Someone Like You
Summary: Since the Final Battle, Harry Potter has dated plenty of men – all of whom share a rather peculiar comparability to a certain fallen hero from the war. Unfortunately, Harry seems to be the only one in the dark regarding his own inclination toward dating by proxy. HPSS
Appreciation: Special thanks to YenGirl for taking some time out of her busy schedule to beta this story. Thank you so much, Yen – you were a HUGE help!
Rating: Rated T for language and very mild slash
Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling (except Bartholomew and Simon).
A/N: This story assumes canon (mostly), but ignores the epilogue. It takes place about a year and a half after the Final Battle. Enjoy!
"That's too many place settings, Ron. I told you – we're only expecting nine tonight."
Ron put the stack of plates he had been carrying on the kitchen table and turned around, a confused look on his face as he stared at Hermione.
"Wait… I thought you said George and Katie were coming. So that would be George and Katie… Bill and Fleur… Neville and Luna… Ginny… Harry and… well, whoever the hell he's bringing this time… plus me and you. That makes eleven, Hermione," Ron asserted. Both of his hands were held aloft with fingers splayed after having just used them to tick off the first ten names, resorting to nodding toward his bushy-haired girlfriend to indicate the eleventh when he ran out of countable digits.
Hermione huffed in exasperation. She loved Ron dearly but his propensity for forgetting details did, on occasion, get on her nerves. She gave a quick stir to the simmering beef stew she had been working on for the last two hours, wiped her hands on her apron and then turned back to Ron, releasing another sigh of frustration before addressing the redhead.
"I told you this morning. Katie's still not back from yesterday's match against the Wimbourne Wasps so George is coming alone. And Bill and Fleur can't come because Fleur's morning sickness seems to be occurring all day long now."
"Well OK, but that works out to eight, then, Hermione. Not nine," he countered, his tone defensive with chin raised.
Hermione smiled. The truth was, she had come to enjoy Ron's stubborn, obstinate side – a side she alone seemed capable of drawing out to its fullest extreme. It reminded her of their early Hogwarts years when her greatest concern most days was how to parry the redhead's strong-willed personality and still come out on top.
"No," she replied, stifling her grin, "there will be nine. Ginny's bringing someone."
"What?! You mean… she's bringing a date?"
"Yes, she's bringing a date! And so help me, Ron, you had better behave yourself when he's here – you and George. Ginny's been dating this guy for over three months now and this is the first time she's had the courage to invite him to one of our monthly dinners. And you know how difficult it's been for her since she and Harry broke up, so please don't ruin this for her."
"How come I was never told about this bloke? Who is he?" Ron demanded, seemingly unaffected by Hermione's stern warning.
"I have no idea as she's been rather secretive about his identity. Anyway, what does it matter? You said yourself just the other day that she's the happiest she's been since... well, since before the war."
In the strained silence that followed, Hermione considered that which was left unsaid – the fact that Ginny had been through hell and back since the Final Battle over a year and a half ago, first having to struggle through her grief over Fred's death and then having to deal with losing Harry when he shocked everyone by announcing that he was gay.
Not keen on getting into another discussion about Ginny's hardships – not with their guests scheduled to show up any minute now – Hermione maintained her reticence, turning away from Ron and focusing her attention back to tonight's meal. Slipping on an oven mitt, she yanked open the oven door and retrieved a tray of freshly-baked cheddar scones from within. The moment the tray was revealed, one long arm immediately wrapped itself around her waist from behind, pulling her back into a familiar warm body while a not-so-stealthy hand crept closer to the unsuspecting scones.
"Ronald Weasley!" Hermione scolded, letting the hot tray fall to the counter as she whipped around to give the offending hand an admonishing thwack. "Those are for dinner! Can't you at least wait until our guests arrive?"
Ron smirked and leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss to Hermione's frowning lips.
"Well," he whispered, brushing his lips against hers, "I suppose I could be persuaded to wait a bit."
In the next second, Hermione found herself in the midst of a heated kiss, the arm wound around her back tightening while Ron's lips pushed forward. Driven to blissful distraction, she barely heard the doorbell until those warm lips began to pull away.
"I'll get it, love," Ron said, retreating from their embrace. "It's probably Neville and Luna. They're always the first to arrive."
Still pleasantly dazed, Hermione blinked open her eyes just in time to catch a glimpse of the wily grin on her boyfriend's face as he popped a pilfered cheddar scone into his mouth, devouring the whole thing in one bite.
"Why you sneaky little...!" she chastised, but couldn't stop the giddy smile of amusement from curving her lips. She really did love the man – even with all his childish quirks. Or perhaps because of them.
"Hey there, Ron, Hermione," Neville greeted a moment later as he and Luna entered the large kitchen and sat down. "Are we the first ones here?"
