Legend of the Serpent's Tongue

Chapter 31

Heart of the Dog Loyalty of the Wolf and Cunning of the Serpent

The next few weeks passed quickly and Harry endured them gracefully. Hermione's reaction to the Rite of Union was just as Harry had expected. She was furious that her friend had been maneuvered into such a situation. Her logical mind understood the principle but her emotional reaction had been one of anger. She felt it was unfair not just to Harry but to her Protectors as well. Harry had been amused when she had lost her temper with the Headmaster two days after the funerals.

Harry had been in Dumbledore's office at the time discussing the possibility of talking with the families of the witch and wizard who had under gone the protection ritual. She had been amazed to learn that the witch had been Dumbledore's second wife who had died in childbirth. He had been her protector at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her father had been a high Ministry official and wished to keep his only child from harm when a group of renegade goblins had threatened his family. She had been much younger than her male protectors with whom she had accepted the Rites of Union. The other wizard was killed in a fight with the goblins. As Harry had been told, the third protector was a woman. What had shocked Harry even more was that the witch was Professor Grubbly Plank. Dumbledore had been about to set up a meeting with the elderly witch when Hermione came up to the Headmaster's office. He had known she was coming and looked up with an amused glint in his blue eyes as she burst through the door.

"Professor Dumbledore this is outrageous!" she sputtered, brown hair flying in all directions. "It is simply unnatural, not to mention immoral. Why is it even permitted?" Hermione demanded thumping the books Harry had given her onto the old man's desk.

"Mrs. Weasley please calm down and take a seat," Dumbledore remarked conjuring a chair beside Harry. "Harry and I have just been discussing this very same issue."

"I'm sorry, Harry, but I just can't justify your having to form a marital union with more than one man. It is almost as if you have been made their chattel."

"Chattel?" Harry questioned unfamiliar with the word.

"It is an old word for when women were considered the property of their husbands," Dumbledore explained patiently.

"Oh. I guess I can see Hermione's point but couldn't that work both ways in this situation?"

"What on earth do you mean, Harry?" Her friend looked at her frowning thoughtfully.

"Well..." Harry started thinking carefully, "I'm the one in control of the situation. It is entirely up to me to decide what will happen. Therefore, I suppose you could consider them my property. I'm the one who will determine whether to accept one or more of them with the union and only I can permit them to take a wife in the usual manner outside of this. I can also dissolve the Protectorship although the Governors and the Wizengamot have made it perfectly clear to Dumbledore that this would not be allowed. If I read the law correctly I need their permission to do so and they will not be forthcoming in my situation since I am so powerful."

"That is correct Harry," Dumbledore agreed.

"Then why was it done at all?" Hermione asked. Her cheeks were still red with anger but she had calmed down somewhat.

"To protect Harry until the Prophecy could be fulfilled. The reason the Rite of Union was even brought into this was that the Wizengamot and the Governors were aware of how powerful she was becoming. They were afraid that she would simply take over when Voldemort was destroyed."

"Harry would never go dark and we all know that! It is simply an effort on the part of the Wizarding government to control her."

"I agree with you Hermione," Dumbledore stated patiently. Nevertheless, at the time I had no other recourse. Had Voldemort been truly killed that day in Grimmauld Place I may have been able to get the situation reversed. However, once I suspected that he could possibly reappear I felt that I had no other recourse than to keep quiet. I knew that if the Deatheaters found a way to bring him back the Ministry would not authorize Harry's release from the formal Rites of Union. She would need to use such a vast amount of power that they would simply be too frightened of what she might do to them."

"In other words the Protectors are there to keep her from using her powers for dark magic and opposing the government"

"Unfortunately, that is the case," the old man sighed. "Harry will have to make a decision within six months as to what she will do and dissolving the Protectorship is no longer an option."

"Why six months Professor?" Harry wondered curiously.

"It is the period which was decided upon to be sure that there would be no other rising of the Dark Lord. Normally, this would not be allowed. I argued that you should have time to adjust and allowed some latitude. I had originally asked for a year but was outvoted. We were able to reach a compromise with the six-month time frame."

"Then let me pose a hypothetical argument," Harry could see Hermione's logical mind at work, "what is to keep Harry from going dark and using the Protectors as her allies?"

"You should go into law Hermione." Dumbledore smiled blue eyes twinkling. "The members of the board and the Wizengamot made that same argument."

"What did you tell them Headmaster?" Harry queried green eyes glittering as she met his blue ones.

"I quite simply told them that it would not happen and staked my reputation on it."

"Humph, I'm surprised that they took that answer," Hermione snorted.

"They didn't," Dumbledore answered seriously. He studied the two young women over his spectacles thoughtfully before he continued.

"Then how did you convince them?" Harry watched him anxiously. She had let down her guard and he was allowing her to use her empathy to sense his feelings.

"I told them that I had enough confidence in you that if I so much as suspected you were misusing your powers in such a fashion I would kill you and that if I failed to do so they could give my soul to the Dementors."

"Albus," Harry gasped, "that's outrageous!"

"Did they accept your terms?" Hermione looked at him visibly shaken by his statement.

"Naturally." He winked. "How could they not?"

"Now I know why you were watching me so carefully when I did that spell to restore Ron's eye sight," Harry remarked. "I almost put you into a horrible predicament."

"Your intentions were laudable and many of the healers are most interested to study what you did. However, I must caution you Harry not to attempt such things in the future. They could be misconstrued by those who would seek to gain power by less than creditable methods."

"I understand Sir." Harry and Dumbledore locked eyes and he gently reached across his desk to take her hand. Her distress was obvious and he wished to soothe her anxiety.

"Headmaster... you wouldn't really kill Harry... would you?"

"He would," Harry answered for him, "and I would want him to do it. The thought of what I would become..." her voice trailed off with a shudder.

"I sincerely doubt it would ever come down to that Harry," Dumbledore answered patting her hand. "And I promise you that I have no more secrets."

"So I guess Harry will have to follow through with the Rites of Union in one form or another then?"

"I am afraid so Hermione. However, I have every confidence that she will make the right decision."

"Too bad you're the Keeper of the Trust. I would just marry you," Harry laughed good-naturedly. She loved teasing the old wizard about their affection for one another.

"Harry James Potter, Dumbledore is old enough to be your great great grandfather!" Hermione rolled her eyes at Harry's shameless grin while Dumbledore looked between the two of them. His blue eyes were twinkling merrily.

"Oh... I don't know Hermione. Age shouldn't matter. I could always just do this..." Harry raised her wand waving it in Dumbledore's direction. His beard immediately began to shorten and turn red as his ancient face took on the appearance of a man one third of his age. She then conjured a mirror and handed it to her mentor.

"Hmm...Excellent piece of transfiguration Harry. I wonder what would happen if I went around the school like this for a few hours?"

