The evening wasn’t going to go well, Harry could already tell. The very air was thick with tension when he arrived home, and Steve wouldn’t even look at him. “All right, what’s going on?” he finally asked, when his greeting went unanswered.
“Nothing.” Steve’s movements as he chopped up vegetables for their supper were jerky, uncoordinated, a dead giveaway for a chef whose knife skills were usually unparalleled.
“Well, that’s clearly not true,” Harry said, moving closer. “It’s obvious something’s upset you. Maybe if you tell me—”
Steve dropped the knife with a clatter, glaring at Harry. “I just found something out today.”
Harry blinked. “All right.”
“You almost got hurt last week and you didn’t even tell me!” Steve snapped. “And since none of your friends like me, if something had happened, it’s not as if they would have told me. I’d probably have found out from the paper, like everyone else in the world!”
Harry almost groaned. “My friends like you fine, and it wasn’t that bad, it was a simple raid. It’s a case we’ve been following for months, from before you and I even started dating.” He shook his head. “Plus, nothing happened. I didn’t get hurt. Why are we having an argument about something that didn’t actually happen?”
“Because what if it does? The fact that it didn’t this time doesn’t make it okay to keep me in the dark.” Steve had picked up the knife again, but instead of chopping, he was waving it around as he spoke. “If you would only list me as your next of kin, then I’d be the first one they notified if—”
“But you’re not my next of kin,” Harry said. “We’re not married, so they wouldn’t take that to mean anything.”
“Plus, then your precious fans would find out you’re bent,” Steve added nastily. “And we can’t have that, I suppose.”
Swallowing what he really wanted to say in an effort to stay calm, Harry said, “As I’ve said before, it’s in the Auror handbook that no same sex relationships are allowed amongst active Aurors. It’s an archaic clause, leftover from times past, and I’ve been assured it’s going to be changed, it’s only a matter of time, but in the meantime—”
“In the meantime I’m your dirty little secret!” Steve set the knife down and wiped his hands on a kitchen towel. “Who knew Harry Potter was such a fucking coward?” he spat.
Merlin, not this again. Harry was so tired of this. “You’re not a dirty secret.” Harry’s voice started to rise and he consciously took a deep breath to calm himself, to not yell back. “All our friends know about us, so how is that a secret?”
“The general public doesn’t, though.” Steve huffed. “Just once it would be nice to see my name in the paper as Harry Potter’s boyfriend. Do you know how it could help business at the restaurant if everyone knew?”
And there was the crux of the matter. Harry gritted his teeth. “The general public can go hang as far as I’m concerned.” He narrowed his eyes. “And as for seeing your name in the papers, that’s never going to happen. At least not in connection with me. Not while we’re together, anyway. You knew how I felt about publicity when we first started dating. I was very clear about that. I’m sorry if you feel it would help the restaurant, but—”
“But your privacy is obviously more important than my business success. I get it. You’ve made it clear.” Steve’s tone could have cut glass. “You’ve been clear about a lot of things, actually. And I guess that means I get no say about how things go in this relationship.”
“That’s not true—”
“Yes it is!” Steve shouted. “Well I’m sick of it and sick of you! Fuck you, Harry, I’m out!” And with that, Steve stomped over to the drawer and, taking out his knife set, wrapped them up and slid them into his pocket. “I’ll be by for the rest of my things later this weekend,” he sneered, and, turning on the spot, he Disapparated.
Mind blank, Harry collapsed onto a stool and groaned. What a mess this was. Things had been on the rocks with Steve for weeks, ever since he’d moved in some of his things, in fact. Had they moved too fast? Had Harry tried to force the relationship?
“Hermione’s going to have a field day,” Harry muttered aloud. She’d been warning him that things with Steve were going too fast.
Discouraged, he glanced over at the messy counter. He could cook, but the argument had robbed him of his appetite. He exhaled. He could use a drink, though.
Standing, he walked over to the Floo. “Ron Weasley’s house,” he said, tossing in some Floo powder.
When Ron’s face appeared in the flames, Harry wasted no time. “Can I come over?” he asked. “Having a bit of a bad day.”
“Where’s Steve?” Ron asked, looking over Harry’s shoulder. “Shouldn’t he be the one consoling you?”
Harry sighed. “He’s the reason I’m having a bad day.”
Ron, bless him, didn’t even blink. “Ah. That makes sense. Come on over, I’ll let Hermione know we’ll be three for dinner.” Ron eyed him critically. “And it looks like I’ll be breaking out the ale.”
“Thanks, mate.” Smiling, Harry stood back and waited for the flames to clear. Then, without a backward glance, he stepped through the Floo and was gone.
“Nox.” Closing the door, Severus turned away, heading up the stairs to his quarters located above his shop.
Once there, he put the kettle on and, after preparing a simple meal of bread and cheese, he settled at his kitchen table.
The box was still there, mocking him.
Once he’d finished eating, he set aside his plate and cup and, with a sigh, reached for the box.
He’d been resisting opening it, not wanting to reopen old wounds, but it was time. He’d survived years as a teacher, two wars, innumerable Cruciatus Curses and other assorted hexes, even a lethal snake bite. “I can do this,” he whispered, opening the box.
Lily’s face looked up at him.
Exhaling, Severus pulled out the assorted photographs and letters, handling each one gently as he placed it on the table. Finally, when the box was empty, he sat back, regarding the collection.
He hadn't expected to survive the war, but life was evidently determined to surprise him. This was his past, it was time to move on to his future, whatever that entailed.
Quickly, before he could change his mind, Severus put everything back in the box and, with a wave of his wand, shrank the entire thing.
He didn’t keep an owl, but that was easily remedied.
Going to the window, he opened it, sending out a silent, magical call. Within minutes an owl was winging to him.
“Deliver to Harry Potter’s home,” he murmured, tying the box to the owl’s foot.
Once it was gone, Severus closed the window and returned to his chair. It was strange, but he felt oddly free.
Harry elected to stay the weekend at Ron and Hermione’s, not wanting to face Steve and his undoubtedly snarky comments while he got his things. He’d only just held onto his temper as it was.
“I knew he wasn’t the one,” Hermione declared over breakfast on Sunday.
“And how’s that?” Harry asked, only listening with one ear.
“You were too calm with him.”
Harry frowned, looking up from his perusal of the paper. “Too calm? You mean you think I should have yelled more?” He rolled his eyes. “Honestly, someone had to be sensible. Might as well be me.” He paused. “Have been me. Whatever.”
“I’m not saying you should have yelled more, per se, but maybe you should have cared more.” Hermione rested her arms on the table. “You weren’t especially passionate about him.”
Harry snorted. “Trust me, there was plenty of passion.”
“No details,” Ron said in a sing-song voice around a rasher of bacon in his mouth. “We had a deal, remember?”
“I remember.” Harry grinned. “And it’s your wife who brought it up. Anyway, let’s just say there were no problems in the bedroom.”
“Which is fine if you never leave the bedroom.” Hermione raised an eyebrow. “But since sooner or later you have to—”
“Well it’s all moot now anyway, isn’t it? Harry’s free of the wanker,” chimed in Ron. Wiping his mouth, he stood up. “Sorry to leave at such a crucial point in the conversation, but I’ve got to open today, and retail waits for no one.”
After kissing Hermione, Ron clapped Harry on the shoulder before moving towards the door. “I say good riddance, mate. I never liked him anyway.”
“You said you did,” Harry called after him.
“I lied!” floated back from the living room.
After he heard the Floo activate, Harry turned to Hermione once more. “And you? How’d you feel about Steve?”
She shrugged. “He was nice enough, but not good enough for you.”
“How so? He’s a respectable chef—”
“Again, not what I meant.” Leaning forward, she clasped his hand. “Steve cared about you, but only inasmuch as you could help him achieve his goals. As long as the two of you agreed on that, everything was fine, but once your goals diverged, then all bets were off.”
“You mean he’s ambitious.” Harry smiled. “I figured you’d like that about him.”
“Ambition needs to be mixed with compassion and empathy.” She sighed. “And I’m afraid now that he’s decided you won’t further his agenda, he may lose any scruples he may have had.”
Harry snorted. “And do what? No, Hermione, I’ll be fine. I don’t think he’ll do anything to actually hurt me. Plus, if it comes down to it, I am an Auror.”
“Maybe not physically,” Hermione agreed, standing and clearing their plates. “But that’s not the only way you can be hurt.”
Harry sighed, cradling his cup of tea in his palms. “You really think I wasn’t passionate enough about him?” he asked, voice small. “But I loved him.”
“Did you? Or did you simply love the idea of him?”
Sometimes Hermione could be a bit too perceptive. Harry stared into his cup and didn’t answer.
Hermione patted his shoulder as she walked by. “All right. How do you feel now that he’s gone?”
“I miss him.” Harry cleared his throat. “It’s hard to get used to sleeping alone when there’s been someone there for a while.”
“Well maybe it’s time.” Hermione pried the cup from his fingers. “Would you like more tea?”
Harry sighed, standing up. “No. I guess I should go home and face the music. See if he’s still there.” He smiled faintly. “Maybe even pick a fight.”
Shaking her head, Hermione drew him into a hug. “Don’t do anything foolish,” she said.
“Like what?” Harry asked.
“Like taking him back.” Hermione drew back, staring him in the face. “I think that would be a mistake.”
So did he. Without replying, Harry started for the Floo.
“Let me know if you need help resetting your wards,” she called after him.
Harry smiled. “Will do!”
“…arrangement with the Greengrasses, but Draco is being difficult. He says he’s in love with Pansy Parkinson, but of course that could never work because of what she did in the war— Severus, are you even listening to me?”
Severus blinked, looking up from his plate. “My apologies, Lucius. You were discussing Draco’s marriage prospects.”
“I was, yes.” Lucius’ eyes narrowed. “Is something on your mind?”
“Nothing pressing.” Severus tried to muster an interested expression. “Do continue.”
“If you’re sure—”
“Absolutely.” Severus waved a hand.
Lucius took him at his word. “Anyway, Honoria Parkinson is trying to leverage this, naturally, but Narcissa and I plan to hold firm. The arrangement with the Greengrasses was made when they were both quite young, but then, so was our arrangement, mine and Narcissa’s I mean, and that turned out to be successful, so I don’t see why it should be any different for Draco…”
Severus managed to nod at the right places, but he couldn’t help but think about what he had done. What would Potter’s response be? Especially since Severus had refused to even see him after the war. Would he even get a response? And what sort of response did he want, anyway? Not a relationship, necessarily, but, as the only thing left of Lily in the world, Potter was…special. And Severus had pledged to look after him. A pledge he was prepared to keep.
He’s an adult, his mind scoffed. He doesn’t need you to take care of him.
And yet Severus still felt responsible. Not that anyone would be trying to kill Potter now. At least, not directly. Although why Potter had chosen to join the Aurors was beyond Severus.
