"Ten points from Gryffindor, Mr. Potter!" Headmaster Snape glared at him as he caught Harry sneaking out of the kitchens. "Even eighth-year students have to abide by the curfew!"
Harry groaned as he felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment. "But Headmaster, I didn't make dinner—"
Snape leaned forward until he was almost nose to nose with him, although Harry was please to see his recent growth spurt had made it easier. "It was your choice to skip dinner, Potter! In the months since you returned to complete your education, I have seen you in the Great Hall less than a dozen times! Get over yourself, Potter!"
Harry could feel his whole face heat as Snape called him out; he hated going to the Great Hall and the stares he still got. "But, sir—"
"No buts, Potter!" Snape sneered at him, still looking him in the eye.
It occurred to Harry that he was supposed to answer in some fashion, but he was more amazed that he wasn't uncomfortable with how close to him Snape was and, despite knowing he was an accomplished Legilimens, Harry couldn't tear his eyes away. He gave Snape a lop-sided smile.
Giving him a long, suspicious glare, Snape pivoted on his heel and stalked away, muttering to himself. Harry watched him go, eyes following the billowing robes and feeling inexplicably bereft. He shook his head at his own thoughts, made sure he had the shrunken package of food in his pocket, and pulled his invisibility cloak over his head. Even though it was late, Harry didn't want to explain to anyone else why he was wandering the halls, alone. He sighed. Harry was always alone.
Now that almost everyone had paired off, Harry was especially thankful Snape had segregated the returning eighth-years into their own, more private dormitory, especially with all of them legal, consenting adults. Harry loved his room; it was cozy and comfortable, and for the first time in his life, it seemed like home. There were times when it was the only place he could escape to when his peers were snogging by the fireplace. Truthfully, Harry's loneliness was like a perpetual ache in his chest, but there was no one who interested him in that way. He and Ginny had tried to make a go of it after the Final Battle, but while pleasant, their snogging never aroused him. Neville had stepped forward to comfort her and they were both over the moon now.
Flopping down onto a couch in the empty common room, Harry waved the fire up with one hand and dug the package of food out of his pocket, setting it on the table. Another wave resized the basket and Harry reached in, taking out a cone of fish and chips, complete with mushy peas. He sighed as he leaned forward and bit into a golden-brown piece of hot fish. With an appreciative moan, Harry devoured three pieces of fish in rapid succession before sitting back. Using his clean hand to retrieve the Half-blood Prince's Advanced Potion-Making book from his pocket, Harry balanced it on his thigh as he ate another piece of fish. Harry flipped through the pages, feeling guilty for deceiving his friends about the textbook by allowing them to believe it had been destroyed in the Room of Requirement. He hadn't been able to give it up. The potions tips were brilliant and the spells Snape had created were amazing, although Harry was very careful about casting them.
A piece of fish broke off and Harry twisted to catch it before it fell to the floor, knocking the book off his leg. Popping the fish into his mouth, Harry wiped his hands off on a serviette, before carefully picking the book up. It had fallen open at the back cover and Harry glanced at a potions recipe written there: 'To know one's soulmate'. There were several things with lines through them and notes scrawled beside it. Harry' s eyebrows raised as he saw a large question mark at the bottom, his Half-blood Prince clearly not satisfied with the potion.
The couch suddenly dipped beside him and a warm body pressed against his. "Whatcha doing, Potty?"
Rolling his eyes, Harry tried to casually close the book, only to have Draco stop him. They had become friends, of a sort, while both sitting vigil at Snape's bedside after the defeat of Voldemort. Each of them had suffered losses, seen horrific things, and were indebted to the other, leading to a better understanding and tentative friendship.
"Draco! What—" Harry wanted to tug the book away but didn't want to chance damaging it.
"This potion?" Draco tapped on the recipe with his finger. "My father told me about it – it's what told him my mother was his soulmate." He leaned forward to get a better look, stealing one of Harry's chips as he did. "I thought he was having me on, actually. This looks like Severus' handwriting."
Harry frowned, shifting so Draco could see it better. "I wonder why it has a question mark."
