Chapter fifty-three: Taking It Slow.

"Y-you want me to… move in with you?" Harry asked, blinking.

Severus nodded. "Unless, of course, you have plans on staying elsewhere?"

"No!" shouted the Gryffindor almost too eagerly. "No… I'd really like that." Hell, he hadn't really had anywhere to stay this whole year of his own anyway. First he'd stayed at the Weasleys, and then he stayed with Snape at Spinner's End. When the year ended? He imagined he'd be shoved back to the Dursleys and just… he couldn't face that again.
"You mean… I wouldn't have to go back to that place? Ever again?" he asked, as if it was an epiphany, and yet like it was the most wonderful thing in the world.

"Harry, I couldn't possibly send you back there knowing what the Dursleys have done to you in the past," said Snape. Those marks would always be on Harry's body now, and the thought made him want to poison every one of those sick Muggles.
"I was not sure what the extent of the Weasley home was, so I thought that if you wished to move in with me… the offer is there."

Harry swallowed excitedly. "I'd love nothing more," he mused. "When would this be? Do you have any ideas? Is the other house sold, or-?"

Severus put a hand up. "All this will be going on during the next few weeks. Of course, you are to keep up with your studies, but I will collect a few papers and we could look through them together. As for how quickly, well, we still have Hogwarts to stay in, and Spinner's End is yet to be sold. The money from that would help us with the costs of a new place."

Severus seemed to have it all figured out, but Harry would be there if he needed anything. The good thing about magic was no need for moving vans or anything like that. Everything could be easily moved into a new place, so he wouldn't really have to worry about that.
"I like the sound of that," he smiled. Especially after what had happened with the Dursleys this year. All he'd hear from his aunt and uncle would be how foul his relationship with Snape was. He was gay. He liked an older man. And… the older man who happened to know his aunt and mother… He could just imagine it.
No, getting away was the best thing for him, and it was also the best thing for his relationship with Severus.

"Good," Snape said, a sense of relief going over him. It wasn't an easy choice, nor was he expecting such an eager Potter. He thought that perhaps it was moving too fast, or that he'd just be rejected. Harry may not have been ready for something like this and he honestly wasn't expecting himself to be either. But here they were, discussing moving in together. It was a huge step in their relationship.
"You best get back to your common-room. The pass I gave you is just about out of time. If McGonagall catches you staying behind, she may not give us that option in the future."

Harry didn't think he'd ever get used to the fact that they could no longer sleep in the same room anymore since school was back on. The move to a new house—their house—was certainly sounding better and better within the seconds.
"I can't stay? Just this night? Professor McGonagall doesn't have to know, you know?" he said, looking up to the dark eyes.

Severus just smirked. "We haven't gotten into enough trouble to fulfil your Gryffindor needs yet?" he asked with a quirked brow.

Harry just gave a soft chuckle. "Alright. I'll see you in class tomorrow." He approached Severus and moved into him. "Thank you for the offer."

Wrapping his arms around the younger wizard, Severus just took in the scent and magic of the other before they said goodnight and Harry left.

The following day, Severus had made it clear to keep an eye on Malfoy. During the morning, Draco had been quiet, barely touching his food. Even if Draco had changed, he was still quieter than his usual snarky self—especially when it came to the class which had both him and Harry.
First, his attention was on his class. Second, his attention was on the two younger wizards. Harry was now a very high priority to him, and so when he realised he was acting oddly in class, he wanted to ask what was wrong in private. At the same time, this would miss an opportunity with Draco to speak with him after class. He didn't wish for the both of them to be waiting behind. No doubt Potter would find his way into his office during the night sometime, though. He decided that Draco could stay back.

"What's gotten into you today?" asked Hermione, "You seem distracted."

Harry moved uncomfortably at his seat. "I think it's just the bond playing up," he said, hoping she wouldn't ask anything else. He tried to subdue a serious blush considering his trousers were beginning to feel horribly tight. First it was his scar acting up for years on end, and now it was something else. He didn't need this!

Harry had told her all about Snape's offer last night and that he was offering for Harry to move in with him. She thought it was spectacular! He'd also informed her of how the night with Malfoy had gone. She was surprised. He'd turned into a real adult, so it seemed.
She'd also noticed that Malfoy hadn't been as snappy as he once was. Or rude. Or… anything, really. Actually, he'd turned quiet. Perhaps it was because of his parents—which Harry has also informed her of.
She'd be lying if she said she didn't feel a little bit sorry for him. They'd all changed in the last few years, and that meant Malfoy, too. However, that hardly made her wish to be friends with him.
"Why don't you go talk to Professor Snape about it?"