"You would probably have all the witches groveling at your feet flirting shamelessly. I could just see the look on Minerva's face and Madam Hooch would be following you around like a hawk," she joked wiggling her brows.

"I can see why Harry," Hermione agreed. "Then again I am partial to red heads." She blushed furiously as Harry waved her wand changing the headmaster's appearance back.

Dumbledore and Harry exchanged a few more words about the Protectorship before the girls left his office. Harry had told him that she would do what had to be done but was still very confused and uncertain what path to follow. 'I love all three of them but am I actually in love with any of them? I know they all care for me too but are they in love with me. I wish I could say for certain but none has ever told me exactly how they actually feel. I'll just have to do what Remus suggested and spend the next few weeks with them. I only hope I don't hurt anyone's feelings...' she mused worriedly.

That same afternoon Harry had also had to deal with receiving another Order of Merlin. She was glad that her friends had also received them again along with her three Protectors, Dumbledore, and many of the Aurors. There was also a special award for Phaedra. Harry was happy that Voldemort was no longer a threat and more than a little pleased that her scar was no longer so obvious. Nevertheless, it bothered her that she was being rewarded for having to kill. It just seemed so incongruous. Her very nature was one of peace and the thought of killing still abhorred her. She was glad that there was no death penalty anymore even if many people felt the captured Deatheaters deserved to die.

Of course, the Dementors were still around and the Ministry had once again worked out a deal with them. Arthur had been reluctant to do so but it was either that or reinstate the Death Penalty. The Dementors were now back on duty at Azkaban. The conditions within the prison itself were also being made more humane. Safeguards were being discussed to prevent the Dementors from leaving again should another dark wizard ever seek them out. It seemed that the Department of Mysteries had found a way to kill them, which involved using unhappy or dark memories. One of the workers had hit upon the simple idea when it was mentioned that they fed on happiness. The theory had been tested on one of the rogue Dementors and it had worked. Those that had actually participated in the battle had been put to death. No one seemed to care about this since they were not considered human. The rest were now guarding the prison along with a contingent of Aurors who would be rotated every month.

Following the ceremony to receive her Order of Merlin Harry had to contend with the exclusive interview with Rita Skeeter. Rita had been given strict rules about what she could ask Harry but had still tried to circumvent them. She seemed very interested in what Harry would do with her Protectorship. Harry had politely declined to answer with a simple, 'no comment.' Rita was unfazed by this but did not press the issue when Snape gave her an extremely malevolent glare. Instead, she had pressed forward on another topic.

"Harry how did you get around the magic in the goblet to restore Mr. Weasley's eye sight?"

"There is always a way, Miss Skeeter, as you well know. The healers have been given the information and spells. They are now working on learning and refining them for similar cases."

"Yet you will not tell the public what you did?"

"The information will be made available through the healers at St. Mungo's as soon as they deem it a certifiable healing process. Other than that I can't tell you anything more."

"Mr. Weasley how do you feel about what she did?"

"I am happy of course. Who wouldn't be? Being blind even for that limited amount of time was devastating but somehow I was able to cope with it and did my best to help during the battle."

"Weren't you afraid that you would hit one of your comrades?"

"Not really. They had me aim low and I was lying on the ground. Mostly I hit people with things like Jelly legs and stuff like that," Ron replied casually.

"What about you Mrs. Weasley. You lost your parents during the attack in Hogsmeade just prior to the battle. Don't you think you should have waited for a suitable mourning period before you and Ron tied the knot?"

"No. My parents would have wanted to see me and Ron happy," Hermione bristled. "I learned that I didn't need the show of a fancy wedding. What was important was that I was with the man I loved who loved me too."

"Professor Snape how did you feel when Voldemort was holding you captive? Surely, you believed you could not get out of there alive. After all you had been spying on him. He considered you a traitor to his cause."

"Miss Skeeter I had been fully prepared to die from the day I joined Dumbledore in the fight against him."

"Weren't you in the least concerned for you sister and her daughter?"

"Madam... you are treading dangerously with that question and only a moron would ask such a thing," Snape scowled glaring darkly. Rita averted her eyes quickly moving on to her next question.

"I see that your niece is not here. How did she feel about being the youngest recipient to ever be awarded the Meritorious Medal of Bravery?"

"My niece understands the significance of the award. She accepted it with all the dignity one would expect of a child her age."

"How do you feel about her receiving the award Harry?" Rita asked redirecting her attention.

"She deserved that and more. Had she been old enough she would have a received an Order of Merlin along with the posthumous ones given her parents. She held up better than many adults would under such circumstances."

"This next question is for Mr. Black and Mr. Lupin. What was going through your minds when you were trying to locate the Dark Lord's Headquarters?"

"We were doing what needed to be done, Miss Skeeter," Sirius bristled, "attempting to rescue the captives and perform our obligation as Harry's protectors."

"Do you agree with this statement Mr. Lupin?"

"It is the truth," Remus responded nonchalantly.

"Weren't either of you concerned that you would not get there in time?"

"We had every confidence in Harry's ability to fight Voldemort." Remus continued, "She has been doing so for a number of years quite successfully."

"Mr. Black how do you feel about the rumors that you were a dark wizard even though you were vindicated of any charges before this last rising of the Dark Lord?"

"Sirius has never practiced the Dark Arts," Harry interceded quickly noting the angry look in her godfather's eyes. "He is not responsible for what other members of his family have done. If people are foolish enough to think so they had better take a long look at some of their own relatives. My godfather has undergone more hardships than you could ever imagine. He is to be commended for his bravery and ability to stand up in the face of adversity." Sirius shot Harry a warm look.

"Mr. Lupin do you think your involvement will cause people to look at werewolves and other dark creatures in a different light?"

"Excuse me, Rita," Arthur interjected, "but this may be a good time to let the public know that Remus has agreed to work with the Ministry's Department of Control of Magical Creatures as an unofficial liaison. We will be examining the laws on the control of werewolves and some of the others to see about changing them in a way that will keep the public safe and ensure that those afflicted will be able to have a more normal way of life."

"Does this mean that there will be fewer restrictions?" Rita asked eagerly knowing she was getting a scoop.

"It means that they will be changed to benefit all of those involved or at least we hope so," Remus replied seriously. "I will be the first one to tell you that there should be some kind of safeguards. Most werewolves are good law-abiding citizens but we have been shunned and unable to work because people are afraid. We are thought of as monsters and inhuman. This is a fallacy that needs to be rectified but it will take time and careful planning. The only time we are a threat is during the full moon."

"What kinds of changes would you like to see enacted?" Rita's eyes were wide and her quill was moving furiously.

"We need to make the Wolfsbane potion more readily available for one thing. Employers also need to agree to give time off during the three days surrounding the full moon," Remus told her soberly.

