly cheerfully. The teeth peeping through the smiling mouth were straight and perfect. The face was familiar to Harry and as he found himself one foot away from the new Dark Lord, the memories of the person he had known over four years ago clicked.

"Colin Creevey!" Harry questioned in Michael's voice, when the recognition occurred.

Harry watched as Colin blinked, surprised at being recognized. Apparently Colin had either taken to using a Glamour spell, or being a Muggleborn may have actually visited some plastic surgeon to have all the cosmetic alterations done. The freckles were still present but faded, and the eyes were still the same, but everything else had been changed.

"I didn't realize that you would remember me, Michael Turner. You were only a first year at the time, though we did share the same house at Hogwarts."

"I remember that you used to follow Harry Potter around with your camera. You liked taking pictures of the Wizarding world's hero," Michael said in a quiet voice.

He watched as his words hardened the face in front of him. Apparently the mention of Harry Potter wasn't a positive thing.

Colin spat at Michael, "Harry Potter is a self-serving ingrate who didn't appreciate my devotion to him. That man is no hero. I remember so clearly the day he defeated Voldemort. He came back to the school and he pushed me aside after I asked him to let me take his picture to capture the moment. He didn't even apologize to me or give me any sign of recognition. That was the final straw and I vowed that day to show The-Boy-Who-Lived that someone could be better than him, better even than Voldemort."

Before Colin could rave further on about his animosity towards himself, Harry pulled his wand out and cast, "Petrificus Totalus." Colin's body straightened as if turning into a stone statue.

"I don't have time for your monologue at the moment Colin," Harry said as he took Colin's wand away, cast a Mobilicorpus spell on Colin and guided him over to the fireplace. Harry took a pinch of Floo powder and threw it into the fire and shouted, "The Three Broomsticks," then pushed Colin's still body into the fire. Then did the process once more and followed afterwards. He would make sure to have someone from the Order go back for the three students still waiting outside.

As Michael stepped out of the fireplace at The Three Broomsticks, he saw many of the patrons standing around Colin with their wands drawn. Severus was among them and Michael smiled and stepped forward towards him in relief.

"Severus, you'll never guess who the new Dark Lord is?" Harry let Michael's voice drop and return to his own.

Severus pushed his way through the crowd of spectators as they lowered their wands at the mention of the words 'Dark Lord.'

"Harry, not here. We'll take whoever..." Severus squinted at the prone body on the ground before him and gasped, "It is Draco!"

"No, Colin Creevey under a Glamour charm or something." Harry rethought his plan in involving another Order member and told Severus to take Colin up to the school and he would return for the other three students before they started to panic.

Michael returned to Godric's Hollow after borrowing some Floo powder from Madam Rosmerta herself, but only after convincing her of his real identity. He then told the three students that it must have been a ruse as no one had been in the house after he had searched high and low. He had them take the Floo back to the pub and told them to join their friends to spend the remainder of their day in Hogsmeade.

Harry then took off back to the school and entered the Headmaster's office. Harry let his gaze sweep the office and noticed that in attendance beyond the Headmaster and Severus, were Minerva, Remus, Arthur, Molly, Ron and Hermione. Michael grinned at everyone who was present and frowned as he saw the no longer petrified Colin, bound and magically gagged, sitting surrounded by everyone.

Severus came forward and handed Harry a mirror and a picture of himself. "Please," was all the Potions Master said as everyone waited.

Harry was just as eager as Severus to resume his old self again and everyone had the added enjoyment of watching Colin's eyes bug out as Harry transformed.

Once the transformation was complete, Harry had thought Severus would wait until they were alone before carrying out his last promise before both had left the infirmary earlier that morning, but he would have been wrong. Severus pulled Harry to him and rained kisses on Harry's face, apparently happy to have his partner back healthy and whole and finally able to cast off his assumed identities.

Harry paid scant attention to the rest of the room while he was in Severus' arms and just barely heard the gasps of surprise from the other occupants. Once Severus had his fill of kissing Harry, Harry wanted to just snuggle into the Potions Master's arms and forget everyone else in the room, but the discrete coughing coming from Albus just made Harry sigh and face the rest of the room.

