Feedback: Not mine. Pity.
Summary: Harry gets love notes from his students, plus some unwanted publicity. Severus steps in.
Beta: My girlfriend, since she is just so amazing.
Challenge: Coming Out Challenge
Archive: Dawn-to-Dusk Wave IX
Harry entered the classroom with some amount of trepidation. He was worried about the students' reactions. It was his first class on the first day (although he had started the day of with a free block), after having spent nearly seven years as an Auror.
"Good morning," he greeted the students cordially. "I am Professor Potter, your Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor."
The students greeted him, shell-shocked.
"You will learn many things in this class over the next seven years. You will learn how to defend yourself against the foulest things that exist in this world. I can teach you to disarm your enemies, how to duel, how to survive in tight situations. Of course, with this must come some knowledge of what it is you do, some history of why. The why is crucial. It explains everything."
One of the students looked skeptically at him. Harry raised an eyebrow. "Do you have a question?"
"Yeah, just how qualified are you?" the student asked.
Three-fourths of the class gasped. Harry immediately realized that part of the class knew who he was.
Harry smiled. "Well, thank you, sir. You have demonstrated already the need for history. Because not only do you need to know with what you fight, but whom you fight against. Brilliant, brilliant. Thank you. I would also like to know your name."
The student was obviously disconcerted at Harry's pleasant reaction. "Jack Stiles. But, sir, answer the question, please."
"I am Harry Potter," Harry explained.
The student raised an eyebrow. The same faction of the class that had gasped slapped their foreheads.
"At age one, I banished Voldemort –"
A collective wince from the students with some magical education. Harry sighed. "I will address that in one minute."
"Volde-who?" Jack asked.
"Voldemort was by far the most evil wizard of the 20th century. He was on a killing rampage for years and years before that day. Then, for nearly fourteen years, there was calm from him. He resurrected himself when I was in my fourth year here – unfortunately, with some unwilling help from me. He then resumed his killing rampage for another three years, at which point, the Order of the Phoenix waged the final battle against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Many died that day, on both sides. I, personally, lost many friends in that battle. But, thank Merlin, we were victorious. He fell that day, banished forever."
"So you did it all by yourself?" Jack sneered.
Harry shook his head emphatically. "No. I had a lot of help. Professor Dumbledore, for example, was very helpful. If you want to speak to someone who also is very knowledgeable and was very helpful in the entire war – from the start – I suggest you speak to Professor Snape. I owe my life to him, many, many times over."
Jack nodded slowly.
"After that, I finally graduated, studied for a year, and then spent the following seven years as an Auror. So you see, I really am qualified for this job." He took a deep breath.
"Now, I said that I want to address that wince when I said Voldemort."
The class winced again.
"Why do you wince?" Harry asked.
One of the students raised her hand. Harry nodded to her.
"Please, sir, we've been taught to fear You-Know-Who."
"No. I don't know who. Tell me who."
She paled. Harry sighed. "What is your name?"
"Adrianna Georges. Adie for short," she stammered.
"Adrianna, tell me who. Who is it?"
"Please, sir, I'm afraid."
"Afraid of what? Of saying his name?"
She nodded, hiding her face. Harry addressed the whole class. "There is nothing to fear by saying his name. Voldemort. Vol-de-mort. The classroom did not collapse. The sky did not fall. The sun did not go out. Voldemort. I want each and every one of you to be able to say his name with a grimace, wince, shudder, shiver, or general fear. May I also point out that Voldemort has been dead for the past eight years, and very truly so this time?"
One of the students stood angrily. "Look, do you get off scaring the wits out of us?"
Harry turned to him with a sigh. "And who are you?"
"William Georges. I'm Adie's twin brother. And answer the question."
"No. My job is to educate you. And if that means that I have to go through an entire class teaching you that a name should not be a source of fear, then so be it." He addressed the whole class again. "Because a name should not be a source of fear. Voldemort should instill no more fear in you than any other name. Does the name Professor Dumbledore instill fear in you?"
Some of the class nodded slightly. "He's so venerable, sir," one of them managed to croak out. "And just a little… well…"
Harry smiled. "That he is." The smile fell from his face. "Very well. What about Professor McGonagall?"
Some of the class nodded again. "She's strict, sir. Very strict. She gave us a lecture yesterday before we walked into that huge hall."