They silently studied the ingredients and the spells which were cast during the brewing process, Harry recognizing several ingredients designed to react with specific magic. The spells were derivatives of strong revealing charms, again designed to reveal specific variants of magic. There were other ingredients which seem more…ethereal, such as pixie dust and unicorn tears.
"I'm not sure, but I know this is the one my father used," Draco told him quietly. "He described the golden aura that will surround your soulmate and how your magic feels when it happens."
Harry nodded absently, rereading the recipe. "It doesn't sound too difficult to brew, although a bit complex, with some powerful magic, and takes a full moon cycle."
"If we start tomorrow, we could brew it and have it ready for our Yule Ball!" Draco said excitedly, waving away Harry's concerns.
Giving Draco a sharp look, Harry let his eyes fall back to the list of ingredients. "I didn't realize you were lonely, too."
Draco also kept his gaze on the potion, his voice soft. "Doesn't everyone want to find the person who is the other half of their soul?"
There was a poignant undertone to Draco's voice which resonated with Harry; the deep desire to know you were wanted for yourself and not your fame or fortune. "Yes," he answered in the same tone. "Can we gather all the ingredients by then?"
Draco puffed out his chest. "Of course! Just leave it to me, Potty!"
"They make a striking couple, don't they?" Minerva leaned toward him. "I hear they are going to the Malfoy Yule Ball together."
Severus pushed his plate away. "I have better things to do than speculate on the adolescent fumblings of my students!"
He ignored her amused snort as he stood and strode away. Intellectually, Severus knew both boys had had to mature quickly as they'd been caught up in the drama of the war. Potter even more so than Draco, given the revelations of his childhood and Albus' manipulations in shaping him to be the perfect weapon against the Dark Lord. Granted, Draco had lived through horrors of his own the past two years, images and deeds which would haunt him for years, but Potter had walked to his own death in the Forbidden Forest. There weren't too many things which could match that act of self-sacrifice.
A shiver ran down Severus' spine as a fragment of a memory surfaced in his mind and the echo of excruciating pain lanced through him. As always, the memory was gone as quickly as it appeared, elusive and foreboding as ever. Severus knew it pertained to Potter, although he didn't understand his own heart-pounding reaction to it, nor why he'd begun to have it since July. Despite any feeling of his own, Severus had sworn a vow to protect the boy years ago and he wasn't about to stop now – even if it meant putting up with the social maelstrom known as the Malfoy Yule Ball.
A long sigh escaped him and Severus spent the rest of the walk to his office deep in thought as he made a mental list of everything he needed to do in the next fortnight. Besides new dress robes and gifts to exchange, Severus knew he would be expected to be wearing his lordship ring, which meant a trip to Gringotts. Narcissa would insist on him bringing a date or she'd partner him with someone of her own choosing. His frown deepened as Severus' mind flashed to the young man he blamed the whole situation on and he purposely cleared his mind as he moved past the gargoyle guarding the stairs.
"Ah, Severus, my boy!"
Severus looked up at the portrait of his mentor hanging behind his desk. "Good evening, Albus." He continued on his way toward his rooms.
"Are you aware of the clandestine potions lab set up in the Come and Go Room?"
Albus' pointed enquiry stopped Severus in his tracks and he slowly turned to look at the portrait. "What are you talking about?"
Albus smiled. "No cause for undue concern, my boy! A pair of your eighth-year students were simply brewing a rather complex potion," Albus said and Severus swore his eyes twinkled. "Brewed it successfully, I might add, but I was unclear as to whether it was sanctioned by yourself or Horace."
"Absolutely not!" Severus snapped, his mind going through his mental list of students. "Who might the students be?"
"Well, I've only seen the back of the boys, but I will let you know when I see them again." Albus yawned behind his hand and laid his head against the back of his chair, seemingly instantly asleep.
Gritting his teeth, Severus knew it was useless to try and question the portrait further. "Meddling from the grave, Albus?" Severus muttered under his breath as he continued up to his quarters.
Hogwarts would not allow any student to brew a dangerous potion within her walls, Severus knew, having reinforced that particular ward himself when he'd been appointed headmaster. It didn't mean, however, that the castle would stop anyone from brewing something potentially injurious, if the intent of the brewer wasn't to do harm. Which explained why the Weasley twins were able to experiment throughout their school years.
