Title: Severus Snape Unveiled

Author: Nile Reina

Pairings: SS?

Category: Mystery, Romance, Angst/Drama

Rating: T

Summary: Everyone's known Severus Snape to be a cold, unfeeling bastard to all but his Slytherins...But during a 14 day Lover's Courtship someone decides to prove everyone wrong. Each day more of Severus' human side emerges, unsettling the Professor. And each day the question remains, Who is this person?

Archive: FFN and Unique Realities

Warnings/Disclaimirs: Not mine, except the part about Etheral Elves and Demi-magic...Everything HP belongs to J.K. Rowling...Implied M/M and M/F pairings...Implied mentions of torture and situations

Author Notes: Timeline takes place about a few months after Voldemort's destruction...Some characters may be a bit out of characterization...Not compliant with the book series, except for the mention of Sirius Black's passing

Key Code:

'Blah'-- Thoughts/emphasis

'Blah'-- Written letters

Blah-- Parseltongue

Prologue

"And just what do you think you're doing!" Several figures froze at the authoritative female voice.

"Uh, nothing harmful, really!"

"Oh, really! And here it looked like you were about to prank a professor."

"Ah, come on, 'Mione. Snape deserves it!"

Hermione Granger turned narrowed eyes on the owner of the whiny voice, her boyfriendRonald Weasley. She angrily tossed aside wavy locks of brownish hair over one shoulder. As Head Girl of their last year at Hogwarts, and desperately trying to prove she was more than just a Muggle-born witch with book smarts, she took her responsibilitiesseriously, determined to be fair to everyone within the stone halls. "Ronald, Fred, and George Weasley! You will not go through with this! You have no respect for any of your Professors! This could seriously hurt him!"

The three redheaded Weasley brothers snorted, desperate to hide their laughterat the simmering brunette. Ron tried to ease her growing anger, attempting to convince her that it was the best thing to do, "But, 'Mione! He has no heart; heenjoys tormenting everyone, even you and Harry! It's high time someone got the best of him, knockedhim down off that bloody high pegall Slytherins think they belong on."

"OH!" She stormed away, no longer caring. There was nothing she could do or say that would change any of their minds. 'Fine! If that's how Ronald wants to play, then I'll let Professor Snape dig his grave!'

Ron sighed in relief as hisblue eyes watched his girlfriend's angrily swaying hips as she stalked away. "Thanks, mates."

Twin smirks greeted his words "No problem, little brother Ronniekins." Ron flinched and glared at the twins. "We always lend a hand to anyone for the best pranks. Especially for this holiday and thisparticular suspect. So, what were we doing before we were so rudely interrupted?"

Ron turnedhalf his mind towards the plans they had come up with. In the other half, his thoughts spiraled away. He had grown tired of Snape's constant barbs and eagerness to punish everyone who wasn't Slytherin. One would have thought since the end of Voldemort's reign almost three months ago that Snape would have dropped the act. But no, the so-called Death Eater-turned-Order-Spy had becomeeven colder.

In retaliation for all the embarrassmentsand rudeness that Snape had caused the Gryffindors, as well as the other Houses, Ron haddecided it was time Snape felt the same humiliationas everyone else. It would require a lot of planning. And planhe did.

With only a couple days before the starting of the Lover's Courtship, Ron had pleadedthat his twin brothers would meet him in the Gryffindor Common Room that weekend. They were the only ones he knew who would help carry out his plans of pranking Snape, the same man they had tried to get every year while they had been in school. But no one had been able to get the better of Snape, at least not since his time in school,according to past stories of Sirius Black.

But with a purpose of their own, a lone figure slipped quietlyinto the Headmaster's office. Inside, awaiting and preening upon his own perch, sat the fieryred and gold Phoenix, Fawkes. He gave a soft trill of acknowledgement to his visitor.

A lone hand reached out to stroke the soft feathers, while the other, holding a wand, carefully wovea magical pattern around one of Fawkes' legs. "I'm entrusting these to your care, Fawkes. The letter will stay attachedto your leg, invisible until the Courtship begins. I'll leave the tiny box suspended on your perch for you to easily grab. I hope they'll ease what pain the twins and Ron will create."

Fawkes gave a second soft trill, comforting the other occupant. He knew his visitor cared very much about what was going to happen to the Professor. Those surrounding the young redheaded wizard also knew the boy was planning something, though the question was, what?

Day 1A

Monday morning came too quickly for Severus Snape. He gripedand sneered throughout the day, mostly in the direction of the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. All morning he had to face the sickening colors of pale pink, bright red, and blinding white. All morning his ears ached from the pathetic wailing ofthe charmed so-called love songs Albus had planted around the school, thankfully leaving the dungeons alone. 'Thank Salazar for small favors. I would have poisoned the man's lemon drops if he had touched my dungeons.'

And things would only get worse, this he knew. For Albus had mentioned at the weekend staff meetingthat the children would be excited. That he planned to announce the reintroductionof an old age tradition of the Wizarding World, once abandoned because of dark times, the Lover's Courtship. For fourteen days, Severus would be forced to watch the intolerable students grow sickeningly sweet over each other by sending horrific gifts to display their love and affection, all the while remaining anonymous. And on the fourteenth day, those lovers would boldly state their identitiesto the ones they loved.

By lunch time, a sour feeling developed in the pit of his stomach. He kept his eyes fixed on his plate, only to raise them in freezing glares to others. He belatedly noticed that two students had not arrived for dinner, theHead Boy and Girl. His mind belatedly forced forward the factthat they had been called to the Headmaster's office for some reason.

He didn't like thinking about why that fact had suddenly crossed his mind, not when the ceiling exploded with the flapping of wings. He scowled as each delivery was made. And his scowl grew even more when a lone, zippy owl flapped about his head, struggling with the slightly larger than normal parchment attachedto its leg.

Before he could grab the owl and destroy its package, a zap of light caused the twine cordto fall away. A screechy, disgustingly sappy voice, obviously trying to be seductive,wailed out a very familiar Valentine tune, butwith different rhymes and much longer.

Onyx eyes flared in absolute disgust and anger as the voice kept on, not only insulting him, but trying to glean if he wished to mate. His temper flared as the voice did all it could to cause three tables full of studentsto collapsewith laughter. Only a small part cherished the fact that his House seemingly began to plot the revenge of a lifetime.

