Ron groaned as he studied his most recent quiz in Potions. He'd gotten a T, again, and Harry knew that it was because the red-head had decided to wrestle or play quidditch with Dean and Seamus rather than study. Still, Ron was blaming it on the professor, as he always did. It didn't seem to matter which professor it was anymore, they either hated Gryffindor or him. Which didn't entirely make sense as Remus was the DADA professor and Professor Snape was being far more fair towards Gryffindor ever since the defeat of Voldemort two months into Sixth Year.
"Snape is such a bloody bastard. The greasy git probably didn't even look at my quiz before he marked it! What did you get Harry?"
Harry sighed. "I got an E, same as Draco, Mione, and nearly everyone else in the class. Ron, don't you get it? This is Advanced Potions, in our Seventh Year. Professor Snape isn't just going to give you the commendation or grades to get into the Auror program, you have to actually study."
"I do study!" Ron protested loudly. Harry looked at him critically. "I do, just because you and Hermione spend all of your time either in a book or in the practice lab, that doesn't mean I don't glance over the text as well!"
Harry started to say that Ron had to do more than glance, but Hermione interrupted him. "Harry, did you read this part of the book? It's horrible! She just wished her little brother away to the Goblins!"
Harry looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "It's at the very front of the book, and the turning point of the plot, do you really think it's possible I couldn't have read it? She was selfish, yeah, but…keep reading. She regrets her decision in, like, the next paragraph. And anyway, I'd like it if that were really possible."
Hermione looked at him in shock. "You'd really wish someone away to be turned into a goblin?"
Harry actually laughed. "Instead of deal with my own problems? No! Well, except maybe Voldemort, but that's long past. I was thinking of how my relatives could've wished me away to the goblins, save me a whole hell of a lot of trouble."
"And condemn the Wizarding World to live under Voldemort's thumb when he got hold of the stone First Year," Hermione added angrily.
Harry suddenly felt ashamed for the thought. "Who knows, maybe the Goblin King could've taught me more powerful magics, making it possible for me to defeat Snakeface sooner. You never know the outcome of imagined timelines, Mione. What do you think, Ron?"
Ron grimaced, still staring at his quiz. "I wish the goblins would come and take Snape away," He balled up the parchment angrily, and suddenly, the torches lining the corridors flickered violently, the storm that had been threatening all morning finally convalescing in a massive clap of thunder.
Hermione screamed slightly at the sound, dropping her book. "Ron, what did you just do?" She squeaked, picking up the small red novel.
"He wished your dear professor away to me," Said a rumbling voice behind them.
The trio, as well as everyone else in the crowded corridor, turned away from the windows to see a tall, regal blonde. "Oh sweet Merlin, it's the Goblin King," Draco echoed from a few feet further down the hall. He bowed, as did nearly all of the pureblood students, everyone else following suit.
"You mean it worked? Brilliant!"
"Of course it worked, you dolt! He's the Goblin King, you're a pureblood, despite everything, didn't your parents ever explain to you the power of words?! The fact that the Fae king of Goblins came to be because of the man who wrote that book in the early 1400's?!" Draco hissed.
"It was just a story…" Ron said, a dumbfounded look on his face.
Harry smacked his head. "Yes, and no harm ever came from reading a book, right Ron?"
The boy bowed his head shamefully.
"Your majesty?" Pansy squeaked, straightening from her curtsy. "Who did Weasley wish away, exactly?"
"Professor Severus Snape," He said. He looked to the boy as the redhead was punched across the jaw.
"You wished away my godfather, you prat?!" Draco howled, trying to get at him past the restraining hand Harry had around his waist.
"From your reaction to finding out I exist, I suppose you don't want to run the Labyrinth to retrieve him?" The Goblin King asked the redhead.
"Are you nuts? Hell no! I'm not doing that for the Greasy Git!"
This time, it was Harry who punched him, squarely in the nose. "He's your professor, Ron, and a war hero; you should feel regret! You could be expelled if Snape isn't retrieved. He'll be turned into a Goblin! None of us will ever see him again!"
Now Blaise was attempting to hold back both Harry and Draco.
"Good riddance, the bastard can rot as a Goblin for all I care! Maybe with him gone we'll get a decent professor who'll give me fair grades!"
"You're failing all of your classes through your own fault, Ronald! Get him back!" Hermione screeched.
The Goblin King flinched awkwardly when the girl backhanded him…hard.
