Disclaimer: Anything recognisable does not belong to me. Story is based on the books by JKR and inspired by other writers of this genre.


BOXING DAY TROUBLE

Harry did not know why he was so surprised when it had happened at last. It was bound to sooner or later, seeing as such things had the tendency to. He had fully expected that one of them would slip up at some point and give the game away. He had even imagined that it would be most likely him that did that. And yet, when it had happened it had hit them like a ton of bricks. A complete and utter wreckage beyond any repair.

In the end, it had not really been anyone's fault. They both had been careless, lulled into a false sense of security because of the nearly empty castle and had forgotten to lock the door. And if the Headmaster or McGonagall or even one of the other staff members had been the one to catch them in a compromising position, it could have been still possible to quietly sweep it under the rug. However, their luck must have been tested one time too many, since it was the pair of Aurors patrolling the corridor outside Snape's office at the time, who had the dubious honour of finding out what the illustrious Boy-Who-Lived looked like when fucked hard into a desk by his Potions Professor.

Fortunately, neither of the old Aurors, Hopkins and Beadley were their names, seemed to be the dramatic type and they saw the things for what they were straightaway, instead of assuming Merlin knows what. They did inform them though, that in situations like this it was standard procedure to have all parties involved checked over by a Healer before further actions could be taken and asked them to accompany them to the hospital wing after they had made themselves presentable again.

Poor Madam Pomfrey was completely taken aback when the Aurors had informed her of the situation.

"Why, I never..." she sounded most certainly not impressed, while she ushered them to the beds swishing her wand in agitation. "Severus, what in the name of Morgana were you thinking! I won't even ask what you were thinking, young man!" She pointed her wand at Harry. "Now, sit down and let me have a look."

She cast a series of scanning and detection spells, muttering and tsking under her breath, until something that she saw made her freeze up and stare at them for a long moment. And Harry had a good idea as to what it could possibly be.

"Is something wrong, Poppy?" Hopkins stepped closer in concern.

"No," she shook herself out of it, "not as such." She eyed them over with a measuring gaze. "There are no illicit spells or substances involved here, the middle level scans are telling me, and I doubt that the high level ones will reveal anything either. The pair of them however is engaged and in the last stages of the bonding rituals."

Auror Beadley whistled.

"Yes, well, congratulations I suppose," the nurse waved them out of her domain. "Foolish boys! I believe I do not have to tell you just what consequences your little case of rebellion will have. Wait until Minerva hears of that!"

Outside on the corridor Harry sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. What a fucked up shit! And it was only the beginning.

"Ten Galleons that she's firecalling McGonagall this very moment."

"Are you honestly expecting me to take that bet?"

The Aurors behind them chuckled in amusement.

"Now, gentlemen, as I see it, it's a clear case of fraternisation and both of you must know what that means for your careers at this school." Auror Hopkins waited for their acknowledgement before continuing. "Therefore, I don't see any use in adding to the scandal by unnecessary dramatics. The Headmaster is currently not here, so I suggest you go and pack your things and then meet us at his office, while we are trying to get hold of him."

Coming to an agreement they parted ways. Harry climbed the stairs to the Gryffindor tower mind working a mile a minute. He was not worried much about his O.W.L.s and his further education. Those could always be finished under private tutors and he already had full wand rights. It was the relative safety of the school that he was concerned about leaving. He could always retreat to one of the Potter properties of course, since he doubted that Sirius would let him through his door when he learned that Harry had Snape's cock up his arse on regular basis. Trouble was simply that he did not know how well they were warded at the moment. Maybe, Snape might suggest a better option?

Strangely enough, he was not worried about the hell of the press coverage to come either. Seeing as he and Snape were engaged, there would be not much of a scandal involved, no matter how far it got blown out of proportions. Besides, Snape would be the one to take the brunt of it and he was more than capable to take care of himself.

He did not think that Snape would mourn the loss of his teaching position here at Hogwarts overly much, judged by the constant complaints he had been on the receiving end of these past months. And though Harry would miss his newly acquired companionship with Neville, it would please him to be able to see Hermione more often.

This development would have not much, if any, negative consequences on his political and social work either. Some self-righteous, stuck-up prigs might turn their noses up and huff for a while, but like with any other such scandal, it would be forgotten as soon as the next one came along.

