See Chapter One for disclaimer and details.
"What do you think you're doing?" Severus roared, and then belatedly added "my lord," with no change of expression and only a slight modification of his tone.
Harry's eyes widened, and he involuntarily shrank back a bit before he straightened his shoulders and faced the raging man. He hadn't had any reservations whatsoever about admitting his Head of House to his and Draco's apartment when the guardian had announced him, but he hadn't expected to be facing such an angry advisor, either. But even if the man was scaring the piss out of him right now, he was going to do his damnedest not to show it. He'd stood up to Voldemort before, so he could do it here, too.
Draco's eyes had widened as well, and from his position curled up on the couch he watched, his mouth slightly open in shock – but he remained silent. He had no intention of drawing his potion professor's attention to himself. Severus was known more for cutting people down to size with well-chosen words, tones and attitudes, not volume. For him to lose this much of his vaunted self-control meant that he was far more angry than Draco had ever heard of or witnessed. Perhaps angrier than anyone had ever witnessed.
"About what?" Harry asked, trying to keep the quaver out of his voice.
Professor Snape was almost apoplectic, but regained enough control of himself to keep his tones near conversational level. "'About what?' About what you're doing to this school, you self-indulgent..." Severus bit off his words before he could say too much.
Despite the apprehension he was feeling, Harry pulled himself together, pulling his posture completely erect and looking defiantly proud. "What have I done, then?" he asked challengingly. "Introduced some Muggle conditions and stopped hot meals? My, such hardship."
Draco winced at Harry's response. 'Wrong, Harry,' he thought. He agreed with what Harry was saying, but it was entirely the wrong approach to use with the Slytherin Head of House. "Harry, maybe—" he began, but Snape shot a brief, searing glare at him, cutting him off.
"You have also, Your Majesty," the man grated out through clenched teeth, his tone making a mockery of the title, "shown that you are immature and unready for the throne."
"What I have done, Professor," Harry replied, his intensity now almost matching that of his advisor as he started to get angry, "is show that I will not be pushed about any longer – that I will fight back!"
Severus helped himself to a chair and gazed up at the young man, but his position in no way placed him at a disadvantage. "And just who were you trying to impress?" Now the man's calm, biting, snide tones were back. "How many of those affected are deserving of your largesse? It's a wonderful way to gain supporters, this is."
Harry opened his mouth to argue, and realized he didn't have a reasonable argument. Snape was right. Harry had been so focused on showing Dumbledore that he wouldn't be messed about with, that he had totally lost sight of the big picture. It was galling, but, "You're right. I focused too much on Dumbledore," he said, his posture relaxing a bit as he made a moue of distaste at his failing.
Harry sat down, chewing on his lip as he debated what he should do. Innocent children shouldn't suffer for what that manipulative . . . headmaster was doing, but damn it, he didn't want to let the old man off scott-free, either.
'Then why not just restrict it to Dumbledore?' Draco mentally suggested, having followed Harry's thoughts.
'But what about the portals and stairs and . . . other things?' Harry asked.
Severus watched the two, their changing expressions telling of a conversation to which he wasn't privy. He'd give them enough rope to hang themselves with, then bring them up short, if need be.
'None of that is really more than a bit of an inconvenience; I think we should leave it,' Draco said.
'So... Just Dumbledore otherwise?' Harry thought about that. 'I think maybe we should include any supporters he has, as well.'
'Does that include the Mudblood?' Draco asked vindictively.
Harry shrugged. Although he still didn't like the insulting term, he found his anger towards his former friend made it much easier to tolerate. 'If you like.' His decision made, Harry stood.
"Dobby!" Harry called out.
"Are you paying the slightest bit of attention to what I've been saying?" Snape growled.
Harry shot him an angry look. "I'm calling him to try to set things to rights again . . . sir," Harry replied. His relationship with his instructor/advisor made terms of address a bit tricky as, depending on the situation, the authority of one could be superseded by the other.
"I would think so!" was the rejoinder.
Draco got up from the couch and joined his mate, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder in support. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. Draco blamed himself. He really should have seen the angle that Severus had pointed out, and advised Harry.
'Don't blame yourself, love,' Harry told him privately. 'It was my decision. I didn't think things through, again.'
'Yeah, she tried to caution me,' Harry admitted ruefully.
The castle remained silent, although she was quite alert to what was happening and what was being said.
The elf popping in brought that conversation to a close. "I is being sorry to take so long, Master," he said, cringing. "Should Dobby be punishing himself?"
"No, Dobby; that's all right. You're free, remember? You needn't do that any more." Before Harry could continue for the reasons he'd called the elf, Dobby was speaking again.
"Dobby is being having dishes and plates to sit down." Then Dobby started fawning. "Master Harry is being so good to Dobby, Master Harry, sir! You is always being so good to Dobby. Dobby doesn't deserve it, he doesn't. Dobby is being eternally grate—"
"Dobby!" Harry interrupted sharply, to get the elf's attention. Once he had it, he spoke again, more gently. "I need to modify the order I gave yesterday."
