A/N- Well, we're here; the last chapter is upon us...And, yes, I have also updated The Tension and The Spark. Go on, tell me you love me...((Wink))
"Severus," Harry grinned a few days later, brandishing an all-too-familiar magazine. "Quibbler's here."
The older wizard entered the room, his daughter nestled safely in the crook of one arm. "This should be interesting." He drawled, exchanging the infant for the publication. It was clear that he was still sceptical. Harry rolled his eyes.
"I have every faith that she'll have done a good job."
Snape sighed. "Typical Gryffindor." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "You're far too trusting."
Harry chose to ignore the comment. Instead he pulled a face at his daughter, and told her that her Daddy was a mean, mean man.
Shaking his head, Severus turned his attention to Skeeter's drivel, hoping that his partner's plan might actually work.
'Abomination In Wizarding World: True Happiness Condemned'
Severus suppressed a smirk. Trust the Skeeter woman to be so bloody melodramatic! Still, when directed at the mindless drones that 'condemned' their relationship, this blatant approach might actually work.
With an exaggerated roll of his eyes, he summoned a cup of Earl Grey, took a sip, then set about reading the rest of the article.
'The Wizarding World has been in an uproar over the news that two of our prominent war heroes, Harry Potter and Severus Snape, have been romantically involved for some time. Further information concerning the existence of a child has increased the influx of howlers upon the couple and also upon Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts. But, before we continue to denounce these men, we simply must ask ourselves whether this communal sense of outrage is justified, or whether society is out of line. Harry Potter, victim of our judgement, is inclined to reply with the latter.
'"It hurts, actually." Harry admits, casting his loving gaze towards his daughter. "People are making all these accusations without knowing the full story. All I ask is that they hear the truth first, before criticising my only family."
'Tears form in the young man's eyes; a haunting reminder of the pain he has already suffered at the hands of our society gone-wrong.
''And just what is the truth?', one asks, having given the once-saviour of the Wizarding community time to collect himself. The young man sighs - he is not proud of his actions, but is responsible enough to admit to them.
'And so begins his tale...'
Severus shook his head. Skeeter really was a bit much...
Reading on, he was pleasantly surprised to find that Harry's account of their daughter's conception and their subsequent relationship was just as they had decided it would be: informative and honest, without going so far as to incriminate Draco, as well as emotive and heartfelt, without appearing desperate or over the top.
All in all, it seemed that Skeeter had done her job rather well. Certainly, she'd done so with all the subtlety of a stampeding herd of hippogriff, but it had been effective nonetheless.
The concluding paragraphs were most definitely the icing on the cake.
'After hearing such a heart-wrenching admission from the boy we once called our saviour, can we really be so cruel as to judge him? Can we really sink so low as to condemn his happiness, especially when the man he loves, and who so clearly reciprocates the feelings, is nothing more than an innocent in this entire debacle? This reporter thinks not.
'We at The Quibbler support Misters Potter and Snape, and wish them all the best for the future. We can only hope that others can learn to set aside their prejudices also, so that our children can grow up in a supportive and safe environment.'
Severus set the magazine aside. "It seems, Mr. Potter, that your foolish plan may just work."
Not wanting to appear childish, Harry bit back the urge to say 'I told you so', and merely smirked.
"Oi, Potter, good job with the Quibbler piece."
Harry looked up from his position on the grass at the side of the lake and smiled warmly at his new companion. "Thanks Malfoy," he replied, patting the ground at his side. "Even Severus was impressed." He couldn't help but glow with pride at the comment. "And we've been flooded with owls of apology...I've even received a few proposals for marriage, which is absurd, I know, but oddly comforting."
The Slytherin chuckled and settled down beside the other boy, lounging out in the sun, resting on one arm. "And what did the Professor think of them?"
Harry felt his cheeks redden at the playful taunt. "He pointedly ignored them, of course..." A rogue grin spread across his lips, "But I caught him burning them later on, when he thought I was asleep."
"Interesting..." Draco smirked. A hissing to his left caught his attention, and he forgot all about his plans to continue teasing the Gryffindor about his Head of House. "Hello Snake," he said, reaching out a hand to stroke her scales. "Been a while since I've seen you out and about. I was beginning to think Snape had used you in a potion or three." Naturally he knew she couldn't understand him, but he couldn't help talking to her. He truly adored serpents; they'd always fascinated him, even as a small child. And Harry's snake really was a remarkable specimen...
"Harry, your wisssszard acquaintanssssce realisssssssessss that I cannot truly underssssstand hissss ramblingsssss, doessss he not?" Snake was observing Draco with something akin to exasperation.
Harry laughed. "I'm sure he does, Snake. He just likes you. A lot."
She nodded. It really was rather pleasant to be admired rather than feared. "I ssssupposssse it could be worsssse..."
"Of course." Harry smiled and reached out his arm, allowing her to slither up it and settle around his neck. "He did make a valid point, though..." He said, stroking her casually.
Snake tilted her head to the side. "Indeed?"
"And what, pray tell, wassss thissss valid point?"
Harry grinned; he could still see similarities between his snake and his Potions Master-come-lover. "Only that you haven't been out and about very much of late..."
"I've felt no need to accompany you when your mate hasss been in the vissscinity." She almost huffed, which was extremely amusing to Harry, as it wasn't very often that one saw a snake get 'huffy'. "And I have had matterssss of my own to addressssss."
This admission immediately piqued Harry's interest. After all, what 'matters' could a bloody snake have to deal with?
"Really?" He asked. "Such as?"
Not impressed with her charge's tone, Snake slid back down his arm and shot him a contemptuous glare. "I no longer pry into your private matterssss, I assssk that you no longer pry into mine."
"Oh, Snake, I didn't mean to pry...I was just interested..." Harry was genuinely apologetic. He reached out to stroke her tail lovingly. "You're a good friend and I care about you very much, you see. But, even after all this time, I feel as though I know nothing about you..."
