The woes of a story coming to its end. At least I have chocolate to get me through.

I hope everyone enjoys this last chapter. And I want to just thank everyone who has followed this story, no matter which way you chose to do so. As my first Snarry, well, the support has been absolutely astounding. So thank you. I can only hope to improve. And on that note, I would like to say that yes, I will be posting another story soon for this pairing. I just need to go through and look over the first chapter of it. I hope to see a lot of you again, and perhaps some new faces. Again, thank you all so much!

I hope you enjoy! (and yes, I did reuse the ending from last chapter. It seemed I wasn't the only one who loved it XD)


Chapter Twenty Three

"Mister Potter," the dark voice drawled, "abysmal. Congratulations. If the headmaster is looking to add any more trophies to the collection, I must insist he make one for you. As the biggest blunder to ever foray into potions."

Harry watched as the scroll bearing the usual red slash marks dropped to his desk. "I'll make sure to mention it to him, should the question ever arise, sir." He replied dejectedly, and seized the scroll to unroll it as Severus moved past him with a flare of black robes.

Hermione kept her smile to herself, and she instead peered over to look as well. "You certainly know how to make an exit."

"You've no idea." Harry smirked, and rolled the scroll back up with a snap of parchment. "I had to compete against Voldemort with the dramatics, and then there's always been Dumbledore. And even Snape with his snarky bat personality, swooping here and there. Making an exit is something I've lots of practice in."

"Potter! Thirty seven points from Gryffindor for disrupting everyone with your mumbling!" Severus growled, glaring in the direction of his messy haired brat.

Harry whirled around in his seat at that. "It's the last day! Graduation is Saturday, tomorrow! You can't just go taking random numbers of points!"

Severus concealed a smirk with a sneer. "Press your luck, and you may discover how far detentions extend as well."

Like always, Harry no longer saw a downside to detentions. But like always, he knew that willingly getting one every day of the week was suspicious. So he huffed and faced forward again, mumbling "evil prat" under his breath.

"I'm sure that's against Dumbledore's school policy." Hermione muttered.

"Hermione," Ron began, "no one reads that but you."

When the last scroll had been handed out with various words of condescending criticism, the class moved to flee. It was their last day in potions class, and they were eager to get out and have some free time before their next last class.

Usually Harry left right away, but this time he lingered until only he, Hermione, and Ron were left. And they only had to exchange one look with him before they smiled, bade the professor goodbye, and left. The door closed firmly behind them.

Harry turned with a smile, "are you going to miss having me to torture in class?" He asked teasingly as he walked over to the man.

Severus groaned as if in true pain, and accepted Harry into his arms. "No." He replied honestly and with something of a grimace. "For many reasons. Including that I'm shocked I got through as many years teaching you as I did without getting a single gray hair."

Harry snorted, and reached up to card his fingers through the silky curtain of black hair, his eyes gravitating towards it. "I'll just have to try harder when I'm working here."

"Insufferable brat." Severus murmured in affection, and bent his head to place a kiss on Harry's temple. "You may be the death of me, but I'll be damned if I don't die happy."

"Or just don't die." Harry suggested with a cheeky grin, and leaned up to catch those lips in a proper kiss. One that left them both breathless and clinging to each other so as not to let their hands participate in tasks that would not be prudent with another class coming in the next few minutes. "I did pass though, didn't I? I have a job next year?"

Severus snorted, and carded his fingers through the unruly mop of hair he so adored. It always made Harry look so disheveled, and it was a rather fetching look on the young man. "Barely. So how about I give those thirty seven points back, for you managing yet another miracle?"

"How generous of you." Harry smirked, "but you have to admit, even if I didn't try fully in class, just to keep up appearances, my disasters gained quality."

Chuckling at that, Severus took Harry's face between both hands and tipped it up for a swift kiss that left said young man growling at him. "Only you could have quality disasters."

Harry winked at him and pulled away, albeit reluctantly. "I'll see you after dinner. Try not to make too many people cry."

