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“Really, Potter, do make a move. I am tired of watching you moon after Professor Lovegood. Do man up and ask her out.”

The potato which was on its merry way to Harry’s mouth dropped in his lap as he jerked around, surprised, to face Snape.

“What?”

Snape rolled his eyes and sneered at him.

“Articulate as ever.”

Harry put his fork down, lest he gave into his urge to stab Snape with it. He folded his hands in his lap and tried to work out what Snape meant.

“I’m not interested in Luna romantically if that’s what you’re implying.”

“I’m not implying, Potter, I’m stating a fact. You stare at her all the time during meals, which is rather impressive seeing as she’s sitting on the opposite end of this table. But that aside, you spend most of your time talking to her in the teacher’s lounge. And you blush and stammer. Clearly, you’re besotted with the girl.”

Harry coughed to gain some time before replying. Snape noticed it and smirked, fully convinced his theory was just proven right.

“Have you ever considered that maybe I blush and stammer because she’s telling me something improbable that makes me react that way?”

Snape raised his eyebrow.

“And what exactly would that be, Potter?”

Harry opened his mouth and closed it a few times. Well, this is going to be awkward.

“She keeps on telling me that you and I would make a great couple.”

Harry prepared himself mentally for shouting and violence. He was quite surprised when Snape sat still, frozen by Harry’s words. He put down his goblet with pumpkin juice and turned to Harry.

“Do not mock me, Potter.”

Harry shook his head, his hands raised up in a defensive gesture.

“I’m not, I’m simply telling you what Luna says.”

Snape’s gaze left him and turned towards Luna at the other end of the table. He seemed to be sizing her up before turning back to his food and resuming cutting his steak into pieces.

“I will speak with Professor Lovegood and disabuse her of her silly notions.”

“... Right.”

Harry fished out the potato from his lap and went back to his food. Damn him for telling Snape. And damn Luna, twice, for making him tell Snape. He was an idiot for promising he’d tell Snape about his feelings soon. Well, he didn’t exactly tell Snape about his feelings but it was close enough. Kind of. Harry’ s nose scrunched up as he thought it through. Snape’s reaction didn’t bode too well for Harry and his plans of wooing the man. He was probably better off propositioning Umbridge – Harry shuddered at the idea. No, he wasn’t going there. Ever. He was a Gryffindor, damn it. He was Head of the Gryffindor House, for Merlin’s sake! He could ask Severus Snape to accompany him to the Yule Ball. He could. Really.

Harry chanced a quick glance at Snape and startled to see that the man was gone. Harry groaned in disappointment.

*

His fifth year DADA class was the last one he had before the Christmas holidays started. He looked at the kids who were hardly paying attention and sighed. He perfectly understood their desire for the break to start already. Then again, he wished that time hadn’t sped by so quickly since he still hadn’t had a chance to speak to Snape yet.

“Okay, guys. I can see that you won’t learn anything from me today, so let’s have a free period. Do whatever you want, just keep quiet and don’t leave the classroom, okay?”

His announcement was met with cheers and exclamations of “You’re the best, Professor Potter!” He smiled at his students and sat down behind his desk, pulled out quill and parchment, staring at them. Luna had threatened effinky and chipmunk infestation on him if he didn’t ask Snape out in the next three days. Harry still shuddered at the memory. People might see Luna as defenceless and innocent but he knew better. Oh, he knew better.

Luna let herself into Harry’s quarters as he was grading his first years’ papers. She plopped down on the couch in front of the fire and looked at Harry serenely. He looked up from his papers and smiled at her.

“How are you, Luna?”

“Good, Harry. The wackspurts have been all caught after my last class, so that’s good.”

Harry nodded. He still couldn’t believe those things were actually real. But, he guessed, that’s what made Luna such a marvellous Care of Magical Creatures teacher – she knew her stuff.

“Professor Snape told me the most interesting thing today, Harry.”

Harry put his quill down and swallowed loudly. Uh-oh.