"There is another way," The student body turned to look at him. "Someone else can take the runner's place in the case of selfish action with no sign of remorse. Is there any here willing to run for the professor? His godson, perhaps?"
Draco stopped struggling and started to chew his lip. "I've heard so many stories about the Labyrinth, I couldn't possibly make it in the time limit, even with my magic. Are we allowed magic, even?"
"In the case of a replacement runner, it is allowed, but under a penalty of two hours from the full time. You cannot apparate, or you risk landing in the Bog of Eternal Stench, but other, short, transfer spells are allowed," The Goblin King said.
He looked at each student in turn, silently asking if any would be willing to run for their teacher, but all shook their heads. "I'll do it," A voice finally called out.
He turned to the voice. "And you are?"
"Harry Potter, your majesty. I will run the Labyrinth in Ron's place, but I ask that I be allowed my magic, and to perhaps get my time only reduced by an hour if I swear to use only non-transfer type spells, forcing me to run the Labyrinth fairly," Harry said, stepping away from the crowd.
"So be it, Mr. Potter. If you break your oath, I will double the time reduction," The Goblin King said softly, gesturing to the window beside him. Harry stepped forward and saw the expanse of the Labyrinth, the castle nestled in the center.
"He is there, in my castle. You have 12 hours to reach your professor, or he'll be one of us forever," The Goblin King recited.
Harry stepped forward onto the dusty hill. "Thank you, sir, for letting me run in Ron's place. Will it be made as difficult for me as it would have been for Ron, your majesty?"
"Please, call me Jareth, Harry. I can have nothing but respect for a boy who would replace another runner only because he knows it is right, despite the danger. To answer your question, I will add no difficulty, but the Labyrinth is plenty difficult on its own," Jareth answered.
Harry smiled at him gratefully. "I appreciate that, Jareth," He murmured. He waved as he began the trek down to the entrance of the vast maze, watching Jareth fade. When he reached the bottom of the hill, he came across a small creature he guessed to be a dwarf. As it was wearing a beat up and worn gown, he decided to try and guess. "Excuse me, ma'am?"
The dwarf turned from where she was mending fairy wings. "Oh!" She said in a high-pitched voice that immediately reminded Harry of Mrs. Weasley. "Who are you?"
"I'm Harry, ma'am, and I'm the newest runner, I suppose. My friend wished away one of our professor's and I chose to take his place," He said, laying out his sympathy card.
"Poor dear…I wish I could help, but see, I'm trying to help these fairies that another ill-tempered old dwarf has been spraying with water. It makes them fall, see, and they break their wings. I don't know how to go about fixing them, though, and I just got bitten a few moments ago for trying to help," The dwarf said, ringing her gloved hands.
Harry stepped forward. "I know how to do that, mind if I help?"
"Oh that would be lovely, dear! My name is Elvyra, by the way, it's a pleasure to meet such a handsome boy."
Harry blushed, but bowed. "Please, madame, such a lovely creature as yourself should not hand out compliments so easily, you may steal my heart if you flatter me so," He said, kissing the back of one gloved hand. The dwarf giggled as he knelt down to examine the fairies. "Do you have a small bowl and an eyedropper?" The dwarf shook her head sadly. Harry gave her a reassuring smile. "It's no problem, I'll make some." He transfigured the items from nearby rocks, then took three of the white roses from the bushes. He placed one behind the ear of the dwarf with a wink, and then squeezed the other two until their nectar ran into the bowl. Taking up the eyedropper, he gathered some of the pearlescent fluid and let a drop fall on each wing of a fallen fairy, which mended perfectly as the drop was absorbed.
"Oh! How amazing! You are a special boy!"
Harry shrugged. "It's really nothing special." He brushed his hands and stood as the fairy used the dropper to repair a comrade. "The fairies draw their power from the earth to help it heal and grow; it stands to reason that the earth can heal them in return." The fairy tested her wings before fluttering up to his ear. "This is the Rose Princess," He said as the fairy alighted on his shoulder. "She would like me to thank you for the help you have been offering to them, and she wants to apologize for biting you unexpectedly. See, the fairy royalty typically bite non-fairy folk once to show other fairies the person is welcome in the fairy kingdom, a second time to allow them to speak the fairy language, and a third to show that a person has been accepted as a fairy. I myself have been bitten thrice, because I helped rebuild a fairy village last year when the Centaurs went on a rampage. It was my own fault, for convincing my Divination professor to speak with his brethren, but the folk of the village said my speaking with the Centaur leader has led to open negotiation over land rights, or something. Fairy politics is way over my head," The boy grinned. The fairy flittered back down to the bushes where the fairies were taking turns using the dropper or squeezing the roses. "They should be able to take care of themselves, now that the princess is up. Why don't you just speak to the other dwarf?" He asked, moving along the wall with Elvyra.
