Ultimate Proof

Author Notes: Happy Valentine`s Day to everyone!^^ The story takes place in Harry`s sixth year at Hogwarts, but I changed a few events, which happened in book 5. You`ll see what I mean when you read the story.

Appreciation: Again, I have to thank YenGirl for her help and support. This OS wouldn`t exist without her, because she was the one, who urged me to write an OS for Valentine`s Day. I also have to thank her for checking the OS for language errors and helping me to improve it in other ways, too. Thank you, dear!:)

It was dark.

The shadows crowded closely around him, threatening to swallow the single globe of light that was set in the middle of the desk.

Green eyes peered anxiously around. Strange how after all the adventures he had survived, a little trip down to the dungeons could still make him this nervous. To tell the truth, this part of the castle had made him nervous ever since his very first Potions lesson six years ago. It was most likely because of the damp cold that seemed to cling to the old stone walls, so that this part of Hogwarts seemed far more depressing than the others.

A bubbling noise broke his reverie.

"Damn!"

Cursing, Harry quickly regulated the heat of the flame under the cauldron. He should concentrate on the task at hand and not worry about other things. If Snape should enter the potions lab, he would notice it soon enough and with every minute that passed, the risk of being caught increased.

Of course, Harry thought to himself, as he added a few drops of rose water to the bubbling liquid, what he was doing now wasn't as forbidden as brewing Polyjuice Potion in his second year. In fact, many students had done it over the last few days, although most of them ordered the house elves to perform the task instead of doing it themselves. To tell the truth, it would have been easier this way for Harry. He had never tried to make chocolate for Valentine's Day, but… he just had to do it. When he presented his chocolate, he wanted the recipient to know that they were his creation. His effort.

Blushing, Harry lowered his eyes just in time to remember that he had to stir the concoction to prevent it from burning. Snape would kill him for sure if he damaged one of the cauldrons.

OOO

Severus had already felt the urgent need to march over and strangle Potter when the cauldron started giving smoke signals for the first time. He had only refrained from doing so, because the boy managed to get the concoction back under control.

He leaned back against the wall by the door, hidden in the shadows and under the protection of a charm, where he continued to watch Potter's painstaking attempt to create chocolate. The person who would receive it tomorrow – most likely the Weasley girl – would have to at least praise the effort the boy had put into his gift.

A rare half smile played around the corners of Severus' mouth when Potter succeeded in saving his efforts with a swift wave of his wand. It seemed that the boy had listened to his lessons at least once, when Severus was describing how to salvage a bubbling potion although he doubted that Potter would ever admit to that.

Again, Severus glanced at the boy.

If he had caught Potter doing this – using his potions lab to make chocolate – a year ago, he wouldn't have hesitated to throw him out of the room, with enough detentions to fill up the boy's weekends until he graduated. Back then, Severus wouldn't have doubted that Potter was only up to mischief like his father was, but since then, he had been taught otherwise.

For one thing, James Potter would never have asked Albus to release Severus from his duty as a spy for the Order, just because the Potions Master had saved him and his friends in the Ministry during the fight against the other Death Eaters, last year.

Or perhaps Potter was just that stunned that Severus had actually saved Sirius Back, his beloved godfather. The end result was that the mutt was still alive and not murdered by the Dark Lord.

An unheard snort escaped past Severus' lips.

For another, ever since he and Potter had resumed their Occlumency lessons this year, they finally managed not to offend each other, although they met every Sunday since the start of term.

Severus shook his head and grinned slightly when he heard Potter muttering under his breath while adding vanilla. He doubted the boy would pay any attention at all in his Potions class, tomorrow. Surely, he would be busy thinking about the sweet hours he would spend with Miss Weasley later.

Severus ignored the sharp pang in his chest at the thought of the happy couple. His mind had obviously suffered more from the Dark Lord's Crucius than he had thought, if he was even slightly hoping that Potter might…

Severus almost laughed aloud.

No, the thought was too ridiculous to entertain him, even for a moment. With a last glance at the boy, he turned around and disappeared in the darkness of the dungeons. He just hoped that Potter wouldn't manage to blow up his potions lab.

OOO

A beautiful sunrise welcomed the next morning.

It seemed as if the weather had decided to appear at its best on this special day. Snow had fallen overnight and the grounds of Hogwarts were now covered by ice crystals which glistened in the pale sunlight and created an atmosphere of pure magic. One that didn't even exist within the walls of Hogwarts in all her fabulous beauty.

