The idea for the sequel actually came to be sometime in March, but it took me four months to complete. Now I'm glad that this is up. I'll be concentrating on PHU now.

Fic Title: Severus' Way (1 of 3)
Author: Firesword
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and its characters belong to JKR and so on. I just own the little bit of plot...
Summary: The sequel to 'Harry's Way'. Severus and Harry are together now. However, they have a bit of problem in getting Harry's friends to accept their relationship. Therefore, Severus dances his way into making them approve.
Genre: Romance, Slash, Fluff
Warnings: Slash, HP/SS, OOC, un-beta'd, oral indulgence (just a little and not graphic), post-OotP.
Rating: M

Severus' Way
by Firesword

PART ONE

A black-robed wizard stood stiffly inside the hot, but airy, hospital wing. The Potions Master frowned over the list of potions that he needed to brew, two of which was for Harry Potter. He wanted to turn around and argue with the nurse just for the sake of arguing, but then Harry's group of friends caught his attention. All of them were looking at him suspiciously.

Behind him, Madam Pomfrey muttered something unintelligible and the school nurse came closer. "Harry needs his rest, Severus," Madam Pomfrey said warningly. "They don't need to know about his whereabouts or have any access to him. For the next few days at least," the nurse whispered.

Severus merely raised his eyebrow and glanced over his shoulder.

"Don't tell me you don't know why the Headmaster has allowed you to take care of him. It is unlikely that any of the students would consider breaking into your chambers and weathering your wrath."

He felt his lips curling into a smile. Madam Pomfrey snorted in disgust. Severus knew that the nurse had thought that it was a leer. He decided that the Headmaster was too considerate to tell the nurse the actual reason why Harry was resting in his chambers and not in any others. He gave her a lofty look and made his exit.

"Professor," a voice stopped him. Severus sneered wickedly this time as he turned around to face the teenager. "Where is he?" Weasley asked. "Where's Harry?"

Severus smirked. "Why do you think that I have been given the privilege to care for your friend?"

"You know where he is," Weasley insisted. He sounded utterly convinced. "He's hurt - he probably needs your potions to recover."

"How amazing, Weasley. Did you figure that out by yourself, or did Granger hint a few things to you?" Severus asked mockingly. The red-haired Gryffindor spluttered indignantly and Severus walked away.

"Bloody annoying bastard!"

The Potions Master's face turned hard. "Five points from Gryffindor - for foul language," he muttered under his breath.

Severus made his way down to the dungeons as smoothly and quickly as possible. He heard Draco's voice on his return to his office and he frowned. His student was planning to attack several of the younger students with a 'neat' hex.

A quick plan formed in his mind and he nodded absently. The task would at least prevent his favorite pupil from doing any mischief.

"Draco."

At his voice, Draco turned to look at him, startled. The other students glanced at his face and backed away quickly. The Slytherins - except Malfoy - fled in all directions. Some quickly ran for their dormitories and some ran for the upper levels.

"Sir," Draco answered in a strained voice.

Severus paused before the young wizard and considered the aristocratic face thoughtfully. "You are not busy with anything at the moment, is that right?"

"Well ... sir..."

"Fetch Alvis and go to the potions classroom," he said calmly. "I need you to brew several potions."

"But-"

"Or would you rather work with Parkinson?" Severus interjected quickly and at the mere mention of Parkinson's name, Draco shuddered. "I thought not." Severus smiled thinly as the protest died on Draco's lips and the young shoulders dropped in defeat. "Get her, Draco. I'll be waiting in the classroom."

"Yes, Professor." Draco moved to do as was asked when he paused. That caused Severus to freeze as well. "Can I ask a question, Professor?"

Severus stared at the young man and waited patiently for the inquiry.

"Why do you need our help with the brewing?" Draco asked in an acute, meek tone.

"Because I have to get other advanced potions ready - ones that require great skill and experience. Alvis and you will be brewing NEWT-standard potions."

"Oh."

"I'll see you in the classroom, and then I'll brief you on what needs to be done."

"Yes, sir."

-oOoxoOo-

Severus watched the working couple with amusement. He knew that Draco found the quiet - and less repugnant - witch attractive and it amused Severus to know that his star pupil could be tongue-tied. Severus shook his head slightly to clear the random thoughts and brought his pocket watch out. It was almost two in the afternoon.

He collected his sachets of ingredients and placed all of them in his black bag. Then he turned his attention to his two students. "I will leave the classroom to you now. Remember that these potions are for your use, and I expect them to be precise and perfect."

However, only his female student paid any attention to him. Draco was lost in concentration so Severus focused his eyes on the witch as he spoke.

"Pour the potions into the marked vials that I have prepared, and give them to Madam Pomfrey immediately. Then come back here, and clean up. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Professor," the witch replied solemnly.

"Alvis. The beetles," Draco interrupted and the witch absently counted the beetles in her palm and dropped three into the cauldron.

Severus decided to leave the classroom and his students to work. His feet took him to his quarters, situated far from his office and the students' dormitories. As he approached the false wall, the bricks darkened and then wavered, before revealing a black entryway. He stepped into the space and the false wall solidified behind him. Two steps forward, and he entered his chambers that were illuminated with soft, green light.

He entered his workroom first, to set his bag down, before going deeper into the labyrinth. He stopped at the entrance to his bedroom and peered in.

"Hello, Severus," a voice greeted softly.

Harry was sitting up on the bed with a tower of pillows supporting his back. Severus sat on the chair beside the bed and watched Harry eat.

Several minutes later, Harry handed him the bowl and he placed it on the bedside table. "How are you feeling?"

"Shaky," his lover answered. "My chest hurts, sometimes."

Severus held his breath when emerald eyes bored into his own. He could not speak, and finally, he understood. He understood why Harry could not speak of his feelings before, and the reason why his presence had often caused the young man to be entirely silent.

Harry did not speak, and they stared into each other's eyes in complete silence. Then slowly, Harry raised his arms and looked expectantly at Severus.

