Disclaimer: The brilliant characters belong solely to J.K. Rowling. The plot and typos are my own. No profit is being made.

A/N: Written for the Snarry Swap 2010 exchange and gifted to the lovely Veridari. To my betas, ChooseToLive and Gingertart: Those red pens you wield… well, they scare me a bit at times, but ultimately your keen eyes and spot-on feedback refine not only the story, but me too. Thank you, thank you. Hats off to the mods, also, for shepherding the fest! It made ringing in the new year decidedly brighter (and smuttier), and really, what could be better than that?

~ In Like A Lion ~

Harry set the invitation down in front of him, the gilded letters seeming to mock him as they glinted in the mid-day light from the window. "Don't they know the war ended in May, not December?" he asked, not even bothering to disguise the annoyance in his voice.

Hermione eased herself into the chair opposite him, one hand holding her rounded belly and the other braced against the edge of the table. After a moment in which she paused to catch her breath, she took one glance at the parchment between them and knew it was the same invitation she'd received – and as a member of the Hogwarts faculty, an event she'd even helped plan. "Of course they do. But you know how the Ministry is – they think it's bad form to celebrate anything too close to that date."

"Right. Wouldn't want to keep acknowledging it happened, after all."

"It's been five years, Harry. I thought you'd be grateful for the day when people stopped dwelling on the war so much and let you be."

Harry snorted. "Like that's ever going to happen. War memorials, Wizarding politics, Ministry-sponsored this, Ministry-sponsored that – it doesn't matter, Hermione, I'm their poster boy for everything." He nudged the invitation before him with a finger. "Hell, they all but delivered this one to me on a white fucking unicorn with winter faeries trumpeting melodies out their arses."

Hermione knew he wasn't trying to be funny, but she couldn't help it. Her laughter bubbled forth easily, the sound warm and unrestricted in her small cottage kitchen. It had the effect of making her delicate features glow softly – even more than her pregnancy alone often did.

The laugh startled Harry, causing him to look up at her sharply, but his anger dissipated quickly when he had to fight back a grin at her infectious mirth. Eventually he succumbed fully, sharing the laugh with her until they were both clutching their sides and wiping tears from their eyes.

Recovering, Hermione reached out her hand and covered his, squeezing gently, amusement still coloring her face. "Don't let the Ministry get to you, Harry – just come on your own terms. Ron and I will be there. All of the Weasleys will be, actually, and Luna and Neville – you can hide out in a corner with us."

Pursing his lips, Harry nodded slowly. "I s'pose. It is at Hogwarts, after all, and it's been awhile since I've been back." A hopeful expression suddenly bloomed on his face. "You don't suppose—" But then just as quickly, it was dashed with a dismissive shake of his head. "Never mind. How long will I have to stay to satisfy my duty, do you think?"

"I'd say that's up to you."

"What do you mean?" Harry's brows pinched together, but the lilt of his voice still indicated his interest. He always did like her conspiratorial tendencies.

"Well, you said it yourself – you will probably have to make an appearance so you don't send the Wizarding world into a state of panic, but after everyone has seen you… well, maybe you can just enjoy the party like everyone else. Like someone else."

"Some–" he started to ask, but stopped abruptly. He blinked at her for a moment, then narrowed his eyes. "You mean like a glamour?"

"Perhaps," she hedged, grinning. Even now, she still retained the schoolgirl mentality of not wanting to give Harry all of the answers.

Leaning back in his chair, Harry chuckled, shaking his head gratefully. "I love you, Hermione."

With a quick glance at his watch, he stood, grabbing his invitation and the last bite of his sandwich. As he rounded the table, he leaned down and planted a kiss on the top of her head. "I have to go. Thanks for lunch, though. Looks like I'll be seeing you Saturday." Then he turned and was gone, his soundless Apparition the mark of a seasoned Auror.

Hermione smiled to herself. Picking up her tea, she sipped slowly, thinking it was bound to be an interesting party – using glamours was a suggestion she had not limited to just Harry, after all. No, there had been one other. One stubborn, irascible colleague other – who, she long suspected, had carried a hidden flame for her best friend. If this was the only way to get them both at the same event, then so be it.

Not that she had intended to meddle.

And not that she hadn't had help.


Winding her way through the elegant party, Hermione greeted a multitude of Ministry personnel, Hogwarts staff and other revelers – all clad in their Wizarding best – before turning back towards her table at the front of the cavernous room. It was nearly time for dessert.

As she walked, she admired the splendor of the Great Hall. The ceiling, enchanted as always, blanketed the event in a canopy of stars that twinkled against the inky black backdrop of night. Below it, thousands of thin, icicle-shaped candles hovered in midair, casting a soft, white luminescence about the Hall.

An enormous evergreen was stationed in front of the towering, stained-glass windows, looming at least forty feet high and nearly half that distance around. The branches were covered in a dusting of snow that partially hid hundreds of tiny, sparkling lights; what did manage to shine through bounced off the delicate glass and crystal ornaments, to dazzling effect.

"Isn't it wonderful?" Hermione enthused as she eased into her chair. Their table, covered in a mix of purple and brown linens, was part of one cluster of six near the front of the Hall. Its surface was adorned with a large centerpiece of scarlet flowers, surrounded by silver-trimmed plates and gleaming flatware – well, slightly less gleaming now that they were littered with the remnants of dinner.

"What is?" Ron asked, talking around a mouthful of food.

"The decorations!" She gestured to the soft shower of snowflakes above their table that dissolved before touching anything. "Well, everything, really. The Ministry has clearly spared no expense. Celestina Warbeck is due to perform later – your mother is nearly beside herself, Ron – and next we have the holiday Wizarding duels!"

"Why do they have dueling at a Christmas party, anyway?" Ron asked, his nose wrinkling in distaste.

Reaching over to Ron's plate, Hermione speared a small potato with her fork and popped it into her mouth. "You can hardly call what the Ministry has planned 'dueling', Ronald. It's more theatre than combat."

Harry snickered into his wine glass.

"Oi!" Ron called, which only made Harry grin wider. Then, to Hermione, "So why do it, then? The dueling?"

