Author Notes: Happy Valentine's Day! Here is the third installment of my Turn Around series... exactly a year later. LOL. You might want to re-read the first two (Turn Around to Receive Your Gift & Turn Around For Hope Still Lives) to refresh your memory first.
Set during Harry's seventh year, PWP fluff, again done in Severus' POV.
Summary: It is Valentine's Day. Despite Potter's card and lunch invitation, Severus is still beset by his insecurities, this time over which gift.
Dedication: To Vine Verrine. A wonderful beta and friend. It might not be as tangible as a bouquet of red roses, but hey, it's Snarry! :D
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the brainchild of JK Rowlings. 'Cloths of Heaven' is by William Butler Yeats.
- Story Start -
Today is Valentine's Day.
A day I have wished had not existed for the past twenty years, until this year... thanks to Potter, his Valentine card and the invitation inside it, deplorable venue notwithstanding.
Not that I am excited over the prospect of a date.
If my heart is beating a little faster than usual, it is only because I cannot believe that Potter, whom I have come to regard as a matured and intelligent young man, would choose Madame Puddifoot's for lunch. Yes, that garish travesty of a teashop where the population of cherubs outnumber its patrons, where the very air is polluted with confetti, where romance – were it idiotic enough to step foot inside – would instantly die a most painful death.
Not that I am nervous over the prospect of a date either.
If I am pacing up and down in my quarters - which I'm not - it is only because I cannot believe our outing will go unnoticed. Today being a Hogsmeade Saturday as well as Valentine's Day, scores of students will be flooding the village to coo at nauseating pink decorations, spend their parents' hard earned Galleons on commercialised trinkets and traipse inside every infernal eatery and teashop. Including Puddifoot's.
Sweet Merlin, what the hell was Potter thinking?!
He is a student. The Boy Who Lived. Voldemort's most wanted target.
I am his Potions Professor. Ex-Death Eater. Double spy for the Light.
We cannot be seen together and yet... I have not turned Potter down. He had already left my quarters by the time I opened his card and found the invitation inside it.
No, it had nothing to do with how readily he had forgiven me for humiliating him in class yesterday.
Nothing at all to do with how generously he had accepted my stuttering, half formed apologies and rewarded me with a kiss I didn't expect and didn't deserve.
Nothing whatsoever to do with how I had gone to sleep last night with his Valentine card clutched in my hand.
By the time I woke up this morning, got dressed and spelled away the bits of flashing gold and silver paint adhering to my fingertips, Potter was nowhere to be found. He wasn't in the Great Hall... nor the library... nor the Gryffindor Common Room... nor the Owlery... nor at Hagrid's.
I should have known it would be impossible to find a single hormone laden third year and above loitering in the castle after sunrise.
I should have forseen it would be impossible to find a single owl not flying its wings off delivering an obscene amount of love letters and parcels.
I should have realised I did not want to turn Potter down.
So here I am, in my best dress robes of dark blue velvet with my freshly washed hair hanging loose about my face, trying to decide which of the three gifts I want to present to that wretched boy. They sit on my coffee table, three different sized parcels wrapped in red, each one mocking me for my juvenile infatuation and jittery indecision.
The book of Yeats poetry.
The box of liqueur filled chocolates.
The vial of strawberry scented lubricant.
The heat surging up into my face is just a consequence of my brisk pacing and nothing else. Not that I was pacing. It doesn't matter which gift I choose as long as I leave my quarters before Albus decides to drop by and drag me up to the Great Hall for lunch.
It doesn't matter which gift I present to Potter.
The sudden knock at the door stops me in my tracks. My heart skips a beat and leaps up into my throat where it struggles to escape.
It is Albus. I am too late.
I close my eyes and see an image of Potter sitting all alone in that horrible teashop, chin in hand as he waits for someone who will never show up, cherubs hovering overhead and warbling sad love songs.