Deputy Headmistress, Transfiguration Professor, and Head of Gryffindor House Minerva McGonagall let loose a stream of curses, some he never even heard before. He blinked, anger suddenly gone, as she kept oncursing. He never thought Minerva capable of sayinghalf those things, let alone wouldeven dare to use them. 'I wonder where she learned those words.Perhaps that rumor of her having an unruly Scottish and Irish bloodline is true.'

The prim looking witch jumped to her feet, not even bothering to cast a spell to raise her voice. Her anger did just fine on its own. "RONALD WEASLEY! THAT WILL BE TWO MONTHS OF DETENTION AND THE LOSS OFEVERY HOUSE POINT! I WILL BE WRITING YOUR MOTHER OF YOUR ANTICS! NOW MARCH TO MY OFFICE THIS INSTANT, YOUNG MAN!"

No one took noticed of the recent arrival of the Head Boy and Girl, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. But no one could miss the sudden slap Hermione rapidly delivered. Her eyes blazedwith fury. Harry stepped back in hopes he wasn't next as she managed an excellent impression of a parselmouth, hissing, "I hope your mother flays you alive, Ronald Weasley. Because if she doesn't I will."

With those words, Hermione turned away. She could not believe her boyfriend, her boyfriend, would dare do something so horrible. They lost every point possible in only day! 'Oh! How could he do that!' And with one glance at her entire House, she noticed, even in her fury, that every Gryffindor, from First Year to Seventh Year were no longer laughing out loud and were quite obviously upset at the loss of points. There was no way they could win the House Cup. They bore deadly gazes at the flushed redhead as they also realized that even if they tried gaining the points back and/or winning every Quidditch match they still wouldn't catch up.

Day 1B

Some students were shocked at the Head Girl's loss of temper while others couldn't hold back their laughter, especially the Slytherins, who now knew their next victim to avenge their Head of House.

But all thought processes came to a jarring halt when a very familiar song broke through the Great Hall. In all his fiery glory glided Fawkes. He soared about the room, not once but twice before coming to a gentle stop before a fuming Severus Snape. In his beak he held a plain, brown, paper wrapped box tightly and on one leg, whichhe dutifully held out, was a rolled parchment.

Albus turned twinkling blue eyes upon his trembling Potions Master, a bright, carefree smile upon his face, "I don't think Fawkes would cause you more harm, Severus. Not many people have his trust, let alone his cooperation as a messenger."

Severus gave a tight nod. That eased his anger, just slightly. It was true though, not many of the allies of the Light had been able to use Fawkes' traveling gifts let alone gain his full trust.

But it didn't stop his angry tremblingas he lifted a pale hand to the outstretched leg. The minutehe broke the glittering emerald, silver tongued, serpent seal, the letter unrolled itself, gave a small shake and read itself out loud with a disembodied deep voice. "To Severus Snape, a delightful Potions Professor,

I imagined the scowl you would have when the last present came your way. I believe you dealt with it beautifully as you always do. But maybe, just maybe, this will ease the tension clouding those dark-clad shoulders of yours. But do be careful when Fawkes allows the gift to fall, it resizes to your signature only."

Fawkes carefully allowed the box to fall from his clamped beak to outstretched fingers. Severus waited for the magic to expand. His patience was rewardedwhen the box opened on its own to reveal the wonders inside.

One by one he pulled out custom made potions utensils. Each wasengraved with his name in elaborate onyx letters upon marble, almost silver in color. Just with a glance he knew someone hadspent a pretty Galleon to be sure he had the best. 'And just how did they know I was in need ofnew utensils?' He wouldn't have needed new ones if Longbottom hadn't destroyed them a few months back.

He turned to the man sitting on his other side, the same man he had once forced to quit, Remus Lupin. He could hear the telltale sniffing, "Find anything?"

"No scent. Someone obviously masked it very well."

In a daze, Severus walked out of the Great Hall and slipped further into his persona as a black, cold-hearted Slytherin Head of House. All he could think was, 'Why would someone court him? Was it another prank? Why?' A tiny bit of hope lifted his spirit until he forced it back into the dark well it resided in; he refused to let his already broken and bruised heart be further torn.

His Slytherins kept a carefully eye out for those who would dare mock their Head of House. Ever since the final battle, they had grown very close to each other. The few children of Death Eatershad been called to be Marked early, despite their age. But in a sudden revolt, each one refused to bow to the Dark Lord, wanting nothing to do with him. They were the ones to leap before their tortured Head of House, the ones to delay the probable. That delay hadnot only saved Severus' life, and possibly their own, but it hadallowed Harry Potter to suddenly appear with an army of Order Members to destroy Voldemort forever.

Day 2

But the courtship of Severus Snape continued into the next day. By noon, Fawkesonce again gracefully glided into the Great Hall before landing in front of a distant Professor.

Again, the letter unfolded itself to read, "To a delightful enigma of a Professor,

Another day, Severus. Again watch out for the resizing of the box as it falls into your grasp. I believe they will come in handy, very handy. Do not worry yourself over pointless thoughts. One thing you can be sure of, it's not a hoax. It's quite uncanny to not see the Snape we are used to everyday."

Again there was nothing identifiable. He was beginning to wonder who it could be, how they managedsuch a feat. But curiosity overrode suspicions. Carefully, he lifted the lid on his own, peering within. Onyx eyes widened in surprise. He was thankful for magic, for within the magically enlarged space laid separate cubicles of very rare, very expensive, ingredients.

No 'Light' apothecary would sell to him any of these items, not believing he was a Spy during the war. Originally, they had been properly threatened by Albus Dumbledore but soon overcame that fear by launching small campaigns to keep Severus out of their stores. And those in Knockturn Alley asked for more than he could afford at times. Even Albus was having a hard time trying to acquire such items.

And for a second time he wondered just who his 'suitor' was. 'How do they know what I'm in need of? Only Albus, and the few staff members he opted to tell, knew I was in need of utensils and ingredients.' Once Albus had begun to garner trouble for acquiring the things Severus needed, he began to have a select few of the Professors to hunt down such items, even going as far as owling overseas for help.

