Summary: AU, post-Hogwarts, post-Voldemort, ignore most of the events of HBP and DH. Harry receives a letter asking for a favor. What happens when two people, who haven't spoken since Voldemort's defeat, realize they have more in common than they remember? HP/SS pre-slash. Written in response to a request from my partner. Happy Birthday, my heart!

Potter,

You have more than once expressed your gratitude to me for my services during the War. Although I am not sure that I agree that you owe me anything, I am going to ask you for a favor anyway.

One of my former students is in need of a job. Daphne Greengrass was in your year and has spent the past five years since graduation in Europe — chiefly in France. Although she was never a Death Eater or even a supporter of the Dark, she found it difficult to find employment here in Britain. Her family has been carefully neutral in wizarding wars since the 1500s. Her sole sins were being a Slytherin and not clearly for the Light, as well as lacking the money or connections that might overcome those barriers.

She is back in Britain to care for an ailing great-grandparent. Being carefully neutral was also not good enough for Voldemort during his first and second grabs for power. Most of her family is dead, and there is no one else to care for her great-grandmother. Although she is living with Madame Greengrass, she still needs at least part-time employment to continue putting food on the table and paying the bills from St. Mungo's.

She has extensive childcare experience, and I believe she would be an asset at your facility. I have enclosed a resume for your perusal and would appreciate any consideration you can extend to her.

Yours truly,

Severus Snape

Harry sat back after reading the missive and put his feet up on his desk. He had purposely avoided using any antiques or other items of great value in this office just so he could afford himself this luxury without any worry or damaging a priceless treasure. Instead, he kept a more formal desk in the library. If he wanted to conduct any business in his home that involved receiving business associates in person, they would see that room. No one but Dobby and he ever saw this somewhat shabby room where he spent most of his time.

One corner held an armoire that opened to display a large TV and all the usual accoutrements. Behind him was a bookshelf containing some of his favorite dog-eared paperbacks, several framed photographs, and a few other knick-knacks. His desk faced a large picture window so he could look out on the side yard. He had avoided the more grand views of the front walk or the back gardens because guests might look into his window from those locations. The side yard was close to impossible to get to and not interesting enough to attract attention. Instead, it was wild and untamed with grasses as high as a man's hips and weeds the size of trees. Harry loved it.

In fact, this room and this view were among the reasons he'd decided to settle in this house. He had discovered on reaching his majority that he owned not only Grimmauld Place but also three different Potter properties. The first was the ruin in Godric's Hollow. Very little could convince Harry to live there permanently. The second was a vacation home on the Mediterranean. In the absence of adult Potters, the goblins who managed his estate had hired a agency to rent it out to vacationers, and the money had been quietly gathering in his vault. Now that he was of age, he took more interest and made sure it was available for his own use for a few weeks each year, but that still left a tidy income for the rest of the year.

The last property was the one he settled on for his permanent residence. He knew he could sell it, as he had with the Black home (after a thorough cleaning — both physically and magically — and some major renovation). However, he fell in love with the manor house in the north of England as soon as he'd set eyes on it. Since he could floo or Apparate almost anywhere in England, he was unconcerned with its remote locale.

Thus, Harry sat with his dirty shoes on his desk contemplating his former Potions professor. Harry had indeed expressed his gratitude to Severus Snape on various occasions. He intelligence and position in the Death Eaters were invaluable in bringing down Voldemort. As such, Harry was happy to return the favor and had made sure that Snape was on the very short list of people whose letters could get through the wards at his home.

Contrary to what many expected, the last battle of the Second War Against You-Know-Who, as many referred to it, ended as quietly as it began. There was no epic battle with hundreds of wizards, troops of trolls and giants, and a swarm of goblins, elves, and centaurs fighting it out on the grounds of Hogwarts.