A small smile escaped from his lips at the instant a peculiar feeling exploded from his heart. Severus moved from his chair to sit beside Harry, and then he wrapped his arms around the younger wizard.

"How is everyone?"

Severus dropped a kiss on the orange-scented hair. "It is not so chaotic anymore. People from the Ministry have stopped poking their noses around and life among the students has returned to normal. Your friends are concerned about you however," he murmured into Harry's ear.

His lover pulled away and leaned back against his pillows. However, his hands never left Severus' own, and even as a contemplative expression took over the Gryffindor's face, his fingers never ceased to brush tantalizingly along Severus' callused ones and rough palms.

"If it is all right with you, I don't want them to know that I'm here in your chambers," Harry said quietly. His emerald eyes cleared and again, Severus forgot to breathe as Harry focused on him. "I just want to be alone with you for a while."

Severus chuckled when Harry's cheeks turned red slowly.

"I love the sound of your laughter," Harry said then. Severus smiled wickedly and leaned forward. He brushed his lips upon Harry's teasingly. "Severus..." He chuckled again but it faded quickly when Harry's hand snaked upward to cradle his neck.

Severus was careful not to put too much pressure on Harry's chest as their kiss deepened, and although every inch of him wanted to mold into his lover, his nagging responsibilities as a Potions Master held him back. They broke away from the kiss and Severus trembled upon seeing Harry's lustful expression. He brushed his thumb across Harry's wet and swollen lips, and bit back a moan when Harry sucked at his digit naughtily.

"You should be sleeping," Severus said uneasily. Harry smiled.

Severus turned his head sharply at a slight noise. The house-elf, Dobby, stood not far away, and he held a tray with several bottles. Severus relaxed and nodded. Dobby stepped forward and handed the black tray to him.

When the house-elf vanished, Harry spoke. "Severus, do I have to take the potions?"

Severus looked at Harry inquiringly. "What is it, Harry? They're not giving you nightmares. Are they?" Severus frowned slightly.

"No," Harry answered quickly. "It's just ... never mind." A sheepish smile touched the Gryffindor's lips.

"You won't be needing them very soon, Harry. Just four more days," Severus informed Harry gently.

"That's good," Harry said, looking oddly relieved. "I was afraid that I might develop resistance or something if I continue to take them."

It somehow gladdened Severus to know that Harry's mood had turned into a humorous one. It was a sign that his young lover was recovering from his experience.

"Here." Severus handed Harry a small vial of pain-relieving potion.

"All of it?" Harry tilted his head to one side as he examined the bottle.

"Yes. Brace yourself - it is very bitter."

"All of your potions are bitter."

"Hmmmm." Severus looked sternly at Harry.

Harry grimaced after drinking the last of his potions, and Severus poured a glass of cold water for him. Right on time, a mug of hot chocolate appeared on the end table.

"A treat, Severus?" Harry batted his eyelashes and Severus snorted.

"Don't do that, Harry," he said seriously. He waited until Harry had drunk the glass of cold water before giving him the hot chocolate.

"It's Saturday, today, right?" Harry blew at the surface of the smoking beverage.

"Yes. Why?" Severus watched Harry's face intently.

"I'm just asking. Are you going to stay with me or do you have to go out and work?"

Severus gently ran his fingers through Harry's hair and caressed Harry's cheek affectionately. "I will be in my workroom. I have several things to brew, including your medicine."

"Oh. All right." Harry placed the mug on the bedside table and Severus helped him to lie down on the bed. He rearranged all of the pillows and gave a surprised yelp when Harry pulled him down suddenly.

"Kiss me."

"Harry, you're supposed to be sick. How can you be so brazen at such a time?" Severus murmured. However, he had no qualms about nuzzling the side of Harry's neck.

"Does that bother you, Severus?" Harry asked back.

"No."

"I'm glad that is your answer."

Severus firmly pressed his mouth against the soft lips owned by the emerald-eyed wizard and prevented Harry from speaking any further. "Sleep now," Severus whispered. "I'll spend more time with you when I'm done."

"Okay," Harry answered in a hushed tone. "Severus?"

The Potions Master lifted his head to look down at his drowsy lover. "Yes?"

"Thank you."

"For?"

"For everything," Harry answered. "I love you."

"I love you too, Harry. Rest."

Harry smiled sweetly at him and closed his eyes. Severus remained on the bed and he stayed, until Harry fell into a deep sleep. He leaned down and kissed Harry's forehead and cheek tenderly. It was time for him to go to work and he rose to his feet. He stroked Harry's hair once before he left the bedroom.

-oOoxoOo-

It was hot. Severus was almost tempted to unbutton his shirt. It was bad enough that he had resorted to taking off his wizard robes. He frowned and determinedly focused his attention on the boiling mixture inside the cauldron. Severus was glad that one could brew the Wolfsbane potion in stages and not all at once. He had brewed all of the other potions and had given them to Draco. Then he had ordered his student to take the potions to Madam Pomfrey. However, he had kept those that Harry needed in his cabinet.

A loud, whistling sound pierced the air and Severus immediately turned the heat off. He summoned the flat-based flask and carefully scooped the contents of the cauldron into the thick flask. He capped it and held it against the light of his wand to study the pigmentation of the mixture.

"Close," he muttered.

He cut off a sheet of foil from its holder and quickly wrapped the flask with it. Then he placed it in a cabinet that had been warded to prevent light or moisture from reacting with his potions. He straightened his back and combed his damp hair back with his fingers.

Severus went out of his quarters and immediately headed for the classroom. He was pleased to find that Draco and Alvis had already cleaned their work area, and that every object had been placed in their respective places. His students did not notice his presence. Severus smirked as Draco fidgeted nervously while Alvis stared.

"Draco, do you want to go to the kitchen and get some ice-cream?" the witch blurted and then she blushed furiously at her outburst.

Draco jumped in surprise. "I guess," he replied, looking slightly wary.