Severus glared at the scenery.

If he didn't know that it wasn't possible, he would have thought that Albus had had a finger in this particular pie. It would suit the sentimental fool well to put his efforts in such a… spectacle just to please the students.

Snarling, the Potion Masters drew his cloak closer around his body as he made his way from the Owlery back to the castle. He had remembered last night that he was short of a few potion ingredients which he would need this week. So, before he could forget it over the craziness of this ridiculous event, he decided to order them at once. It had also given him the chance to get out of the castle with all its annoying decorations. He rolled his eyes in resignation when he spotted an obviously newly made couple happily using one of the empty classrooms for quite a different purpose than Professor McGonagall would have in her lessons. Severus only decided against deducting points, when he recognized them as two of his Slytherins.

Great. Right, this day would definitely be great, Severus thought cynically. Either the students would look at each other with misty eyes or cry during their lessons, depending on how well their Valentine Day's gifts had been received.

Fabulous, and he didn't even have classes with the first or second years today, only the older students who were more likely to be affected by their hormones compared to their juniors.

Oh, how he loved his job!

Severus came to an abrupt stop in front of his private chambers. A little, innocent looking, heart-shaped package, wrapped in gold paper with a card sticking to it was waiting for him in front of his door.

Severus raised an eyebrow at it. Obviously, a few of his students were trying to prank him. He continued to gaze skeptically at the gift even after a short scan with his wand showed an absence of hexes or dark magic.

For Merlin's sake, he thought, it was probably Albus, who had put it there in order to cheer him up. Perhaps it contained a silly pink hat, like the one the old wizard loved to run around with during this stupid day each year.

Looking thunderously at the gift, Severus finally picked it up and entered his quarters. Surely it wouldn't do him any harm to at least take a look at whatever was inside, right? He could always Incendio it later…

He threw his coat over a chair in front of the fireplace and sat down on the couch, his dark orbs lay unmoving on the gold paper.

It could be from the Weasley twins` shop, he thought. They were always up to some mischief and it wouldn't surprise him at all if they had found or created a new charm to hex the wrapping paper. That, at least, would explain his trembling fingers and his racing heart as he opened the little card.

For Severus Snape,

I hope that you might return my feelings.

There wasn't a signature underneath that rather short note, but Severus didn't need one to know who had given him the gift.

It wasn't only the scraggly handwriting, but also the pieces of chocolate – revealed when he unwrapped the paper – that gave away the addressor. The scent of rose water, lavender, chili and dark chocolate rose in a blend so mouth watering that Severus almost found himself tasting one before he came back to his senses. Luckily, he remembered in the nick of time that the lab Potter had used last night also stored several freely accessible ingredients, which although colorless and tasteless, could cause skin rash if consumed.

He smiled bitterly down at the innocent looking chocolates, his heart clenching tightly inside his chest.

Obviously he had been wrong when he had assumed that the boy had put all this effort in a gift for his beloved. It seemed that Potter was more like his father after all, if he was trying to trick his Potions Master with a fake Valentine Day's gift.

Severus ruthlessly ignored the hopeful little voice inside his head that was trying to convince him that this was not a prank. Of course, he snorted sardonically.

Harry Potter - famous Boy-Who-Lived and youngest seeker in a century - would chose him, Severus Snape, a coldhearted cynical, whose long nose dwarfed every other positive feature on his face?

Right. Severus wouldn't chose to endure his own company if he had a say in it, why should Potter?

The boy could choose whomever he wanted, with the possible exception of Draco Malfoy, so why should he believe that Potter had decided to put all his efforts into a gift for his dour Potions Master just to win his heart?

The laugh that escaped past his cruel lips was bitterly cold. No one had ever cared to do anything in order to get his affections. All of his affairs had only lasted for a few nights and had been forgotten soon afterwards.

Again, the dark orbs gazed broodingly at the tempting confectionary. He hadn't expected that Potter would try to prank him now after their relationship had finally improved, but if the boy thought that could still be so easily tricked at the ripe old age of thirty six, he was wrong.

Severus pursed his lips sourly. Potter would get a nasty surprise in his Potions class today.

OOO

The noise level was higher than normal when the students filed into the classroom. Knowing and smitten glances were exchanged between many sixth years and not even the promise of a double period with Snape could silence the excited students.

After all, it was Valentine's Day!