Snake calmed herself at his words. "I am ssssssorry, Harry. Thisssss 'friendship' you ssso often ssssspeak of issss new to me."
On the sidelines, Draco watched the interaction in awe. How he envied the Gryffindor's ability to speak the language of the serpents! Surely there must be a way to learn it himself!
Snake, meanwhile, was weighing up her options. Should she disclose her secret business with Harry and risk that he'd abuse her trust, or should she stick by her original plan and keep her private matters just that; 'private'?
"I will show you when the time issss right, Harry…" She eventually added. "At thisss moment, I am not yet prepared."
Harry nodded in response; extremely curious as to what secrets his snake was keeping from him. "I understand," he told her, earnestly. "Just don't think you have to hide things from me, okay?" he gave her tail a final pat. "If there's anything I can help with, let me know."
Snake flickered her forked tongue in appreciation. "Of courssssce, Harry." And as suddenly as she'd arrived, she left, weaving herself through the grass with speed and grace, towards the forbidden forest.
Harry watched after her, shaking his head with a smile. Snakes, especially his, were really quite odd.
"Knut for your thoughts?" Draco cut into his musings, eager to know what had just been exchanged between Harry and his semi-familiar.
The green-eyed boy glanced back at his companion and rolled his eyes. "She's a strange one, that snake of mine…And she's hiding something."
Draco's storm coloured eyes gleamed. He was always in the mood for a good snoop. "Do we follow her?"
"Malfoy!" Harry tossed a small stone at him in annoyance. "She'll tell me what's going on when she's ready. The last thing I want to do is lose her trust!"
Laughing, the Slytherin shook his head. "Fine…fine! Just don't get your knickers in a twist, Potter…"
Harry responded with a faux-glare, before joining the other boy in laughter.
And that was how Severus came upon them.
Severus approached the chuckling pair, Charlotte tucked neatly in the crook of his left arm. "Dare I ask what has you two rolling about on the lawn like first years?" He purred as he loomed over them, his shadow splaying across their faces.
The two young men sat up, and Charlotte gurgled happily at the sight of them, effectively ruining the surly image Severus so loved to portray.
Harry grinned. "Nothing important," he assured his lover, "honest."
The older man pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand and sighed. Such was life when one's partner was seventeen.
"Indeed," He eventually replied, allowing his hand to fall back to his side. "In that case, once you've finished giggling like infants, you might like to join the staff for dinner in the hall."
At the very thought of food, Harry and Draco were on their feet. "We're done." Harry said, racing towards the castle, Draco on his heels. Turning around, he paused and shot Severus a brilliant smile. "Hurry it up, then!" He laughed at the scowl the comment had earned, and then turned back to chase after Draco (who had used the distraction to his advantage and taken the lead), leaving his daughter and lover in his wake.
At dinner, Harry and Severus introduced their daughter to the rest of the staff. Minerva had cooed over 'the cherub', as she called her, so much so that Harry had started to wonder how he might ever be intimidated in her classes again. That was, of course, until she pulled him aside and blasted him about the real conditions surrounding Charlotte's conception.
"I know," he said for what felt like the thousandth time as she berated him for his 'illegal' and 'highly immoral' actions. "I didn't think..." He averted his gaze, and scuffed his toe along the ground.
It was sad, really, as she'd been one of the most supportive teachers during his pregnancy, and now she was so disappointed in him...Not that he blamed her, though. She was Deputy Headmistress after all, not to mention his Head of House, and the entire ordeal had occurred right beneath her nose...But that didn't mean her anger and stern words were going to hurt any less.
"I..." Harry swallowed a lump in his throat. "S...Severus has forgiven me..." He tried, beseechingly. "And I wouldn't change any of it anyway...Not now she's here..."
Minerva appeared to soften slightly after that, though it was painfully clear that she did not approve of the relationship between her colleague and student.
After the twenty-third scowl in their direction, Severus snapped.
"Honestly, woman, just say it."
The Deputy Headmistress glanced back at him, attempting to appear perplexed. "I'm afraid I don't understand..."
"Don't play coy, Minerva, it doesn't become you." He sneered in response, discarding his napkin with more vigour than was necessary. "If you've something to say about my family, do so."
The rest of the staff watched the display with baited breaths. In the silence, Harry's heart skipped a beat. Severus had called him 'family' to his colleagues! If it hadn't been such a serious, tense moment, he might have kissed the Potions Master right then and there in glee! Only Dumbledore continued to eat his meal, as if two of his rival Heads weren't about to hex each other to smithereens.
McGonagall stiffened in her seat. "Your family, my dear child," she began, her tone strained, "is not only a misguided youth's mistake, but highly immoral on your part."
Severus parted his lips to respond, but Harry cut in first.
"I'll thank you not to ever refer to my daughter as a mistake again," he said coldly, clutching the infant to his chest as if to protect her from the woman's harsh words. "And, furthermore, not that it's any of your business, Severus has been nothing but morally and ethically sound through this entire ordeal. Go on, even ask Poppy!" He thrust a hand in the Mediwitch's direction. "Even when I was dying for a shag because of all the extra hormonal stuff, and shamelessly throwing myself at him, he refused me! He's made me promise to wait 'til I've graduated for all things lewd and carnal. Why, I ask, when we've already admitted our love to the world and when we're the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl? Because, he says, it's the right thing to do. He won't even kiss me, you know that? Because, while I'm a student, it's inappropriate!" Harry was shaking now and Charlotte, picking up on the negative energy, as well as her father's raised voice, began to sob.
Without a word, Draco reached out and took her into his arms, shooting the Head of Gryffindor a scathing glance before rising from his seat and making his way to Snape's chambers. Harry and Severus would know to find him there.
"Potter, that's enough!" Minerva eventually cried. "I realise you've been through much more than any other young man your age, however-"
"No! No 'howevers'!"