Hermione shrugged. "It's a traditional showcase of sportsmanship and magical efficacy that has been passed down from generation to generation. Perhaps Minister Shacklebolt wanted to remind everyone that dueling need not have a bad connotation simply because of the war. Some things are an integral part of Wizarding culture, and should remain so."

Ron and Harry blinked.

"Oh, we're about ready to start! Professor Flitwick is waving for me." She stood and kissed Ron's cheek, and then placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I like your choice of glamour, Harry, I meant to say that earlier. You look a bit like one of Ron's cousins, actually." She leaned closer, her voice now barely above a whisper. "Keep it on, though, you'll need it in a minute."

"What? Why?" he asked after her, but she only smiled, wiggling her fingers in a parting wave.


"And for the third and final duel of the evening…" Minister Shacklebolt trailed off, reaching for the upended Sorting Hat Hermione was carrying. It was nearly full, containing names of all the party guests who had volunteered themselves for the evening's dueling. Fortunately Kingsley missed the furtive glance Hermione shot Professor Flitwick, and the small nod he gave her in return.

Swirling his hand around inside the brim, Hermione watched as a parchment nudged insistently against Kingsley's fingers, and he grabbed it.

"Evan Holbrook!" he announced, his voice magically amplified by the Sonorus charm. He scanned the crowd for his first competitor.

Looking unsurprised, Harry made his way to the platform, a false smile on his face. He bowed charitably to the Minister, shot Hermione a glare (to which she gave her most innocent smile), and took his spot on one end of the platform.

Turning back to the hat, Kingsley pulled out another folded piece of parchment, this one also seeming to jump into his hand without so much as a dip beneath the brim. He looked slightly disconcerted, but said nothing.

"Lewis Blackburn!" he called out, once again casting his gaze about the Hall. Hermione nudged his arm and directed their attention to a tall, slender man standing near the east entrance to the Hall. His black dress robes were formal, but otherwise unremarkable, and his brown locks were collected neatly at the back of his neck with a thin band of leather. At present, he looked absolutely stricken, his posture rigid and unmoving.

Kingsley pointed him out and gestured warmly for him to come forward.

The witches and wizards standing near him seemed to pick up on his reluctance, for the excitable chatter around him slowly grew into soft applause. "Go on," they told him, encouraging smiles on their faces.

"It's a binding magical contract, you know," one elderly witch lectured, a finger pointing up at him.

"I am aware," Lewis ground out, his sneer a bit out of place on his placid features. Eventually – begrudgingly – he made his way to the platform where Kingsley smiled at him and directed him to the starting point opposite Evan.

Holding up his hands, Kingsley waited for the crowd to quiet.

"Gentlemen," he said, looking left and right at his two competitors, "welcome to the third and final holiday Wizards' duel." He stepped off the platform, his scarlet robes swirling about his feet, and then raised his wand, drawing it around in a large circle. Evan and Lewis bowed quickly at each other and then took their guard as they watched a thin trail of light emerge from Kingsley's wand. It circled both of their wrists simultaneously, the faint pulse of a magical contract no doubt humming gently against their skin, and then it disappeared.

The Minister bowed his head. "You may begin."


Harry was fairly certain no one had identified him underneath his glamour, so for all they knew, Evan was just a nice bloke selected for the holiday duel who was about to entertain the observing masses. He had no idea what Hermione was up to, but nevertheless, he decided to keep in check his more telltale spells – one in particular that he was now famous for – and instead focused on things that generated interesting visual effects.

The duel started normally enough: Evan tossed out mild hexes and charms, some amusing to the audience, some eliciting gasps – but Lewis was more than holding his own, deflecting, blocking and reciprocating in equal measure. Neither seemed to be breaking a sweat as they advanced on each other, one step at a time, slowly drawing nearer to the center of the platform.

When Evan stepped closer yet and cast a Revelio spell, Lewis mirrored the action, one step closer as well, and cast a Flagrate.

Then something unexpected happened.

The two incantations, cast nearly in unison, met in the center of the platform. Evan's reveal spell surrounded Lewis' Hippogriff-shaped flame, outlining its head and body and wings in an iridescent blue glow. It surged for a moment, eventually suffusing the interior of the floating shape with the same blue hue, and then the whole thing faded to a dull, white, pulsing orb.

Evan looked up owlishly into Lewis' brown eyes and saw a similar look of surprise reflected back.

Suddenly, the orb burst. It was a contained explosion, and it sent forth two tendrils of golden light – a brilliant, eye-piercing yellow that would have made the watcher shield their face if not for its mesmerizing show. The arcs swirled like coils around each of them, leaving temporary streaks through their retinas and rushing the air past their faces, kicking up their hair and robes. As the threads uncoiled above their heads, the two ends connected, pulling Evan and Lewis even closer together on the platform until they found themselves standing within arm's reach of each other.

If there was one thing Harry's Auror training had taught him, it was how to keep a clear head in the middle of an unexpected storm of magic. And good thing, too, for the thrum of energy flowing through him right then would have otherwise robbed him of higher thought. The cords of light swirled sinuously, intertwining their arms and legs and bodies with an intense surge of desire he'd never experienced before. He gasped, feeling the magic tingling under every inch of his skin – even those parts not currently visible – and swallowed thickly when he realized the electricity of it was highly arousing.

What is this, what is this? he wondered quickly, casting his mind about in an attempt to make sense of it.

Soul magic, it supplied automatically.

Surprised but eager, knowing what it could mean, Evan looked directly at Lewis, searching for confirmation of his realization. Watching Lewis' pupils dilate, he knew his competitor was feeling the same thing. And that was when he sensed it: there, underneath their combined spells, was a familiar magical signature connecting with his own – one he had grown rather accustomed to recognizing during Occlumency lessons fifth year.

The man he was dueling with was none other than Severus Snape. He was sure of it.

Snape is wearing a glamour? Did Hermione know this? His mind whirled with questions and implications.

Then, without warning, Lewis dropped his wand hand, and the magic between them dissipated instantly. Vulnerability and embarrassment flashed across his eyes before being replaced with cold accusation, and before Evan knew it, he was staring at Lewis' retreating back.

Startled and confused, Evan barely registered the cheering and applause around him. It seemed incongruous and surreal, for only a few moments ago, the rest of the world outside the dueling platform had simply ceased to exist.