The Potions Master rolled his eyes and returned to his private quarters. He went to the bedroom and watched curiously as Harry tossed the blanket and his thin pajamas away. Severus' black eyes raked over the unclothed figure and his gaze slowly became fixed on Harry's abdomen. After a while, Harry turned and gave his back to Severus.

The older man blushed slightly at the sight. A few seconds later, Harry swore loudly and sat up. He seemed somewhat surprised to find Severus standing in the doorway.

"I suppose you want a bath?" Severus inquired meekly.

Harry, whose face had turned bright pink, nodded hesitantly. "Too hot to nap."

"It's just as well that you are awake. We'll clean up before we have supper," he said casually. Severus went to his wardrobe to retrieve several towels before holding out his hand. Harry took it and planted his feet solidly on the floor before attempting to stand and Severus waited patiently as Harry regained his sense of mobility.

They walked slowly to the bathroom and entered the gray-tiled area. It was the first time Harry had ever been in the washroom. He had to use the old-fashioned chamber pot to do his business as he could not walk without tiring himself, and Severus had usually washed him while he was abed.

"Do you think you can stand, or would you prefer soaking in that?" Severus pointed his chin at the gray bathtub.

"I think I'd rather stand," his Harry answered in a small voice. "I don't feel at all confident to climb into it."

"All right."

Severus placed the towels on some hooks and started to disrobe. He could feel Harry looking at him and it had taken all of his will for his body to remain indifferent to the attention. Naked finally, he took Harry's hand and led Harry into the shower stall with a rather huge shower-head.

"Hot or cold?" Severus inquired.

"Cold. But not icy-cold," Harry added after a thoughtful pause.

Severus chuckled and turned the tap. A strong rain of water poured out of the shower-head and splashed on two, hot and sweaty bodies. Severus had closed his eyes and he was enjoying the feel of cool water on his skin when he felt Harry pressing something on his head.

"Don't move," Harry said softly. Several seconds later, the running water dribbled to a stop. He stood still as Harry worked on his hair. The smell of oranges filled his nostrils and he felt energized after inhaling it. "Here comes the water."

Severus waited until his hair was clean and free from soap before turning around to face Harry. "I should be washing you, not the other way around." Harry smiled sweetly and handed the bottle of shampoo to him.

After Severus had dealt with Harry's thick mane, he then helped to soap Harry's body. His cheeks colored slightly when he found that his lover greatly enjoyed his touch when he knelt down to wash a pair of slightly muscular legs. Severus reminded himself not to encourage Harry while he was unwell.

However, those thoughts vanished when Harry pressed his back against his chest while they stood under the rain of water. All modes of self-control went out of the window, when Harry pressed his bottom against his groin enticingly.

"Harry," Severus called out hoarsely. Desire unfurled and his manhood hardened against Harry's calculating brushes.

Harry turned around and Severus felt an exhilarating rush of pleasure when he saw the dark and glazed look in Harry's eyes.

"Can't we?" Harry asked softly, his voice thick with need.

Severus shook his head at the question. "Not yet, Harry." Severus brushed his fingertips across Harry's scarred chest. "We'll wait until you're stronger."

"But-"

He gathered Harry in his arms and dipped hiss head to kiss his lover. Harry's arms wrapped around him possessively, and Severus groaned when Harry insistently grounded their hips together.

"Severus. Please."

Severus breathed heavily against Harry's cheek. He wanted to make love to Harry. The fact that Harry was still not completely recovered stopped him. However, he knew that there were other, less strenuous ways, to bring release.

"We can't make love," Severus whispered into Harry's ear. "But there are other ways for me to give you pleasure. Will you allow me that?"

"Will you allow me to return the favor?" Harry asked, and then kissed Severus' shoulders a few times.

"Harry, have you-?" Severus could not finish the sentence. The mere thought of Harry's lips around him was enough to make his knees buckle.

"I don't have any experience, if that's what you wish to know." Harry sounded embarrassed.

"We'll go slow." Severus smiled predatorily.

"All right. I hope I'll learn a few things from you." The wicked gleam in Harry's eyes matched his own.

Severus slowly slid his hand down and cupped Harry in his hand. He squeezed gently and grinned when his touch elicited a soft moan from his lover.

"The bed," Harry gasped.

"The bed." Severus nodded his acquiescence.

-oOoxoOo-

Severus closed his eyes the moment his orgasm began. He could feel Harry's lips around him; he could feel those delicate lips suckling him. Hands caressed his thighs and they soothed him, helping him to return. He swallowed hard and reopened his eyes, just as Harry pulled his head away and licked him for the last time.

"Was that all right?" Harry asked, somewhat worriedly.

Severus managed a faint smile and Harry crawled up on his body before resting gently on Severus. "You learn quickly," he answered huskily.

Harry grinned broadly, and then his cheeks reddened. "That was my first time ... doing it." Severus just watched as Harry smothered his face in his chest. "Is it normal? I mean to feel exhilarated while you are doing it?"

"Harry, I certainly did not feel ashamed to feel desired and wanted while I was loving you using my mouth," Severus said drily.

"You know that I can never look at you the same way as before."

"I know that, Harry. I suppose I should have waited until you graduate, but..."

"It doesn't matter, Severus. I am yours."

"As I am."

"That sounds corny."

Severus smiled and stroked Harry's trembling back. Then he heard Harry mumble something and his eyes widened when a thin blanket settled over their bodies.

"It's almost time for dinner. I don't want to shock Dobby with our state of undress," Harry explained.

"Ah. But don't you think it'd shock him all the same? I am naked, with you on top of me. Under a blanket."

"You aren't harming me in any way," Harry whispered seductively.

"Harry," Severus said warningly. His hands slid further downwards and stilled his lover's restless hips.

"Okay, okay. I've waited for months. A few weeks should not be a problem," Harry answered. "Although I think my release was somewhat overdue."