Harry and the Deputy Headmistress were now yelling over the top of one-another, joined every few seconds by Severus interjecting his own opinion.
"Silence!" Dumbledore's voice cut into the fray like the sword of Godric Gryffindor himself.
The three antagonists fell silent immediately.
"There is nothing to be gained from acting like children."
Harry ducked his head in embarrassment. Severus and Minerva, however, turned narrowed eyes on the Headmaster.
"Surely you don't actually support this union?" McGonagall reeled backwards, her Scottish brogue thick with shock. "Albus, Severus is the boy's teacher!"
Albus' voice was calm and steady. "Severus and Harry deserve happiness." As his deputy moved to argue, he held up his hand, signalling for her to listen to him. "I realise that you'd prefer they'd found it with other people, but they are truly happy, and it is this which should count above all else. Do you not agree?"
Minerva sighed and nodded. Albus smiled; he knew this would be the first and only time she'd question the couple. That wasn't to say that she supported their relationship - she would simply keep her mouth shut. That settled, the old wizard turned his attention to the Head of Slytherin.
"And you, my boy, needn't take the thoughts of others to heart as you do." He patted the younger man on the shoulder. "All that truly matters is how you, Harry and little Charlotte feel."
Severus sneered; it was not that simple. "With all due respect, Albus, our happiness," his upper-lip curled in distaste, "is balanced precariously on the edge of society's acceptance. If my own colleagues, Potter's teachers, don't appear to trust me with their golden child, what hope is there for us?"
Throughout his spiel, Harry had remained silent. It wouldn't do to interrupt his partner, even though he loathed the nicknames, and he hated it when Severus referred to him by his surname. However, he knew that the older man wouldn't be arguing the case if he didn't care about their newly formed family...if he didn't care about Harry himself...
"Severus, child, it is public knowledge that you have the faculty's support. And let it be said that what happens behind closed doors is nobody's business but your own." He sent Harry a wink that, quite frankly, disturbed the young wizard more than anything else.
Minerva spluttered at the suggestion, but remained silent. Harry shot her a grateful glance.
Meanwhile, Severus had risen from his seat. "While I appreciate your concern, I trust you'll leave the subject of our private lives well alone unless prompted to do otherwise by either Harry or myself." Without waiting for a reply, he swept off, leaving his red-faced partner to deal with the aftermath.
Harry shuffled his feet, unsure of what to do next. He wished Severus had asked him to follow or something along those lines.
"I, er...I'm...going to follow him, actually..." He gestured in the direction in which Snape had recently left and pulled himself up from his seat. Minerva reached for his arm.
"Sit, Harry..." Her voice was gentle, and he looked at her wearily as he complied.
"You must understand that I am worried for the two of you," she continued, and Harry arched an eyebrow in response. With a small smile, she shook her head. "Keep that up, lad, and people will begin to say you've been spending too much time with Severus..." He smirked and she patted his cheek. "Potter, no-one believes that the two of you deserve happiness more than I, which is why I worry that you will only end up hurting one another..."
Expression darkening, Harry stared back at his head of house. "Professor, above all else, Severus is my friend. We've discussed the pros and cons...We'd never hurt each other, even if we separated. I need him, and I think he needs me...Please try to understand. We're happy. Be glad for us."
The old woman sighed. "I'll try, Potter. I'll try."
Harry grinned. "That's all I can ask."
In his quarters, Severus was fuming. "How dare that woman question my integrity!" He hexed a pillow and, within seconds, feathers filled the room. "What right does she think she has to insult my child?" Another cushion was obliterated.
Draco could only watch as Snape destroyed his chambers, cushion by cushion. "Severus, please, for your daughter's sake, calm yourself..."
The older Slytherin paused, halfway through a curse that would, theoretically, cause boils to erupt all over the target's skin. At the mention of his daughter, however, he seemed to deflate. The cushion, had it been anything other than an inanimate object, might have sighed in relief.
After a few seconds of awkward silences, a sly smirk spread across Draco's face. "Professor Dumbledore made a good point, you know..."
Severus' eyes narrowed. "Watch yourself, Malfoy..."
"But," the blond haired youth persisted, "you do deserve to be happy. All three of you. And," his smirk seemed to grow, "judging by Potter's spiel, there's a few things you could do to ensure that..." Daring a wink, Draco brought in the clincher. "Even Dumbledore insists that you need a good shag."
Snape spun around, his dark eyes blazing. "Get out of my sight, Malfoy." His tone was cold and quiet. Dangerous. And he definitely regretted sharing his memory of the prior scene in the Great Hall with the blond brat.
"But Potter's happiness is important! As is yours!" The boy grinned wickedly. "You heard the old man; go shag like bunnies! It'll do you both good, I'm sure."
Not particularly appreciating the reminder that Draco had experienced more with Harry than he, Severus snapped. "Out!" He bellowed, pointing an elegant finger towards the portrait of Lord Brychan. "Now!"
Deciding that he had possibly gone a little too far, Draco exited the Head of Slytherin's chambers as quickly as was possible, while still maintaining his dignity.
As he dawdled down the corridor, Harry brushed past him.
"Oi!" The blond called after the other, "He's not exactly in the most receptive mood!"
He was, of course, ignored.
Harry gave the portrait the password and entered his and Severus' quarters, only to be assaulted by the sound of his daughter's loud wails.
He stopped at the door to her room, choosing to watch his partner's attempts to calm her. He was mildly surprised at the softness of Severus' tone, though he'd witnessed moments like these before.
"Sshh," the Slytherin cooed, rocking the infant in his arms. "It's over now. No more shouting."
As the babe continued to howl, Severus settled down in the rocking chair situated by the magical window which was bewitched, at that moment, to display the night sky, complete with shooting stars.