"All right then, let's see what Mr. Creevey has to say for himself." Albus lifted his wand and waved it towards Colin's mouth and removed the magical gag.

What spewed forth once Colin was able to talk answered any question they may have thought to ask. "You see, I was worthy of having the attention of the great and mighty Harry Potter himself. I knew you would come once you'd heard of me, the new Light Lord.

"I also knew that I just needed a new look, something that would catch your attention. Someone who exuded natural confidence and power. Someone like that egoist Malfoy, who always taunted you. So I went to a surgeon and had myself made over. I knew I needed to take this step to make myself appear more perfect in a new light," Colin snickered at his choice of wording. Harry thought Colin had cracked and was delusional.

"You were going to meet your match with me, Harry Potter. I've been training in secret ever since that day you defeated Voldemort and left me cast aside like a pile of rubbish. All I wanted to do was take your picture to commemorate such a momentous occasion, not like the rest of those news hounds that had been clamouring for your attention. They didn't know the real Harry Potter, but I did. Or at least I thought I did, until that day. You showed me that you were a nothing, not even a hero, but some selfish bastard who couldn't be content to share his glory with others. So I wanted to make you aware that I was your equal, no that I was BETTER than you. So I thought I would be the new Lord to lead everyone into the light. Then I would crush you like an insignificant bug. But you had this ability I didn't know about. You tricked me, you used deceit. How..."

Before Colin could go on and on about himself and his obsession with Harry, Albus cast the gagging spell once more and silence fell over the room.

"Well I think that answers that. I've contacted the Aurors, they should be here any moment and will escort Mr. Creevey to St. Mungo's I think, for evaluation. So far, he really has done no lasting harm other than to recruit the students here to follow his ... propaganda. The students he has under his control will be brought to a guidance care giver. What say we all adjourn to the Great Hall for lunch, it should be fairly quiet there with most of the students still out and about wandering around Hogsmeade."

Albus ushered the others out of the room, after the Aurors entered seconds later and escorted a recalcitrant Colin Creevey away.

Ron and Hermione, along with Arthur, Molly and Remus, cornered Harry on the way to the Great Hall and Harry told Severus to go on ahead and they would join everyone in a few moments.

After Albus, Minerva and Severus walked away, questions poured forth about what Harry was doing kissing Snape, asking if he was okay, if being a female had scrambled something in his mind and with his hormones. That last question had been from Ron.

Harry held up his hands to quiet everyone, he only wanted to say this once and for that he was glad that his entire family was here.

"Okay, listen. I... I'm in love with Severus. I wouldn't have thought it possible, when I first came back to Hogwarts, but now I know it's true. I love him and he's told me he loves me, that he fell for me, green eyes, messy hair, stupid Gryffindor courage and all." He wouldn't tell them that he was going to ask Severus this evening if he could court him. That information would only be shared after Severus accepted. "He told me he loved me no matter what gender I was, what shape I took, except perhaps that of a student, he wouldn't come a foot near me then, and I heard the truth in his words.

"Look, Ron, I know how you feel about Severus, but let me tell you something that I've learned recently. He's a good man, who is still capable of change. Trust me in this?" Harry asked with concerned eyes. He hoped Ron wouldn't make him choose. Ron may have been his friend for what seemed forever and he would always value their friendship, but Severus now owned his heart and he liked it that way.

Harry looked into Ron's eyes and saw the battle that raged there, his trust in Harry to tell the truth, to know his own heart and to be a good judge of people versus his dislike of Severus Snape. When the turmoil cleared he saw that Ron's trust in him had won the battle. Harry grabbed Ron and gave him a hug in thanks.

"Hey now, you wouldn't want to make Snape jealous," Ron said in fun as he pushed Harry away. Then everyone took their chance at a hug and to give Harry their approval. Molly held him at arms length, cupped his face delicately and said how proud she was that he was following his heart and that Severus would be a difficult man, but then Harry would relish the challenge as long as he knew that he was loved. Harry could only agree.

Harry took Emma's seat in the Great Hall and the whispers of his presence spread through the students. Most of those present would not have been in school when he attended, but those students in fifth, sixth and seventh year who either didn't have permission to venture into Hogsmeade or had already returned from their day out did recognize him easily and filled in those that didn't.