The Ministry wasn't much help in matters either. They simply didn't care or desired to see Severus down on his luck. And because of that attitude, Albus began a long campaign to see the few upstarts in the Ministry take a nose-dive, starting with Minister Cornelius Fudge. 'How that man stayed Minister with the public knowing he had reports of Voldemort's return years ago is beyond even me.'

But the public at first simply didn't care much, ignoringsuch calls about their Minister. At least until Golden Boy Harry Potter began dropping hints and acquiring interviews with select reporters. He made such a good actor that the public was beginning to cry out aboutinjustice in various forms, pushing Ministry defences to theirlimits and beyond.

Day 3

The Third day found Fawkes dropping a quill made from one of his feathers onto Severus' plate. Onyx eyes blinked in confusion to see a simplequill with emerald fluid bubbling within the point. But once his fingertips just barely brushedthe feather, a sultry feminine voice cooed a very familiar, very soothing, lullaby.

He hadn't heard that voice or song in years! He knew that voice: 'MUM!' Tears threatened to fall but only his persona as a coldly composed wizard kept them in check, angering his Slytherins.Severus didn't need to look at his Slytherins to know they disliked the fact someone was clearly trying to upset their Head of House. Every Slytherin, whether new or old, prided themselves on being in absolute control of their emotions, facial expressions, even their aloof, calm attitudes.

"Your third day, my dear Severus,

I know of your passion, your love. You desire and live for Potions. You thrived for what they could do for those around you, distancing your precious thoughts. But has anyone thought of what the child within you wanted? What the man behind the mask desires so frequently? But I have learned, I have watched. I can only hope this will ease some of the painfully lonely nights."

Severus peered through lanky clumps of dark hair towards his Slytherins. He could see the calculating fury behind composed masks. He knew they would try to avenge the pain he was suffering, knowing he hated to be exposed in such a way.

"Severus?"

The onyx-eyedman said nothing, allowing the soft concern to flow through him. He merely swept away in billowing robes from the Great Hall, all eyes pinned on his figure, whispers and rumors flying with such speed.

But another watched with immenseconcealed concern and worry. Thoughts whirled in rapid pace, wondering how to ease what they had caused that day, wondering how to make the Fourth day better.

Severus wanted his 'suitor' to stop if they planned on destroying him in full view of those who hated him. All his students would thrive on adding insult to his injury, even making the wounds worse with their petty words and actions. If this would happen, he would break in a way that none of the Death Eaters had been able to accomplish.

"Professor?"

He whirled to face several of his Seventh Year Slytherins, mentally cursing the fact that his courting gift had unbalanced him. "I'm fine, Draco." His words remained soft for their sake.

"We know, Sir."

"Thank you."

"SSSHH! Someone's coming!" The few Slytherins immediately melted into the shadows of their dungeon. They waited for the approaching footsteps to come closer and to pass as they held their breaths.

"You promised, Harry!"

Harry Potter sighed in frustration as he stopped just inches in front of the hiding Slytherins, "I know."

"You said you would tell us, Harry."

"I know, 'Mione. I just can't say when. I promised the Headmaster."

"But, Harry!"

"Let it be, Ron! We'll be late for class."

Ron Weasley snorted, careless in his actions and chosenwords. "Who cares? It's only Snape's class. We're always late, always losing points. Although, today if we get there early enough to see..."

Ron's words were suddenly cut off as his best friends turned on him, dropping their books in disarray. Harry immediately pinned the taller redhead against the nearest wall, just missing Draco's arm in the shadows beside them, with his arm pressing into the pale throat. Hermione Granger whirled about, flinging out her wand arm, wand in hand and sparking in her fury. "Leave him be, Ronald Weasley!"

Her poisonous words were followed by Harry's low hissing, "I'd hate to be the one to explain to Professor McGonagall as to why Gryffindor is suddenly short one Keeper and Quidditch Captain."

Both Gryffindors had tried for months to get Ron to see reason. They've tried everything from text-book definitions, Hermione style, to reasoning, Harry style. And nothing seemed to work. Ron just couldn't seem to let go of past grudges, especially when said grudges still floated about in the Weasley family.

Harry and Hermione had grown to respect the once suspected Slytherins. They had slowly grown to realize that the Wizarding World only lived in a black and white world. Both had also realized no one was willing to see the shades of grey.

They saw those shades, wondering. They took their findings to their friends, especially Ron. Trying to explain just because some were evil didn't mean all were. They even tried using Peter Pettigrew as an obvious example that Gryffindor wasn't as perfect as many thought. And to their ultimate surprise, no one really seemed to listen. Those who didn't seem to listen still fell back on past grudges, never desiring to let them go. And Ronald Weasley was one of them, despite how much Hermione and Harry cared for him, trying to use such love to put power behind their reasonings.

Ron's face began to turn colors from lack of oxygen as he sputtered, bringing his best friend and girlfriend's minds back to reality, "Why..why do you suddenly care?"

Emerald eyes flared dangerously, "'Mione and I have learned to respect Professor Snape and his Slytherins. We always knew what they were capable of we just didn't realize it until recently."

"Keep it up, Ronald. Just try me and I will feed you to the Den of Snakes myself."

With that, Ron was dropped to the ground, blue eyes wide as they watched the calm steps of his retreating friends. Seconds later he scrambled to follow, terrified to be alone in the dungeons after that.

The hiding Slytherins could only stare at the retreating Golden Trio in shock attheir defense ofSeverus Snape, as well as ofthe Slytherin House.

Day 4

On the fourth day Severus was surprised when his noterefused to read itselfaloud but simply unfolded itself before his eyes, awaiting his reading. 'Forgive my actions yesterday. I had not thought such a gift would further distress you. I know how the past is difficult when brought to the present. Maybe this will delight you into forgetting this one time. Enjoy.'

From the resized large box Severus pulled out a richlycolored green cloak. In the light it seemed to shimmer and glitter with mystery, begging to be worn immediately, daring him to try it. But he had to resist, at least until nightfall when all classes had ended.

In his private office he slipped the hooded cloak about his shoulders, inhaling a musky scent of rich earth. Eager to sweep through the halls of Hogwarts, he set out to flush out students, firstly scaring his own Slytherins.

"Professor!" He swept back the hood.

Delicately reaching out, hands stroked the silky texture, "It's very lovely."