"That's right," Hermione agreed. "Harry has always said that Remus affliction should be thought of as more of an incurable illness."

"Why do you say that Harry?" Rita questioned.

"Because it is. Remus didn't ask to be bitten by a werewolf and most werewolves would be horrified at passing on the trait to someone. I know Remus worries about it. Even though he has access to the potion, he still will lock himself up unless he is with Sirius or me when we are in our animagus forms. Even then, he prefers to be in a place where there are no people he could harm."

"What about children? Do you believe they should be allowed to have parental rights?"

"With certain safeguards there is no reason why they shouldn't. There are some werewolves who have families you know," Harry remarked annoyed.

"Yes but the children are usually cared for by other relatives," Rita countered.

"The help of relatives or others would of course be required," Remus interrupted. "However, that would only be needed during the same full moon period as we discussed earlier. It would not be as much of a problem once the children were old enough to go away to school."

"Hmm...Do you believe you and Miss Potter will be having children?"

"Rita you have been warned about asking specific questions about the Protectorship," Dumbledore said coolly.

"It's all right Albus. I'd like to answer that. I have made no decisions yet as to the Rites of Union. Should I decide to take the formal ones or just to marry one of the three I will most likely have children. Should Remus and I have a child together I hope that we would be responsible parents. Naturally, they would learn from a young age that their father could inadvertently cause them harm. I would like to hope that they would also be able to tell their friends that he was no different from their own fathers. Only that his illness precludes any interaction during the full moon."

"Interesting...how do you feel about werewolves being allowed to be guardians?"

"It should be permitted so long as there are safeguards," Harry tossed her head annoyed. "These are the kinds of things that will be studied and reviewed by the Ministry. I was raised by my Muggle relatives because Sirius was falsely imprisoned and Remus was not allowed to take me simply because he was a werewolf. I find that unacceptable and hope that in time these regulations will be changed," she told Rita with ferocity.

"Harry," Rita began using her sweetest voice, "are you aware that the Ministry had reservations about allowing Mr. Lupin to become one of your protectors because he is a werewolf?"

"Then it's a good thing that they used their common sense or Voldemort might still be here and I wouldn't," Harry countered looking Rita squarely in the eye. "Now unless you have no further questions..."

"Well yes, I do. I would like to ask Ginny Weasley how she felt when she was posing as you in front of Voldemort."

"If you really must know, I was scared to death but I was determined to get my brother and the others out of there alive. I was willing to do whatever it took to stop Lord Voldemort."

"I understand you were subjected a number of times to the Cruciatus curse. How did you fell about that?"

"I knew what I was getting into. I'm only sorry I never got to do my Bat-Boogey Hex on him. Would you like me to demonstrate it?" Ginny pointed her wand at Rita with a wicked chuckle.

"She's really good at it," Draco sneered, "and I should know having experienced it first hand." He gave Ginny a quick hug.

"No. That won't be necessary," Rita answered hurriedly. "I think we're done here."

"You are aware that your story must be approved by the Ministry," Arthur commented as she gathered up her quill and parchment.

Harry didn't hear the rest of the conversation as the group left the room and headed back towards the floo system to return to Hogwarts...

That had been almost three months ago and Harry had thrown herself into her teaching and studying. She was working hard with Severus and Tiberius since the Potions Master exam was in another week. She also had to prepare exams for the end of term for each of her classes. In between, she was spending time with all three men. None of them was pushing her for a decision and she was relieved by this. Each had something to offer her and she knew that under the circumstances she could have all three but did not feel such a thing would be appropriate. However, none of them seemed to mind and this troubled her even more. She found she was spending a good deal of time watching each one when they weren't aware of her presence and had taken to following them about with her invisibility cloak. She would also use her empathic ability to feel their emotions. Unfortunately, the use of Legilimency was impossible since Remus and Severus were both skilled Occlumens and would know. She refused to try it on Sirius too since she did not wish to invade his private thoughts. It would not be fair to either one of them.

Harry had decided to do some revision down by the lake since it was a warm day for the beginning of May. She had just conjured herself a blanket to sit on when she saw Remus and Sirius coming towards her from the castle. Sirius was smiling at Remus while the werewolf was rolling his eyes. Harry couldn't hear what they were saying but each seemed pleased. Looking a bit more closely she could see that Sirius was whispering something into Remus ear and he was blushing. This was not the first time she had seen them like this and her mind immediately flashed back to a night a few weeks ago when she had found them sitting in the atrium. They had jumped apart when she entered but not fast enough for her not to notice they had been embracing one another. While this was not unusual since they were such close friends, she suspected that there was more there than they were letting on to her.

This brought back a memory of Severus and a conversation she had overheard him having with his uncle.

"Do you believe Harry will accept the full rites or settle on just one of you as a husband?" Tiberius had asked.

"I am uncertain at this time, Uncle," Severus replied quietly.

"How do you feel about her?"

"I do not believe that my feelings are relevant to the situation."

"She will be an asset to our family, Severus, should she accept the full rites."

"What if she does not? How will you feel then?"

"You will still be bound by the Protectorship Severus. While this will not be as illustrious of a union as the full rites or an actual marriage it will still help to restore our family from the darkness, which was caused by your parents. Besides, Phaedra adores Harry. She has helped her to accept the loss of Circe and Justinian in ways that neither of us ever could have."

"I know, Uncle, and it is good to see Phaedra smiling again," Severus sighed.

"Severus answer me truthfully. Do you believe that Harry will choose her godfather or Lupin?"

"They are all close in ways that I am not a party to."

"Why are you so unsure she will not accept you? I can tell you have feelings for her even if you refuse to admit it."

"And if she does not feel the same way towards me I will only be making a fool of myself," Severus had retorted.

Harry never heard the rest of the conversation as the bell had rung and she had to duck behind a gargoyle in the dungeon as a group of students headed towards the potions classroom. Her heart had been beating rapidly and she had found herself more than a little disappointed that she had not heard the rest Severus' reply.

"Hey, Princess, getting ready for the exam I see," Remus fond voice interrupted her reverie.

"Trying to but this stuff is brutal," Harry grinned up at the two men, "and I thought Potions class was hard."

"You know, Love, there is no shame in withdrawing from the exam. I'm sure Severus would understand."

"Yeah right. He'd just give me one of his sardonic smiles and say, 'I told you that you weren't good at Potions.' I made a commitment to take this test and I'm going to do my best."

"Then you have nothing to feel ashamed of," Remus commented. "Even if you don't pass you will have done your best."

"Nobody expects you to be perfect Harry," Sirius said sitting down beside her.

"I only wish that were true Padfoot. People hear my name and think I can do anything."