What bothered him the most was how his decisions would affect his relationship with Sirius and Remus and of course, if Dumbledore would exclude Snape from the Order now that he knew about their liaison. They might not be of much use on the greater scale of things, but to be aware of their movements had been a nice tactical advantage. He did not know if Dumbledore had changed his original plans for him for sure after all, though he suspected it to be the case.

He reached the portrait hole and said the password, climbing through when it swung open. He and the Weasley children were the only ones staying behind this year. Ginny was giving Ron a predictably one-sided game of chess close to the fireplace, while the twins were occupied with refining one of their inventions, by the looks of it. He nodded at them in passing, going up to the boys' dormitories straightaway.

The door closed behind him he leaned against it and let his head fall back with a groan. He really did not want to leave. Clinging to the last remnants of his childhood and hiding behind his status as a student had been too convenient to have to let go of it all so abruptly. He sighed and took a good look around the room he had shared with his classmates for the last four and a half years. That would be the last time he saw it and he was missing it already.

Resigned to his fate he pushed himself away from the door and went over to his trunk. A couple of wand flicks and he was done. After checking that he had not forgotten anything he shrank and pocketed his belongings and went down to the common room, not wanting to linger and wallow in self-pity any longer. For a moment he was greatly tempted to just leave and let them find out through the official channels after he was long and far gone. But despite everything, they were his friends, more or less. They had shared and gone through a lot together. He owed it to them to at least tell them himself.

He cleared his throat nervously, gaining their attention.

"Well, erm... I suppose you will find out soon enough, so I'll just tell you now."

He took a deep breath.

"I was expelled."

There was a long moment of complete and utter silence, until the twins broke out in laughter.

"Good one, Harrykins!"

"We have almost bought it!"

"I'm not joking I'm afraid," he sighed running his hand through his hair, smiling sheepishly. "I've just packed my things and am on my way to the Headmaster's office actually. So, I thought I'd better say goodbye now. I'll probably meet you, Fred and Gorge, for business this summer, but it might be a very long time until I'll see either Ron or Ginny again."

They all stared at him in shock.

"Impossible!" Ron burst out finally. "Dumbledore would never do that, no matter what you have done!"

Harry was rather annoyed at the implication put forth here, but admitted that Ron was probably right.

"Well, he had no say in the matter, since he's not here to begin with. But even if he were, I doubt that he would have been able to do something about it anyway."

"But what have you done?" Ginny was staring at him quite wide-eyed.

Harry braced himself for the backlash.

"I've been seeing Snape since the beginning of the school year and we were caught in a compromising position by a pair of Aurors on patrol an hour ago."

Ron turned slightly green in the face, but did not say anything thankfully, most likely too shocked or disgusted to respond. Harry was glad he did not, he might have hexed him otherwise.

The emotions on Ginny's face were rather difficult to read. Something between hurt, horror and indignation. She must have harboured some unreasonable hopes towards him still. In that case, it would have stung her pride at least to lose to Snape of all people.

The twins were a different matter entirely. Two pairs of hands grabbed him and pushed him onto the couch between two mischievously grinning wizards.

"Now, naughty, naughty, Harrykins..."

"Spill! Just like totally everything."

"Boxers or briefs?"

"Is it the size of his ego or the technique?"

"Or is it simply the thrill of the dangerous and forbidden?"

Harry graced them with a shit-eating grin.

"Briefs, both and both, and one other point that you have completely overlooked. He's the Heir of the House Prince, which makes him one hell of a catch," he winked at them suggestively.

"Oho!" Came the dramatic twin exclamation.

Ginny's face became quite stricken. To hear that would have been the last nail into the coffin of her silly hopes he could well imagine. Ron on the other hand snorted derisively.

"Is that it then? It's all about money and politics for you? It's disgusting enough that you sound like the likes of Malfoy to me. But to whore yourself out to the greasy git is just about as gross as it can get."

Harry took a moment to wonder idly why he was not even a bit angry at him. A year ago such words would have him jumping up with a wand in hand and a hex on the tip of his tongue. Now, he felt only a mild irritation the likes of which one would feel towards an annoying fly.

"Do you really think that I would give a damn about your opinions, Ron? You have lost all rights to my consideration the moment you have turned your back on me last year. I am Lord Potter, not one of your chums anymore, and I hereby warn you to keep your stupid remarks about me and my soon to be husband out of my hearing range." He nailed him down with a hard glare noting the slight shiver going down his spine with smug satisfaction. "Because I can and would be perfectly willing to make your life hell for the rest of your days. Always remember that the next time you open your mouth."

