Worth Waiting For

by warviben

Summary: A student new to Hogwarts will change Snape's and Harry's lives in ways they could never have imagined.

Warnings: This fic contains detailed descriptions of sexual encounters. Some of them are hetero- and some are male/male/female. If this type of thing is not for you, I suggest you stop reading now.

Not really a warning (more a heads-up): There is an OC that plays a prominent role in this fic. I know that turns some people off. I don't like most of them myself, but you can't always control what ideas pop into your head and stay there until you accede to their demands that you write them down. I warn you so that if you absolutely hate OC's, you can stop now. If you're willing to give this one a chance, I can promise you lots of Harry/Snape interaction, because it's what I do.

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters (well, most of them anyway). If you're reading this, you likely know that.

Chapter 1

Five minutes into the DADA lesson, all sound ceased when the classroom door opened and Hogwarts' newest student walked in, late yet again. All eyes were upon her, including those of Professor Severus Snape, as she quietly took a seat in the back of the room, put her bag down, and removed her text book. She set the book on her desk and looked up, pointedly ignoring her classmates' curious stares.

"Page sixty-seven, Miss Talmadge," Snape said quietly. The pretty brown-haired girl opened her text to the stated page and stared down at it.

As Snape continued with his lesson, as though nothing had happened, half of the class, those that were Gryffindors, couldn't help but grumble silently at the unfairness of it all. Had one of them wandered into his classroom five minutes late (hell, five seconds late), they'd have lost House points and would likely be facing detention. Snape's newest Slytherin, like all those that had come before, was receiving special treatment. You'd think they'd be used to it by now, in their sixth year here, but it still grated. To be entirely fair to Snape, he wasn't the only one showing the girl special consideration.

Harry watched the new girl out of the corner of his eye. She'd been here a week, and he'd yet to hear her open her mouth. They shared three classes, which she routinely ghosted into minutes after each class had begun, garnering no words of reproach from any of their teachers, including McGonagall. No one seemed to know anything about her – where she'd come from, where her family lived, even her first name.

Harry turned his attention back to the front of the room before Snape caught him wool-gathering (which would assuredly earn him a detention), telling himself that this Slytherin was just like every other Slytherin – not worth the time.

Ten minutes later, he was proven wrong.

"Professor," Draco Malfoy drawled. "Potter's using a hex you specifically told us not to use."

"I am not!" Harry said, anger rising immediately. For reasons known only to Snape, he'd partnered Harry and Malfoy for this exercise. He'd had to know it would end like this – apparently he liked the two of them at each other's throats.

Snape swooped over immediately. "Potter," he said, his voice silky smooth, "it took you only," Snape consulted his watch, "nine and a half minutes to cheat."

"I did no such thing!" Harry said, his voice rising.

"But why would Mr. Malfoy say that you did?"

"Oh, I don't know – because he's a lying prat, maybe," Harry suggested.

"Tsk tsk," Snape said, shaking his head sadly. "Name-calling. How immature. Ten points from Gryffindor. And another fifty for cheating on the assignment."

"Fifty?" echoed the Gryffindor members of the class in outrage as the other Slytherins looked on with smug glee.

"He didn't do it," a voice said loudly from the back of the room.

Snape turned to the perpetually late student who always sat in the back. "Miss Talmadge, you would do well not to interfere in things you do not understand."

"What I understand," she said, her voice firm, "is that you've unfairly punished him for something he didn't do. I was watching. He used a jelly legs curse. That was all." Now that she was speaking, it was obvious to all that she had an accent – American, perhaps?

Snape stared her down. To her credit, she stared right back. The rest of the class watched in drop-jawed fascination.

"Miss Talmadge, I would advise you to be silent," Snape warned. Anyone else in the room, hell in the school, would have known to quit while they were ahead.

"Then give him back his points," she countered, not backing down an inch.

Those close enough to see a vein throbbing in Snape's temple backed away as far as they could from the seething potions master. Snape was unaccustomed to open defiance like this. "You and I will discuss your attitude tonight, Miss Talmadge. My office. Eight o'clock. Do not be late."

"I look forward to it," she said.

"Get back to it! All of you!" Snape snarled, turning his back on his troublesome new Slytherin.

##########

Harry waited outside the classroom, waiting for her, hoping Snape wouldn't come out instead. Finally, when the hallway was empty of others, she emerged, stopping short at the sight of him there. "Hello," she said.

"Hi," Harry said. "I'm Harry Potter."

"Tevis Talmadge," she returned.

"Can I walk you to your next class?"

"I have a free period."

"Me, too. Care to take a walk?"

"Outside?" she inquired.

"Sure."

The October air was crisp and cool as they walked beside the lake.

"I just wanted to thank you for what you tried to do in there," Harry said.

"I couldn't let that go without saying something. Why does that Malfoy boy hate you enough to lie like that? And why did Professor Snape believe him so quickly?"

"That's a long story," Harry told her. "We all go way back. Dislike has been mutual since the day we met. Since before we met with regard to Snape. Where are you from?"

The US," she said, "in case you couldn't tell by my accent. My father's an Air Force pilot. He was transferred to Lakenheath Air Force Base recently, which is how I ended up here."

"Did you attend a magical school back home?"

"Mm hmm," she confirmed. "The Southern California School of Magic."

"Not like here, I bet," Harry guessed.

"Not much," she confirmed. "The magic's the same, just some of the terms are different. Weather's much nicer there."

"Oh, just wait if you want to see bad weather," Harry said, thinking of Hogwarts in January.

"Great. Something to look forward to! And we didn't wear robes there. Too warm. I kind of hate these things," she said, shaking her robe. She'd tried to argue her way out of wearing robes when she'd come here, but Dumbledore had been insistent. She'd won the argument about writing with a quill, though. There was simply no good reason why a witch couldn't write with a pen.

"Do you play quidditch there?"

"No. We play broomball. It's like baseball on brooms. You know baseball?"

"A little," Harry said.

"I played outfield, so it's a little like you being a seeker." Harry was pleased that she seemed to know enough about him to know what position he played on the team. "And we played against other schools instead of houses. See, schools back home have a lot fewer students in them, but there are more schools. There are three in California alone. Most of the kids don't board – they commute from home. I boarded because of my dad. We had a house there, but he was gone a lot."

"So how did you travel? Can you apparate?"

"Floo," she said, not really answering his second question.

"Ah. What else is different?"

"Let's see." She thought for a moment. "It's an eight-year program of study, rather than seven. And the curriculum is more diverse – we have classes in American and World History, mathematics, literature. And fitting in in the Muggle world. There are no solely wizarding communities in the US, so it's important to learn how to live among Muggles without calling attention to yourself. And my school was just a school, not an old castle."

"Sounds a lot different," Harry noted.

"Mmm," Tevis agreed.

"Do you miss it?"