Albus stood up and announced to those students present that Professor Malsby had to go away on a family emergency and was likely not to return for the remainder of the year, so they had asked Harry Potter to step in and fill her position on such short notice and he had agreed. "I will make an official announcement later at ... "

Harry stood up quickly and leaned over to whisper in Albus' ear before he could finish his sentence. "Albus, be a dear and wait until classes resume on Monday, I um... want the weekend with Severus. If you don't mind?" Albus turned and looked straight into Harry's eyes, still unobstructed by his glasses as the sight correction charm had yet to wear off. Harry blushed a bit and Albus, though he may have been an old wizard, ancient by some standards, was still not too old to understand what Harry wanted and smiled. "Very well, Monday morning."

Albus turned back and finished his statement to the students and staff present, "I will make an official announcement Monday morning at breakfast when classes resume."

Harry resumed his seat beside Severus and set to finish his meal. Severus leaned over while Harry took a bite of his roasted beef and asked, "What were you discussing with Albus?"

Harry smiled around his mouth full of food and swallowed. "Join me for dinner in my quarters at six and you will find out." Harry's eyes promised a world of love and happiness and Severus found himself getting lost in the gaze.

"I would love to join you. Should I bring a bottle of wine?"

"Yes, I think that would be perfect, perhaps a bottle of white. I'll ask the house elves to prepare roasted pheasant, wild mushroom and rice pilaf, and steamed veggies. Perhaps a creme brulee for dessert?" Harry questioned with a seductive voice.

"Sounds heavenly. Besides dinner, what else do you have planned?" Severus looked around him to make sure no one listened as he asked.

Harry blushed and that was all the answer Severus needed. He smirked and his eyes were alight with a fire that Harry knew would burn him and make him reborn again, just like a phoenix.

- - hpsshpsshpss - - -

Dinner had gone well and so had the suggestion of a shared bubble bath, which was where the two men were currently located.

Harry leaned back against Severus' chest and sighed in relaxation as Severus' hand lazily caressed whatever skin it could reach. "Severus, I would ask you the old fashioned Muggle way, but I think this works for us." Harry leaned up and away from Severus so he could turn to face the man he truly loved. "Will you allow me to publicly court you?"

Harry watched as Severus blinked in surprise, and after several moments of absolute quiet, Severus responded, "I didn't realize... I mean, I knew you said you could fall, but I wasn't sure." Severus, for once, sounded so unsure of himself. Then Severus straightened and his voice firmed, "Harry, you do me a great honour and I accept. I would love for you to court me." Severus leaned in and gave Harry a gentle kiss that rapidly turned into a heated exchange. They both moaned, then broke apart to catch their breath. Harry stood up and turned around and then seated himself so he could sit on Severus' lap. Both groaned at the delicious contact and Harry rocked against Severus, the bubble filled water acting like a silky smooth lubricant.

Both men had been slightly on edge all evening and it didn't take much before they both reached their climax. Harry collapsed against Severus who was lying back against the tub, drained of all sexual tension. Harry had no wish to move, but urged Severus to join him for a quick shower and then retreat to the bedroom.

- - hpsshpsshpss - - -

After another round of lovemaking, Harry was laying in quiet contemplation within Severus' arms, a place he hoped to spend the rest of his life. Severus was running one set of fingers through Harry's sweat dampened hair and the other hand moved slowly up and down Harry's back.

Out of nowhere, Harry returned to the earlier events that had occurred that day and to remember Severus' initial impression of Colin Creevey as Draco Malfoy.

"We both thought it might have been Draco Malfoy leading this new rebellion, and seeing Colin as he was made me think I had been right. Now I'm almost glad that it was Colin and not Draco. But it makes me wonder, where is that bloody wanker?"

- - hpsshpsshpss - - -

Somewhere on a remote tropical island in the South Pacific. "Goyle or Crabbe, one of you pass me the sunblock."

Finis

A/N: Thanks go to Magdelena for the beta. I hope everyone enjoyed this story. This is the last chapter and my last HP writing for a while. Be sure to visit HPFandom . net, the HP fan fic archive I run for general and slash stories.