Written for the Cliche Fest over on Snape_Potter. Thanks to Roozetter for beta reading and Torina for hand-holding.

"You have suffered enough and warred with yourself. It's time that you won." Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Harry took a deep breath and exited his rooms in Gryffindor Tower, taking care to conceal his offering in the folds of his robes.

Tonight was the night, he'd decided. He'd had enough of this dance he and Severus seemed to be stuck in and he'd finally made his decision.

Since he'd returned to Hogwarts to teach two years ago, Harry had made an effort to befriend Severus. While it hadn't been the easiest task, Severus had been open enough—or at least far more receiving than Harry had thought he'd be—to his desire for friendship.

But something had changed in the past year. Every now and again when Harry would try to move their conversation away from students and grading and Defense techniques, Severus would frown and pull away, snipping at him over one thing or another. He'd rebuffed his every advance, and Harry had let him, uncertain why he'd even want to try to get to know Severus better.

But recently it had been as though a light had gone off, and Harry had realized what had been hidden before.

He was falling for Severus.

And although he knew love was a gift, it also scared him something awful. Love was a wonderful thing, but Harry sensed that loving Severus Snape might be hazardous to his health.

So he'd thought about it long and hard. There was so much about Severus he still didn't know, but the time he'd spent being his friend told him the basics. In the past when he'd thought about the man he hoped to spend his life with, he honestly didn't think it'd be someone so...harsh. He'd imagined that being with Severus meant it would be difficult to either give or receive a scrap of affection, that the sex would be passionate but rough—hopefully Severus would let him top at least once in a while—and any peace between them hard-won.

But there was also something else in Severus, something that Harry only saw in flashes, bits and pieces for only seconds at a time that told him he was worth fighting for. He wasn't sure what it was, but his instincts had served him well in the past, and they were telling him that Severus was the one. Perhaps Severus would mellow a bit when true love finally found him. Either way, to Harry it was worth the risk.

So, armed with a blood-red tulip that could be chopped up and made into several healing potions, Harry made his way down to the dungeons for his and Severus' Sunday evening ritual drink.

He knocked and buckled his knees, ready to fight as soon as Severus opened the door.

The door opened. "Potter," Severus acknowledged, then frowned at Harry. "Are you waiting for a special invitation? Come—"

Harry knew his eyes were wide with fear and he croaked as he saw Severus notice the tulip. "I looked it up!" he shouted, berating himself for falling apart before he'd even made it inside. "It's good for medicinal potions as well as—" Severus shut the door in his face, and Harry exhaled. "—being pretty. Severus, open the door!"

"I can't believe you would do this," Severus shouted, opening the door seemingly just so he could make his displeasure known. "I can't believe you would take what friendship we had and treat it with such little regard." He looked sad as well as cross. "Well, I shouldn't be so surprised. Not by you."

"Severus," Harry said, trying to edge his foot in the door before Severus could shut it again. "I don't know what you think I think of our friendship, but I would never just throw it away. You mean something to me."

"To you? Witch Weekly's Most Dashing Professor, Savior of the Wizarding World, The Boy-Who—"

"Harry!" Harry shouted. "And I'm not here looking for some one-off with you or some...arrangement, if that's what you're thinking."

Severus jaw shut and whatever he'd been about to say died before it left his mouth. Obviously that had been exactly what he'd thought Harry wanted.

"Then what do you want?"

"I want...you. I want more of you." Severus scoffed, and Harry spoke quickly, pleading, "I do. Look, I like to think I know you fairly well, but there are so many things I have yet to find out."

"You don't know me at all!"

Harry nodded. "And I'd like to discover all of them. Do things the right way." At Severus' curious look, he continued, "I think we have a real shot at something special, something...permanent."

Shocked was the only word to describe how Severus currently looked. It was something Harry wasn't used to seeing on Severus' face and he thought it made him look surprisingly vulnerable and not at all like himself. Harry smiled and dared to lay a hand on his arm.

Severus immediately shook himself and glanced around the hallway, suddenly realizing they'd been having this conversation where students could have easily heard. He opened the door wide to let Harry inside, looking confused and unsure of himself.

"Are you all right?" Harry asked, placing a hand on Severus' arm again and slipping the forgotten tulip into his hand. Severus held it like he had no idea what to do with it.

"Yes," he said after a moment. "I—Are..." He cleared his throat again, then said, "The very idea is ridiculous, of course, but...are you asking to court me?"

Court, Harry thought with a frown. The notion brought to mind women in large dresses and him wearing a lot more clothes. Perhaps a love of Victorian literature was one of the many things about Severus Harry would soon discover. "Yes," he said. "I want to get to know you, Severus. Truly." The uncertain look on Severus' face surprised Harry further, it was so out of place with everything he associated with him.

But he was no fool. He laced their fingers together, pleased when his hand wasn't shaken off. Severus' hand was cool and thin, his finger calloused and perfect.

"Would you wish for a traditional courtship or modern?" Severus asked.

Harry laughed, distracted by how very lovely Severus' hands were and how perfectly they fit with his. "I've always thought of myself as a modern wizard," he said, absentmindedly.

Severus smirked and said, "Of course. Well, you'll receive no argument from me." He coughed then, looking around the room with wide eyes, and Harry thought a surprised Severus was so unlike Severus as he knew him.

"You truly wish to do this?" he asked.

