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A Promise of Catastrophe

Chapter Text

"What tale do you like best to hear?"
"Oh, I have not much choice! They generally run on the same theme - courtship; and promise to end in the same catastrophe - marriage."

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

 

The dinner went splendid. Harry couldn't believe how splendid in fact. Lady Cora didn't want to kill him for deterring his one and only grandson from marrying a Malfoy, and that was splendid indeed. Then Carlson brought in the tea and dessert, and things started going downhill from then.

Harry was quietly forking the treacle tart into his mouth, thinking to himself how lucky he was, truly lucky this time. Imagining, how nice it would be to go home tonight, either to Snape's or to his place, and have dessert once again. Sweet, lovely, hot dessert. He pondered how nice it felt to have been chosen instead of a Malfoy – a rich, Pureblood Malfoy. Chewing on his tart, eyes on his intended, he mulled over scenarios of the past and a hopeful future about the two of them: intimate scenes played out in his minds, followed by cozy cuddling that lead to more intimate scenes. It was lovely in his head right now.

"So how do you imagine this courtship, Lord Harry?"

The question stopped all the moving pictures of Snape and him in his mind and forced Harry back to reality. He gulped down his cake as his eyes wandered from Snape to Cora then back to the Head Auror silently begging for help. But Snape wasn't paying attention to him. He was staring at his grandmother with wide eyes.

Harry cleared his throat.

"This what, Lady Cora?"

A sound came out from Carlson, might have been a cough, but was more likely a snort of laughter.

"The courtship, of course."

"The courtship is off." Snape stated and Harry gave thanks to many Deities he could suddenly think of that the man didn't go all numb and silent. "No one is courting me. I'm with Potter. We've agreed on that."

It was one thing that they had agreed on that and quite another to hear Severus Snape say that. I'm with Potter was such a simple sentence, it could mean a thousand things – I'm partnered with him, I think he's right, I came here with Potter, and many more, but this time it was meant as I belong with Potter and it was said so easily, so clearly without a single hesitation in Snape's voice, it made Harry sure they made the right decision. Heart flattering, he spoke too to support his partner. "Yes, we're together now."

He wished, cheesy it might be, to reach out now and take Snape's hand in his but they were sitting on the other side of the table that was large enough that there was no way they could actually touch. Instead they shared a glance which was worth a million times more. There was love in Snape' dark eyes and Harry smiled at him, happily.

Cora looked at them both, slowly, as if wondering whether they were pulling her leg or not. She, then, proceeded to place her fork elegantly down next to her plate. Carlson was there immediately, to clear away the remains. This couldn't have taken more than a minute yet to Harry it felt like a millennia and judging by Snape's worried expression, he must have felt the same.

"Lord Potter," started Cora and Harry's heart stopped. All evening he was Lord Harry, being Potter again did not mean anything good. "Carlson would love to show you the other Drawing Room. If you would follow him."

"I don't think I want to see the other Drawing room, Lady Cora. I think I want to stay here instead. With Severus." Harry said with a confident smile. It was the first time, he realized that he mentioned the man by his given name. It was nice. A bit alien on his tongue still, but he knew he will get used to it with some late-night practice.

"And I think you want to go to the other Drawing room and look at some nice paintings, Lord Potter." The Lady stated eyes on Snape and not on Harry. "Moreover, I also think you want to do what I tell you to do right now, because you are a clever man who listens to someone who is more older and wiser than yourself."

Harry stood, looked at Cora beaming then said, "You left out prettier," with a tiny bow of his head. He grinned at Severus and the outraged Cora too, then left the Dining room with Carlson.

Once the door closed behind them, he immediately turned to the butler. "Tell me, Carlson, are we in trouble?"

"Not just yet, My Lord."

"We will be in trouble?" Harry groaned. "But why? I thought we agreed! I thought it was all good. The courtship is off, Snape and I are an item now, Snape stays as grandson. I thought that was the deal."

Carlson sniffed. "This is my Lady's life you are talking about not a transaction, Lord Potter."