“He told me that I was mistaken in the assumption that you and him would make a great couple. He asked me to stop giving you nonsensical ideas.”

“And, um, what did you say?”

Luna looked at him as if he was crazy.

“I told him to get that Nargle infestation checked out. They tend to do cause havoc to people’s thoughts. Especially if the person in question is a self imposed, brooding hermit who prefers to spend his time with potions instead of people.”

“Right.”

Luna gave him a little smile and turned to look at the fire again. Harry took it as his clue to finish grading his papers before he brought out wine for them. He looked at the pile of papers written by eleven year olds and decided he might as well start with the wine now. Merlin knew he’d need it. He got up and went to his liquor cabinet, took out a bottle of red wine and two glasses. Coming up to Luna, he passed her one and sat down on the couch beside her. After pouring them both drinks he sat back and relaxed.

“You should tell him, you know.”

Harry took a sip of his drink and nodded.

“I know.”

They sat in silence for a while, the crackle of the fire the only sound in Harry’s quarters.

“How’s Neville?”

Luna smiled dreamily at his question.

“He’s wonderful. His apprenticeship finishes at the end of the month and then he’s coming to Hogwarts to take over from Pomona.”

“That’s great! Who will take Hufflepuffs, though?”

“Susan, most likely. She’s also taking Transfiguration over from Minerva.”

He nodded again, his mind buzzing pleasantly from the wine. He felt Luna’s hand squeeze his shoulder and he turned to look at her. She was looking at him pleadingly and he couldn’t stand to see her like that.

“Please, Harry. You know you are running out of time. The curse will rob you of your magic if you don’t confess to Severus before Yule.”

Harry sighed loudly and reached to squeeze Luna’s hand. She, Hermione, Ron, Tonks and Kingsley were the only ones who knew he had been cursed. If the media got a wind of that, his life would be hell. This was the reason he came to teach at Hogwarts this year, instead of continuing his Auror career. He had been a great Auror, up to the moment when one of the dark wizards he had been chasing through Switzerland managed to land a curse on him. The first moments after the curse hit him were the worst moments of his life. He lay on the ground, seizing as the magic penetrated each and every cell of his body, each and every cranny and nook of his soul, finding out things he didn’t even want to admit to himself. Tonks, who was partnered with Harry, managed to catch the dark wizard and get the name of the curse out of him. Thankfully it wasn’t a fast acting curse but it still changed Harry’s life. His magic wasn’t as reliable as before, draining away from his body day by day until nothing would be left. Or until he confessed his love to the person he loved. At the beginning he thought of giving up and moving away to live as a Squib. But he loved magic and his life too much.

“It’s only half the success if I tell him, Luna. He has to accept me as I am, and we both know Snape is as far from accepting it as one can be, and we both know it.”

“Maybe he’ll surprise you,” Luna said in that mysterious tone of hers.

“I don’t know, Luna –“

“You really wouldn’t want effinkies and chipmunks to take up residence in your wardrobe, would you?”

“You wouldn’t.”

Luna didn’t reply, instead she brought the wine glass to her lips and took a sip. Harry stared at her, horrified.

“Luna, you wouldn’t!”

She smiled and looked at the fire.

“Fine,” he grumbled out.

“Three days, Harry. Do it within the next three days. Ask Severus to accompany you to the Yule Ball.”

So that’s how he came to stare at the quill and parchment as if it wanted to eat him. He sighed, took off his glasses and pinched his nose. He knew Hermione was worrying about his attitude towards the situation he found himself in. He tried to make light of it because it was the only way he could deal with it. Hermione, however, told him he was behaving like a petulant child and that he had to stop that behaviour right this minute. Motherhood really suited her.

“Professor Potter?”

Harry looked up as a student called out his name.

“Yes, Miss Martin?”

“Can we go? The class is about to end in two minutes and we have Herbology so...”

Harry nodded.

“Sure, go ahead. Class dismissed. Have good holidays, folks!”