He rose from the couch smiling at the twins and giving them his hand to shake.

"Well, I'd better get going. Don't be strangers, write and come by to visit. I'll give you my new address as soon as I have it. Gin," he nodded in her direction, but did not bother waiting for an acknowledgement.

"Bye, Harrykins!"

"We'll miss you!"

xxxoooxxx

Outside the gargoyle guarding the entrance to the Headmaster's office Harry paused and took a deep breath to compose himself sufficiently. Whatever was awaiting him there would be anything but pleasant.

He said the password and rode up to the landing before the massive oak door, which opened to him even before he had raised his fist to knock. The old man must be quite pissed off indeed, if he was ready to forego his usual games of niceties. And sure enough there he was, sitting behind his desk with the other three Heads of house at his sides. The Aurors and other members of staff still at the school this evening were scattered around the couches on either side of the room.

Harry stepped inside and was invited to sit in front of the gathering with a curt nod. Snape was not here yet, which was not surprising, since he would have much more to pack than Harry had.

Professor McGonagall seemed strangely subdued to his surprise. He had expected her to be hissing and spitting like an angry cat. But then again, his experience with Snape had taught him not to make biased assumptions about people he did not know all that well too hastily. The one most agitated was Professor Sprout actually. He supposed her motherly protective instincts must have been offended in some way.

They all sat in an uncomfortable silence for the next ten minutes. Though, instead of making him more nervous the delay allowed him to fortify his resolve to accept his punishment with all due grace and move on from there without regrets. Hogwarts had been his first and only home for a long time and he wanted to keep the memory of it untarnished, despite everything.

Finally, the slight grinding sounds of the spiral staircase moving alerted him that Snape was on his way up. The man strode through the door a couple of moments later, robes billowing in his usual fashion and sat down next to him, posture stiff and face closed off, without being asked to in the first place.

Harry could not help but smirk slightly at the quiet muttering his rudeness had caused in his soon to be former colleagues. The man was doubtlessly beyond unnecessary niceties now as well.

Dumbledore straightened in his chair and assumed a grave tone of voice.

"Professor Snape, Mr. Potter, I cannot express the extent of my disappointment and I am speaking for the entire staff here I am sure. There is nothing that could possibly justify your actions that I can think of, unless you wish to explain yourselves and prove otherwise."

He paused to give them the opportunity to do so. They both chose to remain silent though. There really was nothing either of them wished to say to these people. None of them would understand, so why bother?

The Headmaster sighed heavily.

"Very well, then. Professor Snape, on the grounds of sexual misconduct towards a student you are hereby dismissed from your positions as the Potions Master and Head of the Slytherin house. You will receive this month's pay up to this day only and lose all rights to benefits bound to your tenure as a Professor of this institution."

He turned his head towards Harry.

"Mr. Potter, as an emancipated adult you are fully responsible for your actions. Thus, you are hereby expelled from Hogwarts on the grounds of sexual misconduct towards a teacher. Your school certificates up until your last examination will be handed out to you immediately. Both you and Mr. Snape will leave the premises as soon as our business here is concluded."

Well, that was rather anticlimactic. Though, with the non-Order staff members present it was not really surprising that everyone was keeping strictly to formalities. The real drama was yet to come and would take place at the Order headquarters most likely. He was barely able to suppress a shudder at the thought.

All necessary papers received, signed and put away everyone stood. He and Snape were escorted out by Professor McGonagall surprisingly enough. Doubly so, because she did not utter a word until they had reached the outer gates and went through. Snape stopped and turned towards her, as if waiting for something. Harry eyed them curiously, but kept silent, sensing a private matter.

Finally, she sighed and shook her head with an air of resignation.

"I wish I could say that I am surprised, but I am not. You have not been quite as careful in your lecherous observations of Harry last year, as you might have thought, Severus. I, Filius and Albus have certainly noticed, but have never said a thing, assuming that you would not dare to act on it. Apparently, we were wrong. But no matter, we will never make the same mistake again."

She turned her attention towards Harry.

"I really do not know what has possessed the Sorting Hat to put you in my house, Mr. Potter. A Gryffindor you are most certainly not." She paused, as if considering saying something more, but then decided against it. "I wish I have never learned just what you were hiding behind your charming, innocent smiles all this time... what you were capable of doing..."