I swallow and see another image of Potter sitting in that same teashop, but not alone, chin in hand as he smiles at a simpering, insipid female, cherubs hovering overhead and humming Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
Another knock sounds. I open my eyes, clear my throat and bid my visitor enter.
It isn't Albus after all.
Just like last night, Potter closes the door behind him and leans up against it. The dark green of his dress robes lends his skin a rosy glow and renders his eyes a bright emerald behind those horrible glasses.
I blink. My heart drops down to my stomach in relief and then swoops up again to its proper place behind my sternum.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Severus," Potter says with a smile.
If I am too befuddled to return his greeting or his smile, Potter doesn't notice. His smile widens as he comes forward to take my cold hands in his warm, strong ones.
"You look dashing," he says and stops my automatic denial with a kiss. Then he pulls back and offers me another brilliant smile. "Ready?"
"You do realise the two of us will have to wear Glamours," I remark, pleased to find my voice steady. My hands though, are a different matter altogether.
"No need to," Potter replies cheerfully. "Teashop's all ours. Here."
I catch sight of something pink and fluffy before Potter presses his palm to mine.
"Wait - your gift," I manage.
The hook behind my navel brings the two of us out of Hogwarts, offering me a short reprieve from my dilemma.
- o -
When the world stops spinning, I look up from the fuzzy pink sock turned portkey to find something even pinker – the entire interior of a teashop. It's sole saving grace amongst the hues of pink, pinker and pinkest is a single table with a white tablecloth, set for two.
"Where is everyone?" I ask, looking around and tearing up from the lurid shades.
Potter beams at me, his eyes still full of an admiration I cannot fathom.
"Elsewhere. I booked the entire place for our lunch!"
I should stop this annoying habit of blinking whenever Potter says something astoun – vaguely interesting.
"Madame Puddifoot will not return until after two o'clock. Everything is ready for us."
I manage a resigned sigh, a significant improvement over blinking.
"We could have eaten at my place, Harry. I am capable of cooking a meal."
"So am I, Severus. But I want you – us – to have a no holds barred, fully commercialised Valentine date today."
I blink again. Damn.
Potter's response this time is a slow, dazzling smile that turns my knees to water. Not that he needs to know.
"So that you and I will never miss it again, and we can start our own Valentine tradition."
For no reason at all, that vial of strawberry scented lubricant comes to mind. I stop myself from smirking and look around, scowling at the three six inch tall cherubs hovering above our table with baskets of confetti on their arms.
I was right about the ratio of cherubs to patrons.
"I won't miss any of this. Let's go back now."
Potter laughs and grabs my hand, pulling me to the table.
"After all the trouble I went to? Not a chance, Severus."
I sigh again and allow him to seat me and even place the pink and ruffled monstrosity of a napkin in my lap. Then I look up and glare at the cherubs who start polluting the air with confetti.
Let the torture begin.
- o -
Exactly one hour later, the fuzzy pink portkey returns Potter and I to my quarters. It would have returned more had I not kicked off the three determined cherubs clinging to my left leg.
Having suffered sixty minutes of pink decorations, pink tinted food and demonic cherubs depositing confetti on my hair, in my ears, up my nose and down my shirt, I am more than ready to issue Potter his detention.
It is no more than he deserves.
It is no less than I deserve.
"I never want to go back there again," Potter sighs and stuffs the portkey back in his pocket.
I smirk at him, pinch my nostrils shut and blow, expelling a tiny shower of pink shredded paper out each ear.
Potter chooses that moment to give me a goofy smile as if I have just said something particularly sentimental. Strange since I hadn't uttered a word.
Then he looks past me and his green eyes widen.
I close my own and grimace at the return of my dilemma. With my newly cleared ears, I can almost hear my gifts on the coffee table call out to Potter, imitating the sirens of old.
Come read me...
That would be the book.
Come taste me...
That would be the chocolates.
Come try me...
That would be the -
"Severus? Are all those for me?"