"Yes. I think we'll be gaining something grand, not losing anything."

"I don't have many friends, Potter," Severus said.

"You won't lose me, I promise you that." At Severus' scoff he added, "Please."

As though only noticing for the first time, Severus examined their joined hands. He looked so vulnerable standing there, so uncertain of Harry's affection. Growing bold, Harry laid his other hand on Severus' chest and tilted his head up, running his lips over Severus' in the barest facsimile of a kiss...

"What are you doing?" Severus asked, pushing him away.

"I, um— Well, I think it's obvious."

"We haven't even had our first date yet, Potter," Severus said, moving back a few steps.

Harry laughed, but Severus lifted an eyebrow that looked like it would bear no arguments. Harry nodded, pleased by this new playful Severus, and said, "This Friday then? Eight o'clock?"

Harry held his breath when Severus paused, relaxing only at the accompanying nod. "Very well."

Harry nearly bounced to the door and damn near skipped all the way back to Gryffindor Tower.

Their first date started out well enough.

Harry arrived at Severus quarters at five minutes to eight, hoping his being early would show exactly how eager he was for Severus' company. He'd been let inside by Severus in a plain white shirt and black trousers, asking whether he'd need a Muggle jacket or cloak for where they were dining.

When Severus went into his bedroom to put on his cloak, Harry looked around the room and was startled to find the blood-red tulip sitting in a little vase on top of Severus' desk.



Not chopped up and used for potions ingredients, and on display for anyone who would enter Severus' rooms to see.

"You didn't chop it up," Harry said when Severus reentered the room. He nearly winced at how awed he sounded, as though he was truly amazed at something so small.

But the little red bud was a screaming admission to Harry, and as he watched Severus' face go red, he realized it was probably an admission for Severus, too.

"No, I didn't chop it." Severus cleared his throat and looked as though he was about to make some blatant excuse for keeping it, like it was an inferior bud and he wouldn't dare put it into any potions of his. Instead he said, "I like it. It's...it was a kind gesture."

Harry nodded, surprised but so very pleased at how Severus gracious was being. He opened the door for Severus and allowed him to walk out first.

They were quiet as they left Hogwarts grounds, and Harry noticed how Severus was deliberately walking slower than he normally did to keep pace with Harry. It warmed Harry's heart and he instinctively put a hand on the small of Severus' back.

He flinched when his hand made contact with the wool cloak, sure he'd be snapped at and told Severus didn't need to be led anywhere...

But the corners of Severus' lips turned up slightly and he walked just an inch closer to Harry, so that their sides were almost touching. Harry smiled to himself, surprised at the outcome of his foolish, wandering hand.

They Apparated and arrived at what Harry had only that week learned was the finest Wizarding restaurant in all of England, the Little Duck. When he'd called and made the reservations earlier in the week—'Potter plus one, please'—the staff had sounded extremely pleased to have him. As he walked up to the host as they arrived, he couldn't help but feel the opposite.

The host looked up from his reservation book, saw Harry, and smiled... Until he noticed Severus standing beside him. He looked at the both of them, and his expression went from welcoming to cold in a heartbeat.

"It was a lovely thought, but this may not have been the best idea, Potter," Severus whispered as the host pretended not to find Harry's reservation.

"Do you want to leave?"


"Mr. Potter," the host finally said, giving both of them a look of mild distain. "Come this way, please."

They were seated in the table closest to the kitchen, and when Harry made to complain he saw Severus look him in the eye and shake his head.

"You know, I'd heard about homophobia in the Wizarding world, but until today I'd never really experienced it," Harry said when they were finally alone.

"You're their hero," Severus said as he looked over the menu. "As long as they don't see you with a man they'll turn a blind eye to the fact." He looked up and raised an eyebrow. "As a courtesy to you, of course."

"Neither of us deserve this. I don't like it."

"Of course you don't." Severus sighed and sat back in his chair, and Harry wondered how long they could expect their waiter to be. "This may have been a mistake."

Harry looked towards the main area of the room where Severus was looking and saw several eyes turn away with barely veiled disgust. "Yeah." The main dining room was unparalleled with any place Harry had ever dined, and he had been so eager to really show Severus a good time. But take-out at the place that knew his order by heart was starting to look better every passing moment. Giving up on his plans to impress, Harry said, "I know a place that makes a mean curry not too far from here. You game?"

Severus smiled.

The curry was well received and afterward Harry walked Severus back to the dungeons, heart beating in his chest and fully expecting to put to use the shrunken toothbrush he'd put in his pocket. His hand found its way once again to the small of Severus' back as they approached his door.

"It was an...interesting night, Potter."

"To say the least," Harry said with a smile. "Let me make it up to you next Friday?"

Severus nodded, and his gaze dropped to the floor. "Despite its inauspicious start, I enjoyed our evening. Perhaps you may be right about..."

"A future?"

Severus nodded again, but said nothing else. He leaned his head down ever so slightly and Harry took the hint.

He smiled a bit before their lips met in a chaste kiss, and Harry ran his tongue over Severus' mouth, a surge of arousal coming over him when his tongue met Severus'.

Sighing, Severus pulled away and put a hand on his mouth, and Harry thought he almost looked surprised.

"Always the rule breaker," he muttered under his breath. He looked at Harry carefully, and to Harry it looked as though he was trying to decide whether or not to be angry. Smirking, it seemed he pushed his anger aside and said, "We'll just call it a slip of the tongue."