"Yep. George should be here any minute though, and I think Ginny said she and her date would be here right on time, too," Hermione replied, giving the stew another stir before lowering the flame below the large pot. She then piled the still steaming scones onto a serving plate and carried it to the kitchen table along with a large spinach salad she had prepared earlier in the day. "Harry, however… well, who knows when we can expect him to show up?"
"Or who he'll show up with, for that matter," came George's voice from the hall, the witty rejoinder was soon followed shortly thereafter by the lanky redhead himself. He paused at the kitchen doorway to ruffle Ron's hair, turning it into a tousled mess, before striding over to Hermione and planting a wet kiss on her cheek.
"You always did know how to make an entrance, George," Hermione muttered, her cheeks turning a delicate shade of pink. "But yes, there is that too. Harry does seem to keep us guessing with his date selection."
"Oh, I do hope it's the same man as last month," Luna piped up, reaching for a scone. "Bartholomew, I think his name was. He was very entertaining."
Ron's jaw dropped, his eyes wide as he stared at the eccentric blonde in astonishment. "Luna, the guy was an absolute prat! He spent most of dinner alternating between chastising Harry for his lack of couth – whatever the bloody hell that means – and sneering at the rest of us for not having a firm understanding on the finer points of Wizarding Legislation from the fourteenth century!"
"Yes, like I said… very entertaining," Luna reiterated dreamily and proceeded to munch on her scone.
"Well, I suppose he could be considered entertaining… especially after Bill and George spiked his wine with that truth serum," Hermione added, the corners of her mouth inching upward. "I suppose even Bartholomew would agree it's not very couth to tell a roomful of strangers that he only wears cotton boxer shorts because polyester blends tend to chafe his–"
"Hello? Ron? Hermione?" Ginny's dulcet voice filtered into the kitchen but was drowned out by the roar of laughter issuing from within it. "Hey everyone, what's so funny?"
"We were just talking about Harry's escort to last month's dinner," Neville supplied.
"Oh God, Harry's not bringing him again, is he? He was horrible," Ginny said, her eyebrows drawn together with brown orbs blazing. "Honestly, that boy has the worst taste in... well I was going to say boyfriends, but I suppose he wasn't exactly stellar at picking girlfriends either."
Hermione chuckled at Ginny's joke. The girl really had come a long way if she could poke fun at her own failed relationship with Harry. Her grin faded though when she realized belatedly that the spirited redhead was alone.
"Ginny... where's your date? I thought you told me you'd bring him tonight?"
"Oh. He's just across the street at the Elfin Winery. He said he wanted to purchase a nice cabernet for dinner... but really, I think he's just nervous about tonight and needed a little time to collect himself."
"Blimey, little sister. What did you tell him about us that got him so freaked out? It's not like we're going to hex the guy!" Ron chided, prompting George to nod his head in agreement.
"Yeah, Gin. We only do that kind of thing to Harry's dates. Your new guy's safe... as long as he's not a git and he treats you right," George added.
"And as long he doesn't remind all of us of a certain hot-tempered, bitter, know-it-all, greasy-haired Potions Professor from Hogwarts," Ron threw in.
"Ron!" Hermione scolded, "Harry's dates haven't been... well, OK they have been but it's not like any of them actually behaved like... I mean, they've never really resembled..."
The room was filled with the sounds of stifled laughter as Hermione searched for some truth that could disprove everyone's theory. It was hopeless though. Ever since she and Ron had started hosting these monthly dinners about a year ago, Harry had shown up to almost all of them with a different date – each one of them highly intelligent, at least ten years his senior with long, black hair, dark eyes and pale skin, and every single one of them snide, derisive and downright temperamental. In short, every man Harry had dated since coming out of the closet was like a doppleganger wannabe of the late Severus Snape. And the worst part was, everyone seemed to be aware of this eerie parallel but Harry.
A knock on the door pulled everyone from their suppressed giggles.
"Oh... that's probably my date," Ginny blurted out, her smile fading and her complexion noticeably paling as she took a few steps toward the door. "Listen, guys... will you promise me you'll be civil to him? No matter what?"
She bit her bottom lip as she eyed everyone in the room, her pale face twisted in rare apprehension.
"Ginny, what the–"
"No, I mean it, George! Promise me! You too, Ron. Promise me you'll give him a real chance."
The knock sounded again just as both the bemused Weasley males nodded.
"OK. I'll let him in then," Ginny said, releasing a tense breath. She disappeared around the corner and when she returned to the kitchen a few moments later, she was arm in arm with an extremely tense looking Draco Malfoy.
"George..." Hermione hissed in warning. She then snatched up Ron's hand and interlaced their fingers, hoping to keep her gawking boyfriend's wand hand distracted.