"What!?" Harry almost gasped. No way! Not here! Not in class! It was annoying enough when Snape came to inspect their work (when they were doing practical lessons) and the others started staring at them, as if they were waiting for something to happen.
No, if he got up and started asking Severus personal questions in class? Well… no. There was no way he would. Especially not now, anyway. He was trying to sit the best he could without bringing too much attention to himself.
The bond was killing him, though! He didn't know why it was playing up, nor did he understand why it was affecting him so much more than Snape. Surely if he was feeling this frustrated, then Severus was suffering, too, right?
"It's fine," he mumbled, "I'll just talk to him after tea. I'm sure he's got other things to do." He put on a smile so Hermione wouldn't bother him again, and the rest of the lesson was long and painful.
At the end of the lesson, Harry almost stayed back, but when he saw Severus walk towards Malfoy, he decided against it. Hermione gave an odd look, asking what was going on between them, but he just shrugged. He hadn't a clue, so he left.

"Mister Malfoy, could I have a word with you?" Snape asked, the boy looking up.

Draco nodded, though standing from his desk and slinging his bag over his shoulder.

"It is about your… father," Severus stated, putting his hands together.

Draco tensed a little as he leant against the station. "I suppose you know he wasn't there last night," he said softly. "Father's no longer staying with us. What he did to the family is no secret. Mother tried to forgive him, and I did, too. I still love my father, but…"

When Malfoy trailed off, Severus nodded. His feelings for Lucius had not been positive in a long time. He put his family in grave danger. He made his child a servant to the Dark Lord. Draco would bare the same mark as he would for the rest of his life—and there was no forgiving that.
Severus put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Your mother cares deeply for you. I care for you," he stated. "If you need someone to talk to, or to listen to, you know where to find me." It wasn't the first pep talk they'd had.

For a moment, Draco didn't say anything, but he did nod, swallowing gently. "How do you live knowing that you're scarred for the rest of your life?"

Severus removed his hand and stood back up. "We've both made serious mistakes, Draco-,"

"Mine wasn't by choice," said the younger Slytherin. "My father put this one on me," he sneered, rubbing his left arm. "I never wanted any of this! So I didn't like Potter when I came here, but I never really supported You-Know-Who!"

Severus knew that. Draco had been forced into this due to his name and the loyalties of his father—or perhaps the cowardice.
"Are you going to sulk about it like a child?" he asked, raising a brow. Draco's blue eyes shot up at his own, a look of confusion and angst spread across his face. He knew Draco would never give him the satisfaction, and he approved of that. They were Slytherin.

"No…" muttered Malfoy, "I'm not sulking."

Severus smirked. "Of course you're not. The Mark is going to stay on your arm, Draco, for the rest of your life—as is mine. However, this does not define who we are today and what we will become in the future. Do you have any plans for your future?"

Looking back up, Draco shrugged a shoulder. "Sort of. I haven't told Mother yet… I don't know what she'd make of it."

That made Severus curious. "Oh?"

Leaning back, Draco huffed. "I'd like to become a healer."

Now that was surprising. After all the younger wizard had been through, and after everything his father had taught him—as well as him as a professor and family friend. A healer wasn't exactly what he pictured Draco to be.

"I'd like to give something back, you know?" said the blonde. "After all the… death and gore I've seen in the last few years… I think it's right."

"That's very selfless of you," stated the professor, the pride in his voice hidden. He was proud of Draco, though. He had been a spoiled rotten little kid—but that was hardly his fault. His father made him cruel, and Draco was trying to redeem himself. He knew exactly how that felt. To make mistakes and want to make them better. The truth was, the both of them could never take back what they had done and caused, but that didn't mean there was no hope for them in the future, and Draco was a very bright Slytherin. He would make an excellent healer.
"You would make for an excellent healer. Your mother would be more than proud," he said gently, putting a hand back on Draco's shoulder to pat him.

Malfoy's lips creased into an awkward and somewhat embarrassed smile. He wasn't expecting the praise for something as selfless as this. He was used to his father giving him a pat on the back for something cruel.

"You may go," Snape informed as he stood up straight.

Gripping his bag once more, Draco nodded. "Thank you," he said oddly before he headed out the door.
He was headed back to the Slytherin common-room when he heard footsteps and then saw a familiar face jump before him. He stopped in his tracks with an annoyed expression.

"I know what you're doing, Malfoy."

Granger. Malfoy scowled. "What are you on about?" he asked, pushing past her. What the bloody hell was she even talking about? She knew nothing! And why would that be important anyway. It wasn't like he was hiding anything… Especially from Granger.

Quickening her pace, Hermione stopped in front of the blonde once more and pointed a finger at him. "I know you don't like Harry, but I won't have you putting his relationship with Professor Snape in jeopardy just because you don't like it."