Because it’s his life, Severus’ mind reminded him helpfully.
“…don’t you agree, Severus?”
Straightening up, Severus nodded. “Of course. You and Narcissa, I’m sure, know what’s best for Draco.”
Lucius nodded emphatically. “Exactly! So you’ll help to discourage Miss Parkinson?”
Severus almost snorted. That was Lucius’ request? “I doubt she will listen to me,” Severus said.
“You have more influence than you know.” Lucius sipped his tea. “I know Draco values your opinion immensely.” He looked away. “There was a time when I was almost jealous of your influence on him.”
Severus blinked. “Lucius, I—”
Lucius waved his hand dismissively. “Not now, of course, but it was during the war, when I was…absent. He needed a father figure and you were there for him. It was appreciated…”
Absent. That’s what Lucius called being in Azkaban. Severus bit back his instinctive reply. “One does one’s best.”
Lucius exhaled. “Yes one does. And, hopefully, I shall be present from now on to help assure his future in Wizarding society.” He shook his head. “The name of Malfoy is irreparably damaged at the moment, but I think Draco’s son should face a future with better prospects.”
Severus inclined his head. “I should think so, yes,” he said gently.
Lucius smiled as he stood. “Anyway, I do hope you can join us for dinner this evening. Dipsy has outdone herself tonight—”
Rising, Severus followed Lucius out of his study and towards the dining room. But in the back of his mind he was still pondering Potter’s possible response.
The flat was oddly peaceful without Steve. He’d already taken his things by the time Harry got back, and he’d left a cold little note. After reading it, Harry sighed, setting it aside. Evidently they weren’t going to make up. Harry was kind of relieved.
An owl showed up soon after he got back. Accepting the package, Harry set it aside to deal with later.
He spent the rest of the day cleaning, and when he was done, the flat was spotless. Then, feeling melancholy, he set out for his local for a pint. It’d been ages since he’d gone out for a drink, after all.
The pub was quiet, it being a Sunday night. Harry slipped in, ordered his drink, then retired to a corner booth from where he could watch the rest of the room.
A mixture of Muggle and magical folk frequented this pub, since the neighbourhood had both sorts living there. Harry had seen local Muggles turn away when confronted with things that made no sense, so he suspected many knew about magic but had decided to keep their mouths shut.
That evening Harry could sense there were wizards present, but the majority of people were Muggle, which suited Harry fine. He wanted no attention that night, just a quiet drink.
In his mind, the fight played over and over, and Harry wondered if there was anything he could have said to diffuse the situation. He suspected not. Steve had seemed pretty determined to pick a fight.
When it got late, and Harry was suitably pissed, he stood and, making his shaky way to the door of the pub, stumbled out into the night.
The walk home was a blur, although Harry did remember stopping a few times to lean against a wall. Luckily, his wards let him right in, and, somehow making it into his bedroom, he collapsed into his bed, fully clothed.
When Harry woke up, the sun was high and bright in the sky. He groaned, his head pounding from the unusual amount of ale he’d had the night before.
Yawning, he finally sat up, glancing at the clock. His eyes went wide. “Fuck!” he cried, realising he was about thirty minutes late for work. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
He dove for the bathroom, and twenty-two minutes later, after the quickest shower of his life, he was entering the Ministry’s lobby carrying his unread copy of the Prophet his owl had delivered, as well as a cup of hastily made coffee.
He jogged to the lifts, well used to all the looks he was getting. He was accustomed to attention, after all. Some people just couldn’t let go of the whole “Boy Who Lived Twice” thing.
The ride up to the DMLE was quieter than normal, and if people were staring a bit more than usual, Harry, hung-over and tired, ignored them. Whatever it was would blow over eventually, he decided. It usually did.
When he got to his desk there were the usual memos and parchments awaiting him. Thumbing through them to be sure there was nothing urgent, he flopped into his chair to start going through things. All around him he could hear the buzz of the other Aurors chatting, but he figured whatever the gossip, someone would let him in on it eventually.
And that was when his day went to shit.
A bright red memo whizzed into the room, making a beeline for him. Even with his reflexes, it managed to poke him in the forehead twice with its pointy end before Harry could grab it and open it to look at it.
Report to my office immediately.
It had no signature, but only one office used that shade of bright red memo parchment.
Frowning, Harry rose, taking his coffee cup with him as he went to report to Kingsley’s office.
Kingsley’s secretary, who was usually jovial and flirty when Harry showed up, avoided his eyes as she waved him into Kingsley’s office. Harry frowned.
“You sent for me, Minister?” he said as he walked in.
Kingsley was at his desk reading something, and as Harry entered he looked up, gesturing to a seat. “I did. You’ve presented me with quite the dilemma today, Auror Potter.”
Harry blinked, sinking into the chair. This was obviously serious. There was no smile, no jokes about how Harry should call him Kingsley, or about anything. This was Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister for Magic. Harry swallowed hard. “What’s going on, sir?”
“You tell me.” Kingsley held up the Prophet. “Have you read the paper today?”
“Not yet,” Harry admitted. “I got a bit of a late start today, so I—”
Kingsley tossed him the paper. Harry barely managed to catch it without spilling his coffee. “Read it now,” he snapped. “It’s front-page news, shouldn’t be too hard to miss.”
Heart pounding, Harry opened the paper, to find his own face plastered across the front with the screaming headline, ‘Exclusive! Harry Potter’s male lover comes forward to tell all!’
Oh fuck. Scanning the article, Harry groaned as he read snippets. Steve had exaggerated a few things, like how kinky Harry was (he wasn’t), but the essence of the article, that they had been lovers for months and had lived together, was essentially accurate.
“Is it true?” Kingsley asked once Harry’s had a chance to scan to article.
Harry looked up at him. “Yes, sir.”
“Damnit, Harry!” Kingsley sat back in his chair, studying Harry as if he was a particularly interesting species of insect. “Why would you do this to me?” he finally asked.
Harry blinked. “To you?”
“Yes!” Kingsley pinched the bridge of his nose as if to try to stave off a headache. Harry could sympathise, he felt a pounding one coming on himself. “You realise this ruins your chances of becoming Head Auror, yes? I can’t appoint you to that post now.”
Harry frowned. “Well I suppose right now it wouldn’t do, but once the regulations are changed, my sexual orientation shouldn’t mat—”
“We can’t change the regulations now.” Kingsley stood up and started to pace back and forth in front of the window. “Don’t you see? We could have quietly changed them before your…proclivities became common knowledge, but now that everyone knows, the spotlight will be on the Auror corps. It will be seen as favouritism. And there were enough rumours about that when you joined the corps.”
His proclivities? Harry squared his shoulders. “I told you I wasn’t going to live a lie when I joined the Aurors, sir,” he said. “I was willing to wait a while for the ridiculous regulations to catch up with the modern world, but I was never going to do this job forever if it meant hiding who I really am forever.”
Kingsley glared at him. “No one’s asking you to live a lie. All we ask is that you be discreet, not flaunt your…lifestyle choices. Plenty of Aurors have been gay in the past; the difference is that their lovers didn’t go tattling to the Prophet.”
Lifestyle choices? As if this was a choice? Tamping down his anger, Harry said evenly, “It’s not as if I planned that, sir. We had a fight and he stormed off.”
“You shouldn’t have allowed him to leave without Obliviating him,” Kingsley snapped. “Then we wouldn’t be in this pickle.”
Harry blinked. “I couldn’t do that!”
“Why not?” Kingsley paused in his pacing, staring out the window. “Was letting him keep his memories worth your career, Harry?”
“Are you firing me, sir?” Harry was proud that his voice came out without wavering.
Kingsley bowed his head. “I may not have a choice. The regulations, as ridiculous as you think they are, are clear. And your being Harry Potter should not make any difference.”
Slowly, Harry stood. “Am I the only one who thinks they’re ridiculous, then? You think they’re fair?”
Turning, Kingsley looked Harry in the face. “It’s not a matter of what I think, Harry, it’s what the public thinks. At this point, the only course going forward is for you to deny the rumours and—”
Harry shook his head. “You’ll have my resignation before the end of the day,” he said tonelessly as he started for the door. “Goodbye, sir.”
“Potter! Harry, wait, we can still make this work if you’d just agree to deny all involvement—”
Ignoring Kingsley, Harry rushed out of the room, past the shocked secretary and towards the lifts.
He was in luck, one was waiting, and, taking it to his level, he strode to his desk, ignoring the looks and whispers. Within minutes he’d collected his personal items. There weren’t many, and soon he was heading for the Ministry exit Floos.
The press were there, of course, and the moment they spotted him they began yelling questions.
“Harry! Care to comment on the latest revelations about your love life?”
“Harry! Is it true you like whips and chains?”
“Are you having an affair with anyone else?”
Emotions firmly suppressed as he tried to ignore the commotion around him, Harry took a final look at the Ministry’s lobby before silently turning away and stepping into the Floo. Looked like Hermione was right; Steve could hurt him.
“…just read some news you won’t believe!” Pansy Parkinson’s shrill voice cut through the shop and into the back room where Severus was brewing. “You really should read the Prophet, Greg.”
Severus, bent over his cauldron, sighed. He understood that Gregory liked to have friends over to the shop, but it did distract from his work. Not that Severus’ potions shop was especially popular, but they did have their fair share of regular customers and Severus didn’t want anything driving them away.
Still, the place was empty for the moment, so Pansy could gossip to her heart’s content as far as Severus was concerned, just so long as the moment a customer came in, Gregory was attentive.
Reaching for the minced asphodel, Severus hummed to himself, half listening to Pansy as he stirred it into his potion. At least she often had interesting tidbits of information on people. Not that he cared, necessarily.
Severus was about to say the final incantation over the potion when he heard Pansy say, tone spiteful, “…believe that Potter’s male lover went to the Prophet and spill the beans like that? Rumour has it Potter’s been forced to quit the Aurors over it!”
Startled, he lost count of the number of stirs, and Severus swore when, instead of the clear blue the potion was supposed to be, it turned a dull grey. With a huff of disgust, Severus banished the mess and, wiping his hands on a cloth, strode towards the door leading into the shop.
There he found Pansy, clad, as usual, in low cut robes and high heels. Her smirk was vicious as she cut Potter to ribbons. “…the Weaselette must be in a state—Oh, hello, Professor.”
“Miss Parkinson.” Severus inclined his head. Turning to Gregory, he said, “Have you restocked the Pepperup and the Swelling Solution yet?”
“No, sir.” Gregory straightened up from his slouch. “I’ll get right on it.” Shooting an apologetic look at Pansy, he slunk away.
Severus turned back to Pansy. “I’m sure Gregory appreciates your visits, but I prefer you confine them to after hours so that we can get our customers seen.”
“I was just waiting for Draco, sir.” Pansy pouted. “He’s supposed to meet me here.”