Hermione gasped at the sparks of intertwining magic on the dueling platform and leaned over urgently to Professor Flitwick. "Filius! That's… that's the animus pensum!" she hissed.

"What? Are you sure?" he squeaked.

"Oh, yes, I'm sure. That is… old magic…" Her hand drifted over her mouth.

"Did you know they—" Flitwick gestured helplessly, "before we—"

"—No," Hermione interrupted, looking stunned. "I didn't. I had merely hoped to get them to interact with each other. I had no idea that Severus and Harry… that they shared a bond."


After the abrupt end to the duel, Evan had no more than bowed himself off the platform and he was already being congratulated by the witches and wizards who had lined the edges of the stage, firm hands clapping him on the shoulder and shaking his hand. Distractedly tossing out his thank yous, he scanned the crowd for Lewis, turning in all directions.

Finally, he spotted him, slipping quietly out the front doors of the Great Hall. Evan excused himself from the throng of people and ran after him, exiting the Hall in a rush, only to find himself in an empty corridor. Catching his breath, he looked left and right, hoping he hadn't already lost him. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a figure heading for the dungeons, almost fully blended into the dark background except for the mussed brown locks that had come loose from their hold.

"Lewis? Lewis!"

As Evan jogged after him, Lewis slowed his steps and turned around. "Yes?" he asked warily.

"Can I talk to you for a second?"

"Come to gloat about your victory, have you?"

Evan blinked, confused for a moment. "What? No, nothing like that." He gestured to an alcove near the top of the stairs that would afford them some privacy. "Please?"

With a put-upon sigh, Lewis moved after him, both of them standing just inside the shallow doorway.

Evan immediately lowered his voice. "I know it's you, Snape. Severus."

Lewis huffed, his lip curling slightly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

In one fluid motion of his wand, Evan dropped his glamour, revealing his identity. But the longer he stood there, the more he began to feel like a specimen on display, Lewis' eyes raking over his face and body with no apparent regard to propriety.

"Well, if it isn't everyone's favorite saviour," Lewis spat. "Or should I say… Evan."

"I detected your magical signature during our duel, Severus. You can drop your glamour now."

After an exaggerated pause, Lewis' countenance dissolved into the familiar sneer of Professor Snape.

Harry said nothing, but a hint of smugness pulled at the corner of his mouth. "Why were you in a glamour?"

"Why were you?" Severus countered.

"I would think it obvious. I made my 'required' annual appearance for the Ministry. For the rest of the night, I just wanted to enjoy the party with my friends."

"Perhaps I merely wanted to be left alone as well."

"Then why come at all? You live here, you could have just stayed down in your quarters."

When the silence began to stretch, Harry maneuvered his body in front of Severus, blocking the path to the dungeon stairwell and the escape that was written all over Severus' face.

"Get out of the way, Potter."


Severus glared back. "Do not—"

"I mean, no, don't go," Harry interjected quickly. "I know you felt it, too."

"Do not presume to know what I feel."

"Look, it doesn't matter what happened in the past. I don't care about any of that. And I don't know what the hell this is now," he said, gesturing between them, "but can you honestly say you didn't see what our magic did during the duel?"

"It was nothing more than an artificial display of foolish, magical folklore. A mere spectacle for our fellow observers."

Harry sighed. "I've studied that magic, Severus. It was real."

"How comforting to know our Aurors spend their days studying sex magic," he censured.

"It's not sex magic, it's soul magic. Please, just give me–"

"Fuck off, Potter," Severus growled, once again attempting to push past Harry.

But this time, Harry grabbed Severus' forearm and immediately Apparated them.

One of the perks of being an Auror post-war was the ability to Apparate in and out of Hogwarts, and he was certainly not above using it when needed, even if it was a personal… errand. Harry knew his window of opportunity was closing rapidly, and in desperation, hoped a change of venue might work in his favor. Either that, or Severus would simply hex his balls off. It was a risk he was prepared to take.


They landed together in a dimly-lit room. Severus blinked and looked around, as if trying to ascertain his surroundings.

A large, unmade bed stood against a faded blue wall, a bare window situated just above it. Next to the bed was a wooden nightstand with a lamp and an old clock. A battered Victorian chair flanked the opposite wall, a small stack of leather-bound books and publications nestled into its seat. Around the room, everywhere, were pairs of denims, socks, the occasional black boot, and what looked unmistakably like red Auror robes.

With no small measure of disdain, Severus remarked, "You live appallingly."

In response, Harry wrapped a hand around the back of Severus' neck, pulling his head down to meet his lips. The touch was light, tentative, but with clear intent. When Severus forcibly pushed him away, Harry's lips parted slightly, surprise and confusion and hurt in his eyes.

"What in the blazes do you think you are doing?" Severus demanded.

"Kissing you."

"Is this some game to you, Potter? See if you can humiliate your old professor so that you may have a laugh with your friends later?"

"No! No. That's not what I'm…" Harry sighed, turning slightly to lean on the wood post of the footboard.

Severus turned as though he was about to Apparate when the sound of Harry's voice, despite its soft tone, seemed to scream into the silence.


Severus stopped, but only just.

"I hoped… you would want this, too," Harry said, barely above a whisper.

"You thought wrong."

Harry groaned in frustration. "Fine, just go," he ground out, his expression turbulent. "How silly of me to think I might finally get somewhere with you." He looked away, crossing his arms tightly over his chest.

For a moment, Severus seemed about to refute this, but then something in Harry's words must have changed his mind, for he closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "'Want' is not something I have the luxury of indulging, Potter," he said bitterly.

Harry looked up. "Are you attracted to me or not?"

"That is not the issue. The issue…" But Severus paused as though he could not bring himself to voice whatever it was. He seemed to be fighting with the impulse to leave, half-turning twice before stopping again, each time looking like the decision to stay was against his better judgment. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he inhaled slowly. "I cannot fathom why you would be attracted to me."

Floored, Harry raked his gaze over Severus' face. "Are you serious?"

Severus shifted uncomfortably, his expression closing. "Yes."

Harry shrugged, somewhat annoyed. "Because things change. People change. I'm attracted to you – God knows why I should be with the way you treat me, but I am. And tonight, when our magic combined, I just… I want to feel that again." As though unsure how his admission would be received, he allowed a sad grin to twist his mouth. "Besides, what is it they say? The moody, brainy ones are always the most brilliant in the sack?"