Severus chuckled, closed his eyes and relaxed. He was not aware that he had fallen asleep until someone shook him gently. Harry looked at him with a rather fond smile and Severus felt his lips curving a little in response.

"Dinner's here. You'd better get up and eat. Dobby told me that you skipped lunch," Harry said softly.

He nodded and sat up on the bed slowly. There was a white scroll beside the tray of their dinner. "What is that?"

"Dobby said that it is for us from Dumbledore. I think it may contain some sort of announcement. I saw Hogwarts crest on it," Harry answered with a slight shrug.

Severus stared at the scroll for a few seconds before turning his gaze on Harry. "You're still undressed."

"It's more comfortable."

"Do you want a sleeping robe or pajamas?"

"You have to reapply the salve on me. I'll just wear the loose trousers you gave me the other day."

Severus motioned Harry to stay where he was while he stood up to get fresh sets of clothing. His neck prickled and a shiver went down his spine. Severus paused, and glanced over his shoulder. Harry was smiling mischievously and Severus belated realized that his lover was staring at his buttocks.

"What?" he asked and pulled his sleeping robe off the hanger.

"I don't know," Harry answered, his voice light with amusement. "But I'm glad you have been hiding that under your robes. I might be tempted to pinch them."

Severus winced. "Bad idea, Harry. You're still a student here and I'm not going to hesitate to ask the crystals to withdraw."

"Or maybe spank them just a bit."

"Harry."

Harry's laughter echoed beautifully in his chambers. Severus rolled his eyes and put on the robe before returning to the bed with Harry's slacks in his hand.

"Put that on," he instructed.

However, Harry was still in a playful mood. Slowly and teasingly, he pulled at the blanket, revealing himself little by little.

"Harry, please." Severus looked at the younger wizard pleadingly.

"Just teasing, Severus," Harry laughed.

They had their dinner first and Severus waited for Dobby to clear the table before reaching out for the scroll. Severus tugged briefly at the gold string and the parchment unrolled automatically. His eyebrows furrowed into a frown as he quickly read the message.

"He must be mad!" he exploded as he reached the end of the missive.

"Severus?"

Severus handed the parchment over to Harry and rubbed at his pounding temple. "What is he thinking of?"

"A ball? To celebrate?" Harry sounded dubious. He held the letter loosely in his hand. "Is that wise? Shouldn't we be a little more considerate? Some of the students here did lose loved ones in the war after all."

"Harry, have you read the last paragraph?" Severus looked at Harry through his eyelashes. Bottle-green eyes gazed at him curiously before they dropped to study the parchment. Slowly, those beautiful eyes widened.

"Severus, what does this mean?" Harry whispered. "He wants us to go to the ball together? As a couple? Is he serious?"

"I do not know." He sighed explosively. Then he felt a slight tug and he turned his head in the direction of the entrance. "There's someone outside," he said to Harry. "Give me a moment to check."

"Okay."

"You should go and lie down," Severus said softly and bestowed a gentle kiss on Harry's forehead before leaving the bedroom to investigate.

When he stepped outside, Dumbledore stood several feet away from the wall. On his shoulder, Fawkes was dozing. On his wrist, Hedwig was staring intently at Severus.

"Hedwig is missing Harry's company and Poppy has agreed that she can be with her owner. She has just eaten her dinner, but I hope you have kept some owl treats in your quarters," Dumbledore said politely.

"I do, Headmaster," Severus replied calmly. He approached the old wizard and held out his hand. Hedwig looked at him seriously for several moments before stretching her leg and closing her talon on Severus' exposed wrist. Then she pulled in her other limb and settled securely on his arm. "Headmaster, regarding your message-"

"It is needed, Severus," Dumbledore said quietly. "His friends need to see that he can be happy with you. I'd rather not have them convince Harry that being with you is a bad decision."

"But-"

"Severus, Harry will be allowed to go back to his dormitory by next week. The ball is three weeks away, hence there will be ample time for them to get used to the idea that you are together."

"The Weasleys are not going to like it," Severus said warningly.

"They don't have to like it, Severus, but they have to acknowledge it," Dumbledore answered and looked at him sternly. "I've kept you here long enough. Return to Harry. Oh, and one other thing. Poppy told me that tonight you'd be applying more healing salve on Harry. Will he have scars?"

"I'm afraid so." Severus' eyes turned dreamy. "Pomfrey has informed me that there are treatments to remove them. Harry must be willing, either way."

"Ah."

Without warning, Dumbledore had taken his left arm and unrolled his sleeve. Faint light exploded from the Headmaster's palm and the ancient wizard peered at Severus' left forearm. "So ... your mark and Harry's scar are fading."

Severus blinked. "They are," he agreed quietly.

"That's good."

The sound of something loud exploding reached their ears and Dumbledore started muttering under his breath.

"I believe that is-"

"Peeves. On the other hand, perhaps it might be one of the students trying on spells to cool themselves. Well, please take care of Harry, Severus. I have to go up and investigate what has happened." Dumbledore turned to walk away. Then he turned back. "Do you suppose Percival is here? He may be useful in dealing with Peeves."

"He should be in the left wing of the dungeons, Headmaster."

"Ah."

Severus watched as the old wizard ambled off into the direction he had mentioned. His black eyes dropped to consider the snowy owl that studied him in silence. He shrugged slightly and went back into his quarters.

-oOoxoOo-

Severus smoothed the pale, ivory cream gently over Harry's scarred chest. Hedwig hooted softly and when Severus looked up, he saw that the snowy owl oddly appeared anxious. She continuously paced the length of her perch but her eyes remained fixed on her owner.

"He is all right, silly bird. He's asleep. You need not worry about him all that much," Severus said quietly and returned to his task. He dimly heard an indignant hoot as he carefully pressed his finger along a deep scar. He did not think about how marred Harry looked; instead, he memorized how the scars felt under the tips of his fingers. Touching Harry's scars felt different compared to what he feels when he touched his own.