"Just thirty seven." Severus compromised with an evil smirk as he watched Harry saunter off.

Harry looked over as he laughed, and then bent to grab his things and shoulder them. "You really are generous." And he gave a short wave before leaving through the door.

Severus watched him go with a smile, one that instantly turned into a sneer as the next group of dunderheads began to file in looking rightfully frightened. "I've been told I was generous with the grading, which means that if you received a T, you're lucky to be getting it back at all." And as the students began to fidget uncomfortably, he commenced with his favorite time of the school year.

Sometimes he felt so sadistic.

Meanwhile Harry had finally made it to McGonagall's class, and just in time to avoid being questioned on where he had been. And while she had somewhat… lightened up, about the relationship he had with Severus, she still was known to turn interesting colors if she happened across them just talking together in a corridor.

And so one by one, Harry made his way through all his classes, collecting the grades he needed to have passed. Not that he'd been particularly worried about whether or not he'd be graduating. It was still nice though to have the hard evidence in hand.

He had skipped lunch in order to get in some flying time. So by the time dinner came around, he was starved. So much so that he was halfway through his meal before he felt he could set aside time to pace himself and join in the joyful conversation at the table as everyone discussed their plans for the summer.

"Are you going to stop by this summer?" Ron frowned at his friend. "You really should, you know. Mum has been going through withdrawals of her precious Harry. I'm afraid she'll become dangerous before long."

Harry chuckled, "your mom has always been dangerous." He grinned at his friend. "I'll stop by. As soon as I know when I'll send Hedwig by with a note. I still need to talk to Draco about when would be a good time for me to come visit him at his place." The Slytherin in question had weeks ago received his inheritance at last, with it, the Malfoy estates. "And I have to prepare for my job. But don't worry, I'll find plenty of time to come visit. And come visit you too, Hermione." He said, looking over at his friend.

Hermione smiled at him. "We'll have to go sightseeing, since I know you really have never seen London."

"Can't you just make Snape do your planning for you?" Ron wondered with classic one-sidedness.

"I don't want him touching anything to do with teaching students how to duel." Harry shuddered. "That man is a menace on the wrong side of a wand. I'm still not sure how I survived him teaching me what he did."

"And Harry needs to be in charge of his own career, Ron." Hermione pointed out.

"Was just a question." Ron held up a pacifying hand.

Harry laughed, and turned back to his food.

As dinner began to wrap up, Harry stood while finishing his juice. Afterwards he set it down with a dull clunk and stepped towards the staff table. "I'll be up there in a moment. Just need to talk to Dumbledore."

And as his friends nodded and began to leave, Harry made his way to the aged wizard who smiled at him in welcome. "Harry, is everything well?"

Harry nodded. "I just wanted to let you know I've decided on the room I would like. Figured I'd tell you now so I could start setting it up early." And when Dumbledore nodded, he smiled. "The one on the third floor corridor… you recall the one?"

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled at that. "Ah yes, it isn't exactly being used for anything anymore is it. And it's rather large."

"Precisely." Harry grinned. "And it has some memories… you know how sentimental Gryffindors are."

"You're sure you don't want a classroom down in the dungeons though?" Dumbledore asked with an insufferable twinkle in those blue eyes.

Harry grinned as he heard Severus choke on his drink. "That's someone else's domain. I daresay I'll let him keep complete control over it."

By now some of the other staff, excluding McGonagall, were listening with interest. Though a few had been distracted momentarily by Severus's choking. Some of them not all too pleased he survived it. The rest of the staff had been informed that Harry would be joining them next year as a colleague, so whenever Severus wasn't choking, they were eager to listen when discussions about Harry's upcoming employment were being made.

"Very well then. I'll make sure to have it cleaned." Dumbledore smiled at him.

Harry inclined his head. "Thanks. Now I think I'm going to go cause some last minute student chaos somewhere. Flood the dungeons or something." And with a grin, he turned to trot off.