Harry smiled slightly when he saw Hermione stealing a kiss from Ron. He had almost given up hope that his two best friends would ever get together, but obviously they had finally come to their senses and realized that they were in love with each other.

It was a good thing, Harry thought to himself. Not only because he was happy for his two best friends, but also because they were too busy exchanging kisses and whispered words to pay much attention to him.

Hermione hadn't even noticed that he hadn't been able to articulate a coherent sentence the whole morning and hadn't cheered when he learned that Malfoy wouldn't be playing in the next Quidditch match.

Harry appreciated Hermione's keen mind, but he didn't feel like he would have been able to answer any questions right now or even think of excuses why he was so… nervous.

Yes, he admitted to himself, he was very nervous right now. He looked at his slightly shaking hands. By now, Snape must have already found his gift. Harry didn't doubt that he would know from who it was… unless the Potions Master had received more than one gift, and unless someone else had handwriting as messy as his. Harry ran a hand through his unruly hair.

Of course, the Potions Master was quite handsome – regardless of what others thought –, strong willed, intelligent, sensible and even funny – if someone understood his sarcastic humor – and so, from Harry's point of view, he was the best match in the whole of Hogwarts. It was only to be expected that he wasn't the only one trying to get the attention of Severus Snape.

"Hey, Harry, do you think Snape might spare us his lessons today…?"

Ron's hopefully voiced question was swallowed up by a dead silence.

Black robes swirled around Snape as he made his way through the classroom to the front, his flashing dark orbs warning every student not to attract his attention, if they wanted to survive the next two hours.

Harry swallowed dryly.

He hadn't seen Snape so furious in quite some time and he only hoped that it didn't have anything to do with his gift. He had known of course, that it was a risk to confess his true feelings to the Potions Master, but after they had gotten along so well for the last few months and even shared some private moments, he had thought…

"I assume that since none of you will be able to brew a proper potion today, because of the unimportant day you're all celebrating, I have prepared something else instead."

Every student gazed curiously at the teacher's table, where four test glasses had materialized, each containing a different colored liquid.

"One of you sent me this today," he intoned as he held up the heart-shaped gift wrapped in gold paper.

Some students giggled, while others looked at their neighbors with horrorstruck expressions.

The dark orbs wandered through the rows of students. Harry peeped up at Snape and flinched when the man sneered at him.

He knew!

Snape knew that the gift was from him, but why… why did he sneer? Why did he show everyone?

Stunned, Harry watched as Snape opened the box and dropped a piece of chocolate in each of the test glasses.

"I am going to show you that I allow no one to trick me…"

Harry tuned out the rest of Snape's voice. Pearls of cold sweat ran down his forehead. He had to grab hold of the tabletop in order to stop the trembling in his hands. Snape thought he had tricked him and tried to make fun of him!

Harry took a shaky breath. He knew that Snape had always thought that he was like his father, James Potter, until… well, until that faithful day at the Ministry. That was the time when Harry had realized that Snape wasn't just a cold, bitter man, but so much more than that. He had come to like Snape after that and then to love… but that obviously didn't matter, because the Potions Master still seemed to regard him as nothing more than James Potter's son.

"Well, it looks like there isn't any organic poison in the chocolate."

"Hey, mate, aren't you well? You look awfully pale."

Harry shook his head. He couldn't speak right now. He didn't trust his voice not to betray him right now and even if he were able to get some words out… how could he explain his feelings to Ron when not even Snape…

Harry squeezed his eyes shut. A shamful sensation was burning behind his closed eyelids and threatening to spill over at any moment. The young Gryffindor inhaled shakily.

He wouldn't cry. Not now, not here!

He wouldn't, although it felt like Snape had ripped out his heart and sliced it into little pieces. Harry refused to let the tears fall.

"It also looks like there isn't any recognisable potion from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes."

How could Snape think that he wanted to harm him in any way?

Harry bit down hard on his lower lip, but the pain didn't help him to get his feelings back under control. It was nothing compared to the agony in his heart. He uttered a sharp gasp when Snape was about to speak.

"Harry…"

Black spots started dancing in front of his eyes. From the corner of his eye, he could make out Hermione and Ron's worried gazes.

"I… I have to… Sorry!"

Without a single thought about his school things, he jumped up from his seat and ran towards to the door.

"Mr. Potter!"

Snape's voice was cold as ice. It froze Harry to the spot.