Harry nodded; Minerva was strict. "Very well. Let's try another. Professor Snape?"
Most of the class recoiled in fear. Harry repressed his amused smile. He had been counting on that reaction.
"We just had our first Potions class with him, sir. He's scary."
"How so?" Harry asked with a sigh.
"He's dark, and he's nasty. He's got a bad temper. And I'm not quite sure what he wants." The answer was meek.
"Perfection and intelligence, usually," Harry answered absentmindedly, knowing Severus rather well.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Now, your reactions were rather telling from the different names I said. Voldemort got me a wince, Professor Dumbledore a perplexed, almost afraid look, Professor McGonagall a sort of mild fear, and when I asked you about Professor Snape, I got a very odd recoiling reaction. Why do you fear the name Voldemort?"
"He was so bad, sir," a girl answered. "He killed so many."
"That he did."
"But why did you ask us the other names?" William asked. "I mean, they don't make sense."
Harry looked at him. "They make perfect sense, William. You fear Professor Dumbledore slightly. He's venerable and a little out there. You fear Professor McGonagall because she's so strict. You fear Professor Snape because he's got a very bad temper. Do you fear the name Professor Dumbledore as much as the name Voldemort?"
The class shook their heads.
"Do you fear the name Professor McGonagall as much as the name Voldemort?"
The class shook their heads.
"Do you fear the name Professor McGonagall as much as the name Professor Dumbledore?"
The class nodded slightly. "She's stricter, sir."
"Ah-hah. And what about the name Professor Snape? Do you fear it as much as the name Voldemort?"
"Please, sir, I do, but in a different way. I mean, sir, You-Know-Who may be dead and all, but he killed people in my family. But I never really knew You-Know-Who. But Professor Snape, well, he's here, sir. I have to see him when I go to Potions. He's far more real than You-Know-Who."
"Thank you," Harry said sincerely. "You never knew Voldemort. But you do know the other people. Why do you fear the name Voldemort so much? He was a sick, sadistic freak who got off on killing other people. But you give him, his legacy of terror, more power by admitting you are afraid of his mere name!"
"You know, you got some nerve," William said angrily, standing again. "That 'freak,' as you put it, killed your parents. And here you are, telling us not to fear his name."
Harry turned to look at him again. "Yes, William, Voldemort killed my mom. Her name was Lily Evans Potter. He killed my dad. His name was James Potter. He killed a boy a few years above me when that boy accidentally was transported with me to a cemetery. His name was Cedric Diggory. He killed my best friend. His name was Ronald Weasley. He killed my best friend's little sister. Her name was Virginia Weasley. He killed many people, William. And in the end, I killed him. But I never shied away from saying his name. Only when I first heard everyone say You-Know-Who. Then Professor Dumbledore explained to me what I'm explaining to you now."
He took a deep breath, willing away the tears that came every time he thought of all the people who had died in that terrible war.
"I remember everyone who died in that war. I remember and honor them. I honor and admire those who survived. It does not mean that I have 'some nerve' that I say their killer's name aloud. It steals respect from those who died valiantly by refusing to say their killer's name aloud, by refusing to hear it spoken. Voldemort, as unfortunate as it is, existed! Get over it. He killed. Get over it. He was feared. Get. Over. It."
The class gaped at him, shocked.
"Now, all of you are going to come up here, one by one, and tell me who Voldemort was. Using his name. You will do this until you manage to say it without showing fear. Eventually, you will stop feeling fear."
"Did you ever teach anyone else this lesson?" Jack sneered.
"Yes. I taught my two closest friends this lesson. I taught all of the Gryffindors in my year this lesson. And I taught any Order member who refused to say 'Voldemort' this lesson."
He called the first student up. She took a deep breath and stammered, "You-Know-Who was a very bad wizard." She made a move as to sit down again.
"No, don't sit down," Harry commanded. "Stay here and tell me what his name was. Honor those who died by his hand!"
"Vol… Voldem… Voldemort was a very bad wizard."
"Now say that name with strength."
"Voldemort," her voice wavered, "was a very bad man."
"Say it with strength!"
"Volde…" She fainted. Harry caught her quickly, sighing.
"I hate it when that happens," he muttered. He pondered the situation for a moment, then pulled out his wand and pointed it at the fireplace. "Incendio." He tossed a handful of Floo powder in.
"Severus, a word, if you please," Harry called, knowing that Severus had a free block.
