Title:  The Dance
Author:  Montana Dan
Team:  Wartime
Genre(s):  AU, Romance
Prompt:  Surrender
Rating:  NC-17
Warnings: See Snarry Games Post for original warnings.
Word Count: 22,777
A/N:  I've completely obliterated the end of HBP.  The rest is pretty much canon, except the Gypsy part, which is utterly made up.  Any actual Gypsy tradition or lore is pretty much demolished too.  Complete fiction folks, take it as it's presented. Many thanks to joanwilder for the swift and superb beta.  All remaining mistakes are mine.

Disclaimer:  The Harry Potter universe belongs to JK Rowling and her hangers-on.  No money is being.  This is for entertainment purposes only.

 

 

Summary: Severus Snape feared he’d spend the rest of his life alone, without the fulfillment of his Gypsy heritage.  Harry Potter just wanted to do his duty and get on with his life.  Will Harry surrender his freedom for the greater good?

 

 

 

 

The Dance

 

Late July

 

"You have done well, Severus."

 

"Thank you, my lord.  Your idea to reinforce my credibility with Dumbledore was indeed brilliant.  I am further trusted by the Order and allowed into their very Headquarters since I saved Dumbledore and rescued young Malfoy."

 

The Dark Lord nodded, surveying his minions from his alter-like throne in the audience room of an old castle he had usurped for his use.  "And what of the boy?"

 

Severus didn't remind the Dark Lord that the boy would come of age in a few short weeks.  "The brat insisted that he couldn't remain a single summer more with his Muggle relatives."

 

The Dark Lord grinned.  "Ah, so they are moving him."

 

"Yes, my lord.  They have moved him into…"  Severus could not finish.  "Obviously, I cannot say exactly where.  It must be under the Fidelius Charm."  Which it had been for three years, but this was the first time Severus mentioned it to the Dark Lord.

 

The Dark Lord nodded.  "I expected nothing less.  No doubt Dumbledore himself is the Secret Keeper.  Not to worry, Severus.  I have my own plans."

 

"Excellent," Severus replied, wondering what he could say to find out.

 

"Yes, I have already spoken to my newest spy and he's to become bosom companions with the Boy Who Lived.

 

Severus blinked.  "Draco?" he said.  "My lord, you are aware of their enmity."

 

The Dark Lord waved a skeletal hand.  "Fear not, my loyal one.  I have it all arranged."

 

Severus bowed.  "As you say."

 

"Yes," the Dark Lord murmured as he settled into his well-cushioned-charmed chair.  "Now," he declared, once his bony arse was arranged more comfortably.  "Some entertainment, I think."  Severus moved to step away, but the Dark Lord stopped him.  "Dance for us, Severus."

 

Severus' head jerked up.  "Dance, my lord?"

 

"Hmm.  Yes, you haven't danced for me since before my resurrection.  It would please me to see you dance again."

 

Resigned, Severus removed his robe and draped it across a nearby chair. He wore plain trousers and a white collared shirt beneath.  Not dancing clothes, obviously, but he had not expected to be called to entertain the Dark Lord personally.  Of course, there was little need for appropriate attire if one was a master at the dance, as Severus was.

 

He closed his eyes, picturing his mate - his fantasy mate.  Not too tall, small enough to wrap himself around.  Long dark hair, soft, silky hair - he would love the texture.  Full bottom lip to suck on, determined jaw, eyes, bright and smoldering with passion for him.

 

He began to move, imagining his love before him.  He'd entice his mate with subtle brushes of his hips and chest, tantalizing sensitive zones with just a whisper of touch.  He'd beckon arousal with his sensual movements, ensnaring the body with the promise of great pleasure and fulfillment.

 

It would begin slowly, just with caresses and the intimate press of bodies together and then it would increase steadily with passion.  Their breathe would mingle and their skin would moisten as the tempo grew faster and faster.  Urgently they would reach for heights they had never known until, at last, together they would spin out of control and into the realm of ecstasy.

 

There was silence in the hall as Severus lowered his arms and bowed, panting from more than exertion, to the Dark Lord.

 

"Impressive, my loyal one," Voldemort said.  "Your mate must finally be near.  Your dancing has improved vastly."

 

Severus inclined his head.  "Thank you, my lord," he said, swinging his robe around his heated flesh.  The dance had affected him more than usual this time.  Severus wasn't sure if it was because his mate finally was near, or because he had not danced in so long.  Of course, it could be that he hadn't slaked his lust recently either.

 

"Leave us," the Dark Lord snapped and the other Death Eaters hurried out of the hall.  When they were alone, the Dark Lord curled his thin lips at Severus and his red eyes glowed brightly.  "You are still my favorite, Severus," he drawled.

 

Only because Bella is insane and you killed Lucius, he could have said.  Instead he dropped to one knee.  "You are most generous, my lord.  What do you wish of me?"

 

"Since you have pleased me, I will please you," he said eyeing the bulge in Severus' trousers.

 

"There is no need, my-"

 

"Oh, but there is, my pet.  It would please me greatly to - take care of your problem."

 

This was a typical response for those who witnessed a Gypsy Dance, male or female.  Since it was the Dark Lord, Severus repressed his smirk.  Fortunately for Severus, the Dark Lord could do nothing about his own desires.  All his tampering with immortality had left his willy quite useless except for urinating.  But the Dark Lord still retained his more perverse pleasures, and one was a love of sucking cock.

 

Severus guessed there were worse fates for the evening.  He would not be subjected to Cruciatus and the Dark Lord did have a wicked tongue.

 

Severus let his robe fall from his shoulders.  "As you wish, my lord," he said.

 

*~*~*~*

 

Harry looked around his sitting room as he prepared to leave.  When he had first moved to number twelve, Grimmauld Place, he had expected to be overwhelmed with guilt and sadness, but he had overcome those feelings.  Sirius had always wanted Harry to stay with him, and moving into his house seemed like a fitting way to fulfill that wish. 

 

Remus had told him that while Sirius was alive, he had been doing everything he could to make the house into something more livable, erasing all traces of darkness and his past from within the walls.  Harry continued in that vein and had hopefully made the house into something he and Sirius might have been comfortable in.  It was still a work in progress, but Harry was starting to consider it home.

 

It still served as Headquarters for the Order, but it was also Harry's headquarters.  Although he'd promised Dumbledore that he'd go back to school, he would still need a place to do his research and he'd have a place to come home to each holiday.

 

The Horcrux search was going well.  Harry had found the first one while cleaning.  The real locket was among Sirius' things that the Order had packed away last year.  Harry had finally got up the nerve to go through some of it and had found a smaller box marked 'Regulus.'  It seemed that Regulus had replaced Voldemort's Horcrux with a piece of his own jewelry.  Dumbledore had destroyed it.  The second, Hufflepuff's cup, turned up at Malfoy Manor.  Once they knew what to look for, Snape and Malfoy had easily found it, looking harmless, in one of their curio cabinets.  Dumbledore had destroyed that one too.

 

The whole concept of Snape and Malfoy working for the light still irritated Harry.  Snape, by saving Dumbledore's life at the top of the tower, had cemented his allegiance to the light in the eyes of the wizarding world.  He was heralded a hero, not only for thwarting the plot to kill Dumbledore, but for keeping Malfoy out of the Dark Lord's clutches. 

 

Apparently, Snape had out-maneuvered the Unbreakable Vow.  In knowing that the Dark Lord's ultimate test of Malfoy had been of his loyalty and not whether he could actually slay Dumbledore, Snape had the opportunity to 'save' Dumbledore and 'spare' Draco from being Voldemort's pawn.  Voldemort now presumed he had two top-clearance spies working for him, and credited himself for being so brilliant as to fool Dumbledore to such an extent. 

 

Unfortunately, for the ruse to work, Snape had to report on Harry's every move (edited by Dumbledore) and Harry had to make nice with Draco fucking Malfoy.

 

They had allowed Voldemort to know that Harry was looking for the Horcruxes, but had misinformed him of his progress.  Voldemort was under the misimpression that Harry was bumbling about looking for the wrong items.

 

Bill's wedding had been nice.  Harry had been preoccupied through most of it, thinking of the next Horcrux.  He was convinced that at least one of them would be at the old orphanage.  Dumbledore had told Harry he could go and investigate, with his invisibility cloak, which Harry was preparing to do now.

 

What Dumbledore didn't know was that if Harry couldn't explore the building thoroughly by sneaking around, Harry was going to impersonate a young orphan, with the use of Polyjuice which Hermione had brewed for him, and research Tom Riddle's jaunts as a youth.

 

Harry might be undercover for as much as a week and he'd miss his birthday, but both Ron and Hermione knew what he was up to and he was confident that they could cover for him.

 

He moved into the hall, slinging his pack over his shoulder.

 

"Are you leaving, Harry, dear?"

 

Harry turned to the portrait of Sirius' mother.  "Yes, Mrs. Black," he said.

 

"Do stay out of trouble."

 

"Yes, ma'am.  Keep a watch over the house for me, won't you?"

 

"Of course."

 

Harry nodded.  "Kreacher," he yelled and the elf popped up in front of him.

 

"Yes, Master Harry?"

 

"I'm leaving, maybe for a couple of days," Harry told him.  "You'll keep an eye on the Order for me, won't you?"

 

"Of course."

 

"And you won't tell them where I've gone," Harry instructed.

 

"Naturally, master."

 

"Good," Harry said.  "Be good."  Harry took a last look around his home and Dissapparated.

 

 

*~*~*~*

 

September 1

 

“Come along, Severus.”

 

“Why?” grumbled Snape.  “There isn’t anything in there that might interest me.”

 

“Aren’t you at least curious?”

 

“Woman,” Snape snapped.  “Do any of last year’s sixth years seem lifemate material to you?”

 

Minerva McGonagall chuckled.  “I will concur, not for you.”

 

“Precisely, so must we engage in this habitual dialogue annually?”  It was especially trying this year because Severus did feel that his mate was near.  Not only had his dance changed, as the Dark Lord had noticed, but Severus found himself doing the most preposterous things, like smiling and looking forward to events that used to depress him.

 

“I’m sorry, Severus,” Minerva said, serious again.  “I do wish the best for you.  It would be a…”  She trailed off helplessly.

 

“Relief?” suggested Severus. “A boon?  A convenience?”

 

“You have to admit, for you to come into your full powers-“

 

“Oh, yes,” Severus interrupted.  “Silly of me to think that the Order was thinking of my happiness.  Having the full power of full-blooded, titled and heired Gypsy fighting on the side of Light has nothing to do with everyone’s sudden interest in my love life.”

 

Minerva had the grace to flush.  “Times being what they are, you can hardly blame-“

 

Severus spun to her.  “Had I found my lifemate twenty years ago at the age when most Gypsies bond, then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.”

              

“But you didn’t, Severus,” Minerva was quick to point out.

 

Severus resumed his irritated stride toward the Great Hall.  His thoughts wandered back to his dance for the Dark Lord.  He could not interpret the potential nearness of his mate as the coming of age of one of his students.  That would not be borne.  Severus had fancied it could have been the new Defense Against the Dark Teacher, the latest in the line of losers for the cursed position.  He himself could not return to the job because, apparently, it was easier to procure a Defense teacher than a Potions master and Slughorn would not return.  Horace had disappeared and no one actually knew where he went.

 

But Severus was disappointed there too, for the new teacher was a withered old witch who would more than likely scare the students more than the Dark Lord did. 

 

“And have the little whelps been enlightened?”  Severus sneered, unable to contain his bitterness.

 

Minerva sighed.  “The same as every year.  The seventh years were told that there was a Gypsy in the castle and in the event that any of them were singled out-“

 

“Singled out?” Severus stopped again, insulted.  “Singled out?”

 

“No offense, of course.”

 

“It is an honor to be chosen by a Gypsy,” Snape growled.  “A Gypsy's mate-“

 

“I know, Severus,” said Minerva.  “I apologize.  I didn’t mean to imply-“

 

Snape waved it off and continued down the corridor.  “And how did the little reprobates respond?”

 

“Very much the same as always,” said Minerva, hurrying to keep up. 

 

“Doesn’t matter,” muttered Severus.  “I am highly doubtful that this year will be any different.”

 

“Severus, don’t you want to find your lifemate?” said Minerva with surprise.

 

“In all honesty, Minerva, I have all but given up hope.”  Severus stopped at the closed doors of the hall and looked down at his colleague.  “I entertain no preconceived notions of ever becoming complete.  I’ve lived with disappointment too long.”

 

“There is always hope, Severus,” said Minerva.

 

Severus sent her a scowl and gestured toward the door.

 

With a hurumph, Minerva pushed open the doors.

 

The feeling hit Severus so hard he staggered backward.  The smell of vanilla – no chocolate – no mint – jasmine – musk…    Memories of home, hearth – happiness.  The emotions that accompanied that aura could only be happiness.  When he had found out who he was.  His initial relief that he wasn’t condemned to inheriting his father’s cruelty because he had inherited the Prince Gypsy blood. 

 

Everything that was good in his life, had been good in his life, rushed to the surface, burying the bitterness, the bad choices, the Darkness that had been part of his life for so long.  Like an anti-dementor, the feeling made his heart lighter.

 

Severus wanted to cling to the perception.  Seize it and possess it so he would never have to sink back into the void of bleak emptiness in which he dwelt.

 

He took another deep breath, feeling like he was inhaling for the first time.

 

“Severus,” said Minerva carefully.  “You’re smiling.”

 

Severus looked up.  “It’s here,” he breathed with awe.

 

“What is?”  She glanced into the hall.  “What’s here?”

 

“My life,” said Severus.  “My essence.”  He took another breath.  “My purpose.”

 

“Your mate?”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“Who?”

 

Severus blinked.  He didn’t know yet, of course, but he would-

 

Minerva grabbed his arm.  “Severus, wait.”

 

He glared at the offensive hand.  “You dare try to detain me now?” said Severus.  “When-“

 

“Severus, think,” Minerva begged.  “You can’t just barge in there feeling all the students.”

 

Severus afforded her a glare.  “Certainly not, I…”  Severus pulled himself up.  Of course, not.  He had just been overwhelmed for a moment.  He’d waited this long for his lifemate… Suddenly his mind comprehended the facts.  His mate was one of his seventh year students?  A register of names suddenly flashed before his eyes. 

 

NO!  The Fates wouldn’t be that cruel to him.  A seventeen year old?  The likes of …

Severus fought to wrap his intellect around possibilities of who…

 

“I need to think,” Severus muttered and promptly spun on his heels and retreated back the way they had come.

 

Minerva McGonagall exhaled long and hard.  “This is going to be an unusual year,” she murmured.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

“Who do you think it is?” said Ron.

 

Hermione had a frown on her face, clearly disappointed that she hadn’t been able to figure it out years ago.  After all, she'd figured out that Lupin was a werewolf.  “No one is really young enough to be a Gypsy without a mate,” she said.  “On the staff anyway.”

 

“Think it’s a student?” Harry asked, his mind speculating on the others in his grade.

 

“Dumbledore wasn’t very specific,” Ron said.

 

“Right.  Dumbledore only said ‘someone in the castle,’” Hermione reasoned.  “Seems to me, if it were a student, then he just would have said so.  Plus, if it were a teacher, wouldn’t the other years before us have been warned?  We would have heard something.  You know it’s impossible to keep a secret at Hogwarts.”