Harry returned his smile, then frowned when Severus opened his door and began closing it with Harry still on the outside.

"I, um—" He didn't want to say he'd been expecting to spend the night, but he had. Lifting an eyebrow, Severus waited for him to speak. "Um, see you at breakfast, then. And next Friday."

"Yes," Severus said, "next Friday. Goodnight...Harry."

Though the night hadn't ended as he'd hoped he couldn't help but feel as though he'd won some victory, however small.

Their next date went just about as smoothly as the first. This time Harry had the thought of taking Severus to a Wizarding restaurant that catered to the younger crowd, thinking his own generation had to be more accepting of gay wizards.

Not only was he wrong, but he and Severus had to tolerate being openly stared at by people Harry had recently gone to school with and Severus taught. They made it halfway through their main course before Harry asked Severus if he wanted to leave.

They couldn't get the check fast enough.

The high point of the evening had been when they'd returned, and Severus had opened his door wide, actually allowing Harry to come inside. They sat on Severus' sofa and kissed, Harry feeling very much like a teenager stealing a quick snog before Severus had to remove Harry's hand from the waistband of his trousers and push him off.

"Next Friday, Harry," he said, more than a little breathless.

Harry looked down at the bulge in Severus' trousers, more than ready to fight for his right to stay, but thought better of it. Perhaps when he'd told Severus he wanted to do things the right way he'd bitten off a bit more than he could chew.

"I feel like I can't get enough of you," Harry whispered, his lips so close to Severus' ear he felt his shudder. Harry smiled and kissed the little hairs on his neck.

His eyes closed, Severus seemed to be steeling himself, drawing some strength to him, but Harry didn't understand why.

"Next Friday," he finally said, then kissed him quickly and fled to his bedroom.

The next week was an exercise in patience. Though they'd always sat next to each other at meals, Harry couldn't take his eyes off Severus, watching the delicate way he cut his meat, how slowly he savored his dessert, and how his throat moved when he swallowed.

The promise of next Friday kept Harry going through what he was sure was the most frustrating week of his life. When the day finally rolled around he went down to collect Severus, pleased to see him in his finest robes, and held up a hand.

"Actually, we're going Muggle tonight."

"Oh?" Severus asked, shrugging his cloak off. "I'm usually more hesitant to go out into the Muggle world, but after the last two Fridays—"

"Exactly!" Harry said, more than a little nervous about the chance he was taking tonight. "There's this place in Soho I thought we might try. They're a little...friendlier to people like us in that neighborhood."

Severus scoffed. "Please, Soho was the place for queers to flock even when I was young." He ignored Harry's shocked look and put on a jacket. "I'm prepared. Are you?"

Dinner was amazing. With no one looking twice at them—except the waiter, who flirted openly with both of them—they were free to actually enjoy a dinner in peace.

"May I ask a question?" Severus asked, as they were waiting on dessert.

"Of course."

Severus looked uncertain for a moment, then asked, "Why did you ask to court me?"

There's that word again, Harry thought. "Why did you agree?"

Severus leaned back in his chair and frowned.

"Because I had an instinct about you," Harry said, "and my instincts tend to be right."

Rolling his eyes, Severus opened his mouth then closed it. "Yes, they usually are."

"Why did you agree?"

Severus surprised Harry when he looked down to the table, looking uncharacteristically unsure of himself. Giving him the time he needed, Harry remained quiet, wanting an answer to his question.

"All my life...literally all my life I've had to be a certain way. Not act, but ibe/i. Now that the war is ended, and I'm finally free of my obligations, the idea of finding a like-minded individual is appealing." He looked up and into Harry's eyes, looking as though it took great courage to admit what he was saying. "You said you wanted to know me. You offered to court me. These nights spent with you feel as though I'm not only getting to know you, I'm becoming reacquainted with myself again, for the first time in a very long time."

Not sure what to say to such brutal honestly, Harry aimed for reassurance. "I meant what I said, you know. I really do want to get to know you, whatever that means." He leaned back in his chair and smiled, pleased at how Severus visibly relaxed at his words. "Although," Harry said, not sure how to say what needed to be said. "I have to admit I'm very surprised at how smoothly this is all going. You've been very..."

"Yes?" Severus asked, looking as though he was suddenly terrified by what Harry would say.

Harry reached a hand across the table, pleased to be able to do so in a public setting, and said, "I'm not sure how to describe it. Kind. Accommodating. Frustrating as hell."


Harry grasped Severus' hand and began stroking it slowly with his thumb, allowing the gentle caress to show his meaning.

"Ah," Severus said, looking down at the table, almost bashful. "Well, it is the third date. Perhaps we should get the check and see how...accommodating I can be."

Harry nearly fell out of chair signaling the waiter.

Harry kissed Severus as soon as he closed the door to his quarters.

Though Severus was much taller, he had no problem leading his body away from the sofa where they'd spent their previous evening and towards the bedroom Harry had never seen before.

Severus broke the kiss and took Harry's hand. "Impatient, Harry?"

"For you? Yes," he said, not bothering to look at the bedroom he was suddenly in, and took off his jacket.

Slender fingers began to slowly—almost with reverence—undo the buttons of his shirt. The simple movement stilled Harry's attempts at undressing, and he looked up. "I wish to do this slowly," Severus said, unbuttoning the last button and allowing Harry's shirt to fall to the floor. "It's been...quite some time."

