A/N: Oh Yes KR I am definitely still writing this one, it is in no way, shape, or form, abandoned now or ever, this one is SPECIAL to me. But I admit that other fandoms have been demanding my attention lately, as well as real life interfering with my writing time, and really awful writers block attacking me on this story hard. All together they have rather forcefully dragged me away from writing anything for quite awhile now, but yes, no matter how long it takes, I PROMISE I am never abandoning this story... though I may go back and tweak it at some point, fix some continuity errors, expand some scenes, do some polishing... but not right now.
Also if any of you want to stay current on my writing progress and updates, you can follow me on facebook, there is a link on my profile.
This is merely a nice bright warm bit of comfortable plot development before the next chapter because I really like where it left off, it's been far too long since I have posted anything, and I didn't want to make you all wait even longer while I finish it up. So far it's been coming along quite nicely too, so it shouldn't be too much longer unless my comp starts being mean again. *(Saves every time I make a change no matter how small.) This is the third time I have tried editing this chapter and have lost everything. GRRRRRR.*
Chapter 13 Warnings: M/M, Minor2, Kissing, cuddling, tub scene, WAFF.
Chapter 13: Progressive Interlude
To Severus Snape, Potions Master at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I have received your letter requesting an appointment with me to arrange a family dinner to introduce your betrothed, however my schedule is inordinately full, and as it seems several members of the family are quite enthusiastic about the idea of such an event, I do not feel it necessary at this time to discuss whether we should hold it or not.
We will arrange for it to occur on December the 19th at Grand Marsh Hall, drinks and appetizers to be served at half past five, with dinner to be served at half past six. You and your betrothed will be expected the day before, at your convenience, and we shall meet upon your arrival at that time. We shall handle all of the arrangements and preparations of the dinner ourselves, and in recognition of tradition shall be expecting you to stay at least through Yule.
We require you to provide us with a full guest list as well as any potential dietary restrictions or allergies either you or your betrothed may have. Dress shall of course be Relaxed Formal for the dinner and Yule, and Wizarding Best for the Christmas Gala should you and your betrothed be staying that long.
We look forward to your visit and extend our congratulations to you and your betrothed.
Sincerely, Lady Nicollette Aurora-Bastion-Thallonius-Prince, head of the Noble House of Prince.
Severus smiled as he sat at breakfast reading through the letter. Oh he could practically feel the ice creeping through those words, he hadn't known if or how she was hyphenating her name these days, so had simply gone with her current married one. Heh, he could only imagine her trying to keep up the Ice Queen act when she found out who Harry was.
The other letter that had arrived was a small simple note, unsigned. 'Wizarding side of The Hobgoblin, Thursday 5:30 PM, Camden Town.' Severus smirked and changed the time to 5:00 PM and whispered in his bird's ear on where to send the note before finishing his breakfast.
Harry and Hermione managed to finish up all the rest of their work by mid morning and decided to take the afternoon off to relax and congratulate themselves on a job well done. They played exploding snap and took a long, walk around the lake under a disillusionment charm while everyone else was inside with classes. It felt rather like ditching, even though their other selves were in their classrooms.
After dinner, they began working on creating one of the portal doors together, which were a really tricky bit of magic. Getting them to have a bit of wizarding space behind it with a dial and door wasn't the issue, it was creating the dial itself that was so difficult. To convince a single piece of magic to become very widespread and still lose none of its power until it wound around at least one other portal to gain strength from was the hard bit.
Until they could weave its magics with the other portals it had the tendency of flickering out and becoming glitchy or getting too much power behind it and becoming volatile. Not to mention programming every combination they were planning on using before attaching it's own code, and then activating the new combination to the other portals. Harry was glad they only had six so far, eventually there would be hundreds spread all over the globe. Hermione was still trying to come up with something clever but not too suspicious sounding to call them in case they started talking about them where someone could overhear. Harry was just calling them Lockers, since the dial reminded him of a combination lock, only with colors instead of numbers.
It would take a few more days before the door would be fully ready and Severus could sneak it down to Hogsmeade and set it up near the Shrieking Shack.
It was nearing 9:30 when they were reaching a stable stopping point, and he knew that his past self and Severus had finished up their nightly lesson about fifteen minutes ago, so it came as no surprise when Princeton opened up the door a minute later. Hermione smiled and beckoned him over.
"Hi Princeton, good timing, we're just finishing up for tonight and could use another wand. Will you help stabilize the inbound link while I set the dial colors and Harry fuses the failsafe to the outbound link?"
"Of course. Do I need to adjust for the ley line surge yet?"
"No, it's still inert, not even connected to the portal frame yet, only linked to the central door for base power so I can test the dial."
"Very well. You may release it... now."
"Great. Alright Harry, you're up."