 

Harry finally got up the nerve to ask the question that had been nagging him.  "Er, what's a Gypsy?"

 

Hermione blinked at him.  Ron actually laughed.  Harry scowled at them.

 

"Or are they the same as Muggle Gypsies?" Harry asked.

 

Hermione sighed in a 'Poor Harry, now I'll have to explain' manner.  "Muggle Gypsies, real ones, that is, are related to Wizard Gypsies.  But Wizarding Gypsies have more magical powers and their own customs and laws."

 

"They're related to Veelas, too," Ron added.

 

"Really?" Harry asked.  "What's the difference?"

 

"Well, one major difference is that all Gypsies are men."

 

"They're ALL men?" Harry asked.

 

Hermione nodded.  "Just like all Veela are women."  Harry could only blink.  "They aren't counterparts, they're technically separate species, but in each, only one gender is agifted the special magical talents."

 

"If it's a Gypsy, then why did Dumbledore inform all of us?" Harry asked.

 

"All the boys need to know in the event the Gypsy picked someone's girlfriend," Hermione speculated.  "I mean, how would you feel if a Gypsy decided that I was his lifemate?" she asked Ron.  "I doubt I'd be able to resist the Gypsy thrall."

 

"I heard Gypsies were masters at seduction," Seamus said, leaning into their conversation.  Dean and Neville were listening in, too.

 

"Right, and unlike Veela, Gypsies mate for life," Hermione added.

 

"What about Fleur?" Harry asked, thinking of the wedding.  She and Bill did seem very much in love.

 

"She's only part Veela so she doesn't have all the Veela powers.  Most pure Veela mate indiscriminately.  A Gypsy, once they find their lifemate, is bond only to them."

 

"So why else would Dumbledore want us to know?" Harry asked.

 

Hermione sighed again.  "Because most Gypsies are bisexual and their lifemate can turn out to be either sex, although nature usually gives them their preference."

 

All of Harry's internal alarm bells instantly went off.  "What about the mate?"

 

"Gypsies believe that their lifemates are predetermined and therefore when they meet, there won't be any," she paused, blushing, "sexual hindrances."

 

"Well, that lets us off the hook, right Harry?"  Ron clapped him on the shoulder.  "Straight as arrows, we are."

 

Harry nodded exuberantly even if he didn't have a clue.  His experiences with girls had been just shy of tragic and even Ginny had suggested that maybe he was gay.  They had talked about it when he'd been at the Burrow for Bill's wedding.  It had been a depressing conversation.

 

"And, of course, the mate has to be pure."

 

Harry looked up again.  "What?"

 

"Gypsies hold purity and virtue very highly.  I read that a Gypsy who finds his mate unclean is prone to violence and can even kill the mate.  But that rarely happens since it's preordained and all."

 

"That let's us off, right, Seamus?" said Dean.

 

"Us too," said Ron, kissing Hermione's cheek, which quickly turned pink.

 

Harry glanced at Neville, who appeared somewhat alarmed.

 

"Don't worry, Neville," Harry said.  "If this guy is still looking for a mate, it's doubtful that it's one of us."

 

Harry really didn't need this new intrigue now anyway.  He had more important things to think about.  Like how to kill Voldemort.  Now that all the Horcruxes had been destroyed, they had to come up with a way to finally kill him - or rather a way for Harry to kill him.

 

He glanced up at Dumbledore and found him looking back.  Harry looked away.  He knew Dumbledore wasn't pleased with him.  His little subterfuge might have been risky, but it was worth it.  Harry had found one of the last two Horcruxes during his guise as an orphan.  It was in Tom's old room under a loose floorboard (they really did think alike).  Harry had to outsmart an enchanted snake that was standing guard over it to get his hands on it.

 

The other had ended up in one of the Potter vaults.  It had occurred to Harry that Voldemort might have been planning to create another Horcrux that Halloween night and would have had the item on him.  Since Voldemort had turned to spirit (or whatever he was), and no one was left to collect the object, it stood to reason that anything of value left in the house would have been placed in the vault.  It was a wild hunch that had paid off.

 

Harry had been so proud as he returned home with the Horcruxes, only to find himself face to face with Dumbledore's disappointment.  Not because of Harry's success, but because of the worry Harry had caused.

 

They had argued and while Dumbledore had maintained that Harry should have told him of his intentions, Harry had insisted that he was of age and the only reason Dumbledore was upset was because he hadn't been in control of the plan.

 

"Professor," Harry had yelled at him, "I want you to be proud of me.  I did what you wanted me to do, find the Horcruxes, and then when I do, you get angry because you didn't know about it?"

 

"I am proud of you.  Indeed, you cannot know, even imagine, how much, but what you did was foolish."

 

"Ron and Hermione knew where I was."

 

"What if there was trouble, Harry?  What if we couldn't get to you in time?"

 

"I can take care of myself and I have on numerous occasions."

 

"Your skills and experiences aside, I feel responsible for your protection and-"

 

"You're only worried about the prophecy!"

 

"And I don't want to lose you.  Like we lost your parents and like we lost Sirius."

 

Sirius had been reckless, refusing to be left out.  Dumbledore always had a knack for making Harry feel guilty.

 

"Well, I'm still here," Harry had said bitterly.  "There's still hope for the world."

 

"It's more than that, Harry.  Remember the great trap that I told you about after your fifth year," Dumbledore had said and Harry met his gaze.  And Harry had remembered.  And Harry knew that Dumbledore loved him.  Harry had also conceded that the Headmaster was worried about more than the prophecy and his anger had drained out of him.

 

Dumbledore had smiled brightly then and gave him a sweet.  At least when he had told Ron and Hermione, they had been enthusiastic about his adventure, even if it was uneventful.

 

Returning from his reverie, Harry found the conversation around him still focused on the Gypsy.  He sighed and glanced up at the High Table and noticed the empty chair.  Snape was missing.  Harry rubbed his scar absently, wondering if there was Death Eater meeting and hoping that everything was all right.

 

He might hate the greasy bastard, but he didn't want him dead anymore.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Severus paced before Albus’ desk.  “How can you ask me to wait, Albus,” he seethed.  “After all this time.  If you had any idea of how it feels.”  He thumped a hand to his chest.  “My heart is nearly bursting with anticipation.”

 

Not to mention his loins, which had stirred in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time.  The promise of extreme satiation – sexual experiences beyond anything he’d encountered in his life, had evoked an almost overwhelming response from his body.

 

“Severus, we must address this properly,” Albus told him.  “Not only will your demeanor change to a degree with your happiness, but your appearance as well.”

 

Severus waved it off.  “So what if it becomes more apparent that I am who I am.”

 

“We just don’t want to shock the students-“

 

“Only one has my concern,” Severus shot back.  “And I dare say that one will be shocked and overwhelmed, but I am capable of handling that.  My mate will be happy.”

 

“I’m sure.”

 

"And I have narrowed down the possibilities."

 

“Oh?”

 

“I have already met with my Slytherins and I can assure you it isn't anyone in my house.  And at least it isn’t one of the golden trio.”

 

“The golden trio?”

 

"Potter and his cohorts."

 

Dumbledore eyed him curiously.  "How can you be sure?"

 

"I would have felt my lifemate’s pull at Grimmauld Place over the summer,” Severus explained.  “They were inevitably all there."

 

Dumbledore chuckled.  “Not necessarily.”

 

“I beg your pardon?”

 

"Mr. Weasley was there, but Miss Granger wasn't at the house until Harry's birthday," Dumbledore said.  "And without Harry in residence, she returned to the Burrow with the Weasleys."

 

Severus felt a steady blood loss from his face.

 

“Harry was at Headquarters until just before his birthday and then he was off looking for the last two Horcruxes.  We haven't had a meeting at Headquarters since I destroyed them.”

 

Despite the fact that Severus hadn't been in contact with any of the Griffindors, the last disclosure created an uncontrollable anger that flared through Severus.  "What?" he roared.   "Potter was the one who found the last two-"

 

"Oh, yes," Albus assured him.  "He's become very good at thinking like Voldemort."  The Headmaster frowned.  "I don't approve of his actions, which transpired without my knowledge, but he did get the job done."

 

"You let the boy jump headlong into a dangerous-"

 

"It wasn't dangerous, Severus."

 

"It may have been," Severus argued.  "What if the Dark Lord decided to retrieve those vessels?  What if-"

 

"He hasn't tried to retrieve any of the Horcruxes, Severus.  If he had, he'd know that we are close to-"

 

"What if they were booby-trapped, like the ring?" Severus growled, pointing at Albus' still useless hand.

 

"They were, Severus.  Harry successfully got through the blocks.  In fact, Harry was the only one who would have been able to get through them."

 

"Parseltongue."

 

"Yes."

 

Severus sighed.  The boy would be even more arrogant now, with one more victory to his credit.  However, he couldn't help or explain the swell of pride that swept through him at that moment. 

 

"They were both at the orphanage?"

 

"No.  The last- the Gryffindor piece was in the Potter vault.  Also Harry's idea to check."

 

"So, he's figured out that he's Gryffindor's heir as well?"

 

Dumbledore shook his head.  "No.  He may have come to the conclusion that he has Gryffindor blood.  In time, he may piece it together, but he'll not know the significance."

 

Severus smirked.  "Unless Granger has read a book on it."

 

Albus chuckled.  "Your humor is returning, my boy," he said.  "I hope you and your mate will be very happy."

 

Severus inclined his head.  "And what shall I do when I find said mate?"

 

Albus considered for a moment.  "Send whoever it is here and we will endeavor to explain the situation."

 

"Very well, Albus."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Severus stood outside the door to his last class of the first week.  Double Potions with the Slytherins and Gryffindors.  His mate had to be within.  He had been told to further narrow his search, class by class, to eliminate as many students in the year as possible.  And while he had dreaded each class, knowing he might find his mate, his heart also swelled at the very thought.

 

He sat at almost every meal in the Great Hall, feeling the promise of being complete.  Knowing the person who would make him whole, in every sense of the word, was nearby nearly crippled him and it took all the control he had not to jump up and grab every student until he found his mate.  His love.

 

But now, after seeing all but one of his classes, he would finally found out who.  The students who hadn't taken seventh year NEWT potions had all been easily eliminated.

 

Snape had barely crossed the threshold of the classroom when he was hit with it.  Purity and light, touched with passion and conviction.  There was darkness too.  Severus was relieved to feel it, else his mate might feel overwhelmed by the darkness within Severus.

 

He managed the walk to his desk without grabbing the student and hauling him out of seat and into his arms.  His lips ached already for the touch and taste of those full, sensuous lips.

 

Now he knew, and in truth, he should have known all along that it would be him.  Who else was worthy enough to be a Gypsy's mate?  Who else needed those gifts that would accompany their bonding?

 

"Potter," he snapped, and Severus had the immense satisfaction of seeing the brat jump six inches off his chair.

 

"What?"

 

"The Headmaster's office, now."

 

"Huh?  What?"

 

"Now, Potter.  You heard me?"

 

"But, what did I do?"

 

"You are existing," he growled, while his mind cheered, "For me alone."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Harry could only stare at the Headmaster.  Him?  The Gypsy mate?  Snape?  The Gypsy?  Dumbledore was serenely sitting at his desk, munching on candies while Snape paced somewhere behind Harry chair.

 

“With all due respect, Headmaster," Harry finally said.  "He hates me."  He glanced at Snape and found Snape watching him.  Harry turned back to Dumbledore.  "No, he hates my father.  He doesn’t even know me.  When he looks at me all he sees is James.”

 

Snape leaned over Harry, gripping the arms of the chair.  His face only inches away.  “I assure you, Mr. Potter, I cannot hate you,” he said.  “I am destined to take care of you.  To protect you.”

 

“He treats me worse than scum from the Lake,” Harry went on, addressing Dumbledore and ignoring Snape, who continued to tower over him. “Working off some fabricated life he thinks I’ve led and building up even more reasons to humiliate and torment me.”

 

“Listen to me, you impertinent little brat.”

 

“And I assure you, sir,” Harry sailed on.  “After years of said treatment from him, the hatred is entirely mutual.”

 

“Look at me, Mr. Potter.  Look - at - me," Snape snapped until Harry lifted his gaze.  "Do you even know what I am?  Haven’t you wrapped your miniscule intellect around the fact that-“

 

“Severus-“

 

“Headmaster, may I go?  Or do I need to sit here and be further insulted?”  Harry turned his gaze to Dumbledore.  "I know you're still angry with me, but do I deserve this?"

 

Snape snapped upright with a frustrated gesture and moved away to pace.

 

“You may go, Harry," the Headmaster said with a sigh.  "You may return another time if you have questions.”

 

“Ask Miss Granger, Potter," Snape growled as Harry rushed to the door.  "Perhaps she can force-feed some knowledge into your sieve-like brain.  Make you understand what is happening.”

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Harry didn't tell his friends the reason Snape had sent him to Dumbledore's office.  He couldn't accept it himself, let alone ask them to.  They would both be sympathetically outraged, he was sure, but he needed time to form a plan of action.  And Harry wasn't quite ready to deal with his friends' initial reactions.

 

Ron was sure to go ape.  Not only because it was Snape, but because it meant that Harry was 'less-than-straight-as-an-arrow.'   And while Harry'd had some time to get used to the idea of perhaps liking men 'that way', he hadn't had any interest in experimenting or field testing the theory.   He certainly didn't want someone else forcing the issue.

 

Hermione would be outraged by the whole 'forced' bit, but she was also a little too reliant on what people in authority believed.  If Dumbledore had sanctioned it, then Hermione would go along with it, figuring that it had to be for the best.

 

He remained quiet through dinner that night even as the seventh years continued to theorize on the identity of the Gypsy.  They even speculated on who could be the mate.  Harry's face burned the whole time and at one point, he could swear he felt the weight of Snape's stare on him.

 

He would have to do some investigating on his own.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

It was amazing how he could feel his mate now that he had been discovered.  Severus followed the feeling, keeping to the shadows.  Potter was out of the tower after curfew, arrogantly thinking he had that right.  Severus continued to follow, knowing the brat had to be under his invisibility cloak.

 

Surprised to find himself in front of the library, Severus entered stealthily and once in, saw his mate toss off the cloak and lay it on a table.  He disappeared into the stacks and Severus crept closer. 

 

Potter raised his wand in the magical creatures section and muttered a charm that Severus was sure he'd heard from Granger.  It was a Summoning Spell for books containing information on a specific topic.  In Potter's case, he specified Gypsies.  At least, the brat was trying to gather information on what he was dealing with.

 

Unfortunately for Potter, he didn't narrow his requirements or at least specify count - nor did he temper his power, because seventeen books flew off the shelves toward him.  Potter's first reaction, being Muggle-raised, was to duck instead of cast another spell.

 

Severus cast a Freezing Charm and the books halted, floating in midair, before they reached his mate.  Potter straightened, peering with surprise at the levitating books before looking around worriedly.  His eyes narrowed when they fell on Severus.

 

"You neglected to narrow the scope of your search with that spell," Severus said, waylaying any tirade Potter might execute, which would, no doubt, irritate Severus and cause another shouting match.

 

Severus walked over to the scene and plucked several books out of the air.  Passing them to Potter, he returned the other books to their proper places with the wave of his wand.