"Oh," Harry said, willing his throbbing, wayward cock into submission. "Okay. Here, let me." Silently, Harry began thanking the god of sex that Severus was wearing Muggle clothes tonight. His jacket was easily cast off, and Harry followed Severus' pace in undoing his buttons. When the crisp white shirt melted away to reveal pale, scarred skin, Harry released a deep breath and let his hands wander.

"I knew you'd be amazing," he whispered. "Instinct."

Stepping forward slowly, Severus took Harry in his arms, and Harry did the same, noticing the slight trembling in Severus' frame.

"All right?" Harry asked, rubbing hands along Severus' back.

"Very much so, yes," Severus said, drawing back. He was quiet for a moment with that same hesitance that still seemed so new to Harry. "I never expected to be here. In every way that truly matters, this is a place I've never been before."

Harry's eyes went wide at the proclamation, but before he could ask Severus to clarify, he said, "I meant in regards to my feelings for you, you dolt!" With that he pulled Harry forward and unbuckled his belt. "How you ever got to be a Hogwarts professor—Ah!" Severus gently took Harry's cock in hand, nimble fingers making Harry want to buck into it. "No pants, Potter?"

"Not tonight," Harry said, taking the final steps in getting Severus unclothed, guiding them toward the bed.

Though Severus had allowed Harry to take the lead in every other part of their relationship, Harry still held his breath a bit when he rolled over on top of Severus, pining him to the bed with his body. He ran his hands over Severus' side and sucked on his neck, pleased when Severus threw his head back and gave a soft sigh. He let his lips travel down his chest slowly, licking Severus' nipples while his hands traveled further.

Slowly, Severus had said, and Harry took his want as a directive. He let his tongue travel over Severus' torso, forcing his hands not to venture to his desired destination as quickly as he wanted. The touch to Severus' inner thigh was tender, his lips' caress loving as he poured his affection into every touch, every movement.

But the sounds Severus was making quickly became too much for him. Summoning the bravery he'd used to confront Voldemort, Harry sucked on Severus' earlobe and asked, "Do you have lubricant?"

Severus groaned and his hands clenched Harry's buttocks. "Top drawer." As Harry reached over to retrieve it, Severus craned his neck to suck on a nipple, Harry's cock hardening further with the attention.

He'd come this far, and Severus was still on his back. Harry kissed him once more and opened the bottle of lubricant, holding his breath.

Severus spread his legs beneath him.

Harry almost came right then and there. He took a moist finger and began to rub circles around Severus' opening, going back to kissing him, pleased when Severus could barely respond. His kisses stopped and he began giving little gasps as Harry's finger slid inside.

"Yes," Severus whispered, opening his legs further and moving his hips in time with Harry's thrusts.

It was like a gift, Harry thought, having Severus spread out like this, so open and beautiful and wanting him. Never in his wildest dreams did he think this was possible. Thoughts of what he'd assumed their sex life would have been like came back to him, and Harry was amazed at how little he'd known Severus.

And how he really needed to trust his instincts, always.

He inserted another finger, watching Severus buck and moan shamelessly, then quickly inserted another. His cock throbbed almost painfully as he removed his fingers and covered his own cock in the lubricant.

He moved to cover Severus' body with his own, but kissed him one more time, waiting for Severus to open his eyes and—through a haze of lust—look at him before he entered in one smooth thrust.

Severus threw back his head and gave an almost painful sounding groan. Forcing himself to stillness, Harry asked, "Are you all right?" Inner muscles clenched around him and Harry groaned, not moving. "Severus?"

Strong arms came around him and long legs wrapped around his arse and Severus clenched. With a moan himself, Harry took that as an affirmative and started to move.

Slowly didn't seem to be possible anymore, he thought as he thrust, the sounds of Severus' pleasure like music to him. He pinched Severus' nipples and sucked on the sensitive spot on his neck and he moved inside him, trying to find that spot...

A harsh gasp, then a loud moan and Harry knew he'd found it. His every thrust pounded Severus' prostate, and Harry marveled through his pleasure at how beautiful Severus looked while he was being fucked, how his features betrayed his abandon, how his hair had never looked lovelier than now, splayed across the pillow.

"You're beautiful," Harry said with a grunt, feeling his orgasm approaching and hoping to stave it off for a moment longer. "Severus..." he whispered, then wrapped his hand around Severus' cock and began stroking it in time with his thrusts. "Come for me." Severus' muscles clenched around him and he came with a shout, and Harry stroked him until Severus' finally lay limp below him. He grasped Severus' hips and thrust for another moment until he came.

Exhausted and exhilarated, Harry sank down onto the pillow next to Severus, not willing to speak to break the moment. In all his brief flings and short, failed relationships, he'd never once had a sexual encounter that could be compared to what he'd just experienced. He was too moved to speak, and wondered if Severus felt the same.

He turned over and found Severus staring at the ceiling, his expression unguarded, looking lost and undone.

"Severus?" Harry asked, laying a hand on his face, not sure what to say. "Are you all right?"

Slowly his eyes left the spot on the ceiling and moved to Harry. Where Harry had felt joy and amazement at their coupling, Severus looked devastated.

"I—" he started, but shook his head.

"Did I do something wrong?" Harry asked.