Severus glowered after him. "Why are you letting him stay to torture me even more, Albus? Is this your way of trying to trick me into resigning?"

Albus laughed, and gave him a smirking look. A look that oddly befitted him. "He's about to flood your dungeons. I'd go stop him if I were you. Just don't take too many points away, and remember, no detentions."

"I'll do something to him." Severus snarled as he stood up, and stormed after one Harry Potter.

It was Poppy who finally spoke through the worried silence that had settled. "If he sends Potter to the hospital wing, I'm going to have him as my guinea pig for that new vasectomy charm."

Albus chuckled along with the others.

Only Minerva buried her head in one hand wearily. "I'm sure they'll be just fine."

Harry was waiting around a sharp corner of a staircase that led up to an untraveled section of the school, and as soon as Severus came into view, he reached out to grab him and haul him into the entrance. And he stole a kiss to keep Severus quiet as he backed the man up against the wall. Well, as quiet as Severus ever was when they became more intimate. The man was very vocal, and Harry loved it. Finally he came up for air, his eyes glittering mischievously. "Did you finish your dessert?"

"That dessert?" Severus questioned silkily, "or this one." And his hands pulled Harry impossibly closer. "Because I'm not at all done with you."

Harry laughed and encircled his arms around Severus's neck while his hands toyed with the man's hair. "Both?"

"No… to both." Severus informed him, "however, if you're willing to accompany me to my rooms I can finish both at the same time."

"You'd be done with me so quickly? Just a few hours tonight and I'm obsolete?" Harry pouted while trying not to smile or burst out laughing.

Severus chuckled and placed a kiss on Harry's hair. "I could never be done with you. But until tomorrow, well…"

Harry gave in to his laughter. "How many times has he shown up in the mornings hoping to catch a sign that I spent the night?" He asked, having only a rough idea from the number of times Severus had come to class in an exasperated mood.

"At least three times a week." Severus rolled his eyes, thinking of his employer. "He should be much easier to dodge after tomorrow."

Harry made a face. "Well, we'll see." And he slid his arms from around Severus's neck to rest his hands on the man's chest. "Have you decided yet what you're going to do at graduation?"

"And let you be prepared for it?" Severus scoffed. "No, Harry, if I so happen to kiss you senseless in front of everyone and then toss you over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes to bear you down to my chambers, then you'll never know beforehand."

Harry cracked a grin at that. "I'd believe the first part, but not the second."

"Really?" Severus quirked an eyebrow at him as his eyes glittered mischievously.

"Strange, isn't it." Harry winked at him. "So, shall we go have dessert dessert? I'm afraid I can't stay too long tonight. Pre-graduation party and all. I'm sure it's a hazy memory for you, old man, but it's a tradition. And this time around I'm actually able to enjoy such things, so I'd like to attend."

Severus gently cuffed Harry on the back of his head, earning himself a laugh. "I am not old."

"I wouldn't have you any other way." Harry grinned at him, and leaned up to kiss his cheek affectionately.

"Brat." Severus would just have to arrange to haul Harry off somehow. He was sure that Harry's indignant reaction would be worth it. Well… if he mustered the courage. Despite his bravery in the face of danger, looming death, and his devil-may-care attitude, when it came to Harry… well, things were just different. Harry made him feel human again, like it was acceptable for him to be human. And humans were mortal. Shoving such thoughts away for the moment, however, he took Harry by the hand and tugged him back towards the corridor. "Come on."

Harry grinned and allowed himself to be led out, but as soon as they were in the corridor again he fell in step with the man. And as they walked he linked their fingers together while smiling happily to himself. It was simple times like these that he really truly cherished. Just them being together. Happy. Sure, they'd had their fair share of disagreements since Christmas, but they'd come through them for the better. After all, they were two people who knew how to work out a problem. And after working out a problem, it was back to it being just them again.

"What's with the idiotic smile?" Severus queried as he glanced Harry's way.