Instead, Severus Snape dropped a small item with a weak tracking charm on it just outside the wards of Voldemort's hideout. Within 20 minutes, Albus Dumbledore, Alastor Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Remus Lupin, and Harry Potter (who had just graduated from Hogwarts a mere two months earlier) gathered at the location. An hour later, Voldemort and his snake (and last Horcrux) were dead — stabbed in the back and beheaded respectively — and all of the Death Eaters who had come to the meeting were trapped within the wards that Albus had layered on top of the existing ones that Voldemort had placed. Shortly thereafter, every Auror and Order member available had provided an effective perimeter, and Voldemort's servants were rounded up and sent to holding cells in the Ministry.

After he spent some time insisting on fair trials and convincing the Minister to get rid of the Dementors, Harry Potter disappeared from public life. Some people knew that he was involved in a few ventures — the twin's shop, Nimbus Brooms, and two orphanages (one Muggle, one magical). But the general pubic only caught sight of him when he chose to visit places like Diagon Alley, and no one was sure what he did to earn a living. Even the witch's magazines had mostly lost interest due to his rare public sightings. Harry would not have guessed that Severus Snape was one of those people that knew he owned two orphanages, but he supposed he shouldn't have been too surprised.

Harry looked over Daphne's resume. He remembered her vaguely from Hogwarts but couldn't recall exchanging more than two words with her. Her resume showed a woman who appeared to be a perfect fit for an open counselor/teacher position. The trick was that it was at the Muggle orphanage, and he wasn't sure if Daphne would be interested in a Muggle job. He did have an opening at the magical orphanage. One thing about charity work — there always seemed to be a lot work and not enough people to do it. However, the opening at the magical orphanage would not suit her experience as well. It was a much more entry-level position, and there wasn't as much room for advancement.

He decided to visit Snape and feel him out on Daphne's experience with Muggles before he wrote to her. He didn't feel entirely comfortable writing to her and trying to find a polite way of asking about her experience in the Muggle world. Plus, he didn't really want to tell her of the existence of the Muggle orphanage if there was no chance she could work there. His privacy was important to him. The final decision for hiring would be up to the manager at the orphanage of Daphne's choice, but he wanted to know whether to bother with the Muggle opportunity or not.

Snape,

I would be happy to consider Daphne for a job. Although the final decision will be for the manager to make, I would still like to ask you a few questions before proceeding. Would it be convenient for me to visit you at your home tomorrow at 2 p.m.? If not, please suggest a more convenient time. I have a fairly flexible schedule.

Looking forward to seeing you again,

Harry Potter

SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP

"You know, you didn't have to go through this whole farce if you were just going to reject her for being a Slytherin."

Harry looked at Snape with a puzzled frown. He really didn't know how to respond. They had been sharing a peaceful cup of tea and some moderately pleasant small talk that had then turned to a bit of catching-up: what they had been doing for the past few years and news about mutual acquaintances each had stayed in touch with. Suddenly, with no transition, Snape snapped at Harry. Where had that come from?

"Don't play stupid, Potter. There's no other reason for you to come here and play nice. We never were friends."

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't come here to 'let you down gently' or some other such tripe. I just wanted to ask you a few questions about Daphne before I decided which job to recommend her for."

Snape looked at him for a minute as if testing the veracity of what Harry was saying. He was fairly certain there was no Legilimancy involved, but he couldn't be sure since he had always been pants at Occlumency.

"I see."

Harry supposed he shouldn't hold his breath waiting for an apology, so he just plowed on. "I assume that when you wrote me, you were thinking she could work at Danu* — right?"

"Yes, of course. I know that not many people know you own the orphanage, but I make it my business to know certain things."

Harry nodded his head in acknowledgement of Snape's point. "What I don't believe you are aware of is that I have a similar facility in the Muggle world." Harry continued on as Snape raised an eyebrow in surprise. It was good to know Snape didn't know everything. "I came by to talk to you because I don't know how comfortable Daphne is in the Muggle world or if she had things like ID and an NHS card. See, I have openings in both locations, but the one at the Muggle orphanage looks like a better fit for Daphne based on the resume you sent, and it would also offer more money. I never knew Daphne and thought asking you might save me an awkward letter."