"No, I—" Slender arms wrapped themselves around Harry, pulling his head onto Severus' chest. "It was never like that. Before. Why are you here?"

The question was asked as though Severus truly had no idea, almost as though he hadn't meant to ask it. Why was Harry here? He opened his mouth to say that he wanted to be here, but the truth shouted the answer in his heart before he could speak.

He loved Severus. That was why he was here. This man who had seemed so harsh, had seemed so incapable of showing any emotion had opened his heart and let Harry into his life. Every fear he'd had when he began this relationship faded away as Harry looked into black eyes and saw the man underneath him.

"Because I love you, and I want to be with you. Because you're amazing to me."

Severus frowned, but continued to look at Harry, and Harry thought it looked as though he was struggling to believe him.

"Don't say anything just now," Harry said. "We have more than enough time for you to believe me." He lay down on Severus' chest again, reaching to pull a blanket over them both before wrapping himself around Severus.

They were quiet for a moment, and Harry began to doze, when Severus said, "Stay."

Just one word, but it said so much.

"I wasn't planning on going anywhere."

He felt Severus nod and his body relax, and they both went to sleep.

The next few months went by in a whirlwind of easy conversations, quiet dinners, and mind-blowing sex. A part of Harry kept expecting the other shoe to drop, for Severus to become his harsh, cruel former self. And while Severus had no problem telling Harry if he did something stupid, for the most part he was affectionate and thoughtful. The kind of partner Harry had always dreamed of having.

It was a dream come true.

As the three month mark passed, and Harry's fears of having the entire affair crumble into dust at the first sign of a problem evaporated, he realized it was time to tell Ron and Hermione about Severus.

He wasn't entirely sure how to go about it, and—in the spirit of telling each other their concerns—Harry asked Severus about it one night while they were marking.

"Well, it has been three months," Severus said absentmindedly. "I was wondering when you were going to get around to introducing me to your friends."

"Introducing? You've known them for over a decade."

Severus looked up at that. "As students, yes. But I've never been introduced to them as your intended, and as far as I know you've not had them here since we began our courtship."

Intended? Harry thought, smiling. "I love when you talk like that."

Severus frowned. "Like what?"

"Nothing," Harry said with a wave of his hand. "Okay, I'll owl them explaining everything and that we'd like to have dinner this week. Sound good?"

Severus nodded and returned to his grading.

"What about you?" Harry asked. "Anyone you need to introduce me to?"

The sound of a quill on parchment suddenly stopped, but Severus did not look up. "I told you I didn't have many friends, Harry."

Oh, Harry thought. Without it being said, Harry abandoned his grading and went to sit right next to Severus. He was ignored for a moment, then received a warning glare before Harry was allowed to kiss him.

"Shut up, Potter."

"I didn't say anything."

"I can feel you thinking. No pitying look unless you want another scar to match the one you have," Severus said, returning to his work.

"None," Harry said and meant it. "I just love you and like kissing you, is all."

"Yes," Severus said into his papers. A moment passed, but Harry kept his hand on Severus' back, willing to forego grading for a moment to some silent attention. The fire and the familiar sound of a quill on parchment allowed Harry to relax into the sofa.

"I love you as well."

Slowly, Harry turned his head. He'd been so transfixed by the familiar sights and sounds that he'd almost missed the soft declaration. Bewildered, because he'd truly come to believe Severus would never say it, Harry took the quill out of his hand.

He half expected for Severus to pretend he'd said nothing, but there was something very vulnerable in his eyes that feared rejection even now.

Harry kissed him slowly, then smiled and pulled Severus to his feet and toward the bedroom.

Tonight would be another night for slow.

Well that had gone far better than he'd planned, Harry thought as they said their goodbyes to Ron and Hermione. Severus had been a perfect gentleman, complimenting Hermione on a lovely meal and praising the paired wine. He hadn't engaged Ron in conversation so much, but Harry thought that was probably for the best. He even had a conversation with Hermione about her work in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and how she'd begun working with other parts of the Ministry to help secure the rights of house elves. Harry was proud of her, and they discussed the topic for quite some time.

Severus had been quiet after that, but he'd taken Harry's hand when they left and all seemed well.

And it was, until they closed the door to Severus' quarters.

"You idiot!" Severus shouted, as though the words had been on the tip of his tongue for hours.

Harry jumped. "What? What did I do?" He mentally catalogued his table manners, applauding himself for keeping the Quidditch discussion with Ron to under five minutes, and hadn't engaged in any public displays of affection.

"Emancipating house-elves is pointless!" Red-faced, Severus looked so angry that Harry was immediately reminded of his schooldays and backed away. "Freeing them would only confuse them! You would have to begin a program that would breed the desire to be subservient out of future elves, but that will take generations!" Spittle was flying in Harry's face as Severus shouted, "The best option is to arrange for mating between the few house-elves that want their freedom. Then and only then will the vicious cycle of slavery be broken!"

Severus panted and deflated, the color leaving his face as he straighten his robes.

"Been keeping that in, have you?"

"Idiot," Severus said, but this time his tone held more affection. "How you ever became a professor of anything is a wonder."

"Why didn't you say something during dinner if it bothered you so much?"

Severus looked at him as though he'd lost his mind. "I didn't want to embarrass you in front of your friends. My correction could wait until we came home."

