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It honestly never occurred to Severus Snape to be embarrassed about his encounter with Neville Longbottom and Charlie Weasley in the Forbidden Forest. After all, he hadn't been the one who'd been buggered by Devil's Snare. He'd simply acted as a Slytherin should. He'd taken advantage of an opportunity. He spent the next day in his lab. He didn't consider how such behavior might appear to others. Particularly to Gryffindors.

Severus sat at the staff table in the Great Hall for supper, as usual. But he had little time to notice whether anyone was looking at him differently. As usual, Harry Potter completely stole the show.

The Chosen One's announcement that he was returning to Hogwarts caused gasps. Minerva's addendum that Potter would be the new Quidditch coach led to an outbreak of cheering--not only from the Gryffindor table. The introduction of Potter's plan to introduce intramural Quidditch to Hogwarts resulted in an outbreak of chatter at all of the student tables and at the staff table as well. Severus sat silently through it all. Luckily, his reputation as a curmudgeon handily disguised the fact that he was completely gobsmacked by this turn of events.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The first few months of term passed unexpectedly quickly for Severus. Serving as a Death Eater and as a spy for the Order had made every moment of that time seem interminable. The five peaceful years spent teaching and researching had evaporated or crawled, depending on which task he was engaged in. But now waiting to catch a glimpse of Potter somehow made the hours fly.

Not that Severus admitted that was what he was doing. Certainly not. He was simply keeping an eye on the boy. Neville had not changed his demeanor towards Severus one whit since that late summer afternoon in the forest.
Charlie visited Hogwarts at regular intervals, but seemed completely absorbed with his near-worship of Neville. Clearly the two of them had continued what he had briefly interrupted that day. But Potter had changed so much as to need watching. Severus had not survived two Wizarding Wars by not knowing when caution was warranted.

The awkward boy whom Severus had remembered, and who had made a brief reappearance during Potter's first night back at the castle, was completely gone. The shameless flirt, who had, incredibly, winked at Severus during Potter's second night back at Hogwarts, had not reappeared. Severus meant to find out just who Potter really was. Thus, there was evidence to be gathered.

Severus hadn't expected Potter to have changed from the smug little brat he had been while he was a student. The flirtatious nature of their first re-encounter had done nothing to dispel Severus's prejudices. The boy's natural hubris could only have been exacerbated by his foray into professional Quidditch. Though Potter's personal life had been strangely absent from the papers for the past few years. Not that Severus had looked for such articles. Of course not.

Shockingly, Potter seemed to not only be a rather quiet sort, but he also appeared to be a competent and fair Quidditch coach. Severus could divine no favoritism to Gryffindor. The House matches were run with scrupulous attention to the rules. Someone had clearly been able to beat some respect for rules into the boy. Severus had certainly been unable to do so when he was Potter's teacher.

Severus was no longer the Head of Slytherin House, as he had agreed to teach again only if he was afforded ample time for his own research. But he paid close attention to the students' gossip, and the only complaints that he heard about Potter dealt with the difficulty of his practice sessions. The children seemed to respect him. Severus was especially bemused by the abrupt cessation of the more lascivious sort of student comments about the Quidditch coach just a few weeks into the term. If Potter could quell the rampaging hormones of these young witches and wizards, he must have a stronger grip on discipline than Severus could reconcile with his (rather tatty, admittedly) image of the snot-nosed Brat Who Lived.

The Intramural Quidditch idea had seemed spectacularly bad to Severus at first. Akin to Charlie's plan to mate Hungarian Horntails and Welsh Greens. However, both projects had proved to be unmitigated successes. The dragons were taking to one another, if Charlie's exuberant reports were to be believed. It was rather hard to tell whether Charlie was as spectacularly successful as he claimed, or if he was simply trying to impress Neville. Not that the Herbology professor needed impressing. He was clearly, amusedly, smitten with the stocky redhead. But Severus had seen the success of Intramural Quidditch with his own eyes.

He never thought he would see Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students, let alone Gryffindors, wearing green Quidditch uniforms. Like Hungarian Horntails and Welsh Greens, some things should not, by all rights, mesh. But just as it was Neville Longbottom who had finally tamed the notoriously single dragon tamer, the Welsh Green intramural team proved Severus wrong by mixing the unmixable. The intramural teams' uniforms were were easily distinguished from the House uniforms, but both styles were worn proudly. It was even more shocking, to be honest, to see the Slytherin students on the Fireball team wearing red uniforms. It seemed that Quidditch was good for more than just developing muscles.