"That's only because you did something that no one else could. You defied and stood up to the greatest dark wizard of the age from the time you were a year old. I for one am proud of you." Sirius hugged her.

"Hey, Padfoot, don't hog up all the hugs," Remus teased dropping down on her other side for a hug of his own.

"You two are incorrigible," Harry laughed. "What am I ever going to do with you?"

"Now she sounds like Lily." Remus winked at Sirius.

"So are you going to watch the Slytherin vs. Gryffindor Quidditch final tomorrow?" Sirius questioned changing the subject.

"Naturally but I wish I were playing in it again."

"Who do you think will have the advantage Harry?" Remus inquired with interest.

"It's hard to say. Both teams are pretty evenly matched but I think Ginny will catch the snitch before Tybolt."

"Hmm...I've seen her play and she's really quick but I think Tybolt has a good eye too," Sirius remarked thoughtfully.

"I hope Gryffindor wins though. It would be nice to keep the cup. Especially since Slytherin is in the lead for the House Cup."

"I haven't checked the standings lately. What are the scores?" Remus asked pleasantly.

"Slytherin has 480, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw are tied at the moment with 420, and Hufflepuff has 375."

"Well then I will just have to give a few points more to Gryffindor during my next class. What do you say, Remus, should we help them along and knock the socks off of those Slytherins?" Sirius looked at his friend mischievously

"In that case I will just have to make sure that I deduct a few house points during my class this afternoon," Severus silky voice remarked from behind startling them. They had not seen him come up from the rear of the castle.

"I think I'll just give points to the Hufflepuffs for effort," Harry sighed, "that would solve the whole situation and keep you guys from acting like a couple of first years. What do you think Moony?"

"Now that would be something. Hufflepuff winning the cup. That hasn't happened in years. I could just see Pomona Sprout's face. I think the dear lady would have a heart attack." Remus grinned.

Severus arched his brow amused while Sirius chuckled merrily. Harry rolled her eyes. Hufflepuff hadn't won the cup since the three men had been students at Hogwarts.

"Harry I came to let you know that we will be leaving on Friday morning for Paris. We shall need to apparate to the Leaky Cauldron and then we will take a Portkey over to France. Your written exam is scheduled to begin at one o'clock. Your practical will be on Saturday. We'll return to England on Sunday morning," Severus informed her.

"What time are we leaving on Friday?"

"We shall leave here right after breakfast. I want to leave us plenty of time to get settled at our hotel."

"I still think you both should have stayed at the Black estate in Brittany," Sirius remarked.

"It will be easier to stay at the hotel. Harry will have more time to relax between her testing," Severus replied. "I need to go back up to the castle now since I have a class to dock points from. It will be nice to win the cup," he sneered playfully. "I will see you all later."

They watched him disappear back up the hill. Harry found herself grinning after him. She rather liked Severus' dry sense of humor. Sirius and Remus watched her expression and exchanged knowing looks.

"Harry we need to talk," Remus said trying to sound casual.

"God I hate that phrase. It never bodes anything good," Harry sighed. She looked intently at the two of them letting herself feel their emotions. They were anxious but she could sense happiness about them too. Harry's heart started to beat rapidly. She knew what they were feeling. She also knew what she wanted and felt for each of them.

"Don't look so solemn," Sirius frowned. "We just want to have a little chat."

"What about?" Harry asked cautiously.

"You haven't said anything lately about the Rites. We were wondering if you had given it any thought," Remus answered avoiding her gaze.

"Every day," she responded curtly. "However I have a problem. I love three men but I suspect I am actually in love with one of them. Unfortunately, I don't know if he feels the same way. I also don't want to hurt the other two. I should prefer not to accept the full rites with all three unless I have to."

"In other words you are afraid of any of us being hurt." Sirius studied her carefully.

"I suppose so," Harry sighed.

"That won't happen Princess. We all care about you."

"Remus it could happen very easily," Harry remarked choosing her words carefully. "You see if I choose to commit myself to either you or Sirius alone neither of you could tell me that you wouldn't be hurt."

"What do you mean Honey?" Sirius queried feigning innocence.

"I mean that I have two protectors who love me very much. So much so that they would sacrifice their own happiness with one another to make me happy." Harry smiled sadly at the two of them. "You lied to me Moony. I should have realized that as a werewolf you could do it. Sometimes you're able to block me when I let my guard down and allow myself to feel your emotions. What you forgot is that Sirius can't. He loves me very much but he loves you more."

"Harry...I..." Remus started to object.

"It's okay Moony. I know you love me just as much as Sirius does. I love you both but I can tell you that I am not in love with either of you the way a wife and a husband should be. I would never come between either of you. You're Soulmates and that's how it should be."

"Then you're not upset?" Sirius asked eyes alight with hope.

"That you're lovers? No. I am upset that Moony lied to me a few months back when he denied it. I am also more than a little peeved that the two of you would sacrifice your love for each other for my happiness."

"Harry you have to understand that we all agreed that the decision of who you were with was to come from you and you alone." Sirius hugged her affectionately. "We also didn't know how you would react to our being together." He nodded in Remus direction.

"Who am I to interfere with true love? Besides, you are both very discreet. I can only assume that is because there are a good number of people who would object to such a relationship. Fortunately, I am not one of them." She grinned at the two of them.

"Princess will you forgive me for not telling you the truth?"

"Only if you promise never to lie to me again Remus Lupin," Harry scowled pretending to be angry but unable to hide her smile.

"Werewolf's honor!" Remus held up his hands in salute.

"Shit! I just realized that you said you were in love with one of us..." Sirius gasped looking over at Remus.

"Snivellus," the two men stated in unison.

"You promised never to call him that!" Harry admonished.

"Er...sorry Love." Sirius flushed, eyes dancing. "Who would have thought...this is just amazing," he stuttered trying to find the right words.

"Will you marry him then Princess?"

Harry sighed unable to look at them. Remus tilted her chin up seeing her wistful expression.

"What's wrong Harry?"

"He...he's never said how he actually feels about me," Harry's voice cracked and she could feel tears filling up in her eyes, "and he is very hard to read emotionally."

"Then you should let him know how you feel," Remus remarked gently.

"NO! What if he laughs at me or tells me he doesn't love me like that."

"Do you want us to talk with him, Honey?"

"Sirius, are you crazy? Don't you dare say a word to him! I could never live down the humiliation."

"Then what are you going to do?"

"At this point all I can hope for is that he will let me know how he feels. He is not one to make a public display of his feelings. I have until August. If nothing happens by then..." her voice trailed off.

"Humph...that foolish git should let you know if he loves you. If he had any sense he would shout it to the world." Sirius clenched his fists jumping to his feet.

"Yeah right. If only he would but I don't ever see that happening."

"Give him time Princess. Severus is a very private man. He does not like to show his feelings. You know he's your Soulmate."

