Summary: Severus Snape is the new headmaster of Hogwarts and his first duty is not to kill the new deputy headmaster.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to leftsockarchive for all her help.
Though he would rather face a few rounds of Cruciatus than ever admit it, Severus Snape could never refuse Minerva McGonagall anything. If pressed he might say it was simply a matter of courtesy he afforded a colleague whom he respected, and nothing more. These simple acts of courtesy had him refereeing Quidditch matches, chaperoning Hogsmeade weekends, attending numerous social gatherings, and performing various other excruciatingly vile, and often mortifying, activities.
Looking back now, he realized he could have - should have - just said no. A simple 'Are you mad?' might have got him out of his current predicament. But, as previously stated, he had never been able to refuse any request she made of him, not when he was a student and she first started teaching, and not now, when she held the position of headmistress of Hogwarts. But she did-- ask that is, and he acquiesced, as not doing so never really seemed like an option.
In truth, had he really thought that accepting the position of deputy headmaster would lead to his actually one day having to take the position of headmaster, he would have refused…or at least grabbed his favorite cauldron and gone screaming into the night. Oh sure, the lure of power over the entire school, students and faculty alike, was a powerful temptation. He would be lying if he didn't admit that there was more than one occasion in which he knew that certain actions would be taken against certain Gryffindors, if it were in his power to do so -- all very legal, or very nearly, and ever so satisfying. Alas, the position of headmaster required dealing with not only the untamed, unwashed student body, which he already did far too much of, but their untamed, unwashed parents as well. The mere thought made a quiver of white fear flash through his thin frame. It was safe to say that Severus was not a people person, not unless he could pickle their parts for future use.
Minerva, he felt, was in it for the long haul; decades spent battling Dumbledore must have left her eager to implement her own policies at the school. She was, as Severus was, a strict disciplinarian, a stickler for following rules, and quite sensible, which the previous head of Hogwarts was not. What he hadn't counted upon was that those years of battling, both at Hogwarts and in a rather devastating war, left her completely drained. She hadn't the strength to rebuild the school, nor the heart. Two years after inheriting the position from Albus, and one year after the final battle of the war, Minerva McGonagall retired from service to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; but not before one last official act.
"You can't be serious?" His head was about to explode, he was sure of it.
"I'm afraid I am, Severus." Minerva eyed him from over the tops of her small, squarish glasses. "Trust me, it's for the best."
"You're punishing me, aren't you? Payback for every time Slytherin won a Quidditch match or House Cup. For every point I ever deducted or every detention I assigned one of your precious Gryffindors."
"Don't be ridiculous. I did what I felt was best for the school. Tormenting you was just an added bonus." She grinned then, and Severus nearly wept.
"Why him of all people?" he asked.
"Severus, the position of deputy headmaster is an important one," she began. "It's more than just paperwork and protocol. It's the duty of whomever is chosen to question all the headmaster's decisions. To make sure that all sides are represented. To look out for the best interest of everyone at this school. Traditionally, headmasters and their deputies have butted heads over every decision that is made regarding the school. It is the only way to ensure that personal motives do not overrule what is just and right. Why do you think I chose you?"
"But Potter? Surely you can think of a hundred other people with whom I could butt heads on a daily basis. I could provide a comprehensive list. It wouldn't take long."
"Severus," she said with a small smile, "Harry is probably the only person I know who loves this school as much as you do. He was very excited to be offered the opportunity. And I won't lie to you; Hogwarts needs his notoriety right now. His fame will help you get capable and qualified people to fill all the positions left vacant from the war. There is also the little matter of your interpersonal skills, Severus." She paused for dramatic emphasis and quirked an eyebrow to further punctuate the point. "Harry has matured in the years since he left Hogwarts. He has a way of talking to people, of dealing with them. Besides, the school needs him. Could you truly deny Hogwarts anything?"
Damn the woman, he thought bitterly. Because of her bloody logical reasons he found himself sitting in his new offices at the start of the summer break waiting for his new deputy to discuss the necessary hirings for the upcoming year. A migraine was already starting to bloom. He was considering possible treatments -- arsenic, hemlock, a blunt object of some sort, all in contention -- when there was a soft knock on his door.