"Right, lower your shield half a notch, it's not letting me connect the link, and if I force it it will be BAD."
"Is that enough?" She asked, trying to lower it without reducing its effectiveness.
"Smidge more... got it. Okay on the count of three. One, two, THREE!"
They connected the dial to the outbound link and the failsafe, and the whole door lit up with a glowing hum for a moment before fading down again.
"Perfect. Alright and now we hook the inbound link to the dummy dial just as a precaution so we don't have any surprises... and we're done for tonight. Thanks Princeton." Hermione smiled as she holstered her wand and stepped back.
"My pleasure, and since you are finished I think I will be kidnapping your assistant for the rest of the evening. What time did you both leave tomorrow?"
"Quarter past noon, in here." she replied distractedly, putting away their tools and covering the door with a magic dampening cloth so it wouldn't pick up any residual ambient magics that could mess with it.
"Very well I will see you at lunch then. Good night, Miss Granger."
"Goodnight Princeton, night Harry."
Harry was hidden under his invisibility cloak and walking right behind Severus as the man made his way to his own quarters. A few Slytherins passed them by on their way and politely greeted their head of house. It was a shame he couldn't actively recruit from this house, they couldn't ALL be aligned with Death Eaters after all. Heck he knew that two of his silent partners were direct relatives to students in Slytherin, but anonymity was their one request, so he didn't have a connection in the house besides Severus, and they couldn't have risked something that big. Maybe if Draco ended up working out... Merlin, wasn't that a thought, Harry and Draco working together on something. He still wanted to knock the arrogant prick down a few notches, but he'd gotten the feeling that after failing Voldemort, Draco and his family had all had a pretty big slice of humble pie. Arrogance oft leads to folly and all that. He doubted they would ever be friends, but maybe Draco could still be redeemed. He almost snorted, Severus was right, He did have a 'saving people thing'.
The rooms were warm and inviting, so comfortable that he just immediately relaxed. He tried imagining it, next year, after they were married and bonded, coming home with Severus without being hidden under an invisibility cloak. Finally having one place in this world that was truly HOME, where he was welcome and wanted, and had a place, and not having to hide the fact that he was in love, and his scar and his past and his fame meant fuck all, somewhere he was absolutely safe and able to let his guard down.
His thoughts were derailed with the feel of long fingers under his chin, warm lips on his own, that talented tongue slowly invading, conquering, possessing every inch of his mouth, and deep piercing eyes that made no secret of wanting to devour him whole. That was fine, really, they could do that, no rush, Severus could take his time with it, savor every bite of him he wanted to.
The cloak was discarded, robes, trainers, and jumper followed suit, just seeming to ease off and drop to the floor without notice. He traced the edges of Severus' robes, slowly unhooking the buttons. There was a fresh hickey, just there under the collar that his other self had placed there not even a half hour ago. Why did it feel so deliciously naughty to trace that mark with teeth and tongue, to nip and suck on it, leave it even more intense than his other self had done? Why did it feel a bit like cheating, that he was stealing Severus from himself? This felt just the slightest bit forbidden and he loved it.
The robes fell to the ground and they made short work of Severus' shoes and shirt sleeves as well. They stood there, gilded in firelight in the warm comfortable rooms that Harry would soon be calling home. But suddenly realized how mistaken he had been. He already had a home, he already had a place, he didn't have to wait for it, it was already here, Severus had been waiting in it, saving a place for him all this time. He was already wanted, he already had somewhere he belonged.
There was a moment of surprise for the potions master when Harry broke the kiss and instead burrowed into Severus' arms, wrapped his own around him as tightly as he could without hurting him, and nuzzled into Severus' chest. The potions master's arms wrapped around him, one across his shoulders and one around his waist, and everything was perfect. This was Harry's special place, Severus' pulse against his cheek, a slight tickle of chest hair against his nose, the body heat, the scent of Severus' skin, his arms, strong, warm, and holding him close, Harry never wanted to move again.
"Thank you." he murmured, placing a gentle kiss against the man's sternum and trying to fight down the tears threatening to well up in the back of his throat.
"For what?" The potions master queried, carding his finger through unruly black curls.
"Giving me the only thing I've ever wanted." Harry tightened his hold. He never wanted to let go.
"Oh? And what would that be?" Severus said with a hint of an affectionate smile that went completely unnoticed.
There was a pause and a kiss to the top of his hair. "An important thing to have. And one I can assure you that I will always provide."
Harry wasn't looking, but if he had been he would have seen the hint of steel in Severus' gaze. The words may as well have been an oath signed in blood and sworn upon his magic with how much Severus meant them.
"What about you?" The boy hero asked, wondering if he was doing everything he could to make Severus happy, the way Severus had already done for him.
"Me?" the man asked, clearly confused.
"What do you most want in the world?"