"A person doesn't necessarily have to be in love with their Soulmate."

"I think he cares very deeply for you Love. Don't forget we've seen him at times when you have been injured or missing. I think if he had been capable he would have torn Voldemort to pieces if you had been killed."

"Thanks, Sirius, but that still doesn't change the way things are now. I will just have to wait. If it turns out that he doesn't love me the way I want him to...well then...we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Harry gathered her books no longer in the mood to study for her exam and they walked her back to the castle.

None of them had been aware of the tall dark haired man who had been gathering plants just out of their view in the Forbidden Forest. He had listened silently, his jaw set. His ice blue eyes were thoughtful as his brow furrowed into a sly frown. He would seek out Dumbledore's opinion and then proceed from there. True to his nature as a Slytherin, a cunning idea was forming in the back of his mind. If it worked, none of them would ever be the wiser...

Harry and Severus had arrived in France by ten o'clock Friday morning. They settled into their hotel, a quaint building much nicer than the Leaky Cauldron and each went to unpack their bags. They had rooms across the hall from one another and Harry was delighted with her view of the Seine. It was a lovely spring morning and she almost wished she were in Paris on holiday rather than having to spend the afternoon taking the written half of the Potion Master exam. With a sigh, she turned back from the view just as there was a knock on her door. She knew it was Severus and hurriedly opened the door for him.

"Are you finished unpacking?" he inquired glancing around the room.

"Yes. I didn't bring too much with me. I was wondering why you said I should bring a set of dress robes though."

"I shall explain later. It is almost eleven now so I thought we should eat before we head over to the wizarding area of the Paris Institute for your exam. Are you prepared?"

"For what the test or lunch?"

The test naturally," he replied with a smirk.

"If I try to cram any more into my head I think I'll just get everything all mixed up."

"I take it you're nervous?"

"Wouldn't you be?" she asked as he picked her cloak up and helped her to put it on.

"You forget I took the exam myself a number of years ago."

"Yeah and you probably scored one hundred."

"Ninety eight point five actually," he sneered. "I lost points for failing to list an alternate for the Pepper up Potion to weaken it so that it could be administered safely to children under ten."

"You wouldn't be willing to tell me exactly what that alternate is would you?" she asked following him from the room.

"No...You would know it if you did your revision properly."

"Humph, just for your information it happens to be done by reducing the amount of porcupine quills by half." Harry glanced up at him slyly.

"Very good, Miss Potter, that will be ten points for Gryffindor," he smirked arching his brow in amusement.

"Still the teacher," Harry laughed, "right up until the end."

Snape looked down at her sardonically but didn't say anything as he led Harry from the hotel. They had lunch in a small outdoor café frequented by the wizarding community with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Snape ordered for them both since Harry did not speak French. She was delighted with the Spinach Quiche but was more than a bit put off by his Escargot.

"How can you eat snails?" She grimaced.

"They're quite good. Why don't you try one?" he offered politely.

"Ah...no thanks. We use enough of them in some of the potions."

"As you wish." He pursed his lips, dark eyes glittering with mirth as he continued with his meal.

Harry ate as much as she could but her stomach was in knots and she kept glancing at her watch. 'What ever possessed me to want to take this test,' she fretted inwardly. 'I must be mad! I'll never pass. Maybe I should just plead sick and have Severus take me back,' she worried desperately. She was startled out of her thoughts when Severus gently touched her arm indicating that it was time to leave. Harry followed him without speaking trying to fight the bile rising up in her throat.

"Sev, I meant to ask you... what is the passing score for the exams?" she questioned nervously as they entered the building.

"You must attain a ninety on the multiple choice and an eighty five on the essay portion of the exam for a median score of eighty seven point five. Tomorrow you will be asked to brew at least three potions of varying difficulty from memory. You will be allowed only one mistake and may start over. Any more than that is an automatic failure," he told her matter of factly. "Still want to go in?" he challenged with a sneer.

"What's the worse that can happen?" Harry answered trying to cover her nerves.

They were met at the door of the exam room by a stout witch with white hair. She took Harry's admittance forms and looked up at her, eyes growing wide when she read the name.

"Harry Potter...It's a pleasure to meet you. I am Madam Quintas and will be proctoring the written portion of your exam. I see your sponsors are..." she glanced up quickly. "Severus it is good to see you! How is your uncle?"

"He is well Luella," Snape answered. "I shall tell him you inquired after him."

"Yes, my boy, please do. Neither of you have been here for awhile but I suppose you were busy with all that nasty business with You-Know-Who."

"Yes. I am sure that now that the Dark Lord has been destroyed we shall be able to attend more of the Institutes lectures on the latest discoveries in Potions."

"More likely you will both be giving them. If Miss Potter is as good at Potions as she was with stopping You-Know-Who then we will have three of the best Masters in all of Europe."

Snape merely inclined his head politely. Harry just pretended to study the painting of a unicorn on the wall. She felt like she was ready to throw up. 'I think fighting Voldemort was easier than trying to do this,' she considered miserably while Madam Quintas directed her into the exam room.

"Good luck, Harry, I will pick you up as soon as the exam is over. If you finish early just wait for me by that bench," he told her indicating a bench further up the hall.

Harry nodded and went to take her seat. She looked around at the other witches and wizards who were taking their places. None were as young as she was. A few seemed to know each other and apparently had taken the exam before and failed. Harry learned that their sponsors would receive the exam results in about a month. Once the explanations and directions had been given out, the exam started. Turning her test form over Harry read the first two multiple-choice questions and nearly laughed aloud. 'Where would you find a bezoar and what is the difference between Monkshood and Wolfbane?' She couldn't stop the grin on her face as she recalled the first day she had laid eyes on Severus Snape as a first year as she started her test. Like most exams, it started out easy and grew more difficult as she went along. When she was uncertain of an answer, she merely put down what came to her mind first knowing that it was usually the correct answer. She then began the essay questions. For the first time in her life Harry was grateful that Severus had only given them essay questions on his exams. Now she understood why. She completed the final question ten minutes before the end of the test and turned in her paper. Severus arrived just as she left the exam room. Harry's green eyes beamed up at him as she met him in the hall.

"You're never going to believe what the first two questions on that test were," she chuckled.

"Indeed. Since I can see you are absolutely bursting at the seams to tell me it must be something that you think I would find quite interesting."

"Oh, I'm sure you will find it hilarious."

"Very well, Harry, what were they?"

"Where would you find a bezoar and what is the difference between Wolfbane and Monkshood." She looked at him trying hard not to laugh as he blinked in astonishment.

"They are obviously excellent questions to start with," Snape replied with aplomb regaining his usual composure. "I certainly hope you knew the answers."

