There was a unicorn waiting for Harry as she and Liltington approached the boundary between Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest.
"You'll ride the beast to the clearing, dear," the courtship consultant instructed her.
"Didn't you say that you'd be acting as chaperone?"
"I will, but that doesn't mean you need see me, now does it?"
"I suppose not," Harry replied, climbing atop the beast with the unexpected aid of the three pixies. "I feel a bit ridiculous, going in like this."
"Don't, my dear. This evening's theme is 'a fairy-tale meeting', and one does like to set the mood completely."
"If you say so."
"I do. Now then," Liltington said, tapping the unicorn's flank, "be civil, be gracious, and be receptive to happiness, Miss Harry James Potter, and you should enjoy yourself a great deal—oh, and allow Mr. Severus Sebastian Snape to help you from your mount!" she called, as the unicorn cantered off.
True to the leprechaunian lady's words, the evening began to take on a fairy-tale-like air, for the very branches moved themselves out of Harry's path as her steed proceeded down it. Harry even saw fairies twinkling in the leaves to light her way, which, she had to admit, was a romantic touch. She wondered if Snape would appreciate it.
"Probably not," she whispered, as a glow began to rise and brighten ahead of her. That must be the clearing.
The unicorn stopped in front of a great pair of trees with low, thick branches and whinnied. A rustling noise emanated from the other side of the barrier, and then Snape appeared, looking irritated.
"Damned branches," he muttered, looking up in surprise to see Harry as he half-pushed through the foliage and stopped, his mouth hanging open.
"That bad?" Harry asked, suddenly nervous.
Snape just stared.
That isn't Harry, he thought, taking in the sight of the almost elfin Potter as she sat astride a magnificent unicorn, its golden horn glinting in the low light of the fairies above, looking delicate and regal in a leaf-green dress of velvet that was covered by an open cloak sitting gently on her shoulders of the same color, though in a heavier velvet. The neckline of her gown was decorated with dark green leaves of ivy shot through with a golden thread of the same kind as was wound through Harry's hair, which itself had been piled atop her head only to fall over the golden diadem formed by the thread in a cascade of gleaming curls and streamers. Her pale skin was tinged with a beguiling pink that owed nothing to artifice, and her eyes gleamed like emeralds.
"You look like a princess out of a fairy-tale," Snape breathed, unable to prevent himself from voicing the thought aloud, but instantly regretting his words. She'll laugh at me. I'd laugh at myself but for—"
"Thank you," Harry said softly, feeling embarrassed but pleased all the same.
Harry saw Snape jump, and wondered if she had said something wrong—but only for a moment, for she was transfixed by the picture the Potions master presented.
The boots he was wearing—that were moulded to his legs—drew her eyes to his thighs, and she caught her breath.
Snape's rather fit, isn't he?
She had known that his legs had felt powerful, but she had not had the benefit of seeing them in such tight trousers, his muscles outlined, his . . . .
Oh. My God, Harry thought, lifting her gaze from Snape's trousers to his eyes before he caught her staring at other parts of his body, also dressed to advantage. Not that he needs the help, she mused, blushing and smiling down at him, at his hair, which she could see was long and luxuriant and captured by a leather thread. Oh, wow. That can't be Snape. Snape's not . . . . "Handsome."
"You look . . . handsome," Harry said hesitantly, hoping that the wizard would not take offense at the compliment, and feeling a bit smug when he flushed slightly.
"The leprechaun probable foisted a glamour upon me."
"Don't say that."
"Why not? It has to be true for you to think—"
"Snape, are you going to help me down or not?"
"What? Oh. Yes, of course," he said, approaching Harry and reaching out his arms to her.
Harry began to lean down into them and then pulled away, snapping the reins and urging her mount backward.
"What are you doing?"
"The unicorn, you can't approach him or—oh," Harry said, as she realized that Snape was already quite near the beast, and it had not balked. Oh, she thought, completely stunned as she realized what that meant, but recovering as a fit of pique struck her. "And you damned me for it!"
"For what? Potter, I have no intention of—oh." Shit. Damn. Bollocks. Hell! he thought in mortification, stepping backward and glaring.
"Is there a problem?" a familiar voice called from somewhere nearby.