"Modify?" Snape said sternly. He had been expecting Harry to rescind the order entirely, and still hoped to sway the young man's decision in that direction. However, he was willing to hear what Harry had planned before making further protests, should the boy prove to be set on his vengeance.
"Modify," Harry replied firmly, looking the man in the eye. When it appeared as though Severus wasn't going to say anything else, he turned back to the waiting elf with a sense of relief.
"Dobby, I'd like you to carry a message to the Head Elf for me," he said. "Tell him that services and meals may return to normal for everyone but Hermione Granger, Dumbledore, and those who are still following him, to be continued until further notice. Can you do that for me?"
"Oh, yes, Master Harry!" Dobby enthused.
"A moment," Snape put in. "My lord, I happen to still be pretending to follow the old fool." He didn't like the idea of a steady diet of cold meals one little bit.
"Point taken," Harry replied with a small frown. As the only – as yet – adult supporter he had, Harry didn't want to alienate the man. "Perhaps if you were to take your meals in your rooms?"
Severus raised an eyebrow in askance, but when Harry gave no sign of offering to modify his instructions further, he gave a slight bow of the head in acquiescence. He could put up with a cold meal or two when he absolutely had to, but for the most part he could do without the puling chatter of hundreds of pupils and the mostly bland company of his fellow educators. A hot meal in the privacy of his own chambers? He could live with that, he thought with some measure of satisfaction.
"Was there anything else, Professor?" Harry asked.
"No, I don't believe so."
"Then I shall see you in class tomorrow, barring circumstances that would cause us to need to meet sooner?"
"Yes, my lord," the man replied stiffly, recognising a dismissal when he heard it. Harry Potter might be the best chance the wizarding world had, but long habit made taking orders from the . . . young lord . . . difficult at best. He turned and started for the door.
Harry shook his head at the man's back, wondering yet again how the potions professor managed to get his robes to billow about his legs like that.
"Oh, and Professor?" Harry called to him. When Snape turned around, Harry said, "Thank you."
Snape gave a short nod, paused at the threshold, and then addressed Draco. "With our young king's background and lack of training, I expect him to make mistakes," he sneered, "but you should know better. I expect you to keep . . . him . . . informed." With that, he finally made his exit.
"I need something to drink," Harry remarked to Draco as he stared after the moody man. "That left a bad taste in my mouth."
"Dobby can get the master whatever he would like," the elf offered.
Harry had forgotten he was there. "Thank you, Dobby, but I think we have something here. Do deliver that message to the Head Elf, won't you?" he said. Harry didn't think the house elf would approve of what he was in the mood to drink.
"Yes, Master Harry, sir!" Dobby said, nodding enthusiastically, and disappeared with a soft 'pop'.
Draco shook off the annoyance he'd felt at Snape's words, and laughed. "We do," Draco said, referring to beverages. "Professor Snape does have that effect though, doesn't he? So . . . pumpkin juice, butterbeer, or . . . cola?"
"Cola?" Harry echoed, in surprise. "You know about soda pop?"
"I might be a pureblooded wizard, Harry, but that doesn't mean I'm totally ignorant of the Muggle world."
"But where did you get cola? What sort do you have?"
"I asked Dobby to get some," Draco replied casually. "I think we have orange, grape, and . . . something called 'pipsee'."
Draco shrugged. "That might be it," he admitted.
Harry captured Draco by the waist, pulling him close and resting his forehead against the blond's. "You're a wonder, you know?"
Draco smirked, putting his arms around Harry's neck. "Of course!" he said, then leaned in for a kiss.
"But I expected you to have some firewhiskey or something available," Harry whispered in Draco's ear.
Harry turned, even as he recognised the voice. "Hello . . . Ron," he said cautiously, only just deciding not to use the redhead's surname. "Can I help you?"
Ron was having difficulty meeting Harry's eyes. "I – I'd like to apologise. I... Well, I suppose I was being a prat. Actually, I know I was. Can you forgive me?"
"It's not my forgiveness you need," Harry replied. He appreciated the gesture, but he wouldn't give his forgiveness at any rate, until Draco was satisfied with the apology extended to him.
Ron remained still for a few moments, then nodded. "I'll apologise to him as soon as I can."
Harry hesitated. Ron had been his best friend for years, and he really didn't want to lose that, but the redhead had hurt him. Nor was it the first time. "You do realize that we may never be as close friends as we were, don't you?"
"Yeah," Ron replied sadly, "but I want to try. I just don't want to lose you entirely. I... I realize you really didn't have a choice."
"Ron," Harry said gently. When Ron looked up at him, Harry said, "I didn't have a choice at first; not and be able to live with my conscience. But I'm in love with him, now." He paused as Ron gave a small wince, then saw the redhead accept the fact, and continued. "You know we're engaged."
Ron nodded. "Yeah. I know," he said quietly. He sighed. "I was there. I guess I'm alright with that. It's just going to take some getting used to, you know?"
Harry felt some hope, after hearing those words. "You extend your apologies to Draco. If you can convince him you're sincere, and he accepts the apology... Well, we'll go from there, right?"
Ron's shoulders sagged a bit.
"I love him, Ron. I can't leave him out," Harry replied to that gesture.