It was rather good at developing muscles, however. Severus soon grew to savor the scent of grass and sweat, as it almost always presaged the sight of Potter after practice. Severus had never properly appreciated the beauty of Quidditch robes. The way they flared at the hips was wonderful for accenting firm thighs. And the way Potter's shoulders strained against his fitted sleeves almost made Severus lose his composure. It didn't help that Potter invariably wore all-black robes, so as to not to appear to favor any of the Hogwarts or professional Quidditch teams. The way the black leather lent gloss to Harry's constantly disheveled hair was overshadowed only by the way the contrast made his green eyes appear to glow.

Although Potter had abandoned his attempts to engage in conversation with Severus after his one pathetic try, he invariably greeted Severus with a cheery nod and often an "Alright?" It was as if Potter was concerned for Severus's well-being, which made absolutely no sense. Severus filed it away under "inconclusive evidence." He decided that he would continue to watch the man. At least until he could suss out what Potter's intentions were.

~*~*~*~*~*~

There was a shocking scene during the staff Halloween party that forced Severus's hand. Charlie was there, glued to Neville's side, as always. He did peel himself away from his lover long enough to unwisely enter into a drinking contest with Severus. Severus usually did not stoop to such displays, but the red-headed menace had been rather too free with his suggestive looks the entire evening. Severus could drink any Weasley born under the table. He regretted the method he had chosen to put Charlie in his place, however, when Charlie admitted defeat by snogging Severus enthusiastically.

Severus expected Neville to get angry, but Charlie's beau simply smiled and shook his head. Neville did drag Charlie away once Potter started shouting. Minerva started across the room, livid, but Severus shook his head at her and grabbed Potter's arm himself. Once he had marched the fool into the corridor, he decided to get to the bottom of things.

"What do you think you are doing?" he hissed at Potter, bending down until his face was directly in front of Potter's. Potter was flushed, and he was quite sweaty.

"Charlie was being disrespectful to you... Ss... sir."

Sir? Severus thought. The boy must be drunk indeed to call me sir.

"Are you defending my honor, then?"

Potter looked miserable.

"I reckon..."

"You 'reckon'?' Severus was nearly spitting in Potter's face at this point.

"I mean yes. I mean, well, someone should stand up for you."

Severus was no longer pretending to be angry. He stood up straight, and his voice was cold. "I suppose I am too old and feeble to defend myself?"

Potter was shaking his head rapidly back and forth, but Severus did not allow him time to speak.

"What gives you the right to consider yourself my protector? What despicable Gryffindor pride makes you think I would ever want your help?"

Now Potter's face was white. He had backed away from Severus until his back had hit the wall. He looked like he would burrow through the wall, if he could. Severus had nothing more to say. He spun on his heel and stalked away, robes billowing behind him impressively.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Potter wasn't at breakfast the next morning. Neither was Charlie. Minerva's face was still pinched. Severus thought it would be a long time before firewhiskey was provided in the teachers' lounge again. He ate his breakfast as usual, and no one mentioned the events of the night before. He was fairly sure that this meant his little me'nage had not been the only ones who behaved badly at the party.

As Severus exited the Great Hall, he was quite surprised to find Neville waiting for him. He stopped short, wondering if Neville's temper had now had time to react to Charlie's shenanigans. He was poised to draw his wand, just in case. Neville just looked at him with a level gaze and said, "Harry's not as stupid as you think he is. None of us are." Then he walked away. Once again, Severus was gobsmacked. He quickly relegated Neville's comment to the "evidence file" in his brain. But it was not so easily forgotten as it should have been.

As his students struggled with their potions that day, Severus was distracted. He let a pair of Hufflepuffs off without detention, even though they nearly blew up their cauldron. The students' fear of him increased after that. An unpredictable potions professor is a dangerous potions professor, after all.

The furtive scurrying of his students, combined with his memory of Potter's pale face, made Severus soften a bit towards the boy. He had worked hard to move past the time when everyone either scorned or feared him. Respect was lovely, but he didn't want to be untouchable. Never again. Perhaps he had been a bit hard on Potter, after all.

He remembered, also, the wink. He distinctly remembered the lascivious wink that Potter had given him when he had presumably learned of Severus's activities with Neville and Charlie.

Perhaps Potter was attempting to court him? He had just about decided that the wink had been an uncharacteristically crude acknowledgement of his tryst with Neville and Charlie. A kind of "thumbs up" gesture, like the one he had actually received from that red-headed menace. But Potter's ill-conceived attempt to "rescue" him from Charlie at the Halloween party spoke of something more than masculine solidarity. Something more, indeed, than lust.