It was enough of an insult to see the young man seated at the faculty table in the Great Hall as head of a house full of impulsive, reckless brats. Add to that the fact that the whelp was also teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts and it was reason enough to commit a homicide gruesome enough to make Voldemort look like a rank amateur. Now Severus also had the distinct pleasure of spending hours, if not days, trapped alone with the scrawny little nightmare. He quickly scanned the room for something that could be considered a blunt object - arsenic and hemlock were not as readily available and he really had so little time.
The not-so-subtle clearing of a throat caught his attention. Severus looked up to see the aforementioned impulsive, reckless whelp standing in the doorway. Though he had filled out a bit, Potter never lost the look of someone who'd never had quite enough to eat. Pale skin, dark overgrown hair, and bright green eyes that he hid behind small round glasses were as much trademarks of The Boy Who Refused To Die as much as the scar that still decorated his forehead.
Try as he might, Severus was never able to rid himself of the boy; seven years of schooling lead into three years of war, followed by his appointment to the Hogwart's staff. Eleven miserable years. And to top it all off, the cretin was made deputy headmaster-- meaning that Severus would have to deal with him on a daily basis until such time as he retired, was killed by an idiot student, or finally cracked and joined Lockhart in his pink padded rooms at St. Mungos.
"Good Evening…Headmaster," Potter remarked, once again trying to get his attention.
It appeared to Severus that Potter found saying those words distasteful…and suddenly the day was looking a bit brighter. If, perhaps, this new arrangement could present him with ample opportunity to make the boy wonder's life miserable, it may not be as painful as he had originally thought. "Mr. Potter," he said simply.
As he entered the office and made his way to a vacant chair, Severus noticed that there was a trace of defiance in Potter's gait, and bits of fire jumping from behind scrutinizing emerald eyes. He didn't sit. Severus could only assume that Potter was trying to assert authority, as if he had prepared himself for a fight. This was familiar territory for the former Potions master. If Potter was looking for a battle, Severus would be only too happy to comply.
"Have a seat. I've asked the house elves to bring up strongly brewed coffee, as I fear we will be here for a while. There are many positions to fill and-- "
"I brought a list," Potter said abruptly.
Without taking a seat, he began to speak: "A list of candidates. I wrote down all the positions that needed to be filled and who I felt would be the best choice to fill them. I thought…I thought it would speed up the process."
Severus was baffled. Harry Potter came prepared for the meeting. It was obvious the boy was trying to catch him off guard. Probably wanting to get Severus's defenses down enough to launch some stealthy attack. Conniving little bastard, he had no idea who he was dealing with.
"Very well. I gather you wish to begin right away."
"Yes…I…yes. Right away." With a bit of a crestfallen look he took his seat.
"Well?" Severus asked.
"I see your vocabulary hasn't improved in the five years since you left this school. You're the one who brought a list, let's have it. Who's first?"
"Oh, right. Well, I think…There were some professors that suggested their own replacements. Professor Sprout, for example, suggested Neville Longbottom--"
"Professor Sprout suggested Neville Longbottom."
"Longbottom? Would this be the same Neville Longbottom who destroyed no less than two-hundred ninety-seven cauldrons in his tenure at this academy? The one who burned the hair off the heads of twenty-three students on one particularly irritating Friday afternoon a mere five years ago? The one who took a simple Dreamless Sleep Draught and turned it into a narcotic that addicted half his year from its noxious fumes?"
This seemed to be the reaction Potter was expecting, because his eyes glittered brightly as he spoke: "Well, actually Headmaster, I'm talking about the Neville Longbottom who just finished an advanced degree in Enchanted Horticulture and Agronomics at one of the top institutes in Britain. The one who just wrote a book on magical fungi and their application in comtemporary healing and is giving lectures on it across the country. The one who is the only living person known to have successfully cultivated a Xeric Beardstongue Hellebore."
"Longbottom cultivated a Xeric Beardstongue Hellebore?"
The brat smiled. "Several."
Severus felt uneasy. Not only had the boy prepared, but he prepared well. This was going to be a long day.
Three hours later and Severus found he not only agreed to offer Neville Longbottom the position of Herbology Professor, but he agreed to take Neville's wife, Hannah, as the new Charms Professor. Padma Patil was to teach divination-- she had actual abilities, as opposed to her sister's imaginary ones. And Seamus Finnigan was to take over History of Magic, since Binns left his post when he finally realized he was dead.
Needless to say the meeting wasn't going well for Severus Snape and he found that he had had enough for one day. "Enough of this."