Lucius’ words came back to Severus. He sighed. “Miss Parkinson. Do you really think Draco is the one you should be pursu—?”
His words were interrupted by Draco walking in. “Pansy! Darling!” Pulling her into a hug, Draco kissed her quite solidly on the lips. “Hello, Severus.”
“Hello, Draco.” Severus didn’t mind his Slytherins occasionally using his shop as a central gathering place; after all, it was one place they would not be vilified, but it did get old at times. He raised an eyebrow and Draco flushed. “Do try to recall that this is a place of business,” he said. “Circumspect behaviour is always appreciated.”
Draco nodded, edging away from Pansy. “Sorry, Severus.”
Pansy didn’t say anything; she just pointedly looked around the empty shop. To Severus’ relief, an older couple chose that moment to walk in.
Severus smirked at her before moving past them. “Welcome to Potent Potions. How may we help?”
It turned out to be a relatively busy day, with a steady stream of customers. Draco and Pansy left quickly once the shop filled up.
Gregory came back to tend to them while Severus retreated to the back to again attempt to brew. Without Pansy’s disturbing gossip, he managed to finish replacing the stock on which they were running low. All the while, however, he was replaying the gossip he’d overheard in his head.
Could it be true? Was Potter bent and had he really been outed by his lover? No wonder Severus hadn’t received a reply yet. The man was probably more than a bit distracted by what was going on in his life.
Severus no longer took the Prophet, but he knew where he could peruse a copy, so the moment he closed the shop for the day and sent Gregory home, he nipped over to his local, which served both Muggles and wizards.
The bartender nodded in greeting when he walked in. “Long time no see,” he said. “The usual?”
Nodding, Severus walked over to the end of the counter. There lay copies of every newspaper published that day. Most were Muggle, of course, but buried beneath them all were the Wizarding papers. Rummaging through, Severus found the Prophet and, picking up the glass the bartender had slid down to him, retreated to a quiet corner.
After he’d read the article, Severus sat back in his chair and sipped his drink, deep in thought.
It was clear Potter needed support and protection. The only question was, would he welcome it from Severus?
Harry walked around Diagon for a bit trying to clear his head, but the stares and whispered giggling got to be too much after a while, so, stepping into an alley, he Apparated home, landing in his living room.
Grabbing an ale, he collapsed onto the sofa, leaning back and closing his eyes. “Fuck,” he whispered into the empty room.
He was half expecting a Floo call or an owl from Hermione or Ron, but it was early yet, they might not have heard the news. Harry wasn’t sure he wanted to face an owl from Hermione at that moment anyway.
The thought of owls made him recall the package he’d received earlier and, sitting up, Harry Summoned it from the table where he’d placed it.
Setting aside his bottle, Harry turned the package over in his hand. The handwriting on the tag was vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place it. He frowned.
With a shrug, Harry unshrank the box, and, after casting some precautionary charms to make sure it wasn’t booby trapped, he opened it.
Harry gasped when he saw his mother’s face smiling up at him. With reverent hands, he picked up the photo, tracing the outline of Lily Potter’s face with the pads of his fingers.
Finally putting it aside, Harry pulled the rest of the items out of the box. There were several other photos, some letters, and even an old Gryffindor scarf that smelled of vanilla and lavender. Harry wrapped it around his neck and breathed in the scent.
He didn’t even realise tears were streaming down his face until one fell onto the corner of one of the letters, at which point Harry cast a Protection Charm on them and wiped his face with his sleeve.
There was only one person who could have sent the box. The man Harry had tried to see after the war but who had refused to see him. The man Harry had saved by returning to collect him after the final battle. The man Harry now knew had been on his side all along, who had saved his life countless times, even if he had been an arsehole while doing it.
“Snape,” he whispered. “What the fuck were you thinking giving this up?”
The day had an expectant air about it, as if something was going to happen. Unfortunately, Severus couldn’t tell if it was something good or something disastrous.
Happily, Gregory was alone when Severus arrived, and he had even taken it upon himself to organise the shelves a bit without being asked. Leaving him to it, Severus entered his lab at the back of the shop. And that was when things took a sharp left turn.
There was a glimmer in the corner, a shimmer of fabric fell away, and Potter was standing there, his face unreadable.
Severus bit back a shouted oath, lowering his wand, which he’d automatically drawn. “Potter,” he said evenly once he could manage it. “Is there a reason you are lying in wait for me in my laboratory instead of entering my shop in the normal manner? And you are aware that, as a former spy, I could have hexed you, correct?”
Potter’s shoulders hunched. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think—”
Severus snorted as he holstered his wand. “Some things never change, I see.”
Potter glared at him. “Look, I don’t know if you read the papers, but there’s been stuff printed about me lately and…Anyway, I didn’t want to be seen in Diagon, okay? Sorry for breaking in.”
“I don’t usually read the papers,” Severus said. “But as it happens, I am aware of your…recent difficulties.”
“Right. Figures.” Potter started to pace, all the while not looking at Severus. “So, is that why you sent me my mum’s pictures and letters? You felt sorry for me?”
Severus huffed. “Certainly not. Firstly, I sent those before I learned of your recent…of your situation, and secondly, why should I feel sorry for you? You’re still Harry Potter, hailed as hero of the Wizarding world. I see no reason to pity you.”
Potter paused, staring at him. “But…I’ve lost my job. People now know I’m—”
“What? Bent?” Severus rolled his eyes. “So what? You are bent, Potter. And guess what, you’re not the only one. I’m bent, Albus was bent, several of your classmates are bent. It’s not a disease, it’s reality, deal with it. You still have your health, you are not destitute, you can choose what you want to do with your life, the world is open to you. Thus, I repeat, why should I feel sorry for you?”
“I can’t do what I want to do, though.” Potter looked down. “I wanted to be an Auror.”
“Did you really?” Severus reached for the valerian root and began chopping. “And being an Auror is the only possible career path you can think of?”
“Well…” Potter bit his lower lip. “I suppose at one time I did consider dragon keeping. Or Curse-Breaking, or—”
“It sounds to me as if you have many possible options ahead of you.” Severus levitated a jar of pickled frog hearts down from the top shelf. “As for not being able to have your first choice of profession, many people face that dilemma every day. It’s not the end of the world.”
Potter leaned against the table, staring at Severus for a long moment. Finally, he shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you’re right.”
Severus smirked. “Of course I’m right. Now, was there something else you needed?”
“Other than unsolicited advice?” Potter’s lips quirked. “I just wanted to know why?”
“Why now? I tried to talk to you after the war, during the trials, after the trials, and you always refused. And now, out of the blue, you send me my mum’s pictures and letters, things you’ve clearly treasured for decades. Why?”
“It was time.” Severus added the chopped ingredients and, after a muttered incantation, set the flame under the cauldron to low.
“Time for what?”
Severus turned to face Potter, meeting his eyes. “Time for me to move on and for you to know something of your mother. What I’ve given you is what I know of her. Not everything, of course, but enough to get you started.”
“It’s not everything you know about her.” Potter hesitated, as if arguing with himself. “I saw your memories.”
“I’m aware,” said Severus, tone dry. “Particularly since I was the one who gave them to you.”
“Right.” Potter almost smiled, Severus saw his lips quirk as if wanting to turn up. “Do you want them back?” The words seemed to be dragged out of him
“My memories, you mean?” Severus crossed his arms, leaning back against the worktable. “No. After all, I have the originals.”
Potter exhaled. “I look at them all the time, you know. I hope…that’s okay?”
Severus hummed. “Even if it’s not, what could I do about it?”
“Well, you could ask me to stop and I would,” Potter said. He narrowed his eyes. “Does the idea make you uncomfortable?”
“No,” Severus lied. “It’s fine. Now, if there’s nothing else I have more brewing to do—”
“Yeah, sorry.” Potter looked towards the back window to the overgrown garden outside. “Looks a bit weedy out there. It needs to be tended.”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “It does,” he agreed. “But my…assistant has enough trouble keeping up with his current tasks, and I am far too busy to do it.”
“I could do it for you.” Potter bit his lip as Severus simply stared at him. “I mean, it’s not as if I’m doing much else.”
Potter wanted to work for him? That would certainly make keeping an eye on him a lot easier… “I can’t pay you,” Severus warned.
Potter’s half smile was back. “Like you said, I’m not destitute. I can take my time and find a new job. A paying one. But in the meantime—”
“In the meantime you want to work for me. For free.” Severus regarded Potter for a long moment. “If this is some misguided attempt to repay me for giving you pictures of Lily—”
“It’s because I’m between jobs at the moment and I don’t want to stay home and think about my life.” Potter exhaled. “If you don’t want me to, just say so.”
“I didn’t say that.” Severus gestured towards the garden. “As I said, I don’t have time to see to it, and multitasking is not Gregory’s forte. Go ahead.”
Potter’s smile was faint, but there. Severus was oddly relieved to see it. “Right. Good. I’m on it, then. I guess I’ll get started on it right away.”
“Quite.” Severus watched as Potter exited the lab and walked outside. Then, rolling up his sleeves, he picked up some gardening tools and got to work.
Things had fallen into place quite nicely, even if Severus hadn’t planned it. Smirking, Severus resumed his work.
“We should do something,” said Ron.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”
“I don’t know, do I?” Ron shot a look at Harry. “Start badmouthing that git’s restaurant, maybe? Spread the rumour they have rats?”
Harry smiled, helping himself to some chicken. “Thanks, mate, but what good would that do? What’s done is done.”
“But—” Ron looked back at Hermione as if for confirmation. “That bastard ruined your reputation!”
“Harry’s right, Ron.” Hermione sighed. “We can’t do anything. Officially.”
“But unofficially?” Ron pressed.
“We can’t do anything unofficially either.” Hermione slid her hand over Ron’s shoulders before sitting down to dinner. “This is Harry’s battle.”
“It’s all right,” Harry said. He snagged a roll. “What’s done is done. It’s time I move on with my life. And hey, now that everyone knows, maybe things will get better.”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look. “You seen awfully cheerful about this,” Hermione said.
“I’m not cheerful, but I’m not destroyed either.” Harry poured himself another glass of wine. “I’m a bit disappointed in Kingsley’s reaction, but there’s nothing I can do about that, is there? It’s their department, they can run it how they choose.”
“So what are you going to do instead?” Ron asked, starting on his second helping of chicken.
Harry sighed. “Take some time. Think about what I really want to do with my life. I have time to decide.”
“You do,” agreed Hermione. Leaning forward, she clasped Harry’s hand. “You just seem…more relaxed than I would have predicted, given the circumstances. What’s happened?”
Trust Hermione to pick up on it. Harry exhaled. Sometimes he wished she wasn’t nearly so perceptive. “I was going to tell you earlier but just never got around to it.”
“Tell us what?” Ron mumbled around some potatoes.
“I got a package from Snape yesterday.”