"Oh no, he's far too infuriating for me to want to deal with, and rather handsome. I always either freeze up or wind up screaming at him and running away," She said. Harry noticed she was blushing.
"I don't believe that for a second, you're too smart to let some angry dwarf intimidate you. Try speaking with him, maybe tell him how you feel, I'll bet he turns to putty in your hands," He cajoled. A large, ornate door opened before him when Elvyra swept her hand through the air. "I know you want to. You are female, hear you roar!" He boosted, grinning.
Elvyra straightened her back and shoulders. "You're right. I have nothing to fear from Hoggle. I think I'll go and find him right now!" She said, smiling and rushing off.
Harry looked at the door into the Labyrinth nervously, then stepped into it, checking his watch. He had 11 and a half hours…joy.
"He's quite the goody-two-shoes, isn't he?"
Severus smirked, looking up from the book he'd borrowed. "Not at all. Didn't you notice? He helped her, he complimented her, and in the end he didn't even have to ask for her help, she gave it up willingly. When she had served her purpose, he convinced her to leave him without breaking the potential helpline, keeping her from slowing him down with incessant chatter and still available should he need her assistance. Rather ingeniously Slytherin, actually."
Jareth looked at the man. "Why do you sound so surprised?"
"I'm not sure. I suppose I should be used to the boys Slytherin tendencies by now, he's been showing them more and more since the beginning of his Sixth Year, as well as an incredible aptitude in that thick head of his," Severus said with a shrug, returning to his book. Jareth turned back to the wall he'd projected the vision of the crystal onto.
Harry stopped, grabbing his side as a branch scraped into his skin. "Ow, bloody hell that hurt!" He looked at the plant, which now sported some of his blood and a piece of his shirt. He pointed his hand at the branch, invoking a cleaning spell and grabbing the shirt piece, when he noticed the plant had eyes and had shuddered at the touch of the spell. "Sorry, I can't risk leaving my blood around haphazardly in strange places. Remus just went over blood spells in class, and Professor Snape might kill me if my blood wound up in some potion or other." He explained to the plant.
"Oi, what you talking to them for!" A small voice cried from near the ground. Harry looked down to see a blue worm.
"Oh, um, I was explaining the reason for my having cast a spell on the end of their branches. You know, plants can hear, even the ones without eyes, so it's always best to treat them with respect. My friend Neville taught me that," He raised back up and reached towards the plant, scratching gently behind one of the eyes on the stem. "This is a Cyclops fern, Mr. Worm. They're extinct in my world, but Neville absolutely loves talking about them. They're partial to people who show them the proper respect, same as all plants, but especially if you scratch it behind the eye."
The worm shook it's head. "You're a nutter, it's just a plant."
Harry crouched down. "And what if I told you that you were just a worm? You'd be offended, wouldn't you? Just because something can't talk to you, doesn't mean it doesn't have pride that you can hurt. This fern is a part of the eco system that keeps the Labyrinth full of life."
The worm bowed it's head. "Begging your pardon, sir, I meant no offence. Come inside, have a cup of tea with me and the missus."
Harry shook his head, looking at the small hole. "I won't intrude, but thank you, perhaps another time?"
"'Course!" The worm agreed readily.
"Right, so I better continue on, I need to find a way out of this corridor to get to the castle," Harry said, brushing off his jeans and looking up and down the long alley.
"There's a passage there behind you, young Master, which will lead you directly to the castle, should you take a left," Many small, deep voices spoke at once. Harry looked at the Cyclops fern, which had a small vine extending a fairly big root in his direction. "Please take a clipping to your friend, so that we might grow anew in your world."
Harry took the root clipping with a slight bow. "I thank you for your hospitality." He said, pocketing it. He turned around and began stepping towards the wall cautiously. When he stepped into another alley, he looked back. "Thank you again, both of you," He said to the worm and the plant with a small bow. He turned in the direction the plant had indicated, and began walking anew.
"You can't tell me that that interaction was terribly helpful in him getting here. The worm would have told him if the fern had not," Jareth said, looking to his companion.
"Want to bet? First off, a Cyclops fern is the key ingredient to a great many ancient potions, so he's most certainly helped our world by getting the means to once more cultivate it, and secondly, what do you think his speaking to the worm would accomplish?"