The kids got up and left his class in a tumult of noise. It was his last class, so he might as well go back to his quarters. He looked at the quill and parchment, put them back in the table drawer. He was never good with words – better not annoy Snape with his horrendous attempts at letter writing.

He got up from his chair, grabbed his bag and walked out of the classroom. He sealed it with his magical signature to make sure none of the students decided to use it during the holidays.

He stopped by the teachers’ lounge first, out of habit. Luna still had classes until five so she wasn’t there. The lounge was nearly deserted; Severus Snape was the only occupant. Harry nodded at him and moved to sit in his customary chair by the fire. Snape returned the curt no and went back to reading his Potions journal.

Harry fiddled in the chair. Here was his perfect opportunity. He could ask Severus out and if he was shot down (when he was shot down, his mind corrected) no-one would be there to witness his humiliation. He looked up to look at Severus. The man looked like he was concentrating on what he was reading. Oh well, Harry wouldn’t want to interrupt him, now would he? He went back to looking through his bag and sorting out the papers he had there. He looked up at Snape again after a while; the man was still reading his journal, his eyes scanning the lines.

Harry sighed and stared at the paper in his hands. Maybe he ought to write Hermione a letter and apologise for the way he treated her last time he saw her. It wasn’t her fault that she worried about him. He chanced another look at Snape only to have the man catch his eye.

“Is there something you want to say, Potter? Your staring is most distracting.”

Harry licked is lips and noticed Snape’s eyes focus on them. Okay, maybe this wouldn’t be as humiliating as he thought.

“Actually, I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me to dinner tonight.”

Snape stiffened, put his journal down in his lap and focused on Harry.

“Dinner?”

“Um, yes. See, I was about to ask you to accompany me to the Yule Ball only at the last moment I realised that ah, we have to attend as chaperones anyway so, um, yeah. Dinner?”

“And why would you think to ask me to dinner? Have you been spending too much time around professor Lovegood?”

Harry closed his eyes. Okay, it would be as difficult and humiliating as he thought.

“Because I find you attractive and interesting, Severus. I’d like to spend time with you. Is that so unimaginable?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

Harry frowned at the reply.

“You don’t strike me as one to fish for compliments.”

“Merlin forbid. I’m simply stating a fact, Potter. We can barely stand each other. There was never any love lost between the two of us.”

“We have gotten on quite well this term, haven’t we?”

Severus huffed and rolled up his journal. He got up from his chair and started moving towards the door.

“Be as it might, it does not mean anything.”

He reached the door and opened it before Harry had a chance to find his voice.

“Is that a no?”

Severus turned around and assessed Harry with his eyes. Harry hoped fervently he would find whatever he was looking for to make him say yes. It was no longer about Harry’s magic. He genuinely wanted to have something with Severus.

“Obviously.”

Harry bit back a pained smile and nodded.

“Well, the offer stands. I will be in the Three Broomsticks tonight if you change your mind.”

Snape didn’t say anything to that and walked out, closing the door behind him. Harry let his head fall back on the armchair. Well, at least he had survived.

*

Harry was nursing a glass of whiskey when Luna entered his chambers. He saluted her with the glass as she plopped down on the couch, tucking her legs underneath her. Harry nodded towards the tumbler of whiskey on the table in a ‘help yourself’ gesture.

“How are you?”

“I asked Severus to dinner tonight. He said no.”

“What do you want to do about it?”

Harry laughed bitterly.

“Well, I doubt Imperio would help here. Maybe I’ll ask Ron to Polyjuice into Snape so I can get it over with.”

Luna sighed sadly.

“Polyjuice won’t help.”

“I know. I’m going to the Three Broomsticks anyway, just in case Severus changes his mind. As unlikely as it is.”

“Why didn’t you ask him to the Ball instead?”

Harry shrugged, the drink sloshing along the glass walls with his movement.

“I nearly did but then I realised we’re going to be there as chaperones. It’d be awkward. Thought dinner might be a better idea.”