Both Ron and Hermione stared at him. “From Snape?” Hermione finally said. “What was it?”
“Probably cursed,” Ron muttered.
Hermione huffed. “The war is over. Snape actively worked to save Harry’s life. Why would he send him a cursed package now?”
“Well I’ve no idea, do I?” Ron said. “But just because Harry got him declared a hero doesn’t mean I trust him!”
“I checked it before I opened it,” Harry said. “And it was pictures and letters from my mum.” Harry then told them about everything, including going to see Snape, and their conversation. By the time he was done, they had finished dinner and Hermione had produced a chocolate cake for pudding.
“So you’re working for him now? For sodding Snape?” Ron shook his head as he shovelled cake into his mouth. “What the hell, mate?”
Harry shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. Plus, it’s not as if I’m doing anything else with my days,” he said bitterly.
Ron scowled. “You could have come and worked with us at the Wheezes, you know you’re always welcome.”
“But you don’t need me.” Harry picked at his cake. “Snape does.”
“Oh, Harry.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “You have got to get over this saving people thing you have.”
“I am over it,” Harry insisted. And as they argued with him, he tuned them out. How could he explain that he somehow had the feeling he and Snape might be able to save each other?
Potter showed up at precisely eight the next, and every, morning. After that first time, during which he later revealed he’d sneaked into the shop alongside Gregory whilst under his Cloak, he Apparated directly into the garden. Severus added him to the wards, although clearly Potter had learned something as an Auror since he hadn’t caused them to alert Severus when he’d sneak in that first time.
Gregory adjusted quickly enough. After staring at Potter that first day, he’d shrugged and resumed his duties without comment. And as far as Severus ever saw, the two never spoke.
Interestingly, Gregory never mentioned Potter’s presence to Pansy or Draco. Severus wasn’t sure if it was discretion on his part, or if he’d simply forgotten Potter was there, but whatever it was, he wasn’t about to ask. The last thing he needed was Pansy spreading the word and there being gawkers or, worse, the press haunting his shop.
As punctual as he was about showing up at eight, Potter was equally punctual about when he left. At four fifty-five he would start tidying up the tools and at precisely five he would Apparate out.
At first, Severus could see little difference in the garden, but in about a week, he began to see little plots being delineated. By week two, he realised Potter was not only cleaning up, but was putting in an herb garden.
One evening after Potter had left, he went outside to inspect what was going on. Strolling through the garden, Severus found himself reluctantly impressed. The space actually had the makings of a superb potions garden. Ideas swirling in his head, Severus decided it was time to let Potter know what he was thinking.
The next day, when Potter arrived, Severus was waiting.
“Snape.” Potter, dressed in his usual tatty gardening clothes, blinked, clearly surprised to see him waiting. “Is something wrong?”
“No.” Severus inclined his head. “I inspected the garden last evening.”
“Oh?” Potter crossed his arms, his stance radiating defensiveness. “And what do you think?”
“I think, with some guidance, this could be a decent potions garden.”
Potter’s mouth dropped open. “Really?”
Severus hummed. “It would require work, mind you. And there are certain protections and spells that are required to make a true potions garden, but yes, it is well on its way.”
“Will you teach me the spells?” Potter asked.
Reaching into his robes, Severus produced a parchment. “I have written them out for you. Learn those and we should be ready to start putting the garden together in a few days.”
Scanning the parchment, Potter nodded. “Yeah, this looks doable.”
“It certainly should be for an Auror,” Severus agreed.
Potter looked away. “A failed Auror, you mean?” he said, tone bitter.
Severus frowned. “How is it you failed?”
“Well I was fired—”
“It’s my understanding you resigned.”
Potter raised his head to look Severus full in the face. “That wasn’t in the article. How—?”
“I have my sources.” Severus smirked. “And, since you are the one who resigned, who left on his own terms, you can hardly be considered a failed Auror. You have all the knowledge of your training which you can apply to whatever it is you choose to do.”
“I suppose.” Potter’s eyes narrowed. “So what does that have to do with building a potions garden?”
“The protection spells I mentioned? It’s my understanding that they are similar to things you learn in the Auror corps. Never having been an Auror myself, however, I cannot be sure—”
Potter again perused the parchment, this time a true smile breaking out over his face. The sight of that smile made something loosen inside Severus. “You’re right!” Potter looked at him, eyes shining. “This is very similar to the protection spells we learned.” He pursed his lips. “And I bet there are other spells I could adapt as well—”
“Yes, I imagine there are.” Severus cleared his throat. “So I shall leave you to it, then. When it comes time to do the planting, I should like to supervise.”
“Of course.” Potter folded the parchment, tucking it into the pocket of his jeans. “Right, I’d best get going, there’s a lot to do.”
“Indeed.” And turning away, Severus returned to his lab, making sure not to glance out the window at Potter toiling away in his jeans. His very tight jeans.
“I’m actually enjoying it a lot,” Harry said. “The planting allows me to clear my head, but doing all the warding is exacting, so it lets me use my brain, too, if that makes sense.”
Neville nodded. “I know what you mean. There are some plants you can’t take your attention off for a second or you’ll be in trouble.”
Harry laughed. “Yeah, the Flitterblooms and the Fanged Geraniums are especially bad. They like to grope and bite.”
“Sounds like you really do like your job, Harry.” Hermione settled on the sofa beside him. “I admit I had my doubts, but you’re flourishing.”
“And you’re getting even fitter than you were in the Aurors,” Ginny chimed in. She shifted closer to Neville, whose arm tightened around her shoulders.
Harry could feel himself blushing. “I suppose. Gardening, especially magical gardening, works different muscles.”
“I’ll say.” Ginny’s smile was sharp. “So when are you going to show off those muscles? Say, to potential new boyfriends?”
Harry sighed. “I’m not in the market for a boyfriend right now.”
“Why not?” Hermione asked softly. “It’s been weeks, Harry. I’m sure Steve didn’t put his life on hold for you.”
“I don’t care what Steve does,” Harry snapped. He exhaled when he saw the hurt in her eyes. “Sorry. I just…it’s a bit too soon, all right?”
“All right.” Hermione patted his arm. “We’ll stop pushing, right, Ginny?”
“I suppose.” Ginny leaned her head on Neville’s shoulder. “But at the rate you’re going, Harry, all the good ones will be taken and you’ll end up stuck with Snape!”
Everyone laughed, all except Harry, who looked down.
Hermione, always perceptive, damn her, leaned in. “Are you all right? Truly?”
Summoning a smile, Harry nodded. “I’m fine. Truly.”
She smiled back. “Okay.” Straightening up, she said, “Right, you lot, out to the patio. Ron’s grilling, so we’re eating outside tonight, and it’s not fair that he’s not part of the conversation.”
“Ooh, al fresco dining!” Ginny stood, pulling Neville with her. She grinned. “You only want us out there because if we’re watching him, there’s less danger of him eating it all himself, right?”
“I want you out there because it’s lovely weather and we should keep him company.” Hermione winked. “And yes, it is a good way to make sure we actually get some supper.”
Laughing, they all headed outside. And later, if Harry found himself curious about what Snape could be doing on such a beautiful night, it was only natural, right?
The potions garden was going to be superb, Severus could tell. Strolling through it, he noted the protections Potter had placed on the plants, pleased to see the more dangerous specimens were under excellent wards.
Severus spun, surprised upon seeing Narcissa. “What a pleasant surprise. How can I help you?” he asked.
“I came because Draco mentioned that you’ve been a bit obsessed with your garden recently. I thought I’d take a look since, as you may know, I too, enjoy the outdoors.” Narcissa stepped out into the yard.
“Perhaps stouter shoes would have been advisable,” said Severus, eyeing her delicate slippers.
Narcissa’s smile was serene. “Don’t be concerned. These may look inappropriate, but they have withstood worse.”
“Ah.” Severus extended his arm to her. “Well then, shall I give you a tour?”
Together they roamed the garden, Narcissa’s sharp eyes picking up several things that Severus hadn’t noticed. By the end of the tour he had a mental list of things for Potter to do.
“Surely you’re not doing the labour yourself,” she said once he’d led her back to the shop. “You’d hardly have time to do this and brew your potions.”
Severus coughed. “No. I have…a gardener of sorts.”
“Of sorts?” Narcissa raised an eyebrow. “Who is it?”
Narcissa smiled. “Oh my. Is this…someone special? Severus, are you keeping secrets?”
Severus made his expression as bland as possible. “My dear Narcissa, I’m Slytherin. Of course I am.” He smirked. “Although the identity of my assistant isn’t one of them. It’s Harry Potter.”
Narcissa’s expression went as bland as his own. “I…see. And that newspaper article the other day, you’re aware of what happened in his last position?”
“Indeed.” Severus inclined his head. “He needed a job and he’s the one who asked to work in the garden. He’s donating his time, by the way.”
“Is he now?” Narcissa pursed her lips. “There has been speculation about his whereabouts, but I am glad he’s safely tucked away here.”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “Speculation?”
“Oh yes. Like it or not, Mr Potter will always be the subject of much speculation, although now the female half of the population will just have to wistfully watch him as finds the right young man.” Narcissa’s smile was cunning. “Or older man, perhaps, depending on his tastes.”
Severus, unable to help himself, winced.
Narcissa’s smile widened. “He could have his pick of anyone, I imagine,” she continued. “He’s quite…attractive.”
“So I’m told,” Severus muttered.
Narcissa laughed. “Oh, Severus,” she said fondly, “There’s nothing wrong with you noticing him.” She paused, and Severus could tell she was choosing her words carefully. “Or even with you…being attracted to him.”
Aware that he’d given himself away, Severus sighed. “Other than the fact that I’m old enough to be his father?” he asked, tone dry.
Narcissa shrugged. “When you’re sixty and he’s forty, who will care?”
Severus blinked. “I’m surprised you’re this relaxed about this. What if it were Draco? Would you approve then?”
Narcissa was silent for a moment. “Interesting question,” she finally said. “I would be disappointed only because I would be without grandchildren. But if you made him happy? Yes, I’d accept it. Eventually.”
Narcissa’s eyes narrowed. “You believe I’m lying to you?”
Severus broke the gaze first. “I’d never accuse you of that.” Not to her face, anyway. “Be that as it may, however, I doubt a bitter, former Death Eater will make Potter happy.”
“Never say never,” Narcissa murmured. She turned away. “Thank you for the tour, Severus. It was most illuminating.”
Watching her go, Severus sighed. She was probably up to something, but Merlin knew what.
“Brought you some water.”
Harry, distracted by planting more geraniums, almost jumped into the air. He probably would have if he hadn’t been kneeling. He twisted to face Goyle. “Bloody hell, you startled me!”
“Sorry.” Goyle extended a glass of water. “Looked hot, thought you could use this.”
Harry took the glass. “Erm…thanks.”
“It’s not poisoned or anything, in case you were wondering.”