"Draco, how lovely to see you," Luna said in greeting, a genuine smile brightening her face. "I heard you took an apprenticeship in Potions and are studying for your Mastery. Is that true?"
Draco seemed taken aback by the girl's direct and friendly salutation. In fact, he appeared more flustered by her benevolence than by the wary looks directed at him by not only George and Ron, but Neville as well.
"I... yes, Loony... I-I mean, Luna. I've been a Potions apprentice for almost six months now. Another year and a half and I'll be able to take my Mastery exam, provided my Potions Master thinks that I'm ready, of course."
Luna nodded and turned in her seat, disengaging from the group by selecting another scone and chomping into it.
"I bought this for you, Grang–... I mean... Hermione," Draco added. His tone was courteous, but the faint tremor to his hand as he presented Hermione with a bottle of elf-made cabernet betrayed his apprehension.
"Thank you, Draco. That was... very thoughtful of you." Hermione smiled and placed the bottle on the table beside the scones. She gave herself a mental head shake.
This was definitely going to be one of their more memorable dinners.
Harry cursed as he raced up the narrow stairwell leading to Ron and Hermione's flat, stealing his third glance at his watch in just as many minutes. He was almost half an hour late for dinner. Hopefully, they hadn't started on the food yet. He disliked seeing that fierce, admonishing glare of Hermione's every time he ended up walking in on an already commenced meal.
Looking back over his shoulder to ensure that Simon was still behind him, he picked up his pace, taking three steps at a time.
"Honestly, Potter. Must we run about as though we're being chased by a herd of rabid hippogriffs? Slow down, boy!"
Harry grinned. He had only been dating Simon for two weeks, but already he felt very at ease with the older man. There was just something about him that was so appealing. Sure, he was a bit rough around the edges and he wasn't the best kisser Harry had ever known, but he was witty as all hell and wicked smart. Plus the man had eyes you could get lost in – darker and deeper than any starless night.
"Hey guys!" he called out as he pushed open the front door and made his way into the kitchen. "Sorry we're late! Simon was speaking at a Potions seminar this afternoon and it ran long, so I... Whoa! What the bloody hell is Malfoy doing here?"
"Harry," Draco greeted before sitting up straighter and taking a sip from his wine glass. "I was wondering when you'd show tonight."
"Hermione," Harry hissed, his eyes narrowing as they darted over to the brunette, "What is he doing here?!"
"He's here with me, Harry," Ginny answered, "Draco and I have been dating for three months now. I thought it high time I stopped keeping it a secret."
Ginny's eyes were hard, brown orbs alight with steely defiance. "And if you have a problem with him then you can just–"
"Is he treating you well, Gin?" Harry cut in, his tone gentling as he addressed his ex-girlfriend directly. He stared into her brown eyes until he could see their hard look soften, a small upward pull to one corner of her petite mouth.
"Yes, Harry. He really is."
Letting go of a tense breath, Harry felt himself relax, a smile curving his lips. He had to admit he hadn't seen Ginny this happy since their school days.
"That's good, then," he breathed, his smile growing. As odd as it was to have Draco in the mix, it would be worth it if he was the one responsible for engendering this level of contentment in Ginny. Harry had worried about her very much since the war. They all had. And now it looked as though she may just have found a bit of happiness.
Turning back around, Harry grabbed Simon's wrist, pulling the man away from where he had been lurking in the shadows and coaxing him further into the kitchen.
"Everyone... I'd like to introduce Simon. Simon, this is Neville, Luna, Ginny, Draco, Hermione, Ron and George… Hey, George, where's Katie tonight?"
"Still flying. The Wasps are dead good this year. Katie was really hoping the game would be over in time for tonight, but last I checked on the stats, they were still tied and neither seeker had even spotted the bloody snitch yet."
"Hmm. Bad luck."
Simon ignored the Quidditch banter and instead, gave a curt nod to the group in greeting. Then he turned his attention back to Harry, his dark eyes glowering.
"Right then, let's sit down. I'm starving," Harry said as he tugged his date's hand again, leading him over to the only two empty chairs at the table. He took a seat and then, after another sharp yank to Simon's hand, succeeded in getting the man to take the seat beside his. Doing his best to disregard the stony glare he was receiving from those narrowed, penetrating eyes, Harry seized the crock of beef stew and began ladling heaping portions onto their plates.
Simon, Harry noticed, seemed wholly disinterested in the meal. Rather than digging in to the proffered stew, he reached for the bottle of wine in the middle of the table and proceeded to pour himself a glass.
"Elf-made cabernet from the turn of the nineteenth century," Simon mused. "Quite a discerning palate you must have Miss..."
"It's Miss Granger but please, call me Hermione. Though I can't take the credit for the wine, I'm afraid. Draco was nice enough to bring it for us," Hermione explained, gesturing toward the blonde.