He scarcely noted that an hour had passed and Hedwig had finally calmed down. The snowy owl stood rock-still on her perch, her wings folded tightly over her form, and her head tucked in. Severus was still working on Harry's torso when his concentration was suddenly interrupted when fingers touched his cheek.

"Do you ... dislike these scars?"

Severus blinked at the question. His hand stopped its movement and he studied his lover's calm expression. "No. Why do you ask?"

"I'm not perfect," Harry whispered.

"No one is," Severus replied softly. "You know there are treatments for this. Have you thought about it?"

"The procedures seem painful," Harry answered. "I don't see why I should endure weeks of pain and treatment, when these scars will heal in about seven days." The Gryffindor then smiled ruefully.

Severus smiled crookedly at Harry's acute observation and his hand resumed its soothing strokes.

"Your hand ... it feels good," Harry said drowsily. "The pain ... drives the pain away."

Fifteen minutes later, Harry stilled his hand. Severus looked inquiringly at the younger man.

"Rest with me," Harry said softly and slowly turned to his side.

Severus nodded and slid into place. The lights that illuminated the room dimmed gradually. Severus allowed his left hand to remain on Harry's torso while his right snaked under Harry's neck. Then, secured and relaxed, both men fell asleep.

-oOoxoOo-

There were eleven days left to the day of the ball. It had been five days since Harry was permitted to return to his own bed. Severus cursed at his feelings - he had been lonely for most of his life, but to be lonely although his lover was close by... It was strange. Something else bothered him as well. His Potions class with the seventh years had been right after lunch. Harry was unusually quiet, and Severus had noticed that Granger was keeping her distance.

He sighed explosively and stood up. He absently pushed his chair under his desk and pointed his wand at the office door. It swung open and he stepped outside.

Slytherins walked in opposite directions in the corridors. Some were going back to their dormitories while others were heading for the hall, for supper. Severus heard snippets of conversation, especially from his female students, about the school event.

"Anyone knows who Draco is taking out to the ball?"

"It's not Parkinson," a witch whispered.

"You're serious?"

"Yeah. Saw him talking to-"

Their voices were cut off as they had turned into a corner.

Severus climbed the staircase and when he reached the Entrance Hall, he saw Granger, the Weasleys, and Lovegood, talking near the double doors of the Great Hall. He frowned slightly. Where was Harry? He crossed the Entrance Hall and felt several eyes watching him.

He headed out into the castle grounds, beyond the courtyard, and beyond Hagrid's hut. His feet took him to the lake, to the spot where Harry often sat to brood. It was nearly dark. The last rays of the sun lingered in the horizon. However, they were weakening.

Then Severus saw the figure leaning against the oak tree, watching the ripples across the black lake. As he neared Harry, he could see the sadness that was etched on the young man's features.

"Harry?"

The Gryffindor turned his head slightly at the call, and smiled weakly at Severus. "Hello. Have you eaten your dinner?"

"What are you doing out here?" Severus walked around Harry and casually leaned against the tree. If students were to prowl around the area, he would not be noticed immediately.

"Just thinking," Harry answered.

"Your friends - did you tell them?"

Harry sighed and Severus felt slightly pleased when Harry reached for his hand. Harry held it gently and Severus almost immediately started to brush his thumb along Harry's wrist.

"They asked me whether I knew about the dance and I told them I knew about it," Harry answered in a grave tone. "Then Ron asked me if I had asked anyone to be my partner. He'd rather see Ginny with me than Dean - I have no idea why, but Hermione just said that Ron was suddenly feeling very responsible for his sister."

Severus smirked at that. Harry continued.

"I told him I already have someone and then they started pestering me about who the girl was."

Harry fell silent and Severus looked across the lake and at the darkening sky. He watched as amber-gold light faded into purple and a gentle breeze began to blow from the west. Then he heard a soft, splashing sound and it drew his eyes to his left. A bunch of tentacles breached the surface briefly before it disappeared back into the water. It was time for the giant squid to hunt.

"It was hard. I had to tell them that I was going out with a man rather than a woman first," Harry said softly. "They did not take it very well, except for Hermione. She was calm the entire time. The rest of my friends started to give me odd looks. Ron was shocked and he was somewhat convinced that I was joking." Harry's slight movement made him turn to look at his lover. "Then I hinted about the man I'm going out with. So, as expected, all hell broke loose."

The emerald-eyed wizard sighed and pushed away from the tree. Severus tilted his head to one side as Harry studied him. After a minute or so, Harry closed the distance and wrapped a pair of strong hands around his waist. The feeling, the knowledge that Harry was holding him, had persuaded his heart to beat erratically.

Harry was staring intently at his mouth and Severus' muscles were tightening with anticipation. He licked his lips invitingly, and Harry leaned forward. To his utter surprise, Harry turned his head away. A gasp caught in Severus' throat as gentle lips brushed across his chin.

Harry was smiling when he pulled away. One hand slid away from Severus' hips to rub at red lips. "That was ticklish." The hand then felt the stubble on his chin. "I don't have any hair growing on my face yet."

"You ought to count yourself lucky then," Severus muttered. "This," he touched the stubble growing on his chin, "itches sometimes."

"I wonder how I would look if I were to grow a beard." Harry had a somewhat impish expression on his face.

"Do not consider that," Severus replied immediately. Then he imagined Harry with one and winced. Harry suddenly laughed.

"You do have imagination then," Harry said after his chuckles died down. His arm joined its partner around Severus' waist.

Severus was then subjected to the most penetrating, yet affectionate, gaze he had ever received from anyone.

"I love you, Severus. I don't really care what the others think."

He held his breath as Harry's face came closer.

"And I'm only happy when I'm with you," Harry whispered.

Severus closed his eyes and held on to Harry tightly as their tongues danced fiercely. A wild rush of desire filled his system as Harry pressed against him. In a distant part of his mind, he wondered whether his lover had truly recovered to be so aggressive. The heat generated by their bodies was enough to make Severus tremble and he pulled away, gasping for breath. He licked his wet and well-kissed lips as he looked at Harry.