"He's a virgin!" Harry exclaimed.
A rustling of branches occurred, and then Laura Lilac Liltington stepped onto the path in between Harry and Snape.
"What of it?" the courtship consultant demanded, looking vexed. "Do you think I would have put you on a unicorn had I not been aware of that fact?"
"But," Harry said, watching with near-amusement as Snape's complexion almost purpled.
"'But' nothing," Liltington said in exasperation, as she tugged once on Harry's dress. "This is all wrong. You'll ruin my Fairy Tale Mood Philter. Do you know how long it takes to prepare such a concoction for such a large space? Have you any idea the variables one has to consider? Begin again!" she ordered, turning to Snape. "You compliment Miss Harry James Potter—you did quite well, before—and you," she said, turning to gaze up at Harry, "thank him and hold your tongue. Really!" she exclaimed, muttering darkly about "Above-Grounder nonsense" as she waded back through the branches.
"I'm sorry," Harry murmured, not meeting Snape's eyes. "I just assumed—"
"The reports of Death Eater orgies were greatly exagger—"
"No, no, no!" callled Liltington. "Compliments first, and no mention of unpleasant topics!"
"You look like a princess out of a fairy-tale," Snape repeated dutifully.
And very quickly, too, Harry noted, reassured that Snape found found Liltington as intimidating as she did. "And you look quite handsome," she told him, leaning down into his arms and allowing herself to slide into them.
They both drew in deep breaths as their bodies came into contact.
"You mean that, don't you?" Snape asked.
"Of course I do. I wouldn't lie about something so important."
Snape smirked at Harry's emphaticism. Perhaps it's due to the philter. "I'll have to remember that," he told her, turning so that he could offer Harry his arm.
She took it, the unicorn moved off, and the barricade of branches rose as the clearing came into view.
"Merlin! It didn't look like this before," Snape said.
"Woah," Harry said, taking in the view of a pavilion of rich red and green silk.
The great tent was furnished with pillows in the same fabric that were piled around a long wide low table upon which was set burnished covered platters from which emanated delicious scents.
Harry's stomach clenched in appreciative hunger.
As she and Snape stepped into the pavilion and he helped her to her seat, the ethereal strains of some sort of wind music enveloped them.
"What sort of instrument is that?"
"I believe," Snape replied, sitting down, "that we are hearing Æolian harps."
"What are they, then?"
"Stringed instruments played by the wind, thought to have been the instruments of Aeolus, the—."
"The Keeper of the Winds. Yeah, you great show off, I know that, but there isn't a breeze."
"No, and the air is quite warm, or hadn't you noticed?"
Harry pushed her cloak off of her shoulders and said tartly, "I didn't notice the atmospheric charm. I was too busy noticing your being able to approach the unicorn."
"Sorry," Harry said, in the general direction of Liltington's voice, though not to Snape, "but it is a bit of a surprise," she continued, turning to look at the wizard. "I mean, you were an arse about my being an 'innocent'."
"Just because I've never indulged in . . . technical relations does not make me an innocent."
"'Technical relations'?" Harry asked, smirking.
Snape sighed. "Potter, I was always rather too busy to form attachments. What . . . experience I've had was—"
"Wait," Harry said, laying one hand on Snape's arm. "You don't have to say anything. I'm sorry for being a prat. I just assumed that you would know everything. You certainly seemed to know what you were doing the other night."
In spite of himself, Snape smiled. "Oh, I know very well what to do," he told her, leaning down as if he might kiss Harry.
Harry found herself leaning up.
And then a puff of purple smoke appeared between them as Liltington materialized.
"Wouldn't you like to sample the delicacies I've provided for you, dears?"
"Didn't you say that you weren't going to interfere?"
"No, Miss Harry James Potter. That is not what I said. Now then, dinner," she insisted, before disappearing again.
"Meddlesome woman," Snape muttered, as he and Harry settled back into their cushions and plates began to fly about.
When the dishes were laden with food, they came to rest on the little table before the diners, and Harry and Snape set to without further comment.
After awhile, Harry whispered, "I don't recognize the meat. Do you?"
"It tastes like chicken," Snape answered her in an equally low tone. "Do you not like it?"