Harry smiled, and shook his head. "Nothing important." And knew Severus would leave it at that. The man knew that if it was, he would share.

Before long they were in Severus's rooms, and Harry, as custom, took off his shoes before heading towards the library. "I'll just say a quick hi."

"Probably a good idea. Is she still being testy even with you?" Severus asked as he watched Harry move away.

"She has eggs, of course she is." Harry flashed him a grin over his shoulder. "You arranged for her to get knocked up. She's allowed to be testy."

Severus rolled his eyes, "females."

"She's your female." Harry chuckled and vanished down the hallway that led to the library. And he quietly let himself into the library. The door was shut gently behind him before he crept across the floor towards the cage. "Sorai?" He called out tentatively.

The last time he had come to visit her, she'd nearly struck at him despite her better judgment. And so he was being reasonably cautious, should he need to beat a retreat. Female cobras with a clutch of eggs were decidedly dangerous, no matter who you were.

"Stay there." Came Sorai's response. "Any closer and my hormones will get the better of me again."

Harry stopped where he was obediently. "I was coming to see how you are doing? Besides… well… you know."

Sorai hissed her laughter before replying while curling about her eggs protectively. "I am still happy. I will have healthy children, I can taste it."

Harry tried not to think that Severus would be pleased with that. Healthy potions ingredients. Yeah… he was leaving any "this is what I'll be doing with your children" talks to Severus. He'd be ready with the body bag on the sidelines. "Is there anything you need? I can always levitate it in like we do with your food once a week."

"Tell my master I would like a bigger mouse next time. I am still recovering my strength, and he is feeding me like I didn't recently have a clutch of eggs."

Harry felt a smile twitch at his mouth. "I'll do that. Anything else?"

"When will you have a clutch?"

Instantaneously it seemed, a deep red blush took over Harry's face. "We can't. And even if we could, it's rather early for us." And outwardly he muttered to himself, "why does everyone assume I'd be the one having the children? Though… I suppose it'd be safest… Severus on hormonal mood swings would be scary as hell. He'd end up killing me before the child was born."

"Tomorrow school ends?"

Harry blinked, and pulled himself out of his thoughts. "Yes. Your master and I will be allowed to not sneak around anymore after the ceremony."

"Where is my master?"

"Hiding." Harry revealed, feeling sinister pleasure in doing so. "He's scared you'll bite him right now. And for good reason."

Sorai hissed in laughter once more. "Go find him. I would like to sleep anyway."

Harry smiled, and half-turned with a pause. "I'll stop by sometime tomorrow again to see you. Goodnight, Sorai."

"Goodnight, Harry." Sorai called after him.

Harry left the library, and went in search of Severus. He found the man sitting on the couch, already shed down to just his shirt and trousers. He seemed to be nursing a cup of some steaming liquid in one hand as he held a book open with the other. Smiling, he padded over and without ado, claimed himself a seat on Severus's legs as he straddled them. "Hi."

Severus chuckled and schooled his expression into a scowl as he lifted his gaze from his book to glare at Harry. "Can I help you?"

Harry's face immediately went woefully innocent as he plucked at Severus's shirt collar. "Bit late to be offering me help when the school year is over, don't you think?"

Severus smirked and laid his book aside. Not caring that in the process he lost his page. "Oh? This is academic now?"

Harry huffed dramatically. "Fine." And he began to rock backwards to get up. "I suppose I can go ask one of the other professors. I mean, Binns has been around for what? Two centuries? Surely all that knowledge will-" and he only barely got a laugh in before Severus was kissing him into silence.

At least, a sort of silence.

And when they did separate, Severus gave him a stern look. "Never utter Binns's name in the same sentence as an intimacy ploy of yours." Severus admonished the laughing teenager, before silencing him again quite effectively. His mug of tea was transferred to the floor, the book shoved off the couch, and then he flipped Harry under him - pinning him to the couch.