Tevis shrugged. "Some things I do. I really like this castle, though. I'd like to be able to explore it, all by myself. But I moved around so much when I was a kid that I never really got used to being any one place too long. Although I was at SoCal for two years, and I really did like it there."

"Where else have you lived?"

"Let's see, before Edwards Air Force Base, Dad was stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy. I went to school for two years there. Before that was Moron Air Base in Spain. Before that, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. There were brief stops along the way at Ramstein in Germany, MacDill in Florida, and Grand Forks in North Dakota. I think that's all."

"That's all?" To Harry, her life seemed exotic. He'd been to England and Scotland. Period.

Tevis shrugged. "The life of a military child."

They walked for a time in silence. Tevis stopped and grabbed Harry's berobed arm when the giant squid broke the surface of the water. "Jesus! I thought it was Nessie!" she breathed.

"Nah. Just the giant squid," Harry said, proud that Hogwarts had something this world traveler had never seen.

They resumed walking again.

"Tevis. That's an unusual name. How do you spell it?"

"T-E-V-I-S."

"Hmmm. I would have guessed that would be pronounced Tee-vis."

"Nope. Short 'e'. I think my mother made it up."

"Is your mom with your dad?"

"No. My mom died when I was five. Cancer."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Harry sympathized. "I'm also sorry you got detention because of me," he offered after a moment.

"Don't be. I didn't do it totally for you."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I did what I did for a couple of reasons. I couldn't just sit by and watch him be so unfair to you. I waited for someone else to speak up – your friends, other Gryffindors, someone – but when no one did, I had to say something."

"They all know it would have been pointless and would likely have made it worse. You should have been sorted into Gryffindor," he noted with a smile. "Foolishly jumping in to protect someone else is definitely not a Slytherin trait."

"I wasn't sorted. They put me in Slytherin because that was the house with the fewest students."

"Lucky you," Harry said drily. "You said there were a couple of reasons."

Tevis smiled shyly. "You wouldn't understand."

"I certainly won't if you don't tell me."

They walked for a moment in silence until Tevis finally said, "I have the gift of knowing."

"The gift of what?"

"You've never heard of it?" At Harry's head shake, she said, "I'm not surprised. It's pretty rare. Some call it Providentia. Sometimes I . . . know things about people. About their futures."

"Know things? Like what things?"

"Well, why don't I show you? Give me your hand." Tevis stopped, closed her eyes, and took hold of Harry's hand.

Harry Potter, appearing perhaps 40 years old, sits in a maroon velvet arm chair, a glass of red wine in one hand, beside a crackling fire. He is holding the Daily Prophet in his other hand, and he is reading. After a moment, he sets his wine glass on a small square table beside the chair and turns a page in the paper. Harry appears in good health and he seems content.

After several seconds of silence, Tevis let go of Harry's hand and opened her eyes. "The very first time I touch someone new, I get a . . . vision, for lack of a better word, about their future. A brief glimpse into their life. Sometimes it's fairly close in time, like tomorrow, or sometimes it's years in the future. Sometimes it's very hard to tell just when the vision is taking place. For instance, when I first touched Professor Dumbledore, I saw him stroking a large scarlet bird and feeding it some kind of treat."

"Fawkes," Harry said. "What did you see when you touched me?"

"I saw you, maybe twenty years from now, sitting in an armchair in front of a fire. You were reading the newspaper."

Harry waited for more, but there apparently wasn't any. "That's it?"

"That's it," Tevis said with a shrug. "I can't control what it shows me."

"And how accurate is this gift?"

Tevis shrugged again. "It's hard to say. The visions I've had are far enough in the future that they haven't been confirmed yet. I have a journal where I record every vision that I have. It's a magical journal, of course, and once a vision has actually happened, the date that it happens is magically recorded. My grandmother had the gift – it's hereditary – and she was never wrong. Every one of her visions came to pass, although some of them weren't confirmed until after her death."

"Well, it's comforting to know that I'll be alive twenty years from now," Harry said, wishing he could believe in what she was telling him. It really would be a comfort, if he could believe, to know that he would survive that long.

"Could be it's not exactly twenty," Tevis pointed out. "Looked like you were in your mid- to late-thirties."

"Well, I'll take nineteen, too," he said, smiling. "That's really cool, but I don't see how that has anything to do with your detention."

"This is the part you won't understand, I suspect. The first night I was here, when I was told that I'd be in Slytherin, the Headmaster took me down to the dungeon to meet Professor Snape. When I first met him, I . . . felt something."

"I know that feeling," Harry muttered, remembering how his scar had ached the first time he'd seen Snape on his first day here. Of course, it turned out his scar was reacting to the presence of Professor Quirrell, but still . . .

"It was a . . . connection . . . between us. This is going to sound strange. He's so much older than I am."

"Please don't say what I think you're going to say," Harry moaned. He closed his eyes, willing her not to confess what he so badly didn't want to hear.

"I think I fell in love with him right then," she said, as though he hadn't spoken.

Harry's stomach roiled as though it wanted to vomit.

"But it was more than that," she continued. "When he shook my hand, I saw."

"Saw what?" he asked when she didn't elaborate.

"I saw him, and me. We were eating dinner. There were candles on the table. And yellow flowers. He was holding my hand on top of the table. He said, 'Happy Anniversary, Darling'."

Okay. Now he was going to sick up. "But he's . . . so old, and he's . . . a teacher . . . He can't . . . He'd get . . ."

"I know all that," she said, as though Harry had spoken in completely sensible full sentences. "But it doesn't change what I saw."

"So are you going to tell him all this tonight?"

Tevis nodded. "Some of it."

"You're mad! He'll tear you to shreds! Please, Tevis, don't do this!"

"I have to," she said. "I don't want to hide it. He'll resist at first, of course, for all of the reasons you mentioned. But he'll come around eventually. I know he will. I saw it."

"Listen," Harry said. "I'm going to worry about you now. Can you meet me after your detention, so I'll know he doesn't kill you or hex you or expel you or something?"

"Won't you get in trouble for being out late?"

"I have an invisibility cloak. I can hide under it until you arrive. I'll meet you outside the Slytherin common room."

"Oh, I don't live there. I have a separate room on the fifth floor. Beside the prefect's bathroom. It's actually a suite of rooms."

Okay, now that really wasn't fair. "Why? And now that you mention it, why don't you ever get in trouble for being late to class?"

"I have enochlophobia."

"Is that another gift?"

Tevis snorted. "Definitely not. It's a fear of crowds. When Professor Dumbledore learned of my condition, he allowed me to be late for class. The teachers all know about it. I wait until the corridors are empty to go to class, and I stay behind for a few minutes until they're empty again at the end of the class. I eat breakfast before almost everyone else, and I eat lunch and supper after almost everyone else. And I get my own room." She'd been assigned a suite of rooms normally used by distinguished guests.