"Well, I didn't know her as well as some of my students, but I'm fairly certain her parents' house was in London rather than the country. There is only so ignorant of Muggles you can be if you live among them. I wouldn't know if she has an ID and NHS card, but it wouldn't surprise me if she did possess them. Her father was a bit paranoid and tried to make sure his family had as many options open to them as possible in case something horrible happened."

"Well, that's better than nothing, I suppose." Harry paused briefly. "But I guess I'm still going to have to write that awkward letter. Ah well. Maybe I can turn it into a face-to-face meeting instead. That way, I can get all my answers quickly, and she might be employed that much sooner."

"If you give me a minute, I might be able to reach her by floo. You can take over and set up a meeting time."

"Oh that would be perfect. Do you mind?"

"I wouldn't have offered if I did, Potter."

Harry simply chuckled quietly. Snape's bluntness no longer had the power to upset him. Fifteen minutes later, Harry had spoken to Daphne and set up a time when he could meet with her and talk to her about the job prospects. Since Snape had just refilled his teacup, he assumed that was an invitation to sit for a bit.

"So, what do you think of the changes Headmistress McGonagall has been making at Hogwarts?" Snape actually started the conversation.

"Torn, really. I mean, part of me is celebrating that she managed to get both Binns and Filch to move on, but the other part of me thinks that if I had to suffer through them, everyone else should as well."

Harry was surprised by a warm chuckle from Snape. "I think I agree with you — on both points. But I am glad to see some of the curriculum changes. Divination should never have been something one could take for so many years, and the way she's splitting up the classes more and bringing in assistants for the professors will mean a more personalized education for many of the students. And the defense classes are teaching actual defense!"

"Of course, it's pretty easy to improve the defense curriculum when the position is no longer cursed by Tom Riddle."

"Oh, that was just a rumor."

"No, I assure you; it was true."

"Oh really, how do you know that?"

The resulting debate on the curse on the DADA position, the curriculum, and everything else about Hogwarts was somewhat spirited, and Harry enjoyed himself thoroughly. After half an hour, the conversation turned to events outside of their alma mater, but it was just as enjoyable.

Snape was well informed and opinionated about everything from the new owner of Fortescues to the latest laws passed by the Wizengamot. Harry kept himself equally as informed if for no other reason than because people were always asking his opinion and then going off and repeating what he said like the Gospel of St. Harry of Potter. Talking to someone other than Hermione and the Weasleys who was willing to tell him his ideas were hogwash was wonderfully liberating for Harry. He also enjoyed riling up Snape until his cheeks were red in frustration or being irreverent enough to hear that warm chuckle again. It was fun — if slightly disturbing — to see Snape in this more human form

Eventually, Harry had to get back to work, and so did Snape. They parted on much more congenial terms than they had met and made vague promises to get together soon.

*Danu is generally considered the Celtic goddess of motherhood.

SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP

A well-dressed house elf answered Harry's frantic knock at Snape's door a few weeks later. "Can I help you, sir?"

"Yes, I was wondering I might speak to Pro- um… Potions Master Snape?"

"You have an appointment?"

"No, I'm sorry, I don't. If this is a bad time, I can set up an appointment and come then." He should have thought of that before he'd come barreling over. He had been so shocked to find that his orphanage was getting shoddy potions that he'd sprung into action without much thought. He knew that Snape supplied potions to various establishments, and he was hoping Danu could be one of them. He didn't like to think of the children under his care suffering because of substandard medical care.

"I will ask if he can see you." The house elf took a step back and gestured for Harry to wait in the entranceway.

The remarkably well-spoken elf was probably only gone for a few minutes. But to the anxiously pacing Harry Potter, it felt much longer. With a pop, the elf appeared at his side, just missing getting walked over.

"Potions Master Snape will be with you in 10 minutes. Please come with me." With that, the elf led Harry to the small room in which he had shared tea with Snape during his last visit. Within minutes, there was a tea service and a few biscuits on a tray. Harry was pretty sure he would have spilled if he tried to serve himself and so contented himself with a cinnamon- and ginger-spiced biscuit.

"Potter, what is so urgent? Does this have anything to do with Miss Greengrass?"