"Do not mock me, Potter."

"I'm not! Oh, for fuck's sake!" Harry lurched forward and grabbed the sides of Severus' face with his hands, pulling those thin, surprised lips close for another kiss. This time he put some muscle into it, forcing Severus to go where he wanted, turning his head to maneuver around the large nose while attempting to negotiate his tongue into the unyielding mouth.

For a moment, Severus went rigid with tension, unmoving, glaring at Harry as though waiting for the other shoe to drop. Harry simply closed his eyes, drawing his body closer and rubbing his hips against Severus', knowing full well what Severus would begin to feel there.

When Harry pulled back slightly, his whisper was a breathless puff of air against Severus' lips. "Do you believe me now?"

Almost without warning, the tension in Severus' body released and suddenly Harry was forcibly pushed back against the wall of his bedroom, feeling both an answering hardness and a searing kiss that dominated his mind and body.

Harry moaned, deep and guttural, and wrapped his arms around Severus' neck, looping a leg around Severus' hip – needing to be closer, wanting more contact, friction, anything. He let his head drift backwards until it bumped the wall, instantly feeling the heat of Severus' tongue and lips mouthing along the bare expanse of his neck.

"Bed…" he managed to gasp.

Pushing away from the wall, Harry toppled them onto the mattress, landing astride Severus. Scrambling to shed their clothing, they became a desperate tangle of limbs and hands and fabric until they managed to disrobe each other, their needy, aggressive kisses punctuating every movement. Desire escalated to an almost animalistic pitch, the need for physical contact and struggle and release burning through their veins.

Already over-aroused, Harry fumbled to line up their cocks and then rocked his hips, bracing himself on his hands. As he frotted against Severus, the soul magic began to pulse in response. The need, the want, that shot through him was almost too much to bear – yet like any powerful aphrodisiac, he had to have more, always more. Lifting his hips, he circled the fingers of one hand around their erections, rubbing the sensitized heads and stroking them both. He watched as a deep flush spread across Severus' face and shoulders, his dark gaze pinning him, willing him to continue. Both seemed to feel as though words would break whatever spell this was.

Lowering himself to his forearms, Harry laid his body over Severus' prone form and rubbed their hips together – slowly, deliberately at first, the drag of skin on skin eliciting panted gasps of arousal from them both – and then much faster, grunting their pleasure into each others' mouths as the heated skin of their chests touched.

Grasping the back of Harry's neck, Severus pulled his head closer and coaxed his tongue out. As they kissed, each fighting to dominate the other, a thin trail of glittering yellow light zipped between and around them, circling their torsos and intertwining their hands and lips and bodies in a fiery frisson of old magic. When it settled in the area over their hearts, they gasped sharply in unison, the intensity of it forcing them to clamp their eyes closed as though singed with ecstasy.

Sweaty and flushed, Harry lost control of his measured pace and ground their hips together hard. He came moments later with a long, shouted moan, its staccato sound tuned to the rhythmic thrust of his hips. Unrelenting, Severus dug his hands tightly into the firm flesh of Harry's hips and buttocks to keep him moving. As their cocks slid together in a lather of Harry's release, Severus gritted his teeth and groaned as his own climax was wrenched from him.

Collapsing on top of Severus, Harry exhaled sharply, matching breath for breath Severus' labored effort. Their magic spiked and swirled, increasing in intensity once more as it flowed everywhere inside and around them, their skin throbbing everywhere it touched. But then, almost as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone, the room and their vision going black along with it.


Opening his eyes, a familiar view swam in Harry's vision: the ceiling of his bedroom, tinged with a scant yellow light from the lamppost outside the window. He didn't know how long he had been asleep, but the events of the night flooded back to his mind – and his cock – almost immediately.

He stirred gently, trying to ignore his body's response, and pulled the sheets farther up his chest to ward off the cold air that hung in the room. As he rolled his head to the left, he could just make out the profile of Severus' face. The man's breathing was slow and even, but his eyes... his eyes were open.

As though on cue, Severus rolled his head to the right and looked over at Harry. For a moment, they simply stared at each other, as though trying to assess what the other was thinking. Harry expected to feel the telltale nudge of Legilimency, but it never came. Neither did any sort of acknowledgment about what had happened with their magic.

Deciding to break the tension, Harry smiled lazily, causing Severus to arch his brow.

"Yes?" he inquired defensively, though not harshly.

"Nothing." Harry tried for nonchalance, but his smile was already twisting into a grin. He rolled onto his side to face Severus, propping his head on a hand, the sheet pulling off his body as he turned. When it seemed like Severus was growing angry or paranoid – or both – he relented. "I was just wondering... do you think you could introduce me to your friend Lewis sometime?"

He could tell Severus was trying to cover the unexpected humor with his trademark scowl, but it only made Harry succumb quicker to his own peals of laughter.

"Shut up, Potter."

Rolling onto his stomach, Harry buried his face in his pillow, trying to stifle the joke. When he turned his face towards Severus again, he was still wearing a sloppy grin on his face.

"But 'Lewis'? Really? That's the best name you could come up with?"

"You are one to speak."

"What do you mean?"

"'Evan'? Please tell me you don't think yourself clever for selecting that particular name."

"Well, no... but at least it sounds like I get laid once in a while!" Harry teased, his eyes bright with mirth.

Severus smacked Harry's bare arse with his hand, which made him jump, his grin fading instantly. He sat up and stared at Severus. "Um... could you do that again?"

"Got a kink for being spanked, Potter?" Severus sneered half-heartedly.

Harry crawled over to Severus and straddled his hips. Bracing himself on his arms, he lowered his body, rubbing his burgeoning erection against the smooth, pale flesh of Severus' abdomen. "Apparently I've got kinks I didn't even know I had," he purred. "I always knew you'd be a sexy bastard underneath all those robes."

When he leaned down to kiss Severus, however, he felt two hands on his shoulders, halting him.

"I'm glad I could satisfy your curiosity," Severus said coolly, all trace of amusement now gone from his voice. "Get off."

Harry blinked, confused. "What?"

"I need to use the facilities. A shower would not be remiss either. Now get off."

"I intend to."