Malfoy raised a brow. "Get out of my way, Granger."

"Not until you know what's good for you," the Gryffindor threatened. She'd punched him before and she could do it again.

"I have no quarrel with Potter's relationship, Granger. What is your problem?"

"Then what was that about?" she said, pointing back to the dungeons classroom. "Don't play stupid with me, Malfoy. We all know you rarely stay back in class. Harry told me about the other night, so don't even try to pretend it didn't happen. I know he went over to your place, and now you're talking to Snape in private? They're happy, can't you see that? And they deserve to be."

By this time, Malfoy was highly irritated. Of course Potter blabbed his mouth open. "Like I said, Granger, I have no problem with a relationship as long as it's solid. I've known Professor Snape since I was just a little wizard, so don't think I don't know him well enough to know when he's happy and when he's not. If I were you, I'd be threatening Potter, not me. How many bad relationships has he been in? Seems like none of them last."
He nudged her shoulder harshly so she'd get out of his way and moved past her to continue on his way.

As Malfoy walked away, Hermione's brow furrowed. Typical Malfoy. Always throwing insults at someone else. She frowned, though, as she watched him walk down the dark corridor. Like she'd believe a Snake, but he didn't seem very phased at all about their relationship. She would have thought he would be more distraught over the whole thing… Even when the news came out, he never once said anything out of line like the other Slytherins had.
Shaking her head, she stormed back out of the dungeons to find Harry.

*****
"You really shouldn't have said anything," Harry said uneasily. The last thing he wanted was another fight between him and Malfoy. Especially if he was going to be hanging around more often.

Hermione put her fork down as dinner was on in the Hall. "I don't trust him," she said shortly.

Well it wasn't like Harry did, either. "Malfoy was at least pleasant with me when I was there. I wouldn't start anything with him. If he's acting weird, it's probably because his family, not because he's trying to break me and Snape up."

Hermione couldn't just let it go, though. Malfoy had always been up to something bad. She supposed it had been different back then, but still. She felt uneasy over the whole thing. It was bad enough the public, but someone like Malfoy getting between it all?
"Well, I'd still be careful. It's not like you're best friends with him, you know? He could be doing anything behind your back."

Harry just rolled his eyes. It seemed no matter what he said, Hermione would still be bothered by the presence of Malfoy hanging around. But she'd better get used to it, because Severus and the Malfoys had been involved since before they were even born. He doubted anything was going to change that.

*****
After dinner, Harry did the usual and made his way down to the dungeons. Hermione had him a bit concerned over Malfoy, now. Was she just overreacting? Was she just being overprotective? He didn't really think Malfoy was out to sabotage his relationship with Severus, but he was now curious to what exactly they did speak about after class.
Opening the door to Snape's office, he stepped inside. Snape didn't seem surprised to see him, so he headed over to the desk. "Professor," he smirked in acknowledgement as Severus put his quill down.

"Potter," stated the Slytherin, "what have I done to earn such a privileged visit?" Snape's voice dripped sarcasm, but there was a definite pleasure within.

Harry just breathed a soft laugh. "How's Draco?" he asked casually, as if not to give the Slytherin any suspicion.

Of course Harry wanted to know. "Well that depends if you are going to tell me what had you so fidgety this evening in class?"

God, Harry had almost forgotten about that. As soon as he'd left Snape's class, the bond hadn't pestered him at all. Odd, usually it always was—especially when they were far apart. Perhaps it wasn't the bond at all? Perhaps it was just Harry… That was even more embarrassing.
Unfortunately, he knew he couldn't hide things from Severus—he was too smart for his own good sometimes. "Just the bond playing up," he said, despite it possibly being a lie. "It's hard to control myself around you, you know?"

Yes, well, it went both ways. Severus leant back in his chair as Harry sat on his desk. He cocked a brow, but the Gryffindor just gave him a smug look as he placed himself upon the table.
"I spoke to Draco for personal reasons," he stated.

Personal reasons? Harry looked at the other wizard. "His parents, you mean?"

A simple nod came from the professor. "Narcissa asked if I could speak with him. I did so. Don't feel threatened, though," he smirked, standing and leaning himself over the desk. "Draco Malfoy alone in my class is nothing to be concerned of."

Harry honestly hadn't really thought of that possibility. He was surprised Severus was actually mentioning it! He had to admit, Draco had grown up a lot—they all had. They were young men now, and he was well aware that a blue eyed, blonde haired Slytherin wasn't half bad looking.
Looking away for a moment, he rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, I hadn't actually thought of that, to be perfectly honest," he murmured, looking back towards the professor.

Severus just smirked. "I see you trust me, then."