"No, it's got nothing to do with Daphne or her work. She seems to be settling well by all reports. I'm glad she could take the position at Riddle."

"I still can't believe you named your orphanage after that lunatic."

"Perhaps if the orphanage he was placed in wasn't such a hellhole, he wouldn't have turned out as he did." Snape merely snorted. "In any case, that's not why I'm here."

"Do tell."

"I found out today that Danu has been getting substandard potions for the infirmary. A girl fell from a tree and snapped her wrist, and the potion our mediwitch gave her for the pain was obviously not doing the job. I came to ask you if you have any time free for another commission. You're not completely booked, are you?"

"I'm not completely booked, but it would depend on the size of the commission. I don't want to get so busy with Pepperup Potion and bruise salves that I can't work on some of my experiments."

"Well, I don't know the particulars, but there are only 75 kids at any given time, so it's not a huge one. How about I get my mediwitch to send you the details, and you can send in a bid if you are interested?"

"That's sounds like a fair plan."

"Would you have recommendations for other places I could go for effective potions? Just in case it turns out to not be up your alley, I'd like to get a few other people to bid on the job at the same time. I'm not sure who I can count on to deliver effective potions."

"Certainly. How about I owl you with names and addresses later today?"

"That would be perfect." Harry paused and took a deep breath. "I appreciate you taking the time from your schedule for my unexpected visit, but I don't want to keep you from your work more than I need to."

"Don't be ridiculous. If I hadn't had the time, I would have told Stuart as much and made you make an appointment. Sit down. Have a cup of tea and slow down for a minute. You've got yourself all worked up."

"I'm afraid you're right. I pride myself on providing exceptional care, and then I walked in to that poor girl crying in pain even after the mediwitch was done with her. I was concerned, but I thought she was just crying from the shock of the fall. Then my mediwitch explained that the potions we were getting didn't always work." Harry simply gestured with his hands to show how futile he'd felt.

"I can see why you'd be upset. There is no reason for someone to sell you potions that don't always work. The mediwitch should have said something earlier." He handed Harry a cup of tea and then passed the sugar and cream.

"Believe me, I'm going to have that discussion with her and find out why she didn't. I'll also talk to the person buying supplies and find out what's going on there."

"Indeed." The last was said with the trademark Snape sneer.

"Ah, there's the Professor Snape I remember. I was starting to think someone had replaced you with a new model — or someone was using Polyjuice."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "You know that most of my bat-of-the-dungeons persona was a cover. I'm sure we had this discussion sometime after you graduated."

Harry laughed. "You aren't still trying to pretend all that nastiness was just to keep your cover with Voldemort — are you? 'Cause I don't know why anyone would buy that."

"Whatever are you talking about?"

"Well, the way I see it, you had your reasons for being impressively unhappy and generally cranky. But, they couldn't possibly have been to keep your cover with His Darkness. After all, he thought you were spying for him. What better way to get Dumbledore to suspect you hadn't really turned back to the Light than to act Dark and snarky, pick on his Saviour, and favor the Death Eater children? Someone truly spying for the 'Dark Lord' would have done their best to blend in and not draw attention to themselves. It's no wonder Voldemort never really trusted you."

"I'm so glad you think you could have done better."

"That's not it at all. I would have been shite at the job. You know I'm completely incapable of keeping my feelings off my face — not to mention completely incompetent at Occlumency."

"But you still think you can judge my efforts."

"I can judge from Voldemort's and Dumbledore's perspectives, yeah. I wouldn't have trusted you if I was either of them. And I don't just say that from my 15-year-old self's perspective. When I look back at it now, I thank Merlin we managed to bring him down when we did, because I really don't think you would have lived for another year."

"That was a risk I was willing to take."

"Exactly! It's no wonder you were so cranky. Plus, you just do not have the temperament to teach anyone who is not as naturally smart or as inclined toward Potions as yourself. You explained things once and in the exact same way as the textbook. If we didn't understand it, we were pretty much up a creek without a paddle. I'm guessing that you adopted a 'don't mess with me' persona to get through your first few lessons. You were only a handful of years older than some of your students, after all. Over the years, the shell got harder and thicker. Then, add on the extra pressures of pretending to be a loyal Death Eater and waiting for Voldemort's eventual return…" Harry shuddered. "In your place, I would have done a lot worse than yell and take points off Gryffindor, I think."