A somewhat stunned Potter looked up from his furious note scribbling on parchment. "You want to stop? Are you sure? We still have quite a few more to go through and I have ideas for-"
"Potter, I'm sure you're full of ideas. I'm sure you're full of a lot of things, but right now my head is on the verge of cracking open like an egg. We will continue this tomorrow."
Potter stood for a moment and opened his mouth to speak, but one very adamant eyebrow silenced him.
"Fine, tomorrow. Shall we meet for breakfast, then?"
"Tea. I have matters to attend to in the morning."
"Fine. I'll see you then."
He lingered a bit before finally leaving. When he found himself mercifully alone, Severus staggered to his private rooms and, without taking off his robes, fell into bed.
"I'm only trying to help, Severus," said the raspy voice. A hand appeared out of the shadows, thin pale fingers reaching through the darkness.
"I don't need your help," he said through clenched teeth, and turned to look down a long corridor. "I know what you need," the reply, followed by a sharp laugh that echoed through the corridor. "You know nothing." He ran as fast as he could away from the voice, faster and faster through the darkness. There was no end in sight, the corridor seemed to go on for miles. "I know why you really didn't want me here." There was a flash of green, then nothing.
"I don't need your help," he said through clenched teeth, and turned to look down a long corridor.
"I know what you need," the reply, followed by a sharp laugh that echoed through the corridor.
"You know nothing." He ran as fast as he could away from the voice, faster and faster through the darkness. There was no end in sight, the corridor seemed to go on for miles.
"I know why you really didn't want me here."
There was a flash of green, then nothing.
He woke with a start, his robes drenched in sweat and his hands shaking. "Oh, Minerva," he rasped as he ran his hands over his ashen face. "You have no idea what you've done."
The house elves delivered tea at four o'clock, approximately six seconds before Potter knocked on the door. Severus noted that along with his normal tea and biscuits was a platter of sweet pastries that Potter promptly dove into. The house elves not only knew the boy was joining him for tea but catered to him as well. This was not how he hoped to start this meeting.
"As soon as you are finished gorging yourself, we can begin. I'm eager to see what your illustrious list holds for the position of Potions master."
Potter nearly choked trying to get an answer out. Things were looking up.
"I wasn't….I wasn't sure you wanted my input on that."
"I don't," he said bluntly. "But I am rather curious."
Potter put down the pastry and sat up straighter. "I only have one name on my list for that position: Draco Malfoy."
"Malfoy," Severus said slowly, eyeing Potter as he repeated the name. "A token Slytherin for your list, then."
That statement was met with a slight frown. "No actually, I have a few Slytherins listed for different things; we just haven't gotten to those positions yet."
"No matter. Why Malfoy?"
"You want reasons?" he asked incredulously.
"I want your reasons."
Potter smiled. "Well, first off, he got top marks in your class, so I'm assuming he's an excellent student. I don't think you would have given top grades to anyone who didn't deserve them. That would be favoritism and I know how much you hated that."
Severus's eyes narrowed dangerously but he didn't respond.
"Besides, " Potter continued, "I figured you'd be particularly hard on anyone taking that position and I figured Malfoy is the only one who'd survive that sort of scrutiny. You might actually hear him out before tearing him to shreds, whereas I think you'd tear first and ask questions later to anyone else who had the audacity to take the position."
Severus's eyes softened. The whelp had a point.
"And if we get Draco, we might be able to persuade Ginny to come as well."
"Ginny. Ginny Weasley. They're engaged."
"I know that, but why would I care if she was here as well?"
"Well, that's another discussion."
Potter shifted uncomfortably. "I've been thinking of adding some other classes to the curriculum."
"Oh, have you now?" And so began Potter's misguided attempt to take over the school. Severus had thought he would have the good senses to wait a year or two before staging a coup but he realized he had thought too highly of the little despot.
"You've been teaching the same classes for decades. Don't you think it's time to try something new?"
Severus leaned forward. "Such as?"
"Well," Potter began with a swallow, "Ginny is a trained Healer. She could teach a first aid class-- rudimentary healing for small things like bites or burns or Quidditch scrapes, so students don't have to run to the Infirmary for every little thing. She could also assist Madame Pomfrey, who will probably only be here a few more years anyway. And when Pomfrey does leave, you already have someone able to fill the position that is familiar with the school and its workings. It will make for a seamless transition."