“What time are you heading there?”

“Around seven, I guess.”

Luna cast the Tempus charm. It illuminated the room in a blue glow, showing the time. It was quarter past six.

“You better hurry up, then.”

Harry downed his whiskey in one gulp as Luna frowned at him. He smiled at her cheekily.

“I’ll need all the Dutch courage I can get.”

Luna got up from the couch, placed a soft kiss on Harry’s cheek and left. He looked at his robes and decided he needed to change. He went to his bedroom and changed into green dress robes Hermione had gotten for him on his birthday. He might as well play all the cards he has. If Severus decides to show up, that is.

He left the castle and walked slowly towards Hogsmeade. The snow was crisp, making squelching sounds under his boots. Winter had taken hold of Scotland early this year and Harry felt the constant chill. It probably was also due to the fact that he no longer could use the warming charm. He hid his hands deep in the pockets of his outer robes, his Gryffindor scarf wrapped securely around his neck and mouth.

Hogsmeade was bustling with holiday cheer. The shops were dressed in holly and ivy, floating candles lighting the paths as fairies danced through the air. The Three Broomsticks was packed with customers enjoying Rosmerta’s famous mulled wine. Harry smiled at her as he caught her eye and went in search of an unoccupied booth. He noticed one in the corner and rushed to claim it. He sat down and took off his outer cloak and scarf, piling them up on the bench next to him. He rubbed his hands together, trying to bring the feeling to them.

Rosmerta popped up next to him with a writing pad.

“Anything for you, Harry dear?”

“A bowl of your stew and a glass of that mulled wine?”

She smiled at him and sent his order flying to the kitchen.

“Of course. It’s chilly here, let me renew the heating charm on this booth,” she swished her wand and Harry felt instantly warmer.

“Thanks Rosmerta.”

He looked around the pub to see if any of his friends were here. A bowl of stew and a glass of wine levitated towards his table and he caught them swiftly. The stew smelled divine and he heard his stomach rumble in hunger.

Harry looked up from the stew when he felt a presence nearby. Severus was standing in front of the booth, looking as if he was going to change his mind any second. Harry hurriedly gestured towards the seat opposite of him.

“Please, sit down.”

Severus sat down, his hands folded on the table. Harry looked at his stew.

“Would you like me to get you some wine or stew?”

“Wine would be fine.”

Harry got up and headed to the bar. Rosmerta quirked an eyebrow at him when he asked for another glass of wine.

“Done with it so quick?”

Harry blushed.

“It’s for Severus.”

Rosmerta hummed and handed him the glass with a wink. Harry decided not to pay her any mind, hoping the blush would leave his cheeks by the time he reached the booth. He really didn’t want to explain.

Severus took the wine with a nod and looked at Harry curiously. Ah, so the blush didn’t dissipate. He sat down and took a sip of his wine.

“Glad you changed your mind.”

“I was curious as to why Miss Lovegood deemed t appropriate to threaten me with mystical creatures running amok in my lab if I did not come.”
Harry choked on his wine, coughing loudly. Snape arched an eyebrow at him and smirked.

“Sorry about that. She’s a little overprotective.”

“Indeed. She also told me to ask you what this all is about. Apparently I will find it of the utmost importance.”

“She did?”

Snape gave him a look he reserved for idiot children who did not understand the subtlety of the beautiful art of potion making. Harry took a deep breath and decided to plunge in.

“I have something to tell you. Promise me you’ll stay here and listen until I’m finished. None of that jumping to conclusions thing that you’re so fond of.”

“If you want to insult me, I can leave right now and save us an unpleasant evening.”

Harry closed his eyes and grit his teeth. He opened his eyes to look at Snape.

“It’s important to me, Severus. Please.”

Snape nodded, sat back and took a sip of his wine.

“Could you, ah, could you cast a privacy charm around us?”

“Can’t be bothered to do it yourself, Potter?”