"And not a second later," Harry said, thoughtful. "I don't mind if you correct me in front of people, Severus. You never had a problem doing so...before." Harry realized exactly what he'd said and stopped himself.

"I believe even you can understand the difference between a teacher correcting a student and one man's partner correcting the other. It would be unbecoming," Severus said with a sniff.

Harry wasn't sure what he meant by that, but this latest knowledge of Severus' personality warmed him.

"Have I told you lately that you never stop surprising me?"

"That's because unlike you I've never worn my heart on my sleeve," Severus said, removing Harry's cloak for him while he was still awe-stuck. "I've known you for quite some time, Harry. At least since you came here to teach. But you hardly knew me at all when we began this courtship."

"And do I now? I mean, do you think I do?" Harry asked. "Do you feel like I know you now?"

Severus looked at him and gave a soft smile before turning away. "You're beginning to."

Six months later and Harry had officially moved into the dungeons. The happy feeling of domesticity warmed Harry's heart as he and Severus were now able to spend every morning before breakfast together. They were sitting at the table drinking their tea when Harry looked up and saw a cautious—almost fearful—look on Severus' face.

"You all right?" he asked, taking Severus hand.

"Fine," Severus said a bit too quickly.

Knowing Severus would talk to him when he was ready, Harry hummed a reply and finished drinking his tea.

"I was wondering if you'd care to go dancing this Saturday night?"

Harry nearly choked on the last bit and repeated, "Dancing?"

He knew he'd said the wrong thing when Severus' face turned red and his eyes drifted down to the table.

"If you do not wish to that's perfectly fine. I simply hadn't been in...quite some time and thought you might like to."

Not knowing exactly what to do in this situation, Harry let his instincts take over. They'd served him well in the past, and something was telling him that he really needed to do the right thing here. "Of course we can go dancing. I was just surprised is all." He smiled, relieved when the embarrassment fled Severus' face and he smiled back. "You do realize I'm pants at it, right?"

"It's been over twenty years since I've danced, so I'm sure we'll have that in common." Severus relaxed back into his chair and sipped his tea.

"So is there some specific ballroom you know of? I haven't ever heard of one, but that doesn't really mean anything," Harry said. Severus' hands stilled and he sat up straight in his chair, and Harry waited to discover what exactly he'd said wrong.

First, there was a clearing of Severus' throat, then, "That wasn't the sort of dancing I was talking about. There's a pub in Soho I used to attend in my youth. I made certain inquiries and discovered it's still in business. You might have heard of it." He lifted his cup and spoke into it, "The Shadow Room."

This time Harry did choke on his tea, sending him into a coughing fit that required Severus to pound on his back for a full minute. When he was finally done gasping for air, Harry asked, "The gay bar? You want me to take you to a gay bar?"

"I'm certain it hasn't escaped your attention, Harry, but I am a homosexual." Severus' face truly was red now, but whether out of anger or embarrassment Harry had no idea. "You're...aware of what sort of bar it is?"

Harry hadn't been in that bar in particular, but he remembered seeing a few men of which he'd presumed had been of his persuasion coming and going. "Yeah...it seemed nice, but I've never been." He looked at Severus, who seemed uncertain now, as though Harry would take back what he'd said. He had no idea why this was so important to Severus, but after Harry's reactions it must have been. He'd seen Severus scowl and go to another room too many times after Harry put his foot in his mouth. The fact that he remained said something.

"We'll go this Saturday," he declared, finally putting his teacup down as a lost cause.

"You're certain?" Severus asked, and the look of cautious optimism made Harry soften. He stood up and went to wrap his arms around Severus. He felt a sigh against his chest and strong arms wrapping around his middle as Severus relaxed into him.

"It sounds like fun," Harry said, trying to diffuse the situation. "I haven't been to a dance club in a while. Though I warn you, I might put your eye out if you're not careful."

"I wouldn't worry too much. I never leave home without my wand."

Harry chuckled and gathered their robes to head out for the day.

Saturday night found Harry studying himself in the mirror. He didn't have the sort of clothes he knew were popular in these type of clubs, but he wanted to at least try to look the part. His snuggest jeans and nicest shirt would have to do, though neither were made of leather nor sparkled.

Of course, if he was having wardrobe problems he could only imagine Severus'.

"Are you all right in there?" he called into the bathroom, the door only partially closed. He could see Severus moving around but not much else. "You'll look perfect with whatever you're wearing, I promise."

"Idiot boy! It's been years since I've attended this club, and it's taking just a bit longer to prepare myself than I remember."

"Afraid people will remember you and wonder how you got to be so frightening?"

Severus scoffed. "Hardly. But as I've said before, it's been years since I've been able to enjoy myself. I feel as though I'm catching up."

"Good," Harry said, opening the door to the bathroom. "I'm glad—oh sweet Merlin."

Gazing at Severus' reflection in the mirror, Harry watched as he put away a little tube of something and looked up. "What?" he asked, frowning.

"You—your eyes. You have, um—"

Severus looked back at himself, squinting, as if looking for some flaw in his appearance and finding none. "Yes?"

Harry cleared his throat, and attempted to adjust the sudden raging erection in his trousers. "You're wearing eye makeup."

The smokey black eyeshadow did amazing things to Severus' eyes, the kohl he'd used making him look incredibly sensual. Harry's cock throbbed.