Severus went very still, and the arms around him drew a bit tighter. Harry thought he might have crossed a line, Severus never was much for opening up about the emotional stuff. He was starting to believe the man might not answer and was getting ready to apologize and say it was alright, that he didn't have to, when there was another kiss to his hair.
"Things that you have already given to me long ago and continue to prove at every turn. Unconditionality."
"What?" Harry asked, looking up and trying to see if Severus was poking at him a bit for some reason. Severus placed a finger against Harry's bottom lip.
"Unconditionality. That's what I've always wanted."
"You're being cryptic." The young man accused, and was sorely temped to nip at that finger.
"Of course I am. But you have already provided me with it, so it's nothing for you to worry about me lacking."
Harry bit the finger. Severus smirked and leaned down to kiss his impish lover, then bit Harry's bottom lip sharply in return before pulling away. "It isn't nice to bite, My Harry."
"It isn't nice to tease when I'm being serious either."
"I wasn't teasing."
In a way it would have been easy to explain if he had wanted to. Acceptance, trust, respect, love. Harry had given them all to Severus without any restraint or conditions, even knowing that Severus was a man of many secrets and in the center of a web of carefully crafted lies and deceptions. But still he hadn't even hesitated, he had simply asked 'Just don't lie to me about the important things. And you don't have to manipulate me to get me to go along with what you want or need, just ask, I'm always on your side first, and want to help you however I can.'
And from then on he couldn't bring himself to lie to Harry about anything, it was completely unthinkable to even try and do so. The night dealing with Creevy was the closest he'd come, and he couldn't truly count it since it was only so Harry would not blame himself for what had happened. He would never let Harry think for a moment that he had betrayed him, it was the kind of thing that would forever eat away at Harry, and Severus absolutely refused to allow it. Harry hadn't cheated, he'd been tricked and assaulted, and if Severus had his way that dark memory would never surface to poison Harry's thoughts again. But he WAS a man of eternal secrets, and speaking any of them aloud was not his strong suit. When it was safe to do so, after this whole mess was over, he'd do more than tell him, he'd show Harry how he felt, let him into every hidden nook of his memories to experience Severus' emotions for himself and to truly let Harry know him in a way that no other ever would, and that words alone could never express, the same way Harry had already trusted him to do.
Severus took Harry's hand and led him to the ensuite. The tub was filled with hot water and Severus poured in an herbal infusion. He removed Harry's jeans and the chastity device, then helped Harry into the tub. They relaxed there together, Harry between his legs, resting his back against Severus' chest. Severus soaped a flannel and slowly washed Harry's arms and chest, gradually working down to his abs. Harry wasn't expecting sex tonight, not after the man had just given his past self his nightly reward for doing well in his lessons, and Harry found himself perfectly okay with that. Sex was a nice bonus to getting to spend time with Severus, but there was so much more to them than that, two years of enforced celibacy had rather proven the fact. Neither one of them was unsure of the other in the slightest anymore. Their silences were never awkward or filled with things unsaid, and he knew that his heart had chosen right when it chose Severus. Harry would never regret a single second.
His hair was wet down, then lathered and rinsed, then thoroughly worked through with a conditioner and combed smooth before rinsing it out. Harry was languid and relaxed under the gentle care, he loved this atmosphere of serenity, where nothing needed to be said or done, there were no expectations for either of them, they just did whatever felt good.
When Severus was done, Harry leaned back and kissed the man slow and sensual. Without thought Harry turned around and began reciprocating, soaping the potion masters chest up and then washing it off with the flannel, before straddling Severus hips and continuing to bathe him in return. Washing Severus' hair was something he had never done before. Severus' eyes closed in obvious enjoyment while Harry's fingers massaged his scalp, working the lather from root to ends and unashamedly playing with it for a few minutes just because he liked the feel of it running through his fingers covered in suds. He rinsed and conditioned the straight black locks, so much easier to manage than his own unruly mop, and found himself shivering in pleasure as he slid the comb through easily. Oh Severus was right, he did have a fetish didn't he? Well at least it was one his lover seemed to have no qualms about fulfilling because he didn't think he could stop. Severus hadn't opened up about too many of his own desires yet, mainly because the sexual aspect of their relationship was rather new, and he had refused to tease either one of them with things they couldn't have at the time.
Harry rinsed the conditioner out methodically only to find himself gasping as Severus grabbed his hips and pulled him forward.
The tongue that invaded his mouth was warm and welcome and Harry shivered with pleasure as Severus' hand worked into his own hair and massaged the back of his head. Bliss, pure bliss until the kiss ended and Harry was flushed and smiling, slightly out of breath. He hadn't missed the message:
'I love you.'
"I love you too." he murmured in between kisses and then gasped as Severus' teeth trailed down to his neck and bit firmly, drawing the skin between them with firm suction, worrying and marking Harry in his favorite way and sending fire racing through Harry's veins. The young man moaned and drew himself closer to the source of such delicious torment.