"That would be very convenient if you had a boyfriend," Harry noted wistfully, his own vague hopes in that regard crushed. "I mean a boyfriend who didn't already have his own office and rooms because he's a teacher!" Harry shuddered.

"You're very sweet to be concerned, but I'll be fine."

"I'll sleep better knowing you're okay. Can I meet you?"

"You can. Thank you, Harry. You're my first friend here."

"I hope I'm not your last," Harry said under his breath.

##########

Tevis knocked on Snape's office door and entered when he bid her do so. She closed the door behind her.

Snape did not look up. "You're early, Miss Talmadge. Please have a seat for a few minutes while I finish marking these papers."

Tevis sat on the edge of the chair in front of Snape's desk. She sat calmly for about ten seconds before she began to drum her heels on the floor. She either didn't see Snape's look of annoyance, or she ignored it.

"Miss Talmadge," he said sternly.

"Oh, sorry," she said, and stilled her feet. After another few seconds, she began to twirl her wand around her hand, like a baton, gold sparks shooting out in a large circle from the end. Again Snape looked up, annoyed.

"Miss Talmadge!" he snapped.

"Oh, right," she said, slapping her wand against her leg and ending the fireworks show. "Sorry."

"Sit quietly," he ordered and returned to his work.

Tevis did, for all of twenty seconds, then the multitude of interesting things Snape kept on his shelves became very compelling, and she got up and went to get a closer look at them. Snape spared her a glance, wondering if she was incapable of following a simple instruction, then turned his attention back to the horrid first-year essays. At least she was being quiet.

"Do these things have actual purpose, or do you keep them here to creep people out?"

"This will be completed a lot more quickly if you do not continually interrupt me!"

Tevis turned her attention back to the jars. A minute later, she said, "Is this a two-headed frog?"

Snape sighed in exasperation and tossed his quill down. Might as well get this over with. He needed a break from the essays anyway. The first-years seemed to get more and more stupid with each passing year. Or maybe he was getting older and less tolerant. No, they were definitely more stupid.

"Sit down, Miss Talmadge. I'd like to discuss your actions in class today."

Tevis sat on the edge of the seat again.

Snape steepled his fingers together and looked at her over the top of them. She looked right back with her large brown eyes.

"You're new here," Snape started. "So let me explain some things. Those of us in Slytherin pride ourselves on our unity. We are all brothers and sisters, and we do not turn on each other, especially in front of others, especially in front of Gryffindors."

"Well, first of all," Tevis said pleasantly. "I'm a Slytherin by name only. I was not sorted into your house, but placed there merely for the sake of convenience. Not one of your Slytherins has approached me in a friendly manner since my arrival here. In fact, they've all been rather cold. I don't know why that is. Perhaps they, like some back home, value a person's parentage more than that person's own merits. I cannot say. What I can say is that, so far, I've found no reason to be loyal to any of them."

Snape started to speak, but Tevis interrupted his interruption. "There's more. May I finish?"

Cheeky little thing, he thought, but he nodded his acquiescence.

"Secondly, I don't like bullies. And it seems clear to me that Malfoy is a bully. And so, I'm sorry to say, are you."

Snape was startled enough by this accusation to say, "Me? You think I'm a bully?"

"Yes, I do. You could have checked his wand, but you so obviously delighted in taking points from Harry on Malfoy's word, which was a lie by the way, and you took more points when he stood up for himself. You're in a position of power over him, and you're using it to humiliate and anger him, and there's nothing he can do about it. That's a bully."

"'Harry', is it?"

"Yes. He introduced himself to me after class. He's the first person to really talk to me since I got here. Part of that is my fault because I don't mingle, but there it is. He's very nice. He was worried about my coming here tonight."

"Indeed?" Snape said with a lift of his eyebrow. "And why would that be?"

"We'll get to that later."

Snape's eyebrow climbed higher. Who was running this detention – him or her?

"So where was I? Oh, yes. I don't like bullies. And Slytherin seems to have more than its share."

Snape stared at her over his large nose. "Anything else you wish to share about Slytherin?"

"Yes. I detest snakes. That's it."

Snape stared at her again. He couldn't figure this girl out. Most students were afraid of him, even those in his own house, especially when they were new to the school and to him. But this impertinent child hadn't shown one bit of fear or intimidation. He tried his very best sneer out on her, and she raised an eyebrow quizzically in return, appearing much more amused than frightened.

"Tell me, Miss Talmadge, did your former school encourage its students to disrespect its staff?" he asked.

"No, sir. They encouraged an open and free exchange of ideas. And they encouraged us to question everything. But it was done respectfully and appropriately. Why? Do you feel as though I've been disrespectful? If so, I apologize. That was not my intention. I merely stated what I saw in your classroom, as I assumed you didn't have enough eyes to see everywhere at once. I also assumed you would appreciate knowing if one of your students had wrongly accused another student. Obviously, I was wrong about that. Do you encourage your students to lie about one another?"

"No, of course not," Snape said defensively.

"Good. Then you've given Gryffindor back their sixty points, then?"

Snape stared at her again. This wasn't going at all the way it should be. He suddenly realized that she'd done the majority of the talking.

"Miss Talmadge, I'm beginning to think you belong with the Gryffindors. I shall speak with the Headmaster tomorrow about making Professor McGonagall your Head of House."

"I wish you wouldn't do that," she surprised him by saying.

"But why not? After all you've said, and how you apparently feel about Slytherins, I would think you'd welcome the transfer."

"It'll be easier to see you if you're my Head of House."

If he was surprised before, Snape was stunned now. "What?" he heard himself say.

"If you're my Head of House, it'll be easier for us to get together like this."

"But why would you . . .?" Snape was entering the realm of the stupefied now.

Tevis looked at him, a look of amusement mingled with pity. "You and I are going to have something special. I felt it the first night we met. It was like something slid into place, and everything finally made sense."

Snape thought his mouth might be hanging open, and he rubbed his jaw to make sure it wasn't. He finally realized what was going on here – she had a crush on him. He knew that some women (young ones, even) were attracted by a sense of mystery and darkness. Student crushes hadn't happened a lot to Severus Snape over the course of his career, but she certainly wasn't the first infatuated student he'd had to deal with. She was, however, the first one who had stated herself so abruptly and disconcertingly. Usually they mooned around until he figured out what was going on and scared them away.

"Miss Talmadge," he started firmly. She looked at him, her eyes wide and accepting, and he had the idea that she knew exactly what he was about to say and had already prepared counter-arguments. "You are . . . are all Americans this blunt?"

"I don't know, sir. I don't know all of them."

"You are . . . you seem to be . . ." Snape couldn't seem to put a coherent thought together. She smiled at his discomfort, which served to harden his resolve. "You will be transferred to Gryffindor tomorrow," he said, looking down at his desk and straightening the already neat stack of parchments there.