"Ah, I see. Draco, is it? Well, Draco, you have impeccable taste in wine. This particular year's crop of red grapes was unparalleled across the majority of Europe's elfin vineyards. Even without the elves' magical influence, the weather conditions that year alone would have yielded exemplary results. Any dry red from that decade is absolutely exquisite."
Harry felt his smile returning as he looked over at his date. He admired this part of Simon's personality – his uncanny ability to command a room full of people by expounding upon his vast knowledge about all sorts of subjects. The man was utterly brilliant.
Suddenly aware that he may have been staring just a bit too long, Harry broke his intense gaze with the smirking Simon and eyed the others around the table, his gaze immediately drawn to a gaping Draco.
The blonde was more transfixed than Harry had been a moment ago, staring at Simon with disbelieving eyes, his fork poised in mid-air just above his plate. It wasn't until Ginny elbowed him in the ribs that those grey eyes lowered, blinking several times, the hovering fork finding its way back to the plate beneath it.
"Pardon me," Draco said with a forced smile, his gaze still fixed on his meal as he shook his head. "You just... just really remind me of my old Potions Professor."
Emerald eyes widened and lowered, quickening heartbeats thundering against Harry's ribcage. He swallowed hard, releasing a constrained breath while his right hand gripped his fork with bruising force. Another deep breath sucked into his clenching lungs, and Harry looked back up, his gaze zeroing in on the tall, older man sitting beside him, his mind racing with a slew of disturbing thoughts...
Simon doesn't resemble Snape, does he? No. Sure, he has black hair and dark eyes like Snape, and he tends to sneer and glare more than the average bloke. But he's not nearly as old as Snape would have been had he survived the war. Simon's only thirty-one, for God's sake! And, OK… he happens to be a Potions Master as well… but he's not a professor. He manages a mail-order potions business. That's completely different!
Having convinced himself of Simon's differentiation from Hogwarts' infamous dungeon bat, Harry sighed in relief. Then, not even bothering to ponder why it was he had gotten so worked up about Draco's comment in the first place, he hastily shoveled a heaping forkful of beef and carrot into his mouth, savoring the welcome distraction. He was doing fine, too – until Simon continued his conversing with Draco.
"Hogwarts educated, were you?"
"Yes, sir," Draco answered, "We all were, actually."
"So, it's the late Severus Snape of which I remind you? I daresay it couldn't possibly be that mindless buffoon, Slughorn."
Harry chanced another glance across the table and saw Draco staring at Simon again. He wished he wouldn't – Simon was nothing like Snape.
"Yes. Severus Snape. You do look and well, act an awful lot like him." Draco withdrew his penetrating gaze away from Simon to glance at Harry for a fraction of a second before returning it to Simon. "It's just really strange because… well, you're dating Pot–… I mean Harry and… OW!"
Harry wasn't sure who had issued the kick to Draco's shin under the table – both Ginny and Hermione were within striking distance – but it must have been painful as Draco swiftly abandoned his conversation with Simon to rub his sore leg with an aggrieved look at Ginny.
"Yes, well, the similarities are not unfounded," Simon continued, seemingly undeterred by the covert attack on his fellow converser. "After all, I, like him, am a Potions Master. And I suppose we do share certain physical likenesses."
"No shit," George muttered a little too loudly.
"George… shut it!" Hermione hissed, glaring at the tall redhead from across the table.
Harry felt his pulse begin to race again as he glanced around the table, noticing the tension on every face, the tight-lipped frowns and averted eyes. What the hell was going on? Did everyone agree with Draco? Did they all think Harry was dating a replicated version of their deceased Potions Professor?
Once again, as if immune to the palpable edginess permeating the room, Simon pressed on, only pausing to tip his wine glass to his lips and savor a small sip before continuing.
"However I do feel the need to mention that I, unlike the late Master Snape, am not an insecure fool. I certainly would never have taken the Dark Mark, regardless of the circumstances, and allowed myself to become bound to a sadistic, egotistical psychopath as he did. I have faults, mind you, but cowardice and weakness of character have never been among them."
For a moment there was absolute silence that went way beyond the usual pin drop variety. Then...
"Ooh, this is going to be entertaining," Luna whispered, her pale blue eyes as big as saucers.
"Well, it was nice knowin' ya, Simon," George chuckled as he leaned back in his chair, hands coming up to clasp behind his head with elbows sticking out.
Harry hardly registered his friends' comments. He was livid, teeth grinding together and eyes narrowed to mere slits behind his glasses, his breaths coming out in short, shallow puffs.
"Get. Out." he hissed, jaw clenched and body shuddering with sudden, inexplicable rage.
"What did you say to me, Potter?" Simon drawled, surprised dark eyes locking with furious green ones.