Harry opened his mouth to defend himself against such blatant bigotry, but she raised her hand to cut him off.

"I am not sure I even want to hear your reasons, Mr. Potter. Though, I can imagine that you must have good ones. Still, you are hardly more than a child and to see such ruthless calculation and underhandedness in one so young is more than I can bear."

Harry pressed his teeth together and bit back a scathing retort. That would hardly do any good after all. If she wanted to pretend to be blind and deaf and happily hide in her little black and white world, so be it.

"Severus, an Order meeting is planned in three hours' time and..."

"Tell him that I am not coming," Snape interrupted her curtly.

Harry looked at him in surprise. So did McGonagall.

"If you are sure?" She sounded disappointed, but not overly so.

"You and I both know that the sole reason for this little gathering is to stage a humiliating casting out. No, thank you! Go find yourself some other fool to pick on. I am done!"

She looked at him for a long moment, but then sighed nodding once and turned to leave. Snape took Harry's elbow and apparated them both away.

xxxoooxxx

They materialised in what looked like an empty, snow-covered field in the middle of nowhere.

"That stupid, righteous bitch!" Harry exploded unable to hold it in any longer.

"Do not take it too personally. It is a defensive mechanism of sorts. She did mean it literally when she said that she cannot bear it."

That took the wind out of his sails right quick and he looked up at Snape in surprise. The man's gaze though was focused on something in the distance.

"I do not know what has happened to make her this way, but I am not as ungenerous as to hold it against her overly much."

Harry snorted, but decided to let it go looking around curiously.

"Where are we?"

"Malfoy manor."

"Huh?"

Suddenly, a wrought iron gate appeared in front of them, as if revealed out of billowing fog. Snape took his elbow again and strode forward right through it. The sensation was like walking through an ice-cold waterfall, but thankfully stopped as soon as they were on the other side.

They stepped out onto a cleared gravel way leading through an almost artfully snow-covered front garden to a very impressive manor building some distance away. Harry whistled in appreciation.

"Nice!"

"Indeed."

Snape started walking briskly towards the front entrance, with Harry hurrying along to keep up.

"Why Malfoy manor?"

"It is the only place safe enough for both of us at the moment. Lucius and I have been friends long before you were even born. He is trustworthy. Besides, Ms. Granger would be most happy to shelter you for as long as you would want it I imagine."

They reached the broad front stairs and climbed up to the massive, yet elegant, set of doors, which opened for them as soon as they came near. The Master of the house himself was standing in the entrance hall to great them with an obviously curious air.

They passed their cloaks and winter wear to the house-elves, before exchanging greetings.

"Severus, Mr. Potter, to what do we owe the honours at this hour?"

Malfoy led them into a spacious drawing room and ordered tea, also asking the elf to inform Hermione.

"A rather embarrassing business, Lucius," Snape sat down on one of the lounges without hesitation and Harry followed suit next to him. "Harry and I were caught in a compromising position and thrown out of Hogwarts in disgrace."

Malfoy did not even bother hiding his mirth.

"Tut-tut, slipping, are we?"

Before Snape could retort appropriately, Hermione hurried through the door and went straight for Harry, smothering him in a short hug, before holding him at an arm's length and looking him over, as if searching for injuries.

"Harry, what happened? Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm alright. No need for worry. Just a stupid mistake," he sighed and sat down again.

"Good evening, Professor," Hermione curtsied, while Snape bowed to her formally.

"Good evening, Ms. Granger. Although, I am no longer a Professor as of today."

"Oh? So, what happened?"

She walked around the coffee table and sat down next to Malfoy on the lounge facing them. An elf popped in with a tea tray not a moment later.

"We were caught, that's what happened."

"Caught doing what?"

She was pouring out for everyone and handing the cups over for them to fix it as they liked.

"What do you think?" He raised his eyebrow pointedly.

"Oh, Harry! How could you have been so stupid!"

He blushed and raised his chin indignantly.

"It's hardly my fault that someone has forgotten the privacy wards, because they could not keep their hands to themselves for thirty bloody seconds to do so."

"I do not recall hearing any protests at the time, if I might remind you. So, keep that tone to yourself. Merlin knows, if you have not been caterwauling like you were about to be murdered, no one would have seen any reason to burst through the door."

Harry turned to glare at him through narrowed eyes, still blushing ferociously.