Severus glared at him sardonically as he sat up and headed for the bathroom. Harry padded barefoot after him. Reaching out to the naked arse in front of him, Harry squeezed, delighting in the gesture when Severus tensed at the touch.

"Potter…" he warned.

"What is it with you? Earlier you couldn't keep your hands off me, and now you won't even let me touch you." He crossed his arms over his chest, watching as Severus was about to turn on the water.

At Harry's words, Severus pulled his hand back and braced it against the shower door. With his head bowed slightly, he merely stood there, silent, his only movement the gentle rise and fall of his breathing.

Then, quietly, "Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"This. Me," he added, after a beat.

"Haven't we been over this already?"

"We both know you have no shortage of prospects."

Harry scoffed loudly. "You'd think so, wouldn't you? Don't think I haven't tried." He lifted himself onto the vanity to sit next to the sink. Sighing, he dropped his gaze to his hands, picking absently at a fingernail. When he continued, his voice was softer and more resigned. "I'm pretty sure the Wizarding world as a whole is trying to ignore the inconvenient fact that I'm gay, and the men who I've been interested in only seem to want me for my name." He looked up. "So, to answer your question – why you?"

At this, Severus turned away from the shower and looked directly at Harry, a sliver of expectancy pushing through his guarded expression.

"You get it. You get me. I don't have to pretend to be the 'war hero' or the 'boy who lived' or whatever else the celebrity bullshit demands. I can just be Harry. Or Potter." He smirked slightly. "I was such an idiot all those years, always trying to trip you up for something. I should have trusted Dumbledore about you." When it looked like Severus was about to interject, Harry held up his hand. "But I get that, too. It could not have worked any other way. You had to be my adversary and play the part. I had to hate you. Otherwise your role and Dumbledore's plan and my life would have been on the line. More than they already were, I mean." Harry locked his gaze with Severus'. "I can't believe what you did for me."

"For the cause."

Harry shook his head emphatically. "For me. Thank you. I know I never properly thanked you. I've wanted to, but you're a hard man to pin down."

"I've been busy."

Harry actually snorted with laughter. "For five years? More like you were avoiding me… always making a quick exit when I walked into the room, busy with marking if I tried to stop by your office; you always seemed so… uneasy, or something." When Severus didn't say anything, Harry suddenly leaned forward, his hands on his knees. A new understanding settled over him, and it made his skin crawl. "Hang on, that's it, isn't it?"


"You didn't expect to live." It wasn't a question.

Severus looked away.

"Would you have given me your memories if you did? If you expected to… to live, I mean?"

Harry could see Severus' jaw clench, the muscles in his face tensing. He continued to stare straight ahead, though, away from Harry. "I would have honored Albus' wish to give you what you needed—"

"—but not the rest," Harry interrupted, frowning. He nodded slowly, mainly to himself. "Do you regret it now?"

Severus looked up abruptly, his expression as unguarded as Harry had ever seen it. "Do you?"

"Not for a second," Harry answered honestly, easily. "But it's why I thought you were avoiding me. I only wanted to see how you were doing. Maybe even express my gratitude if you'd've let me. I assumed you still hated me."

"That wasn't the reason."

"Then why?"

"I never hated you," Severus admitted. His expression looked pained.

Harry's eyes widened then, suddenly aware of what he had missed before. "Then you liked me."

The room seemed to prickle with magic then, hanging heavy in the air between them.

Harry slid off the counter and walked slowly to stand before Severus, his eyes searching the black depths for the truth. "You liked me," he repeated, a soft smile settling on his lips.

Severus' dark gaze seemed to bore into him. "You're gorgeous, and you damn well know it."

"You think so?" Harry couldn't help the impulse to blink more rapidly than was strictly necessary.

"Yes, now stop fluttering at me like a cheap harlot. I might get the wrong idea." A flicker of amusement had returned to Severus' face, and Harry decided he liked it there. He chuckled darkly in response and narrowed his eyes.

"So how long have you been lusting after me?"

"Do not be absurd – I was not lusting."

"Right," Harry grinned, drawing out the word. He smoothed his hands up Severus' bare chest and then rolled two pert nipples between the pads of his fingers. He liked how traitorously responsive Severus' body was to his touch, even though the man's stance might indicate otherwise.

"Would you believe me if I said the same thing about you?" Harry continued.


"Well, it's true. I was in love with the Half-Blood Prince. I thought you knew that. I was so afraid you would read it off my mind. Every time you'd corner me in the halls, I thought for sure you would find out my secret – and not just about your book, or how I felt about the Prince, but that I was gay. Of course, I didn't know my Prince was actually you until later…" he trailed off, lost in a memory somewhere.

"Your Prince?" Severus mocked.

Harry flushed, but his attention snapped back to the conversation. "Yes, damn it. My Prince." He scowled. "Is there ever a time when you stop being so fucking stubborn and just let yourself have what is being offered to you?"

At this, Severus' eyes flashed a rapid succession of emotions: shock, defensiveness, anger, resignation, want. Without warning, he stepped forward and pressed his body close to Harry. At this proximity, their magic began interlacing again, desire pulsing into the air around them. Severus' gaze heated and he pushed Harry into the shower.

Harry yelped when his back hit the cold tile, but Severus silenced him with a hard, possessive kiss as he turned on the hot water. Before long, the shower door was fogged over, steam rising to tickle the ceiling. Grabbing Harry's shoulders and spinning him around, Severus pushed him up against the shower wall and kicked his legs apart. Pressing his body against Harry's back, he allowed his erection to slide between Harry's legs while he slowly drew Harry's arms up above his head, pinning them to the wall with one hand. Harry gasped, his cheek pressed against the tile wall. Water streamed over the top of his head, forcing him to blink around the droplets.

Leaning down, Severus nipped hard along the nape of Harry's neck, tempering each scrape of teeth with the press of his tongue. Harry shivered when Severus reached that sensitive spot behind his ear.

"Don't move," Severus commanded, his lips brushing the shell of Harry's ear. Harry whimpered in response.

Lathering up his hands with a bar of soap, Severus smoothed them across Harry's shoulders and down his back, over his buttocks, sliding and rubbing his fingers in between firm cheeks. Harry gasped in delight at the exploration, trying hard to obey his orders to stand still. Severus took his time, his warm, slick hands touching and cleaning every inch of Harry's body, and then finally directing the flow of water over Harry's back to watch the soap rinse off and spiral down the drain. The effect of his ministrations had left Harry's skin shiny and wet and pleasantly flushed.