"Oh don't you start with the Lord Potter thing, too. You know what I mean, Carlson. Severus came here this morning and told everyone the courtship is off because he's in love with me."

Carlson looked at him as if he would be seeing a child. "You really are no Lord, are you?" He said without any malice, just stating it as a fact.

Harry nodded in agreement. "I keep telling her that. Not that she listens."

"There are certain traditions that one needs to keep when… one intends to join a certain high ranking, noble family."

"Such as?" Harry asked nervously now, his palms sweating.

Before Carlson could answer, the door opened and, upset, Snape walked out ordering Carlson back into the Dining room with only a flash of his eyes. He was getting better at it, Harry thought, ordering the help around.

"What did she say?" He asked taking Snape's hand. He wasn't sure which one of them he wanted to calm, but if it worked on any of them, he would be a happy man.

"This is a traditional house, is what she's saying." Said Snape.

"What does that mean? We can't be together?"

There was something in Harry, something that knew that wouldn't be happening. He was willing to fight for Snape with teeth and nail and if he had to fight an old lady, so be it. But he won't let Cora get between them.

"Oh no, it's trickier than that." Snape grimaced. Then he lowered himself on half-knee. He looked up with an unusual uncertainty in his eyes, that was so open and honest and made him so vulnerable, Harry was ready to agree to whatever he needed to. And he had a rather good inkling about what was about to come.

"Harry James Potter," Snape started in his most serious voice as if taking a vow. Harry's heart hammered in his chest. "Will you court me?"

"Yes!" Harry said, happily, then the actual question got to his mind. "Wait, what?"

Chapter Text

“You have to court me,” was a sentence so simple in its meaning, yet to Harry at that moment rather daunting. Because courting wasn’t dating.

Dating was a simple thing. Dating implied movies and restaurants and kissing at the doorway. Dating included sex. Dating was something adults did all the time, in order to get to know someone else. Dating was fine. Dating, Harry could do. Sure, he could take Snape sightseeing, and to the London eye, and take him out for fancy dinners, or for a picnic in the park. Harry was willing to do cooking, go on long walks on the Flee Market and search for stupid little trinkets they could show off later on to their children. They could stay in on a date and watch an awful, old horror movie, or the very first season of Doctor Who – or the very last for that matter. On other dates, they could visit Hogwarts, go on a hike somewhere in Scotland, be out in nature and explore the world and each other. Dating was fun.

Courting on the other hand... Courting was a traditional word and by definition it meant something traditional. Traditional simply wasn’t a thing Harry often did. Courting for Harry meant those stupid poems (he was no poet, his poems would be worse than Number Three’s) and wistful letters carried by owls and perhaps stolen moments, hidden by the sights of chaperones, because a courtship included chaperones as well, unfortunately. There were no private moment in a courtship (Merlin forbid, kissing or sex), everything was watched by people, everything had to be proper and traditional.

“What do you mean by court you?” Harry asked back after minutes of heavy silence.

“You already said yes, you can’t back out.” Snape warned him.

“I said yes to something else. I think.”

“What could you have possibly…” Snape started but then his eyes went round for a moment. After that his expression turned smug. “You thought I’m proposing to you?”

“Oh, do shut up, Snape.” Reacted Harry, but nothing could have wiped off the satisfied smirk from Snape’s lips.

“Well, if you ready to marry me, certainly you are willing to court me.” Snape stated. “As in traditionally.”

Harry’s worse fears seemed to have just realized. “What. Exactly. Does. That. Mean?” He hissed, pulling Snape into the Drawing room he was to admire ten minutes ago.

“I do not know,” Snape confessed. “Apparently, I am not to know these kind of things – as bride to be. It’s you, who is supposed to know what to do and how.”

“How am I supposed to know that, Snape? I am not a Lord. They didn’t teach me that at Hogwarts. They certainly didn’t teach me that during Auror training either.”

They looked at each other for a moment in complete silence. In the next room, they could hear the small noises of cutleries clinking, glasses touching. Kizzy, Bob and Carlson were clearing the remnants or dinner.