Severus licked at the deep purple hickey he had made, and nipped it again just to hear Harry gasp.
A moment later Harry was guided to his feet, dried off and tucked back into the chastity device, then wrapped in a warm fluffy robe.
"Come Love, before your hair dries like that." Severus purred with a kiss to Harry's earlobe.
He was guided to the clothes bench and sat obediently as Severus gently brushed out and dried his hair, something Harry never bothered doing, until it fell to the tops of his shoulders in loose curling waves rather than sticking up everywhere in a wild tangle.
"Very nice. Long enough to be tied back into a queue should you choose to." Severus commented, drawing the temporarily tamed strands back in demonstration of his point. The effect made Harry look more mature, and somehow stronger.
"Only if you do it, I'd bungle it up for sure." The green eyed teen chuckled.
"Very well, for the dinner party then." Severus replied, tying it back loosely right then and there with a black elastic tie near at hand.
"Get a response yet?"
Severus pretended not to notice the hint of anxiety in Harry's voice. Harry didn't like to admit it but he was very nervous about meeting his future in-laws.
"Yes, this morning. To be held the day after school lets out for the holiday, we are invited to arrive the day before."
"She doesn't waste time does she?"
"She doesn't wish to spend more time in my presence than absolutely necessary, we are expected through Yule at the very least, though I am tempted to stay through Christmas just to irk her, we aren't introducing you to the rest of the family yet, and I can wait a bit to do that. Even she's going to be questioning why I will insist on so much added security at a 'family dinner'. I can hardly wait to see her face."
Harry smiled, enjoying the hint of mischief he saw in Severus' eyes. "I think we should add a touch of color to your robes that night, perhaps some royal blue and a hint of silver."
"I agree, and emerald green and gold for you. It will bring out your eyes and give your complexion a warm tone." Severus went to the wardrobe for his nightclothes and pulled out Harry's collar as well, slipping it easily around Harry's neck when he returned and handed him some spare pajamas and his bathrobe.
"I still think all that stuff you ordered is going to look ridiculous on me." Harry replied, remembering how Severus had taken his measurements at the end of their first dance lesson and had gone on a huge shopping spree through catalogs and owl order the next day.
"Wait until you see it on. I know for a fact you will look quite dashing in it. Now what would you like to do for the rest of the evening?"
"There's chess, or curled up on the sofa reading to each other, we also still have wedding plans to arrange. I'm scared to meet a few of your female relations if their letters are anything like how they are in real life. One of them wants to know if I have picked a 'theme' yet, and another says it's family tradition for the female relations to sew the wedding robes, and would I like silk, satin, organza, or chiffon? And another wants to know what are my 'colors' my 'tone' and 'what season am I'? She also wants samples of my hair and eye color. They all sound mad!"
Severus chuckled and led them towards the sitting room stopping by the kitchenette for large mugs of hot chocolate and an assortment of biscuits before they settled themselves on the couch. He conjured a lap desk with parchment, ink, and quill for Harry, then summoned the letters for himself and began to browse through them.
"They don't know that you aren't my blushing bride yet, and that you don't have the ability to directly translate 'excited female' into common speech. They'll become very take charge and then try to take over once they realize you are male, so if there are specific things you want, you had best voice them now and get them all giddy about them so that when they do eventually try to tie us up and gag us, then they will all at least be headed in the right direction and thinking it's all their own idea.
Your 'tone' would relate to the 'tone' of the wedding; casual, religious, traditional, etcetera. As for your season, that has something to do with your skin tone color and I will send her some samples so they can figure it out for themselves. As for a theme, if you really want an outdoor wedding you had best speak up immediately, and when it comes to colors, for now I would go with greens, whites, and yellows, and then tell them you haven't chosen specific shades yet. Also mention how you want the daffodils and honeysuckle and ivy, even the dandelions if at all possible, you'll make them fall in love with you immediately." Severus said with a bit of a chuckle.
"Why's that? This is all getting complicated." Harry pouted as he continued taking notes.
"This is just the beginning. Flowers and plants traditionally have meanings Harry, and let's just say that the ones you picked mean some very good things. Also, for myself, I am very fond of gardenias."
"And what do gardenias mean?"
"Grace, hospitality, and secret love. The flowers are also notoriously finicky to work with."
Harry laughed and looked up slyly. "Of course they are. Do they have thorns too?"
"No, mores the pity. I've acquired several books about the Language of Flowers, you'll need them when our well wishers start suggesting other flowers to you. Even if you don't care much except for the aesthetics, the rest of the family will know what each one represents, so it's best to know what you do and do not want them to 'say' about us."
"Anything else you like that I can include with the plants and flowers?"