Severus began by licking a slow, hot trail down Harry's spine, crouching down behind him as he went, his hands firmly cupping Harry's arse. Spreading his cheeks, Severus leaned forward and dragged his nose down the crack, inhaling the musky scent that lay beneath the lingering tang of soap, stopping his progression only to push his nose against the puckered hole.

Harry keened sharply up against the shower wall, gasping in surprise. Holding Harry's hips still, Severus leaned closer and trailed his tongue down the same path his nose had just explored, taking extra time to circle the small ring of muscle and press inside, jabbing softly against the opening. Groaning, Harry tried to push his hips back to impale himself on Severus' tongue, but it was no use: he was mostly immobile, Severus' hands holding him in place firmly against the wall.

"Please..." Harry whimpered.

Ignoring the plea, Severus continued unrelentingly, this time with a longer dalliance around Harry's opening. Sliding his tongue in and out, he added his lips to suckle the tight muscle, squeezing the smooth globes of Harry's arse. Moaning, Harry scrabbled for purchase against the slick walls of the shower, his anticipation escalating when he realized he could do nothing unless Severus allowed it.

When Severus inserted a finger alongside his tongue, Harry almost climbed the wall, squirming, his moan more needy; breathless.

"Severussss... fuck... more, yes..."

Severus inserted a second finger, and then a third, scissoring lightly to stretch the opening. Then he stood and reached above the shower door to catch the bottle of lube he summoned. Generously coating his fingers and cock, he leaned over Harry to press the full length of his body against him, using his tongue to lick a trail of water droplets up Harry's neck to the base of his hairline. Harry shivered beneath him just as Severus pressed the head of his cock inside.

Harry gasped lightly, wiggling his arse back against him, trying to sheath himself further.

"Greedy brat," Severus admonished, smacking a wet buttock.

Harry groaned at the sting on his skin and vainly tried to find friction by frotting against the shower wall, pushing back onto Severus at the same time. "Fuck me!" he growled.

The words sent a frisson of want through Severus' body and he found he quickly lost his control. He grabbed Harry's hips tightly and buried himself to the hilt in one long push. He heard a sharp inhale, and then a moan, both of them panting lightly while waiting for the inevitable burn to pass. Slowly withdrawing, Severus paused a moment before plunging back in, repeating the stroke a few times without stopping, testing his preparation. He nipped and licked around Harry's neck, ears, throat, shoulders – anything he could reach – before halting his movement altogether.

When Harry began to protest, babbling incoherently, Severus pulled them away from the wall a little bit – enough to sneak a hand around Harry's front and circle the shaft of his cock, squeezing lightly. Harry gasped, his hands clenched into tight fists against the tile wall as water pelted down his back. Loosening his grip, Severus held only tight enough to create friction, and then partially withdrew his cock from Harry's arse. With his lips right next to Harry's ear, he spoke, his voice low and ragged.

"I want to feel you fuck yourself on me, Harry."

The demand sent a snap of electricity through Harry's body, his breath catching mid-way through a groan as he became aware that he was in a position to create his own pleasure. Testing his options, he pushed back slightly onto Severus, relishing the feeling of fullness, and then canted his hips forward to push his cock into Severus' circled hand, feeling the smooth glide of slicked fingers surrounding him with just enough tension to drive him mad.

He tried again, this time snapping his hips in a faster motion between the two pleasure points.

"Uhhh..." he groaned, the sound deep in the back of his throat, his fingernails digging at the shower wall. Water was running down his face and through his open mouth, his knees weakening already as his body was flooded with pleasure. He was completely at Severus' mercy, yet paradoxically in control, and the thought of that alone was nearly enough to make him come.

He braced his forearms against the shower wall and ground himself against Severus, forwards and backwards, sheathing and unsheathing, pushing into a circle of fingers on every other stroke. If he'd ever had the ability to form coherent thoughts, he wouldn't have remembered it now. He was so lost in a sexual haze, the twin sensations gripping his body, that he barely registered the quiet groans Severus was making, realizing belatedly that what he was doing was obviously pleasurable for Severus as well – and turning him on rather fiercely, if the sounds were anything to go by.

Feeling the familiar tightening in his balls, Harry knew his orgasm was approaching rapidly and pushed all remaining thought from his mind. Inhaling sharply, his breath and features frozen in rapture, lights began snapping behind his eyelids as water from the shower pelted his lips. Warmth clenched around his lower back as he came, covering the tiled wall before it was washed slowly down the drain. He felt his legs start to give way, but a strong arm quickly circled his middle, holding him in place.

When he was pulled back to a standing position, with his arms drawn above his head, he felt something soft encircle his wrists. Whatever it was tightened purposefully, clamping around him, and as he blearily lifted an eyelid, he caught a glimpse of a familiar logo. Did those used to be my shampoo bottles? he wondered ridiculously. Comfortable and snug, the transfigured shackles held him upright, taking most of the weight off his feet. Through the fog of his own climax, he registered Severus' hands on his hips again, and a cock being pushed firmly into his arse.

Severus began to thrust, this time with only one purpose in mind, and it didn't take long before he bit down on Harry's shoulder and groaned through his entire release.


"Can I ask you a personal question, Harry?"

He laughed good-naturedly. "Do I have a choice?"

Hermione put the last of her tea cups away in the cupboard and closed the door. Without turning towards Harry, she asked, "When you were with Severus the other night, did you two experience the animus pensum?"

"What?" he spluttered, nearly spraying the table with his drink. "What do you mean?"

A small, knowing smile crept across Hermione's lips as she turned. With one arm resting over the swell of her protruding belly, she walked over and sat heavily in the chair opposite him.

Harry knew by the look on her face that it would be futile to deny it further – that in fact his lack of response was already confirmation enough. With a resigned sigh, he asked, "How did you know?"

Hermione smiled softly. "Well, you do realize it was on public display during your duel, right? Surely with your training you recognized it."

"Yes," he sighed. "But it's old magic – I assumed most witches and wizards there would not have had a clue."