Severus' head appeared in the fire. "Yes?" he asked irritably.
"Can you watch my class for five minutes? I need to take her to Madam Pomfrey."
Severus nodded curtly and stepped through the fire. "What were you doing?"
Harry briefly described it to him. "Continue for me, please."
Severus nodded again and shooed Harry away with his hand.
Harry nodded and carried the girl to the Infirmary. Madam Pomfrey rushed to him, clucking her tongue. "Honestly, Harry, your first day and already you're bringing people in. What is it?"
"Shock and fear. I'm attempting to teach them how to say the name 'Voldemort.'"
Madam Pomfrey chuckled. "Leave her with me. What about your class?"
"Oh, I got Severus to take over."
"Definitely run back to your class. She'll be fine," she continued, seeing Harry cast a worried glance at his fainted student. "You just gave her a bit of a shock."
Meanwhile, back in Harry's classroom, Severus had called up the next student.
"Well, get on with it," Severus snapped. "I'm sure you know what Professor Potter expects of you."
The boy nodded. "You-Know… Vold… Voldemort was a…"
By the time seven students had successfully said Voldemort's name, Harry returned. "Thank you, Severus," Harry sighed.
Severus quickly briefed Harry on what had happened, then swept out of the classroom. Harry finished his class up, having made every single student say Voldemort's name without stuttering or such.
If his first class was bad, then his second class was worse. Seven-year students filed in slowly. Harry leaned against his desk and started his lecture.
"Good morning," he greeted. "I am Professor Potter, your DADA instructor."
Some of the girls giggled. Harry ignored them and continued with his lecture. "This year is an important year. Those of you here have obviously showed ability in this subject, and this is the final year before your NEWTS. I must impress upon you now that your NEWTS are crucial to succeeding in the Wizarding World. There is no academically-oriented position that does not require at least one NEWT. To prepare for those tests, you will be saddled with homework. You will be required to do extra reading, learn knew concepts, and sometimes not discuss them fully. I am always willing to answer any question you may have. I can be found in my office during my free hours and until six every day. On the weekends, I am there from nine until six unless there are extenuating circumstances, and occasionally, I like to sleep in, just like all of you."
He took a deep breath, and some of the girls waggled their eyebrows suggestively. He still ignored them. "This availability does not extend to finding me after those hours in remote places of the castle. If I am in my office, you are free to enter. But if I am not, nothing short of the most desperate emergency should send you running for me."
He knew, by the looks on their faces, that the girls could easily think of some 'desperate emergencies' that could send them running after him.
"I have read the briefings each teacher must write at the end of the year about this class. Your last teacher indicated that you have not yet learned about the Unforgivables. Am I correct?"
Some of them nodded.
Harry nodded stiffly. "Then we will start our year with the Unforgivables. Can anyone tell me what one of the Unforgivables is?"
One of the students raised his hand. Harry nodded to him. "Introduce yourself, then say it."
"Norman Malfoy," he said. "Imperius."
"Describe it," Harry answered.
"It bends the will of the other person to yours. You can control them entirely."
Harry nodded. "Exactly. Five points to Slytherin. Anyone else?"
Another raised her hand. Harry nodded to her.
"Jane Finnegan," she introduced herself. "Cruciatus."
"It is extreme, horrific pain. If a person is exposed to it for too long, they can go insane or they can die from it."
Harry nodded, thinking briefly of Frank and Alice Longbottom.
"Very true," he answered. "Five points to Gryffindor. Anyone else?"
One hesitantly raised her hand. Harry nodded to her.
"Lucille Selitas. Avada Kedavra."
"Describe it," Harry ordered dispassionately.
"It is the most powerful killing curse. No one can survive it. No one has."
"Partly true," Harry answered. "Five points to Gryffindor. But, Ms. Selitas, it can be survived. I'm living proof of that."
Most of the class gaped at him. Harry suppressed a sigh. That had been common knowledge when he was a student. He was starting to be made into a historic figure.
"When I banished Voldemort at age one, his Killing Curse rebounded. It defeated him, but it left nothing more than a lightening-shaped scar on my forehead, which faded after his death."
At the end of the day, he swept calmly into his rooms and locked the door. Going straight to his bedroom, he calmly pushed aside the hanging tapestry of Slytherin (he had one of all Four Founders) and walked through the hidden passageway into his lover's bedroom, bumping into him at the very end.