"White heather, lavender, and sage, though that means you should include purples on our colors as well. It will give them fits when they want to select flatware, your colors would have gone well with gold, mine go best with silver." He said with a sardonic smirk.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Terrorizing the relations already? It's not up to your usual standard."
"On the contrary, it's the little things that annoy my family the most. A stray lock of hair, a smudge on a shoe, bad grammar, or a non-harmonious color scheme is enough to keep them up nights." The Potions Master said with a very self satisfied smirk.
"So you are trying to drive the people who will be helping us, out of their heads. Doesn't sound very productive for getting things done."
"Trust me, give it a few weeks and you will be asking for ways to do it yourself, just wait. Also make a request in your most adorable tone that you have heard that Lady Fontaine makes the most spectacular Italian wedding soup, and we would be honored if she would consent to make it for the wedding, or perhaps teach you how to make it if she's too busy."
Harry laughed, he knew Severus had a weakness for good food, and a request that blatant could only mean one thing. "You've been trying to get the recipe for years haven't you?"
"Three decades, ever since I first tasted it. I'm hoping the wily old witch is growing dottery in her old age and will make a slip up. And even if she doesn't, just you mentioning the soup to them will get everyone begging her to make it, if for no other reason than it's traditional to serve it at weddings and you have never tasted it before. It's a family favorite."
"And what fabrics should I tell this other cousin of yours? What is 'organza' anyway?" Harry sneered, as if the word left a foul taste in his mouth.
"A slightly stiff type of silk, rather see through too. So is chiffon for that matter but it is a far more... mmm 'floaty' of a fabric."
"So my choices are silk, silk, silk, or satin?"
"No, satin is made from silk too."
"So it's 'how do I want my silk'?"
"At least they are making it easy for me. Satin then, or regular silk, maybe some velvet. I don't want anything see through or 'floaty', especially when I still don't know how to do that intimidating robe billowing thing you do. I'm glad Luna will be covering the photos and article, and how many of my friends will I be allowed to invite?"
"If it's a secret ceremony, only those you can trust to keep it quiet, if it's common knowledge then all of them of course. Granger, the Weasleys that are in the know, even Longbottom, I'm sure that will shock him. Your dogfathers will be there as well, Remus to keep the peace, and Sirius has to be there to recognize the bond as valid and that you are not there against your will. Of legal age or not, he's your closest magical kin and it makes the bond that much stronger when it is recognized by your kin. He doesn't have to approve of your bondmate, but he does have to accept that it is of your own free will. Although by that point I am hoping that he and I will have managed to reach a new level of civility towards one another to the point that he might even approve. At least that's my hope."
"Mine too. I know it's not easy for you though, with so much bad blood between you. Thank you though, for trying, but don't just do it for my sake. Sirius is really worth knowing, just like you are really worth knowing, you both just have all that awful history mucking it up between you. Joining forces would make both of you even more of a force to be reckoned with, he's nearly as good at the sneaky stuff as you, he just has more of a flair for the dramatic and a need for humor, even if it is off color. And together with the twins... I can barely even imagine it. I hope we can recruit Mr. and Mrs. Weasley before the bonding, I'd love to have them in the know, and be there, Mrs. Weasley has nearly been a mother to me."
"Black has assured me he is working on them. I'm tempted to tell him the best way to recruit Molly would be to make her angry at the headmaster, maybe even show her the memory of our conversation with Dumbledore the night I retrieved you from the Dursleys, or even show her MY memory from that night, she'd never trust Dumbledore again and she'd immediately drag Arthur and the rest of her brood after her in a furious huffing maelstrom, and that's why I hold my tongue. Molly fully withdrawing her entire family's support of the Order so suddenly and with such anger would definitely raise Dumbledore's suspicions. He can't know we've left him without any support until it is much too late for him to do anything about it. I know you want Moody in your camp, and I can't say I blame you, since he is the Headmaster's next major player after you and myself, but he won't be swayed by anything until Dumbledore falls from grace. He follows his perceived leader and no one else, and expects it of himself to take over should that leader fall. He won't follow you Harry, not as you are now. Not only do you have less experience, but it would be very hard for him to take orders from someone young enough to be his grandson. Moody has to be left with nothing to take over if his leader fails. If no one is waiting to follow him, he doesn't have to be the new leader, and then he'd be open to looking at other options for himself alone, especially if you offer him something high in position with very little risk to his person."
Harry smiled. "I was thinking head of the combat trainers, dealing out training schedules and barking orders, occasionally kicking cadets into shape, whatever he likes really. I know what he can do, if he'd be willing to join us I'd be willing to let him have whatever job he wants if it makes him happy. He's good at organization and fond of making sure we don't get ourselves killed. He'd be a great asset if I could just steal him away, but you're right, he has no reason to follow me yet. I'm not going to give up on him though, he's far too valuable for that."