Severus's search for a blunt object resumed as his headache came back for an encore. Potter was making suggestions. Good ones. Would the agony ever end? "Preliminary healing," he said, wincing. "Anything else?"
"Yes actually, but perhaps we should continue to fill the current vacant positions before creating new ones. Percy Weasley for instance, would be perfect to teach Ancient Runes. I can't think of anyone else who can keep track of all those symbols better than he can."
"Are you planning to fill the school with Gryffindors and Weasleys?" he asked as he began to rub his temple. "I'm surprised you haven't already tried to find a position for your pet redhead and his bushy haired wife."
Potter didn't seem to like that remark, as his eyes sparked and he sat up stiffly. "Well, now that you mention it Hermione did say she was interested in teaching Transfigurations. She would be finished with her degree after she takes a summer course and she would be ready to teach in the Fall. She is also qualified to teach beginner Arithmancy and had mentioned that she would be willing to be the new school librarian when Madame Pince leave next year."
"Isn't that a bit much for one person?"
"You have met Hermione, right?"
The whelp had a point there, too. He sighed. He knew where this conversation was going.
"Am I to assume that getting Ms. Granger would also mean we get her husband?"
"Mrs. Weasley. And why not? Ron would be perfect as the New Flying Instructor and he can be head of the Chess Club."
"We don't have a Chess Club."
"But we could."
"Because the students would enjoy it."
"And why would I care what the students enjoy?"
"Because more options equals more students. If we offer good programs we could perhaps entice students from other countries to study here. More students equals more revenues for the school. More revenues equals better equipment for the Quidditch teams, better specimens for the greenhouse, better supplies for the potions classes…"
The headache was now accompanied by the beginnings of a rather nasty ulcer. "You have more ideas, don't you?"
Potter unrolled the parchment that contained his list - all seven feet of it.
Four hours later, Severus had dismissed the little bastard again, and again fell to his bed with his robes still on.
"I'm only trying to help, Severus," said the raspy voice. Potter appeared out of the shadows, thin and pale, walking towards him through the darkness.
"I don't need your help," Severus said through clenched teeth, and turned to face a long corridor. 'I know what you need," the reply. "Let me give it to you." "You know nothing." He ran as fast as he could-- faster and faster down the long corridor until he reached a door. "I know why you really didn't want me here." Severus grabbed the latch and turned it quickly. He opened the door. There was a flash of green, then nothing.
"I don't need your help," Severus said through clenched teeth, and turned to face a long corridor.
'I know what you need," the reply. "Let me give it to you."
"You know nothing." He ran as fast as he could-- faster and faster down the long corridor until he reached a door.
"I know why you really didn't want me here." Severus grabbed the latch and turned it quickly. He opened the door. There was a flash of green, then nothing.
They opted to begin earlier the next day. Severus didn't like the idea of falling into a dead sleep from exhaustion after the trying meetings. His nightly dreams were making his waking hours unbearable.
There weren't many positions left to fill. As much as it pained him to say it, Potter had done a thorough job and his suggestions made sense. His ideas for expanding the curriculum were excellent, and though it might kill him, he had to give the little monster credit.
They would add some physical fitness courses because good reflexes, agility, and strength were just as important as memorizing incantations when it came to working spells. They had also agreed to add a training course in Apparating that would be open to anyone of age looking to get a license or possibly just brush up on their skills. The added revenue from that could finance some other extra curricular courses such as magical weaving, pottery, and music.
"… and I thought it might be fun to have courses in curse detection, and curse breaking."
Potter's boundless energy wouldn't be broken no matter how much Severus tried. Three hours of this meeting had already passed and he showed no signs of slowing down. Severus sipped at a glass of gilly water as Potter continued talking.
"Bill Weasley is still working for Gingotts but he's willing to come and teach once a week. I've already spoken to him, as I wanted to have a candidate for the position, and he seemed to be perfect for the job."
"Yes, William," Severus intoned. "That's a good idea."
Potter looked up sharply. "What did you say?"
"That it was a good idea?" Severus repeated slowly as if speaking to a hearing-impaired foreigner.
Potter narrowed his eyes. "Is that a trick?"
Severus rolled his eyes and sighed loudly. He recognized the beginning of yet another argument. "What the blazes are you talking about?"
"Why is it a good idea?"
"Because he would be perfect to teach that class."
"Because he's been doing it for years."