"If you think it's best," she said with a shrug. "You'll leave me no choice but to act up in your class so that you'll assign me detention."

"Why are you doing this?" he asked, running a hand agitatedly through his hair.

"Because you and I are going to have something special," she repeated.

"Are you insane?" he whispered. "We just met last week." Like that was the biggest impediment to what she was suggesting.

"Doesn't matter." She stood up and approached Snape behind his desk. He sat back, alarmed.

"Relax," she said with what she hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'm not going to jump you."

She sat on his desk, careful not to touch the stack of parchments he'd worked so hard to neaten. "Give me your hand," she requested.

"Miss Talmadge, this is . . ."

"Just give me your hand. What have you got to lose?"

Everything, Snape thought. My job. My self-respect, such as it is. My freedom.

"Oh for God's sake!" Tevis said, and she reached over and took Snape's left hand, holding it in her own. "Do you feel that?" she asked.

He stared at their hands. Dammit, he did! It was like an electric sensation, tingly but not unpleasant, flowing up his arm, much like what he'd felt when his wand had found him at the age of eleven. He'd felt it before, the night they were introduced, but he'd passed it off as an anomaly of some sort. He looked up at her now, his eyes showing the confusion he felt. "Is this some sort of spell you've cast?"

"No," she said, and he saw the truth of this statement in her eyes.

"What is it?"

"I'm not entirely sure," she admitted. "I felt it the other night, too. I was surprised you didn't. But it feels nice."

It did indeed, but there was no way Snape could admit that. He pulled his hand away, much later than he should have, and a small part of him was disappointed at the break in the contact that was so pleasant and very nearly sensual.

"Please, Miss Talmadge," he said sternly. "Return to your seat." If someone should come in now, and see her sitting on his desk like this . . .

Tevis did as he asked, convinced she'd made her point.

"You must see, Miss Talmadge . . ."

"Tevis," she interrupted.

"You must see, Miss Talmadge, that this is impossible for so many reasons."

"Name them."

All right. If he looked at this logically, argued it so, maybe his muddled brain would get in line. "You're sixteen, under the age of consent."

"I'll be seventeen in February. An adult here," she countered. "That's only five months from now."

"I'm old enough to be your father," he tried.

"Age means nothing if you don't let it and I don't let it. No one else matters."

"I doubt your father would feel that way," Snape noted.

"My father could be convinced, if he saw I was happy. You're only as old as you feel."

Right now, parts of Snape felt as old as Dumbledore, while other parts seemed to be revisiting his teenaged years. "Only the very young believe that tripe."

"You have more reasons. Let's hear them."

"You're a student. I'd lose my job."

"So we're discrete. We make sure no one finds out. I'd suggest waiting, but I've got another year after this one, and I don't think I can stay away from you that long."

Snape was beginning to feel just a little bit frightened. This child, and she was a child, he told himself firmly, had the power to ruin everything he'd been working years for with her apparent obsession. But what frightened him more was that he could still feel the dull buzz in his hand where she'd touched him, which was making him wonder if everything he'd worked for was worth more than the creature sitting before him now, apparently offering herself to him.

No. This was insane. "I think you should go now," he said, and he was pleased that his voice sounded steady when his insides were quaking so. "This detention is over."

Tevis stood up willingly. He'd listed his reasons for not doing this, and none of them were I don't find you attractive, or I simply don't want you. "Can we talk again soon?" she asked.

"I don't think that would be wise."

"Probably not," Tevis admitted. "But when I can't stand it any more, you'll know. And you'll have no choice." It could have sounded like a threat, but she'd said the words with certainty and warmth, which made them sound much more like a promise of good things to come. "But I should go now. Harry was going to wait for me, to make sure you didn't kill me, I think."

If he'd thought this situation couldn't get any worse, Snape was suddenly proved wrong. "You've told Potter about this?"

"Yes," she said. "He tried to talk me out of it."

"Probably the first sensible thing he's done since setting foot on these grounds."

"Be nice. You're on the same side on this issue. He might even be your ally."

Snape snorted in disbelief.

"Good night, Professor," Tevis said softly. And she was gone.

Snape sat back. What was he going to do? He had a sneaking suspicion that he was not going to go to Dumbledore and tell him what had happened and ask him to assign the girl to McGonagall, which was exactly what he should do. A small, wicked part of him told himself what he most likely would do tonight, when he was finally alone and in his bed, with the hand that still bore the traces of her touch.

##########

Tevis saw no one in the hallway as she approached her room, though that wasn't a surprise, as Harry had the invisibility cloak. Or maybe he'd decided not to come.

"Harry?" she said to the empty hallway just as she tripped over something unseen. She stumbled and fell to her hands and knees.

"Sorry!" Harry said hastily, pulling the cloak off. He'd been trying to read History of Magic. One really should never read History of Magic while lying, sitting or even slouching against a wall. "I fell asleep. Are you okay?" He got to his feet and helped Tevis up. "I'm really sorry. Did you hurt yourself?"

"No, I'm fine," she said, rubbing her achy palms.

"So how did it go?" Harry asked. "You obviously survived."

"Why don't you come inside? You don't want to get caught in the hallway."

Tevis led him into her room, and Harry looked around. He said, "Must be nice having your own room."

"I guess," she shrugged.

"You play?" he asked, picking up a guitar.

"Yes," she said. "Piano, too. Professor Flitwick says I can use his to practice. And you might not think it was so great having your own room if it was due to some stupid irrational fear."

"We can't control what we're afraid of."

"What are you afraid of, Harry?"

"Professor Snape," Harry said, sitting down on her bed. "What did he say?"

"Pretty much everything you did, yet surprisingly more eloquently."

"Not so surprising, that, really. So have you changed your mind then and decided to turn your affections to someone more appropriate, like say a certain Gryffindor who befriended you earlier today?" Harry tried out his best puppy dog expression, but apparently it wasn't very effective because Tevis only laughed.

She sat beside him on the bed and took his hand between both of hers. "When I did this to Professor Snape earlier, we both felt this . . . electric shock. I still feel it. From before, not from touching you," she said gently. "Sorry."

"He touched you?!"

"No. I touched him. I didn't give him much choice. He was a perfect gentleman."

"I'd be the last person to try to defend Snape, but you could get him into a lot of trouble."

"I know," she said softly.

"But you're still going to do this?"

"I have to."

"You know how I feel. I won't try to change your mind. But I'll be here for you, if you need me," Harry promised. And he was sure she would, because there was just no way Snape would get involved with a student. He had a lot of doubts about Snape's ethics, but on this one thing he was sure. Almost. And when the old bastard broke Tevis' silly young heart, as he surely would, Harry would be there to put the pieces back together.

Tevis rested her head on Harry's shoulder. "Thank you for being my friend, Harry Potter."