Snape sat down onto a small loveseat. “Come here,” he beaconed to Harry. “She says, this is important. If I chose you as my future husband, there has to be a certain direction our relationship needs to be heading. A more traditional direction, so to speak. You have by the end of summer to woo me, and convince me that it is you, who I want to marry.” He held up a hand to stop Harry from interjecting. “Yes, I already told her that happened, yet she insists on the formalities. You might remember I mentioned some time ago, that I have to be bonded to my husband. Well, that bond will start to form during our courtship. I don’t know how, because apparently, that is your job to figure out. That being said, we’ll meet tomorrow morning and do some research.”

“That sounds nice,” Harry said edging a little closer to Snape. “Can we go home now. I promise to do all the traditional stuff once we figure out how to do it, but right now, I really, really need to continue what we started at your place.”

“And what would that be, Lord Potter?” Purred Snape.

“It better be nothing, My Lords.” Carlson said strictly from the doorway.

“Carlson,” growled Snape, pinching the bridge of his nose, “go and find something to clean, go now, go fast, or I swear to Merlin, I’ll turn you into a feather-duster.”

“I cannot do that, I’m afraid, and hurting me, though satisfactory it might be to you, will not help achieve your goals either, Lord Severus.” He snapped his fingers and the candles came alive.

Harry and Snape both started at him gob-smacked. “You’re not magic!” Cried Harry. “Or are you?”

“You two just made me magic.” Carlson stated slowly once again giving the impression of talking to very idiotic dunderheads.

“And how on Earth could we possibly make that happen?” Sneered Snape. “No one has such powers, magic simply does not work that way.”

“When Lord Potter agreed to court you, my Lord,” Carlson explained, “he evoked a rather powerful bonding magic. This isn’t the one, we were supposed to perform at the end of your previous courtship. This is something more traditional, I’m afraid. There are serious rules, and breaking them might end up cursing your future marriage.”

“Excuse me?” Laughed Harry. “If I don’t court him right, I’ll curse us?”

“Exactly.” Nodded Carlson seemingly glad that he wasn’t talking to imbeciles after all.

“And what exactly do I have to do?” Harry asked.

“I’m afraid I cannot help you with that. All the noble families have a unique routine for such an occasion. I am sure you’ll find the proper steps in the Black Library. My responsibility is not to assist you, it is to prevent any impropriety to happen to Lord Snape during his courtship. Which is why I was granted magic.”

Suspicion rose in Harry. “Meaning what exactly?”

“Meaning, that wherever we are, whatever we do, there will be a chaperon constantly monitoring us.” Snape answered for the butler. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Carlson?”

“Loosely speaking, you are correct, My Lord.”

“So, if I want to do this,” Snape said then leaned in, stealing a small kiss from Harry.

“I will show up and do this,” Carlson snapped two of his fingers once more and suddenly Harry found himself on the other side of the loveseat. The sudden invisible force that had pulled him there was nowhere now, yet he still felt as if someone had put a rope around his belly and jerked really hard.

Carlson looked satisfied, Harry on the other hand felt outraged.

Snape was shaking his head. “Oh, you will enjoy this, Carlson, won’t you?”

“Indeed, I will, My Lord.”

Chapter Text

Cora didn’t like travelling anywhere nowadays. In her age, it was no wonder at all. Old bones hurt all the time, though she was a lady and she would never complain aloud, only perhaps for Carlson. Carlson understood. Travelling wasn’t for her, and really, it should have been Minerva, who would get up from her high chair and brought her boney back over here to Griffinstone, not the other way around. Scotland was dreadfully far away, and all those noisy children and the moving staircases, really it would be a wonder if Cora still found her way to the Headmistress’s office.

However, she would try.

Minerva was the one to bury the hatchet and send an invitation, it was only the right thing to do to accept it and not complain. Which was why, Carlson was now helping her coat on, ready to send her Mistress off to Hogwarts. Unfortunately, her Mistress wasn’t so certain about whether this meeting should be happening or not. It had been so long since she had seen Minerva. What was even the point of all this?