While he was still laughing when they separated at last for air, Harry's laughter had quieted down a bit as he smiled up at Severus. "But it worked so well." He teased, knowing how possessive Severus was of him.

"In a disgusting way." Severus agreed, and then queried, "how long do I have you until?"

Harry smiled fondly and reached a hand up to push some of the falling curtain of black hair back behind an ear. "At least an hour."

"Waste not time." Severus smirked, and allowed Harry to drag him down into another searing exchange of lips and wandering hands.

At least an hour later Harry was standing near the doorway, straightening his robes with one hand while the other patted his hair – the constant lost battle.

Severus was leaning against the wall with a smirk as he watched. "You look fine. And besides, shouldn't you want to look utterly ravished?"

"It's not a question of that." Harry chuckled and gave up with his hair, bending to pull his shoes towards him and slip them on. "It's a question of my having to evade everyone wondering who the other half was to the ravishing. I'd rather just deal with whatever comes out of what you do tomorrow. It's bound to be far more entertaining anyway."

"To be sure." Severus smirked, and as Harry came over to him he obliged giving him another lingering kiss before at last pulling away. Lest he decide that Harry skip the party. "Have fun."

Harry nodded and leaned up to give him a fleeting kiss on the cheek before turning and trotting towards the door. "Not as much fun as I'll have tomorrow!" He called back after himself.

And then he was gone.

Severus watched him go with a faint smile. Sometimes it was still like a dream, Harry being with him. Falling for him. But it was the best dream turned reality he'd ever had. With a sigh he turned and went to go find wherever his book had ended up.

As for Harry, when he reached the Gryffindor common room, the party was just starting to get rowdy. So he slipped in relatively unnoticed and made a beeline to where he spotted Ron and Hermione. As soon as he got there, throwing an arm over them both with a grin. "We've officially survived seven years of schooling, and we're all still alive! I say we get some drinks."

Ron laughed agreeably. "Fred sent me some firewhiskey."

"Ron!"Hermione admonished, but she laughed. And as Ron dashed off to get the drinks, she turned to Harry with a smile. "You look happy."

Harry dragged his attention to her, returning the smile. "I am." He replied simply. "Had a nice time with him, and I didn't run into Dumbledore on the way back."

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. "You didn't tell him." She accused.

Harry blushed and ducked his head self-consciously. "I meant to… and then I just- he's distracting!"

"You've been meaning to and getting distracted for almost a month now." Hermione sighed, but shook her head even so as she smiled. "Tomorrow then. You already told me he's planning to kiss you or something in front of everyone. What better time?"

"You're right." Harry knew she was. He'd been putting it off far too long. Getting tongue-tied for far too long. Something that needed to be put to an end.

"Of course I am." She smirked, and the two of them were distracted as Ron appeared with the bottle of firewhiskey which they quickly sequestered a corner of the room for so they could drink in private. Even Hermione.

By the time the festivities were done, it was nearly dawn. Which of course meant there was only time to catch a few hours of sleep before showering and heading down to breakfast. They'd have until lunch before the leaving ceremony, but no one really wanted to spend that free time sleeping. So the graduating members stumbled to their dorms to get a few hours of sleep before their day began anew.

And when Harry finally had dragged himself out of bed in order to have breakfast, he fumbled around in his trunk for the hangover potion Severus had made him. Or rather, he'd borrowed it. But Severus never need know. And once his splitting migraine had abated he grabbed a change of clothes and his robes and went to get himself a hot shower.

Later as he was finishing getting dressed with Ron and Seamus, he looked in the mirror and groaned. "I look like hell… but you two don't look any better."

Ron snorted, "least you don't have a headache. Don't talk so loud."

Harry sighed, there was nothing to be done for it. At least Severus had seen him looking worse. And hell, he'd seen Severus looking far worse more often. So he finished with his robes and left with his friends to seek out some breakfast.