Slowly, the young Gryffindor turned around. He knew that the hurt and disappointment were only too easily read in his eyes, but it didn't matter to him anymore. If Snape already despised him, what did matter if he now also thought him pathetic?

Snape gasped, stunned at the turmoil of emotions in those beautiful green eyes. Before he could say anything, Harry turned around and fled the classroom.

Harry didn't pay heed to the other students, who looked confusedly after him. He only stopped when he was outside the castle and in the open air.

A surprised gasp escaped his lips when the freezing cold finally registered in his senses. He hadn't thought of taking his cloak with him, but it didn't seem to matter right now. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, expect the pain that clenched his heart.

The coldness didn't help to ease his suffering, but merely cleared his head and brought things into sharper focus. Green eyes stared at the lake that lay glistening in the sunshine.

So beautiful!

The whole day was beautiful. It was a day meant for a walk – hand in hand – with your beloved. Of course, Harry laughed bitterly and covered his mouth with his hands an instant later to suppress the desperate sob that threatened to escape past his lips.

He should have known better than to hope for the impossible. How could he think for even a second that someone like Severus Snape would ever return his feelings?

Even his aunt and uncle always regarded him with disdain or did their best to ignore his existence. They were his nearest blood relatives and they had never shown him any signs of love… and he expected that someone else would… love him?

Harry couldn't hold back the tears any longer. They left his eyes in hot traces, running down his cheeks. He didn't see any need to stop them.

Heavily, the young Gryffindor sat down on a fallen tree trunk and gazed at the motionless surface of the lake. He had wanted to sit here with Snape. Sometimes, when he was too restless to sleep, he would imagine how it would feel like to be with Severus Snape. He had pictured them sitting here, chatting, laughing… kissing.

Harry sobbed.

Now, after his rash escape from the classroom, every student must know that he was the one behind that gift. He only hoped that they would think it a joke, otherwise he wouldn't be able to survive this school year. Actually, he didn't know if he could even endure this term.

Snape would certainly be sure to let him know how much he despised him now. Harry wasn't sure if he could stand the look of disdain in those dark orbs.

"Mr. Potter."

Harry flinched in surprise when he heard the sound of that familiar, low voice that he had grown so fond of. Still, he didn't look up. Maybe later, but not now… right now it would shatter him to pieces if he saw the disgust mirrored in these dark eyes that had looked so warmly at him in the past.

Harry didn't stir when the man sat down beside him. He only blinked in surprise when something warm and comforting was placed around his shoulders. His cloak, he realized and drew it closer. It helped to warm him, but it couldn't help him to get rid of the icy cold in his chest.

"What do you want, Professor?"

His voice wasn't as steady as he would have liked it to be, but it probably didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore, not even the trace of tears on his face, evidence of his weakness. Snape had made clear what he thought of him and if he believed Harry even more pathetic, then it was just as well.

"I think I have already told you that we don't have to be so formal when we are in private." Snape's voice registered a hint of uncertainty as if just realizing he had done the same.

Yes, Harry remembered.

It wasn't that long ago, probably just a couple of weeks, when Snape had poured them both a glass of Fire Whisky and told him that they could – at least in private – address each other by their given names.

Harry wouldn't have forgotten that, because of the pure joy he had felt at that very moment, but he hadn't thought that the offer was still valid.

"Harry…"

Severus swallowed hard when the green eyes finally met his and the hurt that was mirrored in them slammed right into his heart. He dropped his gaze.

How could he ever have thought that Harry wanted to trick him? Of course, he hadn't expected a gift from the boy, but wasn't it already clear that Harry no longer saw him as his hated Potions Master? He doubted if even the promise of certain death would have brought Harry to stay back after their Occlumency lessons and chat with him if the boy had still despised him.

He was such an idiot!

"I'm sorry, Professor."

Startled, Severus looked up.

Why was Harry apologizing when he had been the one to spurn Harry's gift and hurt his feelings? He should be on his knees, begging the young Gryffindor for forgiveness and not vice versa.

"I shouldn't have… the idea… I don't know how I came to believe that there was even the slightest hope you might return my feelings for you, Severus."

The name burned on his tongue. Harry knew that he shouldn't torture himself any further, but he just couldn't help it. It felt so right to call Severus by his given name and he just wanted to… call him so once, because he was certain that he wouldn't be allowed to do so after today. Not anymore.

"I probably resemble my father too much and that's why you…"

Harry stopped mid-sentence and inhaled shakily.