Harry hadn’t been, until Goyle mentioned it. “Right,” he said, faking a sip. “Good to know.”
Goyle stared at him for a moment. “You like it here,” he finally said.
Harry blinked. “Yes, I suppose I do.”
“Me, too.” Goyle crossed his arms. “It’s not posh or anything, but I like working here. It’s honest work, and Snape needs the help.”
“Okay.” Harry began wondering what the point of the conversation was. “And you’re telling me this because—?”
“I see the way he looks at you.”
Snape looked at him? That was news to Harry. “How does he look at me?” Harry asked.
Goyle shook his head. “If you can’t see it, I’m not going to be the one to say.” His eyes narrowed. “But if you hurt him, I’ll hurt you.”
Mystified, Harry nodded. “All right. Seems fair.”
“Good.” Turning away abruptly, Goyle walked back into the shop, leaving Harry in the garden to puzzle through what had happened.
Harry returned to work, but his mind was churning. Snape looked at him, like looked at him? If that was the case, and Goyle wasn’t playing some sort of elaborate joke, which, honestly, he hardly seemed capable of doing…Well, Harry would just have to start looking back at Snape, then, wouldn’t he?
Potter was watching him. At first Severus hadn’t been sure, but recently it’d become more obvious. And Severus had no idea why.
Of course, he was watching Potter, too. It was difficult not to since the window in Severus’ lab looked directly out onto the garden where Potter worked every day. And as the weather got warmer, Potter started working in more scanty outfits. It was getting more and more difficult to look away when Potter was shirtless, his skin glistening with sweat and his bum showcased in tight, muddy jeans.
Narcissa’s words haunted him. Potter was attractive, and naturally, Severus hadn't failed to notice that fact, but he was also wounded.
He still wouldn’t come in through the front of the store, instead Apparating in to work every day.
If a customer who needed a personal consult ventured into the lab and wandered near the window overlooking the garden, Potter would disappear. The space was large enough that he could hide behind shrubs and bushes if necessary, and he often did, only emerging when the customer was gone.
Severus watched Potter, knew he had to address it somehow, but he wasn’t sure how.
Thus, when the chance came, although it was unexpected, he took advantage of it.
Severus was working late, and Potter, who normally left punctually at five, was still there at six. “You’re working late,” Severus said, walking out into the garden.
Potter looked up. “It stays light longer,” he said. “I’ve been taking advantage of that to get some of the more delicate planting done.”
“I see.” Severus walked over to the bed Potter was tending. “I’ve been…impressed with your work on this, Potter.”
Potter’s eyes registered surprise. “Wow. I…thanks.”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “You seem startled.”
“You just never seemed to sort of man to be free with compliments.”
“I’m not.” Severus trailed his fingers over some bushes, pausing when one tendril wrapped around his wrist. “But I believe in giving credit where and when it’s due.”
Potter ducked his head, but Severus still caught his smile. “Right. Of course.”
Severus exhaled, gently extricating his wrist from the plant’s grasp. “Although I notice you are still hiding.”
Potter stiffened. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t you?” Severus hummed. “You Apparate in and out, and you make sure to never enter through the front of the shop ensuring no one catches sight of you. If that’s not hiding—”
“I’m not,” Potter interrupted. “I’m simply laying low, avoiding bringing attention to myself, there’s a difference.”
“Indeed. Well, the way you’ve been acting, one would almost think you’re ashamed of what you’re doing. Are you? Do you feel it’s…beneath you?”
“What? No!” Potter glared at him. “I’ve been enjoying this a lot, but it’s not as if it’s a real job, now is it?”
Severus blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Well I’m not a salaried employee, I’m just a volunteer.”
“Are you asking for a change in that arrangement?” Severus asked quietly.
“Not necessarily.” Potter looked away. “I mean, if you can’t afford to pay me—”
“I’ve been meaning to bring this up,” said Severus. “The shop’s finances have been looking up, and that is due in large part to your efforts. So I would like to offer you a paid position, if you are interested.”
“They are?” Potter blinked. “You would?”
“Yes,” Severus said. “Would that be acceptable?”
Potter exhaled. “I…” He frowned. “Do I have to publicise that I’m working here? Is that part of the deal?”
Severus narrowed his eyes. There was a story there. “Certainly not. My only requirement would be that you continue to show up at work as you have been,” he said.
Potter’s shoulders relaxed. “Then yes, I accept.”
Severus nodded. “You shall receive your first pay packet next week.”
“Great. Um, thanks.” Potter looked up at the sky. “The light’s about to go, so I should get going.”
“Of course.” Severus inclined his head. “And if you choose to continue to hide yourself away here, it’s up to you. But remember, you can’t do it forever, Potter.”
Potter murmured something before turning away.
Later, Severus reflected that it had sounded like, “Maybe not, but I can try.”
Harry wasn’t sure when his impression of Snape changed. It seemed to happen gradually over the following weeks.
He was aware that Snape watched him, of course. It was obvious, once he knew what to look for. And he even had an idea of what Snape might want from him.
But Snape never made a move, and slowly, Harry began to want him to. And then there was Goyle, who always seemed to be hanging about, watching both of them.
Harry could have asked Snape out himself, of course, but then where would they go? What would they do? And how would they avoid the press?
Snape seemed the only person less desirous of public attention than Harry, so Harry couldn’t imagine the man would be interested in some sort of date spectacle.
Harry still saw Ron and Hermione on a regular basis, but this didn’t seem to be something he could discuss with them. He wanted to be sure of his own mind first before drawing them into it, and so he ruminated on it, pondering what to do.
As always, Hermione knew something was up. “What’s wrong?” she asked one Saturday when Harry was over for tea. “Something’s been bothering you for a while.”
Harry sighed. “I’m not sure I should say yet since nothing may happen, although I really think I’d like something to happen. Maybe. I don’t know.”
Chuckling, Hermione placed a dish of biscuits in front of him. “Eat up. You’ve maybe thirty minutes before Ron gets home.” Once he’d taken a biscuit, she said, “Now, tell me what’s got you in knots.”
Harry did, confiding his still amorphous feelings about Snape, and what he suspected and hoped Snape felt about him.
Hermione didn’t say anything for a while once he was done, simply sipping her tea and thinking. Finally, she nodded. “I can see it,” she said.
“You can see what?” Harry asked.
“A future between you and Snape.” Hermione smiled when Harry gaped at her. “Well, think about it. There has always been passion between you two, unlike with you and Steve. He’s watched over you for years, so there had to be some sort of feeling there. You’ve saved each other’s lives, and now, this.”
“But I have no idea what this is!” Harry cried. “What if it’s all in my imagination? What of he’s just being…nice?”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Nice? Snape?”
Harry coughed. “He’s capable of it.”
“No doubt, but not with just anyone. Clearly, you mean something to him.”
“But what, exactly?” Harry groaned. “I’m going to have to make the first move, aren’t I?”
“I would think so, yes.” Hermione patted his arm sympathetically. “He doesn’t seem the sort to open himself up to rejection, so it’s up to you to show your hand first, I think.”
“Bloody hell. Just when I thought my life was finally going to be simple and uncomplicated.”
“You shouldn’t have fallen for a complicated man, then.” Hermione munched a biscuit. “But if it’s any consolation, I think this will be worth it once everything’s sorted.”
“What needs to be sorted?” Ron asked, striding in.
Hermione glanced at Harry, who shook his head slightly. She smiled. “We’re debating between treacle tart and chocolate cake tonight. You’re the tie breaker.”
Ron grinned. “You know my vote. Both!” He clapped Harry on the back before leaning down to kiss Hermione. “That way I keep my best mate and my best girl happy.”
And as Ron settled in and they chatted, Harry reflected that Hermione was right, and it was time for him to make his move with Snape.
“Severus! Are you there? We need your help.”
Severus, bent over a cauldron, looked towards the Floo. “Narcissa?”
“Yes. Can you come through? We need you right now!”
Narcissa actually sounded perturbed.
Drawing his wand, Severus cast a quick Stasis Charm over all his potions and, striding quickly over to the fireplace, Flooed to the Manor.
He emerged in the entrance hall and in the distance he heard shouting. Wand still drawn, he strode down the hall, coming to the door from which all the shouting was emanating.
Lucius, his face red, was gesticulating wildly, waving his cane. Seated in front of him were Pansy and Draco, holding hands, looking defiant, and in the corner was Narcissa, also seated looking…Severus could only classify it as complacent.
“…ah, Severus!” Upon spotting him, Lucius gestured him inside. “Perfect timing! Come and tell these two that they’ve made a grave mistake!”
Slowly, Severus put away his wand. “What exactly have they done?” he asked, although the satisfied expression on Pansy’s face, combined with the defiant one on Draco’s, made it all too clear.
“They got married, the idiots!” Lucius threw up his hands. “Perhaps you can talk some sense into them.”
Severus highly doubted that. “When did this happen?” he asked, more to kill time than out of any desire to know the details.
“This past weekend,” Draco said. He drew Pansy’s hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles. “And we’ve already consummated it, so there’s nothing you can do about it, Father!”
“Is that what you think?!” Lucius bellowed.
Severus coughed, drawing Draco’s attention. He shook his head slightly and Draco lowered his eyes.
“I think what Draco is saying is that it would be…impractical to try to have their marriage annulled at this point,” Severus said, moving forward so that he was standing between Draco and Lucius.
“Why?” Lucius snapped.
“Because I could already be pregnant with your grandchild!” Pansy proclaimed, quailing when Severus spun to glare at her.
Lucius opened his mouth, no doubt to say something cutting, when Narcissa cleared her throat. All eyes turned towards her. “We shall have to have a reception,” she said, tone serene. “Invite all of current Wizarding society. I have so been longing to throw a party.”
“I won’t be made to look a fool in my own home,” Lucius snarled. He gestured towards Draco. “It will be obvious that I wasn’t consulted on this marriage since they had to go and elope!”
Narcissa inclined her head at Severus.
Severus sighed. “Oh, I doubt that, Lucius. People will think how wise it was for you to choose an understated way of uniting two pure-blood families,” he said. “Everyone is marrying Muggle-borns these days, it’s all the rage.” His eyes flicked towards Draco. “Draco, knowing it was less fashionable, nevertheless chose to marry his childhood sweetheart the old-fashioned way, in a handfasting. It was a nod to the old ways.”
Lucius stared at Severus for a long moment. “I suppose people may see it that way,” he said grudgingly. He addressed Draco. “Was it a handfasting?”
“Yes, yes it was,” said Draco. Pansy opened her mouth as if to speak but Draco shot her a warning look and she snapped her mouth shut.
“And I’m sure everyone who’s anyone will come to the reception,” Narcissa said. “Why, I suspect we could even get Harry Potter himself to attend.”
“How?” Lucius asked. “He’s not enamoured of Draco, me, or Miss Parkinson—”
“Mrs Malfoy,” muttered Pansy.