"Maybe we should ask Hermione. I'm sure she would know," Harry joked unable to conceal her glee as her thoughts drifted back in time once more.

"I'm sure she does. Are you hungry?"

"Not just yet. Are you? We could get something to eat before going back to the hotel."

"Actually I thought perhaps you would like to change. I had you bring those dress robes for a reason."

"Really?" she asked trying not to sound too eager as her face lit with curiosity.

"I hoped you would like to join me tonight to relax at the Paris Opera. I bought the tickets in anticipation of this trip. They will be performing Candide. We can have a late supper afterwards."

"Terrific! I've never been to the opera. I may not understand the words but I think I should be able to follow the story."

"Then we should go and get ready," he stated giving her one of his rare smiles. "I think you could use the diversion. You've had a rough day."

They went back to the hotel and Harry took a quick shower. She put her hair into a French knot and put in her contact lenses before applying some light make up and donning pale green dress robes. Severus knocked on her door just as she was finishing up.

"Come in," she called coming out of the bathroom.

"You look lovely," he said taking in her appearance.

"Thank you. You look pretty good yourself." His usual black was trimmed with silver tonight and he carried a silver-topped cane. "Let me guess. Your wand is in the cane."

"It is," he agreed nodding.

"Didn't Lucius Malfoy have one like that?"

"Actually this one used to be his. Draco gave it to me after Lucius demise."

"In that case I hope you checked it over for any unusual spells."

"Naturally. There were only a few simple ones which were easily removed," he smirked as she looked at him askance. "Shall we go?" Harry took his arm and they headed to the opera house.

Harry enjoyed the opera and found she needn't have worried about not understanding the words. Each seat was magically geared for the translations to appear on the back of the one in front of it. She followed along with only a minimum of difficulty and found herself humming some of the lyrics afterwards while they walked towards the restaurant.

"I can see you enjoyed yourself," Severus remarked amused.

"I thought it was wonderful. I haven't been this relaxed in a long time. I might actually get some real sleep tonight."

"Are you still having nightmares?"

"Not as often as I was. At least now I know that's all they really are. How about Phaedra, is she sleeping any better?"

"Yes but she still has some bad dreams. It is to be expected."

"We should bring her a present."

"What do you propose we bring her?"

"I would say a snake since she could talk to it but that might bring back too many bad memories."

"I agree. Besides she already has two pets."

"Then how about we bring her a new dress? I think she would like that."

"Planning on starting her on the new Paris fashions so young?" Severus teased.

"Why not? She's a very pretty little girl. In a few years you will have all the boys chasing after her."

"Not unless they want to be turned into potion ingredients."

Harry laughed and the rest of their evening continued with light banter. She was happier than she had been in a long time and was glad to see Severus so calm. He was enjoying her company as well. All too soon, it was time to go back to the hotel since Harry's practical exam would begin by nine in the morning.

Severus walked her to her door and waved his wand to unlock it before turning her to face him. He stared down at her, dark eyes unfathomable, as they locked with hers. Harry wasn't certain how long they stared at each other before he slowly lowered his head. His lips met hers and she found herself returning his kiss. Gradually his tongue sought hers. She opened her mouth to meet his with her own, gently twisting her fingers into his silky black hair as he pressed her close. When they finally separated her heart was beating wildly. She thought her knees would buckle. Severus' normally pale cheeks were tinged with a faint blush. Neither spoke as Harry opened the door to her room.

"Get some sleep Harry. You have a busy day tomorrow," Severus quietly commented breaking the silence.

"I'll see you in the morning then," she whispered unable to find her voice. He nodded and pulled the door closed between them. Harry was deep in thought as she prepared for bed. 'That's it, I'm hooked for sure. I wish he would just tell me what he's feeling. He's too good at blocking me. Please, Merlin, don't let him be toying with me,' she mused climbing into bed and turning off the light. 'I couldn't bear it if he doesn't love me.' Rolling over onto her side, she fell asleep hugging her pillow.

The next day neither mentioned what had happened. After breakfast, Severus escorted Harry back to the Paris Institute for her practical. Each participant drew a slip of paper from a bowl; magical writing appeared which stated the potions they were to brew. Harry had the Skele-Gro, Pepper Up, and Draught of Living Death. The exam took all day with a short break for lunch, which was provided as a courtesy. It took all her effort to concentrate. She had all she could do not to think about Severus.

Once the exam ended he picked her up right on time. They made a brief stop to pick out a new dress for Phaedra before returning to the hotel. Severus seemed preoccupied the entire time and Harry dared not try to interrupt his thoughts. Reaching their rooms Severus told her he brought some papers to grade and went directly inside. Harry ate a cold supper alone in her room and then went to bed. She was exhausted and fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. They returned to Hogwarts in the morning, neither mentioning what had happened...

May quickly turned into June. Severus remained less reserved but made no further attempts to kiss her openly. Several times Harry thought he was watching her covertly. This seemed especially true when she was with Sirius. Harry idly wondered if he were jealous. She remembered that he had told her he would want to see her happy even if it was with his old rival. Sirius and Remus did their best to make her feel better but knew she was hurting inside. They even went as far as to ask if they had quarreled while in Paris and Harry confessed what had happened.

"Harry, Severus is just being a stubborn git. He's too proud to admit that he is in love with James Potter's daughter. What he needs is a swift kick in the ass," Sirius grumbled in annoyance. "I should go down to the dungeon right now and..."

"No! Sirius you promised to stay out of this," Harry reminded him unable to hide the agitation in her voice.

"Harry is right, Padfoot, it will only make matters worse," Remus advised.

"But Harry deserves to be happy!"

"She will be, Padfoot, even if she has to accept the full Rites. We'll be there with her either way and so will Severus."

"Yes but it's not the same. She shouldn't have to feel she was made to do this just to be close to him."

"Sirius please...just don't say or do anything. If Sev isn't in love with me, I can't force him to want me like that. If I have to fulfill the full Rites of Union then at least I know you and Moony do care about me in such a way that you won't have any problems with the physical side of things," she remarked unable to meet their eyes, her cheeks growing hot.

"See, Moony, I told you she wouldn't have any problems with our relationship should it come down to the full rites," Sirius chuckled. "It must be our animal magnetism."

"Oh knock it off," Harry said cuffing him on the head affectionately. "Besides, Moony is the one with animal magnetism or haven't you noticed?"

Remus blushed hotly and then threw back his head and howled. Harry couldn't help but laugh.

"Feeling better now Princess?"

"You two always make me feel good. That's why I love you both so much."

"Now if only we could get that cold serpent to coil himself up around you I bet even Fawkes couldn't rival your Phoenix song," Sirius commented hugging her fondly.

"Speak of the devil..." Remus gasped as Fawkes suddenly appeared with a note in his beak and landed on Harry's shoulder.