When they all entered the Great Hall, Harry immediately took his seat and reached for his pumpkin juice. The instant his hand made contact shooting a jolt of magic into the liquid to transfigure it into a stout black coffee. Which he dearly needed right now. And he tossed the entire thing back in only a few gulps before applying his magic to refilling it.

Severus snickered and turned back to his food. It seemed that Harry had had a long night. The brat had better get used to them, because he wasn't taking Harry down to his chambers later so the brat could have a nap.

"Did you manage to rescue your dungeons last night?" Albus asked conversationally.

Severus speared a sausage idly. "Oh no, he flooded my dungeons quite thoroughly. But I did manage to get the mess cleaned up before anyone noticed." He replied offhandedly. Knowing exactly what it sounded like, and silently crowing in delight as Minerva began to violently choke on a bite of pear, and Albus to lose control over a small laugh.

"Thank goodness for small wonders." Albus muttered as he tried to help Minerva with the blockage as the other teachers in hearing range looked on in confusion.

"Small?" Severus bemoaned. "Nothing Harry gets up to is small. That brat creates the largest disasters I've ever had witness to."

At this point Minerva appeared to be hyperventilating.

Albus shifted and cleared his throat, trying to rein his laughter still. It seemed that Severus was definitely in a good mood this morning. And he couldn't blame the man. After today's graduation he and Harry would finally be able to stop keeping their relationship behind closed doors. "How fortunate you're able to handle them."

"Exactly what I was thinking." Severus agreed crisply.

Harry was not the only student to look up in shock as Professor McGonagall attempted to hex Professor Snape, only to be yanked back into her chair by concerned colleagues and have her wand confiscated for the time. Blinking over at Severus, he could tell the man looked pleased with himself. And meeting the man's amused look, he shook his head, mouthing, "what did you do?"

Severus merely winked at him. An action that was only caught by Albus, and those of Harry's friends who knew of the relationship between the two.

Harry shook his head with more silent laughter, and turned to his breakfast with a smile. He could only imagine… but really, he didn't blame the man for wanting to torment where he could.

"Harry?" Ginny queried from across the table as she looked back as well.

"It's Professor Snape." He waved a hand airily with a grin. "He's just being Snape."

Ginny smirked, and let it be. It was hard to pester for details when her friend was so happy. Besides… that statement revealed quite a lot, all things considered.

Harry went back to his coffee, greasy bacon, and toast with gusto. It was making him feel more human at this point. And he definitely wanted to feel that way. Dragging through today was not what he wanted to do.

When breakfast wound up, the Great Hall was emptied of students so preparations could be made by teachers and house elves. Which meant the students were free to do as they pleased. And for Harry and his friends, that meant wandering out to the lake to take seats on the bank.

Draco palmed a pebble and skipped it out over the surface of the lake. "It'll be almost strange, not coming back here as students."

"Speak for yourself." Ginny laughed and leaned up against her boyfriend.

Ron surprisingly didn't seem to notice. "We had a good run though, you know. It was definitely an experience."

Harry chuckled softly and lay back on the grass with a contented sigh. "Yeah. That it was."

"And Harry's a murderer before he's even legal!" Draco proclaimed with a laugh.

"Draco!" Hermione scolded, even as Ginny cuffed him.

Harry however had laughed shortly before smiling up at the clear sky. "It was him or me. And personally… I don't think he needed a third chance at life. Me however? I needed my second." He'd never really told his friends in detail what had happened. Or that he had been dead for a short while. But then they never asked for the details, merely accepting them if they came.

"Besides," Ron grinned, "you can bet it looked flashy on his resume. 'Killed a dark lord'. The only other one who has that is Dumbledore."

"Now here I was thinking that the confetti I stuck to it was the only thing flashy about it." Harry mused with a fabricated frown.

Draco rolled his eyes. "Now he's sounding like Lockhart."

"Gay, thank you. Please keep the airhead women away!" Harry announced with a raised hand of submission.

"I have a feeling Professor Snape will do that admirably." Hermione replied as she plucked blades of grass, pointedly further blocking the memory that she'd once been an airhead woman around that fraud.