 

"Those books will be the most informative," Severus said, looking down at Potter's dumbfounded expression.

 

"You're not going to take points?" Potter said suspiciously, his arms laden with books.

 

Severus sighed.  "You know that I would be in my rights," he replied.  "However, I'm willing to hear your reasoning for doing research in the middle of the night."

 

Potter dropped the stack of books onto a table.  "I didn't want to wait."

 

Severus scowled.  "I see."  He crossed his arms.  "And why didn't you simply ask Miss Granger?"

 

Potter's head snapped up.  "I haven't told them yet."

 

Severus furrowed his brows, recalling the scene in the Headmaster's office.  "They'll find out eventually."

 

Potter dropped into a chair in a defeated poise.  "It's always fucking me," he muttered.  "Why is it always me?"

 

Severus should have taken him to task for the language, but the rest of Potter's demeanor had more impact.  It was not the behavior of someone who reveled in their own glory, who wished to draw all attention to his actions.

 

Carefully, Severus shifted a book.  "You need not waste your time perusing these tomes," he said.  "I will tell you anything you wish to know."

 

Potter looked up and swallowed, and Severus noticed the shadows beneath the bright green eyes.  "I'd rather just read it right now, sir, without you looming over me."

 

"Very well, Potter."  Severus spun away.  "Don't stay here too late for I will not hesitate to take points if you are caught."

 

Severus left nearly shaking.  His mate did not want to tell anyone, not even his closest friends.  His mate did not want to be his mate.  His mate was, in all probability, at this moment trying to find a way to escape being his mate.

 

It was unprecedented.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Harry blinked as Snape left the library.  He hadn't taken any points.  He'd been - decent.  His appearance had been decent as well.  His hair was less greasy - not greasy at all, actually, and his skin didn't look as sallow either.  But then it was dark in the library, so it could've just been the lighting.

 

Harry sighed and flipped open the book Snape had been shifting about.  He paged through the chapter, unsure what he was looking for.  Phrases like "no resistance to the Gypsy Pull", "Gypsy lifemates are absolute but treated as precious," and "Gypsy bonds are completely unbreakable" did little to assuage Harry's dread.

 

The section on recognizing a Gypsy mate went completely over head, using words like "inner peace" and "unparalleled joy."  Harry couldn't see Snape experiencing either of those emotions.  He skipped over the part on Gypsy sensuality, because that just made him shudder, and finally came upon a section detailing Gypsy powers.

 

Gypsies have strong psychic ability.  Harry could bet that was why Occlumency and Legilimency came so easily to Snape.

 

After they have mated, they can see parts of the future.  Harry scowled.  No wonder Snape thought Divination was crap.

 

They have telepathic and empathic powers - can share emotions and magical powers with their mates.  Harry didn't even want to think about that one.

 

Heightened senses…Harry skimmed…The Gypsy Pull - a sexual appeal that few can resist.   As Gypsies are very sensual beings…Harry skimmed some more…The Dance - can seduce anyone of their choosing with the dance if they are trying, otherwise the dance will heat the blood of those watching.

 

Harry slammed the book closed.  There seemed to be a lot of sex written between the lines and he wondered what the hell kind of help that could be against Voldemort.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"You can't seriously condone this, Professor?"  The Headmaster had granted Harry an immediate visit as soon as he'd requested it the next day after classes.

 

"Harry, to be chosen as a Gypsy mate is a great honor.  Not only will you be gifted access to Professor Snape's powers, but you will gain your own through the bond."

 

Harry had read about some of them and he still wasn't sure he wanted them.  Of course it would make Divination easier…if he was still taking it.  "But, sir-"

 

"I know it's all happening so fast, but if you'll just try to understand my position."  Dumbledore seemed serious, sitting behind his desk, his good hand folded over his blackened one.  "I must think of what's right."

 

It irritated Harry beyond words.  "By sacrificing me?" he demanded. 

 

"Don't misunderstand me, Harry.  If I thought for one minute that this was not good for you-"

 

"Like shipping me off to the Dursleys' year after year," Harry shot back.  "That was good for me?"

 

Dumbledore frowned.  "Harry.  This is entirely different."

 

"How?  How is this different?  They were supposed to love me.  They never did.  Snape will never love me either, just as I'll never love him, but I'm just supposed to accept it?  I'm of age now, Professor.  I'm sorry, but I can't just let you change one warden for another."  Harry stood up.  "And I don't have to."

 

"Harry," Dumbledore called after him, but Harry was already on the moving staircase.

 

He was just going to tell Snape that he'd have to find himself a new mate.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"It doesn't work like that, Potter," Snape said.  "You can't just dismiss it."

 

“But-“

 

“Tell me Mr. Potter, have you ever seen an angry Veela?”  Snape paced the front of his classroom.

 

Harry crossed his arms.  “Yeah, at the world cup.  They sort of distorted and went into a rage.”

 

Snape nodded gravely.  “Indeed.  Many things can make a Veela unpleasant to behold.”

 

“I thought you were a Gypsy, not a Veela.”

 

“Idiot, there are certain similarities.  Haven’t you noticed any changes in my appearance since September first?”

 

Harry recalled what he'd noticed in the library.  “Well, yes, but-“

 

“And why do you think that is?”

 

“Um, because you think you found your mate.”

 

Snape made an impatient sound. “And have you ever seen a Veela use their inbred ‘charms’ on anyone?”

 

“I think so.  I think Fleur did a couple of times.”

 

Snape actually smiled with approval.  “Yes, Mr. Potter and Miss Delacour was only a quarter Veela.”

 

“Your point?”  Harry swallowed.  If Snape started dancing, he was going to laugh.

 

Snape took a step nearer.  “I can initiate the ‘Gypsy Pull’ like a switch, Mr. Potter, if I chose to.”

 

Harry took a step back.  “Wh-what do you mean?”

 

Snape advanced again.  “Do you have any idea how easy it would be to simply take you?  I don’t need your consent, Mr. Potter.  Of course, by the time I was though with you, you would be swearing your life to me."

 

Harry took another step back and ran into Snape's desk.  “You wouldn’t.”

 

“Why not?  I’ve been waiting twenty years for my mate.  Why don’t I deserve-“

 

“Because it’s me!" Harry shouted, holding his hands up between them.  "Because we hate each other.”

 

“Which is why I am willing to allow us the time to get to know each other.  As you mentioned in the Headmaster’s office, it seems that I do not know you.  If you would bother to try-“

 

“Why should I try?  It’s just another reason for you to humiliate me.  Poetic justice, right?  James Potter’s son, slave to a Gypsy Snape.”

 

Snape exhaled heavily.  “Have you read nothing I’ve given you?  There may be some similarities but there is a vast difference between a Veela and a Gypsy.”

 

“I won’t be some chattel for-"

 

“Fine," Snape snapped.  "Then for the greater good, I’ll simply take you, come into my full powers and together we’ll defeat the Dark Lord.”  A black brow shot up at Harry’s skeptical look.  “Don’t think I would?  Ask anyone in the Order, Mr. Potter.  They are thrilled that I have found my mate and even that my mate is you.  Oh, they will drink and dance at the binding, happy that we will finally have the upper hand-“

 

"You can't do that-"

 

"Can't I?  Look at me Potter.”  Snape pulled his chin up.  “Look at me.”

 

Harry lifted his gaze.  Green eyes met black and suddenly that’s all there was.  That swirling darkness pulled him in.

 

“It seems a lifetime since I’ve been happy.”  The voice was no more than a whisper now. The grip loosened around his jaw and cupped his face, a thumb stroking smoothly over his bottom lip.  “So young, innocent, in the affairs of the heart.”

 

Those eyes moved closer.  Harry’s eyes drifted closed of their own accord.

 

“Feel it.”  Words breathed over his lips.  “Let it wash over you, around you.  Do you know what it is?”

 

Harry’s heart was pounding hard.  His blood racing through his veins as if on fire.  He could feel the heat from it.  Maybe it was from Snape.  He couldn’t tell.

 

A soft moist pressure brushed over his mouth.  Harry’s tongue darted out to lick his lips.

He heard a growl and suddenly his lips were crushed.  Harry groaned as his mouth was explored.  A tongue snaked in, seeking and tantalizing his mouth with thrusts and brushes.  That tongue moved, tracing his lips then sliding down his jaw and around his cheek.  Lips brushed along the path, kissing and nipping from his ear to his collar.

 

There were tugs on his shirt as if the buttons were being undone.  Then cool hands ghosted over the skin on his chest and he gasped as his nipples coiled at the touch.  The mouth found a nipple and that tongue began to tease and taste it as thoroughly as it had explored his mouth.  Harry arched into it as the hands continued to wander down his stomach.  His cock was straining against his jeans, but those kind hands opened the zipper to ease the pressure.

 

Harry was hard and aroused and he wasn't even sure what happened.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Severus leaned up and looked down at the body beneath him.  Potter’s eyes were still closed, his lips swollen from kisses.  His shirt hung open, revealing marks from Severus' mouth on the heaving chest and his trousers were opened, his erect cock peeking out and still straining at its bindings.

 

He'd never felt such responsiveness.  Potter dared to deny that he belonged to Severus? 

 

He looked at the face again and the green eyes opened.  They were glassy and dilated.  But Severus felt the conflict beyond them.  Yes, Potter was still fighting the Gypsy Pull.  If Severus pushed it, he knew he would win.  Just that Potter could still fight it was telling, although he should have expected it.  Not only was he stubborn, but he did have the character to resist Imperius. 

 

“Why are you fighting this, Potter?”

 

Potter swallowed hard and took a deep breath.  “Because you hate me,” he said, and although his voice was weak, Severus could see the conviction in his expression.

 

“I don’t hate you,” Severus growled and grasped his arms.  He was growing impatient with the mantra.  “I cannot hate you.”

 

“You kiss me into oblivion and you’re ready to screw me through the desk and you’re still calling me Potter,” he threw back at him.  He tugged at his arms.  “You may be able to take this body and I might even enjoy it, but I will fight the rest of it.”

 

With a growl of frustration, Severus released him and moved away with angry strides.  “Get out.”

 

He could hear Potter moving behind him and he didn’t waste any time.  Severus hung his head.  His mate couldn’t wait to get away from him; he fought the pull and denied the attraction to begin with.

 

Severus covered his face with his hands.  What had he done to deserve this? 

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Didn't need his consent?  Fuck that.  Snape might be right that there was some sort of bizarre attraction, but that couldn't replace everything else that one needed for a long term relationship.  Harry might trust Snape now, and he might have a grudging respect for him, but Snape was also the meanest, most bitter man on the planet and everything that came out of his mouth was an insult.

 

How could anyone love such a foul git?

 

Harry reached the Gryffindor common room and went right through to the dorm.  Opening his trunk, he began tossing his belongings into it.   Ron and Hermione had followed him up.

 

"What are you doing?"

 

"What's going on?"

 

"I'm leaving," Harry said, throwing a cleaning spell at Hedwig's cage.

 

"Leaving what?" Ron asked.

 

Harry looked up at his friends then cast a Silencing Charm at the door.  "It's me," he said.  "The Gypsy mate is me and no one seems to care what I feel about it, so I'm leaving.  I'm going home."

 

Hermione slowly sat down on Ron's bed.  "You?  But, the Gypsy - it's Snape isn't it?"

 

Harry shot her a look.  Of course, she had figured it out.  "Yes, and yeah."

 

Ron sat down beside her, looking as horrified as Harry had predicted.

 

"That doesn't make sense," Hermione reasoned.  "If you were the mate, then you should be deliriously happy and-"

 

"Yeah, well, something went wrong, didn't it?" Harry snapped.

 

"So, wait, Snape is claiming that you're his mate?"

 

Harry spared Ron a glare.

 

"Oh, keep up, Ronald," Hermione said.  "And you feel nothing?  Nothing at all?"

 

Hermione still appeared puzzled.  "No, Hermione," Harry said, tossing the last of his stuff into the trunk.  "I feel frustrated that no one gives a damn that I don't want this and angry that everyone still wants to marry me off to him."

 

"I meant you don't feel anything about Snape?"

 

"Nothing other than the usual contempt, made worse by the fact that now he wants to have sex with me."

 

Ron gasped.  "Harry, does that mean you're gay?"

 

Harry swiped a hand through hair and sighed.  "I don't know, Ron.  Maybe, I guess.  I never had the chance to really find out, now have I?"

 

"So, you're just going to run away?" Ron asked.

 

"Yup."

 

"Harry!"

 

He turned a glare back to Hermione.  "What would you have me do?  Stay here and let them bond me to the greasy git?"

 

"No, definitely not," Ron agreed.

 

Harry nodded at Ron.  "There you go." 

 

Hermione was pacing.  "This just doesn't make any sense to me.  It's not supposed to work like that." 

 

"Hermione," Harry said.  "We've been friends for seven years, when has anything worked the way it was supposed to with me?"

 

"Well, maybe.  But you shouldn't be throwing away your education for this.  Besides, it may help you to defeat Voldemort."

 

"Right, and maybe it does," Harry agreed, even though he couldn't see how sex and telepathy would help.  "And we kill him and everything works out okay.  And everyone celebrates then goes on with their little lives, happy to be free again, except for me, who is still married to Severus Snape.  Well, I'm not okay with that plan, so I'm going to my house until I can figure out a better one.  And if you're my friends, you'll help me."

 

"Hey, mate, that's not fair, we covered for you on your birthday."

 

"I know, Ron, that's not what I meant.  There just has to be a way to kill Voldemort without me having to bond with Snape."

 

"This thing with Snape is completely separate from the war with Voldemort."

 

Harry spun to Hermione.  "Wrong," he said.  "This thing with Snape complicates the war with Voldemort.   Everyone is now going to believe that it was destined for me to have a Gypsy mate.  Power the Dark Lord knows not, right?" 

 

"Bugger," said Ron.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Eileen peered at her son over her cup.  It was obvious that the man had finally met his mate.  There were fewer lines creasing Severus' thin face, his skin and teeth were whiter and his hair had taken on a healthy shine.  They often met for tea on the weekends, but today's visit was last minute and while Severus had asked to meet, he'd been less than forthright about his reason.

 

"What is really troubling you, Severus?"

 

"Nothing," he grumbled.

 

"Severus."  It was the tone that always did it.

 

He sighed, rubbing his temples.  "It is my mate."

 

"What about him?"  When Severus looked surprised, Eileen smiled.  "I have long known your preferences, Severus.  The Fates are usually kind enough when selecting a mate to be accommodating."

 

Severus grunted something unintelligible, which spoke volumes of his unhappiness.

 

"Is he not everything that you've dreamed of?"

 

Severus opened his mouth, probably to deny it but quickly changed his mind.  "He is many things: powerful, beautiful, passionate…"

 

"But?" she prompted.

 

"He is stubborn.  We have long been…well, far from friends and he does not want to be my mate."

 

"Surely, he knows there is little he can do about it."

 

"He is young and impulsive.  He doesn't believe he should just surrender to the inevitable."

 

Eileen blinked.  "Are you telling me he is fighting it?"

 

Severus' lip curled, but Eileen didn't know if it was irritation or amusement.  "With everything he has, every conviction, every modicum of thought, every physical strength, every particle of his being."