"No, they wouldn't have," Hermione agreed. "That much is certain. Although Filius knew what it was."

"Oh, God," Harry groaned, his cheeks coloring. He pressed his hands over his face, his voice slightly muffled as he spoke around them. "How many others know?"

"Know what? That you and Severus unwittingly evoked soul magic during a holiday duel, or that you left together shortly thereafter?" Her eyes very nearly glittered as her grin widened. At the slightly wild look on Harry's face, she giggled, the sound low in her belly. "I'm sorry, Harry, I couldn't resist. Don't worry – I'm sure I can count on one hand the number of people in that room who could recognize the animus pensum." She paused, waiting for him to look up and meet her gaze. "And I can count on one finger the number who saw you two Apparate away."

Harry's relief was audible, his sharp exhale disrupting the fringe on his forehead. "The corridor was empty, though. Who saw us?"

"A house elf."

Confusion was etched all over Harry's forehead. "Well why would they care?"

"They don't. They were simply assigned to monitor Apparition channels in and out of Hogwarts for the duration of the Ball." She smiled to herself as she lifted a glass of water to her lips. Before she took a sip, she added, "It's part of S.P.E.W. The Ministry hired them for the event – gave them a job, basically – and even compensated them for it."

"But why did the elf tell you?"

"Because I'm still the head of S.P.E.W., Harry. It was their task to report all activity to me since I'm the Hogwarts liaison to the Ministry."

"Fucking hell. So the Ministry knows, too? I can't believe it's taken them this long to parade my gossip on the front page of the Prophet!"

"Normally it wouldn't."


"Well, normally news like this would appear the very next day – especially if it involved you, Harry."

"Don't remind me," he muttered.

"But they can only publish gossip if they're aware of it, yes?" Hermione's knowing smile was back.

Harry merely blinked. "You mean you didn't tell them?"

"Of course not, Harry, don't be daft. Why do you think I positioned myself as the liaison from the beginning? When I became a professor, I vowed that to the degree it was under my control, the Ministry was going to keep their noses out of Hogwarts. Since Severus is a teacher and you were a guest of the castle – well, it's none of their damn business, is it?"

"What would I ever do without you, Hermione?" he asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Let's not speculate," she quipped, matching his smile.

Harry set his glass down on the table and scrubbed a hand over his face. "So… you are the only one who knows, then?"

"Yes," she assured, her tone firm. But then her smile turned mischievous.

"What now?" he asked suspiciously.

"You still haven't answered my question. Did you and Severus experience the animus pensum together?"

Harry blushed fiercely.

"Oh, Harry," she chided. "I'm eight months pregnant and hormonal. I'm not sure Ron even knows what sex is anymore, and unless I'm very much mistaken, we've never experienced soul magic. Indulge me a little bit." She leaned forward, her expression rapt but conspiratorial. "What was it like?"

Harry leaned forward, inches from her face, and paused significantly. When he spoke, it was barely above a whisper. "Amazing."

She made a face. "That's all you're going to give me?"

"'Fraid so," he smirked, sitting back in his chair.

"Harry!" she admonished with a cry of laughter. Although Harry's reflexes were quick, he narrowly missed the napkin she had wadded up and thrown at his head. The laughter that followed was warm and familiar, instantly transporting them to the more carefree days of their youth.

Collecting herself, Hermione took another sip of water. "So, was it what you expected? Severus, I mean?"


"No?" she repeated, aghast.

"No," he affirmed. "It wasn't what I expected. It was better."

She gave him a look. That look.

"I'm not saying anything else, though, so don't bother asking!" But it was hard to deliver it with bite when he was still grinning like a fool.

Hermione harrumphed. "Well, are you going to see him again?"

"I don't know," he answered honestly, looking away.

"Harry, you have a bond with him," she stated, and his eyes flicked up to hers. "You have a bond with Severus."

"What causes it?"

She stamped down the impulse to roll her eyes at his deflection. "No one knows for sure. It's metaphysical magic, so we have no scientific way of measuring or tracking its origin. You studied it during Auror training – I should be asking you."

"Hardly. I only learned what it was and how to recognize it, not what creates it. If there was ever a person to know that, it'd be you, Hermione."

She smiled graciously, accepting the compliment.

"If you had to guess, though?" he prodded.

"If I had to guess," she started thoughtfully, "it's a soul-level bond. Perhaps when Severus surrendered himself and swore to protect you, it bonded you two together. Or at least your lives, at the time. It's not that much of a stretch to think his actions could have created a magical contract of sorts. However," she paused, drawing her lower lip into her mouth for a moment. "A soul bond, by definition, has to be mutually chosen and accepted. It's not one-sided like contracts and life-debts can be."

They looked at each other, then, the same thought seeming to mirror itself on their faces. It was Hermione who voiced it.

"For you, it probably started when you connected so strongly with the Half-Blood Prince. Then the bond fully matured – that is, you accepted it, even on a subconscious level – after viewing Severus' memories."

Harry's lips parted as his gaze shifted slowly to the side. He sat there for awhile, considering the implications of Hermione's theory.

Suddenly, Hermione sat up. "At any point during your… evening… did you two touch chest to chest?"

Harry thought for a moment. "Yeah, actually. And when we did, that's when I saw the magic arc around us. It was intense."

"Of course!" she breathed, clapping her hands together. "Soul bonds manifest and connect through the heart!"

Pushing himself backwards, Harry stood, the legs of his chair scraping along the wood floor. It was always easier for him to contemplate things when he moved around. The kitchen was small, but provided adequate room to pace.

"So if what you're saying is true, then why didn't this connection thing happen every time I saw him? I mean in the time since I saw his memories and the bond formalized?"

"Well, I very much doubt you two were ever standing heart to heart, as it were. More importantly, both parties have to be there willingly. Remember, I said both have to choose it – on some level, at least."

"But why did it happen during the duel? Neither of us put our name in that hat." He gave Hermione another glare for good measure. "We weren't there willingly."

"I'm sorry, Harry, I only wanted you two to interact," she frowned.

"Never mind that now," he said, waving his hand dismissively. Her interference had certainly worked in his favor, after all. "Go on."

