All I Have to Offer
He awoke precisely on time, as always. Quietly, and with the lights still off, he made his way to the adjoining bathroom to prepare to teach potions for another day. He bathed, using the special soap that protected him from minor burns. He washed his hair with a shampoo he had specifically created for keeping his hair on his head, and out of his cauldron. It left the hair a bit oily, but it was still in the experimental stage.
Making his way over to his wardrobe, he dressed, covering all with the voluminous black robes imbued with dozens of protection charms. His best investment, he mused, doing up the dozens of buttons that were the robe's only ornamentation. Having completed his morning regimen, he intended finish some marking before breakfast. But first he walked back over to the bed.
"Harry," he leaned over. "Harry, it's time to get-" And then he stopped. His lover's side of the bed was empty, with the blankets pulled up and the pillow fresh. For the first time in five years, Severus Snape had spent the night alone in his bed.
He stood up abruptly. Harry had never come back last night. Harry was probably in danger. The headmaster must be informed. Severus bolted from the bedroom, and was halfway across the sitting room when his door opened. He slowed to a halt, finding himself face to face with a very tired-looking Harry Potter.
"Good Morning, Sev," Harry smiled wearily at him. "Sorry, I meant to get back before you woke up."
"Where were you?" Severus growled.
Harry looked at the ground. "Nowhere special, really. Just out, er, with Ron. Didn't mean to worry you."
"Harry," Severus began. "Do not assume that just because you defeated Voldemort there are no more enemies out there thirsty for your blood. Death-eaters have families, many of which would like to see you dead. Therefore, when I wake up and find you have not returned all night, I get...concerned. It does not become me. See that it doesn't happen again." And with that, he stormed off to the Great Hall.
The day proceeded uneventfully. He taught students with no respect for the subject of potions or for its professor. He attended a staff meeting, during which Minerva ranted at him for giving two of her students a month of detention with Filch, and none of his other colleagues defended him. Par for the course. During dinner, his lover mentioned that he would be seeing Ron again after dinner, and told him not to wait up.
He didn't. But he did wake up a half hour earlier than usual, to the sound of his door opening. He stiffened, but recognized Harry's brisk footsteps heading towards the bedroom. Not moving, Severus listened to Harry enter, undress, and crawl into bed. Within minutes, the younger man was snoring.
Severus fumed. What were he and Weasley doing, staying out all night twice in a row? And didn't Granger have anything to say about it? He turned on the lights, and looked over at Harry. He gasped. Harry's back was covered in long, light scratches! Like the kind Severus gave him on particularly passionate nights. He saw red.
He stalked over to the bathroom, trying to calm himself as he got ready for the day. Perhaps those scratches were left over from the last time he and Harry had...he never knew quite what to call it, and settled on ‘enjoyed each other's company.' Perhaps Harry had fallen off his broom. There was no reason to jump to the conclusion that anything untoward was going on. He would determine what Harry had been doing later. With that thought, he left to begin his day.
That night at dinner, Ron and Hermione were guests at the staff table, though it was unclear to Severus quite what they were doing there. It did spoil his chance to question Harry though, as the man was whispering with Ron excitedly.
Midway through dessert, Ron stood up. "I have an announcement," he addressed the staff table. Then he turned to Hermione. "Hermione, you and I have been together seven years. I brought you back to the castle tonight for a reason. This is where our friendship began. This school is the reason why we met. And it seemed the perfect place to ask you: will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Hermione turned red, and looked up at Ron with a joyful expression. "Oh Ron, of course I-"
"Wait girl!" Severus snatched her arm. "First see what he intends to offer."
"Offer?" Hermione asked, puzzled, and a little angry at the interruption.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Honestly Hermione, even I learned about that custom. In wizarding society, when you ask for another's hand in marriage, it's traditional to present them with a gift, an offering. The more difficult to obtain, or valuable it is, the more status is awarded to the reciever of the proposal. Traditionally, anyway. It's just a custom now, really."
Snape looked miffed. "Maybe some wizard families have changed their ways, but any pureblood family worth their salt still holds the custom in highest regard. The better the offer, the more serious the proposal."
Hermione blinked several times, and wrung her hands. "Well Ron?"
"Hermione," Ron smiled, "it's been seven years. Do you really think I would keep you waiting that long without a reason? I've been saving." He took a breath, "It is my honor ask you for your hand in marriage. I humbly present you with this insignificant offering." The traditional words rolled off his tongue as if he had practiced them many times.
He reached into a pocket of his robes and pulled out a small box. He handed it to Hermione, who opened it with shaky hands.
"A key?" she squeaked.
The tips of Ron's ears turned red. "It's not a big house, but it should suit us. We can always add more bedrooms if...there's a need." As he said that, his entire face flushed red. "It's in Hogsmeade...you can still visit Hogwarts and use the library. Hermione...will you have me?"
She jumped into Ron's arms. "Oh Ron, of course I will."
Severus looked at Harry, who was watching his two friends with an expression he could not place. There was happiness, satisfaction, and perhaps longing? Harry turned to him.
"I have errands again tonight. No need to wait up for me." Harry said.
Severus nodded, his heart beginning to ache.
That night, Severus did wait up. One a.m. passed, then two. He lay in his bed, with the lights off, just waiting for Harry to return. Surely he wouldn't be much longer? Treacherously, time kept up its quick and steady pace, and five o'clock came. Again, Severus heard the door open, heard Harry make his way into the room, and crawl into bed beside him. Again, he fell asleep quickly, and Severus turned the light on to study his condition.