"That's not it. Why no complaints? This is the first suggestion you haven't argued with outright. Why no talk of me filling the school with Weasleys and Gryffindors?"
"Because for once in your miserable life you made a proper choice."
"That's not it either."
"I don't know what answer you are looking for, Potter, but you are trying my very limited patience."
"It's Bill, isn't it?" Potter said, his eyes opening wide as he had an apparent epiphany.
"Are you going to illuminate me or are you going to continue to stare at me with that ridiculous look upon your face?"
"You want Bill here."
Severus sat back contemplating his answer. "I'm not adverse to the idea, no."
Potter nearly jumped out of his chair. "Why?"
"I don't owe you any explanations."
"You like him."
"You like him. You like Bill and you want him here."
Severus did not like the turn this conversation was taking. "What are you suggesting?"
"That you have ulterior motives," Potter said frankly.
"If you are suggesting that I was planning a tryst with your red-headed friend, might I remind you that relationships between faculty members are frowned upon?"
"But not against the rules," Potter added quickly.
"It's not against the rules. I checked."
"And why, may I ask, did you check?"
"You don't know?"
"You really don't know?"
Severus felt another long, slightly more dramatic sigh was called for here. "Will there be an end to this game at some point?"
Potter leaned forward, his eyes flashing almost angrily. "Did you ever wonder why I took this position when I was offered everything under the sun?"
"To torment me."
"No! It had to do with you, but not to torment you. Didn't you ever wonder why I came so prepared to these meetings?"
"To show off."
"NO!" His fist pounded the desk. "You stubborn bastard, not to show off. To show you that I was an adult. A responsible adult who took things seriously. Who took you seriously. I did it to impress you, you great fool."
"To impress me," Severus repeated, as he waited for the punchline.
"Yes you, you bloody overgrown bat."
"Referring to me as a stubborn bastard, a great fool, and an overgrown bat is not the best way to impress me, you dolt."
"Then what is? Because killing a Dark Lord wasn't enough obviously, and frankly I've run out of ideas."
"Potter," Severus began, "you need to start making sense sometime soon. I'm not sure if you've heard, but I have a reputation for being a bit unpleasant, so either say something rational or be prepared to be a guinea pig for a slew of rather foul potions I've wanted to make for years. Azkaban would be worth it."
Potter stared at Severus, his eyes slowly narrowing until they were mere slits on his face. "Fine," he nearly growled. He stood and reached over the desk, grabbing Severus by the collar of his robes and pulling him out of his seat.
"Let me make this crystal clear, Headmaster." With a forceful tug he pulled his former professor closer and planted a kiss firmly on his lips. Severus, too shocked to kiss back, stood hunched over his desk with his eyed bugged open and his arms pushing against the tabletop to keep himself from falling flat on his face. That's how he remained when Potter finally released his lips and sat back in his seat, a look of smug satisfaction on his flushed face.
"What in the hell just happened?" he blared.
"I kissed you," Potter answered. "Rather poorly, but the position was awkward."
"Why does one person kiss another?"
"I like you."
"That's not possible."
"I assure you it is."
It was Potter's turn to sigh. "Severus, look this isn't really that complicated. I tried girls and that was disastrous. I tried boys and that was better, but I was never happy. I was lamenting this to Ron one night -- this is his fault by the way - that no one interested me. The handsome ones were boring, the nice ones were worse. Everyone treated me like a celebrity and that wore very thin very quickly. I wanted someone who didn't care about who I was, or what I'd done. He said it sounded like I wanted you. I think he was joking, but only half joking, because Ron isn't as dense as people like to think. The point is I'm here, I took this position because I wanted to be near you in a place where we were equals and not fighting for our lives. It's been over a year and we've managed to co-exist without bloodshed, which I think is a spectacular start. I'd like to give it a go."
"Give what a go?"
"Us? As in you and me… together?"
"You were always rather sharp."
Potter flashed a bright smile and his green eyes twinkled. Severus was not pleased. "Is this another attempt at humiliating me, Potter, because I assure you that--"
"Oh, for God's sake. What do I have to do to prove to you that I am being sincere? How about we do this on your terms?"
"Start a relationship."
"A rela…And what makes you think I'd want to do that?"
"I'll take the fact that I'm not strewn about the room in many little pieces to be a good sign that you are, at the very least, intrigued."