Severus decided that he could stand to be courted by the Chosen One. Neville had said that Potter wasn't as stupid as Severus thought he was.

Unfortunately, this left quite a lot of latitude for stupidity. Severus thought he'd better give Potter some rather specific instructions for how to successfully court a man who was worth having.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Severus arrived late to lunch. That is, he waited, unseen, until Potter had seated himself. Then he strode in and sat down next to him, badly startling poor Flitwick, who had been in the process of lowering himself into that chair. Potter did not look happy to see Severus. This raised Severus's estimation of his intelligence a tad.

Severus helped himself to the croque monsieur, which happened to be directly in front of Potter. As he leaned over, he softly said, "It occurred to me that you may not have been trying to insult me last night."

Harry was silent. Severus gave him another few points for discretion.

"I am not a man who is used to kindness," Severus continued, using his best torn silk murmur. "Nor am I a man who enjoys it. I am more like the Elder Wand than a unicorn."

He then turned to his plate with relish, certain that a proper courtship would now commence.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Courting did not commence. At least not as far as Severus could tell. There were no more inquiries, however oblique, after his well-being. Greetings were cordial, but no longer enthusiastic. He didn't understand. What could Potter be thinking?

In response to the definite chill that had fallen over Potter's reactions to him, Severus watched the boy more closely. He developed a habit of taking his daily exercise by walking around the Quidditch pitch during practices. He enjoyed hearing Potter cajoling and chastising his players, but Severus justified his eavesdropping as simply another way to gather evidence. He didn't even notice that he had spent little time in his lab since Halloween.

By the time the Great Hall was being decorated for Christmas, Severus was terribly frustrated. He had explicitly told Potter that he wanted to be claimed. What was the fool doing? It had, of course, occurred to him that Potter might have directed his attentions elsewhere. But there was simply no possibility of such a thing. Potter led Quidditch practices, coached games, ate, and slept. He did spend a surprising amount of time in the library, but he was simply reading. Severus churlishly told himself that Potter was simply making up for never reading a book during his years as a student. But Severus's years as a spy had given him the habit of dispassionate analysis, and he duly noted that the boy read quite sophisticated texts. Including Plato. In Greek. Severus watched him constantly, and he had seen nothing but casual greetings pass between Potter and anyone else. The man led a rather solitary life, all things considered.

It seemed that Severus was going to have to do all the work. As usual. He began to plot as he watched Potter.

~*~*~*~*~*~

There was no alcohol at the staff Christmas party. But there was mistletoe. Severus considered it absolute proof that Minerva was asexual. She clearly had no idea of what havoc such temptation could wreak. Severus was more abstracted than ever during the festivities. Charlie looked at him with concern more than once, until Neville whispered something to him and they both disappeared. Severus didn't even notice.

He was too busy watching the mistletoe. He had bribed the fairy tasked with holding it, and the little chit was actually following his instructions. The mistletoe hovered over Potter as often as everyone else, yes, but only when there was no one near enough to the man to take advantage of the implicit invitation.

Finally, Severus maneuvered himself into position. Potter turned, and saw Severus looming over him. He looked up and saw the mistletoe. Then the Chosen One turned on his heel and walked away.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Minerva might not have provided alcohol, but that didn't mean Severus couldn't get drunk. He had ample supplies for that. He didn't even bother to consider what Potter was thinking. Sod the man. He clearly thought that playing with Severus's affections was amusing, and such cruelty didn't bear thinking about. When he realized that he couldn't not think about it, he threw the bottle he was holding into the fireplace. The crashing sound was so satisfying that he did it again. And again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

When Severus woke, he felt as though the shards of the smashed bottles in his fireplace had been shoved into his skull through his eye sockets. The problem with a high tolerance for alcohol is that although hangovers are rare, they are correspondingly severe.

A strong hand lifted Severus's head. Even that gentle motion was enough to cause a deep groan.

"You'll be alright. Just drink this."

Severus was clearly hallucinating. Potter could not be here. But whomever it was was indeed proffering Severus's strongest hangover cure. Severus thanked the gods and drank.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Severus's head didn't hurt anymore. But he was clearly still in some danger. He feigned sleep as he attempted to determine just who was wrapped around him. He was still in his own quarters, and that was a good thing. The familiar bed and the smell of home reassured him. He had many means of defense available to him while he was in his own territory.

Before he could decide just which method of revenge to take on the unknown invader, Severus felt a hand running through his hair.

"I know you're awake, Severus."