"You heard me, Simon. Get the fuck out… NOW!"
Harry bit down hard on his lower lip as he felt the telltale signs of his magical control beginning to unravel – the powerful jolt of heat racing up his spine followed by the ominous sounds of the air around him crackling and pulsing with misplaced energy. The eerie resonance from the unbridled magic was soon joined by the sounds of Simon's swift departure, starting with the screech of the man's chair being thrust backwards and ending with the bang of the front door being slammed shut seconds later.
Dropping his head, Harry squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated on his breathing. After a series of slow, deep breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth – a method he had been forced to utilize several times over the past year and a half as this was not a first-time occurrence – his magical tantrum began to dissipate. Only when he felt it fade completely did he become aware of the warm hand on the back of his neck, gentle fingers carding through his hair.
"Harry," Hermione whispered in his ear.
Harry cracked open one eye to see her kneeling on the floor beside him, her chestnut brown eyes radiating deep concern.
"Are you OK?" she continued.
Harry lifted his head and looked around the table. All eyes were on him, Draco's pale grey ones looking particularly distressed, his skin even paler than normal.
Looking away from that uneasy gaze, Harry stood up and cleared his throat.
"I... I'm sorry everybody. I just couldn't let him say those things about..." his words faltered, dying in his throat, and he swallowed hard, trying to find his voice again. Once more, his eyes locked with Draco's and Harry was more than a little disturbed to see what looked like amused realization within them. He looked away again, his gaze falling upon Simon's untouched dinner for a fleeting second before he turned and bolted for the door, his stomach in knots and his heart clenching with something like grief.
"Just leave him be, Gin," Ron said, displaying surprising insight as he grabbed Ginny's wrist to stop her from running after their friend. "I think he probably wants to be alone right now. I'm sure he just needs some time to think."
"Yeah," George agreed, getting up from the table and approaching his siblings, "I believe you're right, little bro. Our Harry has a lot to ponder – top of the list being his infatuation with a dead man."
"George, must you be so crude?" Hermione asked. "Harry's not infatuated, he's just... I don't know... holding on to the past a little too tightly, perhaps. Ron's right. He just needs some time."
"Well, Hermione, Ron... I think Luna and I are going to call it a night," Neville said, placing an arm around Luna and leading them out into the hall. "Let me know if you hear from Harry, OK?"
"Sure, Nev." Hermione hugged Neville and Luna, thanking them both for coming, repeating the gesture with George when he announced he was heading home as well. Ginny and Draco said their goodbyes too, leaving only her and Ron and a lot of leftover stew.
"Well, that was an interesting dinner party," Ron commented as he began clearing the plates and silverware from the table. "Do you think Harry will be OK? I mean, I can't imagine he'll be able to deny the truth of his... unusual attraction or obsession or whatever you want to call it... not after tonight."
Hermione took the dirty plates from Ron and placed them in the sink, pulling her wand out and casting the charm to spell them clean. "I don't know. I think you're right about him not being able to deny the obvious any longer, but I just have no idea how he's going to be able to deal with this. He's been in denial about his feelings for Snape for a long time."
Sighing, Hermione approached the table and began to gather up the wine glasses Ron had forgotten, when a knock at the door pulled her from her task.
"Maybe it's Harry," Ron said, his brow furrowed in speculation, "but he never knocks, does he?"
"I'll get it," Hermione said, placing the glass she was holding back onto the table and exiting the kitchen. When she opened the front door, she was startled to find Draco standing there, his earlier nervousness now replaced with the hint of a knowing smirk and grey eyes sharp with intrigue.
"Draco? What's going on? Where's Ginny?"
"She's fine. After we Apparated back to my flat, I told her I wanted to get more wine for the two of us, so she's still there... waiting for me."
Ron rounded the corner midway through Draco's explanation, the tips of his ears pink and looking as though he were stifling the urge to hex the blonde for the somewhat suggestive implication behind his words.
"Then what are you doing here, Malfoy?" he asked, blue eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"There's something I need to tell you. Something important. Something about Snape."
Harry reached for a clean collared shirt and threw it on. He went through the autonomous motions of fastening each button and tucking the fabric into the waistband of his trousers while his thoughts kept flitting back to the last time he had attended one of Ron and Hermione's dinners. Sighing, he sat down on the edge of his bed and brought both hands to his face, pushing his fingers through his shower-dampened hair and scratching at his scalp in agitation.
He had had a horrible time of things ever since that debacle with Simon last month. After fleeing the scene that night, Harry had holed himself up in Grimmauld Place, only leaving to attend his Auror training classes with Ron and once to have lunch with Hermione on her day off from St. Mungo's residency program. However most of the time he stayed in seclusion, closing off his floo and ignoring all owl correspondence while he attempted to get a grip on what the hell was going on with him. He was angry and wretchedly depressed, but more than anything, he was confused.