Snape seemed to be struck dumb. Harry was almost positive he had never seen him speechless. He rushed in to fill the void.

"So, before I irretrievably ruin our only recently rediscovered friendship, I think I'll run away from that topic post haste. Uhmm. What potion did I take you from? Were you doing experimental work, or was it just something ordinary?"

After a pause, Snape seemed to collect himself. "I was trying to work out something that would work faster and/or with less side-effects than Skele-Gro, but I admit I haven't had much success."

"Do you suppose you could make it taste less revolting at the same time?"

"Actually, I thought about doing just that. After all, I could probably get a bit more for it if it wasn't so very repulsive."

"I still remember the first time I had to take it after Lockhart vanished all the bones in my arm. Ugh. I almost spit it out. The pins and needles for most of the night were painful and annoying, but somehow growing bones back should be painful. I really think the taste was the worst part of the experience."

"Hmm… I'll have to see if mint leaves affect its efficacy. That might take the edge off the taste without making it like one of those cloying Muggle cough syrups that children enjoy taking. Why do they want to make medicine something that children ask to take at the least sign of sniffles because it tastes so good?"

Harry chuckled a little and felt more of his tension disappear. "I haven't the faintest idea. I never got any as a child, so I was exempt from that particular effect."

SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP

A week later, Harry heard Snape's voice down the hall from his office. He supposed that meant he was coming to see the facility now that he would be providing the potions. The other two places that Harry had requested price quotes from hadn't worked out. One was not interested, and the other had too long turnaround times on orders placed. Harry figured that meant they were overstretching with what they could do and that sooner or later his infirmary would be out of some much-needed potions. No matter how effective they were, they never worked if they weren't on hand.

Harry was just as happy to know that Snape would be making the potions for the children at the orphanage. He knew from personal experience that his potions were effective. If they hadn't been, Harry was fairly certain he wouldn't have made it to second year, let alone graduation. He was also strangely happy to hear his voice down the hall. True, they'd had more-than-pleasant visits both times he'd seen Snape recently, but he was surprised to find himself contemplating walking down the hall just to make conversation.

Harry deliberately finished his paperwork and then checked the time. It was approaching dinnertime, and he was done all of the pressing things he needed to attend to. Why not go have a chat with Severus Snape? Perhaps they could share a meal as a thank you for taking the job.

"Hullo."

"Ah, Potter. I wasn't sure if you were here today."

"As you can see, I am. But, I was just thinking of leaving and finding some dinner. Would you care to join me, or do you still have lots to do here?"

"Actually, I believe we are finished, aren't we Madam Smythwick?"

Harry's mediwizard consulted a parchment on her hand and checked off a few items. "Yes, that's everything that we need to discuss before the first shipment."

"Excellent." He turned to Harry. "I'm starving. Is there anyplace we can go where you won't be swarmed with reporters, Potter?"

"I think I know just the place. It's very quiet."

Harry and Snape bid farewell to the mediwizard and walked back to Harry's office so he could fetch his cloak.

"So, do you trust me to Apparate you?"

"Potter, I'm fairly certain you have enough power at your disposal to Apparate half of a quidditch team. I'm sure I'll be fine as long as you aren't taking us to India."

"No, no, I wouldn't take you to India. I don't feel like Indian food tonight." Then, quick as a shot and before Snape could decide if he was kidding or not, Harry grabbed Snape and Apparated them both.

SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP

Harry and Snape appeared on the grounds of Harry's home. Snape looked around with curiosity and raised an eyebrow in Harry direction.

"My home. We're sure not to run into any fans or reporters here."

"I find I can't argue with that logic."

Harry smirked and gestured toward the front doors and then started walking beside Snape toward them. "So, is there anything in particular you don't feel like eating tonight? Any allergies or food dislikes I should be aware of?"