"Oh. I was about to go across," Severus explained. He stepped back and let Harry into the room, the tapestry of Gryffindor falling back to cover the passageway on his end.
"How was your day?" Severus asked as they headed to the sitting room.
"Okay," Harry admitted. "Yours?"
"Don't hide, Potter. You were scared stiff about your first day. Not to mention I got to babysit your class for fifteen minutes."
Harry sat down, pulling Severus down to sit next to him. "It was hell," he admitted. "It sucked."
Severus chuckled. "Well, spill the beans, Potter."
"Mm-mm," Harry answered, shaking his head.
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"I haven't had a passionate enough greeting kiss to attempt to tell you about my day."
Smirking, Severus lowered his head until his lips just brushed Harry's. Harry moaned and wound his arms around Severus' neck, dragging him down for a breath-taking kiss.
"My day just got better," Harry sighed happily as he released Severus and stretched on the couch, his head on Severus' lap. Severus began stroking his hair affectionately.
"Much, much better," he amended.
"So tell me why it was so terrible before," Severus insisted. "Come on, I'm curious."
Harry related his day. By the time he was done, Severus was chuckling. "My poor, dear Harry. Suffering so very much."
"Right. At dinner, I am going to apologize to every one of my teachers for making their lives a living hell."
"You could start now," Severus suggested.
"Mm. Sorry," he apologized, attempting to dissuade the smile at his lips from erupting on his mouth.
Severus kissed him again. "Love you," he smiled.
"Oh, dear Merlin, I love you too. Passionately, absolutely, completely. Love you."
Severus stroked Harry's cheek softly. His heart ached with the depth of love he felt for the young man still lying on the couch with his head on Severus' lap.
Severus tapped Harry's cheek suddenly. "I think we should get going to dinner."
Harry nodded and stood. "I'll see you there," he informed Severus, heading back to Severus' bedroom.
They had created that passage during the summer, not wanting anyone to know about their relationship.
Two months later, Harry started finding the notes. He was used to the vapid, drooling looks half of the girls (and some of the guys) gave him in class, but the notes came as a shock.
The first one was left haphazardly on his desk. Harry picked it up and scanned it quickly, scowling.
"Thine eyes be as green as the sea,
thine hair be as black as the night,
yet thee be not yet for me,
but yet I know thy love be upon the new light."
"Insipid, inane, and horrible. The rhyming and metric scheme doesn't work, the… the…" Harry gave up and burned it.
Harry found the next one on the floor. He picked it up despite himself and uncrumpled it.
"I look at you sometimes. A pity, since you never look at me unless you're addressing me. You never look simply to look. I wish you did. I'd love to be able to call you mine and to have you call me yours."
Harry's fingers twitched. He was Severus', and Severus was his. And the two of them knew this.
The next one was sent by owl. Harry thought that was a rather bold move, considering.
"Merlin!" Harry cried, burning the note after scanning it quickly. He never wanted to read such a graphic description of a girl's fantasy of him. He shuddered. Oh yeah, he was definitely very much gay.
After the seventeenth such note, he decided he would tell Severus.
"Let me get this straight?" Severus said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Some student – or students – has been leaving notes for you? Love notes?"
Harry nodded miserably. "I hate it, Sev."
"Wish I could say more than it comes with the territory, I really do, love. I got one or two when I first started teaching. All I did was speak to my classes about it. Of course, after that, I got none."
Harry nodded. "Thanks, love." He kissed Severus sweetly. Severus moaned and deepened the kiss.
"Oh, yeah, I am most certainly gay," he purred. Severus raised an eyebrow.
"I take it you have been getting exceedingly graphic notes from your students?"
Harry nodded. Severus chuckled. "I'd be amused if it weren't so obviously painful to you. You should view this as a perk: you get to read their horrific attempts at love poetry."
Severus kissed him. Harry melted into the kiss. "Merlin, I love you," he moaned once they broke for air.
"Here, let me prove to you that you are very much gay," Severus murmured in his ear. Harry simply smiled.
The next day, Harry gave the lecture to each of his classes. "I have been receiving some unwanted and unwarranted notes lately. I don't know whom they're from, and frankly, I don't care. The only thing that I will share is that they were love notes, and occasionally graphic ones. I have reached the limit of my patience with them, and the next one that I find, I will read aloud. No matter what is written in it."