"That boy is insufferable at times." Severus rocked the chair. "However, if it weren't for him, you would not exist; a notion which is now entirely unfathomable to me."
From his position, Harry scowled. How on earth had he upset Severus this time? He stayed where he was, hoping to hear more.
"Your father wouldn't change his actions for the world, either." A small smile crept over Severus' lips, though, from his place at the door, Harry did not see it. "Worships you, he does...not that I can fault him for it." Charlotte was quietening down; the sound of Snape's voice was soothing her nerves. "But that boy...he believes he can meddle...he makes suggestions..." Severus sighed. "He doesn't realise that these are constant reminders that he was there first. I doubt he even realises that I wish it had been me..."
Harry's jaw dropped. It wasn't him that Severus was upset with; it was Draco! And, more confusing yet, it sounded as though he was jealous of the younger Slytherin!
"Your father doesn't understand..." Snape stroked his daughter's cheek. "I wish to wait so that our first time is...flawless. So that his memories of any other man, particularly Malfoy, are hazy at best..."
Harry felt guilty for eavesdropping, so he walked into the room, acting as though he'd just arrived. "There you are!" He exclaimed, hoping that his tendency to blush wouldn't betray him. "When couldn't hear cursing or yelling, I got a little worried..." He smiled warmly at the older man. "Also, who murdered a duck in the living room?" He was, of course, referring to the cushion massacre.
"How long were you by the door?" Severus didn't sound angry, just tired.
Harry pondered the merits of telling a little white lie. "I don't-"
"Don't lie, Harry." The defeat in Snape's voice was more upsetting than anything else Harry had received from the man. "I'm still a capable Legilimens." He met Harry's gaze. "How long were you there?"
The Gryffindor sighed. "Long enough." He knelt beside the chair, his hand on Severus' knee. "I'm not the type to...I wasn't trying to make you feel like you're inadequate...I just...I wanted them to see that you're a good man..."
"But you'd prefer it if I gave you a good shag-"
"No!" Harry reached up and, in a bold move, stroked Severus' cheek. "I'm happy enough knowing that I've got you...no, that we've got you in our lives...I can wait forever for anything else..."
Severus responded with a look of disbelief.
"Bloody hell, Snape, I'm serious!"
Obsidian eyes narrowed. "Careful, Potter..."
"No, you have to listen to me this time." The younger man responded defiantly. It was probably a bad move, he decided, as anger flashed in his partner's eyes.
Snape stood, deliberately brushing Harry's hands away. He placed Charlotte in her crib, then made his way to his bedroom. Harry scowled and followed him, casting a quick monitoring charm on the nursery before shutting the door behind him.
He strode determinedly into Severus' room, not bothering to knock. "Who in Merlin's name do you think you are?!"
Snape spun around, looking more furious than ever. "Clearly," he spat, taking a menacing step forward, "I believe I'm an arrogant Potter; I can do whatever the fuck I want, and I don't give a rat's arse who I insult in the process!"
Reeling backwards in self-righteous anger, the younger wizard snapped. "You know full well that that's not true! I'm nothing like that! If anything, you've been describing yourself! Ever wonder why you earned those awful nicknames, Snape? Wonder why I'm copping flack for telling everyone I love you? They don't believe that you can be nice, sensitive and caring, that's why! And, right now, I don't blame them!"
"Who do you think you are, boy, bursting into my room and abusing me? Isn't it enough that you've turned my life upside down? That I'm the laughing stock of our world because you had someone impersonate me and then used them as nothing more than a glorified sex toy?" Severus had advanced on Harry with every sentence, so that, once silent, he'd backed the younger man against a wall.
He barely registered that Harry was shaking as he grabbed his upper arms.
"How dare you begin to think that you can order me to listen to you?"
Harry swallowed the sobs that threatened to escape his lips, and blinked away his traitorous tears. "I'm sorry to have caused you trouble, Professor...I'll...I'll take my daughter and leave you in peace..." He attempted to push the other wizard from him, but found that Severus refused to let him go.
"Do not play the miserable victim here, Potter-"
"Why?" Harry snapped, cutting him off. "Do you want to play the role instead?"
He was rewarded for his comment with a rough shove against the wall.
"Grow up, Potter."
Harry met Severus' eyes insolently. "Only if you do, Sir."
They stood in silence for minutes, in the same position, the tension mounting with each passing second.
Then it was there; a strange, somewhat familiar feeling...Neither man knew where it had originated, nor when, but still it was there upon them, hanging above their heads, making the air around them even more tense.
Harry stared up into Severus' eyes, just searching. For what, he wasn't sure...But soon he saw it; a gleam...a flash of emotion, of pride...of challenge. Somethinginside him snapped, and he pushed himself up onto his toes, yearning for height, needing to be at the other man's level. Severus seemed to feel the same, as he was slowly slouching downwards...then their lips met.
The kiss was devoid of emotion. It was powerful and lustful, with each wizard struggling to dominate the other. Their tongues battled, their lips crushed...Hands tugged at hair and clothing...
Through his trousers Harry could feel Severus' arousal rub against his own. Apparently, so could Severus. The older man moaned throatily, and soon Harry felt himself being fondled.
Panting, he pulled away. "No..."
Severus met his gaze, his eyes dark with desire. "No?" He echoed, his hand doing some decidedly naughty things. "Why ever not, Potter? I thought you wanted this. In fact," he rubbed his thumb over the head of Harry's member, "I'd say you're bursting for it..."
"I..." Harry's voice came out as nothing more than a squeak. He cleared his throat. "Gods, Severus...I do...But-" Snape's smug grin faltered. "-Not like this. I...I love you, you evil git...and I don't want you to fuck me because you think you have to...I want you to want to...to need to...emotionally and physically."
Severus shook his head. "You really are thick, aren't you?" He brought his hand up to caress Harry's face. "I love you...more than I care to admit, actually...You're an irritating little shit at times, but I still do. And this," he pushed himself against his young lover, so that his erection was more than evident, "should tell you everything else you need to know."