"I'm fairly flexible when it comes to food. No allergies that I know of. I will confess, however, to a deep and abiding loathing for liver and onions. My father insisted on the dish regularly, and I haven't eaten since I've been free on his influence."

"Well, lucky for you, we are fresh out of liver."

"Excellent. Otherwise, I'll leave it up to you."

"Well, I have some meatballs I made the other day in the freezer. I could thaw them, make some pasta, and throw together a salad. Work for you?"

"Are you telling me that with a house this big, you don't have house elves to cook and clean for you?"

"Oh, I've got Dobby and Winky, but there is more for them to do than they can get done. Plus, we put up with each other's eccentricities."

Harry heard a strange noise from Snape's direction and was almost sure Snape just laughed at him. Almost.

"Dobby is Malfoy's old elf, and Winky is Crouch's — right?" At Harry's nod, he continued, "I gather one of your eccentricities — other than picking up stray elves mistreated by their original masters — is that you like to cook for yourself?"

"Yup. Well, not every night. Winky still does the majority of the cooking, but I make dinner a few times a month. You really haven't lived until you've watched house-elves eat food you cooked for them. That was fun the first few times!"

"I imagine it would have been."

By this time, Harry and Snape had reached the kitchen. Harry settled Snape at the kitchen table and turned to the very Muggle-looking refrigerator and pulled out the frozen meatballs in sauce. Before continuing, he turned to Snape. "Can I get you anything to drink? I've got water and tea, of course, as well as some lemonade and wine of various types. No beer or butterbeer. I'm presently out. Sorry about that."

"Not a problem. I'd actually like some water for now. Then, when we start dinner, red wine would be perfect."

"One water coming up. Why don't you pick what wine you'd like to drink." He gestured to the wine rack, and Snape stood to contemplate Harry's taste in wine while Harry went back to his dinner preparations.

"I see you have quite a selection here. Did you collect all of these yourself?"

"Mostly. There's an occasional gift in there, but I found in the last few years that I really enjoy wine with a meal, so I started trying a lot of different types and varieties. I buy a bit more than I actually drink since I generally just eat by myself or with Dobby and Winky, so the collection is getting a bit out of hand. I'm not allowed to buy another bottle until that rack is at least a third empty."

"I'll have to help you meet your goal. I think I'll try this pinot noir. I haven't tried it before, and I rather like the label."

"It's as good a way to pick them as any, I think. Sometimes it feels so random. A bottle that should be great is just so-so. One that's supposed to be barely palatable turns out to be great. Luckily, I'm not picky, so I like almost everything. I just like some of them more than others."

This time Harry was sure he'd heard Snape laugh.

SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP~SSHP

"I did it to protect you."

"Eh?" Harry and Snape had finished their dinner and were enjoying after dinner drinks — brandy for Snape and port for Harry. They had just finished discussing their opinion of a new restaurant off Diagon Alley and there had been a small silence when Snape made this sudden pronouncement.

"You said you didn't believe that my attitude at Hogwarts was to keep my cover, and you were right. I did it to protect you — and Albus' secrets."

"Alrighty. That sounds more likely. I'm not sure I get it yet, but it already sounds more likely than the other reason."

"Did Albus ever tell you when he heard the prophecy?" At Harry's nod, he continued, "I was in the Hog's Head that night and heard the first part of it. This was back before I had turned to the Headmaster, and the Dark Lord soon knew what I knew." Snape looked searchingly at Harry's face as if he was waiting for something. "I expected more of a reaction than this."

"I've known what you just said for years. I made my peace with it a back in school, before we killed Voldemort."

"Your peace?"

"Yeah. I was furious at first. I found out at a time when I still didn't trust you and was ready to hunt you down and hurt you. But eventually, I realized I couldn't change the past or judge people's actions from my perspective. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Plus, what you did made the prophecy happen. Without Voldemort finding out, he wouldn't have marked me, and we wouldn't have had all those years of peace. Many more people would have been killed. I … came to accept it." Harry looked up at Snape. "Would you tell me the rest of the story?"