A platinumbrow lifted as a soft voice whispered, "It's soaked in magic!"

Severus blinked, "Magic?"

Draco Malfoy nodded, suddenly envious of his Head of House, "Your admirer seems to have found a cloak that is not on the shelves of any company or shop. It's Demi-magic, made to be invisible and silent as the shadows around you."

"I bet the rival companies would kill to have this type of magic. Though it's very draining for someone to use, even for those full-blooded. Wouldn't be surprised if they ended up in a coma afterwards."

Hours later in the night found Severus curled beneath the soft rays of a bright moon. He knew Demi-magic. Every pureblood knew of Demi-beings. Parents taught their children to respect such beings. Severus just couldn't believe he had missed the aura of power surrounding the cloak. 'How could I have missed this? Mother always made sure I could recognize the aura of Demi-magic. She taught me the signs like every pureblooded mother and father would show their children if such a being chose them.

Demi-magic was the most powerful Dark magic ever, only availableto those of Demonic or Ethereal blood. But such beings were very rare, almost non-existent in their world. 'Which means I lucked out to be the subject of a Demi-blood.'

Those chosen by Demi-bloods were well protected, for like other territorial creatures they were protective. They'd do anything and everything to keep their chosen, and family, from harm.

"Troubles, my boy?"

Severus turned to face a solemn Albus Dumbledore, blue eyes peering over half-moon spectacles. "No, Albus. Just thoughts."

"Ah, yes. Perfect time of night for thinking. You've been through much, my boy."

"ALBUS!" Minerva McGonagall came flying down the corridor, nightcap flying as she ignored the flapping of her night robe and gown. Coming to a jarringhalt, she turned back in the direction she came, "Hurry!"

"Is it..."

She cut him off before Albus could finish, "NOW!"

Confused, Severus could only watch, silently cursing the fact he hadn't followed.

Day 5

'As often as I have watched your hands at their best, I've wondered. I've dreamed. With this gift, my dreams and wondering just might distract me even more than they usually do throughout the day when around you.'

A hot stream of air floated across his throat. He knew without looking that Remus was waiting to see what gift he had receivedthis time. It seemed he would have a slight tradition with Remus always watching over his shoulder, curiosityshining deep within those golden eyes. "Gloves?"

He smirked at the confusion. Tossing one to the curious werewolf, "Feel, Lupin." He kept the second in his hands, fighting to keep the sensual tremble invisible.

"Oh!" Remus couldn't believe the texture. It was soft as silk and satin combined but so flimsy and thin it could easily rip. He swallowed when Severus yanked the slip of cloth from his hands, easily contradicting the material's apparent weakness.

"Not often someone goes to the effort of Demi-magic." Both men turned to the harsh sneering of a very unhappy Minerva McGonagall. Her eyes flashed with pure fury and dislike as her nose wrinkled in disgust.

"Minerva," Albus tried to placate the woman.

She huffed, "No. I'm too worried about the consequences. As should you be." Turning her anger ona bewildered Severus, her lips remained grim and tight, "I do hope it's worth all this when you refuse."

"Minerva. It's all about chances and choices. It's how it's always been."

She whirled on Albus, her voice rising, "I don't care, Albus! That man does not understand, he'll never understand! You know it and I know it."

"Minerva."

"Just don't, Albus. I do hope the both of you are happy with the results. It will fall apart! And it'll be his fault!" She flung a hand in Severus' direction before melting into her animagus form of a stripedtabby cat, fleeing from the Great Hall as concerned blue eyes watched.

Albus sighed heavily as he solemnly leftthe Great Hall in hopes of finding Minerva. He believed, truly, that all chances must be taken. Everyone needed the chance to be happy, to believe there was a chance to be happy. And he also believed that Severus needed that chance more than most.

But then there was that tiny bit deep within his swirling strangeness, a voice sounding ironically likeMinerva. It truly believed she was right. That this could all fall apart. It truly believed Severus would never find that happiness nor chooseit. Over the few days of the Lover's Courtship it had noticed the growing closeness of his two Professors.

Days 6 & 7

"Severus? It's been almost two days. Are you sure you're all right?"

"No." Severus continued staring into the flickering, dying flames of his private fireplace. "They've stopped. But it continued for the others."

"And not for you? You wanted it to continue?" Remus carefully watched his companion closely. Ever since Friday's dinner ended and Saturday's breakfast began, Severus had become quiet. And when the weekend ended without a single gift being revealed, he seemed to have fallen even further.

Severus had tried locking himself in his rooms the entire weekend after lunch on Saturday, with Albus dragging him from thoserooms to the Great Hall to eat. But other than that distraction, noone had been able to force their way inside. No one except Remus Lupin, who had threatened to spend Sunday night's full moon outside his doors, in his dungeons with his Slytherins just around the corner.

And now the same man was forcing Severusto dinner. "I don't know. I haven't been myself."

"We know. Not since you weretaken." Severus had fallen quiet again. He had been taken by his own 'allies,' the Death Eaters, while on his way to refill his cupboards in Diagon Alley. Before his rescue, he and his few Slytherins had faced heavy torture attheir hands, Severus the most since he had been taken long before the Slytherins were asked to join the Death Eaters.

"Dinner?" Without waiting for him to answer, Remus led the solemn male to the Great Hall.

"Glad you could join us, Severus." Severus nodded to Albus and the other Professors.

Seconds after his arrival Fawkes suddenly appeared in a column of flames. Onyx eyes widenedwhen a rolled parchment unraveledbefore his eyes. "My dear Potions Master,

Forgive me. I had quite the weekend setting this up. I did not realize you would take it the wrong way. It wasn't something easily rushed when coming to you. And no one will ever be able to take this back, not even on your death."

Curious, Severus quickly opened the second rolled parchment, eyes widening even further. "Severus?" A concerned Remus brought his scattered thoughts back to reality, causing Severus to blink once in his surprise that he had been thoroughly distracted.

"It's the Deed." He seemed excitedly breathless, confusing the others.

"A deed?" Several others had quietly and confusingly questioned the Potion's Professor.

"Not a deed, the Deed. My great-aunt Sissy's Deed." He glared heavily at those who were coughing unconvincingly to hide their snickers. "Aunt Sissy owned a very isolated cottage, hidden somewhere upon acres of woodland. I usedto visit with my Mother. It was to become mineon her death. But Father gave it away beneath Mother's nose and now it's mine again."