"Yeah, friend," Harry grumped. "Hey!" he said. "You mentioned you'd like to explore the castle when it was empty. There's a Hogsmeade visit this weekend. The castle doesn't get any emptier except for the holidays. Unless you have your heart set on going into the village, I could show you around. I have this great map. We could poke around a bit."

"That sounds great! I wasn't going into Hogsmeade anyway. I was given to understand that it's quite crowded there on student weekends. I'd love to go exploring with you!"

##########

"Potter. A word," Snape said from his office doorway. He'd been lurking there, impatiently waiting for the boy to pass.

"Is that an order or a request, Professor?" Harry asked. He suspected he knew what Snape wanted to talk about, and Harry didn't want to hear it. There was no way he wanted to be in the middle of this.

"Consider it whatever you want, so long as your feet take you inside my office."

Harry sighed in defeat and followed Snape inside.

"The door," Snape ordered. Harry shut the door. He stood before Snape's desk waiting for Snape to start.

And waited.

And waited.

"Did you want something, Professor?" he finally asked.

"Miss Talmadge tells me she has . . . confided in you about her . . . feelings," he said at last, not looking at Harry.

"She has," Harry confirmed.

"She also said you tried to talk sense into her."

"Tried and failed."

"As did I. I find myself in a precarious position. I should go to the Headmaster and tell him what has transpired. If I do, I fear Miss Talmadge will be expelled. And despite the frightening nature of her . . . obsession, I don't wish to negatively impact her education in that way. However, if I say nothing, I leave myself at risk. And I risk Miss Talmadge feeling as though by not reporting her behavior, I am somehow welcoming or encouraging it. Which I am most decidedly not."

"Rather muddled," Harry offered.

"Your grasp of the obvious is inspiring, Potter," Snape said with a nasty sneer.

"Did you want something from me?" Harry asked angrily. "Because I think insulting me is probably not the way to go about getting it."

Snape sighed, which was all the apology the boy was going to get. "I wish to limit the amount of time I am alone with Miss Talmadge, for obvious reasons. She's intimated that she's going to create situations where I will be forced to give her detention."

"You're asking me to get myself into detention with her?" Harry asked incredulously.

"That shouldn't be difficult for you," Snape said. "She seems to like you. You're already aware of the situation. Your interference might be tolerated by her." Snape continued stiffly. "And would be greatly appreciated by me."

Harry couldn't believe Snape was asking him for any favor, let alone this. "You could assign her detentions with Filch," he suggested. "That would deter her."

Snape had considered that as well, but the thought of that disgusting, grizzled old squib anywhere near Tevis . . . Miss Talmadge . . . was unsettling to him for reasons he didn't want to contemplate. "I considered that and thought better."

Harry had to admit to himself that he was glad about that. He didn't like the thought of Filch anywhere near Tevis either. He sighed loudly. If this had been solely for Snape's benefit, he would have said no. But if he could save Tevis from herself, it would be worth it. "All right," he said grudgingly. "But I'm doing this because I like her, and I think she's barking mad, going after you. She'll catch on to what I'm doing, sooner or later, though, and she'll object."

"Yes, I expect she will. And if you could linger with her, until she leaves Defense class. I know you have a free period following my class."

Harry shivered a little at the thought that Snape knew his schedule so well. Then he sighed again. This was going to be hell. And then he thought of something. "Had you heard of her gift, sir?"

"Her gift?" Snape repeated, confused.

"Yes. Have you ever known someone with that gift, or heard of anyone who has it? Because I'm not sure how much faith to place in what she says."

"Potter, I don't know what you're going on about. What gift?"

"She called it the gift of knowing. Providentia."

Snape seemed visibly stunned by this news. "She has the gift of knowing? She told you this?"

"Yes. She said her grandmother had it, too. I'm sorry. I thought she would have told you."

"No, she did not mention that." Snape seemed distracted by this news.

"So, is it real? She told me she saw me when I was old, like forty. So obviously, it would be nice to know that I'm going to survive that long. But it sounds like Divination, which quite frankly I think is a bunch of sh– rubbish. So I probably shouldn't put too much faith in it, right?"

Snape refocused on Harry now. "Providentia is to Divination like legillimency is to mind reading. Divination is an attempt to predict future events using tangible objects such as tea leaves, crystal balls, or even the stars. There have been very few actual seers in history but many who pretend to have the sight. Providentia is more like seeing a photograph of a moment in the future, gleaned by touching an individual. And those who possess the knowledge are more rare even than the true seer. You say her grandmother had it as well?"

Harry nodded. "That's what she told me."

"It is hereditary and almost always skips a generation. And far more witches have had the knowledge than wizards."

"But is it accurate?" Harry pressed. "Are these 'photographs' actual . . ." Harry was struggling with how to form his thoughts into a coherent question, and Snape hmmphed impatiently. "If Tevis saw me as a forty-year old, does that mean that I'll live to see that age?"

Snape stared down at Harry. "If Miss Talmadge does have the gift, you will indeed live to the ripe old age of forty. At least."

Pleasure coursed through Harry. He was going to live! Voldemort was not going to kill him! A dampening thought occurred. "Can something happen to change the photograph? Or is it set in stone?"

"I believe I'll be attending your fortieth birthday party, Potter. Assuming I reach the exceedingly advanced age of sixty-two."

Harry's smile lit up the room.

"Don't get cocky, Mr. Potter," Snape warned. "You have no context for whatever Miss Talmadge saw. Don't assume that just because you survive, your life is anything like you might picture it to be now. Perhaps all of your friends are killed in battle. Perhaps her vision was of you as the next Dark Lord. Or perhaps you were the current Dark Lord's over-aged catamite."

"What's a catamite?"

Snape stared at Harry, willing to boy to get it without his having to say the words out loud.

Harry did, slowly, and his smile disappeared. "Oh. Like his . . . oh. Yeah, that wouldn't be so good." Snape was right. Harry couldn't afford to take anything for granted. But he was going to live, at least!

Now Snape had a question. "Did Miss Talmadge . . . does her . . . obsession . . . is it based on something she's seen? Did she tell you?"

Harry considered how to answer that, then said, "I think she may have had her reasons for not telling you about that, and I'm going to have to respect that."

Even Snape's fearsome glare couldn't make Harry change his mind, and he stood up to go. "Anything else?"

"No. That will be all."

Harry waited. "So this appreciation you spoke of doesn't come in the form of a simple 'thank you'?"

"Thank you," Snape said, and it was as though two teeth had been extracted rather than two little words.

##########

They'd had a wonderful time exploring the castle, using Harry's map to avoid others and find new and interesting hallways and rooms that Harry had never seen. After lunch, they'd gone down to the quidditch pitch. Even slowed down by a borrowed school broom, Harry could tell that Tevis was an excellent flyer. He hoped no one in Slytherin found out – if they did, they'd be after her to join as seeker, and Gryffindor would be in serious trouble.