"Well, it might have been the magical contract required for the duel. Bonds have their own awareness and energy, Harry, they aren't inert things. I'm sure you know this. Perhaps your bond took the magical contract to mean both of you had willingly entered into something – the situation, if nothing else – and that was enough to activate the soul magic. Or perhaps it was the two spells you cast. Soul bonds reveal the truth of the heart. They bring true feelings to light, quite literally."

"So we've had this all along – this bond? And never knew it?"

"It seems so, yes – for several years, anyway."

"Does it mean we are soul mates?"

"No. The notion of soul mates is that the connection is fated and uncontrollable. Utter rubbish," she said, punctuating her feelings on the matter. When she continued, her voice was softer, more reverent. "Soul magic, on the other hand, is just a commitment to one another; a proclamation of the deepest kind. Old magic like that is extremely powerful, and it irrevocably binds the two souls together. It doesn't mean the people have to act on it, but the bond would remain regardless."

"So why is it so rare that I have this with Severus? Couldn't you and Ron choose to do it, for example?"

"We could, as long as both of us were willing." Harry nearly laughed at the look on her face. "And it's rare because you and Severus both chose the bond, each for your own reasons, but were completely unaware of the other's choice. I can't begin to tell you how painfully beautiful that is, Harry."

Harry nodded slowly, pursing his lips to ward off his shy smile. "Do you think he knows all this? About soul magic?"

"I don't know. Some, maybe. He's rather structured and analytical, though, isn't he? I doubt very much he'd have need for metaphysical arts. Yet if he did know, it would certainly explain his reaction at the duel. I imagine it would be very disconcerting for him to have such a personal desire revealed – and moreover, to discover it's mutual. But I don't think he knows the full lore, no."

Harry thought back to Severus' erroneous assumption that it was sex magic and decided to concede the point. "So what do I do now?"

"Do you want to see him again?" she asked pointedly.

Harry dropped his gaze as he leaned against the nearest counter, tracing the ridges of the woodgrain with a fingertip. "Yeah," he said softly.


He looked up.

"Presumably for more than just the mind-blowing sex, though, right?" She briefly stuck out her tongue at him, which caused him to laugh.

"Well who cares if that's all it is? It's not like he wouldn't be getting something out of it, you know."

"That's not what I meant. I'm just saying that Severus… well, he's the type of person that enters into things completely. I…" she stopped. "Just make sure it's what you want before you start."

"Why are you looking out for him?"

"I'm not… not really. But he's a colleague and a friend, and I'd just hate to see either of you hurt, that's all."

Harry knew that voice all too well. "What do you know that you aren't telling me?"

Stubbornly, she remained silent.

"Hermione…" he urged firmly.

"Just be certain," was all she said.


One Year Later

"Finally alone," Harry whispered with a grin, swiping his tongue across his lips before closing his eyes.

Severus leaned over him and cupped the back of his neck with a hand before sliding his tongue into the willing mouth. Harry reciprocated immediately, a soft sigh escaping as they kissed lazily, their tongues and lips intertwined.

"Do you two ever come up for air?" Ron asked, looking as though he would have rather gouged his eyes out than witness their kiss.

Harry sighed against Severus' mouth and then pulled away. "Not often. Is everyone missing us already?"

Ron buried his grimace behind another pull from his beer. "No, I just came in here to grab Rose's blanket." He held up a tiny, quilted throw with knotted fringe along the sides. "Mum made it for her." He smiled his awkward, lopsided smile and then nodded himself out of the room.

All told, Rose's first birthday party at the Burrow had been a charming affair, but as the afternoon had dragged on, Harry found he'd grown increasingly distracted by the warmth of Severus sitting next to him. He had tried to amuse himself by teasing Severus with wandless, wordless magic, but after twenty minutes or so, had only managed to work them both into a feverish state of anticipation. Excusing themselves, they had slipped away from the festivities and into the seclusion of the sitting room.

After Ron's departure, Harry gently nudged Severus up against the far wall, pressing the length of his body against him, eyes afire.

"We are not shagging in the Weasley home, you little incubus," Severus muttered.

Harry's chuckle was low and throaty. "No, perhaps not. But I am going to kiss you again…"

As one arm wound its way around Severus' neck, the other sought out Severus' hand. Lacing their fingers together, Harry squeezed firmly, the shimmer of a silver and green band reminding him of recent events.

"Do you think we should tell them?"

"Not today. Today is for Rose."

"You see? I always knew – just a lamb," Harry quipped.

"Whatever are you on about, Potter?"

"Nothing." Harry smiled.

Closing his eyes, he felt Severus' fingers circle around his back, the hot slide of a possessive tongue stealing the smirk right off his lips. Behind his eyelids, a thin, yellow trail of light pulsed, causing the center of their chests to heat where they were pressed together.

It was then Harry decided they had done enough to celebrate Rose's birthday, and with a quick turn of his body, he Apparated them home. They landed in the kitchen of their small, London flat.

"Hermione is never going to forgive you for leaving unannounced," Severus warned.

"Sure she will."

Harry nodded his head in the direction of a stack of ivory parchments on their dining table, the silver lettering of which spelled out the details of the surprise bonding ceremony between himself and Severus. "If I know her, it's what she hoped for all along."

Severus draped his cloak over one of the chairs and then slowly advanced on Harry. "And you, Mr. Potter?"

"And me what?"

"Is it what you hoped for?"

Grabbing the fabric of Severus' jumper with both hands, Harry pulled his lover towards him. "Hope didn't get me anywhere with you."

"Yes, always the bloody Gryffindor, charging in—"

"—like a lion, yes," Harry finished, grinning. "That's 'cause we'd've both been old and gray before you decided to make a move."

Crowding Harry against the doorway that led from the kitchen to their bedroom, Severus pressed his body close, one finger tracing a slow path from Harry's top lip to his bottom one. "You've an impudent mouth."

"You love it."

Regarding him seriously, Severus mapped Harry's face with his eyes. Then, quietly, "I do."

It was the closest thing to a declaration Harry was likely to get, and he knew it. As it was, those two simple words were laden with meaning, and Harry marveled at Severus' ability to speak without waste.

Reaching down to unzip Severus' trousers, Harry sunk to his knees as he pulled them down, never once breaking eye contact. He may not be able to match words with Severus, but there were certainly other ways to return the sentiment, and he intended to do just that.

Time and time again.

~ Fin ~