"I would think that obvious." He paused and took in Harry's flummoxed expression, his eyes turning from sensual to thunderous. "Why are you looking at me like that? You said you knew what sort of club The Shadow Room is."

Though he knew he should be fearing for his life, Harry's traitorous cock throbbed harder. "A gay club?"

"A gay club that caters to a very specific sort of gay man," Severus said, his gaze turning deadly. He left the bathroom and Harry quickly—and somewhat painfully—followed after him. "I thought you knew. I thought you knew when I told you the name of the club, hence your rather violent reaction."

"Knew what?" Harry asked, then felt incredibly stupid. "Knew you liked to wear makeup?"

Severus scowled, then seemed to shrink into himself. "No doubt it's an embarrassment to you, but I didn't realize this would be a surprise. I thought you understood!"

"I didn't, and I'm sorry." He didn't understand anything about being an embarrassment though. "Why are you so upset?"

"Because you have stated time and time again that you wish to know me. Well, here we are, nine months into our courtship and I'm finally revealing something that no living person in this world knows. I am laying my most darkest secret at your feet and you are..."

"I'm what?" Harry asked, taking Severus' hand and putting it on the bulge in his trousers. "That doesn't feel like an embarrassment to me."

Severus raised a perfectly lined eyebrow and cleared his throat, but not before his hand squeezed around Harry's balls. "Perhaps I overreacted somewhat. Your reaction was cause for concern."

"I think you look amazing," Harry whispered, pushing Severus back onto the bed and laying his body across him. "Is the fact that you like to wear eyeshadow really your darkest secret?"

Perhaps it was the dramatic way they were lined, but Severus' eyes had never looked so open. "You already know all the other ones. I believe this was the last one left."

Quickly undoing Severus' trousers, Harry said, "Is this the sort of club where I could fuck you in some dark corner?"

"If it hasn't changed from when I remember it, it is." He spread his legs a bit as Harry toyed with his button. "Or on the dance floor, if you prefer."

"And make every man in the room go into a fit of jealousy? Maybe," Harry said, redoing Severus' button and giving him a hand up. "We'd better get going or I'm going to come in my pants. Bring the lube," he called over his shoulder.

It turned out that Severus was actually one of the most modestly made up men in the entire club, and Harry was downright boring. They danced a little at first, Harry enjoying being able to practically grind against Severus in public. But when it became too much for him, he quickly shuffled them both along to the nearly shadowy corner that the club was known for.

Glad that he wasn't wearing anything on his lips, Harry kissed Severus madly, his erection rubbing against Severus' through their trousers as a driving, rhythmic beat blasted throughout the room. And though his cock was throbbing with the need to fuck Severus, Harry couldn't stop his thoughts from distracting him.

Even after months of loving, the fact that Severus had trusted him with this was incredible to Harry. He'd shared what he'd considered his last secret, and even—though he'd not said it—when he'd expected rejection.

As Harry lubed up his cock and thrust his fingers into Severus' opening, he couldn't stop himself from being grateful. He wrapped his arms around Severus' body as he sank into him, the position awkward, but he couldn't help how he wanted nothing more than to feel every bit of Severus, how he wanted to have him completely.

He felt more than heard Severus' groans, the music providing the rhythm as his hips snapped in time. His hand left Severus' stomach and fumbled for his cock, the tip already leaking and needing little encouragement.

Harry could actually hear Severus' cry over the music, his orgasm so powerful he shuddered and pulled Harry's orgasm from him as well. They both leaned against the wall, and after a moment Harry grabbed Severus' hand, eager to let see Severus let himself loose in a way he never had before.

It was the morning after their one year anniversary, and Harry had no idea what he'd done wrong.

He'd planned yesterday to be completely magical. Severus was so unused to being spoiled—treated well at all, really—that Harry wanted to do everything right. He woke Severus up early, wrapping his mouth around his cock and sucking him to completion before he'd even opened his eyes. Severus returned the favor in the shower and then they were off to a day of classes.

That evening, Harry had a special meal prepared and he and Severus talked about the last year, how happy he was they'd made it this far, how he had hoped but not expected this to last.

Severus had expressed similar concerns. But the fear that had been there in the early days of their relationship had faded away, and Severus confessed that Harry was the only man he'd ever truly trusted.

The statement warmed Harry's heart, and Severus looked at him with a certain expectation, like he was waiting for him to say something.

"I'm so glad I gave you that tulip. I'm so glad you let me in that day," he'd said when Severus wouldn't stop looking at him.

"Indeed. I'm glad as well. This year has been..."

"Yes?" Harry had asked.

He'd hesitated, but said, "This year has easily been the best of my life." The fact that Severus had hesitated meant they still had a ways to go, but Harry knew they had all the time in the world. He'd quickly said the same and then asked Severus to join him in the bedroom.

Their lovemaking had been slow, just like the first time when Severus had asked it of him. Harry poured all the love he felt for Severus into his body's movements, saying without words everything Severus had come to mean to him.

But when they'd finished, still holding each other tightly, Severus still had that expectant look on his face, as though he was waiting for something.

Harry had just smiled at him, told him he loved him, then went to sleep.

He woke this morning to an empty bed.

Frowning, he went out into their sitting room, but it seemed Severus had already left for breakfast.

The rest of the day didn't go any smoother. Breakfast was full of mutilated bacon, knives scrapping across plates, and mail thrown into Harry's eggs.