"And I don't recall hearing any protests against the volume at the time either. So, don't even try to blame it on me or you are going to sleep on the couch tonight."

Unable to hold it in any longer Malfoy burst out laughing at them with an uncharacteristic openness. Even Hermione grinned, despite her aggravation.

"Professor... oh, I mean... what should I call you now? Mr. Snape seems just so wrong."

"Severus is fine."

"Hermione then," she nodded at him smiling. "I wanted to ask about Dumbledore. It seems hardly like him to just give you the boot like that. Especially, where Harry is concerned. Surely, he could have just handled the matter quietly to everyone's satisfaction, without resorting to such drastic measures?"

"That might be true. However, it was a pair of Aurors stationed at the school recently that has caught us. Thus, his hands were bound."

"I would have paid good money to see his face when he was told," Malfoy smirked in amusement. "Has he kicked you out of his precious Order yet?"

Snape rolled his eyes at him.

"Not yet, though it is a matter of hours now. Not that I will be around to bear witness to his disappointed mean and reproachful drivel. I have seen and heard them often enough to know his speech by heart, thank you very much."

They all chuckled at that.

"Well, you are looking for a safe place to stay I assume?"

Snape was about to say something, but Malfoy held his hand up interrupting him.

"You do not even need to ask, Severus, as you should well know by now. You and Mr. Potter can stay as long as you wish."

He called a house-elf and ordered a set of guest rooms to be prepared, while Hermione was positively beaming.

"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. You may call me Harry, if you please."

"Lucius," the man nodded at him, "and there is no need to thank me. We Malfoys always take care of our own."

"Nevertheless, I hope we will not trespass on your hospitality for long." Harry turned towards Snape slightly. "I was thinking to settle down in one of the Potter properties actually. But I don't know how habitable or secure any of them are at the moment."

"We are on our own time as of today, so I do not see a problem with going and taking a look for ourselves tomorrow. I am easy to please there the material side of things is concerned, as you know. You do not need to go out of your way with lavish indoor decorations. A decently sized potions lab and a well appointed library are the only things that I require."

"Hah! And he's seriously asking me why I chose him," Harry joked into the room. "Easy to please and easy to keep, what more does a man need?"

Snape rolled his eyes, while the rest of them chuckled in amusement.

"And as to the wards, in addition to strengthening the family specific ones you could arrange for the best of the best to be set up by professional Wardsmasters. I believe you are powerful enough to attempt a Fidelius Charm even, with a bit of practise. That however would have to wait until after we have finished our bonding. Speaking of which," Snape turned towards their host. "We are going to need a ritual chamber for tomorrow evening."

"I will have a second one cleaned and properly stocked until then. Do not worry," the man nodded reassuringly.

The hour was growing late. Therefore, they all decided to turn in for the night. The rooms Malfoy had given them were nothing but excellent. A vast bedroom with an enormous four-poster bed dominating it and an equally vast ensuite bathroom. It even had its own sitting room and a small office adjoining it. Everything inside was tastefully arranged and of the best quality of course, though he had expected nothing less.

They quickly unpacked most of their clothes and other necessities. Unsurprisingly, neither of them had overly much of those. Harry had every intention to make good use of the pool-sized bathtub one of these days, preferably together with Snape, but not right now. They shared a quick shower, both too tired for anything else and crawled under the many fluffy blankets.

Despite being tired, Harry found himself unable to fall asleep immediately. He lay on his side with Snape spooned behind him in their usual position and watched the fire crackle merrily in the large, ornately decorated fireplace. Snape was still awake as well, he could tell by the pattern of his breathing.

"You don't seem to be too disappointed by this turn of events."

"Why would I be? Teaching ungrateful brats was hardly my life's ambition. If not for the threat of His return, I would have left a decade ago."

"And the Order?"

Snape snorted.

"I am a Dark wizard, Potter. The only course I have ever pledged myself to is the Dark one. It is not my fault that the leader I have sworn loyalty to has betrayed both me and the course, forcing me to seek a way out from under his oppressive rule. The arrangement with Dumbledore has been a mutually beneficial one and we both were perfectly aware of and content with it. When I refused to resume my position as a spy, my usefulness to him and his Order became all but void."

"Why have you refused? Were you not afraid that he would give you the boot and leave you to fend for yourself?"