"I don't expect you to, though let's just stay focused on the bigger threat of weakening the Dark Lord for the moment."
Harry set aside the wedding notes and started a new page. "What else can we do that we're not doing already?"
"It's not something we aren't doing, we simply need to remain vigilant, keep training, and be extra cautious. We can't let our guard down just because we have been holding our own. He's getting more and more angry. His plans for the ministry were thwarted, Dumbledore is still alive, as is Scrimgeour, and very soon one of his biggest resources will leave him for good. He lashes out when he gets angry enough, and it has been awhile since he has made an attack against you directly, and only because he has been distracted by other things.
I have a feeling that very soon he's going to move against you again, and we must be ready for that. What's more I fear he may have me do it, so you must be ready for such an eventuality, for I know he would be watching that most closely, possibly even from your own eyes. I am able to guard your mind against all other intruders except for him, you are linked too strongly, his doorway into your thoughts is as open as my own should he care to use it, and you must be able to recognize his presence. I have placed every barrier possible that I can from that point on without revealing that it was I who placed them there, but after that, you must be strong enough to fend him off or trap him in one of the rooms of memory yourself, in this I cannot aide you more than I have already done."
The boy hero's brows drew forward in contemplation. "We need a signal then, in case it comes to that. If it happens, I want you to know I'll forgive you for anything you have to do to me in order to convince him that you are following his orders."
Severus shook his head. "Even if you could, I doubt I could so readily forgive myself. Hurting you on his orders, for his amusement... No Harry, there are many awful things I have already had to do in his name, don't let that become another. Take me down however you have to, nothing you do would be even half the pain of consciously having to do any of the things he would order me to do to you. Even I have my limits."
"Alright, you have my word. How about the tried and truly detested 'Boy' then? If you call me by that name, then I'll know beyond any doubt it's not really you, and to attack without hesitation or mercy until you are down. It shouldn't tip him off either."
"Agreed. I pray the time never comes where I will have to use it though."
Harry set aside the lap desk and took Severus' hand.
"Me too. I...I know you still don't believe me, but you are a good man Severus, truly. An evil man would never sacrifice even half as much as you have, especially for so little reward."
One eyebrow arched wryly. "So little reward? Do not sell yourself so short My Harry, you are worth far greater things than I think you will ever even realize. Just knowing a man such as you is a very great honor indeed. Earning your love however is a feat that I still can't comprehend how I have accomplished, let alone earned."
"Because unlike almost everyone else, I see the truth of you Severus Snape. I see the steadfastness, and the unshakeable honor, and the willingness to do absolutely anything to protect what you call your own. I see the real you, and it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. You are honest and true with me in a way that little else is in my life. I feel safe with you, and shielded, and I can trust you literally with my life. I pity the rest of the world for not seeing it too. I know you hate the spotlight, but you have no idea how much I want to drag you into it and tell the world I'm in love with you Severus."
Severus caught the note in his lover's voice and set the letters aside. He knew it was hard for Harry, who had always been told he wasn't worthy of love, or ever even shown affection by the Dursleys, to hide a relationship that he was so proud of as if he were ashamed of it. It must be getting to him more than usual, and he wondered what set it off.
"Hating the secrets a lot tonight?" He asked, holding out his arms to Harry and welcoming him in if he wanted to be held.
Harry just leaned in and wrapped his arms around Severus' waist, laying his head on the potions master's chest and just listening to his heart beating before sighing heavily.
"More than ever. I just... I want to shout it from the bloody rooftops, watch Sirius try to get through tea with me holding your hand the whole time and acting oblivious, while Remus tries to keep him in line, parade you around everywhere through Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade while hanging on your arm, then snog you right in the middle of the street with Skeeter watching before telling her there is nothing in the world that makes me happier than being with you. I just- ARGH! I know it would end up getting us both killed and blow all of our plans to shit, and we've worked too hard to throw it all away just because I don't like keeping my mouth shut about us. The only real reason I am dying to go to that dinner is so I can shove it in SOMEONE'S face that I love you and that every last one of them have no idea what they are missing, and that I KNOW I'm the lucky one here. I don't know how you stand it, let alone keep all the lies straight." Harry felt like pouting, but that would have been even MORE childish, so he settled for making a sound of frustration and avoiding Severus' eyes if the man was looking at him.
"I am afraid that I am used to it, in fact even when this is all over I doubt I will ever be able to live openly like you do, or at least not to the same degree. I am far too used to this. My whole life is a secret Harry, it's a hundred secrets buried in a thousand lies, and you are one of those many secrets I have to keep buried and hidden under layers of deception and misdirection in order to keep you safe, and for now that is just the way it has to be. But you do know that I am not ashamed of you, right? I only keep this secret to maintain my cover in The Dark Lord's and the Headmaster's camps. You are of age now, and we have done nothing to be ashamed of. In fact I can think of no one who i would be prouder to have standing at my side. They may not like it that I have taken up with a student, but you were of age, and therefore allowed to make your own choice, so there is nothing they can do about it."