Of course his confusion had nothing to do with Simon. No, he was quite secure in his assessment that the guy was an absolute prick. Even considering his own embarrassment at losing control of his magic, Harry would never regret telling that bastard to get out of Ron and Hermione's home, not after the jerk had slandered Severus like that.
"Shit," Harry groaned, once again burying his face in his hands.
What the fuck was wrong with him? When had Snape become Severus to him? Why couldn't he get the man out of his mind? And for the love of Merlin, why had he spent the last year dating every man in the Wizarding World who even remotely looked or acted like him?
Harry was through denying it, done trying to explain away his choice in men as some kind of odd coincidence. He knew now what his friends must have realized months ago.
He was chasing after a ghost.
Trying hard to ignore the dread churning in his stomach, he made his way downstairs and over to the floo, which he had just reopened that morning at Hermione's insistence. She was up to something, he knew it. She'd told him that under no circumstances was he to bring a date to tonight's dinner – not that he had been out much in the last four weeks in order to meet anyone – and that he was to dress smartly, whatever that meant.
Harry had the horrible, sinking feeling that Hermione was setting him up on a blind date, a thought that had him positively nauseous with apprehension. The only thing stopping him from scolding her or turning her down was his own guilt at having ruined her last gathering.
With a resigned sigh, Harry grabbed a fistful of floo powder from a box on the mantle, called out his destination and disappeared amid a blaze of dazzling green flames.
"Harry! You came!"
Drowning in a sea of relieved smiles and open arms, Harry was pulled into a massive group hug. He spotted Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville and Luna right away. Once the embrace broke apart, he saw the others in the background – Bill, Fleur, Charlie, George and Katie.
"Whoa! Big turn out this time, eh, Hermione?" Harry offered, a nervous smile curving his lips. "Sorry to disappoint you all, but I didn't bring anyone to chuck out this time."
"Very funny, Harry," Hermione replied, "But you know damned well nobody came for that."
"I don't know," Luna sing-songed, her eyes drifting over to Harry's unhurriedly. "I rather enjoyed last month's display."
Despite his embarrassment, Harry gave a rueful chuckle. Luna's unadulterated candor was the perfect remedy for anxiety. It always was.
Once they were all assembled in the sitting room, Harry leaned against the hearth and looked around, his eyes narrowing in question when he noticed that Ginny was alone this time – no Draco in sight.
"Gin? Where's Draco? You two haven't broken up, have you?"
"Oh no. He'll be here soon. He just had to... ah... take care of something first."
As if on cue, there was a knock on the front door. Ginny gave a meaningful look in Hermione's direction, who looked strangely flustered and then scurried off to get the door.
Harry noticed the exchange and that sinking feeling returned with a vengeance. Now he knew the two of them were up to something. He fully expected to see some strange man walk through the door – his date, no doubt – but was surprised to see Draco instead, leaning down to whisper something in Hermione's ear as the two of them entered the sitting room. The fact that they were all gathered here instead of the kitchen was odd in itself.
Without a word, Harry slipped past them and into the kitchen, intent on counting the number of places set at the table. If Hermione had invited a date for him, there should be twelve. What he was not expecting, however, was to find the table completely empty, not a single place setting to be found. There wasn't anything bubbling on the stove either, no savory fragrance filling the air.
"Hermione? Could you come here a minute?" he called out, glaring at her the moment she entered the kitchen.
"Why isn't the table set? And what's with that look between you and Ginny and all the whispering between you and Draco? What's going on?"
Hermione gave him a nervous smile, then exhaled a shaky breath. "We're not eating here tonight. We – everyone but you, that is – are having dinner at the Leaky Cauldron."
"Everyone but me," Harry echoed, his apprehension escalating. "OK. I'll bite. So what am I doing, then?"
"You're staying here as your date will be along shortly."
"Hermione!" Harry groaned, raking both hands through his hair again. "What the bloody hell were you thinking? I really am not in the right state of mind to date anyone right now!"
Hermione ignored his arguments and turned toward the others who were now standing in the kitchen doorway.
"OK, everyone! It's time to go. Ron and I will see you all at the Cauldron in a few," she called out as she chivied them back out into the hall. One by one, they vacated the flat, most of them giving Harry suspiciously knowing looks and wily grins as they left... until only he, Ron and Hermione were left behind.
"Hermione!" Harry hissed, feeling very panicked now. Somehow this cloak and dagger operative felt like much more than just a blind date. "I told you... I'm not ready to date anyone!"
Hermione just threw her arms around him and pulled him close, kissing him on the cheek before whispering in his ear. "He's not just anyone, Harry."
She pulled away a second later and grabbed both his hands, lacing their fingers.