"He is too noble to do that, Potter. Besides, both he and I knew that the chances of me being taken back into the fold were rather slim. I was not ready to gamble with my life like that and he was content with keeping me as a teacher and adviser only. Not to mention that he needed someone to do his dirty work. None of his precious Light wizards were cut out for the sort of things that needed to be done in a war from time to time after all."

"I see. I'm surprised that you've risked losing his protection for a piece of arse then. Seems uncharacteristically reckless of you somehow."

"A piece of arse?" Snape laughed in amusement. "Oh, my lovely, sweet Harry, your ignorance is quite endearing."

Snape pressed him closer to himself chuckling into the crook of his neck.

Harry had to admit that he was a bit confused. Sure, he was a good catch and all that, and a reasonably powerful wizard, both magically and politically. He may also be a Child of Prophecy, yes, but Dumbledore was Dumbledore after all. He did not see how a man like Snape could be possibly justified in jeopardising his safety and wellbeing for someone like him. Merlin knew there were more handsome, wealthy, not to mention safe, options out there.

Snape loved him, that was true, and had loved him for quite some time. He had a good sense of self preservation as well though and he could have hardly known at the time that Harry would decide to commit to him. And yet, he had had no qualms incurring Dumbledore's wrath by telling him everything he had wanted to know in exchange for nothing more than a good lay.

He sighed. Well, if Snape thought he was worth it, Harry certainly was not going to complain. Must be his unnatural good luck yet again.

Snape shifted one of his arms and pushed Harry's hair out of the way, kissing his neck and temple.

"If anyone should be doubting their worth in this relationship, that would be me. I still do not comprehend what could have possibly possessed you to choose me over your family and friends."

Harry frowned. "What are you talking about? I don't have a family and my friends approve of you more or less."

Snape froze for several moments obviously surprised.

"I was having Black, Lupin and the Weasleys in mind."

"Oh, well, Sirius could be considered family I suppose and I like him well enough, but you must understand that in my eyes all his professions of love and caring are nothing but hot air. It's not me he loves, it's James' son. I'm not even sure he actually properly differentiates between me and my father in his head. He has called me James more than once last summer. And he may care for me, but he cares for the Order and their course, as well as his own ideals and goals, more. So, why should I go out of my way to be loyal to him when he isn't loyal to me?

You on the other hand may be a sneaky, self-serving bastard, but you have proven to me beyond doubt that despite your loyalty to your own course and agendas our relationship will always come first. I will always come first."

Snape did not say anything to that, not that he had expected him to.

"Lupin... Well, I'm not really sure what to think of him honestly. He may have been my parents' friend, but he certainly has done nothing to earn himself my regard, much less my loyalty. What he may or may not think about this does not bother me much.

The Weasleys are decent enough people, but hardly my family. Only because I have spent a couple of summers with them, it does not mean that they have adopted me. Ron and I have been best friends when we were younger, but that fell apart beyond repair in fourth year, as you have seen. So, the only Weasleys I'm even somewhat close to right now are the twins. The others are just good acquaintances."

He grinned impishly.

"The twins have reacted rather positively when I told them about us, by the way."

"Do I even want to know?"

"Hmm... no, probably not," he chuckled under his breath.

He could almost feel the eyes rolling behind him and chuckled again.

Snape shifted and turned him over on his back, settling himself on top.

"Since you do not seem to be too tired, I believe we have an interrupted business to finish."

"Insatiable git." Harry sighed dramatically and opened his legs, wrapping them around Snape's waist. "No wonder they have caught us. Is there even one minute in a day when you don't think about sex?"

Snape pretended to consider it, while he was untwisting the bottle of lubricant (their sixth one).

"No, I believe not."

"Just as I thought," Harry moaned enjoying the feeling of a long, slender finger sliding into his hole.

xxxoooxxx

The next morning they somehow managed to join their hosts for breakfast on time, coming in even before Draco and Theodore. The later two stopped and stared for several moments in surprise, since no one had informed them of the unexpected arrival of their guests yesterday.

"What in the name of Merlin is going on?" Draco asked his father, while he and his fiancé tentatively made their way towards their seats.

"Severus and Harry are staying with us for the time being and I fully expect you to be civil," Malfoy Sr. gave him a pointed look, before returning his attention to his toast.

"But why?"

The look of complete bewilderment on his face was so hilarious that Harry had to bite his lip to stop himself from laughing. Snape decided to take over the honours of explanation.