"Yes, I know. It all just rubs me wrong and makes me want to punch all of the Death Eaters in the nose, and Voldemort where his nose SHOULD be, because it's all their fault. If they weren't part of it we could handle Dumbledore, in fact he might even wax romantic and turn into a complete sap about the whole thing. He's big on the redemption through love thing."
"To a nearly sickening degree yes. It's also what made him give Tom Riddle another chance, his unwavering belief that everyone always deserves another chance."
"Well Tom may have been a huge mistake, but you weren't. I'm glad you got your second chance, even though things have gotten so complicated now. I wouldn't trade you for the world. I know if you knew for certain that you would tell me, but is there any hint of a weakness you suspect in Voldemort? Anything I could use?"
"No, only the weaknesses you already know about. An unquenchable desire to acquire power, a fear of being defeated by you, a megalomaniac streak and ego a mile wide, and ruling through abject fear instead of loyalty. His foundations are shaky, the only reason he has power at all is because rich and powerful people feared him enough to not refuse when he ordered them to follow him, so now he controls their assets. In that regard, Lucius is his weakest link.
If Lucius defects he will lose over half of his available assets, and that's a major blow. I have long suspected that the only reason The Dark Lord did not kill Lucius and his whole family outright was simply the fact that Lucius was not stupid enough to sign over anything to him in full, but happily granted the Dark Lord full access to what he had instead. He commands it, but he doesn't truly control or own any of the Malfoy assets. If Lucius died everything would go to Draco and Narcissa, who wouldn't continue following the Dark Lord, especially if it was the Death Eaters or Dark Lord who killed him, and if they died-"
"Wouldn't it go to Bellatrix? She's the eldest."
"No, there's the poetic justice. Walburga tried to have Sirius legally removed as Black Heir just like she wanted, that legally worked until Regulus died because there was another candidate for heir. She then transferred heir status to Bellatrix since Bella was older, but it couldn't stick since Sirius was still alive and male blood heirs will always outweigh their lesser female relations in a fight over inheritance rights regardless of age or who objects because they don't like them. Will versus Blood Magic, trust me Magic will always win. Once Walburga died, even though it had been in her will for Bella to be heir, Sirius' status was restored by default since there was no one to contest it. Bellatrix was in Azkaban just like Sirius, but she had been declared legally insane when she was put away and therefore unfit to manage the family affairs, especially since she had been sentenced to life. She was stripped of her title and rights as head of house. It went to Andromeda, the second eldest sister, who didn't want it, and unfortunately isn't strong enough of a witch to keep it should anyone challenge her to a duel over it. In order to prevent either of her sisters trying to murder her for either her money or the attached status of 'blood traitor', she signed over everything back to the true family heir, Sirius Black, because then it all fell to him to deal with, and he didn't care that she had married a muggle, so he was much less likely to kill her. Once he escaped and she learned the whole story, she also gave him full control of her own family estates, on the stipend that her own family are always well cared and provided for.
Anything she received inheritance wise would immediately be under his control, and the Malfoys' control a lot. Sirius would shut down any funds and assets the Dark Lord was using and renege all privileges as well, and Voldemort would have no legal recourse to get them back. Bellatrix has no access to the family money and never will, one of the first things Sirius did when Andromeda handed things over was to cut off her funds and disinherit her completely, she's living only on a name and her husband's personal vaults. The only reason the same hasn't been done to Narcissa was purely for Draco's benefit, and the fact that Voldemort has never tried to sink his claws very far into Narcissa, not even far enough to have her hand over funds. For whatever reason he doesn't value her as a servant, which was a mistake on his part, she's a formidable witch when pressed. Removing the Malfoys' from the equation will weaken him significantly, because along with finances, he will lose his eyes and ears in the ministry, and all of his political influence on the Wizengamot."
"Very bad move. So is that why you've been trying to get the Malfoys away? Because it would be a major silent blow?"
"Yes, but also because Lucius has been my friend for years, and while he's made a mistake he is just now realizing the full severity of, he still has the potential to be a very strong ally. He would never join Dumbledore, he despises the man's ideals nearly as much as he hates the perceived fall of wizarding traditions, but we are not so light sided, and are politically affiliated and backed by the minister. Unless he intends to hide forever, of the three choices of whom to align himself with, I dare say we would look best to him. Lucius craves power and influence, he could never stand to lose as much as he would have to with Dumbledore in order to gain his trust, and no one leaves the Dark Lord's service and is stupid enough to return to it.