Remus read over the Deed himself, "And according to this, no one can take it back. Not even the Ministry, not unless they plan on losing their magic and leadership."

Swallowing hard, Severus fought back the urgeto cry, to become the little boy given a wondrousgift. And he was able to holdthose tears back, even when Fawkes gently nudged him with his second gift of the day. A small velvet box fell from aclamped beak.

Shaking pale fingers pulled open the velvet top to reveal a small silver key on a tiny diamond chain. "Oh."

"A key?" Remus had blinked when he saw the gift, confused as to why someone would send a key as a courting gift.

"Yes." Severus smiled tightly, reading the second letter, 'I'm sure you recognize this. She wasn't the culprit, never was. I'm simply borrowing her charmed quill. I'd advise keeping this note upon yourself all the time. Much easier to use. Now, the key I have given you is a disguised portkey to a very special place you once loved. Just give the name of the cottage and you'll be there. But I have also keyed it to a very unique place; according to Snape legend it was a very valuable place no one could find. Thank Draco for the transfer since he did trick his father and the Ministry into signing it all over to you."

"Very valuable, Severus?"

"A small cave Aunt Sissy and Mother usedto own. They had hidden a collection of very rare and valuable items there. Aunt Sissy was a Squib, well known to the Muggles as a Light Wiccan." Severus knew Remus was confused, "A Light Wiccan was someone of healing, always helping others, while a Dark Wiccan was the opposite. Something like Dark and Light wizards. Father tried to find the place to retrieve what they put there. Never could. He tried to force Mother to tell but she just laughed. It was the last sound of her voice I heard before she died. He had locked her in their room, never allowed me to even enter the hallway. Wasn't able to see her at the furneal."

"Severus," Remus could smell the despair and anger coming offthe pale man, fighting his impulse to pull the man into his arms.

"Aunt Sissy had died the night before. Mother tried to get the land into my name so no one could take it away, Father stopped that and then sold it the next day. And it's back." With those words, he fled, not caring what the others thought.

Day Eight

Monday morning found a partially calm Severus awaiting Fawkes. Remus had stayed the night as he spilled everything of his past, of Wiccan Meadows. He was, in a way, happy someone was there for him, understanding he needed to break down.

'My lost one,

As much as you'll hate to hear this from others, be thankful for a listening ear and a caring friend. You'll possibly need Remus for some time to come. I can see that. Ever since Day One, but chance and hope was all I had.'

Severus blinked. The vanishing note had been quick, terse, even sad. "Aren't you going to open the box?" Remus had leaned quite intimately close to the other, waiting to see the gift. Golden eyes watched, impatient, as a thick golden ring was pulled from the multi-colored tissues of the red silkbox. He couldn't read the symbols etched upon the surface. "A ring?"

"Not just any ring. The Head of House ring. My Father's ring. But he gave it away. Willed it away."

Both glanced back down to the flowery writing from the day before. 'The Head of House is back with the rightful Heir. You are in complete control of the Snape fortune, lands, homes, and investments. This time only the Goblins of Gringotts will be in control should you hand it over, and be your guides when you desire it.'

Severus couldn't believe it. If he wished it, he never hadto work again. But that wouldn't stop him from enjoying his profession, even if it meant dealing with obnoxious students. "But how did it come back?"

"I don't know. But I do know that this is Ms. Granger's writing. I've checked." That revelation stunned them both. Who could she know so well to allow them to use her quill? She wouldn't even let her own two best friendsuse anything of hers, not even a tiny look at her textbooks during class.

And if they found out who she would have allowed to borrow her things, then maybe they havea tiny clue as to who Severus' suitor could be.

Day 9

And it was Ms. Granger's handwriting for the Ninth Day, 'I know you know who I am this time. Everyone knows my handwriting, especially since I've charmed all my quills. But I am only doing this as a favor for your suitor Professor. That is all. And because today, your suitor is a bit too drained to even hold a quill without shaking. Hearing that narrowed down a few of the suspects. Then again Severus remembered hearing Remus, Filius, and two students had found themselves within the confines of the Hospital Wing following a class participationwith a Boggartand a one-sided duel between the Golden Trio. 'I was told to tell you 'Forgive me for this but you needed to know.''

A slim dark blue journal was placed carefully into his hands by a gentle phoenix. Trembling fingers flipped through the tiny cursive that had been his Mother's. But it was the very last entry that interested him, 'To my son, The past few weeks you have seen me ill. Sissy as well. But despite the hurting and pain from your Father we refused to stop, knowing what could happen. We are drained and weak now. Sissy died last night. I felt the bond we had shared break. But we had just finished warding Wiccan Meadows, hiding what THEY search for, giving it to the rightful owner no matter who buys it. And my last strength was given to the ring. You know which ring. It will find you. Only you are the rightful Heir, the only truly born of HIS and HIS WIFE'S blood. It will only answer to your magical signature. I love you my son.'

"Professor?" Draco'svoice had pulled his Head of House's attention back to the present. The Slytherins had been quite concerned for him.

"SSSHH! Someone's coming again!"

"Harry? You sure you're okay? Professor Lupin said that he couldn't help much since the full moon just ended last night." The small group of Slytherins watched a very concerned Head Girl, Hermione Granger, carry two bags as she focused on the heavily limping figure at her side.

Head Boy Harry Potter grinned tiredly, "Yes, 'Mione. Just glad Professor Flitwick had chosen that class to merge the two subjects together."

"You sure? It looked like it drained you."

"Dementors, 'Mione. Professor Lupin knew I was the only one who feared them. Didn't work much considering Ron."

"OH! That Ronald Weasley! How dare he try to duel us! I can't believe he actually thought I was leaving him for a Slytherin! Honestly! If I didn't love him so much." Hermione couldn't believe that Ron allowed his famous temper to explode once again, just because she and Harry had defended the Slytherins, more than once, against their Housemates teasing Professor Snape.

Harry chuckled, "I know." He suddenly stopped, catching his balance against the wall, once again barely missing a hidden Draco Malfoy. His voice dropped to a whisper as emerald eyes peered about, "Did you know they're still looking for him?"