Of course he did! He had for a very long time now. He never thought he'd ever admit to trusting Severus Snape a few years ago. But everything was different now, and they all knew that.
Snape moved around to the other side of the desk towards him, and he leant off it, looking at him. "Of course I trust you," he stated. "Sorry… the thought of you and Draco Malfoy just… I shouldn't have made it sound that way. Honestly, I didn't even think of that."

"It was a joke," Severus stated, not that that term usually came from his lips. "Don't ponder it, Potter. The last thing we need whilst we are doing so well is for you to dwell on something like that. The Malfoys and I are friends, nothing more would ever come from that. Draco is like a... spoilt little nephew," he said, waving a hand.

Harry couldn't help but laugh. "I bet he was a real blast to watch while he was growing up."

The professor cringed at the thought, a desperate noise coming from the back of his throat. "I will never be rid of the memories. But enough of Draco."

As Severus grabbed something from the desk just past him, Harry looked at the Muggle papers within his hands. "What's this?"

"I've been searching through the papers. I've found a few places that I thought might interest you."

Harry didn't know how to take the show of ease that Severus was now expressing. A while ago, they couldn't even talk to one another. They couldn't even look at one another without being bothered or pestered by their emotions or their bond. Now, it just seemed so easy for him. For them, even. Had their relationship progressed so much that looking for a house to share was now just a simple task?
Looking down at the papers, he saw that Severus had marked a few of the ones that had clearly sparked his interest. Most of them were cottages where they wouldn't be disturbed—which was perfectly fine with him.

"Of course, it does mean we'd have to see them before making any serious decisions," continued the Potions master. "There were few in the Prophet, so I had to pick some Muggle papers up. I thought when the weekend was here, we could inspect some of these. Do any of them interest you?"

For a moment, Harry was quiet, taking in what Severus was saying and asking. He swallowed. This was huge! When Snape had offered it to him, he was ecstatic, but now it had had time to sink in, and he was terrified of this! What if something went wrong? What if they ended up hating one another because they were living with each other for too long? What if they annoyed one another with their bad habits!?

"Harry?" Severus leant up a little as the green eyes finally looked at him. He'd moved too fast. He knew that this wasn't a good idea, but damnit, what was Potter to do when he had finished school? He couldn't live with the Weasleys forever! He most certainly couldn't return to the Dursleys! He'd never allow that to happen again!

"I'm sorry," said the Gryffindor, shaking his head, "It's just… it's a lot to take in, you know? I mean, yes, I do want to move in with you—more than anything! It's just… scary… I mean, what if we end up hating one another?"

Severus' shoulders relaxed a little. They'd always have fights and disagreements. They were human. Severus had no illusion that their lives would be perfect once they moved in together. It was obvious that if the bond was present that that wasn't going to be the case. They could get angry with one another, but they couldn't hate each other. Not truly, anyway.
"Hogwarts is open if that was to be the case. As a professor, and as your bonded," he said without trying to make that sound too cliché or romantic, "Hogwarts is completely open to you. I make no illusion to the point that our relationship will not be perfect every day. We will have arguments, we will fight and become hostile, but we have suffered through much worse."

Wasn't that the truth. Harry sighed mentally, giving a nod. "I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to apologise for. I understand this is something the both of us need to think on. If you decide you don't wish to move in with me, then I will accept that for as long as you need." He was still going to sell Spinner's End either way. This wasn't just Harry's choice, this was for him as well.

Looking back down to the papers, Harry put a finger onto one of them. It was a nice looking cottage in the country. Trees were covering most of the yard, and there was a fence around the cabin. "I like the looks of this one."

Surprised by the sudden change of heart, Severus looked back down and mentally smiled. Obviously Potter wanted to move in more eagerly than he let on. He knew it was a difficult decision for the younger wizard. In reality, Harry hadn't had much choice in his life and where to go. This was the first thing he was really able to do on his own terms—well, the house would be an agreed decision from the both of them, but still. He knew this was nerve-racking for him.
"They have an open inspection this upcoming Saturday. If you are free, I would enjoy the company," he said, Harry's green eyes on his once more.

"I'd like that." He seemed to be saying that more and more these days. As nervous as he was over the whole thing, he knew Severus wouldn't let him down. They'd come this far with one another, and he couldn't disappoint him now. They'd move at a pace that was comfortable for the both of them, but be damned if he was going to reject an offer like this. Hermione was right, this was a new life for the both of them—together.

Artist Comment:

I'm SO sorry about not updating this for such a long time! I've had a lot of things going on in the last few months, and honestly, I fell in and out of the HP fandom a few times. I hope this update can suffice until the next one! You guys are all amazing!