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Chapter Four: The Purity of Thought

"So, are you planning to hex me to death, Professor Snape?" asked Harry, lowering her blade but a fraction.

Snape hoped that his opponent would put the blush forming on his cheeks down to exertion and . . . chill. He well remembered the unfortunate second meeting of the dueling club.

"You drew on me, Potter. I am merely defending myself."

"Yes, you're good at that," she challenged, mentally picturing a certain publican on the other end of her blade. "I'll sheath my weapon if you'll retire your wand."

Neither of them moved.


"Yes, Sir?"

"You might, considering the fact that you have been my co-teacher, have not been my student for two years, have been my roommate off and on for the past four, and have threatened my life on more than one occasion, call me Severus."

"I hardly think that's called for, Sir. We wouldn't want to encourage familiarity in the ranks," Harry spat.

"I'm certain you would find Charles Weasley in agreement with you," Severus said tartly, tucking his wand up his sleeve.

Charlie has nothing to do with this! Harry thought angrily. "Do you think that's wise?" she asked, indicating Snape's secreted wand.

"You would never harm me."

"You seem certain of that," the young woman said, as, unbidden, the right side of her mouth curved upward. "In light of my past behavior, how can you be?"

Severus raised his arms in a yielding gesture. "It is the predictability of Gryffindor honor, you see. It will not permit you to injure an unarmed man. As I have put away my wand, I am now quite harmless."

Harry chuckled wryly. "I think we both realize that's not true."

A slow, suggestive smile spread across Severus' face.

Harry tried to remember how to breathe.

Severus congratulated himself again for the years of employing harsh expressions in his dealings with his students. The resultant emotional isolation he had experienced had been as nothing if one of his rare smiles could so befuddle Harry.

I never get used to how delicious you look when I do this to you, he thought.

He took a step toward the young Auror, wondering how close she would allow him to approach her before . . . .

"Taking a chance, aren't you?" Harry asked, somewhat faintly.

"Am I?" he asked, surprising himself, though that feeling did not reach his expression.

Suddenly, the witch's mood changed. She backed up a step, sheathed her sword, and spun on her heel toward Hogwarts.

"Are you going home, Harry?" Snape asked in an insinuating way. Right, now you really are being an ass.

She slammed her feet into the snow. "Yes--if that's all right with you, Professor. I need to write a letter, and I don't want to go back to Grimmauld to do so."

"Harry?" Severus asked, taking a step closer to the girl. Severus, what are you doing?

"Yes?" she asked, not turning to face him.

"Harry?" Snape asked again in a lower tone, taking another step toward her. I don't know. Shut up!

Harry swallowed and closed her eyes. "Yes?" she almost whispered.

"Harry?" Severus breathed wheedlingly into her hair. Severus, Severus, Severus.

Harry could no longer speak, so she turned around and found herself pressed against Snape. She was close enough to him now that she could discern his scent. She had to fight with herself to prevent the tang of bay and the sharpness of bergamot from bewildering her senses further than even anger and jealousy had done.

A soft, begloved finger slid over her right ear and traced the line of her jaw, eventually coming to rest under her chin.

When Harry was at last able to lift her gaze to his, she found she was looking into a pair of dark, penetrating, fathomless eyes. What is it, Severus? she asked silently in partial capitulation, knowing that the Potions master had won whatever game they were playing, but determined not to give him a complete victory by speaking his name aloud.

Severus was exultant. "I shall escort you back to the castle," he told her simply while extending his arm.

Harry took it because she was certain that she would fall if she did not.

Rallying somewhat after they had walked awhile through new-fallen snow, she observed, "I didn't realize that serpents were charming in winter, Professor Snape."

Severus snorted softly. "I'm just looking for warmth, Harry."

He can't possibly know what he does to me with his voice, she thought, repeating it as a prayer against mortification and remorse, and fervently wishing for Charlie. I wouldn't be having these . . . feelings if Snitch were here. I wouldn't! I won't.

When they returned to their rooms, Snape excused himself to work in his laboratory, and Harry went immediately to her desk in their sitting room to compose herself and two letters.

The cup of tea that had materialized by her left elbow was still warm when she finally noticed it. It smelled of bergamot, and reminded Harry that Severus was a mocking bastard--a mocking bastard who kept Earl Grey on hand in case she might have occasion to come home.

Gods, but I love you, she thought, tears sliding into her tea.

From the doorway, Severus watched Harry cry into her teacup.

Missing Weasley, no doubt. I shouldn't have teased her like that, but I can't stand the thought of her being anywhere near Draco. He'll only abuse her.

And no man liked to think of the woman he . . . desired spending any kind of time in the company of the succulence that was Blaise Zabini.

Death to all red heads, thought Snape, returning to his work with vigor. Perhaps I'll consult with Merta on that score.

Severus knew that he would definitely be visiting Rosmerta if Harry remained in his dungeons longer than it took her to compose a letter. His certainty of this fact made him feel slightly soiled.


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