More than likely, Draco was teaching Potter how to brew a lubricant and a contraceptive potion, Severus sneered, stripping off his robes as he stepped into his sitting room. He didn't need to find a someone to go with him to the Gala, Severus thought, he'd be too busy keeping the two randy young men from making a mistake they would both regret. Lucius was sure to explode if Draco even looked at Potter, despite the latter being the Savior of the Wizarding world.
An odd ache hitched Severus' breath, seeming to radiate from the center of his chest, and he rubbed at it as he moved toward the bathroom. Disregarding the pain as indigestion, Severus threw his pants in the hamper and stepped into the shower. A hot shower to relax him, a Stomach Soother, and bed would set him to rights.
"Leave it alone, Potter!" Draco snapped at him and, with one last swipe at Harry's hair, spun him toward the door. "It's time."
Harry swallowed the lump in his throat and watched as Draco checked his reflection one last time, before handing him a vial of the Soulmate Potion. Taking it gingerly, Harry nodded at Draco and they downed it at the same time. Instantly nauseated, Harry shut his eyes tightly as he felt the potion spread through his system like a wave of fire, searing through his extremities. As his stomach settled, Harry heard a snort.
"Relax," Draco drawled. "You are not my soulmate."
Harry's eyes popped open to see the self-satisfied smirk on Draco's face. He glared back, brushing non-existent lint off his lapel, secretly relieved – Draco would be an annoying and demanding mate, he'd decided!
"Shouldn't we go?" Harry gave Draco a half bow as he gestured toward the door. "Your public awaits, Lord Malfoy junior."
"Watch it, Potty, or I'll start calling you Lord Black!"
"That's Lord Potter-Black." Harry sniffed, his nose in the air, before laughing nervously. "Come on, Draco, the potion only lasts two hours."
"Yes," Draco said as he swept out the door. "But we have several more doses, don't we?"
Harry hmphed, taking the extra vial Draco handed him before following Draco out the door. The noise from the party downstairs didn't hit them until they left the family wing and approached the grand staircase. Seeing Draco take a deep breath made Harry feel fractionally better – he was glad he wasn't the only one who was nervous.
"Hurry up, boys!" Lady Malfoy's voice was a tad irritated and Harry quickly followed Draco to stand at the top of the stairs, just behind the family.
Looking down at the foyer, Harry saw a steady stream of people stepping out of the large fireplace on the left side of the front door. Gowns and robes of all different colors and hues filled the large ballroom; the sheer number of people made Harry nervous. He'd managed to avoid all the celebratory balls the Ministry had thrown after Voldemort's demise, limiting his attendance to a few short speeches to memorialise the fallen. People turned to stare as Harry followed the Malfoys into the room, stopping beside the small dais as Lucius Malfoy cast a Sonorus Charm in order to welcome the attendees.
Harry scanned the faces in the crowd, looking for any of his friends, and had just seen Luna slip to the front of the throng, followed by Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny. Grinning, he took a step towards them, when Draco gasped and staggered beside him. Harry grabbed his arm to steady him.
"Sweet Merlin!" Draco hissed as he straightened up slowly, his eyes rivetted on Harry's friends.
Harry frowned, looking between his friends and Draco's deathly pale face. "What are you on about?"
Swallowing, Draco took a step forward. "Lovegood—it's Lovegood, Harry, she's gold!" he whispered. "My whole body feels like…like something has been lit inside me. It's unbelievable…"
His head snapped toward Luna, who looked ethereal in a gown of iridescent material that made her appear to float, as she stepped forward. Wrapping her arms around him, Luna kissed his cheek and smiled, ignoring the gob-smacked look on Draco's face.
"Happy Yule, Harry! I'm very happy to see the Wrackspurts have been chased away, finally." She smiled at him, before glancing at Draco. "Hello, love."
Draco gave Harry a last panicked look before reaching cautiously for Luna's hand and bowing over it. "Welcome, Miss Lovegood."
Luna gave him a brilliant smile and slid her hands up his arms. "Happy Yule, my heart. I'm so glad you can finally see my aura."