Lucius glared at her. “My point being, with the possible exception of you, Cissa, there’s no one in this family Potter especially likes.”
“I may know of a connection,” Narcissa said, inspecting her nails and pointedly not looking at Severus.
Lucius huffed, but was clearly calmer. “All right,” he finally said. “I suppose it shall have to do. If we can get Potter to attend and he publicly makes it clear he's not holding a grudge against the new Mrs Malfoy, then I suppose no harm is done.” He crossed his arms, staring at Draco. “But you’ll be the one to tell Augustus Greengrass that you won’t be marrying his daughter!”
“Of course, Father.” Draco rose, pulling Pansy with him. “Although perhaps if we all three told him it will go over better? Present a united front as it were?”
Lucius snorted. “I doubt he’ll care either way. And we’ll have to promise him some future favours, I imagine.”
“I’m sure we’ll manage, Father,” said Draco, dragging Pansy with him as he followed Lucius out of the room. “We’ll make it work.” He shot a grateful look towards Severus before they all disappeared.
“Surely you could have handled that on your own,” Severus said once he and Narcissa were alone.
Narcissa smiled at him. “You’re his best friend; he respects your opinion. I am his wife and so am expected to agree with him in all things. But if a friend presents an alternate idea, he listens. It took me a long time to learn that lesson.”
Severus smirked. “You manage him very well.”
“Thank you.” Narcissa rose. “Now I trust I can rely on you to ensure that Mr Potter accepts our invitation?”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “And what makes you think I have that sort of influence on him?”
“Call it my intuition.” Narcissa smirked. “Have you made any progress with him, by the way?”
“Progress?” Severus cleared his throat. “I’m not sure I understand—”
“You know.” Narcissa’s smirk deepened. “With letting him know how attractive he is.”
Severus snorted. “I’m sure he’s been told that countless times before. I doubt he needs me to—”
“Everyone likes to hear it from time to time, Severus.” Narcissa touched his arm lightly. “Everyone.” She released his arm. “Now, can you stay for dinner? It seems we have something to celebrate.”
Harry’s opportunity came two days later. Goyle had left early, mumbling something about Malfoy. Harry hadn’t paid attention, focused as he’d been on the fact that he’d finally be alone with Snape in the shop.
Snape had to tend the counter, though, and since Harry didn’t want to be spotted by anyone, he stayed out of sight, although the second Snape closed the shop, Harry was inside.
“Need help setting up for tomorrow?” he asked.
Snape looked surprised. “Are you done outside?”
“Yep. I’ve done all I can today,” Harry said. He’d practically broken his neck doing it, too, just so he’d be sure to have a chance to talk to Snape.
Snape nodded. “Very well. The Pepperup needs to be restocked, as do the Fever Reducer and the Cheering Draught.”
Harry started restocking shelves, watching out of the corner of his eye as Snape did the other shelves.
As usual he was clad in his robes, buttons from neck to hem, and those buttons made Harry itch to unwrap him, to discover the man beneath.
Snape wasn’t buff, per se, but there wasn’t a spare ounce of fat on him. Since the war, when Harry remembered him almost being emaciated, he’d filled out, his face losing the bitter lines he recalled as a child. He’d never be classically handsome, but there was something striking about him, something that made him noticeable, that made Harry’s mouth go dry.
“Did I spill something on myself?” Snape asked.
Harry blinked, falling out of his reverie. “No. Sorry. Why?”
“You’ve been standing there staring at me for at least a minute.”
“Right. Sorry.” Harry swallowed hard. “I guess I was just thinking.”
Snape raised an eyebrow. “I may regret asking this, but what about?”
Harry squared his shoulders. “Would you like to have dinner tonight? With me, I mean?”
Snape went still. “You mean go out in public for a meal?”
“I was more thinking I would cook for you, but yeah, sort of?” Harry bit his lower lip. “If you’re busy I understand, it is last minute, after all, and I’m sure you have plans—”
“Yes,” Snape said.
Harry’s heart sank. “Oh. Well, um, of course you already had plans, dunno what I was thinking—”
Snape shook his head. “I think you misunderstand. I mean yes, I would like to have dinner with you this evening.”
“You would?” Harry, unable to help himself, grinned. “Brilliant!”
“What time would you like me there?” Snape asked. “And I’ll need Apparation coordinates.”
“Or you could just come home with me when I leave,” Harry said.
“I could,” agreed Snape. He hummed. “How many others will you be feeding this evening?”
“Oh, no one else.” Harry cleared his throat. “It’d just be us. You and me. If that’s okay?”
“As in…a date?” Snape’s expression was unreadable.
Snape inclined his head. “That’s acceptable. If you’ll allow me, I should like to go upstairs and change.”
“Right! Of course,” Harry said, his heart thumping in his chest. And when Snape moved away, disappearing into the back, he exhaled. He had a date with Severus Snape. Bloody hell.
Potter’s home was a flat in a mixed Muggle and magical neighbourhood. Looking around, Severus could see it was a relatively affluent part of town. “What made you decide to live here?” he asked as Potter opened the door to let them both in.
“I like the area and, well, the Wizarding press were less likely to trace me here,” Potter said. “Come in.”
The decorating was minimalist, with only a few personal touches. There were photographs featuring Potter alongside Weasley and Granger, a few with Luna Lovegood and Ginevra Weasley, and one prominent one with just about every student in Potter’s year who had survived the war except, predictably, the Slytherins.
“Make yourself at home in here,” Potter said, gesturing toward the living room. “I’ll just cobble something together for supper.”
“I’d rather be in the kitchen with you if you don’t mind,” Severus said. The thought of sitting in the living room being watched by all those Gryffindors, be they only photographs, was unnerving.
Potter shrugged. “Sure,” he said. “Although don’t be surprised if I put you to work.”
“I’m sure I’ll survive,” Severus deadpanned, following Potter.
The kitchen was large, meant for entertaining. Severus looked around at all the expensive appliances. “Impressive,” he said.
“Thanks.” Potter shook his head. “Although I can’t take all the credit. My…ex helped me pick this place. He was a chef. Well, still is, I guess.”
Ah yes, Severus recalled seeing that in the article months before. “Did he do most of the cooking?” he asked, watching Potter’s reaction closely.
Potter smiled. “We divided that up pretty evenly, actually, although I did pick up a few of his tricks.”
“Indeed.” Severus relaxed. Potter seemed well and truly over the arse. “Are you going to demonstrate some this evening?”
Potter chuckled and Severus belatedly realised his words could have other connotations.
“Some of them,” Potter replied, tone bland.
Severus could feel himself blushing. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a bottle of wine, unshrinking it. “I brought this for us to drink,” he said. “My contribution to the meal.”
Reaching out, Potter picked it up, inspecting the label. “Red Zin? Great choice. And it’ll go great with what I have planned.” Opening a drawer, he handed Severus a wine opener before Summoning two wine glasses. “And here’s where I put you to work.”
It was a pleasure watching Potter cook. He was a natural in the kitchen, effortlessly putting together a pot of boeuf bourguignon in far less time than Severus expected.
Within thirty minutes they were eating at the kitchen table. The food was delicious. When Severus complimented Potter, he shrugged. “I don’t think you can live with a chef and not pick up a few things.”
Afterward Potter brought out some macerated berries and cream, and after devouring it, they retired to the living room with their wine.
“Perhaps next time you’ll allow me to treat you to dinner,” Severus said. “Although it will need to be a meal in a restaurant since my culinary skills are not this developed.”
Potter smiled. “I’m sure you do fine in the kitchen,” he said. He toyed with his glass. “I’m still leery about going out in public. Apart from Ron and Hermione, and a handful of others, you’re the only one who treats me like a normal wizard.”
Severus sighed. “Still, you can’t hide forever. At some point you’re going to have to emerge from this flat and the shop, reclaim your life, Potter.”
“Harry.” Potter’s eyes glinted behind his glasses. “If we’re going to do this, you should call me Harry.”
“And what is this, exactly?” Severus asked.
“This? In my book, this is a date.” Potter licked his wine-reddened lips. “One of many, I hope.”
“I see.” Severus raised an eyebrow. “And does this mean you expect to call me Severus?”
“Eventually, I hope.” Potter—Harry gave Severus one of his half-smiles. “If this goes where I hope it does, it’ll seem weird to call you Snape while we’re…being intimate.”
“That is a fair point.” Severus smirked. “Harry,” he purred.
Harry shivered. “You’re not playing fair.”
Severus hummed. “One uses one’s advantages. After all, not all of us are attractive young men.”
“You think I’m attractive?” Harry blinked.
Recalling Narcissa’s advice, Severus inclined his head. “Of course. And surely I’m not the first to say so,” he murmured. “After all, you do have a mirror.”
Harry blushed. “My mirror doesn’t routinely give me compliments.”
“You clearly need a new one,” Severus said.
Harry laughed. “You’re funnier than I thought you’d be.”
Severus sniffed. “I wasn’t joking. After all, everyone knows I don’t joke.” Then he spoiled the effect by smiling faintly.
Harry shook his head. “You really are hilarious.”
“Indeed.” Severus hummed. “And as long as you never tell anyone, we’ll be fine.”
Leaning in, Harry took Severus’ glass from him, placing it on the table. “I think we’ll be fine either way,” he whispered before pressing his lips against Severus’.
When their lips met, Severus felt it shoot through his entire body. The kiss started out slow, but deepened immediately as they both moaned into each other’s mouths, and when Harry pushed closer, sliding his hand around to cup Severus’ neck and pull him in closer, Severus went with it, throwing himself into the kiss with abandon.
They pulled apart panting, Severus resting his forehead against Harry’s. “I should go,” he said once he found his voice.
“What? No.” Harry drew back, searching Severus’ eyes. “I was hoping we could—”
“It would be a bad idea for us to have sex tonight,” Severus murmured. “Much as we both may want to.”
Harry laughed shakily. “You’re right, of course.” He drew further back. “Do you want to? I mean it’s okay if you’re not interested—”
Severus captured his mouth once again in a kiss, and this time when they separated, Harry looked dazed. “I’m interested,” he said. “But we should take our time, not rush.”
“Yeah, okay,” Harry breathed. He smiled. “This is going to make work interesting.”
“Indeed,” Severus agreed. “More than likely.”
Work was, as predicted, interesting. Harry looked at Snape—Severus with new eyes.
And to all outward appearances he remained the dour, severe man Harry had known since school, but there were little changes, subtle things that let Harry know something was happening.
For one thing, Severus would often touch him at work. Nothing obvious, just subtle brushes of his fingers across Harry’s back when he was helping restock in the evenings. Perhaps he’d rest two fingers on Harry’s wrist when they were consulting about expansions to the potions garden. Little, soft touches that made Harry burn.
Severus also smiled a bit more. Not big smiles, but small, hidden ones, ones that were for Harry alone, at least, Harry never saw Severus offer them to anyone else, not even Goyle.