Ginny shot him a thoughtful look. "Not bisexual then?"

"Nope." Harry shrugged. "I don't think I was ever attracted to women. I liked the idea of being attracted to them, to anyone. But my life never allowed for it seriously until now."

"And now he's shagging the potions professor." Ron sniggered.

"Oi!" Harry's head shot up so he could glare at Ron. "He's my potions professor, I'll do with him as I please. And for quite a long time."

"Just invite us to the wedding." Draco drawled with a smirk as he skipped another rock.

"Only if you invite me to yours and Ginny's." Harry countered in a desperate attempt to draw such attentions off of him.

"Hey!" Ron protested as predicted, and immediately there was a different source of entertainment.

An entertainment that Harry only half paid attention to. He was thinking about what Draco had said. Probably just in jest right now. But still… he needed to get something else out of the way before he could allow himself to think about anything like marriage. That, like all aspects of his relationship with Severus, would take time. Neither of them wanted to rush and make a mistake. And for that, they were still deliriously happy together.

By the time that they needed to report for the graduation ceremony, wherein afterwards they'd get lunch, the five of them trooped back up to the castle.

Each step Harry took he became more anxious. More nervous. And more excited. And if his friends noticed, they didn't remark on it. Not where they could be overheard.

Severus nearly laughed as he saw Harry reappear. The young man looked positively in need of more coffee. Or a strong glass of brandy. Not to say he wasn't in need of one himself… it wasn't every day that he planned to take Harry in his arms and kiss him incoherent in front of everyone.

Harry studiously kept his gaze away from Severus as he took a seat up near the front of the tables with his friends. His eyes gravitating towards Dumbledore, and meeting the man's twinkling look with a smile. "There used to be a time I didn't think I'd make it this far alive." He murmured under his breath as he looked away. And he truly believed, that without Severus, he might not have. The man had always looked out for him, taught him… and loved him.

After a time as refreshments were passed around, Dumbledore cleared his throat and stood to begin his commencement speech. It was listened to politely, and in Harry's case, with half his attention. He was too busy glaring at Severus who seemed to be keen on having a staring contest with him.

"-however, one of our graduates will be returning next year." Dumbledore began, and Harry's attention jerked towards the man. As did Severus's. "I am very pleased to announce that after nearly five months of begging and waiting for a response, Mister Potter will be returning as a dueling instructor."

Severus snorted. "You're not the only one he kept waiting for an answer." He muttered under his breath, not that it mattered, the applause and cheering of the students and some of his fellow professors was bordering on obscene.

Harry flushed and ducked his head a moment before standing and sweeping a courtly bow. Which only caused certain individuals to swoon, and Severus to fight back his Death Eater tendencies, before he sat down again.

Meanwhile Severus was telling himself that no, a round of Crucio for old times sake would not be a good idea.

"And I can guarantee you that I need not be concerned of his abilities to control even those who were past classmates." Albus sent Harry a twinkling look. "He has an arsenal of hexes that even I would like to continue to avoid."

Harry laughed and motioned towards Professor Snape, knowing he'd get a spectacular glare. "I had a wonderful tutor."

Severus sneered at him. "Do not mock me, Potter! I still have a few up my sleeve I never taught you, and I'd not mind putting them to use in lieu that I cannot give you detentions anymore."

"Of course, sir." Harry grinned cheekily.

The students, and even the rest of the staff were torn between laughing and being wary should a duel break out. But as for Dumbledore, he was delighted things were going so well. And what he'd spoken had been the truth. Harry was powerful in both magical talent and knowledge. He had no doubt that Harry could control a class, even of seventh years. If the young man's work with the DA was anything to judge by.

"Now, now," Albus cleared his throat. "Let us at least graduate all these seventh years before our potions professor and the upcoming duel instructor decide to match wits."

Severus scowled at Harry who merely sat back with a smug look.

"When Professor McGonagall calls your name off the list, please come up to accept your diploma."