Smiling, Harry greeted his friends, successfully diverting their attention from Draco and Luna. Harry hugged Hermione and Ginny in turn, not surprised that neither of them was surrounded by a golden glow. He'd never been aroused by girls and if he had been, it would have made sense for it to have been one of the two females he loved the most. Hermione gave him an anxious look—she had been the only other one who knew about the potion—which he acknowledged with a tiny nod. Ron, too busy with Auror training to confide in, gave Harry a one-armed hug as he shoved a glass into Harry's hand.
"Thanks, mate," Harry told him, glad to have something to wrap his hands around. "How goes the academy?"
Predictably, Ron launched into a detailed description of the trials and tribulations of being a cadet. Harry listened with one ear as he smiled and nodded to the ever-shifting flow of people around them. He felt Hermione's eyes on him as he surreptitiously surveyed the dancers that swirled around the polished wood floor and giving a small wave as Ginny and Dean, Neville and Susan twirled by. Hermione had finally dragged Ron onto the dance floor, leaving Harry to search the attendees in peace.
An hour later, Harry's face ached from maintaining a polite smile, even as the pain in his heart grew heavy. Perhaps the potion didn't work for everyone, as it had for Draco and his father. Perhaps that was why there was a question mark beside the recipe. Or maybe it was that Harry wasn't fortunate enough to have a soulmate, The books he'd read had been full of morose tales of people who'd either survived their soulmate before bonding or had given up hope on ever finding them; both situations often led to despair and anguish, lives that were never happy. After the unpleasantness of his childhood, Harry had truly hoped he would be fortunate enough to find happiness in his adult life.
Just as he was on the verge of giving into despair, Harry caught sight of a gleam of gold in the shadows at the far end of the ballroom. His heart sped up as Harry set his untouched glass down on the table and moved quickly towards the glow. As Harry got closer, he could make out a tall figure, a male figure, dressed in robes as deep a green as Harry's tie. The elegant robes shone in the golden aura and Harry held his breath as he approached. His body trembled in anticipation, heat pooling in his groin, and every cell felt hyper aware of his surroundings.
Stopping just short of the figure, Harry silently willed the man to turn around.
"Mr. Potter!" Severus hissed in a low voice. "Is this the way you repay the Malfoy's hospitality?"
"Headmaster," Potter said in a breathy voice. "May I say you look amazing this evening!"
"Don't patronise me, Pot—"
"Oh, Harry!" Lovegood appeared at Potter's side, Draco holding her hand as if it were a lifeline. "The nargles have been swarming, stay away from the mistletoe, Harry; under the moon would be better anyway." She smiled at Severus. "Congratulations on your glow, Headmaster!"
Severus crossed his arms, his eyebrows crawling up toward his hairline at Lovegood's indecipherable comments. He would never admit it, but he liked the girl. Severus had wondered at times if she was a Seer; however, as she spoke in the same whimsical voice in class, he wasn't sure. Draco stood by her side, a bemused expression on his face. Severus felt a spark of unease when he saw Draco's eyes flick from Potter to himself and a slow grin appear on Draco's face.
"Nice, Potty, very nice."
Straightening his spine, Severus scowled at Draco, only to see his attention riveted on Lovegood again as she led him away. Turning back to Potter, Severus was disconcerted to see Potter had moved close enough to reach for his elbow.
"Are you intoxicated, Potter?" Severus sneered, yanking his arm away.
"Only by your presence, Headmaster," Potter told him softly, his hand closing around Severus' forearm. "Perhaps I can persuade you to step out on the balcony with me."
The heat of Potter's grasp and the jolt of powerful magic startled Severus with its intensity. Instead of repulsing him, the magic felt welcoming and almost intimate. Almost of their own will, his feet moved to follow Potter through the crowd toward a side door. Potter's hand slipped down his arm as they walked and clasped his hand; the skin on skin contact sent a pulse of arousal through him. Stifling a groan, Severus was unable to suppress the inappropriate thoughts he was having and had been having for Potter over the last few years.