"Promise me you'll stay and wait for him. He'll be here very soon."
Harry felt his throat close up, stomach churning as his nervousness and bewilderment reached new levels. Guilt over having ruined their last get-together joined his apprehension and he nodded weakly in acquiescence.
"That's it, mate," Ron grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "We'll be back in an hour or so."
When the door closed behind Ron and Hermione, Harry walked over to the sitting room sofa and sank down in it, his mind racing faster than ever.
"Hermione, what the bloody hell have you done?" he mumbled to himself, his head once again in his hands. He loathed the very idea of going through with this... this match-making attempt or whatever it was, but he would do it, only because he felt he owed it to his two best friends.
Five minutes later, there was a knock at the door.
Anxiety spiking and heartbeat going through the roof, Harry lifted himself off the sofa and walked with shaky legs to the door, feeling not unlike he was walking to his doom for a second time. He wasn't even sure why he was so damned nervous. It was obvious Hermione had just set him up with some bloke to try and get his mind off of Severus.
Taking a few deep breaths in a futile attempt to calm his nerves, Harry grabbed the doorknob and began to pull the door open, mentally preparing himself for what he was about to find on the other side – someone who probably looked and acted nothing like–
"Severus!" Harry choked out.
Dear Lord, he was having hallucinations now. He swayed where he stood, darkness edging his vision. Staggering backwards, he shook his head to dismiss what he thought he saw and squeezed his eyelids shut, feeling dizzy, his breaths coming out in quick, shallow huffs.
That voice. Holy shit!
Harry felt his mind gradually drift back to lucidity, the hazy beginnings of consciousness allowing him to register a soft surface beneath him and a cool, wetness pressed to his forehead.
"Mnh," he mumbled, struggling to open his eyes.
"Ah, I see you've finally decided to wake up," came a hauntingly familiar voice.
Green eyes flew open and met with two midnight black orbs framed by pale skin and twin curtains of fine, ebony hair.
"Severus..." Harry breathed, his chest constricting and his brain jamming as he stared at the man who had died in his arms a year and half ago. "You... you're supposed to be dead... you... this... this can't be real. How are you not dead?"
Those ebony eyes lowered to stare at two potion-stained hands resting on slender thighs, long fingers clutching a damp cloth. Crooked teeth scraped along the skin of one thin lower lip, chewing it in what looked to be a nervous habit while those fingers twisted further around the cloth, a few drops of water falling from the wrung fabric.
"My survival was accomplished by Dark magic," Severus replied, eyes lifting to lock with Harry's. "No... not horcruxes, don't worry. But the spell I used was not exactly legal. I cast it just as Nagini lunged at me, non-verbally of course, as to not alert the Dark Lord. I had no idea if it had worked. In fact, I was convinced it hadn't worked as I could feel myself dying, fading more with each passing second... which is why I gave you my memories; I did not expect to live long enough to relay the information I knew you needed."
Severus paused and released a tense breath, his dark eyes swimming with what looked like a myriad of conflicting emotions. There was pain for sure, but also deep embarrassment and a profusion of... regret?
Harry felt more confused than ever, his mind drifting back to the predominate theme of those memories: Lily – or more specifically, Severus' abiding love for Lily. Something painful twisted in Harry's heart at that and it wasn't the sorrow he felt the first time he saw those memories.
Harry's confused reverie was interrupted when Severus cleared his throat and continued his explanation.
"To my astonishment, just after you left the Shack, the spell began to activate. I suppose it only works if one is truly seconds away from perishing, though I still do not know that for certain. Nevertheless, it achieved its intended purpose so that by the time you were walking into the forest to meet your sacrificial end, I had completely recovered from mine."
Harry's whole body was trembling now, his heartbeat pounding in his chest at a furious pace as he tried to process this new information. "But I... I still don't understand... Why didn't you tell anyone you survived? Why did you keep it a secret? Where have you been all this while and what have you been doing?"
"Several months before the Final Battle, I acquired a house just west of London, on the off-chance I made it through this war alive. I saved up quite a bit of money over the years and that is where I've been staying. It's unplottable and warded to the hilt, completely invisible to prying eyes. I told only Draco, as he is my godson. I even agreed to take him on as my Potions apprentice after swearing him to secrecy. But I just didn't think there was anyone else who would want to know that I–"
"What?! Are you fucking kidding me?!" Harry exploded, bolting upright in his agitation. "Do have any idea how much I've grieved for you... how much my heart has ached for you? For months, I spent every spare moment I had trying to clear your name, testifying before the Wizengamot and composing statements and articles for the Prophet and the Quibbler, desperate to change public opinion of you!"
Severus gave a jerky nod of acknowledgement, regret showing in his dark eyes.