Jareth sneered. "Making him out be an eco-terrorist?"
Severus sighed. "He showed the fern an unparalleled amount of respect without groveling by telling the worm the truth as he knew it to be, now anything connected to that fern will view Potter as a friend," He explained slowly, speaking as though to a child.
Jareth sat there in shock. "But all of the plants are connected in the Labyrinth, how would the boy know to do that?"
Severus smirked evilly. "That man you see before you is the most powerful wizard of his time, more powerful than even Dumbledore, and has a friend who is a natural at Earth Magic. Longbottom likely taught Potter to feel the Earth and the roots of the plants, a method more often used to sense inconsistencies. It's why he made the extra effort to touch the Cyclops fern. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets here sooner, rather than later, a million followers in tow."
"Why would he ask for an extra hour, with no transfer spells, if he could have bypassed my shields?" Jareth asked, dumbfounded as he watch the boy smile at each Cyclops fern he passed, each one bowing it's reeds in return.
"Because, despite being very Slytherin, he prefers to play fair. The extra hour was likely a precaution, should the Labyrinth be larger than he can advance beyond in a short enough period to still be able to search the castle," Severus said, smiling at the image of his student on the throne room wall. All of the lesser Goblins were entranced at the sight of such an extraordinary character, for once not creating havoc.
Harry rounded a corner, nearly running into Elvyra. "Oh, hello again, Elvyra, you look more ravishing than the last time I saw you. Where's that friend of yours…Hoggle?"
"Oh, Harry dear, you do spoil me. He has gone to help mend the fairy wings, now that he knows why they've been biting some of the inhabitants of the Labyrinth, before our date tonight. You were right, dear, he really did turn to putty in my hands," The female dwarf squealed, walking beside the young wizard.
"I'm glad it worked out for you, Elvyra," He said sincerely, turning his head to smile at her. He flinched away when a terrible howl was released to his immediate left, and turned to see a large furry beast grabbing his foot and crying. "Oh, shoot, I wasn't watching where I was going. Are you alright? How can I help?"
"He'll need a sulfur stone," Elvyra said, examining the bruised appendage as the animal sniffled. "He's a Rock Lion, and sulfur is best to get the pain to go away for them, but even he can't get any here. They're all the way in the desert on the other side of the Labyrinth."
Harry raised his wand and summoned the stone, only waiting a minute before the rock flew into his hand. "Is this large enough?"
The dwarf looked at the stone in surprise, before nodding and placing it on the swelling. Immediately, the swelling left and the creature stopped crying. "Lido happy," It said in a lumbering voice.
Harry helped it to stand. "I really am terribly sorry, my friend, I can be such a clutz sometimes. It's a wonder I don't snap my wand, I can be so clumsy," He said, grinning at the large, blue-colored creature.
"Friend?" Lido asked hopefully.
"Of course! What else would I call such an amazing individual? I'm Harry, Lido, and it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Harry replied, putting on his most innocent smile.
Lido smiled back. "Lido like Harry, Lido help?"
Harry shrugged. "I'm really doing fair on my own I think, but I would certainly enjoy the company. Wouldn't you, Elvyra?" The dwarf nodded and the three set off to continue down the Alley, the Castle looming up in the distance.
"How did that help? That couldn't possibly have helped!" Jareth exclaimed.
"No, that was likely just Potter being his usual, charming self, although the beast might come in handy, a good ally for a battle, or perhaps as an intimidation tactic should he meet resistance and such. I thought you told him the Labyrinth was difficult?"
"Normally it is, with the inhabitants giving out false directions and riddles, but the boy bypasses all of the tricks before they can occur," Jareth admitted. "I realize he likely read the book in your world, but it never delves into detail about the tricks and traps, it's as though he's reading the minds of my subjects before their thoughts have come to them!"
Severus smiled secretly. "No, Potter is much too Gryffindor to do such a thing as use Legilimency on unknowing participants, he simply has a habit of getting everyone on his side, it's why more than half the Death Eaters defected to being spies before the final battle took place, including Bellatrix Lestrange, who everyone was convinced was too insane for such a rational thought. Potter is a unique man, and most definitely nothing like his father."
"Ah, the first person to wish you away," Jareth said, leaning back in his throne. "Didn't he also run for you?"
"No, his friend did, Remus Lupin," Severus answered, turning a page.
"Oh yes, the werewolf," Jareth chuckled. "He spent so much time talking to my subjects and apologizing for every imagined wrong that I was certain he would never make it to the castle in time. Of course, even if he hadn't, I'd have had to return you or face revolt from the Labyrinth itself on the werewolf's behalf."