Harry swallowed visibly and leaned forward again. Their second kiss was much calmer and slower, but it was as full of passion as the previous one. Severus growled when his desire to take Harry suddenly became stronger.

"Severus," Harry whimpered when he pulled away.

"Not yet," he said. Severus took Harry in his arms again, and they stayed that way for several minutes. "Have you eaten your dinner?"

"No. I couldn't, with them looking at me," Harry said softly.

"Come back with me to my quarters. We will eat together."

Harry looked up at him with wide, astonished eyes. They stared at each other in silence and Severus smiled a little.

"Yes. I missed you," he said softly as he slid his fingers through Harry's black hair. "You were so close, but I couldn't reach you."

"I missed being with you too."

Severus kissed Harry's forehead tenderly and they began their journey back into the castle.

"Dobby," Severus muttered the house-elf's name under his breath. Dobby appeared several minutes later and looked edgily at the Potions Master. "Dinner for Harry and myself. In my quarters."

"Dobby will do that, Sir," the house-elf squeaked and vanished.

When they entered the castle, Harry's friends were nowhere to be found. There was a group of Slytherins however, who were looking at him and the Gryffindor walking by his side speculatively.

"Are rumors going to bother you, Severus?" Harry asked him quietly as they descended the narrow staircase leading to the dungeons.

"Not likely. Will rumors bother you?"

"I'm sure I would be able to brush those away."

Severus glanced at Harry and saw that the Gryffindor had a somewhat cynical smile on his lips.

"I've had some practice ignoring circulating rumors after all," Harry said drily.

"I'm sure you had." Severus noticed the figure standing by his office door and raised his eyebrow when he identified the person as Granger.

Severus and Harry stopped in front of the frizzy-haired witch.

"Hermione," Harry greeted softly.

"Harry, Professor." The Gryffindor prefect stared up at Severus then. "Can I talk to you? Both of you?"

Severus looked hard at her and waved his wand at his office door, which opened immediately. "In," he ordered.

"Thank you," the witch said meekly and entered.

The older wizard motioned Harry in and paused to close the door and cast Silencing Charms around the area. Severus kept his wand in his pocket and turned around slowly before resting his eyes on Hermione.

"Is this true?" the girl asked, her expression grave and serious.

"What is?"

"That Harry is going out with you to the ball?"

Severus tilted his head and considered the young witch's face. "That is correct," he replied lazily. Hermione turned pale suddenly and she looked at Harry for several seconds.

"Why?"

"Did Harry not tell you of the reason?" Severus asked archly.

"H-Harry?" Hermione stuttered and Severus rolled his eyes at the girl's disbelief.

"I told them I was going out with a guy and they had guessed the person I'd asked was you but I haven't told them why," Harry said a little meekly.

"I assume they had not given you the opportunity to explain?"

"How could I explain to them when they were all shouting at the top of their voices trying to convince me that I'm mad?" Harry sighed tiredly.

Severus strode over to his desk and carefully sat on it. Somewhat to his own surprise, Harry positioned himself beside the desk, close enough for Severus to smell the cinnamon coming from the Gryffindor's robes.

"Weasley thinks this is something the Headmaster has forced upon him, isn't that right?" Severus directed the question at Harry's friend.

He was not surprised at Hermione's blush or the slight nod.

"I must admit that it was the Headmaster's order," Severus said in a thoughtful tone. "However, the acceptance of that order was mutual."

Hermione's eyes widened a bit more.

"Hermione," Harry began, "I'm going out with him ... for the same reasons you are going out with Ron."

"What? But Harry, he's our teacher!" Hermione protested.

"So he has reminded me occasionally," Harry said with a faint smile. "But I still love him."

"Love? Harry, are you sure? What if you ... what if he-"

"And what if I return his feelings?" Severus asked in a challenging tone.

"How can we be sure that you're not toying with Harry's feelings?" Hermione questioned, her eyes flashing with uncharacteristic anger.

"I am not," Severus said quietly but with finality.

The girl fell silent then.

"If you have nothing more to say, Miss Granger, leave. Harry has not eaten and I intend to make sure he does before he goes back to his dormitory."

"Prove it," Hermione said. She stared at Harry and then Severus fiercely. "You must show us that you can make Harry happy. Show us that you can make Harry smile. If you can do that, Ron will not argue, and who cares what the rest of the world thinks. If you can make Harry happy, I won't complain."

"That may be a little hard to do. He may be happy when he's with me, but that may be undone when you and the rest of his friends get him depressed," Severus pointed out.

Hermione looked back at him thoughtfully. "You're right."

"However, I'll do whatever it takes to prove that I do love your emerald-eyed friend." Severus turned his head and smiled at Harry. "With the Headmaster's permission."

"Severus, what do you have in mind?" Harry asked him curiously.

Hermione turned into a shade paler and Severus suppressed his smile of amusement.

"I do not have any ideas, hence we are going to see the Headmaster later and find out if he has any brilliant ones. I am certain he would be eager - too eager - to help," he said almost flippantly.

"Severus, are you serious?" Harry appeared troubled. "This might hurt ... your reputation."

He simply raised his eyebrow. "I'll build a new one."

"But, last time..."

"You're graduating soon and isn't it the idea to make people get used to seeing you with me? Or is it me with you?"

"Well ... I suppose..."

"You were a couple ... before this?" Hermione squeaked.

Severus had forgotten that they were not alone. However, it was Harry who answered.

"Er ... we... Well, we've just ... uhmmm ... confessed our feelings to each other. Therefore, we weren't exactly ... a couple before Voldemort died. For good this time, I hope," Harry replied nervously.

Malachite-green eyes widened slightly with surprise when Severus leaned toward him and reached out to cup Harry's cheek. Although it was for only several seconds, a dreamy expression had passed over Harry's face. The Gryffindor's eyes closed and he leaned into Severus' touch. Then Harry quickly reopened his eyes and gasped, breaking contact.