 

That was detailed, especially for Severus.  "But surely the thrall-"

 

"He is resisting the Pull."  At Eileen's gasp, Severus chuckled.  "Oh, yes.  My dear mate is that strong.  He can resist Imperius."

 

"By Merlin."

 

"Indeed."

 

Eileen thought back to her youth, trying to recall the tales of the Gypsy men in her family.  "My grandfather once said that his brother, my Uncle Saryisis, had a problem swaying his mate.  Uncle Sy tried everything, even giving him everything the mate could want."

 

"And what happened?"

 

"Er, well the mate left the country.  Of course, Saryisis went after him, but no one knows what happened to either of them."

 

Severus blinked.   "Mother, why would you even tell me that?  Is that supposed to be your idea of support?"

 

"I'm saying that for both your sakes you must convince him.  A Gypsy who doesn't win his mate will perish."

 

"I know that," he snapped.

 

"And your mate will be cursed to be alone for the rest of his life.  Does he understand that part?"

 

Severus frowned.  "I doubt he's been made aware of that little detail."

 

"Perhaps, you should enlighten him."

 

"I am trying to convey the importance of his cooperation, but whenever we're in the same room together, our personalities clash.  If we aren't arguing, then I can't keep my hands off him."

 

"At least the attraction is there."

 

Severus nodded sadly.  "I can't bring myself to take him against his will." 

 

Eileen sighed.  "That is to your benefit, love.  He would hold it against you if you did.  But Severus, you must convince him.  Try romancing him, cajoling him with-"

 

Severus snorted.  "If I did that he'd think that I'd lost my sanity.  As it is, he blames me for having this 'choice' taken away from him."

 

"There must be some way to ease the path to his heart.  Ask his friends, his family."

 

"Mother, his family and his friends have always been my enemies."

 

Frustrated now, Eileen demanded, "By Merlin, who the devil is this man?"

 

Severus grumbled again.

 

"I beg your pardon."

 

That got a scowl as he looked directly at her.  "Harry Potter."

 

Eileen dropped into her chair.  "Oh, dear."  Her head snapped up.  "He's the heartthrob of the wizarding world."  Severus flinched.  "Are you sure he's pure?"

 

His scowl got worse.  "Oh, yes.  He's pure."

 

"Are you sure he's the one?"

 

Severus stood up.  "Look at me, Mother.  I am changing for him, and he doesn't even realize it.  He doesn't know that the reason my hair isn't greasy anymore is because he doesn't like it.  He doesn't know that my appearance is changing to what he wants."

 

Eileen smiled.  "Then he must want you, Severus.  Your physical being wouldn't change for him if he was totally adverse to you."

 

"I know, but try and tell the little welp that.  I'm sure he thinks it's a magical illusion.  And I doubt it's my appearance that is so loathsome.  It's me - personally." 

 

"Then that's what you'll have to work on," Eileen declared.  "I don't think referring to him as 'the little whelp' is going to endear yourself to him."

 

"I can't change who I am," Severus snapped.

 

Eileen raised her eyebrows.  "Yet, you expect him too?"

 

"What?"

 

"Has he acted inconsistently to how he normally acts?  You've known him for how many years?"

 

"Six years and three weeks."

 

Eileen nodded.  "And is this the reaction you expected?"

 

Severus considered it.  "Well, yes.  I expected this arrogant disregard for tradition and for other's well-being."

 

"You used to say that about James."

 

"Potter is just like his father."

 

"Is he?"

 

"Of course.  How could he not be?"

 

"Let's see," Eileen speculated.  "His parents were murdered when he was one, so right away you must re-think that.  Where did he grow up?  In the same type of environment as James did?"

 

"He was spoiled and celebrated at his Muggle relative's home," Severus snapped indignantly.

 

"Are you sure?"

 

Severus tugged at his hair, exasperated.  "Of course, I'm sure."

 

"Really?  Then you must have the wrong mate."

 

"Excuse me."

 

"Severus, love, think about it," Eileen said carefully.  "Why would the Fates give you such a mate?  They are notorious for making it difficult, yes, but ultimately, they are usually correct in matching Gypsies with a partner that complements them.  Why would they give you a man whom you could not love?"

 

"I didn't say I didn't love him," Severus grumbled.

 

"Didn't you?  You have described him to me as James.  You could never love James Potter.  But who is Harry?  More importantly, why is Harry someone you could love?"

 

Severus scowled.

 

"Think about it."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Harry opened the door cautiously.  He had only been back for about 24 hours and he wasn't expecting anyone.  He certainly hadn't expected Snape. 

 

"What are you doing here?"

 

Snape raised a brow, coiling his robes around himself.  "Might I come in before you commence with the questions?"

 

"Might I have a reason for this visit before-"

 

"Potter, do recall where you are and the spell work evoked thereon."

 

Harry snapped his jaw shut, grinding his teeth together as he moved aside and Snape stepped in.   Shutting the door, Harry turned to repeat his question but found Snape looking curiously at the portrait.

 

"Madam," Snape said, inclining his head.

 

Mrs. Black looked at Harry.  "Is he welcome in this home?"

 

Considering that Snape believed Harry was his mate, what could Harry say?  "Yeah, he's okay."

 

They moved into the parlor and Harry threw himself into one of the fireside chairs.   Kreacher popped into the room.

 

"Would Master Harry like refreshments?"

 

"No, thank you, Kreacher.  We're fine." 

 

Kreacher nodded and vanished.  Snape had watched the scene with uncharacteristic amazement. 

 

"Might I inquire as to how you've managed to win the support of Walburga Black and that foul creature?"

 

Harry sighed.  "I didn't have much choice," he said.  "I had to convince them that I was 'worthy' of living here."

 

Snape inclined his head.   "Understandable, for the sake of peace."

 

"Er, yeah."  Harry looked towards the fire.  "I told them that I was marked as the Dark Lord's equal, by his own hand, and that I was, in fact, stronger than him.  I told them about all the times I had faced him and won."  Harry dared a look at Snape, who looked suspicious.  "I sort of told them that the Order worked for me and that I would be taking over once I killed Voldemort."

 

"And?"

 

Scowling, Harry admitted, "And I sort of showed off with some Parseltongue and wandless magic."

 

"Wandless magic?" Snape asked with interest.

 

Harry turned away.  "I'm not very good at it, but I can Summon things."

 

"That's almost Slytherin of you, Potter."

 

Looking back up, Harry noticed that Snape had taken a seat on the couch.  "Thank you," he said and almost snorted when Snape appeared surprised that he'd taken it as a compliment. "So, what are you doing here?"

 

"I have been," Snape cleared his throat, "urged by my mother to investigate why the Fates would match me with you."

 

"Your mother?"

 

Snape glared at him.  "Yes, my mother.  Did you think I didn't have one?  That I just burst forth from the earth like a troll?"

 

Harry blinked and laughed.  "I'm sorry.  I just didn't realize she was still alive."

 

"My mother went back to her people after my father's death," Snape said, his tone taking on a lecture quality.  "The Gypsy family welcomed her back, seeing her 'unfortunate' marriage as the will of the Fates, as it produced a true Gypsy heir."

 

"These Fates you're always mentioning, seem like comedians or something to me."

 

Snape smirked.  "Perhaps, but in this case they are completely serious.  You are my lifemate, Harry.  The 'why' may be a bit obscure as of yet, but I cannot deny the reaction of my Gypsy blood to you."  

 

"And what about me?" Harry demanded.  "Don't my feelings count at all?"

 

"I do not know why you are not reacting like the typical Gypsy mate," Snape said with a sigh.  "Your inert powers are very strong, as well as your will.  Unless you try-"

 

Harry sat up.  "Try?  Why should I even try?"

 

"For your own-"

 

"My own good?  I'm sick of hearing that.  Everyone is always doing things for my own good.  I-"

 

"I was going to say," Severus interrupted, crossing his arms.  "Your own happiness.   Fighting this - us - can only result in heartache."

 

"But I don't feel anything - other than frustration and resentment because the choice has been taken from me." 

 

"Perhaps if you opened your mind to the possibility…"

 

"But that would be like admitting that everyone has the right to run my life," Harry argued.  "No offense, Snape, but people have been manipulating my life for as long as I remember."

 

For the first time, Severus could acknowledge that fact.  Potter may not have broken all those rules by choice, but because Dumbledore had set him up to break them.  Severus knew the old man was conditioning Potter for his role in the war, but some of his more underhanded methods seemed much more disturbing suddenly.  "I can understand that.  But, Harry-"

 

"And stop calling me Harry.  How would you like it if I started calling you Severus?"

 

Severus smirked.  "As we are soon to be on more intimate terms, I'd think it appropriate for you to call me by my given name."

 

Potter's jaw dropped open, then snapped shut.  "See, that's what I'm talking about," he said.  "Here we are 'discussing the possibility' of me 'trying' to like you and you already assume that you'll win and we'll end up having sex."

 

"Wouldn't you like to have sex?"

 

"God, you're impossible," Potter said.  "And I'd prefer if you didn't use that Pull thing again.  If there's something between us, then we can just let it happen. All right?"

 

Severus felt a full smile tug his lips.  Victory.  "Done, but you must agree to return to school.  It will be easier for training and for us to get to know one another."

 

Harry swallowed.  "All right."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"You said you'd what?" Ron roared.

 

Harry flinched.  "That I'd try."

 

"Harry, mate, I can understand you want to help, but this is Snape, remember.  I think that the Order is going a bit overboard if they want you to throw your life away with him 'for the greater good.'"

 

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Hermione said.

 

"Of course, you would.  You don't have to be stuck with Snape," Ron argued.

 

"Dumbledore must think it's a good idea," Hermione reasoned.  "A Gypsy bond is a very powerful thing."

 

Harry let them argue, his thoughts wandering to what the school was going to make of Harry being Snape's 'lifemate.' 

 

But the school didn't find out.  Only the seventh years knew and they were powerless to discuss or mention it to anyone else.  Hermione figured out that there was some sort of charm at work, which had to be the reason that no had heard about it before.

 

Harry was spared from being the center of attention, but it didn't spare him from having to go to the dungeons for 'extra lessons' again.  Everyone seemed to attribute the Potions master's good mood on the fact that he got to torment Potter nightly with Remedial Potions.  And if anyone else noticed Snape's less greasy locks, less sallow skin or whiter teeth, they didn't mention it.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"So being a Gypsy is why you're so good at Occlumency and Legilimency?" Harry asked during their first lesson.

 

"Yes," Snape said.  "Gypsies have the ability to master their minds.  When the bond is established, you will be able to use this power to assist you in blocking outside intrusion.  I will be attempting to teach you how to reach the bond and connect to the powers."

 

Harry thought it was a bit premature.  After all, he hadn't even agreed to any of it yet.  "Okay," he said.

 

"It's like dreaming while you're awake," Snape began.  "You will see and feel…the bond, your mate, or even a vision within your mind, but at the same time know what's happening around you.  When you close your eyes, you'll see the dream.  When you open them, the real world will remain.    Understand?"

 

"I guess.  But how am I supposed to see something that isn't there yet?"

 

Snape sighed heavily.  "It's preparation, Potter.  We'll start with clearing your mind of everything except one thing.  Think of a meadow or a room, something to concentrate on.  That will be your focus." 

 

Harry pictured the Room of Requirement as it was usually set up for their DA meetings. 

 

He could feel Snape walking around him.  "Do you have your scene?"  Harry nodded.  "Good, now open your eyes."  Harry looked around. 

 

"Now what?"

 

"Now close your eyes again and see if the scene you had focused on is still there."   

 

It wasn't.   "It isn't."

 

"Get it back."

 

Harry focused again on the DA room and after a couple of minutes he was able to recreate the same picture of it in his head. 

 

"Good," Snape said.  "Eventually, you will be able to get to that state every time, without having to search for it again.  The scene in your mind will continue even though you leave it periodically.  Every time you go back to it, the scene will be as you left it."

 

It seemed like a complete waste of time to Harry.  "Why are we even doing this when we're not bonded yet?" 

 

"If you get used to how, it will be easier when the skills are there."

 

"If you had taught the 'how' two years ago-"

 

Snape sighed.  "Can we leave that-"

 

"Oh, because you never hold grudges?"

 

"Potter!" 

 

"I'm just saying, how come you’re a lot better at telling me what do now then-"

 

"Because there were other things-"

 

"You mean that because of this Gypsy thing, you don't hate me anymore."

 

Snape grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him forward, his lips meeting Harry's soundly.  Harry's arms wrapped around Snape's neck instinctively as Snape pushed him against the wall.  Teeth and tongue continued to move over Harry's mouth, biting and tasting.  A groan, Harry wasn't sure whose, brought him back to reality and Harry shoved Snape away.

 

"You said you wouldn't use that Pull thingy," Harry accused.

 

"I didn't."  Snape smirked smugly.  "May we continue?"

 

Harry blinked.  "Without the kissing, then," he said.

 

Snape continued to look inordinately pleased.  "Don't provoke me, then."

 

"Provoke?" Harry gasped.  "I thought we were fighting."

 

"All that passion, Harry."  He moved forward to loom over Harry.  "It becomes very hard for me to control my…urges."

 

"Well-well-you just see that you do."

 

"You are just too tempting," Severus said.

 

"I think I've had enough," Harry said, grabbing his bag.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

 

"Where's the vaunted Gryffindor courage, Potter?" Snape called behind him as he left the room.  Harry could hear his soft laughter.

 

"Bloody bastard," he muttered.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"He's still fighting it," Severus grumbled.

 

"You must find a way, Severus."  

 

"How can I, when he's so stubborn?" 

 

His mother sighed.  "Bring him here."

 

Severus spun from his pacing.  "Here?"

 

"Yes, I want to meet him.  Maybe it will soften him up if he sees your home."

 

"This is not my home."

 

"This is your inheritance, Severus.  You are the rightful Prince heir.  When you are bound to your mate, the Gypsy elders will allow you to have the Prince legacy."

 

"Mother, my mate is a Potter.  My meager bequest is hardly going to impress him.  Between the Potter wealth, which incorporates the Gryffindor estate, and which Harry doesn't even know about, and the Black vaults, it will seem quite insignificant."

 

"Perhaps, but this house has a long history.  Perhaps, that will interest him."

 

Severus did not share his mother's optimism, but he agreed.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

October 1st

 

Mrs. Snape surprised Harry.  She was gracious and kind as she gave Harry the tour of the house, which she said would eventually belong to Severus.  The mansion had been in the Prince family for ages and was steeped with family history and Gypsy lore.  He heard tell of how Edward Prince had to fight a dragon for his lifemate; and how Petrius Prince added a wing to the manor because his mate would not live away from her family.

 

"Do you know much about your family, Harry?" she asked him as they sat down to dinner.

 

"Er, no," Harry admitted, between bites.

 

"Tell me about your parents, then."

 

Harry cut his eyes to Snape.  "Er, they're dead."

 

Eileen Snape smiled.  "Oh, I know that, dear.  But you must have heard all about them."

 

Again, he glanced at Snape.  "I've heard conflicting things."

 

Mrs. Snape laughed and glanced at her son too.  "I'm sure.  But what about your relatives?  Surely they've told you stories of them."

 

Snape gave him a patented glare that said 'you'd better speak up - this is my mother.'  "Um, not really," he said.

 

"Oh?"

 

Why wasn't Snape changing the subject?  Surely, he didn't want to talk about Harry's parents.  "They, er, didn't really like my parents much."