Potter smiled again. It was a rather handsome smile, one that Severus had seen on a few occasions, but it had never - never - been directed at him. Damn and blast! He was intrigued. "What do you mean, 'on my terms'?"
"Think about what you want -- what you really want. Sleep on it and we will reconvene tomorrow. I'll be back for breakfast and we can discuss it then." He got up and brushed his hands over his robes. With a simple 'Good Day, Headmaster', he was out the door.
Severus didn't stumble into his quarters after this meeting as he had done with the previous ones. In fact, he didn't leave his desk for the rest of the day.
Severus woke the next morning with his bed sheets wrapped tightly around his exhausted body. He had the dream again. They began over a year ago, the very night Minerva informed him that Harry Effing Potter would once again be close enough to torture him, taking the position he himself had sought for decades. The dream was always the same, and only until his private meetings with the nitwit started, did they change.
"I'm only trying to help, Severus."
It was just a disconnected voice talking to him through the darkness-- no inflection, no emotion. A simple statement of truth. And though he had only very recently actually seen a mouth speak those words, he had always known the voice belonged to Potter.
"I don't need your help."
Those words were Severus's mantra throughout most of his life, and they were constantly proven wrong. He couldn't stand alone no matter how much he pushed others away.
"I know what you need. Let me give it to you."
Wishes, maybe. Hope, or something like it. He tried not to think too long on these words.
"You know nothing."
He always ran after he spoke these words-- down long corridors or empty streets, through paths that lead nowhere-- until very recently, where they led him once again to a very specific location.
"I know why you really didn't want me here."
The dreams always ended with a flash green. The color of envy. The color of lush fields too pure for him to tread upon. The color of unripe fruit never meant to be touched. The color of a pair of eyes that haunted him for years.
It began as a rather twisted thought when he first began to teach Potter - how poetic it would be to seduce the offspring of his childhood tormentor. How sweet the revenge-- a few decades in the making. He could practically see Potter senior spinning in his grave. He had dismissed it of course because Potter…Harry was a child. Even as a man in his twenties he was still so disgustingly young.
There was also the matter of his eyes. Lily's eyes. Publicly, he hated her as he hated all Mudbloods at that time in his life. Privately however, he respected her as he hadn't anyone before or since. She was a powerful witch-- strong willed and brilliant, ridiculously talented. Her only flaw was her taste in men. Her eyes shining from James Potter's face bordered on a criminal offense as far as Severus was concerned. So while the previous idea was tempting, he decided it would be more enjoyable, and far easier, to simply viciously persecute the demon seed.
Suddenly things were different.
Potter was attractive in his own way-- powerful as his mother has been, capable in ways his father never was. All that added to a maturity that could only come from years of hardship and strife; it made for a rather intriguing young man.
A young man who had kissed him less than twenty-four hours ago.
Potter…Harry had asked him what he wanted. He knew over a year ago, possibly longer, what he wanted, but it was a preposterous idea, wasn't it?
Much to his surprise, Potter was good to his word and came to his office promptly for breakfast. He greeted Severus, sat down, and began eating the feast the house elves had prepared for them and talking of inconsequential things, none of which Severus heard. He sipped at his coffee, which he thought was too bitter, but didn't bother to sweeten.
When Potter was done, he smiled softly and sat back. "Well?"
"Well." Severus repeated.
"Well, have you given it any thought?"
"I have," he said stiffly.
"And I think you are insane."
Potter grinned. "That's nothing new."
"I don't take up with crazy people."
"Except for Voldemort and Dumbledore," he replied with a laugh.
"Not a fair comparison. I didn't know they were crazy until it was far too late."
Potter stared at him, those damn green eyes looking thoughtful. "What are you scared of?"
"I'm not scared."
"Then why not try?"
"There are hundreds of reasons why this would be a huge mistake."
"Yes, I suppose there are," Potter agreed. "But there is one reason to give it a try that overshadows them all."
"And what would that be?"
"It would make us happy."
It might at that, he thought. Oh, this would end badly -- very, very badly. "I suppose we could try, but there would have to be some stipulations."
Harry's smile, which widened at the beginning of Severus's remark, turned into a calculated smirk by the end of it. "Stipulations?"
"Conditions by which we attempt this."
"Conditions? You mean you're setting up rules?"
"Because I am not a hormone-driven child, nor will I allow myself to be manipulated by one. There will be terms to this relationship."