And so Harry waited through the applause, applauding himself politely for everyone, before he suddenly realized he had something to be wary of. As the students went down the line of professors, thanking the ones who they'd been taught by, Harry realized something. And it made him laugh, albeit warily.

Severus was at the far end, sending the students fleeing with a sneer. And as not only Ron's, but Blaise's name had been called… Harry knew Dumbledore had purposefully put him out of order. He was not the only one who noticed this. And as Hermione prodded him in the arm he shook his head. "He couldn't not get in a last manipulation."

"Potter, Harry." Minerva called, and silently braced herself. When she'd seen Harry's name at the end of the list, she could only imagine what for.

Harry met Severus's unreadable gaze, smirked, and sauntered up to join the line of students who hadn't yet filed through.

To McGonagall herself he gave a tight hug, whispering thanks into her ear for all she'd done for him. And as he pulled away from the decidedly misty eyed woman, he continued on. When he got to Dumbledore, he shook his head at the man. "Seven years later and I still don't know what I want to do more, hex you to next Sunday, or thank you for it all."

"The thanks would be good." Dumbledore chortled, blue eyes twinkling. "However if you must hex, I rather think I'd look marvelous with a green beard to match my robes."

Harry looked at the man's attire. "Your robes are purple with blue moons, and you want a green beard?"

"Why not?" Dumbledore replied, as if truly confused.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Maybe later, I have a certain last grand exit to make." And he sidled away with a shake of his head as Dumbledore laughed. "Mental." He muttered in an attempt to cow his nerves, and as Blaise moved aside, he was left standing before Severus. And instantly he felt his nerves return and hum in anticipation as he met the fathoms deep black eyes.

"Well, I think we've both been waiting long enough to do this." Severus said rather silkily, drawing on his bravado.

Harry flashed him a smirk as Professor Sprout, nearest them, edged aside suddenly nervous of an impending duel. "First…" he held up a hand, and the smile that slipped onto his face wavered, "I have something I need you to know."

Severus tried not to betray his mask to the surprise he felt as Harry stepped up to him and leaned in towards his ear.

Harry braced himself, before letting out the breath he'd been holding, his eyes falling closed. The darkness helped shut everything else out. And as softly as he dared, whispered the very thing he had been wanting to. "I love you."

Severus barely contained his gasp, only years of control kept him from it. And he turned startled eyes on Harry as the young man pulled back looking up at him anxiously, nervously… hopefully. "Did I just hear that correctly?" He whispered in awe.

Harry nodded, smiling at him brightly.

Severus didn't even listen for the gasps that issued from most everyone as his mask broke into a smile. A true smile. And one only a small number of people in this hall had ever seen. He was too busy getting lost into those brilliant green eyes. All at once, nervousness was cast aside. And he swiftly caught Harry's face between his hands, tipping it up and wasting no time in swooping in to devour his beloved's mouth - immediately earning himself a pleased moan.

Harry wrapped his arms around Severus's neck as he kissed the man back just as passionately. He felt one of Severus's arms go around his waist to pull them flush against each other, the other hand tangling in his hair to tip his head back and deepen their kiss.

All thoughts of those around them did not occur. They were too lost in each other.

They never saw Harry's friends begin to laugh and applaud raucously. Nor Minerva conjure up a chair which she collapsed into. Or the other staff and students try to figure out what reaction they should have. Dumbledore merely laughed as he clapped, watching the happy couple finally break free of the shadows they'd had to hide themselves in since Christmas.

No. When they finally parted for air, smiling at each other lovingly, all they saw was each other. And Severus took Harry's hand in his. "Come with me." And he began to lead his Harry from the hall, intent on finding a more private place to be with the one he loved.

All thanks to one headstrong snake with a Dumbledorian complex. And in her cage, Sorai was curled around her clutch of eggs, knowing that somewhere, her masters were finally truly happy. With that in mind she fell into a peaceful sleep.