"This must be important for Dumbledore to send Fawkes," Harry commented taking the note. The Phoenix then gave a pleasant trill and disappeared into a burst of flames as Harry opened the missive.

"What does it say Princess?"

"Just that he wants to see us all in ten minutes for a cup of tea. I wonder what is going on. You don't suppose something bad has happened. Is my scar any different?" she questioned with a note of panic in her voice.

"Nope, it's barely visible," Sirius reassured pushing away her hair. "The Headmaster must want us for something else."

"Did either of you ever consider that he merely wants to spend a quiet afternoon tea with all of us?" Remus stated calmly.

"He always was the practical one," Sirius remarked as they all headed upstairs to Dumbledore's office.

The door was opened when they arrived and Severus was sitting with Dumbledore over by the empty hearth. A small table was spread before them laden with tea and biscuits as well as assorted scones and pastries.

"Thank you all for coming. I hope I didn't worry you by sending Fawkes but this is most important and I felt you should all be here. Please sit down and help yourselves." He waved them over to the sofa indicating the refreshments.

"Headmaster is something wrong?" Harry asked nervously.

"No Child. I just felt that since things have calmed down a bit we could all use some time together," he replied looking at her over his spectacles. His blue eyes were dancing merrily.

"Since when is tea and biscuits important?" Harry looked at him confused.

"When it is the middle of a pleasant Saturday afternoon and the term is just about over. After all, there is only one more week of classes and the OWL's and NEWT's are completed. It has been a most stressful year. I thought we should just enjoy one another's company. It is the Trust Keeper and Headmaster's prerogative."

"In other words, Princess, he'll tell us what is going on when he's ready. In the meantime just sit and relax."

"Indeed. The Headmaster is in a very good humor today," Severus commented. "I believe Harry is the reason." He arched his brow resting his dark eyes on her face.

"Well I can believe that. She did take out Voldemort and saved a number of lives in the process," Sirius teased rumpling her hair.

"Don't forget the fact that she restored her best mate's eye sight and helped Phaedra get through the loss of her parents."

"Speaking of Phaedra, where is she? I haven't seen her today and it's gorgeous outside."

"My uncle took her to Diagon Alley. She wanted to see the Weasley twins. I believe she still has a crush on them. She also wanted to buy some of their wares." Severus frowned.

"I see you and Ron are breaking her into becoming a Marauder young," Sirius gloated grinning at Severus.

"Just think she may actually marry one of the twins later on. They have been rather slow to mature." Harry gave Severus an evil smile.

"My niece will have better sense than to marry either one of them," Severus sneered, "and they will mind their manners unless they want to find themselves in the bottom of one of my cauldrons."

"Sev they've already been there. I think they hold the record for cleaning them in detention," Harry laughed trying not to choke as she munched on a biscuit. Severus actually gave her a sardonic smile in return.

"If I may interrupt your pleasant banter for a moment I have some things I would like to discuss. The first is one of utmost importance concerning next year." Dumbledore smiled up at them all pleasantly.

"Of course Albus," Remus stated as they looked at him expectantly.

"It seems that one of our teachers will be leaving us and I will have a full time position available. Hagrid will also be returning to his position as Care of Magical Creatures instructor and Tiberius will be going back to his business on a full time basis."

"So we will need to look for other employment?" Remus couldn't hide his disappointment.

"On the contrary, Remus, I would like you all to stay on full time. I know that Harry and Sirius will do occasional special assignments with the Aurors but we can worry about that when it happens."

"What do you have in mind Albus?" the werewolf asked eagerly. He enjoyed teaching immensely.

"First off I would like you to go back to teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, Remus. Unless you would prefer to stay with Charms?"

"No. Defense was always my specialty."

"Excellent. Sirius would you be willing to take over as the full time Charms Professor?"

"It would be my pleasure Albus. I always liked Charms."

"Severus will be going back to teaching Potions full time. He has rather missed being able to do his research and now that Voldemort is no longer a threat he will have my full support for his studies." Severus nodded unable to disguise the delighted look in his eyes.

"And here I always thought you wanted to teach Defense," Harry sneered.

"Actually I prefer my research. I am planning on making some improvements to Lupin's Wolfsbane."

"Are you really?" Lupin looked at him with interest.

"If you will occasionally part with a vial of blood or urine along with a few bits of hair, yes. I think it may prove useful. Especially if I can get samples at various times of the month."

"I shall be more than happy to provide them. Just let me know when."

"Thank you, Remus. I hope to be able to eliminate the pain with the transformation although my ultimate goal would be a cure for your affliction."

"All right Severus! I always said he knew his way around the Potions lab," Sirius praised him excitedly.

"I think I'm going to faint. Did Sirius actually compliment Severus Snape?" Harry questioned smugly.

"I believe I shall put this memory into my Pensieve. This is a red letter day." Dumbledore beamed. "Now I have another position which I am going to offer to Harry but first what I have to tell you is not to be mentioned outside of this office. It will be one of two announcements I will be making tonight at dinner."

"Of course Headmaster. What is it?" Harry inquired seriously.

"I would like you to teach Transfiguration next year."

"What about Minerva?"

"She will be retiring."

"What! Why? She's not that old."

"It seems that the war did have some good side effects other than those you are aware of. Minerva is getting married. She and Dr. McBride have been quietly seeing one another and he has proposed. Minerva accepted."

"That's wonderful but why has she decided to leave?" Remus asked. "McBride lives in Hogsmeade."

"She will be teaching the younger children of the village and helping him with his practice. I am sure you will miss her as much as I will but she will be close by."

"Who will take her place as your Deputy Headmaster?"

"I offered the post to both Pomona and Severus but both have declined. Pomona prefers to work with her plants and Severus wishes to conduct his research. I would very much like it if you would consider the position Remus."

"Me? But the Board of Governors..."

"My boy they have already agreed. They were more than a little impressed with you in the war and you can still help as a liaison with the Department of Control of Magical Creatures. In fact, your ability to handle the position may also be of help. It will show people that many of our laws in that area are unfounded."

"I don't know what to say..." Remus shook his head in disbelief.

"Just say yes, Moony." Sirius grinned broadly. The werewolf nodded his acceptance unable to verbalize his gratitude, tears in his eyes.

"Now, Harry, about that Transfiguration position?"

"I'd love it," she replied excitedly.

"I would also like to ask Sirius to become the Head of House for Gryffindor. It is time he learned a bit about discipline," Dumbledore joked fondly.

"Me? I'm no stranger to discipline," Sirius quipped jovially. "I am honored Sir."