Severus' eyes shifted to the right and smiled at Hermione's stunned expression.

"Close that mouth, Miss Granger. Or are you trying to impersonate a fish?"

-oOoxoOo-

After Hermione Granger left, Harry and Severus went into the Potions Master's private chambers for dinner. Several of Severus' students saw them heading there together, but one glare from the wizard sent them all fleeing.

"How the rumor mill will run..." Harry chuckled.

"Hmmmm."

The false wall darkened immediately and the black void appeared. Severus waved his hand at the entryway and Harry walked into the void. He followed his lover immediately and he soon joined Harry in the main corridor to the labyrinth.

"Where's dinner?" Harry asked and he looked over his shoulder with a rather adorable expression.

Severus shook his head slightly and chuckled. "Use your nose, Harry."

Harry raised his eyebrow and sniffed at the air. "It's coming from further down, so it can't be in your workroom or your bedroom." Harry started walking and Severus trailed after him closely.

After several minutes of following the aroma of dinner, Harry and Severus entered the sitting room. However, before Harry could sit down, Severus reached out and clasped Harry's shoulder. He turned the younger man gently to face him and pulled Harry into his arms. They stood like that for some time with their arms wrapped tightly around each other. Severus rubbed his cheek gently against Harry's hair and sighed contentedly. It felt so right so filled with completeness that it made him breathless and giddy.

"Severus?" Harry whispered his name.

He pulled away slightly to look down at the emerald-eyed wizard. "Yes?" Severus asked politely. Harry's cheeks were red and there was a somewhat impish smile on his beautiful lips.

"Uhmmmm ... nothing." Harry grinned.

Severus could only wonder what Harry was thinking. "Come - let's eat." He waited until Harry sat down in a chair before doing the same. He looked at the dishes covering the table with slight amusement. They were all mostly light and Severus did not doubt that the house-elves had actually prepared them to suit Harry's appetite. For some reason, Severus himself did not feel hungry that night. He found himself studying Harry more intently than focusing on his chicken pie.

"You have to eat, Severus." Harry's voice broke through his daze and he felt his cheeks warming slightly in response. "It's helping me."

"What do you mean?"

"Watching you eat makes the food look and taste, more appetizing."

Severus looked at Harry seated across him for a moment before staring down at his plate. After sometime, he started to eat, and forced his taste buds to taste his food. The tenderness of the chicken meat and the sauce slowly convinced him that the food was delicious. True enough, Harry began to eat with more enthusiasm. Severus told himself that he should remember this, just in case Harry lost his appetite in the future.

Once they had finished their meal, they lingered in their seats and sipped their drinks slowly.

Severus fell into deep contemplation and images of Harry eating with his friends flashed in his mind. His brows furrowed slightly in thought, "Is this strange for you, Harry?"

"Hmmmm? What is?" His Harry tilted his head to one side and regarded him with an inquisitive look.

"That our meal was quiet," Severus answered. "The ones you have with your friends have been filled with so much talk."

"Oh - that. I kind of like this," Harry answered with a faint smile. "It gives one the opportunity to eat food rather than having to divide your attention to your meal, to your friends, and to what they are talking about. Passing information or studying during meals aren't really effective."

Severus laughed softly. "That's very astute of you." He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a pouch. "Breath mint?"

"Thanks," Harry thanked him and popped one of the film-like sweets into his mouth. "Are we going to see Professor Dumbledore now?"

"Yes. Unless you want to see him some other time?"

"No ... tonight is fine. The sooner we can make Hermione and the rest believe that this is not some kind of stupid mistake or a curse, the better."

-oOoxoOo-

Severus stared at the Headmaster of Hogwarts with a somewhat incredulous expression. "That's a brilliant idea?" If he had sounded doubtful, that was only because Dumbledore's suggestion was actually nothing out of the ordinary.

"I think I understand though," Harry piped up.

The Potions Master glanced at the younger man sitting beside him. He raised an eyebrow and gave Harry an inquiring look. "Would you care to explain?"

Harry combed his messy, black hair back with his fingers, all the while looking thoughtful. "We are a couple after all, so I think it is a great idea to start doing what normal couples would do."

"Please keep in mind however that your actions would be restricted to holding hands," Dumbledore interrupted, "when you're in public. Meaning outside a closed room."

Severus snorted. "I don't see why I should alarm Professor McGonagall and the others to kiss or embrace Harry in front of them."

"I'm glad you understand that. However, that restrain would be lifted during the day and night of the ball."

"However, this would be frowned upon, by the students and the staff," Severus said and scowled.

"Because of the teacher-student relationship," Harry spoke in a serious tone. "However, the NEWTs are over and they can't accuse you for showering favoritism on me."

Severus snorted while Dumbledore chuckled softly.

"That is true, Harry." Severus noticed the penetrating gaze that Dumbledore gave the young wizard. "I wonder ... would you like to be Remus' assistant once you graduate?"

"I'm sorry?" Harry sat upright in his chair.

"However, you need to get an Outstanding grade for Defense and at least an 'E' grade for Charms," Dumbledore said thoughtfully.

"But if I teach here, won't the Education Board say something about it? I mean-"

"It is uncommon for spouses to teach in the same school, but there are a few exceptional cases," Dumbledore interjected before Harry could speak further.

"Spouses?" Harry's cheeks colored slightly and Severus smiled faintly.

"Although the public isn't really aware, Hogwarts do have staff members who are bonded. Professor Sinistra and Professor Vector for instance."

"What?" Harry's eyes flared. "They're..." When the Gryffindor looked at Severus, he nodded. "Oh." Harry's expression turned shrewd suddenly. "It'd be disappointing if I get anything less than 'E'."

"There's always the position of Assistant Flying Instructor."

"There's no such position, Professor Dumbledore."

"Well, I just have to announce that we need one next year, if it comes to that."

Severus looked skeptically at the Headmaster.