Harry made it a point to help restock and clean up in the evenings as well. Goyle didn’t say a word the first time he was there and Harry did it, but he glared at Harry, wordlessly reminding him of their last conversation.
As if Harry could forget. It was a bit galling to realise that Goyle had recognised what was going on between them before he had. Harry consoled himself with the thought that Severus hadn’t known either.
They began having dinner together several evenings a week, usually at Harry’s flat, although on a couple of occasions, Severus had cooked for Harry upstairs in his quarters above the shop.
Once they even went out. Granted, it was in Muggle London, but Harry still felt exposed. But, since the world didn’t end, he got more relaxed about their going out on their date nights.
And they kissed, oh how they kissed on those nights. Slow, drugging kisses that stole Harry’s will, that made him pliable in Severus’ arms, fierce kisses that had them both straining together, gasping. But they never took things further. Severus seemed to be waiting for something. Harry wasn’t sure what, but he did know one thing, he was slowly going mad in the best of ways.
Hermione, of course, knew something was happening. It was a bit obvious since Harry now spent the majority of his evenings with Severus.
“We haven’t seen you in a week,” she said one night, her expression concerned.
Harry, who had just returned from Severus’, knelt down to talk to her in the Floo. “I’m fine. Just…busy at work.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Until ten at night?”
Harry could feel himself blushing. “This is a really interesting project?” he offered weakly.
“That sounded like you're asking, which you couldn’t be since I wouldn’t know since I haven’t seen you.” Hermione sounded a bit cross.
“How about dinner this weekend?” Harry offered. “Here. I’ll cook for you and Ron. We can catch up on things.”
Hermione huffed, but she was smiling. “All right, I’ll let Ron know.” She searched his eyes. “Everything is all right, isn’t it? You’re getting along with Snape?”
“Yeah.” Harry beamed. “Everything’s brilliant.”
“Good. See you soon.”
Once she was gone, Harry sat back on his heels, still smiling. Everything really was great.
“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Harry said, making some last-minute adjustments to his formal robes. “I don’t have great memories of Malfoy Manor.”
Severus cleared his throat. “I’m aware, and I do appreciate it since I know you prefer to avoid the spotlight at all costs.”
“Yeah, I do.” Harry sighed. “But I also owe Narcissa.”
“Don’t we all?” Severus murmured as they stepped into the Floo.
The marriage reception was well under way when they arrived. They were greeted by an elf, their cloaks taken, and they were directed towards the main reception area.
Snagging two glasses of champagne, Severus handed one to Harry. “We don’t have to stay long,” he said, seeing the somewhat panicked look in Harry’s eyes. “Although it would be appreciated if you could say a few words to Miss Park—I mean the new Mrs Malfoy.”
“Right.” Harry tossed back the champagne and reached for another glass. “I can do this.”
The press was there taking pictures, but only a few carefully selected members, and Severus knew, because he had made it a stipulation, that none of them would address Harry directly.
When it came time, the interaction between Harry and Pansy was surprisingly smooth. Severus could tell Pansy was nervous, her skin pale beneath her cosmetics. As both Draco and Severus hovered protectively in the background, Harry extended his hand. “Congratulations,” he said, his polite smile not quite reaching his eyes.
Pansy took the proffered handshake, licking her lips. “Thank you. I appreciate you coming this evening to help us celebrate.”
Harry nodded. “Sure.”
They stood there awkwardly for a moment before Pansy huffed. “Look, Potter, I never had a chance to say this before, but I’m truly sorry for trying to turn you over to the Dark—to him during the war. I was scared and—”
Harry shook his head. “It’s okay, I understand.”
“Let me finish, please.” Pansy’s face was set. “I’ve had to work my way up to saying this, so—”
Harry blinked. “Right. Sure. Go ahead,” he said.
“I was a scared kid trying to act like the world wasn’t going to hell all around me, like my classmates and family weren’t being tortured into agreeing with a madman.” She shook her head. “Mad creature. Anyway, I know it’s no excuse, but I am sorry, and thank you for ridding us of him.”
Harry smiled, a genuine one that lit up his face. “We were all scared kids back then, Parkinson.”
“Malfoy,” Pansy gently corrected.
Harry chuckled softly. “Right, sorry.” His eyes darted to Draco. “I’ll have to get used to that. Anyway, it’s behind us. And I honestly don’t know what I’d have done if I’d been in your shoes.”
Severus almost snorted. He knew what Harry would have done in similar circumstances, but Harry was being kind, so Severus wouldn’t interfere.
Draco stepped forward, took Pansy’s arm. Harry and Draco nodded politely at each other as they, too, shook hands, and then Severus steered Harry away from them. “Another drink?” Severus said.
Harry shook his head. “It’s probably a bad idea for me to get drunk and make a fool of myself here.”
“Oh, I would hardly allow that to happen,” Severus reassured him.
“You’re always protecting me, aren’t you?” Harry asked, a strange note in his voice.
“Always,” said Severus.
Harry stared at him for a moment before leaning in. “Maybe it’s time you stop protecting me from certain things,” he whispered.
“Like?” Severus asked, his heart speeding up at the look in Harry’s eyes.
Severus froze. “Is that what you think I’m doing?” he asked.
“Maybe.” Harry placed his hand on Severus’ arm. “I can’t think of another reason we haven’t…well, you know.”
“No, I don’t know,” Severus murmured, steering Harry away from the crowd. “And if you can’t say it, we shouldn’t be doing it anyway.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean, but if you need it spelled out then fine. I can’t think of another reason we haven’t had sex yet.”
Severus hummed. He wasn’t sure why he’d been postponing sex either, there was just something in him that kept telling him the time wasn’t right, that Harry wasn’t as ready as he claimed. But if Harry really wanted to, who was he to say no? “I suppose it is rather traditional of me,” he finally said.
Harry smiled. “Not that the kissing isn’t lovely,” he said. “But the cold showers are getting old, you know?”
Severus did know. He pursed his lips. Perhaps he was just being foolish. Perhaps it was time. “We could leave now if you like,” he suggested, his voice a low purr.
Harry’s eyes darkened. “That would be brilliant.”
“Ah, there you are, Severus.” Narcissa stepped out of the shadows, startling them both. Severus raised an eyebrow, silently inquiring just how long she’d been there, and what she’d heard, but she simply smiled guilelessly at him, her eyes giving nothing away. “Would you and Mr Potter be available for a few photo opportunities with Draco and Pansy? I would so appreciate it.”
Severus sighed. “Of course, Narcissa.”
“Wonderful.” Narcissa gestured towards the reception hall. “This way, gentlemen.”
And as one photograph morphed into several, and Lucius grabbed Severus wanting to talk, Severus could see his opportunity slipping away. Finally, when it was late, Harry began to say goodnight to everyone. “Goodnight, Severus,” he said once he got to him. “I need to be up early tomorrow, so—”
Severus inclined his head. “Of course. Goodnight.” And, still trapped by a babbling Lucius, he watched helplessly as Harry left.
“Always leave them wanting more, Severus,” Narcissa murmured once he managed to extricate himself from Lucius’ grasp.
Narrowing his eyes, Severus stared at her. “You deliberately stopped us from leaving together earlier.”
Narcissa hummed noncommittally. “Perhaps. Perhaps not.” She smiled. “Did you really want to do whatever it was you planned on someone else’s terms, or would you rather act on your own behalf?”
Severus huffed, looking away. Damn her for always being right.
Arriving at work early, Harry began to plant his latest section of the garden. It was lush, just about every corner teeming with magical plant life, and Harry was proud of it.
Every few minutes, Harry would glance at the potions lab window to see if Severus was there yet. He felt like they had turned a corner the night before at Malfoy Manor, and it had taken everything in him not to simply knock on Severus’ door that morning and offer himself to him.
Harry, feeling himself blushing at the turn his thoughts had taken, threw himself into working. They had a whole day to get through, it was unlikely he’d see much of Severus other than his back as he worked or dealt with customers.
Thus, when someone entered the garden that afternoon, Harry ignored them figuring Severus was giving someone a tour.
And that worked, right up until the person said, “Merlin! Harry? Is that you?”
Harry froze. Surely it couldn’t be. Slowly he turned his head, looking up into blue eyes. “Steve?”
“This is where you disappeared to?” Steve looked around. “Quite a change from the Aurors.”
Harry stood, wiping his hands on his jeans. “What are you doing here?”
“Well I heard there was a new potions garden and I was hoping I could source some fresh herbs for the restaurant.” Steve shook his head. “Damn, Harry, but you look great.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Thanks,” he said, tone flat.
Steve sighed. “Don’t be like that,” he said in the wheedling tone he used to use when he wanted to sweet talk Harry into something. “Look, I’m sorry things ended the way they did.”
In that moment Harry realised he wasn’t sorry. He opened his mouth to say that, but Steve just barrelled right over him.
“…don’t like the way we left things. Maybe we could talk about it over coffee?”
Harry shook his head. “I don’t think—”
“Don’t be angry,” Steve said.
Harry’s mouth dropped open. “Don’t be angry?” he repeated, incredulous. “How can you even say that to me when you ruined my career in the Aurors with your little stunt?”
“Well I didn’t think you’d actually resign!” Steve cried. “I thought you’d use your influence to speed up the process of getting the regulations or whatever changed, and then you’d see I was right and we’d get back together.”
What the ever-loving— Harry shook his head in disbelief. “You’re an idiot,” he said. “How I ever thought I was in love with you I’ll never know.”
“Oh, don’t be like that.” Steve grinned. “I know you haven’t been seeing anyone. If you were, it’d be all over the news.”
“Oh please don’t pretend you’re in a relationship, Harry. That would just be pathetic.” Steve rolled his eyes. “And you want to know why you loved me? Because of this!” And to Harry’s horror, he grabbed Harry’s shoulders and pulled him into a kiss.
Stunned, Harry froze. He just began raising his arms to push Steve away when he was spun out of Steve’s embrace, by a furious looking Severus.
“Get out,” he snarled at Steve through clenched teeth.
Steve’s eyes went wide. “But I’m a customer—”
“Not any more,” Severus informed him. “Out. Now.” His smile was dangerous, and one look at it had Steve backing up. “Don’t make me ask again.”
After shooting a look at Harry, Steve stumbled backward, turned tail, and ran.
“Severus,” Harry said once Steve was gone, “that wasn’t what it looked like—”
“It looked like your vile ex-lover tried to assault you on my property,” Severus said.
Harry exhaled. “Okay, maybe it was what it looked like. Anyway, I’m sorry you had to see that—” To his surprise, Severus grabbed his hand and began pulling him towards the shop. “Erm, where are we going?”
“To my quarters upstairs,” Severus said.
“But it’s the middle of the day—” Harry gasped as Severus stopped and, pressing him against the door, kissed him until he was breathless.