As they stepped out the door onto a large balcony, Severus yanked his hand free and took a step away. The cold, crisp air cleared his head as he rounded on a still smiling Potter. He would not be ridiculed or humiliated by another Potter.
"I don't know what game you think you're playing, Potter," Severus spat his name, "but I have had enough!"
Potter titled his head, glancing up into the sky. "Luna was right, the moon is amazing tonight." He extended his hand toward Severus.
Severus gritted his teeth, wanting nothing more than to shake the teenager. He drew his wand, casting several spells over Potter and then the vial in his hand.
"I haven't been cursed or hexed," Potter told him, stepping closer again. "I think you might recognise this potion – it's one of the ones you invented, I believe."
Gingerly, Severus picked the bottle up and held it up in the moonlight, before working the top off. Severus sniffed at the liquid, his eyes widening as he identified the liquid.
"The Soulmate Potion?" he asked in an incredulous tone. "It doesn't work. I tried it years ago and—"
"And I wasn't even born yet," Potter said quietly. "How could you expect it to work?"
Severus couldn't argue with Potter's reasoning and knew by the smell the potion had been brewed correctly. "I take it Draco assisted?"
Potter nodded. "Luna is his soulmate."
"Merlin help us," Severus muttered before knocking back the potion.
A familiar excruciating pain shot through him and the memory of the incredible disappointment Severus had felt so many years ago arose in his mind. As abruptly as both hit him, they were gone and Severus looked up to see Pot--Harry bathed in a golden glow. The sight took his breath away as a maelstrom of emotions swept through him: possessiveness, tenderness, attraction, arousal, and a deep, intense feeling he wasn't able to label.
The kiss that followed was everything Harry had ever hoped it would be: a tentative brush of warm lips, noses bumping gently before they got the right angle, and then a thorough examination of each other. The kiss turned heated and Harry discovered he could be incredibly aroused in a very short period of time, feeling himself harden as they kissed. Harry was sure he whimpered as he pressed closer to Severus and thrust his suddenly hard cock against Severus' thigh. An arm banded around his waist and a warm hand cupped his cheek as Harry ground against Severus and his body felt like it shattered as he came in his pants.
Mortification filled Harry and he tried to step away, but was held firmly against Severus' chest. A tingle of magic took away the sticky feeling at his groin and Harry sighed as he wrapped his arms around Severus' neck. Raising his eyes, Harry was surprised to find a serious expression on Severus' face. One hand came up slowly to push the hair out of his eyes and threaded through his hair.
"Although I have never received a nicer compliment on my kissing skills, I do believe we need to take things slowly, Harry." Severus tugged lightly at his hair. "I have no doubt we are more than compatible physically, but we have too much history between us to jump into a relationship quickly."
Severus leaned down and kissed Harry again, thoroughly. "I don't want misunderstandings to tear us apart, as I've waited for this, for you, for too long not to take is slowly."
"We'll still be able to see each other every day?" Harry realized he was right, but didn't like the idea of not being with Severus.
"Absolutely," Severus gave him a small smile. "Now that I found you, I'm not willing to be separated."
"Good," Harry whispered. "Me either!"
Five Years Later:
Severus stepped into his quarters quietly, the teething potion he had brewed that afternoon in his hand. The rooms were eerily still, the crying eighteen-month-old who had kept them up for the last two days was silent. Draping his robes over the back of a chair, Severus headed down the hallway towards the nursery. Harry had just completed his mastery in Defense when they had discovered he was pregnant with their son. More than happy to put his career on hold, Harry had embraced parenthood and had been overjoyed when they had welcomed Ian Severus Potter-Snape into their family. Severus was proud of his son and even prouder of his husband, and found he loved them with a fierceness he never though he'd be capable of.
Stepping into the nursery, Severus frowned when he saw it was empty. He continued to the bedroom he and Harry shared, to find both his boys sound asleep. Severus carefully set the vial of potion down on the bedside table and Banished his clothing to the hamper. Sliding into bed, Severus curled himself around Harry's back and draped an arm over Harry's waist, with Ian curled into Harry's chest. Closing his eyes, Severus sighed softly and fell asleep, his contentment with his life now giving him a peace he'd never had before.