Harry smiled, their argument receding into the back of his memory. All he knew now was that he'd been right in defending his lover, and that, no matter how they fought, he and Severus would be fine.
"So...you're sure you want to continue?" He eventually asked, trying not to focus on the other man's nether regions. "Because I meant what I said earlier...I'm willing to wait until I've graduated...or until you're ready-"
"Merlin, Potter, you make it sound as though I'm a sixteen year old girl..." Severus smirked, and allowed his hand to drift downwards again, eliciting a moan of approval from his partner. "I don't believe I want to wait any longer, actually." He whispered, unbuttoning Harry's trousers.
And it was the truth; people would judge him no matter what he chose...and Harry was a consenting adult. What did it matter, ethically, if they consummated their relationship now or in a few months' time? It was no-one's business but their own, especially as Harry had decided to drop Potions completely, so that they were not interacting in a classroom as teacher and student.
That decided, they moved from the wall to the bed, pausing to savour short kisses along the way.
Harry's heart beat frantically in an odd mixture of adrenaline and fear. It wasn't as though he feared his lover -far from it, to tell the truth- it was that he feared that this might be an extremely vivid dream and nothing more, or that, once over, Severus would regret everything. He soon set aside his doubts, though, as Severus' tongue was trailing down his body, making his skin tingle in its wake.
Moaning, Harry arched into the contact. "More..." he whimpered, and Severus complied.
Later that night, Harry snuggled into Severus' arms feeling sticky but extremely sated. Their first session had been clumsy and heated, yes, but it had been genuine and extremely pleasurable, so neither man could say they were disappointed. The second time had been longer and less frantic...and their third had been languid and composed mainly of passionate kisses that had almost brought Harry to completion on their own.
"Mmm," He murmured, savouring the feeling of Severus' skin flush against his own, "Can we stay like this forever?" He felt Severus smirk into his hair.
"I do believe we'd get extremely uncomfortable..."
He laughed and closed his eyes. This would be their little secret. Their rather dirty little secret.
Snake slithered through the grounds, pondering, as she had been doing for weeks, the merits of letting Harry in on her secret. Certainly, the truth would come to light eventually...but, if he were to know now, he might offer to assist later on...
School had returned, and she found herself continually dodging the feet of surprised students, many of who were clearly afraid of her, even from metres away. She usually avoided students quite neatly, but, on this occasion, she was preoccupied, and didn't sense the danger until it was too late...
Draco heard the young girl's squeal from the Quidditch pitch and mounted his broom. From the air he could see the huddled group by the lake and flew over to them. It wasn't that he felt the need to help at all; he was merely curious as to the cause of the commotion. Touching down, he dismounted and pulled a first year out of the group.
"What's going on here?"
The startled boy, a Hufflepuff, stammered a short reply; "A s-snake att-ttacked H-henrietta."
Draco frowned; snakes rarely attacked on Hogwarts grounds, not unless they were under threat. Without letting another moment pass, he cast a Sonorous charm at his throat, and yelled at the group.
"Everyone shut up and get out of my bloody way!"
The first and second years scattered like insects, the third years not far behind. A few fourth years sent him scathing looks, but shifted for him anyway. That left a couple of fifth and sixth years to push away, and the injured first year.
Removing the spell on his voice, he turned to a nearby Ravenclaw. "Get Pomfrey." When the girl hesitated he barked; "Now!"
Turning his attention back to the whimpering first year, he crouched down to her level. "Where'd it bite you?"
Through her sobs, she showed him her wrist, where two clean puncture marks were evident.
His scowl deepened. "What were you doing to the poor snake for it to bite you?"
A shifty looking boy answered on her behalf. "Nothing!" He cried, brandishing his book-bag and shaking it wildly. "The evil thing just came up and lunged at us! Better not be poisonous, but I caught it just in case. Tried to bite me, too!"
Eyeing the book-bag, Draco's countenance darkened. "It had better not be in there..." He said, grabbing the bag, "Not with the way you're shaking it..."
The boy glared back at him insolently, but didn't speak, making the Slytherin's blood boil.
"And I'd say that your friend deserved to be bitten. You were clearly doing something to the creature, otherwise the bite-mark wouldn't be on her wrist!"
"You can't prove that!"
A smug grin settled on Draco's face. "Actually, I can."
Harry looked up from his position on the couch at the sharp tapping on the door. "For the last time, I am not doing any more interviews!"
"Potter, you git, nobody wants to hear anything you have to say...Now open up!"
Harry laughed and set aside his book. "Alright, Malfoy, steady on..." He got up and opened the door. "What d'you want?"
Draco grabbed his arm. "You, actually. Dumbledore's orders." He pulled the other boy to the fireplace and threw some floo powder in. "Headmaster's office!" He cried, pushing Harry into the flames.
Harry fell out onto Dumbledore's rug at the other end, followed shortly by Draco. He was surprised to find Severus and Poppy waiting for him, and would have been suspicious, if not for the sullen first years sitting in front of their ever-stoic Head of House.
"What's going on?" He asked, brushing himself off.
"Mr. Malfoy suspects these students of attempting to harm an animal; an allegation supported by the position of bite marks on Miss Spalding's forearm..." Dumbledore responded gravely.
Harry glanced at his lover. "And this has what, exactly, to do with me?"
"We have the opportunity to question the creature, though this will not be possible without your unique ability." Again, the response came from the Headmaster.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Potter's intelligence is limited, Headmaster. We must spell it out for him." He turned to Harry, who was barely able to stifle his grin, and added; "The creature the Headmaster refers to is, of course, a serpent. As you are a Parselmouth, Mr Malfoy requests that you ask the snake for its account of the event."
The Gryffindor nodded, it all made sense. Serpents were not prone to lie, and it would only be fair to hear both sides of the argument…
"Alright…where's the snake, then?"