"Please tell the school owl to stop throwing your correspondence in my direction, Potter."

It had been ages since Severus had called him Potter.

Harry mentally reviewed everything he'd done yesterday, right up to and including the earth-shattering lovemaking they'd shared just hours before, but couldn't think of a thing he'd done wrong. When he tried to ask Severus, he got an incredulous look and a black robe snapping him in the face as Severus stalked off.

Lunch was much the same, and by dinner time Harry knew he'd have to demand an explanation.

He waited for Severus in their sitting room after the last class of the day. Dinner wasn't for several hours, and Harry knew he'd never get it out of him if he waited until the evening. Tapping his foot impatiently, Harry waited until he finally saw the door open and Severus enter.


"What do you want, Potter?"

Harry shuddered, unused to being treated this way by Severus now, not after the year they'd had, not after he'd learned how wonderful Severus could be. "Have I done something wrong?" A straight question, one Severus would have to answer, he thought.

"Have you done something wrong?" Severus asked, his tone taunting and his body in a rigid line. "I'm uncertain, Potter. I suppose that would depend on what your intentions have been, on what we've been doing for a year now!"

"My intentions? I don't understand."

"No, I didn't understand. I thought things were going well, I thought I knew what you intended." For a moment Severus seemed to turn in on himself, but he quickly straightened his back and said, "I don't know why I'm surprised at your cruelty, your immaturity in handling this courtship, Potter."

Harry took several deep breaths, then approached the roaring dragon. "Okay, I have no idea why you're angry. I know...I'm an idiot," Harry said when it looked like Severus was about to shout again. "But if you tell me exactly why you're angry then maybe I can get it right."

"Do you really need it spelled out for you like the idiot mongrel child you are?" Harry cringed, but Severus took no notice. "Fine! We began a courtship one year and one day ago, Potter. A modern wizarding courtship. Yesterday was the day you would either complete the courtship with a formal proposal or say you'd rather we go separate ways!"

Harry opened his mouth, made a grunting noise, then shut it again.

"I see," Severus said, his lips thin and his hands clenching. "Very well. The courtship is ended and we are over."

"Courtship?" Harry said, standing finally. That wasn't the first—hell, it wasn't even the tenth—time Severus had used the word 'courtship' to describe their relationship. "What the hell do you mean—Oh!"

Suddenly Harry's thought ran back to that first night when Severus threatened to shut the door in his face. The promise that he'd do things the right way, Severus wanting a modern courtship as opposed to a formal one, Severus not letting him kiss him until their first date, not sleeping with him until their third. How he'd referred to himself as Harry's intended.

Always the rule breaker.

"Oh, God," Harry whispered to himself. "I'm a complete idiot. Um–"

Severus stood there, looking as though he was bracing himself for rejection. His thoughts in turmoil, Harry looked at him and felt his mind slow down.

There really wasn't anything to think about, he realized. He loved Severus and had no doubt that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with him. A formal proposal would just help along what would have happened eventually.

"I, um—" he said, looking for an excuse somewhere, anywhere. "I wanted to get you a ring, but everything I found was far too flashy." Severus' fists began to unclench and cautious optimism took over the hard lines on his face. "So I had a jeweler make something. It's just not finished yet."

Harry watched as Severus' shoulders relaxed, as his eyes lost that terrible hurt look. "And the courtship..."

"I want to marry you," Harry said, smiling now that he'd said it. "Very much so. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I'm so sorry I gave you reason to doubt that."

Severus looked at the fireplace, his face twisted in confusion. "I wasn't sure what to think. Everything seemed to be going so well. Yesterday was...pleasant, but I thought perhaps you were letting me down gently."

"Never," Harry said, mentally calling Hermione and asking her the name of the best jeweler in Britain. He leaned up to kiss Severus when suddenly a thought occurred to him. "Hang on," he said. "The terms of the courtship..."


"Um...I'm not sure how to ask this, but you've been so good to me this last year." 'Good' wasn't exactly the best word to use, but Harry had no idea how to say he'd expected Severus to be a complete bastard, a dictator in bed, and about as soft as a porcupine. The fact that he was the opposite suddenly had Harry questioning whether his behavior was due to his role in the courtship.

"Yes?" Severus asked, the fearful look coming back to his face. "I would presume that's a good thing?"

"Yes, of course. I'm just wondering...was it because of the courtship? Or—"

Severus cut him off with a kiss, stealing Harry's breath as he wrapped his arms around him, his lips caressing Harry's with a sweet tenderness. When he pulled back a moment later, Harry's heart felt lighter and his cock was half hard.


"I told you that you didn't really know me, Harry. A formal courtship allowed me to show myself to you completely. It was the right way to go about it."

Harry smiled. "Yeah. It really was one of my better ideas," he said, mentally resolving to never, ever let Severus in on the truth. "So how about we skip dinner, hmm? Pick up where we left off last night?"

"Are you mad?" Severus shouted, backing away from him. "I have a wedding to plan, and something tells me if I don't do it Molly Weasley will."

Harry rolled his eyes and grabbed Severus before he could run away. "Not tonight, you aren't," he said, and led Severus to the bedroom. "I think there's a part of your little toe that I still don't know completely."

"And is that your plan?" Severus asked. "To know me in every way?"

"I've got all my life," Harry said, his smile devious but his eyes betraying his heart. "Might as well start now."