Hermione giggled, "I know. Professor McGonagall was furious when she realized Ron was missing from the fight, actually believing he fled the scene."

Harry suddenly pulled a wriggling, reddish furry figure from his robes. "He looks cute as a Weasel." Then his brow wrinkled, "You sure you don't know the reversalspell?"

Sheepishly, "Sorry! Sorry, I swear! I didn't know that it wasn't supposed to beused on humans! He made me so mad when he interrupted me while I was reading! It seemed like a good idea at the time." Then shewhined, "But it did mention a potion."

"There goes our weekend."

"You don't think Professors McGonagall and Snape are going to skin us?"

"Nah, we just lost the race. Though it might be worth it if the Slytherins knew." Both snickered, "They did leave the Hall early."

"Well, come on! I'm sure Malfoy will recognize the red coloring immediately!"

They waited until the two Gryffindors vanished. "Does anyone know what's going on with them?" No one could answer Severus, or possibly didn't want to.

Day 10

By the tenth day, Severus was verycurious. Last night he had been wandering the school grounds beneath his new Demi-cloak whenhe happened to see Minerva leading Potter from the castle to the Dark Forest, all while Albus watched. 'What could be so important that they would willingly let Potter break curfew? Even allowing him to enter the Forest on his own?'

But his musings were interrupted by a burst of flames. "Hello, Fawkes." He briefly glanced over Ms. Granger's writing, seemed to be a frequent occurencesince she was unwilling to help and refused to provide any more clues. 'The holiday's almost here. The time is almost up. But these should last longer than the holiday.'

He was growing familiar with the sudden terseness of the letters, knowing he had done something to cause this but thankful his suitor had not abandoned him. And something wished it wouldn't happen in the future, knowing he would be abandoned by his nameless hopeful lover.

"Basilisk." He knew those scales and eyes from anywhere. But looking closer, "One's so young and the other so old." He knew Remus was listening, "Such ingredients are very rare since it's even rarer to be able to kill one."

Remus blinked, "I'm more curious as to how they were able acquire this since they are expensive."

Severus had wondered the same thing. He had been quite careful since his rescue to keep most of his desires and wants to himself. Especially since Rita Skeeter had dared to spill all she had found out from those he had once went to school with. The world learned of his spying status, of his preference for those of the same sex, and of his desire for the older Malfoy before and during the war.

That spillage had forced him to fear any intimate relationship, though Remus was coming close to breaking that fear. And now with the Lover's Courtship, he wanted to know who could desire him, the real Severus Snape behind the cold persona.

But that someone wasn't ready to tell. They decided to keep watching, eyeing the closeness between the two males, one an ex-spy and hated Death Eater, the other a feared werewolf. They knew the two wouldn't turn the other away. And surprisingly they refused to be in the middle, letting Severus be happy.

Instead they would simply send the once loving gifts to the man as friendly gifts of a mystery friend. And the only gift they would receivein return would be seeing the man break fromthe shell he had retreated intoafter the incident with the Death Eaters.

Day 11

By lunchtime on the Eleventh Day, Severus was quite surprised to see Fawkes drop a thick, dusty volume onto his empty plate. Not a single word spread across the spelled parchment. He almost wondered if his suitor was carefully drifting away, preparing him for a hurtful let-down on the last day.

Closing his heart for that fateful day, he turned his curiosity to the dusty cover, pulling it open, "Merlin."

"What?" Remus looked up from his meal, curious as to why Severus was whispering to himself.

"A book by Merlin. A potions book. It was said to be a myth."

Remus grinned brightly. He loved seeing the passion in his fellow Professor, loved it even more when they were students and he was being tutored by the young Slytherin in Potions. It was the only time he had seen the lonely man so alive. And that passion had always reminded him of his dead lover, Sirius Black.

Sirius had been so alive, despite the long years in Azkaban. And Remus desperately missed the other man, especially on full moon nights. They had been so close and to have the bond suddenly snap with his death almost broke Remus. Severus' snappy wit and sharp tongue had been the one to pull him back from his suicidal temptations, helping him to pull Harryfrom his almost successful suicide attempt that same year, when things seemed to get too much for the young man to handle.

And until he could join his old lover, Remus would be quite satisfied with Severus, someone who had fascinated him since their time as students in Hogwarts.

Severus barely restrainedhis excitement at wanted to try the potions in the book to look up at the solemn werewolf. He brushed one hand against the other man, seeing his thankful smile. Then turned back to the book, saying dismissively, "You can help."

Remus tipped his head, "I would love to."

"I hopeyou're happy, Albus!" Everyone's attention jerked up to see a furious Minerva McGonagall storming from the Head Table as she tossed out, "You don't deserve him, Severus! He should have left you the way you were!"

She had stunned everyone with her outburst. In the silence that followed, Albus hurried after her, "Minerva!"

The woman paused at the doors, "NO! No more. I will continue my duties as promised. He needs the guidance. Did you know he was giving up? Three more days. He'll give that hateful man everything he could desire. And then he'll walk away. Severus should have never had the Courtship. Everything that man touches hurts someone."

"Minerva, please."

"Good day, Albus."

"Sometimes all we have are hopes and dreams. All we can believe in. Some of us give up too soon." Albus' voice was full of sorrow and age. But even with those emotions, Albus still believed in hope.

Day 12

'I found this weeks ago. I believe you will like it.'

In Remus' hands hung a beautifullydetailed necklace in the shape of a slim serpent. The carved scales were a metallic silver. Severus ran a finger over the ruby embedded eyes and golden, forked tongued clasp.

"Beautiful." It wasn't often he was given something of such beauty. And eager to feel its weight againsthis throat, Severus hurriedly slipped it to his warm skin, shuddering at the cool touch.

Remus eyed it appreciativelyas the necklace surrounded the expanseof ivory-likeskin. "Looks very nice, Severus."

"You don't give up."

"If it's what you want." Remus kept the tremble from his voice.

Onyx eyes widened in fear, "You mean that." He could see the truth, that Remus would and could walk away. But it wasn't what he wanted. And Remus could see it in his eyes, running a lone hand across the cool necklace and warm skin. It was a physical touch and being he knew and felt, something his courter couldn't give him.

"Yes."

"But what if I don't want you to give up?"