Potter's voice sounds muffled, as if coming from a distance. I spin around to see him already sitting on the sofa, beaming at me and patting the seat next to him like an overexcited child on Christmas morning. The matured and intelligent young man I had lunch with has disappeared.
"Can I open them now?"
I am at the table in two long strides, all three gifts scooped up in my arms while I agonise between them.
The book of poetry - no, too telling.
The chocolates - no, too trite.
The lubricant - no, too - sweet Merlin, each gift is nothing more than the obvious steps to a path of blatant seduction!
I blink and realise how foolish I must look, clutching the presents to my chest like a spoilt brat who is unwilling to share his toys. Only they're not toys. Especially that last one.
"Sit here. Please."
I take a deep breath and force myself to place the gifts back on the table. Then I sit down next to Potter.
Yeats, I decide. Better to be laughed at than to be sneered at. Or worse.
"You may open the first one now, Harry."
"What about the others?"
"You may open the second one a little later."
"And the third?"
Now. No, never. Or perhaps after you've eaten all the chocolates, whisper a voice somewhere in my head. I squash it down, close my eyes and inhale, heat rushing up to my face again.
A warm hand closes over mine.
"I'm sorry if I sound greedy."
I open my eyes. Potter offers me a contrite smile, one I do not deserve.
"You don't," I tell him. You are not the one who wants more than he deserves.
"So, which one is first?" he asks.
I hand him the wrapped book with hands that are not steady at all.
Potter unwraps the gift with reverent fingers and stares down at the front cover in silence.
A whole twenty seconds tick by without him moving and without me breathing. I wait, turning blue in the face, expecting a look of indignation or at best, bafflement, bracing myself for a barrage of questions starting with 'Who is William Butler Yeats?' and ending with 'Are all the bookshops out of Quidditch books?'
When Potter uses a fingertip to trace the gold lettering on the cover, I start breathing again, my heart bouncing all over the place, imitating a Snitch being pursued and getting tangled up with my lungs.
Then Potter looks up, his eyes wider than ever.
I jump up from the sofa and turn around, shaking hands clenched into fists and shoulders hunched in a defensive posture honed from years of thwarted hopes. The decisive thump behind me can only be that of a book dropped onto the coffee table, and that can only mean one thing - another trip to the bookshop.
Yet somehow, I am not surprised when warm arms wrap around my waist from the back.
"Severus. Turn around."
I shake my head, but when strong hands spin me around, I allow them to. I think… I will always allow them to.
Potter's eyes are bright as they search my own.
"You're shaking," he says. "Are you... scared?"
Of course I'm not. I'm terrified. I shake my head again, trembling like a leaf from head to foot.
Those marvellous eyes crinkle just a tiny bit at the corners as if they can see my thoughts laid bare. They should be able to; my Occlumency shields, strong enough to withstand Albus' piercing gazes and Voldemort's vicious probing, lie in pieces at my feet.
"Don't be," Potter whispers.
"Why not?" I whisper back.
Potter smiles as though he has just found out about the donation I make to the Spinner's End orphanage every year on my birthday… or the tattered stuffed snake I keep under my pillow.
Utterly ridiculous, of course. My donations are always delivered anonymously in envelopes spelled with anti-tracking charms, while the House Elves would never breathe a word about Slither.
Potter reaches for my hands again, his intense emerald gaze never leaving mine. Then he starts to recite, his voice breathing life into magical words already carved within my heart:
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
I stand there and stare at him, irrevocably and irreparably spellbound, half blinded by inconvenient tears and rendered mute by my aching throat.
Potter just smiles and wraps his arms around my neck, reaching up to seal those immortal words with a kiss.
I allow him far too much liberty, this beguiling creature of man and boy, with his charm that knows no limit, his compassion that knows no bounds and his courage that knows no end. But I cling to the kiss because I have just realised two things with absolute, blinding clarity.
The first is that Potter loves me and I love him back.
The second is that while it is Potter who has a detention, it is I who am his to do as he wishes.
- Story End -