When Severus raised his head, he looked searchingly into Harry’s eyes. “You wanted to know why I’ve been hesitating to make you mine? Because some part of me wondered whether you were still emotionally attached to your ex. But I heard what you said to him, how you rejected him.”
“So you believe I’m now…emotionally available?” Harry whispered.
Severus smiled. “I believe so, yes.”
Looping his arms around Severus’ neck Harry smiled back. “I do believe you’re right.”
Severus’ eyes flashed. “Good. Now we can fuck.”
Desire coiled low in Harry’s belly. “Right now?”
Spinning Harry around, Severus opened the door, guiding him into the shop. “Indeed.”
When they got inside, Goyle was there, tending the counter, and to Harry’s mortification Severus simply steered him past him, dragging him by the hand up the stairs. When they got there, Severus pushed Harry inside, kicking the door closed.
“He probably knows what we’re doing up here,” Harry panted even as Severus walked him backwards towards the bedroom, peppering his face and neck with kisses even as he deftly undressed him.
“Gregory, you mean?” At Harry’s nod, Severus paused. “Probably. Does it matter?”
“Nope,” Harry said, his knees hitting the bed. He reached for Severus’ robes. “Bloody hell, you’re wrapped up tight,” he cursed as he struggled with the buttons.
Severus chuckled. “Let me,” he said, and one whispered spell later saw them both naked, Harry scooting back on the bed as Severus stalked him on hands and knees before straddling him.
Looking up at Severus, Harry paused, recalling how they’d got there. “Finally,” he gasped as skin met skin, as Severus settled atop him.
When Severus broke the kiss, Harry’s breath was escaping in little pants which morphed into moans as Severus moved his mouth down over his jaw to his throat, sucking on his Adam’s apple for a moment before sliding on down over his collarbone and his chest.
Harry’s back arched up as Severus paused to worry his nipples. He could feel the curve of Severus’ smile against his skin before he moved on, down to his stomach, his hips, his parted thighs, his mouth blazing a trail of sensation as he explored Harry’s body.
Finally he moved his mouth almost delicately over Harry’s straining cock as if tasting some fine vintage. Harry’s fingers flexed in Severus’ hair as he babbled his need. “Please…Severus…God, stop teasing—”
Apparently taking Harry’s words to heart, Severus’ fingers wrapped around the base of his cock as his mouth slid down, his tongue fluttering on the underside as he applied delicious suction.
“Fuck,” Harry whispered, staring blindly up at the ceiling where the afternoon sun was casting its golden beams. Severus hummed around Harry as if in agreement, and that was it. “Co-coming,” Harry cried in warning.
Severus just sucked harder, and a moment later Harry was bucking up, spilling himself into Severus’ mouth.
Sliding back up Harry’s body, Severus kissed him again, and this time Harry could taste himself on Severus’ tongue. He groaned. “Want me to suck you, too?” he whispered against Severus’ lips.
“Whatever you wish,” Severus murmured, his hands slowly roaming Harry’s body.
“I wish you’d fuck me,” Harry said.
Pulling back, Severus gazed into Harry’s eyes. “You’re sure?”
Heat flared in Severus’ eyes. “Turn over, onto your stomach,” he said, rolling onto his side.
Harry did, pressing his face to the sheets, which smelled of herbs, of Severus. Closing his eyes, he moaned as he felt the rough press of Severus’ thumb circling his hole. A whispered Lubrication Spell and those clever fingers were sliding inside him, preparing him.
“Spread your legs,” Severus said, and Harry did, raising his arse up as he drew his knees under him.
“You should see yourself,” Severus said, smoothing a hand over one arse cheek even as he pumped two fingers in and out of him.
Harry was pushing back to meet those fingers, his head hanging low as pleasure coiled inside him. His glasses slid off his nose and onto the bed, but he didn’t care, all he cared about was the way Severus was making him feel. Incredibly, his cock was even stiffening again. He could only imagine the picture he must have made.
After only a few more twists the fingers were removed and Harry moaned as he felt Severus’ thick cock nudging at him, piercing him. The burn of penetration made him bite his lower lip and clench the sheets. “Fuck,” he gasped.
“Working on it,” Severus growled, his normally urbane and smooth voice sounding harsh. “Ready?”
“Yes,” Harry hissed, a grunt escaping as Severus thrust deep.
Once he’d inched inside, Severus paused, waiting, his body covering Harry’s, allowing him to adjust to his not inconsiderable girth. It was only when Harry bit out a pleading, “Severus! Move, damnit!” that he did, sliding out until he was almost unseated before shoving back in. He soon settled into a steady rhythm of long, sure strokes that quickly made Harry start to lose his mind.
Pleasure, low and pulsing, spread from where he was connected to Severus, fanning out to send warmth shooting through Harry, and as Severus rode him steadily, Harry began to sob, noises, not even words anymore, spilling from his throat. His cock was hard again, throbbing, and as Severus fucked him, his thrusts rocked Harry’s body, sending his cock sliding against the bedcovers.
Severus’ nails were digging into Harry’s hips, his balls slapping against his arse as he sped up, his rhythm going ragged. “Harry,” he whispered, his breath hot against Harry’s back, and then he stiffened, shuddering as he came, his cock pulsing inside Harry and he emptied himself into Harry’s clenching channel.
That pushed Harry over, too, and he trembled through his second orgasm of the afternoon, even as his arse clung to Severus’ cock trying to milk the last of his come.
“Salazar,” Severus gasped, flopping onto his side. “This is what you’re like in bed? I’m going to have to brew some Stamina Potion.”
Still out of breath, Harry grinned, rolling over onto his back to look at Severus. “I was just thinking the same thing. And you may need to brew enough for both of us,” he said.
Chest still heaving, Severus raised his head to stare at Harry. “Merlin help us both.”
Harry’s grin widened and, edging closer to Severus, tucked himself close to his side before closing his eyes. “We’ll be fine,” he said between yawns. After a moment he chuckled as something occurred to him.
“What?” Severus asked, his arms closing around Harry.
“I was just thinking. Maybe I should have ex-lovers visit more often if it gets me shagged like that.”
Severus snorted. “Don’t make me lock you up in the dungeons.”
“You’d have to build some first.”
“Although,” Harry whispered, just as he started to drop off, “none of the Prophet readers would be surprised. They all think I’m a kinky sod anyway.”
“So they do.” Severus’ soft laugh reverberated through his chest. “This may require further study.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” Harry snuggled in. “Study away.”
The day the Minster for Magic showed up, Severus was deep in the midst of brewing, Harry was tending the garden, and Gregory was manning the very busy counter.
Once the press had discovered that Harry was working at Potent Potions, they had publicised it far and wide, and as a result, business had tripled. And since his costs had dropped significantly because they were growing the majority of their ingredients, Severus was having a very profitable quarter.
After the first few days, Harry, sick of the reporters and photographers being camped out outside, had issued a statement, and the press had calmed down, although not a day went by without someone coming in asking for just a quick picture of ‘Potter’s Potions Garden’.
Wiping his hands and casting a Stasis Charm on all his projects, Severus exited his lab to greet Kingsley himself. Not that he paid that much attention to social status, but it was the Minister. And it was entirely possible Gregory wouldn’t know who he was waiting on.
“Minister,” he said, walking out into the shop. “Welcome to Potent Potions. How may we help today?”
“Severus, we’re old friends.” Kingsley shook his head warmly. “It’s Kingsley, please. And I fear I’m not here about a potion. Rather, I’d like to speak with Harry, if he’s around.”
Curiosity piqued, Severus gestured towards the back. “He’s in the garden. I can escort you.”
Harry, covered in dirt, stood up as Severus and Kingsley approached. “Minister,” he said, tone cool.
Severus raised an eyebrow. Something had clearly happened between Harry and Kingsley.
Kingsley sighed. “Harry, I’m sorry about what happened the last time we spoke.”
Harry nodded. “So am I, Minister.”
“Call me Kingsley.” Kingsley sighed when Harry stayed silent. “I wanted to come by and say, number one, you were right, I was wrong to ask you to compromise your principles.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a parchment. “Number two, I managed to get a certain Auror regulation changed.”
Harry blinked. “You did?”
“Yes. Here, read it for yourself.” Kingsley handed Harry the parchment, watching as he skimmed it.
“Wow.” Looking up, Harry smiled. “That’s brilliant, sir. I mean, Kingsley. This will really mean a lot to incoming Aurors.”
Kingsley nodded. “Probably. I’m hoping it will mean a lot to former Aurors as well. Perhaps a specific former Auror who could be persuaded to return to the corps?”
Severus went still. That was why Kingsley had come? To offer Harry his job back? Severus’ hand clenched into a fist. Was working with Severus enough for him, or would he leave? They had expansion plans, but what would happen to all that if Harry left?
Harry shook his head, his expression apologetic. “I’m sorry, Kingsley, but I have a job.” He didn’t look at Severus as he spoke, but Severus sensed the next words were for him. “One I adore, actually, one that fulfils me more than I ever thought possible.”
Severus slowly exhaled.
Kingsley’s smile was rueful. “I had a feeling you were going to say that,” he said. “But I had to try.” He extended his hand to Harry. “If you change your mind, don’t hesitate to contact me. We’d take you back in a heartbeat. We’d even appreciate it if you’d consult, especially now that you have potions expertise, too.”
“I don’t know—”
“For the right fee, anything’s possible,” Severus murmured.
“It seems you have an agent,” Kingsley said, laughing. “Excellent. Then perhaps we will work together again some day, Harry.” He turned to Severus. “Severus, always good to see you. You look well. The life of a shopkeeper clearly agrees with you.”
After they had all shaken hands, Kingsley took his leave, and Harry, watching him walk away, sighed.
“Regrets already?” Severus asked.
“Merlin, no!” Harry shook his head. “I wasn’t joking before. This really is my dream job.” He smirked. “Plus, I get to work with the sexiest man—”
“Do you, now?” Severus said. “Should I be concerned about your relationship with Gregory?”
Harry laughed. “You’re mad.” Sobering after a moment, he clasped Severus’ hand, pulling him close. “And sorry if you were hoping I’d go back to the Aurors, but I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”
“A hardship to be sure,” Severus said, stealing a quick kiss. “But one I shall endeavour to survive. Now, since your alternate job prospects seem to have dried up, perhaps it’s time you return to work. Especially since we have dinner plans with Weasley and Granger this evening.”
“And since we’re going to Malfoy Manor tomorrow night.” Harry grinned. “I had no idea working for you would expand my social calendar like this.”
Severus smirked. “Socialising occurs after work, Harry. I believe we’ve discussed this.” He smacked Harry’s arse gently. “Now get back to it!”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said, and sketching a quick salute, set off to finish his planting.
As he watched him go, Severus smiled, content. Life had once again managed to surprise him, and his future, once so uncertain, looked bright.