Severus grunted, but didn't respond as he looked up at the wall his student was displayed on.
Harry smiled as they left the alley into an open space full of bustling Goblins and houses, a few stands set up sporadically that sold goods. He walked over to a book vendor.
"Normally runners don't stop to browse, sir," The Goblin at the stand said in a squeaky voice.
Harry looked at his watch. "I've got a few moments. My friend, Hermione, would adore it if I could bring her back something from the Underground. What's the currency?"
"Same as in the Wizarding World, Mister Potter," Another voice squeaked from beside him.
Harry turned. "Griphook, how good to see you!" He bowed low. "I wish wealth to you and your kin, my friend."
The goblin looked surprised, but returned the bow and the sentiment. "That is not a greeting commonly exchanged from wizard to goblin, Mister Potter, I appreciate your well wishes immensely."
Harry turned back to the stand. "What would you recommend for my friend, Griphook? You remember Hermione, don't you?"
"I think Miss Granger would appreciate this tome," He said, pulling one from a stack. Harry looked at the title and nodded, giving the goblin behind the stand a full galleon for the book.
"She will most definitely appreciate it, thank you, Griphook. Is there a weapons vendor by chance? I want to maybe find something for Draco and myself." Harry said, smiling.
"Your change, sir, four sickles," The Goblin squeaked.
Harry refused it. "Call it an Aboveground tax, for me being foolish enough to run through this Labyrinth. I hope that our transactions this day bring wealth and happiness to your family."
The goblin nodded, putting the sickles into the box he had the money kept in, and Griphook led Harry further into the city. "I must admit, I never thought it in you to wish someone away, Mister Potter."
Harry blushed. "I'm actually running in place of someone else. Ron Weasley wished away Professor Snape, then acted like a total prat and refused to run the Labyrinth." He explained, shrinking the Complete History of Goblins and putting it into a velvet bag that he kept in his pocket. He was glad he'd thought to leave his robe with Draco, it was terribly hot here.
"Why would you run? It's my understanding that you and the professor have never gotten along," Griphook said, batting away the hands of Elvyra as she tried to quiet him for speaking in such a manner to a wizard.
Harry looked ahead, lost in thought. "Well, I keep telling myself that it's because everyone needs to know that someone will chase after them, that there's someone out there willing to fight for them. I mean, it's something I've always wanted to know. But if I'm honest, Griphook, and you can't tell anyone I said this, it's because I am terrified at the thought of losing Professor Snape. I…have grown rather fond of him in the last year, and my feelings for him only seem to keep growing. It would be a shame to lose him before I have a chance to confront him about my feelings."
Griphook nodded and gestured for Harry to turn, leading him to the best weapons vendor in the city.
"Now there's an interesting development," Jareth said. He looked to Severus, who was staring out the window into the city. "Did you know?"
"I suspected, but to hear it aloud is quite different," Severus answered thoughtfully. "What's he buying?"
Jareth raised the crystal again. "A dagger set, one of the finest made."
"Where's he going now?"
"An actual shop, a jewelry shop, in fact. I can't follow him in, though, it's part of the rules with the advanced goblins, for their privacy," Jareth said, looking deeply into the crystal. He looked at Severus. "Do you feel the same about him?"
Severus jerked his head around swiftly. "I'm hardly going to discuss the matter with you."
"Are you going to tell him?"
Severus sighed, turning back to the window. "It is unlikely, Jareth. He's probably just going through a phase. He's never really had time to behave like an adolescent, with crushes and puppy love and such. He'll likely be over it not long after he graduates."
"I think you should talk to him. He doesn't seem like the type to fall in and out of love easily," Jareth said, looking at the image of the young, powerful wizard.
Severus couldn't help but snort. "You want me to talk to him? This coming from the man who won't talk to a girl he's been pining after for five years?" Jareth looked surprised. "My American cousin tells me everything, and her Squib daughter is quite infatuated with you, Jareth."
"I should have known you were related to Sarah, the black hair is a dead giveaway," The Fae king said sourly. "Tell you what, I will speak to Sarah, right after Harry succeeds, if you promise to talk to Harry."
"How would I know you carried out your end of the bargain?"
"I'll let you feed me that awful truth serum you wizards have. It only holds for five minutes on me, no matter the dosage, but that should be enough time, yes?" Jareth said sportingly.
Severus rolled his eyes but nodded, turning back to the window.