Draco retrieved the book-bag from the chair in the corner of the room. He hadn't been stupid enough to open it, knowing that an irate snake would be ready to attack whoever got in its path. "I placed a charm on the bag for the snake's comfort," he said, gently handing it over to the Headmaster.
"Quite thoughtful, Mr Malfoy." Dumbledore replied, his eyes sparkling. He placed the bag on the desk, pointed his wand, muttered a simple opening charm, and waited for the serpent inside to make the first move.
Harry instantly recognised Snake's hiss and rushed forward. "Snake!" He cried, not certain which language he was speaking. "Snake, it's okay, it's me, Harry."
Slowly Snake's head emerged from the flap of material. "Harry?" She echoed, testing the air for his scent. Once certain it was really her charge, she sped out of the bag and onto Harry's waiting arm. "Wicked hatchlingssssss." She spat, spying the two first-year students. "Wicked, wicked hatchlingsssss."
Harry frowned and patted her scales in what he hoped was a soothing manner. "What did they do to you, Snake?"
"I wassss not paying attention…I wassss caught by ssssssurprissssse." She rubbed her head against his chin. "The female took hold of my tail…It wasssss quite painful…"
Harry had heard enough. He continued to sooth his pet (for, at that moment, he couldn't help but feel as if she was just that; a creature that needed his love and care) whilst shooting angry looks in the students' direction.
Then, all of a sudden, Snake was agitated. "I musssst leave!" She insisted, struggling to make her way to the floor. The little girl screamed, thinking that the serpent was out for revenge, but Snake fled to the nearest exit. "I musssst sssssee to my eggsssss."
"Your eggs? Is that what you've been keeping from me?" Harry grinned. "Oh, Snake, you should have told me…we could have set you up a nice nook in our quarters-"
"Harry, I musssst sssee to my eggssss. My young will ssssooon be with ussss!"
Harry ran to the door and let her out. She was gone within seconds, speeding through secret corridors, leaving Harry to explain everything to the others.
"Look at them…" Draco marvelled.
A few days had passed, and Harry had convinced Snake to allow them to move her eggs to the castle, where they could best be looked after. Draco had been the most excited by the 'litter'. There were 5 eggs in total; which was the average for magical serpents. He kept watch on them and made certain that, when hatching time arrived, there would be no complications. And so it was, then, that Draco had been the first to notice the eggs moving.
"Look…they're so tiny…"
Harry smirked. "Yeah. And shiny…"
Rolling his eyes, Draco moved to pat Snake, who had coiled herself up behind her young, keeping an eye on them, as any parent does their children. She accepted his touch as usual, her tongue flickering in and out, memorising the scent of her young. Naturally, they'd be sent to a wizarding pet store once old enough, but she would savour their identities until the day she died.
Harry watched her, then Draco, then Snake again. "Snake…" he started, hesitantly. "I've, er, got an idea…"
Harry grinned at Hermione and Ron as he plonked himself down on the Gryffindor common room couch. It had been a long time since he'd last done so, in fact it had been a long time since he'd spoken to the two about anything other than schoolwork, and he was enjoying himself immensely.
"So, anyway, I was wondering if you guys had ever thought of adoption…" He said, watching as Ron turned purple and Hermione spluttered.
"Harry! What…? Why…? You're not thinking about giving little Charlie up, are you? I don't see old Snape agreeing to that!"
Harry laughed at his redheaded friend and shook his head. "No…Of course not, you git! I'm actually referring to Snake's hatchlings…They need good homes…and I know you guys would be perfect!"
Now Ron looked mortified.
"I'm not all that sure, Harry…" Hermione began to reply. "We're not parselmouths for one, and-"
"'Mione, you should be the first person to realise that there are hundreds of wizards with snakes that can't speak the language…" Harry was not leaving the common room without a positive response. "Besides, Severus is looking into a potion that will change all that…if only temporarily…"
At this, his bushy-haired companion perked up considerably. Ever the academic, he thought, knowing exactly which buttons to push.
"I'm not exactly fussed on snakes to be honest…" Ron admitted, having regained his voice. "I mean, they…well…they frighten me…"
The boy-who-lived chuckled. "Yeah, well, they do grow on you…" He resorted to pleading. "Please, guys, for me?"
Knowing that Harry wouldn't desist unless they agreed, the couple sighed. "Alright, Harry," Hermione told him, "On one condition."
Harry's eyes gleamed. "Yeah?"
"You've got to promise you'll drop round at our place with Charlotte and Professor Snape for tea at least once a month."
Ron nodded, though he seemed a bit flabbergasted at the mention of his Potions professor. "Go on, then. Promise us, and you've got yourself a deal. We'll take on a squirming, slimy blighter…"
He sighed dejectedly. "I mean, we'll take on an adorable little ankle-biter."
"Deal!" Harry cried, leaning in for a group hug. "Come down to our quarters after supper and you can choose which snake-ling you'd like."
That settled, the trio went on discussing a wide array of topics, before Harry left to convince a few more students that they should consider adopting a snake as a familiar.
Later that night found an odd group of students huddled around the portrait of Lord Brychan.
"Harry invited us 'round." Ron told him matter-of-factly, his arm thrown casually about Hermione's shoulders.
"Yes…he's giving us our very own silver-snouted virmiscious snidges!" That, of course, was Luna.
Neville laughed. "Well…I'm just adopting a snake, actually…" His smile faded when she glowered in his direction.
"Wait here." Brychan eventually instructed, irritated with their babbling. He returned and tiredly let them in.
Once inside, the four students hugged their host (or, rather, their Gryffindor host; the Slytherin was inside the nursery, preparing their daughter for bed) and followed him into the room that had originally been allocated to him. A large table had been transfigured into a warming rock, and that was where the small serpents were huddled together, their mother watching them from a few metres away.