"So, are the two of you ready for a meeting of breakfast tomorrow morning?" Dumbledore questioned them in a cheerful voice.

"Headmaster, what exactly are you planning?"

"A date, Severus. A simple meeting during breakfast."

-oOoxoOo-

At eight o'clock the next morning, Severus proceeded not to the staff room but to the Great Hall, and he stood frozen under the huge archway of the vast room. Severus stared, not at the smiling Headmaster who sat in his usual seat at the teachers' table, but an embarrassed Harry who sat apart from the rest of the students. Harry was not sitting on one of the Gryffindor benches, but on a wooden tree stump. His lover looked as though he wanted to disappear into the crude furniture.

Black eyes moved from the shame-filled wizard to the small, circular table that bore a huge jug of juice, two glasses, a plate of sandwiches, scrambled eggs, bacon, and scones.

He took a deep breath and strode over to the other unoccupied stump. He cast a sidelong glance at Ronald Weasley and refrained from smirking. Harry's best friend was looking at him with incredulity.

"Hermione! What is he - what is Harry doing with that-?"

"Ron."

Severus could hear Weasley's strangled voice and Granger's annoyed hiss quite clearly as he sat down across his young lover.

"Good morning, Mister Potter," he greeted in a low voice.

Harry lifted his blushing face and gave Severus a weak smile. "Good morning, Professor."

"Oh no ... that is not happening." Severus heard Ginny Weasley groan.

"Am I not supposed to show your friends that you would be happy when you're with me, and not filled with embarrassment?" Severus snapped his fingers and the jug rose from the table. It started to pour its contents into the glasses.

"I believe that was the idea but..." Harry groaned softly and hid his face in his hand for several seconds. "All the attention - it's so embarrassing."

"I agree." Severus waved his hand a little and the jug settled back on the wooden table. He took one glass and handed it to Harry. His eyes looked intently into Harry's emerald ones.

Again, Harry's cheeks became red. "Thanks," the Gryffindor said softly as he took the glass from Severus' fingers. Severus allowed his fingertips to brush Harry's lightly before pulling back and settling his hand on the edge of the table.

Whispers erupted and Severus thanked the old wizard silently that the stump was in a position that was allowing him to watch the Slytherins. Most of his students looked revolted - the male ones anyway. Most of the girls did not look at all surprised, which was somewhat surprising to Severus.

"Hermione, we have to get Harry back! I'm sure this is some sort of trick!" There was an echo of concerned words from the group of Gryffindors clustered around the Muggle-born witch.

"Shall we dig in?" Severus raised his eyebrow and simply waited for Harry to answer.

The raven-haired young wizard fidgeted nervously and then Harry cleared his throat. "After you."

Severus gazed at his lover with amused eyes and took the first bite of breakfast.

"Oh my god. I do not believe - this must be a trick." Severus identified that as the voice belonging to Susan Bones.

However, it was as though Severus' first bite had sent the lovers into a realm where just the two of them existed, and that the murmurs going on around them were notes of music. Severus' eyes locked with Harry's for a minute before they began to eat.

After a while, his lover started to eat as well. They spoke not with words, but with gazes. It was Harry's way after all, of telling him things that he needed to know, like telling him he had scrambled eggs on his lower lip by grinning widely and waggling his eyebrows. Severus smiled as he took the napkin to dab at his mouth.

He also learned that Harry loved scones, and he watched unblinkingly as his lover savored the richness of the cake slowly. Then Harry paused and gave him an inquisitive look. It prompted Severus to reach out and take one for himself.

Finally, they finished their meal and continued to stare into each other's eyes.

As the empty plates and glasses vanished with a pop, it brought them back to reality.

Severus blinked and took in the stumped expressions of Ravenclaws and Slytherins alike.

"Perhaps, one day, I shall cook for you," Severus said as his eyes slowly drifted back to his Harry.

Harry's lips curved into a shy smile. "You would do that for me?"

Severus only smiled in response. The clock struck and he turned his face in the direction of the sound.

"Time for me to go to my class," Harry said softly.

Severus nodded.

"Thank you for joining me."

"It's my pleasure, Mister Potter."

"No doubt, Professor."

"I think I'm going to throw up."

Severus ignored the comment, and so did Harry.

"So ... I'll see you later?"

"I can confirm it."

"Have a good day teaching, Professor."

"I am looking forward to it."

Harry's cheeks turned slightly red and they contemplated each other's expressions.

"I have to go and get my bag," Harry said with great reluctance.

"I will see you later, Mister Potter." Severus stood up and Harry followed his example. He stepped closer to Harry and leaned in slightly to whisper in the Gryffindor's ear, "I'll give you detention if I have to."

"I don't think you have to go that far," Harry muttered. "I'll see you later for dinner. Will that be okay?"

Severus smiled again and watched as Harry left the Great Hall. Although he was a little preoccupied with the thoughts of his lover, he was still aware of the Defense professor's approach.

"That went on quite smoothly. Congratulations," Lupin said casually. "Keep up the good work, Severus." Soft, golden eyes appraised the Potions Master quite solemnly. "I hope the love you have for each other will continue to burn no matter what." Then Lupin continued in a very low voice that only Severus heard what he had to say. "You will not hear me complain because I can see what has changed. And I am happy, because you are allowing Harry to become who he wants to be. If you can keep on making him smile like that..." A ghost of a smile touched the werewolf's lips before he turned to leave.

Although it was invisible and certainly not tangible, Severus thought he could hear something break into pieces. He turned to look at Harry's friends and smirked. He understood what the crashing meant - Weasley looked stunned, probably shocked by Lupin's approval.

In a flurry of dark, sable robes, Severus turned and began his walk back to his dungeons. His challenge had just about begun. However, as he entered his office and contemplated about his teaching plans for the day, he knew that he should expand on Dumbledore's idea. This was a way for him to show that he cared for Harry after all. Absently, Severus nodded to himself. He could not wait to have his second date.

-oOoxoOo-

On To Part Two