 

"Really?  Come now, they had to-"

 

"They didn't.  Okay?"

 

"I'm sorry, dear.  Didn't mean to pry," she said, pouring tea for them all.  "Bit of a temper there," she murmured. 

 

Snape glared at him.  "I'm sorry," Harry said, looking at his empty plate.  "I'm sure you know how much your son hated my father."

 

"Yes, I'd heard that."

 

"Well, my aunt and uncle hated him more."

 

Snape smirked and finally spoke up.  "I hardly think that's possible."

 

Harry sent him a scowl.  "You'd think, but it's true.  All they ever told me was that he was an unemployed drunk who got them killed in a car accident."

 

There was a strained silence as Mrs. Snape fussed with the platters on the table and Harry and Snape glared at each other.  "You can have more, Harry," she said, holding out a plate.

 

Embarrassed for saying so much, Harry took a substantial helping.  "Thank you," he said.  "This is delicious."

 

"Wasn't your aunt a good cook?"

 

Harry shrugged, wishing she'd pick another subject.  "I guess.  I just learned to eat what I was given and not ask for more."

 

"But you had enough to eat?"

 

"Most of the time."  Harry looked up, noticing her keen gaze.  "I mean, they sent me to bed without supper sometimes - when I was bad," he lied.  "But I had enough, yeah."

 

"Of course," she said benignly.

 

Thankfully, Mrs. Snape stopped asking questions and kept up a steady chatter through the rest of the meal.  The two topics she avoided were Harry's and Snape's relationship and the deceased Mr. Snape.  Harry listened attentively as she spoke of her mother's family, but he didn't feel comfortable asking questions.  By the time Snape declared that it was time to leave, Harry was exhausted.

 

Snape delivered him back to the front doors of the castle and promptly left.  Relieved, Harry went right to the tower and went to bed.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"He's a quiet boy."

 

Severus nodded.  He'd been a bit surprised himself at Potter's subdued behavior.  His manners were impeccable and he had thought carefully before answering any question.  In fact, the only unguarded response had been the result of his temper.  Of course, Snape knew about the temper, he'd been dealing with it for years, and Lily had been famous for hers, yet he couldn't help thinking that Potter had been unnaturally secretive, as if he were hiding something.

 

"Severus, something is not right," his mother voiced his thoughts.  "The boy is an abysmal liar."

 

Severus smirked.  "Yes, I got that impression as well."

 

"Perhaps, you were wrong."

 

"You don't have to beat it over my head, mother.  I will look into it."

 

"See that you do."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Severus was furious.  His trip to Privet Drive had been enlightening and more than a little unnerving.  How dare they treat a child in such a manner?  Put aside the fact that Harry Potter had been the most celebrated name in the wizarding world since he was a year old, but to actually treat a child, a relative, in such a way…starvation, neglect, outright verbal abuse, not to mention the persecution Harry was subjected to by his cousin and his friends.  It was simply repugnant. 

 

It was no small wonder that Potter had become so attached to Black.  How could he not turn to what little remained of his parents?  It was also surprising that Harry was as pure and bloody noble as he was, with such trauma in his youth.

 

It also made Severus wonder why Harry would resist such an opportunity as a Gypsy match.  All evidence pointed to the likelihood that he would jump at the chance to be unconditionally loved, with an instant family.

 

Of course, Harry's primary concerns were that the match was with Severus, who had treated him just as bad if not worse than his relatives.  And that Harry had no choice in the decision.  Even when he'd had the chance to live with Black, that opportunity had been snatched away from him before it could come to fruition.  Perhaps he was afraid of losing yet another home.

 

A distinct admiration crept up on him.  Indeed his mate would be praiseworthy.  He wondered how he could have been so misguided all these years.

 

Severus sighed.  Regardless of everything, he had to convince Harry to give in to the bond.  The world could depend on it and their own happiness did.

 

He entered his classroom where he and Potter had been meeting daily after dinner and found Potter sitting at a desk, wand in hand, staring at a rock on the floor.

 

He looked up at Snape.  "Why am I such a mediocre student?"

 

Severus blinked. "Pardon?"

 

"My parents were good students, everyone says so.  How come it always takes me so long to do the simplest things?  It takes me twice as long as Hermione to get things."

 

Snape studied his mate.  The question was tossed out in a hopeless appeal. "What are you trying to do?"

 

"Transfigure that rock into a dog," Potter told him.  "Cedric could do it his seventh year.  Hermione has already done it in class.   It took me all day to master the Summoning Spell before the first task.  Maybe, you're right and I'm just stupid."

 

Severus wondered if this was another of Harry's attempts to convince Severus that he wasn't mate material.  His mate's dejected pose and expression seemed genuine, however, so Severus considered the question.  "You've mastered much more advanced spells then anyone else, Harry."

 

Potter snorted.  "What, the Patronus?  Everyone can do that now.  Almost everyone in my DA class can do it and everyone in the Order uses them to send messages."

 

"Ah, and you used dementors in your classes?"

 

"Well, no, they weren't readily available, were they?"

 

Snape nodded.  "And when the Order sends messages, there usually isn't any kind of threat, is there?"

 

"No. "

 

"You are beginning to master wandless spells," Severus said, sitting down in a desk beside him.  "You can resist Imperius, not many can do that."  Harry shrugged.  "And you are a Parselmouth."

 

"That's from Voldemort," he muttered.

 

"Who told you that?"

 

"Dumbledore."

 

Severus had heard that, too.  "Perhaps, but I myself don't think that you could have gained the skill unless there was some inherent ability already inside you." 

 

"He can speak it fluently," Harry said.  "I need to see a snake."

 

"That is all mindset.  The Dark Lord had a long time to develop his skills because he chose to learn them.  Just as you have developed the talents that you need when you require them.  It's all your state of mind."  Potter was looking at him curiously, as if truly listening for once.  Severus found hope in that.  "Your parents came to Hogwarts, confident and excited and they became friends with others who were confident," he said.  "Tell me, Potter, when you came to the Sorting, what were you feeling?"

 

He shrugged.  "I was scared to death.  I was afraid I wouldn't be good enough."

 

"Exactly."

 

"Huh?"

 

"You lacked confidence and the person who became your best friend also lacked confidence?"

 

"You think Ron-"

 

"Think about it," he bade.  "The Weasleys are an extraordinary wizarding family.  All the members of the family have excelled through school.  Even the reprobate duo, although they did not care about grades, did exceptional works of magic at the school.  The pressure on the youngest male child is considerable.  Much like the pressure you put upon yourself and that was placed upon you by the world.  Instead of working harder, you both have accepted the mediocre abilities because you've had someone to commiserate with.

 

"Your skills, and Weasley's skills, seem to be readily available to you when you need them.  Allow yourself the confidence that you can indeed accomplish the tasks set to you, like transfiguring that rock, and you will do it."

 

"And how will I know that?"

 

"Because Professor McGonagall would not require you to learn something that not everyone could learn, correct?"  Potter gave a half-hearted nod.  "Because you are in her NEWT level class and she would not have accepted you if she thought you could not do the work, and because your past experiences show that you are capable of doing it."

 

"So, confidence?"

 

Severus nodded. 

 

Harry took a deep breath and cast the spell at the rock.  The dog barked once then began chasing it's tail.

 

"Wow."  Harry looked up and smiled.  Severus' entire being reacted to that smile.  "You know, your abilities as a teacher are there when you want to use them."

 

Severus laughed softly.

 

The smile was replaced by a scowl.  "So, how did you know I lacked confidence when I came to school?  You were always the one accusing me of being arrogant."

 

Severus nodded sadly.  "Indeed, and I believe I did you a grave injustice in assuming a great many things."

 

Harry blinked.  "Really?"

 

"I went to Privet Drive, Harry."

 

"Oh?"  Harry's entire demeanor changed, reminiscent of last night.

 

"I discovered that you weren't raised as James was."

 

Potter's expression filled with anger.  "And just why would you go delving into my past now?"

 

"I told you, because I want to know you.  Know why you were chosen as my mate."

 

"And?"

 

"And I believe we are more alike then I had ever hoped to imagine.  We both had a childhood without much love, we've both been hated for no reason, we both understand darkness, we both understand the unrealistic expectations of others."

 

Potter snorted.  "You can say that again."

 

"Do you understand?"

 

"Yes, but it doesn't mean we should get married.  I mean, usually we're at each other's throats." 

 

"Have you ever thought that it could be misdirected passion?"

 

"What?"

 

"Granted, our personalities will clash, which will make our life together difficult but also interesting.  And if we redirect that anger-"

 

"You're talking about sex again, aren't you?"

 

So innocent.  Severus couldn't help his smirk.  "Believe me, Potter, eventually you will see precisely what I'm talking about."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"Where is my loyal one?"

 

Severus stepped forward and removed his mask.  "Here, my lord."

 

The Dark Lord studied him.  "I see I was correct," he announced with a broad grin. 

 

Severus gave a curt bow, mentally preparing himself.  This could be disastrous or auspicious.  "You were, my lord."

 

His eyes slit impossibly smaller.  "Why did you not come to me immediately to tell me?"

 

"Forgive me, master."  Severus swallowed in perfect imitation of anxiety.  "I did not know if it would please you."

 

The Dark Lord became acutely interested.  "I see.  Leave us," he barked at the rest of the 'family.' "But stay in the area."  When they had filed out, he settled into his throne and Severus moved closer.

 

"Very well, Severus.  Tell me the problem."

 

"Harry Potter, my lord."

 

"Harry Potter?" he echoed.  "He is the problem?"

 

"He is my mate."

 

The Dark Lord cocked his head almost comically.  "Harry Potter is your mate?"

 

Severus lowered to one knee.  "He is, my lord."

 

There was a silence that seemed to cast a great chasm between Severus and the Dark Lord's throne.  Severus merely waited, staring at the floor, his mind completely empty.  And then he heard it.

 

The Dark Lord laughed, a high-pitched, delighted laugh which echoed through the hall.  Severus let out his breath and dared a look at the raised platform.

 

"You are pleased, master?"

 

He rose from his seat, peering down at Severus with pride.  "Oh, yes, my loyal one.  I am pleased.  Not only have you given me the way to eliminate the threat to my ambitions, but you have handed me a tool to use to defy the prophecy."

 

"I, my lord?" Severus asked, although he knew just what the Dark Lord was thinking, had counted on it.

 

"Has the binding been planned?" the Dark Lord asked as he paced before Severus.

 

"Not yet, master," Severus admitted.  "There was some…resistance initially."

 

The Dark Lord snickered.  "No doubt, considering your animosity."

 

"Mutual animosity, my lord."

 

"Of course.  That is all straightened out, I presume."

 

Severus lowered his eyes again.  "Of course, master.  The Gypsy Pull cannot be thwarted."

 

"Yes, yes."  He settled back into his throne.  "You will proceed with the bonding.  Once dear Harry is truly your mate, you will bring him to me."

 

Severus straightened.  The Dark Lord would be suspicious if Severus did not challenge.  "My lord-"

 

"Fear not, my loyal one," he waved a hand, "I have no intention of killing your lifemate."  He grinned with a distorted twist of his lips.  "Nor do I have to.  He will make an excellent addition to our family.  Just as I told him years ago, we will do great things together."

 

Severus bowed again and pushed to his feet.

 

"And, Severus," the Dark Lord said.  "Do not hesitate to bring me news again."

 

Severus forced contrition to his expression.  "No, my-"

 

"Crucio."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Harry screamed, his hands flying to his head, which felt like it would blow off his shoulders, and thrashed in his bed.

 

"Harry?  Harry!"

 

Sitting upright, Harry gulped in large quantities of air.

 

"What is it?  Vision?"

 

Harry only nodded, hugging his knees to his chest as Ron moved to sit on his bed. 

 

"Anything important?"

 

Harry looked over at his best friend.  "Voldemort just found out about me and Snape."

 

Ron whistled.  "Bugger."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"It's imperative then that we initiate the Bond," Dumbledore said.

 

As always, Severus had gone directly to the Headmaster's office after his summons.  "I thought I would have more time."

 

"Is Harry still resisting?"

 

"Yes."  Severus paced slowly.  While his exposure to the Cruciatus Curse had been brief, it still left him sore.  "Our sessions are progressing, but there he still retains a great obstinacy to accept the truth.  Normally, we end up fighting and ultimately he flees."

 

"He runs away?"

 

Severus met the Headmaster's gaze.  "I cannot help my Gypsy responses to him, Albus.  You do not know how I hunger.  When he provokes me…" He let the thought trail off, unwilling to voice his own weakness to the Pull.

 

Dumbledore blinked and then sighed.  "I'm afraid we don't have time to cater to his willfulness."

 

That seemed a bit harsh coming from Dumbledore, but Severus knew he was right.  "Very well, I will inform him."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Harry looked up from his homework as the classroom door opened and closed.  There was usually time before Snape arrived for their lessons, so Harry had begun starting it while waiting for Snape.  Tonight Snape had been overseeing detention and was already late.  There would be no time for practice tonight.

 

Snape looked tired and distracted as he collected some parchments off his desk. 

 

"What's wrong?" Harry asked as he put his books away.

 

"Dumbledore has planned our binding for Halloween night."  Snape didn't look up.

 

After last night's vision, Harry couldn't say he was surprised.  "Already?" he asked.  Halloween was only two weeks away.

 

"Yes.  The Gypsy elders of my clan have been notified and will be in attendance to bless the match."  He wearily sat down behind his desk.  "If all goes well, the Dark Lord could be defeated by Christmas."

 

Harry blinked.  "Confident, aren't you?"

 

Snape still didn't look at him.  "The Dark Lord will not wait forever for me to bring you to him.  He will expect you to be totally enamored of me, ready to do my will.  It will be the perfect opportunity to destroy him."

 

Harry hung his head, recalling what Voldemort had said in his vision.  He would not be responsible for anyone else's suffering.  "All right, Snape.  I'll marry you," he said.  "But I don't have to like it."

 

Severus watched Harry leave.  "I know, Harry.  But you will."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

Halloween

 

Harry looked at his wedding clothes.  All new.  Starched white shirt, black trousers, green silk dress robes.  The shoes affected Harry the most.  They were shiny and new as well, but they were stiff and confining.  They made his feet hurt already.  His heart felt like that too.

 

Ron came in to accompany him to the ceremony.  He was supportive but flustered as they walked from the room Harry had been given to dress in to the chapel.

 

The wedding would be held in the Prince Chapel and the reception was to be held in the castle ballroom.  Eileen had insisted they use the manor as it was Severus' birthright.  Harry hadn't asked where it was.

 

The ceremony was much of a blur for Harry.  He signed something, he swore something else, he gave Snape a ring and a wristband.  Snape did the same and then they kissed, a chaste little peck on the lips, and then they were swept out into a hall for the reception.

 

It was a grand room, but Harry didn't pay much attention to the décor.  He sat in his chair and watched.  Everyone laughed and drank.  The food was abundant and the music loud for dancing.  Just as Snape had said, "Oh, how they'll dance at our wedding."

 

Harry didn't feel a part of it.  The Weasleys were all present, Harry being their adopted-like son, and Remus and Tonks were together.  He couldn't bring himself to speak with anyone and it bothered him that no one seemed to care.  Was his presence even necessary?  Obviously not, as the deed had already been done. 