Harry stared up at the doors into the castle, as Lido helped him push one open. "Thank you, Lido, Elvyra, Griphook. I think I should do it on my own from here, but I appreciate all of your help."
Griphook bowed. "Should you ever require the assistance of the Goblins, Mister Potter, you know where to find me," He said, turning and walking away.
"And should you need the dwarves for any reason, you are more than welcome to call for me. Just look into a mirror and say my name, and I'll be right there for you, Harry dear, Lido too," Elvyra said, hugging the young wizard.
Harry hugged her in return, as well as Lido. "I'll be sure to keep you both in mind, and I know you'll forever be in my heart. I'm rather glad I chose to run, instead of Ron, otherwise I would never have made such wonderful friends. Goodbye, you too, and good luck on your date, Elvyra."
The two waved as he walked into the foyer of the castle and cast a tracking charm. He followed the line down a corridor and up a flight of stairs. He came out at the top and smiled when he saw his professor standing there patiently.
"Well done, Harry, you performed better than I've ever seen anyone do. You still have a full 6 and a half hours before your time is up," Jareth said, shaking the boy's hand. "Severus was right, you are an extraordinarily unique and powerful individual. I would gladly call you my friend, Harry."
The young wizard blushed. "You're too kind, really, I didn't do anything special except make a few new friends. Your Labyrinth is gorgeous, though, Jareth. I wonder if there's a way I could come to visit? I'd love to explore it more fully." He said nervously.
Jareth nodded, showing off his short fangs as he beamed and summoned a crystal ball. "Whenever you wish to visit, simply hold this crystal and say 'To the Underground', and it will bring you here to my throne room. You can also use it to communicate with the friends you've made, as well as myself."
"Can we please go home now?" Severus growled. "The Headmaster has likely gone into a panic, knowing you came here, Potter."
The boy glared at the stoic man. "He's more likely worried I won't have made it to the castle on time. He worries about you just as much as he worries about me or anyone else, Professor," Harry insisted.
Severus only raised an eyebrow, refusing to comment.
Jareth looked between the two wizards. "This might feel a tad uncomfortable," He warned, right before the floor dropped out from beneath them both, letting them fall through time and space.
Student and teacher landed gracefully in the middle of the Headmaster's office, the only other occupants either snoring or working.
"Ah, Severus, Harry, there you both are! You're just in time; dinner starts in just a few moments. Harry, you've been excused from your afternoon classes for unavoidable circumstance, Miss Granger has your homework and notes. Also, Molly would like you to come up here after dinner, when she and I speak with her son. Severus, Lucius was kind enough to take over your afternoon classes for you," Albus said as each man watched him curiously.
"Er, thanks, Professor Dumbledore," Harry said awkwardly.
"Not at all, my boy, it's not the first time a member of the staff has been wished away by foolishly spoken words in the heat of anger," Albus said. "And remember, I'm Albus now. After all, you'll be a colleague in less than six months. Now, my two favorite boys, what do you say we go down to the Great Hall for dinner? I'm sure you're both starving."
Both men followed the Headmaster out of the office and down towards the Great Hall.
"A colleague, Potter?"
Harry blushed. "Erm, yeah, I was going to tell you at some point, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up. Remus has decided to retire from teaching so he can focus on his writing, and if my grades stay at the rate I'm going at now, the Headmaster has asked that I take the job. I hope that's alright."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I don't see how it wouldn't be. It's quite an accomplishment to be accepted as a teacher in Hogwarts so soon after graduation, let alone be offered the position before you finish as a student. I expect you'll be taking the Defense Mastery NEWT, rather than the normal test?"
"Yes sir, I am. Albus said I didn't need it, but I want to be sure I'm fully prepared for the job," Harry answered, his blush deepening.
"I have some books that might be useful in achieving high marks on the test. A lot of what's covered in the Mastery NEWT is never covered on the Hogwarts curriculum, particularly the 7 years you've gone through," The professor said off-handedly. "You could come and retrieve them after you visit the Headmaster's office after dinner. I will, of course, expect them back in the same condition in which I loan them to you."
Harry nodded readily. "Of course sir, absolutely. Thank you, very much, I really appreciate it."
"I'm also doing it for myself, Potter, make no mistake. You may be the first in that position that is wholly competent, more so than the wolf, and I am willing to help ensure that competence for the benefit of my students and myself, so I may never have to deal with another Lockhart or Umbridge," The Potions Master sneered. Harry shuddered at the memory of his two worst teachers. Even the two DADA professor's who turned out to be Voldemort's lackeys weren't as bad as those two.