"I won't." Golden eyes flared in desire, "I promise."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Hey." The speaker only received silence in return. "We tried. But I think he made his choice. We want him happy. And safe. Just as you do."

More silence. Then a soft voice whispered, "He will be. Two more days and I cease."

"I'm sorry." The sentence was filled with sincerity and sorrow.

A dry chuckle, that mighthave hidden a sorrowful sob, "Won't matter anymore. In two days he'll be free of me. No more making him guilty."

"I'm still sorry. Can't you find someone else?" Beneath the questioning tone was a hopeful hint of desire and curiosity.

"No. I can't." The silence seemed to say everything the two were afraid to even try. "Did you know there is nothing nor no one in this world that could change my fate if I'm rejected? My fate, my parentage cannot change its path nor its desires. Did you also know that there is only one person whocould make me stay, should they accept?"

"I know I said it before but I'm sorry. I had really hoped you would stay until we died. It won't be the same. It'll never be the same. No matter what anyone says. We'll all miss you."

A sobbing chuckle broke free, echoed by its companion. "I know."

"Hey." A figure moved closer to the shaking shadow, arms lifting the other into their lap, pressing the sobbing head beneath their chin, "Shhhh. It'll work out fine. Trust me. I've never lied to you."

"I know. I don't want to. But I have no choice."

"Shhh. I'm still here. Others are still here. We couldn't leave you, even if we tried."

The sobbing simply grew louder and longer. Every heartache, every loneliness, every squashed hope, and every broken dream poured from the slim throat into deep harsh sobs. Shoulders shook with the effort to control the brokendam as warm, comforting hands rubbed in slow circles. A soft crooning voice mumbled calming words, trying desperately not to cry themselves at the pain their friend was in.

But in the end, the fiery pain of holding in bottled emotions had to be broken sometime. And together beneath the clear, starry sky and tiny speck of a bright moon sat two entwined figures. To the shadows of the night, to the deepest reachesof the forest, to the depths of the silvery lake, all who could hear cried along.

Day 13

The Thirteenth Day found Severus sitting quite close to Remus, quietly chatting with their heads together. One hand, twined with another, stroked the serpentine necklace about the pale throat.

Fawkes hated to interrupt as he glided into the Great Hall. But instead of waiting, he simply dropped his burden and vanished. Both males blinked in shock, wondering why the gentle phoenix was giving them such a cold shoulder.

Again, Severus received a book and nothing else. "What is it?"

Salazar Slytherin's Journal.

Golden eyes widened, the necklace was glowing faintly emerald. What was more surprising was the fact that Remus couldn't even decipher the strange symbols upon the cover, "Severus?"

Onyx eyes turned to him, "Hm?"

"You do realize you were hissing when reading the cover?"

"Hissing?" Glancing down to the cover, for asplit second he could see the strange symbols and then English. "Parseltongue."

"It's the necklace. It was glowing as you hissed."

"Ah, the gift of serpent tongues. Seemed someone wanted you to try such a rare gift. I believe since that duel you have envied such a gift. But I must wonder, is tomorrow worth the decision you have already made?"

The two Professors could only watch the brightly robed Headmaster walk away. Both wondered at the down-troddenvoice and missing twinkle in the always cheerful wizard. And from afar someone watched, knowing what their final decision would be. It would have to happen. Nothing upon this land could ever keep him here, nothing.

And later alone in the dark, he looked down at the simple gift he had prepared for the last day. He had been so happy when it started. And if he knew the end result he never would have started and made the decision to cease long ago. "It's only dreams, hopes, and chances all must take. And they were all I had since I could remember. And now they are nothing but broken glass locked in the bottom of a dusty trunk. I tried but it seems nothing would ever go my way."

Soft sobbing filled the night air, choked down in a surprised gasp as someone suddenly spoke from behind him. "I'm sorry. I wishyou could stay."

"Could never be. You will be there?" Hope was carefully woven beneath curiosity.

The second figure slid from their hiding spot behind a tall tree, draping their lithe form about the shaking male, "Always. Wish you could just come home again." A trembling hand caressed the last gift, "He'll love it."

The sobbing threatened to grow louder, until muffled by a willing shoulder, "Thank you. Wish it had been you."

"Me too, love. Me too." The comforter had voiced their desire, their wishes in only a few select words.

It seemed someone else wanted the same as the sky rumbled with thunder and cried with chilly rain, soaking the two embracing figures, washing away their saddenedtears and hurting hearts. By this time tomorrow, they both would lock away every dream and hope they had. Their hearts hardened to anyone else. "I wish too, love. I wish too."

Day 14

The school was in an uproar. Today was finally February14th, Valentine's Day, the ending to the Lover's Courtship. Today everyone would learn who their courter was. And that night they would be able to hold their courter close as they danced the night away.

Even Severus was eager to learn, knowing he had already chosen. Patiently, he waited for lunch where he and all the others would receive their answers.

And the answer he received would hurt, 'I know this was the time to reveal myself. But I can't. You've decided. I won't ruin that. You have Remus to help you through. I give you this last gift. A place you just might enjoy seeing and searching through. Such treasures your House's namesake had left behind. By morning things will only be for you and Remus, nothing to interfere. Be happy. It's all I desire.'

Severus looked at the second ring he had been given. He could feel the tingle of magic from it. Then he happened to glance down at Ms. Granger's writing. 'Midnight. Be prepared for the portkey.' A second look at the ring, he could see the same symbols that werein a certain journal, 'Salazar! Chamber of Secrets!'

But by nightfall, Severus mourned the last gift. "I thought I'd find you in the right Tower. You do know that the Dance starts soon. We're the chaperones." Remus had given Severus a few moments to himself until he decided to join the other male.

"I never got a name. Nothing." Severus allowed his voice to remain empty as his mind raced. Thoughts flew together, wondering why he received everything he could have wanted only to lose something as equally important, a possible future with a life-time mate.

"Ssshh! Look!" Severus looked down the werewolf's pointing arm to the ground below. He could see the sneaking group of his Seventh Year Slytherins heading towards the Quidditch Pitch. One glance at his companion had them both racing for the same place.

They seemed to have made it with just a few moments to spare before the group even passed the barriers. "He's leaving?"

"He was given two weeks. He chose to leave since he lost." Draco Malfoy quietly answered his questioning Housemates.