As Appariton in her age was out of the question, even side apparition would leave her with a couple broken bones most likely, it was either a Griffin or Floo Powder. Though she like the idea of appearing in front of Minerva McGonagall, headmistress of Britain’s best wizarding school, on the back of a beautiful griffin, she wasn’t sure she would be able to sit, or even talk after a several hours long journey in the sky. Hence, she decided on the powder and warm confines of the fireplace.

The green flames were dancing in front of her and she stared at them for a few seconds, hypnotized. Carlson put a gentle hand on her waist to stir her towards the flames. Improper the motion might have been, without that she probably never would have departed from her home.

After a couple minutes of mad swirling, she stepped out from the fireplace as gracefully as one could. There was not a single spot of smudge on her purple robes. She was truly the excellent example of a noble, aristocrat witch.

“Good morning, Cora.” Said Minerva from behind her large desk.

Cora had seen many Headmasters and Headmistresses behind that desk, and not many managed to look that terrifying as her.

She took off her hat and placed it onto one of the chairs. “You always had a knack for ignoring etiquette, Minnie.”

“No one had called me that in quiet some time,” the Headmistress noted in a weak tone.

“How long has it been?” Cora asked, pulling down her white lace gloves, dropping them onto her hat on the chair. “Fifty years?”

“Fifty-two,” Corrected Minerva. “But who’s counting.”

“It was a long time ago.” Sighed Cora.

“They say true friendship never fades.” Noted Minerva, swishing a wand. A teapot rose to the air and started pouring tea into two cups. One floated to Cora once full of hot steaming breakfast tea, and two cubes of sugar hopped into the drink.

“Except when one disinherits her only daughter.”

“What you did to Eileen isn’t why I asked you here.”

“Oh, I know that.” Cora sniffed. “It’s not out of friendly love either, is it? It is because of Severus.” She stirred the tea with a silver spoon, then took a small sip. “Or perhaps, you just missed my company terribly.” She said sarcastically.

“I assure you,” glared McGonagall, “the latter would never cross my mind.”

“And yet, here I am.” Cora noted merrily.

“What are your plans with Severus Snape, Cora? Have you not tormented him enough in the last decades?”

“Torment him? I have no such thing in mind, Minnie.” She placed her cup down. “And besides, he has Potter at his sides now to protect him from any tormentor.”

“Potter?” Minerva asked, frowning.

“Oh yes, that dear boy had made my Severus fall for him apparently. My grandson cancelled his courtship and I assume now he intends to marry Potter.”

“Worse matches had been made in history,” was all Minnie’s comment.

“You approve!” Cried Cora. “I am surprised. Dumbledore’s company must have rubbed off on you.”

“My opinion on a lot of subjects has changed during the fifty or so years we have not talked.” The Headmistress agreed.

“Well then, we shall invite you to the wedding…” Cora promised, then added quietly, “if they survive the courtship.”

The courtship?” Minerva echoed dangerously, leaning forward.

“Well, my dear, you know how things are in my world.” Said Cora with a nonchalant wave of her hand. “Some things must happen.”

“I don’t remember your courtship, Cora!” Hissed Minerva. “You met your husband and you fall for him, the next month you two were engaged and then married.”

“I may have an ulterior motive…” Confessed Cora painfully.

“Which is?” Nagged Minerva.

There was a momentarily pause in which Cora hesitated whether it was truly a good idea to admit this to Minnie McGonagall, but then she rolled her eyes and shrugged, lady like. “I’m bored. Absolutely, mind-numbingly bored, Minnie. I need some entertainment, and you should have seen Potter’s expression when I asked him about the courtship! Oh, it was a delight – the panic, the uncertainty, the terror. This is going to be so much fun!”

“Cora Prince, you gobermouch! You have not changed anything in the past fifty years, have you?” Cried Minerva.