As they entered the Great Hall, Harry turned to his teacher. "Thank you for the near compliment, Professor, and I'm sorry it took me so long to get to you. I'll admit I intentionally lagged a bit, to give Jareth a little false hope."
Severus snorted. "You should create a recording, Potter. Something in the line of 'It was a pleasure saving your life today, sorry it took so long', as you seem to be turning this hero passé into a habit."
The boy snickered. "You're welcome, Professor," He said with a wave, walking over to the end of Gryffindor table where Draco and Hermione sat with Neville and Blaise, gesturing for him to come and sit down.
Harry reached into his jeans pocket and withdrew a velvet drawstring, enlarging it and setting it on the table. "Nothing terribly interesting happened, guys, it was pretty simple since I was a replacement runner and made quick friends with damn near the whole Labyrinth, but I brought back souvenirs for all of you!" He said excitedly. He pulled out the book and handed it to Hermione, who squealed and hugged him, immediately engrossing herself in the tome. He pulled out the Cyclops root next, placed in a preservation vial he picked up in the goblin jewelry shop.
"What's this, Harry? An Underground plant? I don't know if I can grow this…" Neville said uncertainly.
"Nope, it's a freely given clipping from a Cyclops fern. They grow wild in the Labyrinth, and I happened to get the chance to speak with one. Do you think you can grow a specimen?"
Neville gaped at him. "With this large of a clipping, I could grow an entire greenhouse of them, and since it's freely given the plants will reproduce at double their natural rate. You're amazing, Harry, thanks!"
Harry beamed and reached back into the bag. He withdrew two long, black metal boxes, handing one each to Draco and Blaise. They each opened them to find two parts of a three part dagger set, Draco's blade twisting in a spiral and Blaise's sporting a deadly looking hook near the base for maximum damage inflicted.
"Made from the best Goblin metals, and crafted by the finest smiths in the Underground. The third part of the set is mine, and it has a grip, with a curved blade, that allows an action like a punch to completely slice through an attacker or something. The snakes on the handles are mobile, and if you say a passcode that you whisper to them before a fight, they'll bite whomever you stab with the deadliest and quickest venom imaginable. Do. Not. Use. Them. In. Hogwarts, got it? Because I will kill you both," Harry said, eyeing them. They both agreed quickly. "I thought we might show them to Remus before next week, since he said he wanted to cover useful Muggle weapons in a magical duel. These are considered Muggle, but Griphook said you can channel your magic through them like you would a wand." Again, they both agreed. Harry watched his friends admire each of their gifts happily, and hoped his last gift would be received just as well.
Severus called for whoever was at his door to enter as he finished off the last second year essay. "You're here earlier than I expected, Mr. Potter," He said, looking up.
The boy smiled, shrugged, and blushed. "It didn't take long for Mrs. Weasley to get to the part of my memory where Ron disrespected the Goblin King and refused to feel remorse and run the Labyrinth. She pulled out of the penseive even before it got to where I volunteered, commended me for breaking her prat of a son's nose, asked me to carry the thanks to Draco and 'Mione, then demanded he be expelled. She's going to teach him at home, and says he won't have a moment's rest until he has the same grades as the twins did, and they had solid A's, except in your class where they kept up an E average. I'm pretty sure Ron won't be getting very much time to play around and enjoy not being in school, though he's still convinced it was the teachers that were all out to get him."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Of course, because we simply pick one student out of every year that we're all going to fail for the malicious glee we get out of it. It's a common practice that we all look forward to," He said sarcastically.
"He'll learn, Professor, because if he doesn't, Mrs. Weasley said she'd make him pay back every penny of tuition by working as the twins test subject," Harry assured him.
Severus nodded in satisfaction, pushing forward a stack of books on his desk. "These are the books I mentioned. They're written entirely in Italian, but there's a translation spell written inside the top books front cover that will allow you to read any language for approximately one hour."
The boy grinned and picked up the stack. "I won't need it, but that will be good to know when Draco decides to read over my shoulder." Severus raised an eyebrow. "I learned Italian over the Summer, sir. With Snakeface gone, I was allowed to go with Hermione's family to Sicily. Hermione used a translation spell, but I opted into a few courses at the local college on how to speak Italian for the American and English exchange students, and just immersed myself in the culture. It's not a terribly hard language, considering. I think I prefer it over the language Draco's trying to learn. Mandarin just seems nigh on impossible y'know?"