Again, it was the obvious hurt reflected in these beautiful eyes that made Severus' heart clench in similar pain.

"I'll go now, before someone jumps to the wrong… conclusions."

Trembling, Harry stood up, only to freeze when warm fingers closed firmly around his wrist.

Severus stood up as well to prevent the boy from fleeing again.

"I don't care what others think. It's only important that you…"

Harry shook his head.

"Please, don't… I've gotten the message… I understand that you don't… but wouldn't it have been possible to", he looked away as fresh tears welled up in his eyes. "You could have told me… it wasn't necessary for you to… but it was probably too much to ask of you to… trust me."

The dry laugh Harry tried to force out came out as a desperate sob instead.

Severus swallowed hard.

What had he done?

He had never intended to be cruel to Harry like that… he had only wanted to protect himself from hurt and had struck out before he could be struck.

Why had Harry fallen in love with him? But he had, hadn't he?

Everything, even the bashful tears, was proof that Harry Potter had fallen in love with him, Severus Snape.

"Harry", he started gently. "I do trust you, it's just…" he inhaled deeply to force air into his lungs. He had to say that, even if it meant leaving himself wide open for any possible rebuke.

"I thought it was too unbelievable that you were serious."

"Because I'm James Potter's son?"

There was so much anguish mirrored in those green orbs that it was all Severus could do not to close his arms around the boy and hold him close until all the pain was forgotten.

"No, but I couldn't imagine that you would chose me… when there are so many others you could choose from and who would only be too happy if you…"

"I don't want them! Any of them!"

A slight color rose in his cheeks, when Harry realized how childish his words had sounded, but he forced himself to carry on.

"I don't want to be with someone who makes sheep's eyes at me. I don't want someone who praises me to the skies. I want someone… who doesn't expect me to be strong all the time… who doesn't think that I'm perfect, but someone… who knows where my weaknesses lie and who accepts them and loves me nonetheless and… I want you, Severus."

Silence, then:

"Still… you still want me?"

Severus didn't dare breathe while Harry gazed at him indefinably and finally nodded wearily.

"Good."

The green eyes widened in confusion. A look of sheer disbelief crossed Harry`s face when Severus took out a piece of chocolate from the inside of his robes.

"What I did today was terrible and there aren't enough words in the whole world to describe how sorry I am. I should have trusted you, Harry, but I was just… tired. I wouldn't have been able to survive if my hope had been crushed."

Harry didn't know what to think.

By now, he should know better than to hope for the impossible, but the uncertainty and fear he saw in the dark eyes were the same emotions he had feeling been all day long, and in fact, was still feeling. He dared to hope… hope that there might be the slightest chance that Severus returned his feelings.

"I trust you, Harry."

Slowly, Severus brought the piece of chocolate to his mouth and closed his lips around it unhesitatingly. It tasted absolutely wonderful. The flavor of rose water, lavender and chili harmonized perfectly with the dark chocolate and reminded him of the effort he had seen Harry put into this creation.

"Is it…good?"

Nervously, the young Gryffindor nibbled his bottom lip and it was then that Severus knew for sure what he had to do. Instead of an answer, he reached for the boy and captured his lips in a sweet kiss.

Harry's eyes grew even bigger when he realized what was happening. He allowed the Potions Master to kiss him in order to taste his own creation of chocolate. The kiss was sweet, promising, underlined by a deep passion and far too short for their own taste.

Dark orbs searched green ones, after the kiss ended and looked into them hesitatingly.

"Will you forgive me?"

Pain, insecurity and fear were clearly written all over Severus' face. Finally, Harry understood why he had acted like he did. He saw how much Severus longed to love and be loved and how much he feared at the same time that the only result of giving into his feelings would be even more pain for him.

Life had taught them both not to trust too easily, and yet Severus was willing to risk the danger of betrayal for him. That was more than Harry had ever hoped for. Determined now, he closed his arms around Severus and let their lips meet for the second time this morning.

Relieved and happier than he had ever been in his entire life, Severus drew the boy even closer and sighed into the kiss, when he felt Harry's slim body press against his.

No chocolate could ever compete with the sweetness of this kiss and the certainty that he truly was loved by the person who held his heart in his hands.

When the kiss ended, Harry smiled shyly up at Severus.

For the first time, when Severus returned the smile and saw the untroubled happiness in those bright green eyes, the beauty of the day didn`t bother him anymore. Quite the opposite, it was perfect!

There – perfect for Valentine`s Day!