“Not in the least, my dear Minnie,” chuckled Cora. “And I’m sure, though your opinion has changed in many ways, you would not be averse to joining me on this little adventure. I promise not to be so hard on Potter, after all, I do want him to marry Severus. Besides, those two have been awful to poor Carlson, teasing him all the time. I now made him their chaperone. Can you imagine?” Cora laughed heartedly.

Minerva watched her for moments, her strict gaze not faltering for even a second. Just when Cora was about to take back all she had said and leave defeated, Minerva snorted loudly and started laughing. Portrays over them murmured upset for being woken from their slumber, yet the Headmistress just laughed delighted.

They continued chatting for half an hour more, but in the end Minerva had to return to her duties.

“I expect you for dinner this weekend,” Cora said placing a kiss on Minerva’s cheeks as a goodbye. “Have a nice day, Minnie.”

“Cora,” Minerva called just as she was about to step into the green flames. “It was good seeing you again.”

Chapter Text

Panic stricken, Harry searched the books at the old library of Grimmauld Place. So far, he had found nothing about courtships, there was hardly any book about love either, it was mostly deaths. Dark curses and even darker potions. Magic for torturing, old books of even older relics that would hurt you if you were not careful enough. Outraged at his “family”, Harry sat crossed legged on the floor, opening book after the other hoping that this one might be the one to detail what it meant to court as a Black. After closing a particularly dangerous looking book that oozed yellow pus that seemed to burn through the rug and the stone beneath, he considered steeling Snape away from his castle.

Finally, after hours of fruitless search he found a book that looked promising. Three hundred pages long it talked about the Black Dynasty and how it came to be. Harry actually found it interesting, and read on about Blacks living and marrying hundreds of years ago, back when it was acceptable to marry Muggles. Their Pureblood mania didn’t show up until a century ago when Wheldon Black was murdered by an insane Muggle relative. From then on, through decades the Blacks resented all Muggles and were not willing to mingle with them.

It was almost evening by the time Harry realized he would find as much useful information about courting here as in “Dark Arts from Beyond the Veil” written by Deryll McPleigue. Tired of all the darkness he read about, he walked down to the well-lit kitchen, where Kreacher was preparing his dinner.

“What’s this going to be?” Harry asked disgusted as he peered into the green muddy fluid bubbling in the saucer.

“Kreacher is making salve, Master should not touch it.” Told him the elf. Disappointed, Harry looked around with a rumbling belly.

“What’s there to eat?” He inquired in a faint voice.

“Kreacher asked Master, what Master wished to eat. Kreacher asked three times. Master did not tell Kreacher what to prepare. So Kreacher did not prepare anything.” The elf explained.

Harry sighed, looking around the kitchen hungrily. “I’m sorry, Kreacher,” Harry apologized. He had never even heard the elf enter the Library. “I was busy reading. Even though it was useless.” Harry plopped down onto a chair and rested his head on the table, listening to the gentle noise of Kreacher stirring the mud-like miasma. “And now I neither have the information I need for the courtship, nor dinner.” Harry heaved a sighed once more.

The stirring stopped. Something warm and disgusting dripping onto Harry’s arm. He looked up.

Kreacher was staring at him over the table, standing on a chair to be close enough to him. The ladle that he used to stir the salve with was still in his hand. The half-done potion, now the color of blood oranges, was slowly running down on the slim elf arm. He looked like he was about to murder Harry with a ladle.

A little scream escaped Harry as he jerked back but Kreacher grabbed his arm. His grey eyes were huge as saucers as he whispered softly, “What courtship?”

Harry felt slightly terrified of the eagerness he saw in the elf’s huge eyes.

“I’m to court Severus Snape.” He said carefully. He wasn’t sure if this was good or bad.

A wild tremor went through the little elf and Harry was scared he would drop dead on the spot from something he only hoped was excitement. Kreacher’s eyes bulged even more, it was almost frightening as he leant in towards Harry, yet he did not move. Until he did.

He burst from the table, jumping off the chair, raising his hands with flailing ladle into the air and running around the kitchen like a madman. Harry stared at him, with many emotions crisscrossing in him at the same time ranging from mesmerized to terrified.