Ron nodded, turned, and started to leave, then paused and turned back. "Do you know anything about why the stairs aren't working? Or—"
"Ask Dumbledore," Harry interrupted, his voice now hard with anger.
Ron nodded thoughtfully, as his guess was confirmed. "What did he do to piss you off?"
Harry's eyebrows rose at this sign of his friend's perspicacity, then he grinned wryly. "Same old thing, only more so," he replied.
Ron nodded again, returning his own wry grin, although a bit more weakly. "I thought so. See you soon," he said, then departed.
'Now we see if the leopard has changed his spots,' Harry thought as he watched Ron leave.
After classes Harry and Draco had met back in their apartment and after a bit of snogging, settled down to cuddle with each other as they watched the fire.
"So did anything . . . odd happen today?" Harry asked.
"Mm . . . like what?"
"Nothing, eh?" Harry was disappointed. He had really hoped that Ron would apologise to Draco.
They sat there for a few more minutes, cuddling, before Draco broke the silence. "Well, I was accosted after last class."
Immediately, Harry was ready to go hex someone. "What? Who?" he asked fiercely.
"Relax, Ree," Draco said with a small laugh, "it was only the Weasel."
'Oh! Maybe Ron did apologize,' Harry to himself, then something else Draco had said caught his attention. "Wait a mo'... 'Ree'?"
Draco suddenly seemed a bit bashful and unsure of himself; something Harry had only glimpsed momentarily before. His fiancè was usually rather brash.
"Yes, well... You don't mind, do you?" Draco asked.
"I don't know," Harry replied thoughtfully. After a slight pause, he decided, "No, it's rather sweet. Your pet name for me?" he guessed.
Draco nodded his head against Harry's chest, where he'd lain it. Harry bent his head, kissed the blond locks, and gently entangled one hand in them. What he could see of Draco's face was a bit more pink than usual.
"What did Ron have to say?" he asked softly. He was touched that Draco had given him a pet name, but changed the subject to lessen his fiancè's evident embarrassment over it.
Draco was grateful for the change of subject. "He apologised," he said with a shrug, indicating he didn't think much of it. "It was rather half-hearted," he added.
Which probably meant that Draco had thrown it back in Ron's face. And with Ron's pride, he wouldn't offer another.
"I accepted it anyway," Draco went on, surprising Harry greatly.
"Why?" he asked, his reaction evident in his voice.
Draco sighed, raising his head from its position on Harry's chest. "When are you going to wise up to the fact that I love you, you silly twit?" he replied, looking deep into Harry's eyes. And then it happened. He felt the last of his moorings to himself come loose, and he felt himself falling, losing himself, and being held only by Harry's gaze. The strange thing was, he felt safer than he ever had before.
At that moment, Draco's torque sank into his skin, becoming merely a tattoo-like design.
The odd thing was, Harry's didn't, although he didn't twig to that right away.
Harry's eyes dropped to Draco's neck. "Your torque...," he said.
Draco felt for it, only to feel nothing but skin. "It's gone!" he exclaimed, starting to panic.
"Sh... It's all right. It's just . . . merged," Harry said soothingly.
As understanding grew, Draco's eyes flew to Harry's torque. "But yours hasn't," he replied almost accusingly. He felt confused, and a bit betrayed.
Harry's hand flew to his neck, and the still-physically-manifest torque. An expression of dismay crossed his face.
"What were you telling me, Harry? 'When you have no more reservations'?" Draco's voice was softly bitter.
"I.." Harry's shoulders slumped in defeat. "I'm scared, too," he confessed. "You know my fears about people close to me getting killed."
"I don't have much choice, do I?" Draco said softly, but without a trace of resentment. "I haven't since my father planned to give me to You Know Who."
"That doesn't stop me worrying about you," Harry pointed out, frowning distractedly as he thought of his past failures.
"Well, stop, then," Draco said, irritated, causing Harry's attention to focus solely on him. "I'm no more helpless than you! Yes! All right! I might get killed. So might you, or anyone. Hell, Harry, some of the things we do in lessons could kill us!"
Harry's frown become more pronounced as he took that in. And, in truth, he had to agree. Dangerous spells learnt in DADA, dangerous potions made even more dangerous if mucked up, transfigurations that could go wrong, deadly plants... He closed his eyes, sighed, and gave up, accepting Draco fully into his heart. His torque sank into his skin.
Draco's heart leapt as he saw Harry's torque become an elaborate design on his now-husband's tanned, slightly olive skin. Without his conscious volition he leapt into Harry's arms, his own arms going tightly around Harry's neck, and mashing their lips together very enthusiastically before backing off a bit and continuing the kiss just as passionately, but far less painfully.
Despite his surprise, Harry responded. They didn't make it to the bedroom, but made love to each other right there in front of the fire.
There were still trials and tribulations ahead of them, from winning free of Dumbledore's manipulations to regaining Harry's throne and defeating Voldemort, but they would face those troubles together, their combined will making them stronger.
Sorry for the loose ends, folks, but I lost the muse. There will be no sequel. Please go to my website for original stories and more. Link is in the bio.