By the mercy of Merlin, it was Potter. Severus squeezed his eyes shut even harder, wishing that he could will the other man straight out of existence.

Potter chuckled. "You won't be getting away from me that easily. Not again."

Severus cracked one eye open and scowled at Potter, offended by the implication that one episode of overindulgence meant he had lost this game. He was unsure of what game they were currently playing, but he was rather certain that he could not have lost to the Boy Wonder.

Potter chuckled again at Severus's scowl. Then he kissed Severus's temple. Severus closed his eyes again, no longer quite so sure that he wanted to win. Or lose. Or take his Gobstones and go home. All he knew was that Harry's mouth felt incredible against his skin.

As Harry kissed his way down Severus's cheek, the older man felt something uncoiling in his belly. Something he hadn't even known was being held tight. Harry seemed to feel his surrender, and his kisses became hotter, damper. Harry gripped Severus's hair with both hands and pulled his head back. Severus groaned as teeth scraped his neck, and then bit down.

Eventually Harry's hands and mouth worked their way under the covers. Severus gradually became aware that while he was tucked into his bed, completely naked, Harry was wearing trousers and a t-shirt. Severus felt terribly, deliciously exposed as the bedclothes were peeled back from his body. Harry's hands were everywhere, and they were followed by his mouth. When Harry folded the blankets down over Severus's thighs, the older man's cock sprang up with painful alacrity.

Harry pulled back and sat up. Severus was spread before him: naked, flushed, erect. Harry was infuriatingly cool and collected.

"Would you say I was being kind, Severus?" Harry's voice was mild.

"Gods, no," Severus groaned. He was torn between snatching the covers up to hide himself and waiting to see just how far Harry would take this game.

"Are you enjoying this?"

Severus didn't know what to do. He was clenching his fists in the bedclothes. His cock made any answer he could give superfluous, as it strained towards Potter in the way that Severus would not allow himself.

"I'll need an answer, Severus. Do you want me to take you?"

Severus shocked himself when he ground out, "Please."

Harry rewarded, or punished, him by drawing one finger down Severus's chest to his belly. Severus bit his tongue, hard, in his effort not to move.

"Once I have something, or someone, I don't let go. And I don't share."

Severus groaned in response. The thought of being the personal property of the Chosen One suddenly seemed like the most enticing prospect in the world.

"So," Harry accented this with a gentle flick of his finger against Severus's cock, which nodded in frantic response. "Do you agree? Have I mastered your, as you call it, Elder Wand?"

Severus couldn't help it. He laughed. He laughed and nodded and said, breathlessly, "Yes. Yes, you fool. I'm yours. I can't resist you."

These appeared to be the magic words. Harry tore off his own clothes and leapt on top of Severus, who was still a bit breathless from the unaccustomed laughter. Harry didn't give him time to catch his breath, either.

Before he knew it, Severus's ankles were up by his ears and Harry's fingers were slickly forcing their way into him. Harry had mastered at least one nonverbal spell, clearly. Severus shuddered as Harry forced his way into him, not pausing at all. He clung to Harry's arms, rocking with the force of Harry's thrusts. He felt like he was being split open, as raw and tender as a wound.

Harry stared straight into Severus's eyes, pinning him to the bed with his gaze as much as with his body.

"You. Are. Mine," he panted.

Severus groaned as Harry hit his prostate with each word. Through the haze of pleasure and pain, green eyes anchored him to this place, to this man.

"Yes!" Severus shouted as he came. He didn't even care what it was that he was agreeing to. He just knew that he wanted more.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Charlie won quite a bit of money when Severus and Harry's association became common knowledge. There had been enough people who believed that the clear tension between those two would end in violence rather than intimacy that Charlie had been able to set the odds very high. No one was surprised, however, when the Hogwarts' greenhouses were extensively renovated soon thereafter.

The students were back to leaving Severus be out of respect, rather than simply fear. If the Headmistress wasn't reminding them how important the man's research was, their parents were. There were many in the Wizarding World who benefitted when the foremost British Potions Master was able to focus on his work.

None of the Quidditch players, House team or intramural, missed having the great bat billowing around the pitch during practice. And if they did joke a bit about how Professor Snape's appreciation of Quidditch robes had moved to a more private setting, well, Coach Potter seemed to be quite determined not to hear them.

Everyone knew better than to tease Harry to his face about his relationship with Severus. As the savior of their world, he was beloved. As a Quidditch coach, he was honored. But only a fool would fail to have a healthy sense of respect for the man who had conquered Severus Snape.