"Then I would also like to ask you to help Remus with any administrative duties pertaining to the students should the full moon interfere. It doesn't happen often but sometimes the term starts at that time. You may also have to visit some of the Muggle families if needed prior to their admission to the school. Harry could help you with that." Sirius and Harry nodded in agreement and the Headmaster continued. "Excellent. Now there is just one more thing. Severus if you will..." He motioned the Potions Master to continue.

"Harry I received this today. I think you should see it," he told her stoically. Reaching into his robes, he withdrew an envelope. She took it from him and gasped when she saw the official seal.

"What is it Harry?" Sirius demanded.

"Probably the reason I'm teaching Transfiguration and not Potions," she sighed nervously removing the contents of the envelope.

"It is the results of her exam," Severus informed them without moving.

Harry quickly scanned the letter and looked up at Severus. He pursed his lips in amusement meeting her eyes.

"Well what does it say Princess?"

"Umm...are you sure this is not some joke?" Harry shook her head in disbelief.

"The results have already been recorded. You scored the minimum passing grade on the written and only made a minor mistake in the practical. Ironically, it was the easiest potion to brew and the same one that cost me a perfect score when I took the exam. You are now the youngest ever Master of Potions."

"Way to go Harry!" Sirius cheered hugging her.

"Congratulations Princess. I knew you could do it."

"Nah... I was just lucky. I'll never have the talent for Potions that Severus and his Uncle have. They just knew what to teach me. If I were really any good I would never have screwed up the Pepper Up Potion."

"Nonetheless, I am pleased and so is my Uncle. Only ten people passed the exam. You worked hard and I would enjoy having your company from time to time down in the lab." Harry beamed at Severus as he gave her a brief smile of approval and acceptance as they locked eyes.

"Now that everything is settled I shall announce Harry's passing the exam and Minerva's engagement tonight at dinner. In the meantime let's just enjoy the rest of this wonderful day shall we?" Dumbledore sipped his tea with a smile...

The rest of the week passed quickly and before she knew it Harry was sitting in the Great Hall for the Leaving Feast. The points for the House Cup had changed somewhat during the week but Slytherin had managed to hang onto the lead. However, Gryffindor would be keeping the Quidditch Cup, which would be transferred from Minerva's old office into the one that would now be occupied by Sirius as Gryffindor's Head of House. The students had been sorry to learn that the stern Transfiguration professor would be leaving. Nevertheless, they were enthused with the changes made for the next year. They seemed especially happy for Professor Lupin but the most gossip for the past week had to do with the changes they had noted in Professor Snape's behavior.

He was no longer they tyrant he had been. This was attributed to his role-playing during the war. Of course, the Headmaster knew otherwise. Severus Snape had come back to life and it all had to do with his relationship with Harry Potter. She had brought him back from the brink of despair. He had found friends among former rivals. The bitterness and anger, which had so afflicted him from his past mistakes, had begun to fade into a bad memory. He was emerging as the sensitive and intelligent man that a cruel twist of fate had almost destroyed. While his position still dictated that he be a strict taskmaster he was no longer yelling and belittling the students. Dumbledore was pleased with him but he sighed inwardly. There was still one thing missing from his life if only the young man could see it.

The Headmaster scanned the Great Hall looking out at the assemblage. The teachers had taken their places at the Head Table and everyone was present except for Severus. He had sent Dumbledore a brief message to begin the feast without him as he had a matter of urgent personal business. Dumbledore had questioned Tiberius but Severus' uncle merely said that the young man had gone into Diagon Alley and would be delayed returning. He studied the elder Snape seriously from the dais. Tiberius was sitting with Phaedra, who had been allowed to attend, and she was talking animatedly with him about going home for the summer. It had been decided that they would reopen Snape Manor rather than the family town home in London. Sirius had deeded the small house in Ottery St. Catchpole over to Ron and Hermione for a wedding present. Phaedra was still adjusting to the changes in her life. Her nightmares persisted but they were slowly resolving. She was not yet ready to be reminded of places she had spent time with her mother. Harry was also looking forward to going to Snape Manor. A change of scene would do them all good.

Dumbledore had just announced the winners of the House and Quidditch Cups when the doors to the Great Hall burst open. Severus Snape stood there silhouetted in the doorway. The room fell into silence as all heads turned in his direction.

"Forgive me Headmaster," he said sweeping up the aisle between the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor tables, black robes billowing out behind him, "but I need to address a member of your staff and I wish everyone to hear what I have to say."

"Of course Professor," Dumbledore agreed studying the younger wizard shrewdly, as all eyes were upon them.

The hall remained totally silent as the Potions Master reached the front of the room. Students and staff alike were wondering what was going on. Reaching the front of the room Severus walked over to where Harry was sitting between Remus and Sirius. He stared at her for a full minute before gracefully dropping down onto one knee, painfully aware that the last time he had done so had been in front of Lord Voldemort.

"Harry James Potter, I kneel before you in front of your friends, peers, and students so that they may bear witness to what I am about to say." He looked her directly in the eyes and Harry felt her stomach jolt. He had let his guard down. "I am in love with you and would ask you in front of these witness if you would become my wife?"

Harry looked around the room. All eyes were on her. 'Breathe, Harry. Slow deep breaths,' she thought nervously. She continued to stare at Severus and was aware of Sirius trying to suppress a grin as he looked at Remus who gently nudged her in the back. Her mouth was suddenly dry and she took a sip of pumpkin juice before leaning over to whisper softly to Severus all the while maintaining eye contact.

"You know that Sirius and Remus will still have to be my Protectors."

"Of course," he replied softly.

"Will you promise me one thing then?"

"What is it?"

"Promise me you will never kneel in front of anyone else ever again? I think you have done it more than enough for one lifetime." She knew he understood that she was referring to all the times he had done so for the Dark Lord.

"That is one promise I shall be delighted to keep," he smiled warmly.

"Yes, Severus, I'll marry you," Harry answered so that everyone could hear. "I love you too."

The Great Hall erupted into shouts and cheers of amazement as Severus stood and placed an engagement ring on her finger and leaned in to give her a brief kiss. Sirius and Remus were hugging her and shaking hands with Severus as the rest of the staff all came over to congratulate them. Hermione ran off to send an owl to Ron and Draco who were back at Auror headquarters. Harry was simply in shock. Severus had announced to the world that he loved her and had meant it. Remus moved over so Severus could sit beside her. Harry looked up as she felt a tug on her sleeve meeting Phaedra's brown eyes.

"I told you that you would marry Uncle Sev," she giggled, "but nobody ever listens to me."

Harry just hugged her and whispered, "I think we will from now on."

Dumbledore gave the students and staff a few minutes to calm down and then congratulated the couple from the podium. He was beaming with pride. Harry was happy and well. Severus had found what he thought he could never have. Sirius and Remus had found what they had thought lost forever. It had been a hard battle but the war was finally over. Old wounds were finally healed and life would begin anew.