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The following day's detention for Martin Finch-Fletchley found that young man nervously fingering the ingredients for an anti-conception potion.

"But, Professor Snape, Sir, I've never made such a complicated potion before. How can you ask me to mix the batch that will be used in the Infirmary?"

Severus grinned, and the shock of seeing that gentleman's sharpish white teeth caused Martin to drop the phials he was holding. They shattered most satisfyingly on the stones at the young man's feet.

"Five points from Slytherin for your clumsiness, boy," Snape said crisply, levitating a small broom and dustpan from a cabinet to hang in the air in front of his student. "You'll clean this mess without magic."

Martin immediately began tidying his mess with a disconsolate air. I'll never get this potion right.

"That is unfortunate, Mr. Finch-Fletchley, as Madame Pomfrey has informed me that we are quite out of this particular . . . necessity."

Martin, already pale at the thought of having to explain how things stood to Miranda, experienced another pang of dismay as he realized that the Professor really could read his mind.

Severus settled down at his desk to pretend to read essays. Rolling up his sleeves, he barely noticed when the wretched Martin asked his permission to leave. It took a honeyed voice pouring from the door to his classroom to capture Severus' attention some hours later.

"Martin tells me that you have become . . . creative in your punishments. Perhaps I should endeavor to displease you," Ree teased.

Removing a small blue phial from an unseen pocket in his robes and holding it out to her, Severus smiled in satisfaction. "That should keep Madame Pomfrey well-supplied, I believe--unless you know of any reason why I might need to lay in a larger supply of this particular potion?" Merlin's beard! Did I just say that aloud?

"Professor Snape! Is there something you forgot to mention to me about the reproductive abilities of cursed vampires during my recovery?" Ree asked in full flush and mock horror.

Gods, so I did. Ignore it, Severus thought, not knowing if he meant the injunction to apply to Ree, himself, or both of them. Somewhat abashed, he pressed on. "Did I lecture you terribly after . . . ."

Ree leaned against the corner her former teacher's desk and took the phial from his hand. "You did, but your lectures have made me an expert on vampiric lore, cleansing potions, ingredient knowledge, and enduring . . . friendship, Severus."

"Ree," Severus said, extending his hand to her again, "can it really be true that you count me amongst your friends?"

"I've long thought of you as a friend, Severus," Ree answered, putting down the phial and taking his hand into both of hers. She lowered her eyes and with them traced the pale clean path of his forearm, following her gaze with a caressing hand.

At her touch, Severus lost his ability to breathe for a moment, but he could hear Albus' voice saying, "Perhaps it is time for you to ask Ree why she was prepared to die for you."

Perhaps it was.

"Why did you do it?"

She understood immediately what it was he was really asking, and that he had been able to ask gave her the courage to answer. She drew in a breath as she raised her eyes to his. "Because I couldn't bear the thought of being responsible for the death of the first man--no, the only man--I've ever truly loved."

Severus flung himself out of his chair and gathered Ree into his arms. Mine, he thought, searching her eyes for any sign of doubt.

"Yours," Ree assured him without hesitation.

"Always," Severus choked out before tears and kissing rendered further thought impossible.

Neither noticed the tiny crystal phial gently being pressed against their faces, nor when the classroom door swung quietly closed and clicked locked with a satisfied snap.

The phial disappeared into light blue robes as the Headmaster slowly materialized outside of the Potions classroom. I'd say that's definitely good enough to be getting on with, Merva, Albus thought, suppressing a desire to whistle as he walked happily down the corridor and turned the corner.

"Oh, Professor Dumbledore!" Martin Finch-Fletchley exclaimed as he almost collided with the old wizard. "Sorry, Sir, I was just going to see if I left my book bag in Potions."

"Indeed?" Dumbledore asked, noting that Martin had been headed into the dungeons from the main part of the castle. "Well, I would leave that until tomorrow. Professor Snape is figuring out the connection between two rather unique . . . ingredients in his laboratory just now. I am certain he would prefer it if you did not disturb his work."

Finch-Fletchley let out the breath he had been holding. "Of course, Sir. I'll do that."

"Excellent, my boy. Excellent. Tell me, would you care for a lemon drop? No, I expect not. You're a Bertie Botts man, is that not so?"

Martin blushed as Dumbledore chuckled kindly. "That's all right then, young man. A little zuccarum never hurt anyone."

And the gift of Love's tears is not to be wasted.


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