"Yes, Mister Malfoy has always been one to try and overachieve, often times being forced into finding something a bit more attainable," Severus agreed, drawing the stack of third years essays closer to him for marking.
"I almost forgot, I, um, got you a souvenir from the Goblin City at the center of the Labyrinth, sir. I don't know if you'll like it, but…"Severus looked up as the boy reached a hand into his jeans pocket, struggling to hold the books in the other arm. He finally produced a small black box. Severus opened it cautiously to see a plain metal clasp for a cloak. "It's not terribly extravagant, I know, but I picked it because of what it does. If you press it while you have it on, it renders you completely invisible. I thought it might come in handy for catching students like me out of bed after hours. The coolest part is that when you're touching it, it allows you to see past invisibility spells and cloaks."
Severus looked up from the gift, wrinkling his brow in confusion. "Why are you giving me this? I'd think it more suited for one of your friends, why not give it one of them?"
The boy blushed, confusing Severus further until he spoke. "Well, I kinda thought I just did, sir. I realize it would be unprofessional for us to be actual friends until after I graduate, but I'm hoping that when I start as your colleague next term, we might be able to start on that path."
Severus looked back at the clasp again. "Thank you, Harry, the gift is appreciated." The younger wizard nodded and started to move towards the door. "Harry," Severus called, making the boy stop halfway across his office. Severus wasn't sure why he'd stopped the boy, but found his mouth was capable of working on its own. "You know that it isn't against the rules for teachers to have relationships with the Seventh Year students, so long as we can show proof of any grades given as not being influenced, positively or negatively, correct?"
Harry turned. "I did know that, sir, Remus told me when I asked him why it was okay for me to hang around him so much. However, Professor Snape, the rules apply to friendships and relationships alike, and I know of a few students that might make unwarranted inquiries into whether the friendship were to have existed previous to this year. It would be fairly simple to prove, using Veritaserum, but I wouldn't put you through that just because of some deluded Sixth Year and her fan club that's convinced the Slytherins are brainwashing me," The boy said, chewing his lower lip.
Severus stood and walked over to the boy, running his thumb gently across the abused skin as he cupped the younger wizard's jaw. "I'd be willing to fight through it all, and more, for you, Harry, if you'd let me."
The Man-Who-Prevailed looked up. "Really, Professor?" He asked hopefully.
Severus searched the entrancing green eyes for any sign of doubt, then leaned forward, brushing his lips gently over his student's. "Call me Severus, Harry."
The boy nodded vigorously as Severus leaned forward once more and kissed him with more passion, ravishing his student's mouth gratefully, and ignoring the stab of his books in his ribs. Eventually, he pulled away with a final, soft kiss on the swollen lips below his own.
"Feel free to come to me with any questions you might have about the books, Mister Potter. I may also require your assistance from time-to-time in some matters unrelated to your schooling. For instance, I require your assistance this upcoming Friday. There is a new Italian restaurant in Hogsmeade that boasts full authenticity. It's been so long since I've been to Italy, a more recent visitor would be welcome in verifying just how authentic they are," Severus said, moving back a step and smirking.
Harry grinned, making Severus heart flutter with warmth. "Thank you, Severus, for everything. I would be glad to join you on your critique of the new Italian restaurant. Is 6 'o' clock good?"
"Indeed," Severus purred, leaning back against his desk. He watched the younger wizard blush. "I will see you then, Harry."
The student nodded and moved to the door, opening it and stepping out into the hall. Severus chuckled when he heard a muffled whoop from further down the corridor.
Jareth watched Severus chuckle, smiling to himself. Those two wizards deserved each other, or he wasn't the Goblin King. "Jareth? What's wrong?"
The Goblin King looked to his right, moving a strand of the raven hair away from the girl's face as she closed her book. "It's nothing, Sarah-mine, just some unfinished business with your mother's cousin. Come, we should retire for the night. Tomorrow I will give you a tour of the parts of the Labyrinth that you missed when you were last here."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "I was a little distracted, I didn't exactly have time for sight-seeing."
Jareth stood and pulled her to her feet, holding her close to his body. "Who's to say you won't be distracted this time as well?" He asked, grinning ferally before kissing her with all of his pent up desire. She returned the kiss with just as much passion, and Jareth found himself breathless as she spirited them away to his rooms. Merlin Above, he sure knew how to pick a girl to spend eternity with.
A/N: Not sure if I want to write another story with the date and everything that happens after between Severus and Harry. What do you think, should I write more?