Mark of Honor
By Classic Snarry

Chapter 4:

"Hello?" Harry called as he stepped through the floo in Hermione and Ron's living room. He had risen early that morning to hastily finish grading. If his students wondered why he had graded so laxly he would just claim to have adjusted scores per a curve. He needed to get away from school for the while so he could stop obsessing about his meeting with Snape that night. Harry was still no closer to formulating a plan that would help his suspicious co-worker trust him.

"In the kitchen!" Hermione belatedly called back.

Harry shuffled his way towards the origin of the voice until he entered the kitchen. Hermione was self consciously smoothing her skirt, and Ron's face was beet red. He smiled fondly at the two who managed to act like newlyweds despite the fact that they'd been married more than five years ago now.

"We didn't expect you," Ron said, his cool words belied by the strength of the brief hug he quickly bestowed upon his friend.

"Have you eaten?" Hermione offered, stirring a pot of bubbling pasta sauce before replacing the lid.

Harry took a deep whiff of the combination of garlic, olive oil and basil that filled the room. "Yes, but I'm a growing boy. I'll happily eat again."

"Growing boy, eh?" Ron kidded, ruffling Harry's perpetually mussed hair, "When are you expecting this growth spurt of yours?"

"Sooner rather than later if I keep partaking in your wife's cooking," Harry replied with a smile.

"You know, Harry," Hermione cut in, "If you actually took some interest in meeting people, maybe you'd be closer to having a wife."

Harry groaned.

"Well, really Harry."

"You do realize you sound more and more like your mother-in-law with each passing week of your pregnancy."

"I'm only four weeks in, Harry."

"We can only imagine how you'll act just before you go into labor then," Ron muttered.

Hermione glared at her husband before continuing to bludgeon the proverbially passed horse. "I think it would be nice if Harry would go on a date with a nice girl. I have a few friends of friends in mind--"

"I actually have a date tonight," Harry blurted, willing at that point to say anything to stop Hermione from taking out her address book.

They both looked at Harry, Hermione with wide-eyed excitement and Ron with disbelieving relief.

"It's true," Harry defended quickly against Ron's disbelief.

"Where'd you meet?" Ron countered.

"At a ball actually." If it happened to be in a ballroom, it was a ball right? Somehow the answer seemed better than "at a Death Eater meeting."

Hermione squealed in delight. "Where are you going? What are you going to wear?" Hermione bubbled excitedly.

Harry glanced down at the jeans and t-shirt he was wearing and shrugged. "Something like this I suppose, we're just going to a pub."

Hermione scoffed before quickly ladling up a bowl of pasta and handing it to Harry. "Eat quickly," she demanded, "We're going shopping."

Harry's plan to get his mind off of his meeting that night had horribly backfired. Instead he traipsed after Hermione, silently cursing Ron who'd been able to stay home to watch EQPN, the Entertainment and Quidditch Programming Network. She piled clothing, hair products, colonge and other bric-a-brac into his arms, all the while plying him with endless questions.

"What does she look like?" Hermione had asked.

"Tall," Harry started lamely, "Dark... distinguished."

"Gee, Harry, you make her sound like a china hutch," Hermione scolded as she pushed Harry into the fitting room once more.

"Even more so if I added that he's well oiled,'" Harry muttered with a smirk as he rummaged through the pile in his arms, carefully weeding out any short sleeved options.

Once they had returned to Ron and Hermione's flat, Hermione insisted on making him dress and groom himself before allowing him to leave, even though it was still hours before he had to leave for Diagon Alley. He felt slightly guilty as Hermione fussed over his hair, knowing that he'd transfigure it later regardless.

By the time he left there he was almost as equally rushed to apply his disguise as he'd been the night before, though both the lack of pain and experience of having done it once before expedited his efforts. All the better as Harry knew from seven years of school that being late would not aid him it gaining Snape's regard or trust.

Arriving early to the Leaky Cauldron as he'd planned, Harry procured a semi-private table in one of the rear rooms and ordered a bottle of wine, the vintage pre-approved by Hermione earlier that day.

"You clean up well, Mr. Fitzgerald," Snape smoothly complimented.

Harry found himself embarrassed by the unprecedented compliment and took a moment to gather his nerve before looking up at his dinner companion. Once he did look up, he was immediately grateful that Hermione had put in such effort for him. He would hate to have looked like a schlub next to the dungeon bat, who looked decidedly less bat-like at this moment. Snape's hair was freshly washed and pulled back from his face and his hands scrubbed to remove the yellow potion residue stains. And for once, Snape wasn't wearing black robes, but neat black trousers and a dark blue button down.