Snape nodded. "I realized after I was kicked out of the pub that I would have to tell him. If I didn't, he would pull it out of my head whether I wanted him to or not, so I made the best of it I could. I had already started seeing him for the madman he was, but I had not gotten to the point of contemplating leaving — even if I knew how to do that. So, I reported what I heard." Snape took a sip of his drink. "Based on his reaction, I realized he was taking the threat very seriously — certainly more seriously than I thought an partially overheard prophecy should be taken. I was sent away after being punished for getting caught before I could hear it all, and I counted myself lucky. I even forgot it for a time. Weeks later, he called me for a meeting by myself. This was unusual, and I was quite nervous. He wanted to talk about the prophecy. He talked of his plans to find and kill the child while he or she was still young, and I was sickened. But I knew my place and told him it was a cunning plan. He told me it was my job — since I hadn't heard the rest of the prophecy — to figure out who the child was."

Snape paused and looked off at nothing in particular for the space of half a minute. Harry waited in silence. He knew an interruption or question would not be appreciated.

"I had a moment of insight. I felt myself begin to panic, and I realized that I wasn't panicked at the idea of failing my Lord. Instead, I was panicked at the thought of succeeding. I realized in a flood on insight that I didn't want him to find that child because that would mean he would be that much closer to invincible, and the world (and of course myself) would never be free of him. And I didn't want that. I knew in that instant that I had to do something. When he asked me how I was going to find the child, I threw out the first idea I could think of that would accomplish my real aims. I told him I would go to the Headmaster and pretend to be reformed and ask to join his resistance. In that way, I told him, I would become familiar with the member and find out who fit the prophecy. Perhaps, if I was immensely lucky, I could even convince the old man to share the rest of the prophecy with me." Snape gave a little gasping chuckle. "He believed me. I couldn't believe my luck; he believed me, and approved my plan."

"When I got to the Headmaster, I explained everything to him. I didn't spare myself. I had assumed that when I showed up, he would have me arrested. I had only hoped to warn him of the Dark Lord's plans before I was sent away to prison. Instead, he listened to my whole story, and he offered me the opportunity to help. That was when I became his spy. Immediately, we both realized that I needed an excuse for why I did not get more information. The Headmaster had already figured out which children fit the prophecy, but he didn't tell me until much later, after I had mastered Occlumency.

"Our reason the mistrust needed to be convincing and ongoing was because I did not want to tell the Dark Lord the name of the child he wanted to kill. It was going to be my role to eek as much information out of him while giving away as little information from the Order as possible. So, we decided that the easiest solution would be to make it appear as if I was not quite trusted — trusted enough to be around but not enough to share the really important information with. We also knew that we had to create a very real aura of suspicion. So, no one else heard my full story, and I didn't attend meetings for some time. I told the Dark Lord that I was on probation. Once I started attending meetings, the Headmaster would send me out of the room before certain things were discussed. While I waited for meetings to begin, I would be as antisocial as I could manage."

"I wanted the rumors to get back to the Dark Lord that I had returned, but they didn't really believe it. As I got more adept with Occlumency, I would show him memories of Order members giving me suspicious looks and muttering about me. You wouldn't know it, but I always secretly cheered when someone like Black or Moody would yell about how I wasn't to be trusted in an open meeting. Those memories kept me alive when I couldn't give him any information that he wanted."

This time, when Snape stopped talking, it seemed as if he was actually done. Harry took a few minutes to digest this information. As he had said, this reason made much more sense. Still, to hear him talk of how he and the Headmaster had deliberately planned for Snape to be hated and mistrusted by all his colleagues was still a bit of a shock.

"Bloody hell."

"Indeed."

"Well, this only reinforces what I said earlier. I knew there was a better reason, and I knew you had your reasons for your attitude. t I would have done much worse than you in your shoes." Harry took a deep breath and looked directly at Snape. "Thank you. From the bottom of my heart and in place of all of the people that will never realize the sacrifices you made, thank you very much, Snape."

"Severus."

"Hmm?"

"You can call me Severus."

"Only if you'll call me Harry. My friends call me Harry."

"I would be delighted, Harry."

Fin