“Master is to court the noble Prince family!” Kreacher screamed into the dim kitchen happily. “The name of the Black family will be restored! Kreacher knew Master was not a Bloodtraitor, Kreacher knew!”

“Kreacher calm down,” Harry shouted at him, scared that the little elf would hurt himself in his enthusiasm. Then he realized what Kreacher had said. “Wait, you thought me a Bloodtraitor?” He yelled, grabbing the elf by his large flopping ears. “Why?!”

Kreacher stopped, his wide smile dropping slightly. “Master is friends with Bloodtraitors. Kreacher was worried. The Ancient and Noble House of Black must uphold certain traditions to keep its rank among the noblest of families.”

“Traditions…” Harry repeated with distaste. “I hate traditions.”

“Master will not hate the courting traditions of the Black family!” The elf said convinced.

“Oh great, it’s going to be dark, won’t it? Will I have to poison his family, and steal him or something?”

“Nothing of the sort.” Kreacher shook his head wildly. “The Ancient and Noble House of Black has been one of the greatest and purest families for centuries. Among the Great Seven traditions and ceremonies hold great importance. Cheating, stealing, blackmailing and all those vile tricks will not do in a marriage among the Great Seven. There are magical rules holding all involved to a strict and honest conduct. This is, after all, business.”

“That sounds extremely romantic,” Harry noted. “But what is this Great Seven?”

“The greatest seven Houses of England,” explained Kreacher. “The Princes, the Blacks, the Malfoys, the Weasleys, the Granthams, the Kerouacs, and the Longbottoms.” Listed the little elf, taking a seat next to Harry now that he was calmer. The ladle in his hand still dropped blood-red spots everywhere.

“The Weasleys, too?” Harry asked surprised.

“Bloodtraitor or not, the blood binds.” Nodded Kreacher vehemently. “They declined their seat in the past hundred years, but maybe now, they will partake.”

“Their seat in what?” Harry asked more and more confused.

“The Council of the Seven, of course.” Said Kreacher.

Harry had never heard of them, but decided the topic of some ancient council could wait. If no one ever made mention of them in the past twenty years, he could wait a couple more days the deal with them.

“So how will it be like? Courting someone from the Great Seven?”

Kreacher thought about it, his eyes turning dreamy for a moment, as he whispered softly in a tone full of awe, “Dazzling.”

“Lovely,” sighed Harry. “I’m sure some razzle-dazzle will win me Severus’ heart right away.” He rolled his eyes at the idea. “And how will I know what to do? Is there a book about this in the Library?”

“Oh, well… there was. Lady Bellatrix set it on fire during her courtship to Lord Rodolphus.”

Harry’s heart sunk. How would he do this without anyone telling him what exactly to do? He didn’t know how courtships worked. He didn’t know how all this Lord-ing worked. He was just a simple guy who wanted to be with Snape. Why did it have to be so hard?

Desperate, Harry groaned, “What am I supposed to do then?”

“Kreacher will tell Master.” Said the elf with confidence, as if it would be the most normal thing to offer.

“You?” Asked Harry. “You know how I have to court Snape?”

“Kreacher knows. Kreacher knows all the traditions, and paperwork and gifts and balls and rules. Kreacher knows best.”

“Oh really?” Harry cried happy. “You know it all? You will help me?” He boxed into the air in excitement when the elf nodded furiously. “When do we start?!”

“Right away, Master,” said Kreacher jumping excitedly from his chair and running out from the kitchen.

Harry looked around his little kitchen, beaming happily. Just when he was about to give up, he got help from the most unexpected place. He could court Snape properly and win him through stupid traditions. In just short weeks, Snape would be his and his alone.

The kitchen was quiet, save the merrily bubbling salve Kreacher was making and Harry’s growling stomach. “Kreacher”, he called out. “Could we maybe have dinner, before we get into all this?”

“Kreacher?” He called out again, with a bit more urging in his voice now. “Did you say ball?” Then a second later, he screamed, “Am I supposed to hold a goddamn ball for Snape?”