 

He looked down at his wedding ring and bonding band.  They were beautifully crafted with the Prince Gypsy crest, but they, too, seemed too tight.

 

Hermione came over and stood beside Harry's chair at the head table.  Everyone else who was assigned to the table was elsewhere, dancing or mingling.

 

"Are you all right, Harry?" she asked.

 

Harry looked up at her and forced a smile.  "Oh, yeah.  I'm terrific."

 

Hermione frowned.  "Let's take a walk."

 

Harry stood up and they moved out onto the balcony.   They leaned on the railing, looking out over the gardens and Harry waited for the yelling to begin.

 

Hermione sighed.  "I thought you had resigned yourself to this?"

 

Harry turned to glare at her.  "Will you listen to yourself," he snapped.  "How would you like to 'resign' yourself to your own marriage?"

 

"I know it sounds harsh, but-"

 

"Hermione, how would you like it if Ron suddenly found out he had a betrothed?"

 

"That's ridiculous."

 

"Is it?  He's from a pureblood family.  What if he stood to become wealthy if he married someone?"

 

"He wouldn't do that."

 

"Wouldn't he?  With his thing about money?"

 

She scowled.  "This is an entirely different circumstance, Harry-"

 

"Why?"

 

"Because Ron is not fated to save the world," she shot back.

 

That hurt.  "I thought you didn't believe in all that divination crap?"

 

"It doesn't matter what I believe," Hermione argued.  "The people in power believe it and your enemies believe it, which makes you the focus of their attention."

 

Harry's anger deflated.  "Exactly.  It all comes down to that.  Fucking Voldemort," he said bitterly.  "He's ruined everything about my life.  It just makes me feel like putting a gun in my mouth."

 

Hermione jumped into Harry arms.  "Oh, Harry.  I'm so sorry.  We should have been more supportive.  I had no idea how much you hated Snape."

 

Harry sighed.  "I don't hate Snape.  I just don't love him.  I just hate the fact that no one seems to care about what I want.  That damned prophecy has taken one more choice away from me."

 

Hermione continued to hug him.  "I know, Harry, but listen," she said, pulling away.  "If everything I read is true, then you will be very happy.  If you let yourself.  You just have to-"

 

"Stop fighting it," Harry finished.  "I know."  He held her at arms distance.  "But, Hermione, it's my nature, you know that.  I'm a fighter."

 

Hermione nodded.

 

"It's just a good thing my 'saving people thing' is bigger than my fighting thing."

 

She gave him a watery smile. "It's always you, Harry.  I'm so sorry."

 

"Me, too."

 

"Miss Granger, why are you accosting my groom?"

 

They parted and Hermione turned on Snape.  Harry cringed at the determined look in her eyes.

 

"If you had bothered to treat him better, your groom," she said the word with contempt, "wouldn't be contemplating suicide."

 

Snape looked flabbergasted.

 

"Hermione," Harry warned.

 

"Harry?"

 

Harry flinched, hearing Mrs. Snape's voice.  Snape hadn't come out onto the balcony alone.  He looked away from them to stare over the railing again.

 

"Harry?"

 

He turned to face his mother-in-law and saw that she had shooed Snape and Hermione away.  They were alone, the stars above them, the smells of the garden, the light music from the ballroom their only company.  He crossed his arms tightly across his chest and stared at his feet.  

 

His new shoes reflected the dim candlelight.

 

"You don't really wish to end your life, do you?"

 

"No," Harry answered, wanting to add that Voldemort would take care of that soon enough, but he really didn't want to talk about that either.

 

"Then why-"

 

"Listen."  Harry looked up.  "I'm just feeling a bit bitter right now.  I'll get over it."  He turned towards the gardens again.  "Don't worry, no one's noticed at all."

 

"Come here, Harry," Mrs. Snape bade.  Reluctantly, Harry shuffled over to her and she turned him towards the ballroom.  "See that table to the right of the dais?"  Harry nodded.  "Those are the Patrons of the Prince clan."

 

Harry had already been told that.  "They are all related to you now," she continued.  "By marrying Severus, you have become part of the Prince family.   Those are your uncles and cousins who will-"

 

"No offense, Mrs. Snape, but I haven't the greatest fondness for uncles and cousins."

 

She frowned.  "Hm, yes, I've heard," she said.  "But these are Gypsy men.  If anyone lifts a finger to harm you after today, the Gypsy-"

 

"They're going to save me from Voldemort, are they?"

 

She scowled at him.  "Listen to me, young man.  I know you feel put upon by all this, but think of Severus. Do you think he enjoys knowing that the man he loves, the man who is supposed to be his lifemate, feels nothing for him?"

 

Harry looked at his shoes again.  "I can't help how I feel," he said.  "And besides, nobody cared how I felt anyway.  I'm still married to him now, aren't I?"

 

She placed her hands on Harry's shoulders.  "Harry, you must stop fighting this," she implored him.  "Not only for Severus, but for you as well."

 

Harry sighed.  "I'm doing what I can, but you can't expect miracles overnight."

 

She smiled encouragingly.  "I know, Harry.  Train with Severus.  Learn the powers.  You have a real family now, and there will be many opportunities in the future for you to meet them properly."

 

"Er, not for nothing, but I never pictured your son as the social type."

 

Her smile became blossoming.  "You do know him," she said with a nod.  "But now that he has a mate, he will be obligated to attend the family functions."  She winked.  "That in itself should be worth seeing."

 

"Pardon me, Madam Prince," one of the older gentlemen who had been seated with 'the clan' interrupted them.  "We are ready for the Dance.  The Patrons wish to see it so we may cast our blessing on the union."

 

"Very well, Gregor." 

 

Harry watched him bow and retreat, and swallowed.  "Mrs. Snape-"

 

"Eileen."

 

"Eileen, I'm really not very good at dancing.  In fact-"

 

"Don't fear, Harry.  Severus will lead you. "

 

Harry nodded and they walked back into the main room.  Severus waited in the middle of the floor and he held out his hand to Harry when they were spotted.  

 

"Take off your robe," Snape instructed.  Harry did and handed it to Eileen, who took it and moved off the floor.  Harry stared at the open buttons at Snape's throat.  He balled his fists a few times, trying to calm his nerves.

 

"Just relax and let me guide you.  They must see that there is nothing amiss."

 

Harry repressed his snort.  "What do I do?"

 

"Close your eyes and listen to the music."  The violins started softly and Snape pulled Harry closer, wrapping an arm around Harry's waist.  Harry breathed deeply to keep from jerking away.  Then they moved.  It felt like a waltz.  Harry kept his eyes closed, focusing on the music instead of the way Snape was touching him.  Their movements were slow and graceful until the tempo increased.  Harry's head was jerked back roughly by the hair and his hips were pulled flush against Snape's.   Released, his head fell to the side and he felt Severus' mouth on his neck.  Subtle thrusts from his pelvis continued as they turned in a circle.  Snape's hands seemed to be everywhere all of the sudden as they maneuvered his body around the floor.  Like a ragdoll, Harry was positioned and spun, then pawed at and turned again.  Fingers moved over him, tantalizing his body with just the suggestion of intimacy, and even fully clothed, they sparked heat over Harry's skin.

 

When the music crashed to an end, Harry found his body held tightly to Severus' body in a backward arc and when he opened his eyes, he saw Severus' intense gaze.  Snape was breathing hard and Harry realized that he was too.  He had a grip on Snape's shoulders and Snape's arms held him firmly against his chest and hips.

 

Before he could think, Snape's head lowered and he crushed their mouths together.  There was nothing chaste about this kiss.  Snape devoured Harry's mouth like a man starving and his tongue slid against Harry's to taste.  Swept away, Harry opened his mouth, indulging in the impassioned kiss and allowing his senses to experience the heightened state of arousal brought about by just a dance.  When Snape lifted his head, Harry's fingers tightened in the long locks, ready to drag that mouth back, but Snape held him away.

 

Only then did Harry notice the sound rising in the room.  The silence after the abrupt end of the song had been broken by heartfelt applause and Harry stepped away from Severus, staring at his shoes again.  He felt exposed and vulnerable suddenly.  Not only had Snape managed to arouse him, but all these people had witnessed it.

 

A crowd of people gathered around them, but Harry was too lost in his thoughts to notice their conversation.  Was he really attracted to Snape, or was it just that Gypsy Pull?  Seamus did say that the Gypsies were masters at seduction.  He guessed there were worse things that could happen.  They were married now and even if they didn't like each other, it wouldn't be too bad if they at least had some chemistry.

 

"…must consummate the bond."

 

Harry's head swung up at the statement.  Several of the elders were talking to Snape and patting his back.  One of the younger ones was watching Harry.  Harry felt his face heat up and the man smiled.

 

He took Harry's arm and began escorting him off the floor.  "Come, little one.  Let us prepare you."

 

"Should we leave our guests this early?" Harry asked reluctantly as he threw a pleading glance to Snape.  Unfortunately, Snape didn't see it.

 

"It will be alright.  You are young and nervous, but Gypsies will always take care of their mates."

 

Servio, as it were, took him to a suite and handed him a bundle of cloth.  "Put this on, yes."  As Harry fingered the pile, Servio began flitting about the bedroom, lighting candles and arranging pillows.  Harry didn't miss the jar he placed on the nightstand either.

 

With a sigh, he moved to the bathroom and changed.  To his relief, it was just a robe, a full length, run of the mill robe with a tie around the waist.  Harry wondered if he was expected to wait on the bed.

 

"Good, good," Servio said as Harry stepped out.  "Relax.  Have some champagne.  I'm sure your groom will be here shortly."

 

"Oh, goody," Harry muttered, filling a glass.  His erection was gone again, and he wasn't sure what he would have to do to get back.  Harry had some more champagne.

 

When Snape entered the room, there was no small talk.  Whatever Harry expected, it certainly wasn't to be grabbed and kissed without so much as a 'hello' or a 'are you okay.'

 

Harry's glasses went first as they kissed, Severus' mouth impatient on his skin as if he wanted to taste every bit of his face and throat before they even made it to the bed.  Harry knew what to expect, physically, and he knew it would be easier if he relaxed but his body wasn't cooperating.  It was tense and sluggish.

 

Once they found the bed and lay down, Harry tried again to relax.  Snape pulled off his clothes, but Harry didn't look.  It was best if he didn't see, he convinced himself.  He focused on breathing and Snape's touches.  Snape had opened Harry's robe and the skin to skin felt good.  Snape's mouth on his bared flesh also worked wonders on his cock, as that was paying more attention now too.

 

Relieved, Harry just closed his eyes and let Snape work.  Soon, Snape told him to roll over and Harry reluctantly moved to his hands and knees.  The whole preparation process had Harry wondering if there wasn't a spell or something that could move this along.  He found it a bit unsettling.

 

And then there was something large and blunt at his arse and the muscles didn't seem to want to grant it entrance.

 

"Relax, Harry, this is supposed to be pleasurable."

 

"For you maybe.  It burns," Harry said.

 

"It will only be uncomfortable for a minute."  When Harry still couldn't relax, Snape sighed.  "Turn over," he said and he leaned over Harry, staring in his eyes. 

 

"What are you doing?" Harry asked suspiciously.  "You're not going to use Legilimency on me are you?"

 

"No, this isn't Legilimency.  Remember our dance?"  Harry nodded.  "Think of that.  Close your eyes."  Almost like watching a Pensieve, Harry could see them dancing in his mind. 

 

The state of arousal returned, Harry's breathing grew heavy and his loins tightened.  He opened his eyes.  Severus leaned over him, a hand stroking Harry's cock.  Harry gripped the bed covers as Severus thrust into him.  The air rippled around them; bright colors began appearing to swirl around the bed.

 

"What's that?" Harry whispered, afraid to disturb the moment.

 

"It's our magic, Harry," Snape said, his voice rough.  "It's bonding.  Close your eyes, you'll see it in the dance."

 

Harry did.  The same colors swirled around them as they danced in his mind.

 

Snape shifted and Harry's hips jerked as he brushed something inside him.  All hesitance vanished as Harry was overtaken with the need for fulfillment.  His hard cock, wrapped in Snape's hand, throbbed with need and, at the moment, he didn't care about anything but finding release.

 

Snape seemed just as impatient because his rhythm became erratic and urgent.  He continued to pound as he stroked Harry and together their muscles locked as orgasm swept them both over the edge.  The swirling colors shattered, falling in rainbow hues around them.  Snape collapsed on top of him and Harry blacked out.

 

When he came to, Severus was leaning over him.  "Are you all right?"

 

"Um, yeah.  Is that supposed to happen?"

 

"Yes, Harry.  Go to sleep."

 

Harry found the idea hard to resist.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"Come on, Potter.  Get up."

 

Harry sprung from the bed and disappeared into the bathroom.  It was a pity because Severus would have dearly loved more time to admire that body.  He wanted to do more than admire it; he wanted to worship it, pleasure it, as he knew he could.  Last night had been fulfilling but disappointing.  Severus had expected more now that he was bonded to his mate.  Potter's fighting the bond could be blamed, he knew, but he also knew that now that they were married, Severus would have better opportunities to win his mate's love. 

 

Harry immerged, showered and dressed, and looked to Severus.

 

"The Floo will take you to Dumbledore's office.  He will have your books for morning classes," Severus explained.  "I will see you in the Great Hall at breakfast."

 

As he turned to go, Severus stopped him.  "Aren't you forgetting something?"  Harry turned, puzzled and Severus leaned down and kissed him.  Pulling away, Harry stared up at him.  Several months ago, Severus would have insulted the look on Potter's face as vacant stupidity.  Severus smiled at it now.  He had surprised his lover with the simple act.  Stepping back, Harry reached up to Severus' shoulders and leaned up for more.

 

Yes, his lifemate certainly liked kissing.  Wrapping his arms around the lean waist, Severus indulged in tasting his husband, leisurely stroking his hands up and down Harry's back and buttocks.  Severus still marveled over how perfectly the youth fit in his arms, but then, this was his mate.

 

Pushing him away, Severus tipped his chin.  "Go on.  Get some breakfast."

 

"Aren't you coming?"

 

"I will be along directly," Severus replied.  "We will draw less…attention if we arrived separately."

 

Harry nodded.  "Good idea."

 

  *~*~*~*

 

"So, Harry, how was it?" Ron asked quietly.

 

Not looking up from his eggs, Harry shrugged.  "It was sex.  It was alright."

 

"It was just alright?" Hermione asked.

 

Harry shrugged again and he noticed her stiffen.  A glance up showed his friend completely crestfallen.  What did she expect?  From what he'd heard, first time sex was often pretty bad.  At least his had been enjoyable.

 

Classes went by normally.  Since no one knew about the bonding except those in attendance, everything went on as usual.  The school was accustomed to Harry going down to the dungeons for Remedial Potions; the only change was that now, Harry stayed down because he lived there.  All his belongings had been moved.  The seventh years, again, were magically forced to silence.

 

Sooner or later, Harry guessed, the world would find out that he was married to Severus Snape, but Harry was content to settle for later.

 

"What is wrong with Miss Granger?" Snape asked when Harry joined him that night in the classroom for his first lessons since the binding.

 

"Don't know," he answered with a shrug.  "Why?"

 

"She has been sending me the most insulting of looks."