##########

Harry waited tensely in Defense Against the Dark Arts the following week – he really didn't want to spend tonight in detention. He'd been spending a lot of time with Tevis, and he enjoyed her company. He was glad he'd found her as a friend. Ron and Hermione were spending more and more time together alone of late, and Harry had begun to feel left out. Though his relationship with Tevis could apparently never be what Ron and Hermione had, she was turning into a pretty good friend. If only she didn't have this really weird and totally disgusting fascination with Snape.

Tevis had behaved herself to this point, sitting quietly in the back of the room beside Harry. Snape had been ignoring both of them, apparently hoping not to give her the chance to test him. That changed when the lesson was almost over.

Tevis redirected a hex Harry sent her way into Snape's desk, completely clearing the top of rolls of parchment, ink, quills, and books. Everyone turned to stare as the contents of the desk top clattered to the floor.

Snape bore holes into Tevis' eyes, knowing she'd done it on purpose, but she merely looked back at him, a picture of innocence and penitence.

"Miss Talmadge," Snape said, aware that all eyes were on him now.

"Sorry, Professor, that one got away from me," she said. "Looks like I could use a little extra practice."

Snape's shoulders slumped, just a little, in defeat, though Harry and Tevis may have been the only ones to notice. "Perhaps a little remedial blocking practice would not be remiss. Bring Potter with you. He could use the practice as well."

Harry's look of outrage was genuine. His spell-blocking was just fine, thank you!

"Thank you, sir," Tevis said gratefully. Harry felt an overwhelming desire to kick her in the shin.

While the others packed up at the end of the lesson, Harry and Tevis hung back. Ron made as though to wait as well, but Hermione dragged him away with a meaningful backward glance between Harry and Tevis. It was clear what she thought was going on with the two of them. If you only knew, Hermione, Harry thought, you wouldn't be looking at me that way.

"I will see you both at eight," Snape said when they finally left the room.

"You don't have to come, Harry," Tevis said as soon as they were in the quiet hallway.

"Oh yes, I do," Harry contradicted. "Snape told me to. Last week. He's afraid of you."

This news seemed to please Tevis. "Oh," she said quietly with a small smile.

"He's afraid he'll lose his job if you don't drop this stupid obsession. He wants witnesses." Harry wasn't feeling particularly generous toward her right now and didn't even try to mince his words.

Tevis snorted in amusement. "Does he think I'm going to attack him? I just want to spend some time with him and get to know him."

"And this is your grand plan for getting him to fall in love with you?" Harry asked skeptically.

"Eventually," she said.

"You're deranged. This can only end badly," he warned.

##########

Tevis knocked eagerly on Snape's door. He opened it, but before they could enter, he said, "Potter, would you mind staying here for a moment? There's something I need to discuss with Miss Talmadge."

"But I thought . . . fine! If that's what you want!" Harry huffed. What was he even doing here?

"Just stay there in the door," Snape instructed. He invited Tevis to sit in the chair in front of his desk, then crossed behind it. He waved his wand, casting a muffliato spell, so Harry could see them but not hear what they were saying.

"Miss Talmadge," Snape began. "Potter told me about . . . your gift. I wanted to ask if your obsession with me is based on something you may have seen by way of that gift."

Tevis looked up at him. "Partly on that, partly on the way I felt when I touched you."

"What did you see?"

"I'd rather not say."

Snape let that sit there. In his experience with people, especially teenagers, especially female teenagers, if you let silence reign long enough, their unsuppressible need to fill it eventually took over and you'd hear what you wanted to hear. This apparently was not a typical teenaged girl, because after two full minutes of silence, she hadn't offered any additional insight.

"Why not?" Snape finally gave up and asked.

"Because I don't want you to feel as though you have no choice about this."

"Even if I haven't?" Snape asked. If she'd actually seen the two of them together, Snape was doomed, given the nature of her gift. But if what she'd seen was open to interpretation at all, as Potter's vision had been, there might still be a way out of this.

Tevis looked away. She knew what she'd seen and she knew what it meant. There was no escape. But she didn't want him to feel trapped. "I'd like you to want me because you want me, not for something I've seen. I know your reasons for keeping your distance, and on one level, I respect them. But on another level, I know that what I feel when I touch you . . . that's never happened with any other vision I've ever had, and it's clear to me what it means. And I think it's clear to you, too, though you don't want to admit it."

Snape had actually done some research into that phenomenon and had been shocked to discover that the tingling they felt when touching was likely due to the fact that their magic was sympathetic. This peculiar sharing of magic was rare enough that Snape had never heard of it, but it was documented in several different sources in Hogwart's library. The symptoms were clearly spelled out and mirrored what Snape had experienced when this rather unusual young woman had touched him.

Snape had never known a teenager like this one. She was calm and collected, marshaling her points coolly in an argument she couldn't win, bending logic and reason to her will or ignoring them altogether when they didn't suit her. She'd come into his office a week ago practically demanding that he fall in love with her. And to his never-ending surprise, he'd begun to obey.

"Miss Talmadge, I think you're making a huge mistake."

"I know you do. I suspect if I took a vote of everyone in this castle, mine would be the only vote against me being a complete nutter, as you people here say. But the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants you. I could have gone sneaking around trying to get close to you, but I wanted you to know, right up front, what was going on."

"What is it that you want me to do?" he asked helplessly.

"Just spend some time with me. Just the two of us. Without our little chaperone. Tell people you're getting me caught up. I'm a transfer student – that'll be easy to believe."

Objectively, Snape knew this was a lousy cover story. Her magic was strong, as it usually was in those with her gift, matched in sheer power in her class only by Potter. And from what he could tell already, she was an exceptional student, clearly much too bright for her own good, in the realm of that annoying Granger girl. She simply didn't need extra help. But the fact that he was looking for flaws in her cover story, rather than denying the need for one, told him he was in very deep trouble.

"I promise I won't throw myself on you and drag you to the floor," Tevis said solemnly. "Unless you want me to," she added. "And if you knew just how sexy I think you are, you'd know how much self-restraint that's going to take."

Sexy? Oh now that was just going too far. "Miss Talmadge . . ."

"Tevis," she corrected.

"This is going to end badly," he predicted. "Definitely for you, most likely for both of us."

"So I've been told. But I don't believe it," she said softly.

"Tell me what you saw."

"No."

Well, she'd left him with little choice. Snape stared into her eyes, boring his way into her mind. Or he tried to anyway. She cast him aside without so much as breaking a sweat.

"Did you know that those with the gift of knowing are also born with natural occlusion shields?" she asked conversationally. "They don't even have to be erected – they just are. Can't have everyone we touch stealing our visions, can we?"