"I know and I thank you. But–"
"And that whole damned time I was just trying to get through each day without breaking down!" Harry ranted on. "Without giving into my despair over losing you! You – you didn't even have the courtesy to let me know you were alive! And... oh God... I don't even want to get into the whole dating people that look like you thing!"
"How many men have you dated that resemble me?"
For the second time today, Harry's heart almost stopped upon realizing what he had just said. He felt like he might be sick with embarrassment. Severus actually wanted to know how many 'Snape look-alikes' he'd dated?
Shit. Shit. Shit!
"Um... Oh fuck, Severus, I don't know! Eight, maybe?"
"Six," Severus repeated, eyes glowing, "I have dated six young men over the course of the last year who all – as Draco likes to put it – possessed everything but the damned scar."
"Wait... what? I mean... are – are you saying...?" Harry stammered. Seeing a tiny smile on those thin lips, he cleared his throat and plowed on, "It sounds a hell of a lot like you're telling me that my feelings for you are... mutual."
Harry barely breathed the last word, his voice quavering, heart almost beating out of his chest. Did he dare to hope?
Severus edged closer, his hands coming up to cup Harry's cheeks.
"Yes, Harry... that's exactly what I'm saying," he explained in a low voice. "I never imagined that you would return my feelings so even... even in what I thought were my last moments with you, I gave you only select memories – ones that would make it appear as though I loved your mother. I did... but not in the way you think. You see, I had treated you so deplorably over the years that I never thought you could possibly want someone like me."
Without conscious thought, Harry leaned in, his hands coming to rest on Severus' chest where a similarly thundering heart raced beneath his fingertips.
"Severus?" he breathed, inching closer – so close the man's warm breath ghosted over his parted lips.
"Yes?" Severus answered, his voice shaky.
Rapid heartbeats sped up against Harry's palms as he pressed closer, his lips now only a hair's breadth apart from Severus'.
"I'm tired of dating someone like you," he breathed, brushing his lips hesitantly against Severus' warm mouth, his hands trembling as they slid up and around the man's slender neck. "I want the real thing."
Severus didn't answer. Instead, he lunged forward, crushing his lips to Harry's in a hungry, desperate kiss. Long arms wound themselves around Harry's back, pulling their bodies close as a strong tongue pushed into Harry's mouth, deepening the already heated kiss and obliterating all of Harry's abilities to think or reason... or even breathe.
"Hello... Harry? Severus?"
Hermione's voice seemed to come to Harry like the fractured remains of a faded dream – his amorous mind too wrapped up in the glorious feel of Severus' skillful lips moving against his own and the rhythmic pounding of the man's heart against his chest to make much sense of anything else. That is, until Severus pulled away abruptly and Harry almost fell back.
"Oh my," someone said, then gasped.
Harry's hazy brain was somehow able to register the voice as belonging to Katie but could not seem to comprehend why her voice would be reaching his ears. He blinked up at Severus, startling slightly at the uncharacteristic blush on those pale cheeks and the ebony eyes that were wide with shock and staring at something across the room. As an inherent embarrassment crept into his heart, Harry turned toward the direction of Severus' fixed gaze.
There, huddled in the doorway were all of his friends: Ron, Hermione, Ginny, George, Neville... every last one of them... and all of them sporting replica expressions of equal parts shock and chuffed excitement.
One radiant expression in particular caught Harry's attention, a beaming grin beneath blue eyes that were wide with barely contained exuberance. Luna took a few steps forward, her grin growing as her gaze toggled back and forth between Harry and Severus who were still frozen in their embrace.
"Ooooo, yes, Harry!" she exclaimed. "I really like this one. He's even more entertaining! He's my favorite, you should definitely keep him."
As the room erupted into howls and cheers of hearty laughter, Harry turned back to Severus, his own grin huge as he leaned in to whisper in the man's ear.
"You're my favorite, too, Severus. I'm so glad I finally found someone like you."
A/N: I hope you've all enjoyed this one-shot. In case you're interested in the odd inner-workings of my twisted mind, the inspiration for this story came to me from two very different sources. One - the song "Someone Like You" by Adelle (this is the obvious inspiration), and Two - a movie from way back in the mid-ninties called "The Last Supper." If you have ever seen this movie, you're probably thinking I am nuts right now as the plot in that film is very different from my little one-shot. It's about a group of college graduate students who have these little weekly dinner parties where they invite a right-wing extremist over and then murder them, considering it a good deed for society as a whole. It's extremely dark and twisted, but also rather funny. I know this is VERY different from this fic, but when I was formulating my ideas about this story, I couldn't stop thinking about the group of friends in that movie and how they had to sort of "act" their part during each dinner when a new stranger (like each new date of Harry's) came to dinner. Lots of tension and comical moments! Anyway, if you ever get the chance to see the movie, I recommend it... it's very entertaining. ;)