His class nodded as one.
Harry stalked around, starting the normal lesson plan. He found a crumpled note and sighed. He opened it and scanned it quickly, knowing that he knew that handwriting, although he wasn't sure from where. True to his word, he read it.
"Well, I have already found one. And I will read it aloud."
He cleared his throat.
"'So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found:
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then better'd that the world may see my pleasure;
Sometimes all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight
Save what is had or must from you be took.
Thus I do pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.'
-- William Shakespeare, Sonnet LXXV"
Many raised an eyebrow. Harry folded it up and tossed it in the trash. "Now, let us attempt to continue with the lesson."
The next day, after giving another such lecture, he found another note. Sighing, he picked it up and read it aloud.
"'Mine eye hath play'd the painter and hath stell'd
Thy beauty's form in the table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein 'tis held,
And perspective it is best painter's art.
For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictur'd lies,
Which in my bosom's shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done.
Mine eyes have drawn they shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee.
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art,
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.'
-- William Shakespeare, Sonnet XXIV"
A good deal of his class raised an eyebrow. Harry snarled and tossed it in the trash. He would take it out again after it. The writing was familiar. Very familiar. He wondered if he would find another the following day.
His mysterious stalker did not disappoint him.
Bound by his word, Harry read it aloud to the class, although he was starting to doubt it was one of them. How many of them knew Shakespeare?
"'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grows't.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.'
-- William Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII"
Harry snarled and threw it in the trash. That sonnet was so… expectable. Predictable. He knew he would pick it out of the trash later that day, carefully fold it and put it away with the other notes. He needed to know whom this newest batch was coming from.
The next day, as expected, a new note arrived. Resignedly, Harry read it aloud.
"'somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands'
-- e.e. cummings, 'somewhere i have never traveled'"
Harry threw that one into the trash and fished it again after class. The students, having heard from each other about the notes/poems Harry kept getting, were interested by Harry's mysterious stalker. Harry had never deducted as many points for inattention. 'Merlin, soon I'll rival Severus,' he thought to himself dejectedly.
The next day, yet another one appeared.
Dutifully, resignedly, Harry read it.
"'This is not Aphrodite, but the lewd Love-boy, playing
like a child, running the flowers, across the do-not-touch-me meadow grass.'
-- Alcman of Sparta"
Harry scowled and threw it away.
He received no notes during the weekend, something he was immensely grateful for. Of course, come Monday, a new note was in his classroom. Annoyed, he read it aloud.
" 'Come to me from Crete to this holy temple,
Aphrodite. Here is a grove of apple
trees for your delight, and the smoking altar
fragrant with incense.
Here cold water rustles down through the apple
branches; all the lawn is best and darkened
under roses, and, from leaves that tremble,
sleep of enchantment
comes descending. Here is a meadow pasture
where the horses graze and with flowers of springtime
now in blossom, here where the light winds passing
blow in their freshness.
Here in this place, lady of Cyprus, lightly
lifting, lightly pour in the golden goblets
as for those who keep a festival, nectar:
wine for our drinking.'
Harry chuckled. It hit him then who was sending him those poems. "That bastard," he muttered, chucking the note in the trash. He knew he would fish it out later.
He barged into Severus' rooms through the secret passageway.
"You two-timing bastard!" he shrieked in mock-anger. "Merlin, I love you." He dragged Severus' head down for a kiss.
"What, precisely, are you talking about?" Severus asked after he got his mouth back.
"All the notes you sent me."
"Took you long enough," Severus answered smugly. "Although I did try to write neater than usual."
"It got suspicious after the second Shakespeare. How many kids know that many sonnets? But it really hit me with the Sappho one. I know you love Sappho's poetry."
"See, having intelligent conversations can help."
"You do know that I read each and every one of them aloud?"
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"That's my new policy. I'm hoping it will cut down on the really embarrassing love notes."
Severus chuckled. "I'm trying to picture you reading a graphically sexual love note aloud. Especially if it comes from a girl."
Harry shuddered. "Bastard," he muttered.
"Indeed," Severus answered.
"Very much so. And you're my brat." Severus hugged Harry, pulling him very close.
Harry sighed happily. He rested his head on Severus' shoulder. Severus stroked his back gently. Harry's eyes slid shut. Severus rested his head on Harry's.