"Just our luck. He finally respects us and then leaves." Pansy pouted, slightly angry that they had finally found someone outside Slytherin that believed in them only to lose them.

"Oh, Draco! I'm sorry." Another sincere voice tried to comfort a sullen Draco.

Dracotearily smiled, "I'm fine."

Millicent Bulstrode shook her head, "I mean it, Draco. He meant a lot to you."

The two Professors followed the small group to see Harry Potter standing before them in the middle of the Quidditch Pitch. What surprised them most was the sparkling silver wings gently flapping in the gentle breeze. "Hello, Draco, Slytherins." His voice seemed to echo lightly, while a bright smile lit up his features.

"Harry." They all politely smiled back.

"Not going to the dance?" Harry tilted his head, curious as to why the most influential wizards and witches would be outside instead of enjoying their last dance of their school career.

"We are. But are you?" Draco stepped closer to the glowing wizard. "Come with us."

"We spent weeks merging my genes, did you know? Of course you did, Draco. You were always there for me when the others couldn't be. It was difficult to work the Demi-magic while merging, weakened me at times."

"Yes, I know. And I'm sorry."

"Harry?" The group tensed, standing protectively around Harry, almost shielding him from the two older wizards.

"Hello, Remus, Snape." Harry forced his voice to remain calming.

"We'll let you be." Draco nodded to his fellow Slytherins as they melted back into the shadows around them.

"I'll wait for you in the morning, Draco." Harry then turned from the vanishing group to his dead Godfather's lover, "Remus."

"What's going on, Harry?" Remus had never known any of the Potters to have such wings.

"Mum had a sleeping gene that awoke in me. I'm an Ethereal Elf. And I've been told that I must come home, my rightful home. I leave in the morning."

Severus swallowed as Remus tried to convince his adopted godson, "Please, stay, Harry. I want you to stay."

"Did you know I had visions the entire war? Tommy did. He tried to torture me through them, thinking I would go insane or kill myself. Until he made a mistake. We had just learned this year what I was when the Elders had visited me. ThenTommy tried to torture Severus, as well as the Slytherins that had refused to be Death Eaters and whotried to protect Severus from more torture. I snapped. An Ethereal Elf always knows where to locate their chosen. I used it to find my way to Tommy. A power he knew not." Harry wouldn't look at his two Professors while explaining, he felt that he would lose control should he continue to stare at what he could never have.

Remus suddenly understood. "You were protective of Severus, as I had been of Sirius. You went to his aid. It was you."

A musical voice interrupted them. "It is time, Harry."

Epilogue

"He is the one." Harry simply pointed to Severus as the two older males stared at the arriving winged Elves.

"Do you wish to keep one ofour lost children?" One Elf stepped forward, patiently waiting for an answer.

"What would happen if he already decided to leave and I had already decided to chose someone else?" Severus had a feeling he knew the answer. But he also knew that he would need to hear it verbally to believe its truth.

"He would come home. To learn, to grow, to live, to be." Another Elf simply stated the facts, no hesitation nor pausing. Not even betraying a hint of emotion.

"And if he stayed?" 'If he stayed he would suffer from seeing my choice everyday.' Severus knew what it was like to suffer from choices already decided. Many had made choices for him most of his life. He couldn't do that to Harry, even if the young man was once the bane of his life.

Sadness radiated from Harry, "I can never go home until the death of my chosen. Even then it's possible I couldn't."

Another Elder stepped forth, "When an untrained Ethereal Elf lives in the mortal world, they lose thesense of who they are. Mortal life slowly consumes them, even after their mate's death. Soon death kills them too early."

Severus wasn't too happy with that explanation. Remus sensed it, standing closer to the Potions Professor. And Harry had already turned to face the Elders, knowing what would be done. "It is how our world survives within mortal times, has for centuries before us. And when one comes home, their chosen mate and those they befriended lives may have ended by the end of their training."

With an echoing pained cry, Harry leapt to the sky, rising high. He fled without another sound to the shadows deep within the Forbidden Forest. He never looked back to see the saddened Professors or knowing Elders.

"He asked for a last goodbye at dawn's early light. We shall return then." The Elders vanished without another word, knowing they would collect their lost child by dawn's light.

"I can't keep him, Remus. I can't." Severus was desperate to keep his walls in place. He never had lost control, not after the loss of his Mother.

"And that's why Professor McGonagall said what she did. You didn't deserve him. It wasn't fair that you had to have his heart. I was the one that knew him. I was the one there when he cried. I was the one he confided in when Black died. I was the one to comfort him each day. Me!"

"Draco?" But the blond refused to listen. He raced from their comfort, racing from the pain he felt. Behind him collapsed an overwhelmed Severus Snape, finally breaking down as everything came to him at once.

----------------------------------------------------------------

The first hint of dawn found all of Hogwarts standing before the school. The Headmaster had already revealed Harry Potter's true heritage, mentioning thatthose who wanted to say goodbye must be at the school entrance by dawn. That had ruined the long dance for many.

"Dawn's light has arrived. Our lost child?"

"Here." A scratched and bloody Harry Potter limped from the Forest. "My left wing is broken. Run-in with a few inhabitants."

"Our Healers will help once we return. Come."

"POTTER!" A panting blond came racing from the opposite side of the castle.

"Draco."

A sheepish grin passed over the flushed features, "Sorry I'm late. I made a promise and I meant to keep it." The blond had refused to be like his Head of House, hiding away in his rooms with his chosen lover.

"Thank you." Emerald eyes peered over all who had turned out, "For everything."

"I wish, love. I wish." The blond had to repeat his words. Harry smiled grimly at the teary gray eyes.

"I know." He then turned to the Elders, "I'm ready."

One Elder smiled softly, "Who remains for the blond?"

Draco blinked, "Uh?"

A second Elder yanked the blond close, "We leave."

"But..but.."

Harry turned to his close friend, the one who asked for his heart but kept only his soul. Tears glimmered in emerald, "You wished, my friend. You wished." He then turned his gaze to a dreary castle, "Goodbye, Remus, Severus. Goodbye, Siri."

They vanished in a flash of bright sparkles and Remus knew his pack was gone. Even with a new mate, he lost everyone. "He's gone. They're all gone."