Draco was already there, having been given pick of the litter, so to speak, for all his efforts taking care of them. He'd selected two of the snakes, much to Harry's delight, and was pondering over names. Neville approached the rock first, and inspected the remaining three. He really didn't mind which snake he received; at least he would have another companion. Things hadn't really been the same since Trevor had croak…er…passed on. Ron and Hermione were next to approach the rock, with Luna close on their heels. Naturally, it was she who chose first.
"Ooh!" she cooed, moving to stroke the smallest snake, "A perfect snidge! The breeding is superb in this one! Oh, Father will be so pleased!"
Smiling, Hermione congratulated her for her fantastic choice. "I rather like this little one," she told Ron, gesturing at a snake with rainbow-coloured scales. "She…or he…is so enchanting." She flashed him a dazzling smile. "Don't you think?" He couldn't help but agree.
Their choices made, Neville stroked the remaining snake with a smile. It wasn't as colourful as any of the others, nor did its scales sparkle as vividly, but, as it shifted to taste his scent, he knew it was the perfect familiar for him. There was something in the way it moved…something dignified and graceful…it was perfect.
From the doorway, Harry watched his friends interacting with their newfound companions, and praised himself for his plan. With his closest, most trusted acquaintances looking after the young serpents, Harry could take Snake on visits, so that she might never have to worry about losing touch with them completely.
All in all, it appeared that everything was working out nicely.
The months passed quickly, and it felt as though NEWTS had snuck up on the seventh years of Hogwarts. So, it was not surprising, on the morning of their first load of tests, to find Hermione Granger mulling over a stack of books as tall as Draco himself.
"Oh, Gods," she muttered, "I'd completely forgotten this!" She grabbed the nearest passing person, who just happened to be Ginny. "D'you think others studied about the effects of doxy dust on baby mandrakes?" She whacked the book as hard as she could upon the table. "What if that's on the written test?"
Looking somewhat like a bird caught in the wandlight of an oncoming broomstick, Ginny patted her shoulder reassuringly. "You, of all people, will be fine, Hermione."
She let her arm go, and sighed. "I hope so."
"What, Granger, your pet Weasel not good enough?" Draco asked jovially as he sat down across from them, gesturing between the two Gryffindors. "Gotta go for the Weaslette, too? Keepin' it in the family, I suppose."
Ginny blushed. "No, Malfoy…I…I'm n-not…we're not…"
"Easy, tiger, take a breath…" Draco was more than amused. He looked at Hermione. "She always this incoherent?"
"Only when it's you she has to face." She muttered, much to Ginny's horror.
"Oi!" She exclaimed. "Hermione!"
She glowered. "What? I'm trying to study. If bridging the gap is going to get the two of you out of my hair any faster, then I'll be damned if I don't try."
"What's she on about, eh?" Draco looked at the red-faced Gryffindor curiously. "You've got an issue with me?"
Ginny averted her gaze. "No…"
"Oh, honestly!" Hermione hissed. "Look, Draco, Ginny here finds you attractive, Merlin only knows why… but she doesn't want to say anything because she's convinced you're not of the same persuasion." She shot him a pointed glare. "Even though we've told her we know otherwise."
Yes, it was true. Over the passing months Draco had admitted that, while he was known for chasing men on the side, he had the occasional desire to chase skirts too. Bisexuality was rather common amongst pureblooded wizards and witches, though most chose to stick to the opposite sex purely for breeding purposes.
Draco's look of confusion immediately morphed into a predatory grin. He looked at Ginny in a whole new light; as fresh meat. "Interesting…" He mused, tilting his head to the side, observing the now mortified young woman in front of him. Ginny Weasley wasn't his usual type…but there was a certain air of wickedness to her that was vaguely appealing. "Fancy a walk, Weaslette? Leave the bookworm here to her studies?"
The Slytherin teen sighed and pulled himself from his seat. He grasped the younger girl by the arm and began to pull her from the Great Hall. "Let's walk. I need a bit of fresh air before NEWTS start…"
"Good. Come along then."
Hermione rolled her eyes as they left.
Harry was only vaguely surprised to see Draco Malfoy leading a blushing Ginny Weasley out of the Great Hall and out onto the grounds. There was no way Ginny would have come clean about her feelings on her own…which meant that someone had probably tipped the blond off.
"I'm willing to bet 5 sickles that it was the Weasley boy." Severus spoke out behind him, causing him to chuckle. He'd obviously been thinking along the same lines as Harry himself.
"I don't know…You've never seen how bitchy Hermione can get around exam time. If you put one foot out of line, she'll do anything to get rid of you…" He turned on his heel and took Charlotte out of his lover's hands. "And I do mean anything. I'm willing to bet she's really highly strung today, with NEWTS and all…"
The older man nodded. "Either way, I've come close to telling Malfoy myself a number of times, if only to get the chit out of our hair…"
"Tell me about it…" Harry smirked, pushing the large, double doors open. "Game faces on, Luv." They both appeared stoic as they entered the hall together, even though the novelty of Harry Potter and Severus Snape had worn off for the population of Hogwarts months earlier. Charlotte, however, gurgled happily, oblivious to the image her parents were trying to maintain.
"Ah, 'Mione…Settle something for us…" Harry said, taking Draco's recently vacated seat. "I just saw captain peroxide and Ginny race out of here hand in hand…" She looked up expectantly. "What did you do?"
"I just told Draco that Ginny fancied him." She shrugged. "He was ticking me off."
Harry chuckled and Severus rolled his eyes. "Told you so." The-Boy-Who-Lived said, handing his daughter over to her other father. "Wuv you, Charlie. Be good for Daddy, okay?"
"She always is." Severus informed him, already in Professor mode. "And good luck today, Potter." He patted Harry's shoulder awkwardly. Public displays of affection were not his strong suit and never would be. He nodded at Hermione, "Miss Granger."