Snape had not known that. He was slightly embarrassed to have been caught trying to enter her mind, and more than a little mortified to have failed so spectacularly. He waved his wand and removed the silencing spell. "You can go now," he growled. "Both of you!"

Tevis could see that he needed her to go, and she didn't argue. "You'll think about those extra lessons, Professor?" she asked softly.

Snape inclined his head once in answer.

##########

When Snape didn't provide her with an answer to her request for "extra lessons" after what she felt was a reasonable time period (one week), Tevis began to deliberately misbehave in class to earn herself detention a couple of times a week. Invariably, Harry found himself dragged by Snape into whatever mischief Tevis got up to and earned himself detention as well. Without sending her to Filch, Snape set out to make the experience as horrible as possible in an effort to end this silly charade.

It seemed to have no effect on Tevis. She made no complaints about the lines he set her to write (with a quill). She willingly minced flobberworms and actually seemed interested when he made her gather giant slug mucus for the potions he continued to brew for Poppy Pomfrey. (The mediwitch strangely didn't seem to trust the new potions instructor like she did Severus.) Tevis hummed to herself when he made her scrub the classroom floor with a brush, and then sang under her breath while cleaning desks. Nothing he made her do seemed to deter her interest in spending time with Snape.

Harry made it plain from the start that although he had agreed to get himself into detention, he had no intention of actually performing the punishments he had not earned, and he sat quietly doing homework while she worked.

Snape finally realized that detention wasn't working and wouldn't work unless he sent her to Filch, or even Hagrid. He knew she'd stop being cheeky in class if she were forced to perform her detentions with someone else, but he couldn't make himself do it. So he came up with Plan B and offered her the "extra lessons" she'd requested.

They began to meet a couple of nights each week in his deserted classroom. Anyone else unlucky enough to earn detention during this time from Professor Snape was sent to Filch.

And Snape began hexing her with every nasty legal curse he could think of. He'd briefly explain a block to her, then set about throwing hexes her way that she had no business knowing how to block. He gave her boils, turned her hair green and her skin orange, transformed her feet into a duck's webbed feet, and knocked her down more times than she could count.

And at the end of each session, he refused to heal her cuts and bruises, or cure whatever nasty condition he'd inflicted on her, or change back whatever he'd managed to transfigure, and he warned her that if she went to the hospital wing, Madame Pomfrey would likely go to Dumbledore, thus ending these lessons. So Tevis had to find a counter-curse or heal herself when he was through with her.

Harry attended most of these sessions with her and sat fuming at Snape's treatment of Tevis. Part of him thought maybe Tevis was getting exactly what she deserved for being so foolish as to want to attach herself to someone as vile as Snape, but the part of him that had hated Snape for years wanted to curse him back.

He couldn't hold his tongue any longer the night Snape sent Tevis tumbling over two rows of desks.

When she didn't get up, Harry ran to her side and dropped to his knees. She was bleeding from cuts to her forehead and lip, and she appeared to be unconscious.

"Could you take it easy on her?" Harry growled.

Snape swooped over and stood peering down at them. "I thought I was supposed to be discouraging her foolish obsession?"

"It would be nice if you didn't kill her in the process!"

"Tsk!" Snape snorted. "Ennervate!"

Tevis opened her eyes and blinked up at the ceiling.

Snape looked down at her, his eyes cold. "That was quite pathetic, Miss Talmadge," he said, his voice as cold as his eyes. "Perhaps you should go now and not come back until you're better prepared." And he turned on his heel and left them with a swirl of his robe.

##########

For the next two weeks, Tevis stopped attending extra lessons and saw Professor Snape only in class, where she spoke not one word to him. After the first week, Snape wondered why. And after the second week, he began to worry. Had he gone too far? Had he hurt her feelings when he'd called her pathetic? Had he actually hurt her, physically? Had she accepted his suggestion that she not return until she was prepared to perform a block that was at least two years beyond her ability? Had he finally succeeded in pushing her away? Of course, this was exactly what he wanted, wasn't it? Had she perhaps found someone more worthy of her time? Someone like Potter?

The more he thought about it, the more he wondered. And the more he wondered, the more he felt certain that he just had to know, until he couldn't stand it any longer.

##########

Assuming it was Harry knocking on her door, Tevis called, "Come in!" She continued to work away at the essay she was writing for Potions entitled, "Six Uses of Reconstituted Gnat's Blood in Repellant Potions."

The door had opened, but no one had entered. "Do you not ascertain who is calling before you invite guests in?"

Tevis dropped her pen and turned around. "Professor Snape! I thought you were Harry!"

"Dear me," Snape noted dryly. "Mistaken for Potter. This is, quite frankly, the low point of my life."

Tevis smiled and stood up. "Would you like to come in?"

Snape stepped warily into the room, as though he expected to be set upon by . . . what, exactly? "I came because I realized that you have an American holiday approaching."

"Yes," Tevis confirmed. "Thanksgiving."

"Obviously, that particular holiday is not celebrated in this part of the world. I wanted to be sure you were aware that the house elves will provide you with whatever you desire in terms of a meal, on that day. I believe turkey is traditional?"

Tevis nodded.

"We need only tell them."

"Well, that's very kind of you," Tevis said with a warm smile. "Thank you."

"You're quite welcome." Snape looked around her room. It was tidy, with books stacked where they belonged and clothing put away and the few personal items neat and orderly. "Have I interrupted you?"

"No. I was just working on an essay for potions."

"Ah, potions. Do you require any assistance? I've a background in potions."

Tevis smiled again. "I'd heard that. I've only just begun, but would you like to read what I have so far?"

"If you think it would be beneficial," Snape offered.

Tevis handed the parchment over. As she'd only written three paragraphs, it didn't take Snape long to read it. As with most of her written work, it was neat, well-ordered, and logically thought out. "Very acceptable beginning," he said when he handed it back.

"Thank you." What was "acceptable" for Snape was likely to merit an "exceptional" from Slughorn.

"How have you been?" Snape inquired. "I have seen very little of you outside of class." And lest she think he was personally interested, he added, "As your Head of House, I feel it is my duty to ensure that you are getting along adequately."

"Of course," Tevis said with a knowing grin. "I've been fine. Very . . . adequate."

"Excellent. So there's no particular reason that you've been kept away from your . . . evening visits?" He was fishing, and they both knew it.

"No. No particular reason. I've just had more than an average amount of homework lately."

"Ah, well. That must, of course, come first."

Tevis nodded her agreement. "I anticipate that the work load will be lightening somewhat now."

"Good," Snape noted. "That your load will be less burdensome, that is. I look forward to that occurrence."

"So do I," Tevis said softly, understanding that he meant he was looking forward to the resumption of their regular contact, even if he couldn't say it. He was inviting her back, and he'd come tonight to find out why she'd stopped coming in the first place. She was happy enough to sing, but she carefully kept her expression neutral.