Snape must have noticed him staring, for he quickly added, "Yes, I realize that I was characteristically disheveled the other night, but you have to understand I hadn't expected to be called."

Harry scoffed at Snape's attempt to convince him that this version wasn't uncharacteristic, as opposed to the version he'd seen for thirteen years. Still, if Severus was going to start caring about his appearance to lure in Edmund, he certainly wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Not that he liked Snape, but if he had to spend time with the man, he might as well be looking good.

Harry gestured towards the chair across from him, and Snape quickly sat.

"Would you care for some wine?" Harry asked nervously, silently chastising himself for continually being so worked up about this situation.

"Yes. Please," Snape replied, handing Harry his wineglass in such a way that their fingers purposely brushed each other, "So tell me, Edmund, did your parents not like you?"

Harry stumbled mid-pour as he looked up from the glass in annoyed confusion. Despite changed appearances, it apparently really was Snape, insults and all.

"Excuse me?" Harry asked, trying to hold his temper as his mission here was to get Snape to like him, not hex him.

"Edmund Fitzgerald. Surely most parents would not name offspring they liked after an iron barge that killed nearly thirty men."

"They're from Minnesota," Harry deadpanned, immediately regreting the name choice.

"I wasn't aware there was a large wizarding population in the American Midwest," Snape commented.

"There's not," Harry replied without thinking.

Snape raised an eyebrow. "I suppose that just makes you special then, doesn't it."

Harry distinctly remembered Snape saying that he was going romantically pursue Edmund. Maybe Snape had a date with a different Edmund later tonight, because he didn't feel like he was on a date so much as suffering the Spanish Inquisition. Apparently, he was going to have to be very forgiving of the older man, and make this as easy as possible for him. Harry slipped off his loafer and stuck a socked foot up Snape's pant leg.

"There are some who would call me special, but it usually has nothing to do with my heritage," Harry flirted shamelessly.

Snape froze and temporarily looked like he was going to bludgeon him before his act took hold.

"Really," Snape drawled with a smoky tenor the git's voice had no business producing. Harry found himself not unaffected, his heart beating louder, despite his knowledge that this was just a ruse on both of their ends.

"Ready to order?" Harry asked, proud that his words weren't produced at a decibel only dogs could decipher.

"Yes," Snape chuckled, seemingly completely aware of Harry's sudden discomfort.

Harry shuffled nervously in his seat before meeting the waitress' eyes, relaxing somewhat with the distraction.

They ordered and began in on the requisite small talk. Far less stressful in Harry's opinion, and shockingly normal considering with whom he was conversing. Still, he was fairly certain it wasn't instilling Severus with any significant trust of him. They talked of the latest incompetents at the Ministry, Snape's general dislike of his students, and Harry's latest hobby of oil painting; all the while, Harry worked up the nerve to his final question.

As the waitress cleared their plates, Harry cleared his throat and asked, "Would you like to come back to my place?"

Snape looked positively flabbergasted and Harry suddenly realized how that sounded.

"I mean for coffee, or something," he hastily added. He simply hoped that if he allowed Snape to poke about at his place for a bit, he could let Snape see that he was normal, or at least not evil.

When Snape nodded in agreement, Harry was relieved and pleased that Snape had agreed. Then the cynical part of his mind pointed out that Harry could have most likely suggested they go and shag like rabbits and Snape would agree, simply because Snape was that dedicated to his role. He had to respect that, and promised himself he wouldn't abuse that.

Harry had bought himself a cottage outside of London in his first year as an auror, needing desperately a sanctuary from the chaos of his work. As it was, he'd allowed very few people to visit his home, Hermione, Ron, and Mr. & Mrs. Weasley. He supposed he should have felt more ill at ease adding Severus Snape to that short list, but he'd known the man for years, and had had him deep into the recesses of his mind thanks to occlumency training.

"We'll need to apparate," Harry said quickly, "I haven't a floo."

Harry closed the gap between them and snaked his arm chastely around the other man's back.

"What are you doing, Mr. Fitzgerald?" Snape asked in a tone that reminded Harry of potions class.

"Well, my house is unplottable. I'll have to side-along apparate," Harry replied honestly.

Snape looked sharply at the man next to him. Side-along apparations took both a large amount of power and a great amount of control. Harry hoped that as Snape already admitted Harry had a significant amount of power he would trust him to do this.

"Very well," Snape eventually said. And that was it, Harry apparated them with the happy realization that he'd earned at least some of the potion master's trust.

A/N: Huzzah to all of my reviewers; I appreciate your support! Huzzah to my beta, my beautiful, grammatically-inclined girlfriend!