"I am hardly a hormone-driven child and I have no plans to manipulate anyone. That being said, I am willing to hear your terms." He sat back in his seat and crossed his legs at the ankles, far too relaxed for Severus's tastes.
"To begin with, no public displays of affection."
"As in no snogging at the head table, or not acknowledging each other's existence as we do now?"
"Both. I am in charge of this school and I will not have my authority put into question. Outside our respective quarters nothing will change. I have kept my private life out of the staff room for twenty years; I have no desire to begin airing it now."
"I can live with that...for now. I have had enough of having my private life be fodder for gossip mongers. I wouldn't mind keeping a few secrets. What else?"
Severus squared his shoulders. "I will not change who I am."
"I don't expect you to."
"You say that now, but people always want change once a physical relationship begins. I am not romantic. I am not thoughtful. And I most certainly am not kind."
Potter did his best to stifle a laugh, but failed. "Severus, I wouldn't want you to be anything other than what you are."
Severus harrumphed. "We shall see. And while on the topic of physical relationships, I have no preference for either position. That, I can be flexible on."
"Jumping right in bed are we?"
"You had other plans?"
"I'd like to get to know you a bit first. I'm not looking for an epic romance, but I'm not looking for empty sex either."
"What are you looking for?" Severus asked, doubts already creeping in.
"Intelligent conversation. Passionate debate. Biting sarcasm. Companionship. And eventually, hot sweaty sex."
"That's quite a list."
"Most of it will evolve naturally over time. I'm in no hurry. I plan to be here for a while."
"How long were you planning on keeping your chastity?"
"Depends on how the rest of this conversation goes."
After three hours of intense negotiations they had decided that they would alternate who tops and who bottoms, allowing room for further negotiations depending on circumstances at time of copulation. Severus agreed that there would be post-coital snuggling Tuesdays, Thursdays, alternate Sundays, and most holidays. Harry agreed not to use Quidditch terminology in bed but was allowed to bring up House rivalry. Severus would not expand further on that caveat.
Severus would supply all lubrication products; he only trusted his own mixtures. Any toys brought into the boudoir would have to be pre-approved by both parties at least two days prior to use. Severus didn't want his judgment impaired by the pulling away of blood from his brain to other parts of his anatomy.
No one objected to oral sex of any kind. It was the one topic for which there was no argument whatsoever.
They would dine alone in Severus's quarters at least once a week and go out in public together at least once a month; there would be no hand holding or pet names at any time. Harry insisted on the exchanging of presents at birthdays, Christmas, and Valentines Day. Severus insisted on sex prior to any gift exchanges-- he wanted some sort of compensation for being coerced into doing something nice after he explicitly said he would not be.
Harry would not be expected to attend any seminars or lectures with Severus that didn't concern his position at Hogwarts. Severus would not be expected to join Harry on any of his visits to his friends or "any place infested with redheads".
Harry would henceforth no longer be referred to as Potter, idiot boy, useless brat, and other such names to be determined at a later date -- Harry wanted to leave that open as Severus was a very creative insulter and he was sure his former professor would find ways around a more specific rule. In turn, Severus could only be referred to as Severus, Professor, Headmaster, or Sir. Any cutesy variations thereof, and Severus promised he would search his most horrid books for the most painful hexes he could find.
As morning turned to afternoon, they called it a day, and made a date--an appointment to meet the next day and pick up where they left off. Severus did fall into bed fully clothed again, but there were no migraines or ulcers or unwanted dreams. Instead there was the image of a goodbye kiss replaying in his head; the feeling of soft, pliant lips pressed against his own; and the sweet scent of musk, spice, and morning lingering in the air.
As he lay there staring at the ceiling and letting the quiet afternoon pass, he began thinking about breakfast the next day, and dinner the night after that, and a private meeting he would have to call for the weekend -- as soon as he thought up a good enough reason to call it. Severus realized with a start that he could grow to like this, to making plans and spending time with Harry. He took a moment to lament the almost guaranteed loss of his sour disposition.
When his responsibilities could no longer be put off, Severus got up and went back to his desk. He would find a sizable tray laden with sandwiches, salad, some fruit, and a hot pot of fresh tea. A small card read, "You missed lunch. H." Against his better judgment, he smiled. The boy was going to do everything in his power to turn the former Potions master into a thoughtful, kind romantic, and Severus wondered if he really wanted to fight it.