"Why?" Harry asked suddenly. "Why did you send the notes?"
Severus paused and thought. "You know, I don't really know. I just did. A way to show my love, I suppose."
Harry smiled. "I'm glad you did."
A month later, Harry was getting virtually no notes from his students. He swept around his NEWTS class, lecturing on Lethifolds. He heard giggling from the back. Knowing immediately who was giggling, he continued sweeping around, pausing for a moment to allow the students to catch up in their notes.
He stopped before the girl who had been giggling, arms folded and a deadly glare on his face. "Ms. Ilina, did you really think I wouldn't notice?"
She looked up at him, shocked, stuffing something under the desk hurriedly. Harry held out one hand. "May I have that please?"
She blushed deep red and reluctantly handed it to him. Harry glanced at it. It was an issue of Witch Weekly.
"Thank you, Ms. Ilina. Now, would you please tell me what we have been studying for the past fifteen minutes while you were reading this?"
Harry swept to the front of the classroom and dumped the offending article on his desk. "Can somebody aide her?"
A few hands went up immediately. Harry nodded to one of them.
"We've been studying the Lethifold, a tropical creature that resembles a cloak. It is pitch black, and enters unsecured locations stealthily. It envelopes its victims and suffocates them, then digests them. It will then leave again, thicker than before. It is difficult to give many facts about them, since almost everyone who has seen a Lethifold has not lived to tell the tale. Likewise, it is difficult to know how many of them there are, especially as none of them have any distinguishing features."
"Ms. Ilina, why are you not writing this down? Could you pass a test on the Lethifold if I gave it now?"
She quickly pulled out some parchment and a quill and attempted to write everything down.
"Twenty points from Gryffindor for disrupting my class." Harry had decided early on in the year that Severus and Minerva had possibly the best teaching methods. Harry was somewhere in the middle, exceptionally strict, a little scary, but not without any kindness. He was also completely unbiased and uninvolved in House rivalries.
"And ten to Slytherin for correctly summarizing my lecture. Now, there is little more than can be told about the Lethifold."
"Have you ever seen one?"
"A Lethifold? Yes. Yes, I have. I was 23, an Auror, and I was sent down to the tropics as part of a guard. There were seven of us, and we were guarding the Minister of the time. We took turns sitting up all night to watch for Lethifolds. I saw one enter and killed it there and then. Many times over, actually. I was extremely nervous then, because I knew that if it wasn't dead, then all of us were as good as dead. Luckily, by the time I had calmed down enough to stop firing hexes and curses at it, it was in pieces, bleeding – if you could call it that – and very much dead. It was not fun, I can assure you. It was absolutely terrifying."
Harry took a deep breath.
"And now, we will start the last lesson in the Dark Animal Unit. The Dementor. Who has ever seen a Dementor?"
Half of the class raised their hands.
Harry nodded as he looked around. "Good, good. Then you have some idea of what they do. They suck the happiness from you. They suck every drop of happiness from you and leave you with your worst memories. Some people are more or less unaffected by them. They are cold and uncomfortable, but they are not screaming in pain, terror, or passing out. Some people are weakened immensely by Dementors. Those people are the ones who have suffered horrendous things in their lives. For example, when I saw my first Dementor, I passed out on the floor of the Hogwarts Express. I was in my third year, and I had to relive the night my parents got killed."
"Is there any way to, like, repel them?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. The Patronus. It is not an easy spell to cast, and it becomes harder depending on how many Dementors you're fighting. It repels them, as it is the incarnation of happiness. To cast it, you have to call up your happiest memory, and say, 'Expecto Patronum.' If you are successful, your Patronus – which can take many forms – will charge towards the Dementors and send them shrieking in terror."
"Why is it so difficult to cast?"
"Because you have to fight fear and call up happiness while having your soul threatened."
"Your soul threatened?"
"A Dementor's Kiss steals your soul. It is a fate worse than death. You are no more than an empty shell without emotions, memories, ideas, thoughts… Nothing. You are nothing after a Dementor's Kiss. You cannot retrieve your soul. That is what you fight when you attempt to dredge up enough happiness to repel it."
"Does every Dementor try to kiss you?"
"No. Dementors were often ordered to only kiss certain criminals. But sometimes, high on the fear they instill, they do it anyway."
The bell rang.
"We will continue this lesson next class."