"Oh," he said, as though just remembering. "I found these outside your door. Do they belong to you?" From beneath his robe, Snape pulled out a small bundle of delicate yellow flowers and held them out to her. It was a small lie, as lies went, and Tevis saw right through it. She had a difficult time not melting into a puddle of goo – he'd brought her flowers!

"Why, yes," she managed to say. Breathing was just a bit more difficult now than it had been a moment ago. "They are mine. I'm so happy you've found them."

When Tevis reached out to take the flowers, her hand brushed against his, sending an electric shock coursing through both of them. "Thank you," she breathed, looking up at him.

She was standing much too close to him, Snape thought. So close that if he just bent down a little, he could touch his lips to hers with little effort. He actually started to move in that direction before he caught himself. "You should probably go," he whispered. "It's getting late."

Tevis looked up at him, her eyes locked on his, reading the struggle he was having with himself. "You're in my room," she quietly pointed out.

"Yes, of course," he agreed. "Then I should go." He tore his gaze from hers and backed up a step. "I hope to see you soon."

"I think you can count on that," she promised.

"Good night, then," he said, back in full professor mode. He walked to the door only to find Harry standing there, ready to knock. "Potter," he said curtly as he strode past the astonished boy.

"Professor," Harry managed to finally say, though Snape was halfway down the corridor by now. Then to Tevis, "Where'd you get the flowers?"

##########

And the extra lessons resumed. Now that Tevis was sure that Snape had missed her presence, she upped them to three times a week. And amazingly enough, she began to successfully block the hexes that Snape was throwing at her, almost as though she'd known how all along but was pretending not to for some strange, feminine, strategical reason. Tevis dragged Harry into the practice sessions now, and he began to learn the blocks as well. Tevis was thirsty for knowledge, and even Harry was an eager student when the subject appealed to him, and they both soaked up whatever Snape chose to teach them.

As they worked, they began to talk. Well, mostly Tevis talked, but as time went by, Snape began to more actively participate. He found her to be a surprisingly adequate conversationalist. She'd traveled extensively with her father, to places Snape had only read and dreamed about, and their evenings together passed much more quickly than he could have ever imagined.

And if a small part of Snape worried about the closeness than seemed to be developing between him and his student, he silenced it by telling himself that he hadn't crossed any lines by helping an advanced student to reach her full potential and that they were (almost) always chaperoned. So he wasn't doing anything wrong, right?

Harry had been spending a lot of time with Tevis, in the extra sessions, in her room, sometimes out on the grounds. Of course, people were talking, and Harry and Tevis let them, Tevis because it diverted everyone's attention away from her burgeoning relationship with Snape, and Harry because of the doubt he was beginning to feel about himself.

One evening, when they were supposed to be studying, Harry was having difficulty concentrating. Eventually, Tevis noticed that he was still on the same page of his textbook after twenty minutes, and she closed her own book.

"Harry, is everything okay?"

Harry looked up at her, then quickly back down at his book. "Sure. It's fine."

He could feel her continuing to stare at him, and finally he looked up again. "What?"

"I can tell something's bothering you. I see it in your eyes. Talk to me."

Harry closed the book and tossed it aside. "It's . . . kind of embarrassing."

"Harry, I've confessed my love for our aged professor to you. Surely there's nothing you can't say to me."

Harry considered for a moment, wondering if he could articulate the questions inside himself, if he could trust her to keep this to herself, trust her not to judge. He took a deep breath and plunged in. "I had a dream last night. In this dream . . . I was . . . with another bloke." The dream had thrown him for a loop. He'd woken up hard, his hand wrapped around his cock, and he'd brought himself to a furious and silent climax. What was wrong with him?!

"Harry, are you wondering if you're gay?"

Harry couldn't look at her. He shrugged. "I mean, it was only a dream, right? It doesn't have to mean anything."

"Do you think it meant something?"

"I don't know! That's why I've been so . . . distracted."

"Who was the other guy in the dream?"

"I dunno. I only ever saw his . . . I didn't see his face." Harry could feel his face coloring.

"Harry, it's nothing to be embarrassed about. If you are or you aren't, it's okay either way. And it might just have been a dream."

"But how do I know for sure?" He raised his eyes to her now, and she could see the anguish there.

"Maybe you can't," she said gently. "Maybe you can't, until you do a bit of experimentation. Let me ask you this – have you ever had a similar dream about a girl?"

"No," he said miserably.

"And how did the dream make you feel?"

"I felt . . . I don't know how I felt." He did, but he wasn't sure he could bring himself to describe it.

"Did the dream arouse you?"

"Yes," he said, his eyes cast down.

"And does the fact that you were aroused bother you?"

"You mean after I finished wanking?" he asked, his face flushed. "Yes! I was disgusted!"

"Okay," Tevis said, calmly and reasonably. "I'm going to ask you a question, and I don't want you to think about the answer. Can you do that?" Harry nodded. "Close your eyes." He did so. "Now remember, no thinking. Blurt out whatever jumps into your mind. Ready?" Again, Harry nodded. "If the other guy in your dream last night could have been anyone, who would you like it to be?"'

"Michael O'Sullivan," Harry answered immediately, then dropped his face into his hands. "Oh my God! I'm gay!"

"Who is Michael O'Sullivan?"

"He plays chaser for the Chudley Canons." And he was tall and muscular and blonde. Harry moaned into his hands.

"Harry," Tevis said quietly, pulling his hands away from his face. "Stop it. It's not the end of the world."

"Not your world maybe! But wait until the wizarding world finds out their hero is a flaming . . ."

"Harry Potter!" Tevis interrupted sternly.

"Oh, and wait until Uncle Vernon finds out about this! Everything he ever thought about me will be confirmed."

"Harry, slow down. You don't even know that it's true. And even if it is, don't hide yourself out of fear of what others will think. Look at me." When Harry did, she continued, "Do you think that when word finally gets out about Snape and me that people won't say things? Not to him. An older man hooking up with a younger woman is admired. A young woman loving an older man is . . . well, that's just different."

Harry shook his head, at his own doubts and at her dogged insistence that there would be a "Snape and me" for the public to comment on. "But how do I know?" he asked again.

"Experimentation," she said. "Careful experimentation."

Harry sighed. "I can't do that here."

"No, probably not," Tevis conceded. "Not with other guys anyway, not if you're worried about word getting out. But girls . . . that shouldn't be a problem."

"No? What if I can't . . .you know, what if I'm not attracted to them and I can't . . . perform. What if they shout that from the rooftops?"

"You just need to choose the right girl."

Harry snorted. "I've heard girls talking to each other. Nothing is sacred. How would I know I could trust them?"

"You trust me," she said quietly.

Harry looked at her, comprehension of what she was offering dawning on him slowly. "You'd do that?"

"If it would help."

To be continued . . .