 

"Oh.  She's feeling guilty, I guess," Harry said.  "She was a strong Dumbledore supporter,  saying I should do what he thought was best."

 

"And what is wrong with that?"

 

"I think she was under the impression that last night should have 'fixed' everything between us."

 

"In normal cases, it would have," Snape said seriously.

 

Harry shrugged.  "Maybe.  But when have I ever done anything normally?"

 

Snape stared at him a moment, then he smiled.  Harry wished he wouldn't do that.  He looked so much different when he smiled.  In fact, Snape continued to look better and better the more time Harry spent with him.  Harry wondered if it was the Gypsy finding his mate thing or if Harry was just getting used to him.

 

Snape went into teacher mode then.  "Having the Gypsy bond will increase your ability to keep the Dark Lord out of your head," he said.  "You must at all costs keep him from discovering that all his Horcruxes have been destroyed."

 

"Okay."

 

"That is the most important information you must conceal from him.  Let him have anything else."

 

"What about us?" Harry asked.

 

"He already knows about us," Snape reminded him.  "It will be the ruse by which I bring you to him.  I am his 'most loyal servant' presently and I am hoping that he will wish to keep us together - under HIS control rather than kill us both.  He will want our strength and he will do his best to convince you that you must side with him to keep us together.  He will not know of your 'resistance' to the Pull.  Once we are before him, you will use the Gypsy link to gain access to my powers and you will kill him."

 

"Seems easy enough in theory," Harry said.  "But I'm still not sure if I can actually 'kill' anyone - even him."

 

"I know, Harry."

 

"I don't think I could use the Killing Curse."

 

"There are other ways to kill."  Harry gave a half-hearted nod and Snape continued, "But we will work on that after you have mastered the ability to call on my powers."

 

"Okay," Harry said with a sigh.  "How do I do that?"

 

"Just like the Dance, Harry.  We will have the ability to join minds and you will be able to see the magic in your head.  First, I will stretch out my mind to yours.  You will feel it as pressure.  Now listen, Potter.  You must endeavor to let me in.  Unlike Legilimency it is not an intrusion but a merge.  It will not hurt."

 

"Okay.  Let's try it."

 

The first few attempts proved disastrous.  Harry was having a problem joining his thoughts to Snape's.  It wasn't just the mind thing either.  Over the next couple of days, Harry found himself snapping erratically at his friends and overwhelmed with frustration and feelings of utter despair. 

 

Snape finally confessed that Harry must have been feeling his emotions and he apologized, swearing that he would 'endeavor to close his mind.'  That he didn't ask Harry to return the favor, puzzled Harry.

 

Snape turned away.  "You have not accepted me," he said by way of an explanation.

 

"What does that mean?"

 

"I cannot feel your emotions," he snarled, glaring at Harry as if it were his fault.

 

"If the bond isn't working, then why are we still trying to do this?"

 

"Because it will work, once you stop fighting it."

 

Harry sighed.  "I'm not actually trying to fight it, you know," he said.

 

Snape laid a hand on his shoulder.  "It will come, Harry," he assured. 

 

Harry nodded and looked up into Snape's face.  Again, he couldn't help but notice the small changes in the man's appearance.  He would never be a handsome man, but just the slight improvements made such a vast difference, that Harry could call him pleasing to look at.

 

Harry's cock twitched and he jumped back.  "What the hell was that?"

 

Snape turned away.  "You are a complete moron, Potter."

 

"I'm a…wait, that's you?" Harry asked.  "You get hard just looking at me?"

 

"Drop it, Potter."

 

Harry moved around him until he could see Snape's face.  "No," he said.  "Is that why the sex is so good, because of-"

 

"No!" Snape growled.  "I specifically block all emotion when we have sex.  Until you accept your role as my mate, you could not handle the experience."

 

Harry was about to snap back until the statement hit him.  Just what the hell was Snape feeling when they had sex?  Could it really make the experience better?  Harry had attributed the earlier feelings of frustration and despair to Snape's classes, but what if he, Harry, had caused those emotions?

 

"I'm sorry," was all Harry could think of to say. 

 

"Harry."  Snape tipped his chin up.  "We will deal with whatever the Fates have in store for us."

 

Harry nodded.  "I still think these Fates of yours are completely mad."

 

"Indeed," Snape said and backed away.  "Now.  Shall we try merging our minds again?"

 

"I guess."  Harry closed his eyes and emptied him mind.  He felt the nudge from Snape and tried to open his mind. It felt as if Snape was poking his brain.

 

"Do you have your focus?" Snape asked from across the room.

 

"Oh, yeah."  Harry pictured the Room of Requirement again, like during the other practices, and waited for Snape to come in.

 

"Harry, you must find a path to allow me access to your mind."

 

Maybe, it was too obscure, Harry considered.  If Snape had never seen the Room of Requirement…  Harry closed his eyes and this time he pictured a ballroom, similar to the Prince ballroom where they had danced at their wedding, except he used his imagination to make it grander.

 

"Very nice," Severus said as he walked out onto the highly polished floor, admiring the crystal chandelier.  Harry found himself in the middle of the floor.

 

"I couldn't think of anything else," he said.

 

"It will do."  Snape smiled and held out his arms.  "Would you like to dance?"

 

Harry laughed.  "Really?"  Severus' response was to take Harry in his arms.  They moved around the floor.  Soon, like when they had sex, the magic began to swirl around them.  "Too bad we couldn't just have sex and combine our magic that way."

 

Severus smirked, looking down at Harry within his mind's dance.  "This way is less distracting, don't you think?"

 

"True," Harry said.  "At that point, when we're having sex, that is, we wouldn't really care if Voldemort won anyway."

 

"Am I to assume by that remark that you find our lovemaking more endurable now?" 

 

Harry flushed.   "Well, I am seventeen," he muttered, but didn't want to insult Severus.  They had sex regularly, after all, and Harry really did enjoy it.  "And you are a Gypsy…master of seduction and all that."

 

Severus laughed softly.  "Nice save, Potter."

 

Harry grinned.  "So, what now?"

 

"Now is the tricky part.  You must seize the magic internally and use it externally."

 

"How?"

 

"Can you switch back and forth between this hall and the classroom?"

 

Harry opened his eyes and saw the room around him, Snape several feet away, then he closed his eyes and returned to the ballroom with Severus' arms around him.  Opening he eyes again, he said, "Yes."

 

"Very good, Harry," Snape said.  "But you must try to do it without opening and closing your eyes.  It's a distraction that could give away what you are doing and you don't want to take your eyes off where you are.  You will be surrounded by enemies."

 

"I understand." 

 

They practiced that for a while and when they returned to Snape's chambers, Harry didn't resist as Severus took him in his arms.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

The next time they practiced, they tried to have Harry actually use the magic. 

 

"I doubt you will succeed on your first attempt," Severus said.

 

Harry didn't think it would work at all, but he shrugged.  He was still trying to figure out when he'd started thinking of Snape as Severus.

 

He closed his eyes and almost instantly he found himself in Severus' arms as they danced in the ballroom in his mind.  "So what do I do?"

 

"Pull the magic that is floating here in your mind and use it to cast a spell."

 

"Simple," Harry muttered.  "What spell should I use?"

 

"Try Summoning the book on my desk," Severus suggested.  "It will either work normally, not work at all or in the case of the combined magic, it will work with extreme velocity."  Harry nodded.  "So do be prepared to duck."

 

Harry smirked at him and raised his wand.  He closed his eyes for a moment, just to feel the magic floating around them and then faced the desk.

 

Harry gathered his determination, almost like he was about to cast a Patronus and held out his wand.  "Accio book."  

 

Knocked to the floor by Severus' body, Harry was able to see the book fly over him and hit the wall, exploding on contact.

 

"Fuck," Harry whispered.

 

"Indeed."

 

Harry's eyes sought Severus' as the older man leaned over him.  "That's good, right?"

 

Severus pushed the wayward fringe out of Harry's eyes.  "That was extraordinary," he said.

 

Caught in the intensity of Severus' stare and the heat coming from his body, Harry's breath shortened.  "Maybe I deserve a reward," he whispered.

 

Severus' fingers traced the contours of Harry's cheek and jaw.  "Points, Potter?" he said.  "Or are you seeking praise?"

 

Harry raised an arm and let his hand slide over Severus' head, the silky hair falling through his fingers.  "No."

 

"Then what do you want, Harry?" Severus asked, leaning closer, his hand moving down to trail over Harry's chest.   He leaned closer, brushing his cheek and lips across Harry's face, the gentle scratch of beard bristling Harry's skin and lips.  Clever hands moved under Harry's tee shirt, caressing Harry's stomach.

 

Harry's lips tingled, awaiting the kiss that Severus was teasing him with and heat coursed over his body, coiling in his groin where his cock strained, hard and demanding within the confines of his jeans.

 

"What, Harry?" Severus whispered in his ear, the tone of his voice and the brush of sound sending a wave of longing through him.

 

Harry groaned.  "Kiss me," he begged, a fist tightening in the dark locks.  The lips began a slow trek across his cheek, featherlight kisses barely moistening Harry's heated skin.  When they reached Harry's lips, he opened his mouth, trying to capture the kiss.  His body curled toward Severus', one leg wrapping around his thigh as he pressed his hips into Severus'.

 

"Harry," Severus breathed into his mouth, teeth gently nipping at his lips as a hand moved to Harry's buttocks to hold the smaller hips firmly against him.

 

"God, please, Severus," Harry moaned, closing his eyes.  They stood still in his mind, wrapped around each other as Severus lowered his head and claimed Harry's mouth fiercely.

 

Harry groaned and wrapped his arms tighter around Severus' neck, as their tongues finally met and parried.  Severus rolled to lie fully on top of him as Harry tugged at his robes.  Leaning up, but keeping their mouths joined, Severus yanked off his robe.

 

"Harry, get the door," Severus gasped out between kisses.  Harry waved a hand at the door and a low blast of color shot from his hand to circle the perimeter of the room.  Yanking off his tee shirt, Harry grabbed Severus' head again and pulled his mouth back. 

 

Severus pulled up and Harry's mouth tried to follow.  "Ow," Harry said as his head hit the hard floor of the classroom.  A wave of Severus' hand turned the stone to what felt like thick plush carpeting laid over a mattress.  Harry didn't care, although he was sure his muscles would be grateful later.  All he wanted was that mouth back on his.  Severus mouth returned, but the lips were on his chest as they traced a path to a nipple.

 

Harry gasped as Severus licked and sucked, his body arching into the pleasure.  Kisses wound around his stomach, Severus' tongue flicking into his navel as his jeans were opened.  The less constriction on his cock only made it ache more.  Harry found his legs free now and he was able to open them and wrap them around Severus.

 

The abrasive texture of his trousers made Harry groan.  Severus' mouth moved again and Harry felt the bristle of Severus' cheeks again against his cock.  His hips jerked and gentle fingers held them down as Severus' deft tongue snaked out to lick up his shaft.

 

His hands clenched in Severus hair.  "What are you-"  Moist heat surrounded his cock and again Harry's body jolted, the coil tightening in his balls.  "Don't, I'm going to-"  He did, abruptly, his muscles locking as his release crashed over him.

 

As boneless tranquility settled over him, he frowned at Severus.  "You shouldn't have done that."

 

"I am far from through with you, Potter," he said with smirk.  "And I have wanted to taste you since we were bonded," he added, shucking out of his pants.  

 

Harry couldn't help his eyes from looking now.  Severus' body was more toned than he would have thought, although he was still as skinny as Harry.  He had more hair than Harry too, a light dusting on his chest and a thicker trail leading to his erection.  Harry found that erection beautiful, more proof positive that Harry wasn't exactly 'straight as an arrow.'  Not quite as thick as his own, but tall and proud, and at this point, straining at the foreskin and weeping for more.

 

Harry tore his eyes away to look up at Severus.  That quirky smile was on his harsh features - the one that he wore more frequently since he'd found his mate…found Harry.  Harry couldn't help the answering smile that tugged his lips.  "And," he prompted.

 

In answer, Severus lowered his head, his body sliding down to skim across Harry's.  Harry groaned into the kiss, tasting himself for the first time on Severus' lips.  As Severus began a new assault on Harry's body, Harry began his own exploration.  His hands began to learn the feel of Severus' skin, the curves and planes of his back and shoulders.  The press of their cocks as they stroked together.

 

"So beautiful."

 

Harry felt the intrusion and opened for the initial spread of his muscles.  Gently, fingers eased a path for the satiny steel of Severus' cock and when they were joined, Harry sighed, arching and clutching at Severus' body.  He was wrapped in it, secure in a place where he didn't have to do anything, be anyone.  He was…

 

"Accepted."

 

"Loved."

 

Harry tightened his arms, pulling Severus' face closer, pressing his lips to Severus', devouring his mouth.  Severus moved against him, within him and Harry moved in tandem.  Impaling and stroking.  Their fevered motions grew while their kiss continued, now biting and rough.  At last their bodies thrust the last time needed to pitch them both over the precipice, coming together until they fell sated beside each other, breathless and sticky.

 

Harry turned his head.  Severus' eyes were closed and his chest still rose and fell quickly.  "Wow," he said.  Severus turned to look at him.  His eyebrow rose and Harry bit his lip.  "Um, sorry."  He cleared his throat and lowered his voice.  "That exceeded adequacy."

 

Laughter boomed from Severus' lips.  Harry had never thought to hear it, but it was deep and rich and pure and it filled Harry with…happiness.  He smiled and Severus rolled and leaned his head on a hand.  The other hand raised to again brush at Harry's damp fringe. 

 

"Indeed, Harry," he said.  "That was most outstanding."  He glanced around.  "Perhaps we can take this into our chambers now, though, hm?"

 

Harry nodded and sat up, his muscles only protesting a little.  Rising, he held out a hand and was surprised when Severus actually took it and allowed Harry to pull him to his feet.  He suppressed his age comment.

 

"Admittedly, I have a number of years on you, Potter," Severus said, stretching out his back.  "There is no need to prevaricate."

 

Harry blinked.  "You heard my thoughts?"

 

"I felt them," Severus replied.

 

"I thought you couldn't feel me?"

 

Severus smirked.  "The bond is getting stronger."

 

Harry scowled, but Severus' raised eyebrow vanquished it.  "Oh, shut up."

 

They collected their clothes and moved to the secret door to Severus' chambers but it wouldn't open.

 

"Release your spell work, Potter," Severus said.

 

"Er, how?"

 

Severus tapped his temple and Harry closed his eyes.  In the ballroom of his mind, he was wrapped again in Severus' arms as they kissed.  Without a word, Harry wrapped himself around Severus and leaned up to kiss him.  With a chuckle, Severus gathered him close and with a wave of Harry's hand, the spell was undone.

 

"Sort of makes me wish Vold- the Dark Lord was here," Harry said, opening the door.

 

Severus followed him through and closed and locked it.  "Call him what you wish, Potter," he said.  "You have faced him in conflict more times than anyone else on this planet.  I think that earns you the right to call him what you will."

 

"Really?" Harry asked, hurrying through to the bedroom.  It was cold.  "Even Dumbledore?"

 

Severus lit the fire as Harry climbed into their bed.  The bedroom was serviceable, nothing more than a four-posted bed surrounded by several dressers, an armoire and scores of books.   Harry had been pleased to see that it wasn't green, but earth tones. 