The class filed out, and Harry sat down at his desk, sneering at the magazine. A shadow fell over his desk. He looked up. "Yes, Ms. Ilina?"
"Sir, may I have that magazine back?" she asked, waving at the magazine.
"I think not. This is an offense I would expect – and leave unpunished – from a first-year, not a seventh-year like yourself."
"But, sir, there's…"
"Goodbye. You will not see this magazine again. I do not tolerate such interruptions in my class, and you should know this by now. I can't imagine any professor tolerating this drivel."
"Yes, sir," she mumbled and left.
Harry picked the magazine up, fully intending to throw it away, but the headline caught his eyes. "Harry Potter: The Wizarding World's Most Eligible Bachelor." Harry paled. He had never told anyone about his eight-year long relationship with Severus, what with his best friend being dead and Hermione having completely disappeared, but he had certainly never expected this. They had never interviewed him, or contacted him, or anything. Although that probably had something to with him nearly hexing all of the reporters the last time they tried to ask him questions. After that, they just published articles about him without any foundation.
He raised a hand and shut and locked the door wandlessly and wordlessly. Few people knew he was that good at wandless and wordless magic. He usually didn't bother, afraid that someone would discover it and exploit it mercilessly. But now, he was numb. Entirely numb.
He flipped the magazine open to the article. His picture grinned up at him. It was a picture from a few years back, he knew, although he wasn't sure how. He hadn't changed much after he turned 21. He wouldn't change much for another twenty, maybe thirty years.
He read the caption hesitantly. "Harry Potter, at age 23, returning from the tropics." Harry gulped and read the article.
He skipped over his life story (knowing it far better than any of those reporters) and read the relevant parts.
"So, it is with great honor that Witch Weekly declares Harry Potter the Wizarding World's Most Eligible Bachelor. After graduating from Hogwarts, he has not shown any signs of settling down, although many have attempted to seduce him, unfortunately unsuccessfully."
Harry chuckled. One person had managed to capture his heart in the most complete way possible.
"Witch Weekly, unable to interview Harry Potter himself (and rather unwilling, since he has proven to have a bit of a temper when dealing with reporters), has asked some of his students for their opinions about him.
"'Sum him up in one word? Sexy. I mean, he's got fame, money, and power. He has a strong aura, and you can kinda sense he loves danger. You definitely learn he does love danger when he talks about some of his adventures in class. He was an Auror for seven years, which I suppose merits that description.' – Lucille Selitas.
"'Sure, he's a tough teacher – gotta be one of toughest in the school – but the edge is definitely taken off by that gorgeous face. Grass-green eyes, long black hair, and a tanned face. Shame he never played Quidditch professionally. I think he would have been good at it, and the publicity surrounding him would have been amazing.' – Jane Finnegan."
That had been exactly the reason he hadn't played professional Quidditch. He couldn't stand publicity.
"'He got a lot of love letters this year. He gave all his classes a lecture on them, but every day for a week, he found one in his classroom. He read it aloud, since he created that policy then. They were always poems from some poets, all love poems. They've stopped coming since. Pity. We all kinda thought he would, y'know, do something about it. It's clear he didn't.' – Lionel Parlik"
Harry smiled fondly as he thought of the love letters from Severus. He would never have thought of Severus as being so… sweet. And he had done something about it. He had fucked Severus into oblivion after that.
"'Would I go out with him if I could? Are you kidding me? Of course I would. He can be so very focused on everything; I don't doubt that it applies to his love life as well.' – Anon."
Harry paled slightly. He snatched up the magazine and stormed to his rooms, and then across the passageway.
"Hullo, love," Severus greeted him from the living room. "Bad day, I take it?"
"Are you always here?"
"No. Today, I heard some students muttering about what a bastard you were, so I knew that you also had a bad day and you needed to bitch about it. What's wrong?"
Harry tossed him the magazine. "Confiscated it today."
Severus snorted at the title. "Most Eligible Bachelor my fucking arse."
"Your very well-fucked arse," Harry answered, amused.
Severus flipped the magazine open to the article. "Hm… I rather like this picture of you. You were so young then."
"Git. That's only three years old."
Severus smiled at him, his eyes warm. "So, let's see what they say, shall we?" He began reading, laughing occasionally.
"Did you read this entire thing?"
Harry shook his head.