"Unfortunately, Harry and I were discovered yesterday and seeing as engaged couples are not allowed at Hogwarts, we were immediately dismissed."

Malfoy Jr. burst out laughing.

"Hah! I knew it would happen! With the two of you screwing like rabbits in heat anywhere and everywhere, it's a wonder it took this long."

Snape raised his eyebrow at him.

"Oh, please!" Draco rolled his eyes at him smirking smugly. "It was so bloody obvious that I had to constantly wonder how anyone with eyes in their head and two brain cells rubbing together didn't notice a thing."

"You are engaged?!"

Nott seemed to be beyond shocked. But when no one declared it a joke after a full minute, he remembered his manners and congratulated them formally. They received it with all due grace.

"So, what are you planning to do now? Beyond settling down somewhere I mean," Hermione asked finally.

"Mostly, the same as I was doing before," Harry just shrugged nonchalantly. "Education, politics, social work and the war of course. The only thing that's going to change is my timetable really. Less schoolwork, more personal projects."

"I will see to organising your further education as soon as time permits," Snape nodded at him. "What you should concern yourself with in the coming days is definitely damage control. Keep your eyes open. Your political opponents will likely reveal themselves in an attempt to unsaddle you."

Harry snorted. "The stupid ones maybe. The really dangerous ones will know better than to rise against me with so little ammunition. I'm going to play a lovesick boy, who just couldn't wait to marry his sweetheart. The public will eat it up right out of my hand."

Draco chocked on his eggs, probably taking exception to 'Severus Snape' and 'sweetheart' being pronounced in the same sentence. The man himself just sneered and glared at Lucius' smirk and the others' suspicious coughing.

"Very well, then. I will have to inform Lord Prince of this development today. I do not foresee any trouble from that quarter though."

Harry poured himself another cup of tea.

"What are you going to do now actually?"

"Work on my private research projects. What else would I be doing?"

"Tutoring?" He teased smirking slightly.

"Not in this lifetime or any lifetime, if I can help it."

"Opening your own shop?"

"Merlin spare me! I would rather teach."

They all chuckled at that.

A house-elf popped in bringing them their mail. Harry's pile was rather large, with a couple of distinctly red envelopes sticking out of the rest. So was Snape's.

"The wards around the manor are deactivating Howlers and destroying cursed or harmfully charmed letters. They are safe to open and read now," Malfoy Sr. assured them.

Harry did not feel assured though. The words written inside might turn out to be just as harmful as any curse. He sighed and began sorting through them, resigned to his fate.

"Will my owl be able to come through?"

"If she has followed you, the elves would have directed her to the owlery."

Harry looked up suddenly remembering something.

"And my personal elf?" He smirked slyly.

Malfoy eyed him curiously, no doubt confused by his facial expression.

"It may come to your side, if called. It may not linger longer than strictly necessary though. The wards will alert me of its coming and going of course."

"Oh," the smirk did not disappear, "alright."

Malfoy watched him for a moment longer, but then seemed to dismiss his strange behaviour and turned back to his own correspondence.

Surprisingly enough, the letter from Sirius was not a Howler. Equally surprising was the fact that it was only two sentences long. Harry put it aside not knowing what to think. The third surprise of the morning was that there was no letter from Dumbledore. The rest was predictably letters from Lupin and the Weasley elders, as well as every Order member that had presumed to have a right to stick their nose into his business.

Harry frowned feeling strangely discomfited. He did not see any apparent harm in accepting Sirius' invitation to come and talk to him as soon as possible. The man was his godfather after all and in the face of what had happened such a request would be hardly strange. A deep feeling in his gut was telling him that it would be a bad idea though. A monumentally bad idea even, which was indeed very troubling.

To go or not to go was here the question. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. If he went, he might still have a chance at reconciliation. If he did not, that would be the end of it.

He opened his eyes and turned his head slightly, watching Snape reading through a letter of his own. Who was he trying to fool? There never was a chance at reconciliation. Not since the moment he had clasped the engagement bracelet around Snape's wrist. Most likely even since the moment they had slept with each other for the first time. Sirius would demand that he broke off the engagement as long as it was still possible. Something that Harry would most certainly not do. To hope for acceptance and understanding from the man would be just idiotic.

It was decided then. He sighed and reached for his paper. He would not go. And it really was high time he started calling him Severus.