Bruises, this time, on his upper arms, his sides. Was that one on his neck, or was just only a shadow? Severus could not tell, nor could he bring himself to take a closer look. He ran to the bathroom, hurried through his morning routine, and was out of his rooms as fast as he could run.
The next three nights passed the same way. Harry would make his excuses at dinner. Severus would wake at five a.m., just in time to hear Harry enter their rooms. Several times, he asked Harry where he went at night.
"Oh," Harry would answer. "No place special."
Or "you wouldn't be interested."
The fourth night, Severus slept on a cot in his office. Thinking about where Harry might be, and who he might be with, was quickly driving him mad. Unfortunately, the cot was lumpy and hard, and Severus overslept. He was the last teacher to reach the Great Hall for breakfast, which meant that he had the pleasure of sitting next to Professor Trelawney.
"Good morning, Severus." she began in her mystical voice. "Well, a good morning for some of us. I sense something troubling you."
"Sod off." Snape relied.
"I am getting a vision," she went on. "I see a dark-haired young man with a secret. I see clandestine trips to forbidden places. I see an over-zealous lover."
Severus jumped out of his chair. "Well, I see an overgrown bat who wouldn't know the future if it danced naked in front of her singing ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow! Be gone!" And he stormed down to the dungeon.
Behind him he could hear Trelawney continuing..."Well, of course I could have been more specific with a full tarot reading..."
He snarled all the way to his office. Overgrown bat. How dare she? How DARE she? And over-zealous lover indeed. There was nothing over-zealous about HIS love life right now, that was for certain. It had been nearly a week of Harry spending his nights...somewhere else. But with whom? As the Man-Who-Lived-Again, and the slayer of Voldemort, he would no doubt have his choice of offers. There was no reason in the world he should stay on with an aging, snarly potions master.
And yet...it had been five years. He had thought...well, he had thought they had an understanding. No one knew him better than Harry. And no one knew Harry better than he.
There was a knock at his door. "Severus?" Harry called. "May I come in?"
Severus grunted, and Harry took that for approval. There was a large box under his arm. Severus froze.
"Severus," Harry began slowly, and looking at the floor. "I need to talk to you about something. Could you please sit?"
Severus sank to his chair, utterly in despair. This was it. Harry was leaving him. No doubt he had spent the morning packing his things. All that remained was to pick up the pieces of Severus's heart.
"I really can't think how to begin," Harry continued. "I know...well, we've been together a long time."
"And, well, I believe that you can only have a relationship like this for so long before...moving on."
Oh. Severus felt that one like a physical pain in his chest.
"So really," Harry continued. "this has been a long time in coming."
Severus nodded, staring at the floor.
Harry reached for the box. "Severus Lysander Snape, it is my honor ask you for your hand in marriage. I humbly present you with this insignificant offering." He set the box in Severus's lap, and looked at him expectantly.
Severus could not move. He just stared at he box as if he expected it to get up and walk off by itself. Slowly, slowly, he reached up, and gently removed the lid. He gasped.
Potion ingredients! But not just any ordinary potions ingredients. Dozens, each in its own compartment, carefully labeled and dated. Dozens of the rarest potions ingredients to be found and some that could not be purchased for any price. Looking over them slowly, Severus noticed Ice Dragon scales, Yeti's blood, Sasquatch saliva, and too many others to name. Most of them incredibly difficult and dangerous to procure.
"How-when?" he began.
"Well," said Harry, "where did you think I was going at night? Quite the rough job, too, I'm bruised everywhere and covered in scrapes. I was late that first night because Poppy had to mend a broken leg. Ice dragons are mean. I've been collecting for a long time, but some ingredients can only be gathered after dark, so I did those last." He frowned.
There was nothing Severus could say, so Harry kept talking in order to fill the silence. "I know how much you love to experiment with your potions, and I noticed how you're always reading that book about rare ingredients. I tried to buy some for you one day, but for most of them, you can't. Even if you're Harry Bloody Potter." he grimaced. "So I started collecting." The frown deepened,
"How long?" asked Snape.
"About two years. If you don‘t like it, you can always sell it. It‘s pretty valuable." Severus laughed internally. ‘Pretty valuable?' To a potions master, this was a gift beyond price. A number of his colleagues in the potions field would give their first-born child for ingredients such as these, and consider it a bargain.
"I just wanted to show you how much you mean to me," Harry said, looking really dejected. "Severus? If you're going to say no, just tell me no. You can keep the present."
Severus looked up sharply, taking in Harry's disappointed face. Reverently, he replaced the box's cover, and moved the box carefully to his desk. He took Harry's face in his hands.
"Harry," he started, "there are no words. You know I am not a demonstrative man..."
Harry smiled at this, but Severus continued on.
"And that I rarely give you many words of affection. It is possible that I am so excited by the possibilities of this gift that I am babbling. But know this: I would have taken you had you nothing to offer. If this box had contained chocolate frogs, my answer would be the same. Yes, my answer is yes, of course."
Harry leaped into Severus's arms. "There's another part to the gift, you know."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Indeed?"
"Yes," Harry smiled. "I am NOT going to drag you back into bed with me and show you how happy I am. I am going to leave you alone and let you play with your ingredients." And with a kiss, he was gone, nearly floating on air.
Severus smiled. No one knew him better than Harry.
He summoned his book of rare ingredients and began research. With such items available to him, he should be able to make up a really spectacular wedding gift for Harry.