"Your loss. It's very funny. Here, listen to this. 'At age fifteen, an absolute heartthrob, Harry Potter had what could be said to be his first serious relationship, with Ravenclaw Seeker Cho Chang. That relationship was then dissolved, probably due to the growing stress of the war.'"
"That or the fact that I was gay and therefore didn't want to date a girl."
"No, you were so much more interested in your Potions Master."
"Not at age fifteen, I wasn't. Which reminds me." He dropped a swift kiss on his lover's lips.
"Mm…" Severus moaned. "I've rather grown used to that kind of greeting from you. So much better than the surly glare."
Harry smiled and sat down next to Severus.
"'At age seventeen, gorgeous and drop-dead sexy, Harry Potter defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.'"
Harry snarled. "Voldemort. His name is Voldemort."
"I know you are. But still, the Wizarding World needs to grow the fuck up."
"That it does. But shh, I'm still reading this. It's insane. 'At age nineteen, he became the world's youngest Auror. For the following seven years, he found himself in death-defying situation after death-defying situation, until he finally accepted the rather tame job of Hogwarts' Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor.'"
"I'd like to see them do it. Tame job indeed!"
"And then here are a bunch of quotes from your students. Helpful lot, aren't they?"
"Oh, shut it."
"'Sum him up in one word? Sexy.' Couldn't agree more. You are sexy. '… You can kinda sense he loves danger.'" Severus snorted and tossed the magazine aside. "It's all bullshit, anyway. Although I do love how they explained the lack of an interview with you."
Harry smiled wanly.
"But I will say one thing," Severus continued. "I'm going to end the rumor, once and for all, that you're free. Unless, of course, you don't want me to."
"No, I do. I'm sick of hiding, 'cause all I get is this stupid publicity. I dunno, in the beginning, it was great. I had a lover who was willing to listen to me, not just hop into bed with me. But, of course, you never tell your friends about a new boyfriend until you're sure it's serious. Then Ron died – fucking Voldemort – and Hermione disappeared, and Sirius was dead and Remus was hiding, and there wasn't really anyone to tell."
Severus pulled Harry into a hug and kissed him. "Then we shall come out," he murmured. "After all, Merlin forbid you get all this unwanted publicity."
"Git," Harry sighed happily.
"Brat," Severus answered, smiling.
A month later, Harry stalked around his classroom, lecturing. He heard sickly-sweet dreamy sighs coming from the back. He snarled and swept to the offending desks.
"What, pray tell, is so amazing that you must interrupt my class with it?"
They didn't answer, instead passing something under the desks.
"Whatever it is, I want it," Harry snapped, referring to the object they were passing.
Glaring, one of the girls handed it to him. He dropped it on his desk and continued his lecture.
After class, he sat down and sneered at the magazine. A shadow fell over his desk. He looked up and raised an eyebrow. One of the three girls standing in front of him asked, "May we have the magazine back?"
"No. You may not. I do not tolerate this drivel in class. Good-bye."
They left, dejected.
Harry glanced at the magazine and picked up the offending article. He smiled and waved his hand, shutting and locking the door.
It was another copy of Witch Weekly. Harry looked at the headline and smiled broadly. "Harry Potter: His Eight-Year Relationship."
He flipped open the magazine to the article. There was a picture of him at graduation, and next to it, a picture of Severus. The caption read, "Harry Potter and his lover, Severus Snape."
Harry began to read the article. "Witch Weekly now provides a recantion. Previously, it published an article proclaiming Harry Potter to the Wizarding World's Most Eligible Bachelor. It has recently found out that Harry Potter has, in fact, been dating Severus Snape for the past eight years and…"
Harry couldn't care less what the rest of the article said. He swept down to his rooms and entered Severus'.
"Well?" Severus asked.
Harry told him about it. Severus smiled. "Excellent. I was hoping they would print it soon."
Harry kissed Severus. "Love you."
"Love you, too. I was thinking…"
"Oh, dear Merlin."
"Maybe we should move in together."
Severus suddenly slid off the couch onto one knee. "And… Harry, I've known you for fifteen years, eight of them as your lover. I'm hopelessly, pathetically, absolutely, completely, entirely, passionately, madly, truly, deeply, and so on, in love with you. Would you do me the honor of marrying me?"
"Yes," Harry whispered, a tear sliding down his face.
Severus smiled and stood, kissing him passionately.
"I'm yours," Harry murmured in his ear.
"And I'm yours," Severus purred.