"Thank you, Professor." She replied, before diving back into her book, nose first.
Harry smiled. "Thanks, Severus."
"Don't expect any more from me, Potter."
Harry nodded, seeing the amusement in his lover's eyes. "No, Sir."
"Good. Now eat your breakfast and we'll see you tonight."
"Merlin's beard, I'm never ever doing anything like that again!" Harry cried as he dropped into a chair in his and Severus' living room later that evening. He cradled his hand. "I don't think I'll ever be able to write again anyway…"
The teenager glowered. "I don't know why I expected you to sympathise…I mean, you did this twenty bloody years ago, 'course you wouldn't remember…"
"Whatever doesn't kill you, Potter-"
"Can only make me stronger, I know."
Severus arched an eyebrow. "I was actually going to say that whatever can't kill you obviously has less aptitude than Longbottom does in potions."
"Oh so sweet, Severus."
Harry popped his feet up on the coffee table and observed his partner. "Charlie was good for you today?"
Severus smiled, as he usually did when they were in private and their daughter was involved. "Of course."
" 'She do anything out of the ordinary?"
"Why?" Immediately, Snape was concerned. "If there's something I should know about…"
"No…I just…Aren't kids supposed to start doing accidental magic around her age?"
With a sigh of relief, Severus shrugged and summoned a house elf. "Two teas. Earl Grey. One with sugar. Two lumps." Once the steaming cup was in front of him, he eyed the other man. "In some cases, yes…But it does take some children, especially those born from men, a little longer to develop." He took a sip from his cup. "There's no reason to start worrying, Potter. Not yet, at any rate."
Snape shook his head. Sometimes it really struck him that Harry was so much younger than he, with so much to learn…It was a wonder they had as few fights as they did. Hmm, speaking of learning… "You're well prepared for your practical examinations tomorrow, I should hope."
Harry closed his eyes, clearly not wanting to think about his NEWTS any more than he had to. "As I'll ever be."
Arching an eyebrow, Severus asked; "And more practice would go astray?"
"No…" The younger wizard was getting frustrated. Trust his lover to act like a teacher at the time he least needed it. "But I need rest…My hand aches, my head hurts…I feel competent enough…"
"Alright." Snape rose from his seat, leaving the conversation there.
However, Harry felt as though he had more to say. "Oh, don't give me that!" He cried, craning his neck to call after his retreating lover. "You're being the Professor at the moment, so have at it! Tell me that I need to perfect my spell casting! Insist that I work on my pronunciation! Tell me to go and read a bloody book until I have everything perfected!"
"Potter, you're being childish."
"Oh-ho!" The Gryffindor was out of his seat in an instant, his finger pointed in an accusatory fashion. "You think I'm a child! After everything we've been through-"
Snape was not having any of it. "-You are currently acting the child, Potter. That does not necessarily mean that you are one."
Harry frowned, and jutted out his bottom lip. Severus was right. Severus was always bloody right. "Well, the least you could do is offer a little sympathy when I need it."
Rolling his eyes, the older wizard shook his head. "I'm the same bastard I was when you fell in love with me. Not even spending every waking moment with you is going to change that. Which," he added, meeting Harry's glare, "you have always known."
"But nothing, Potter."
'Hrrrumph'ing, Harry backed down. "Could at least pretend to care." He mumbled.
With a sigh, Severus moved back to squeeze Harry's shoulder. "You know very well that I do, Harry." He spoke softly. "I'm just not one for ludicrous displays of affection."
Amused green eyes met obsidian. "Not all displays of affection are 'ludicrous'."
Bending his head, Severus kissed Harry chastely. "I'm well aware of that, Potter. I'm well aware."
Before he knew it, Harry had graduated and had been offered a Quidditch scholarship at a nearby Wizarding University, where he would continue to advance his studies in Care of Magical Creatures. He'd considered majoring in Defence Against The Dark Arts for a whole two seconds before deciding that he'd done far too much in the area already. He didn't know what, exactly, he'd do with his degree once he graduated from university…but he didn't really care just yet. He was free to do something he was interested in.
Severus had been pleased and supportive, in his own little way, and had even offered suggestions as to the types of careers that would be open to Harry. So far, the one that had appealed the most had been a vet, of sorts, for magical creatures. And, if he really felt like it, Harry could branch out and even study the 'muggle' variety of pets as well, enabling him to practice in both worlds.
The notion that, in this field, Harry could retrieve him valuable potions ingredients at below cost had also been a motivating factor for the Slytherin to support his mate, though he wouldn't ever admit it to the boy.
Dumbledore had been most pleased at the notion as well, and had even offered Harry a part-time job assisting Hagrid with his magical menagerie, if only to help the boy with his understanding of the typical work that would come his way in the future.
And so it was, then, that Harry and Severus settled into a well-established routine and lived, for the most part, quite contentedly at Hogwarts during the school years. Certainly, they still had their little tiffs, and it could be hard at times raising a daughter, working, studying and managing to maintain a relatively active sex-life, but, I assure you, they managed quite well.
And this, my friends, is where we shall leave them; curled up by the fire in their quarters at Hogwarts, reading to their first child. It is a picture of domestic bliss. I cannot assure you that they will live 'happily ever after', but, for now, it is safe to assume that Harry Potter and Severus Snape are remarkably content with one another. And to think, it all started with one dirty little secret from the Boy Who Lived…
A/N- (Is Sobbing). It's over. It's really, truly over. Again. The ending is anti-climatic, I know… But I didn't want this to drag on. I owed you as much. LOL. I'll let you entertain thoughts about what might happen from here on…There probably wont be a sequel, I'm afraid. Not unless I come up with a unique twist to it. Hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know what y'all thought. Thank you to everyone who followed me through this. For the third time. Keep an eye out for more works down the track!
Ciao for now,
All my Love,
Molvanian Queen In Exile.