Harry smiled bitterly.

“It’s part of the story.”

Severus acquiesced and cast the charm around their booth. Harry licked his lips nervously and cleared his throat.

“The main reason why I came to Hogwarts was to be closer to you. A few weeks before I quit being an Auror I was chasing a wizard through Switzerland. I nearly got him when he managed to curse me. It was excruciating. Tonks got him and got the curse out of him. Turned out it would drain all my magic out of me if I didn’t come to accept and profess my love to the person I was in love with. Believe me, it wasn’t something I thought I’d ever do. I mean, I know you loved my mother. I know you hate me. And I know there is no way you will accept me as I am, with my feelings and fallacies. But here I am. Telling you. I – I love you, Severus.”

Somewhere throughout his confession Harry started looking at the table in front of him. Not hearing any reply from Severus he looked up at the man who was studying him.

“You do not know me well enough to love me.”

Harry shook his head.

“I know you well enough, Severus. Your memories... Your memories told me more about you than you think.”

“So you see me as some kind of dark, brooding hero who deserves the love of the Man Who Conquered because only he can soothe my pain?” Severus snarked.

Harry couldn’t help it, he startled out a laugh.

“No, definitely not. You’re a man who did what he thought was right. You repaid whatever sins you had. You never pitied yourself. You never changed, for anyone, you never looked for attention or praise. I admire that.”

“You’re idealising me, Potter.”

Harry shook his head, thinking how he could get Severus to believe him.

“No, definitely not. You’re a mean bastard, you push people away because you like it that way. You’re bitter, prejudiced and don’t know how to ask for help. I’m well aware of your fallacies, Severus. But they are a part of you.”

“And you love me because of them, not despite them, or some such tripe?”

He sighed. Obviously this would not go well. He braced himself for further ridicule, his fingers tightening around his glass.

“Believe me there are moments when I want nothing more than to Avada Kedavra you myself. But then I realise I’d miss your miserable ass too much.”

“Indeed.”

The silence grew more and more oppressive with every second. Harry took another sip of the wine and looked at his untouched stew. He did what he had to, now it was Snape’s move.

“I can certainly see why Miss Lovegood thought this would be of interest to me.”

“Yes, well – “

“As ridiculous as you are, Potter, I do accept you. As you are. Even though you are, quite possibly, the biggest pain in the ass I’ve ever known.”

A smart reply came to Harry’s mind but he wasn’t sure he could chance it. He settled for a small nod.

“Thank you. I think.”

“You have told me you love me and I have accepted it. How is your magic now?”

Harry shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t feel any different, to be honest. I guess I could try a spell.”

He took out his wand and felt a slight buzz travel down his arm to the tip of his wand. He swished and flicked it, while saying the incantation for Wingardium Leviosa in his mind.

The glass of wine which he previously held levitated up, shaking slightly. Harry ended the spell, hope blooming in him. Was it possible that his magic was back?

“Try something harder. Transfigure the salt shaker into a rabbit.”

Harry furrowed his brow and pointed his wand at the salt shaker. Transfiguration was never his best subject. With effort he managed to turn the salt shaker into a white rabbit, though it lacked ears. He looked up at Snape to see the man observe him with a faint smile.

“Seems my presence is no longer needed then. Have a good night, Potter.”

Severus got up. Before he could leave the booth Harry grabbed his arm. Oh no he wouldn’t get away so easily after Harry finally had the courage to tell him. He needed to know if there was ever any chance of anything between them.

“You never said if you felt anything for me.”

Severus raised his eyebrows.

“I wasn’t aware it was needed for this curse to be countered. Surely you wouldn’t want to chance a relapse.”

Harry grit his teeth and tightened his hand around Snape’s arm.

“I don’t give a flying rat’s arse about the spell. I need to know if it’s possible there will be anything between us.”

Severus glanced at Harry’s hand around his arm.

“Not if you don’t unhand me.”

With a slight smile, Harry let go.