There's no way he would get his hands dirty, but with us he'd lose very little in the way of pride and power and gain a very shining public image, that's not an opportunity he'd blithely pass up. He's also a very savvy businessman, and we need more of those. I know you don't trust him, and I'm not asking you to, just trust me, I can maneuver around Lucius any day. The only thing he could have used as leverage against me was turning me in to save his own skin, but he saved that card too long since I never tried to backstab him, and now he's realized it would do him very little good at this point, especially since I am the best chance he has for saving his family, and no one else would even try to help them that he would trust. He probably knows I'm going to demand several things in exchange for getting them all free, and I doubt he will regret any of them in the end."
"Mmmm I LOVE it when you're sneaky. What are you going to demand of them?"
Severus smirked. "Ask me no questions-"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Spoilsport, using Agreement 24, after getting me all interested."
('Don't ask about any plot that isn't offer freely because it forcefully brings the details too far forward in the mind to be hidden again easily or completely.')
Severus smiled. "It is necessary for now."
Harry pouted slightly. "Doesn't mean I like it, you KNOW I'm the curious sort."
"I know, and when this war is done Harry, I will let you see every plot, every scheme, the whole web in its entirety if you like, I will show it to you and no other because I know you can appreciate a good intrigue, and because I know you enjoy watching me make fools out of idiots. But until then I beg for your patience."
"You won't be getting off that easily you know, you'll be married to me. You're daft if you think the Wizarding World won't want to know as much about you as they do me once it all comes out, and it will all come out somehow, even if it's just because we have to set the record straight. Did you know I've had four offers for biographers already, and I'm not even out of school yet?"
Severus scowled. "Our family has a famous historian and biographer highly praised for his accuracy and restraint away from overly dramatic and flowery language. If the mood to have your memoirs recorded and published ever strikes you, you have my permission to use him and I will promise to not only be courteous but also to contribute if you so desire it. Otherwise I shall curse any other meddling snoots with as many hexes that come to mind at the time. Does that satisfy you?"
Harry smirked into Severus's chest, leaned up and gently kissed Severus' mouth.
"Yes, because no one can write my life's story accurately if they leave out or change the most important person in it. And I think you're sexy when you're being sneaky, it's like you're playing three dimensional chess while everyone else is just playing normally."
Severus was shocked silent for a moment and then Harry turned over and got comfortable, looking up at Severus from where his head rested on the man's chest.
"Read to me? I really liked it last night."
Severus sighed in a good natured way and summoned the thick, leather bound tome.
"As you wish. Where did we, leave off?"
"The one with the painter, and only drawing what was seen."
"Ah, very well. Number twenty five then. 'Let those who are in favor with their stars, of public honour and proud titles boast, whilst I whom fortune of such triumph bars, unlooked for joy in that I honour most. Great princes favorites, thy fair leaves spread but as the marigold at the sun's eye; and in themselves their pride lies buried, for at a frown they in their glory die. The painful warrior famoused for fight, after a thousand victories, once foiled, is from the book of honour razed quite, and all the rest forgot for which he toiled. Then happy I, that love and am beloved, where I may not remove nor be removed'."
Harry smiled. "That one's pretty good, true too. Which one is your favorite?"
"I can't say as I have one, though I am rather fond of the story Macbeth."
"Not surprising. I liked A Midsummer Night's Dream, it's the most vibrant one you've read so far. Which story is next?"
"The Taming of the Shrew. I think you'll like it, you've been liking the comedies."
"Alright then let's start that one, I'm nowhere near tired yet."
Severus summoned a pitcher of water and a glass and tucked a blanket around their legs before finding the story and beginning to read.
A few hours later Harry was dozing contentedly on Severus' chest having laughed heartily over Katharina and Petruchio's antics and eventual cooperation together. It was late, the room was warm and quiet and the fire was dying down. Severus lay the book aside and softly stroked his fingers through the loose waves of Harry's hair that had escaped their tie and placed a gentle kiss to his head.
"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, and trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries, and look upon myself, and curse my fate. Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, featured like him, or like him with friends possessed, desiring this man's art and that man's scope, with what I most enjoy contented least. Yet in these thoughts, myself almost despising, happily I think on thee, and then my state (like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth) sings hymns at Heaven's gate. For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings, that then I scorn to change my state with kings."
And transfiguring the couch into a decent bed, he curled around his lover and turned out the lights.
A/N: Yes, those were Shakespere's Sonnets, #25 and #29 respectively, along with references to some of his other works. #29 fits Severus so well I just couldn't resist adding it. And of course he only does it when no one else is looking. Has anyone else noticed he only waxes fully romantic when no one else can see or hear him except the audience? He just refuses to be a mush ball, thank the gods.
So whoot for plot building and the continuation of story! I will return soon with more pretties for you. Please rate/kudos and review!