 

"The Headmaster has faced him many times, but not all of them were meetings of battle," Severus said.

 

"Meaning Voldemort wasn't trying to kill him," Harry interpreted.

 

"Just so."  As soon as Severus pulled the covers up, Harry moved closer.  "What are you doing?"

 

"Oh, relax, I'm not snuggling," Harry retorted.  "I'm just trying to get warm."

 

Severus grumbled something, but his arms wound themselves around Harry so Harry didn't feel the need to question it.  "Tell me more of the Gypsy lore."

 

With a sigh, Severus dimmed the candles.  "A Gypsy can't receive his inheritance without a mate, nor can he be on the council without a mate, until he gets his full powers."

 

It sounded like Severus had switched to teacher mode.  Harry had to admit that Severus' new patience in teaching him was as surprising as the humor he had displayed.

 

"And just what are these full powers?"

 

"My regular magic will be enhanced as will my skills."

 

"So, will you become ultra cranky, too?"

 

Severus smirked.  "Potter, I told you, the only reason I was cranky to begin with was because I had to wait so long for my mate." 

 

"Oh, yeah," Harry said, throwing an arm over Severus' chest.  "But you're still a git."

 

"That is my normal nature," Severus concurred.  "That I cannot change.  Just as you can't change yours."  He cleared his throat, his arms tightening.  "I do apologize for thinking that the Pull should have made you less than who you are."

 

Harry blinked and leaned up.  "What?"

 

"I'd forgotten that your fighting nature and your stubbornness is part of who you are.  It was foolish of me to believe the Gypsy Pull would change that."

 

"But the Pull has no effect on me."

 

Severus snorted, a hand stroking his arm.  "You are resistant to Imperius.  We should have recognized that your strength of will and character would also resist the Pull, but do not forget, that I do not use the powers."

 

"You don't?"

 

"Potter, you idiot.  Don't you recall saying that you preferred that I didn't?"

 

"Oh, yeah."  Harry was still trying to absorb that Snape had actually apologized to him and now it seemed that Snape had been doing as Harry had requested, which was… considerate. 

 

He laid his head back on Severus' shoulder and smiled.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

December 1st

 

"The Dark Lord is getting impatient," Severus told the Headmaster.  More than impatient, but Severus didn't want to recount his treatments of Cruciatus with Albus.  He had summoned Severus just before dinner and told him in no uncertain terms that he wanted Severus to bring Harry to him post-haste.  Severus had tried to stall, which had resulted in said doses of torture.

 

"Do you think Harry is ready?"

 

"I," Severus spat, "am not ready."

 

"Severus-"

 

"But we have no choice.  The Dark Lord will call me tomorrow and I am instructed to bring Potter to him."

 

Dumbledore nodded.  "Very well, Severus."

 

Severus left and moved through the silent castle.  The time was upon them and Severus was not sure he could go through with it.  The thought of presenting Harry to the Dark Lord…

 

He stepped into his chambers to find his lifemate pacing.  Harry stopped, staring at his feet.  Severus instantly felt that Harry wanted to run to him, wrap his arms around him and kiss him.  Harry didn't though.  He stood still, his arms crossed tightly in front of him.  He was still fighting.

 

Severus sighed, and then Harry looked up.  His eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, making the green brighter and the famous scar was red and harsh against his skin, which appeared paler than usual.

 

Horrified, Severus stepped closer.  "You saw?"  Harry nodded. "You felt it too, didn't you?"  Harry looked away.  "Harry."  Severus pulled him into his arms.  "I'm sorry."

 

Harry shook his head.  "You don't understand.  I can usually feel Voldemort's anger within the visions.  I feel the curses.  But this time I felt your pain too."  Severus' arms tightened.    "And I can feel your worry," Harry said.

 

Severus nodded.  "The bond is getting stronger."

 

"We don't have much time, do we?"

 

"I'm afraid not," Severus said, rubbing his cheek over the top of Harry's head.  He wished they had a Time-Turner.  He would go back to before he had found out who his mate was.  He would give up Harry rather than risk what they would face, come tomorrow.  "The alternative is leaving."

 

Harry pulled away to look up at him.  "Leaving?"

 

Severus nodded.  "Leave Hogwarts, the country."

 

"And how long do you think it would take before they found us?"  Harry shook his head sadly.  "We can't leave."

 

"I know."

 

"It's my responsibility," Harry added as Severus turned and paced away.

 

"Bloody Gryffindor mentality," he muttered.

 

"Severus?"  Severus turned.  "Have you had any…visions of the future?"

 

"You mean premonitions?"

 

"Yeah, I mean, isn't that one of the gifts?"

 

"It is."  Severus looked away, trying to figure out how to voice his thoughts.  He hadn't experienced any foresight of their future.

 

"Which could mean we won't have a future," Harry said.

 

Severus looked again to his mate, astonished.  Not that Harry had felt the thoughts, but of his apparent acceptance.  "It could also merely suggest that the bond is not yet strong enough for that."

 

Harry nodded distractedly, staring into the flames of the hearth.  Severus moved to stand before him.  "We will need to practice."  He felt Harry's resignation and tipped his chin.  "Would you care to dance?"

 

Harry's lip twitched and he closed his eyes.  Severus nudged into Harry's mind as smoothly as opening a door.  Harry was again wrapped in his arms under the huge chandelier and almost instantly the magic began spiraling around them.

 

Perhaps, there was hope.

 

Severus instructed him on numerous spells, using their combined magics, and Harry did well, his only disadvantage being that he continued to need to close his eyes periodically to focus on the magic.

 

As they lay in bed late that night, both silent and staring at the ceiling, Severus wanted to reassure his lifemate that everything would work out, but he couldn't.  He wanted to take Harry into his arms and show him the true love of a Gypsy, but wouldn't.  The bond between them was still silent and Severus fervently wished that, somehow, Harry would accept his feelings and find the strength to save them all.

 

  *~*~*~*

 

The next day was tense.  Harry went through classes numbly, just to keep himself from thinking about what would happen that night.  Severus had told him to keep Voldemort talking as he gathered their magic.  Once Harry had enough focus, Severus suggested he use Sectumsempra to start. 

 

Harry didn't want to think about it, although he did wish he had some Felix Felicis to take.  Ron and Hermione were supportive.  He had told them that morning and while they both shot him worried looks throughout the day, they left him to his quiet detachment. 

 

When Severus stood up abruptly during dinner and left the hall, Harry dropped his face into his hands.  "It's time," he whispered.

 

Hermione sniffled and hugged him.  Ron patted his back.  "It'll be okay, mate," he said.  "Just one more time you've faced You Know Who, right?"

 

Harry looked down at his friends as he stood up.  "Thanks, Ron," he said, forcing a grin.  As he left the Great Hall, he sent Dumbledore a glance.  The old man inclined his head imperceptibly and offered a weak smile.

 

Snape was waiting by the doors as Harry emerged.  Together they left the castle and strode across the grounds to the gates.  The weather was cold and cloudy, the air crisp and dotted with an occasional snowflake.  Severus cast a warming charm on Harry and then unlocked the gate. 

 

He held up the key.  "This has a tracking charm on it," he said.  "They will find us."

 

Harry nodded, hoping that the Aurors wouldn't get there too late.  Severus offered his arm and Harry gripped it tightly.   Closing his eyes, he felt Severus arm pulling away and he tightened his hold.  They appeared on the dusty path leading up to a castle.  Several windows were lit as darkness was falling and Harry hurried to catch up as Severus walked towards the doors.

 

Harry expected Death Eaters to greet them in the entrance-way, but Severus continued through the hall.  He followed him to a small room that was stark and barren of furniture. 

 

"Stay here until I come to get you," Severus said.

 

"What-"

 

"Please, Potter.  Don't question me now," he said.  "Use the time to prepare your mind.  I will return shortly."

 

Harry nodded as Severus left and pocketed his wand.  Voldemort would assume that Severus' would not have brought Harry armed.  He closed his eyes and imagined his ballroom.  Disappointed that he was alone, Harry looked around.  "Severus?"

 

"I am here."  Harry breathed a sigh of relief as Severus walked across the floor towards him.  "Shall we dance?" he said, holding open his arms. 

 

Harry moved into them and they started to sway.  He could feel Severus as they danced in his mind, their bodies entwined, their magics mingling.  Just like Severus had taught him, he could feel Severus' magic; it empowered him, and strengthened him like nothing else he'd ever felt.

 

Like Severus' touch, it was gentle yet overwhelming.  Like Severus' passion, it was wind-swept yet a gentle breeze.  Like Severus' love, it encompassed him yet set him free.

 

"Potter?"  Harry opened his eyes and looked up at Severus.  "Are you ready?"

 

Harry nodded and Severus took his arm and led him through the double doors into Voldemort's receiving room.  There weren't any Death Eaters present there either, which surprised him.  Maybe, Voldemort didn't want any witnesses this time in case something went wrong.  Harry could hope.

 

They approached the Dark Lord's throne and he stood up when they stopped before him.  He hadn't changed at all since the Ministry, and Harry felt the same terror standing before the evil that was Voldemort.  His lips stretched thin as he looked at Harry and he turned his attention to Severus.

 

"Thank you, Severus.  You have done well."

 

"Thank you, my lord."  Severus gave a curt bow.  "My wish is to serve."

 

"Yes, yes.  But you can understand that I cannot take any more chances. Avada Kedavra."

 

In that moment, it was all gone, the touch, the passion…the love.  And Harry's crystal ballroom shattered around him, leaving him standing alone in the destroyed ballroom of his mind.  Just as he stood in front of Voldemort - the lifeless body of Severus - his mate - his love fell to the floor beside him.

 

What was left, was Severus' magic and Harry grabbed hold of where it continued to swirl within him.

 

"You bastard," Harry cried.

 

Cold laughter filled the air and red eyes gleamed at him.  "Now I must decide whether to kill you now or watch as you waste away to nothing without your true love." 

 

Harry only blinked with surprise.

 

"Didn't you know?" Voldemort taunted.  "A Gypsy mate that denies his love or loses his Gypsy is cursed to live the remainder of his days in loveless solitude.  Not that they live that long."

 

Harry knew he wasn't lying.  He felt it keenly, in his chest, with his heart, in his soul.  "It doesn't matter," he said.

 

"You are right, of course."  He raised his wand again.  "Avada Kedavra!"

 

Harry dove and rolled as Voldemort continued to fire the most Unforgivable at him.  He continued to dodge, his reflexes in top form as he cast several spells in rapid succession to try to find a window of opportunity. 

 

"Expelliarmus!"

 

Harry's wand flew across the room.

 

"It is time, Harry Potter.  You will die."

 

Harry panted, his last glance at Severus' fallen body wracking a sob from his chest as he jerked out his hand.  All the love that had wrapped into the combined magic within him tore from his body, through his arm and out his finger as he shouted, "Avada Kedavra!"

 

Voldemort's expression reflected a moment of astonishment before he fell to the floor, dead.   Harry ignored the pain that ricocheted through him at using such a powerful spell without a wand and threw himself down beside Severus.

 

"Severus," he called, knowing it was hopeless.  Those black eyes were void of life, the embers of passion extinguished forever.  He ran his hands over Severus pale cheeks.  Only now, Harry finally understood, but it was too late.  "Please, Severus.  Dance with me."  Tears streamed down his face as he slumped over the unmoving chest.  "Dance with me."

 

As suddenly as the crystal ballroom had shattered, it was whole once more and Harry saw himself kneeling alone on the polished floor.  Severus moved to stand over him, their magic swirling around them as he helped Harry to his feet.  Harry looked up and his tear ravaged gaze met black eyes which were alight with amusement.

 

Harry head snapped up as Severus entered the audience room.

 

"Well done, Potter."

 

Harry stared as Severus collected his robe and pulled it around him as he crossed his arms.  "But?"  He looked down at the Severus he was crying over then back up at the haughty stance of the newcomer.  Severus waved a hand back at the corpse and Harry looked down again.

 

He leaped away as the form began to change.  Within minutes, the beloved face and long lean form of his lover warped and mangled into the small, hunchbacked body of Peter Pettigrew.  Harry pushed to his feet, still staring with amazement at the dead man.  It wasn't Severus.  It wasn't Severus.

 

His head swung up again and Severus closed the distance between them.  He lifted Harry's face with a tender touch.

 

"I thought I had lost you," Harry whispered.

 

"You don't think I'd be fool enough to stay in the same room as the two most powerful wizards in all of wizardom while they duel to the death, do you?"

 

"Er."

 

"Ah, I see that you did.  I fear you mistake me for a Gryffindor."

 

Still puzzled, Harry forced a small laugh.  "But I thought I'd lost you.  My ballroom shattered."

 

Severus nodded.  "Because you thought you'd lost me.  If you had really lost me, my magic wouldn't have been available for you to use."

 

Harry sniffed, wiping his face with his sleeve.  "But how did you know that Voldemort would try to kill you?"

 

Severus sighed.  "I have known the Dark Lord a very long time and so has Dumbledore.  We both knew he wanted you dead more than anything else.  He is not a fool.  He would not try to kill you with me standing there, because my Gypsy nature would first be to protect you.  Logically, I would have to be killed first."

 

"Really?"  Anger shot through him and he scowled.  "So you set me up to believe you were dead?  That's a horrible, completely rotten, despicable-"

 

"Harry," Severus' fingers touched his lips.  "You had to think that.  I know it was…"

 

"Completely Slytherin," Harry raged.

 

"Indeed.  But something else must have happened as well," Severus said suggestively.

 

Harry recalled his epiphany and looked away.  His husband lifted face again.  "Are you ready to stop fighting me now?"

 

Harry bit his lip.  "Do I have a choice?"

 

"Not remotely."

 

Harry frowned.  "About that," he said.  "Was what Voldemort said, true?"

 

"I imagine, we'll need to take care of this," Severus said, glancing at both Voldemort and Pettigrew.

 

"Severus?"

 

"The Aurors should be here any moment."

 

"Answer the bloody question, Snape."

 

"I can see that you are not ready to stop fighting with me," Severus grumbled and then he sighed.  "Yes, Potter, it's true."

 

"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry demanded.  "Why didn't you mention that I'd waste away if I didn't accept you?"

 

"Because it would have influenced your decision if you knew, you imbecile," Severus snapped.  "You wanted to have the choice.  You needed to decide for yourself.  I promised you that I'd let you decide and I wanted - needed you to choose me!"

 

Harry gasped.  "You do love me."

 

"You're a moron, Potter."

 

Harry laughed and flung himself into Severus' arms.  They were still kissing as Aurors entered the room, securing the perimeter.  Applause echoed around them, but Harry didn't hear; music filled the room as he and Severus began to dance.  Moving around the polished floor under the crystal chandelier, their magic continued to flow around them and through them.

 

"Can you be happy now, Harry?  With me?"

 

Harry wrapped his arms around Severus' neck.  "Yes, Severus.  I surrender."

 

Severus smirked.  "I knew that you would."

 

"Git," Harry said, laying his head on Severus' chest.  "Severus?"

 

"Hm?"  Severus nuzzled Harry ear.

 

"We don't have to tell your mother, yet, do we?"

 

Severus laughed; the joy of a lifetime's searching fulfilled spilled from his soul as they spun together, lost in the magic of each other.

 

 

 

End

 

 

 

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