"Oh, it's delicious. I just wish that I could identify it—you know how leprechauns are about their meat."
Snape straightened and set down his fork, glancing at his plate in suspicion. "No, not exactly. What do you mean?"
"Don't look so concerned. I've been through the contract, and there's a stipulation as to foodstuffs—Liltington may only serve 'that which is fit for decent Above-Grounder's to eat, according to their traditions'."
"You read the contract?"
"Of course I read the contract," Harry said, after swallowing another sauce-laden morsel. "What kind of a fool do you take me for?"
"I did not mean to imply that you were a fool, but why feel concerned if you've read the contract? Did you sign it?"
Harry snorted. "No, I didn't have to—'the Misters Weasley' and Hagrid took care of that for me, giving me the option of rejecting any part of it—it's just that leprechauns will eat the flesh of almost anything, and who knows what their understanding of 'the traditions' of 'Above-Grounders' might be?"
"Pretty much, yeah," Harry said, reaching down to scratch herself and finding that her arm would not move lower than her waist. "What the"—hell! It must be that philter thing, she thought, embarrassed once more. "Great. I did agree to everything in the 'Ambience' section."
"I don't understand."
"Uh, never mind. I'm just a bit hot and I was . . . going to lift my hem a bit, but—"
"That wouldn't be lady-like."
"You were regaling me with your vast knowledge of all things leprechaunian."
"Right. I wouldn't say I know that much about them, but I do know that it's probably best never to enter into any contracts with them unless you've got a contract specialist from the Department of Mysteries available to look over the invisible print."
Snape inclined his head in curiosity.
"Leprechauns are voracious rules lawyers. They go out of their way to entrap people. It's not
"I've quite lost my appetite," Snape told Harry, rising.
She looked up at him and grinned. "Who doesn't listen, now? I told you, the contract stipulates that—"
"How do you know so much about the bea—beings?"
"Hufflepuff's cup was incorporated into a leprechaunian gold hoard, remember?"
"You said you found it with treasure, as I recall, not what manner of treasure," Snape said, moving to pace before the table.
"Oh, right. I remember now," Harry said, taking a sip of mead from one of the golden goblets on the table.
"What didn't you tell me?"
"Lots, now that you mention it. Look, I didn't know about leprechauns when I found the hoard with Ron and Hermione, but Ron did—at least, a little. We were in this very close cavern full of gold cups, and we'd narrowed them down to four possibles when the 'owner' of the stuff appeared. He told us that if we signed a receipt for his records—he sounded very much like a goblin—he'd tell us which of the goblets was the one we wanted."
"But Mr. Weasley wouldn't allow it?"
"Yeah. Apparently, there are three leprechaun burrows in Ottery St. Catchpole, and Fred and George had taught Ron how to avoid them."
"How odd that those two would be cautious about anything."
"Exactly. Anyway, Ron had the leprechaun agree to a game of Exploding Snap to decide whether or not he would help us. If the leprechaun won, the agreement was that we'd take all four cups and leave 'something golden' in their stead. If we won, we'd leave with the proper cup."
"Obviously, you won."
"Wrong. The leprechaun did."
"But you retrieved the cup."
"Um, yeah, but only after having to slice open Hermione's arm to show the little bugger that she wasn't golden all the way through—and only after Hermione made the cards explode a lot more strongly than usual so that we could get out of the burrow."
"Disgusting trickery!" Liltington called down irately, pushing her head through the branches above Snape and Harry and sputtering as she brushed off the fairies sticking to her hair. "Gross unfairness!"
"No, it wasn't," Harry protested. "We left a piece of Hermione's skin—we had to, in order for the cave wall to unseal itself."
"That's all right, then," Liltington said, appearing mollified as she once again made herself scarce.
"He didn't say how big the golden thing had to be, but you see my point about watching the specifics when it comes to leprechauns."
Snape sat down again and replied, "Indeed. But invisible ink? What about that?" he asked, thinking, There was a great deal of white space on the parchment upon which the addendum was written, and worrying.
"They use it to trick people, of course," Harry said, unconcernedly holding up her plate for more food, which was served by invisible hands. "Are you sure you're not still hungry?"
"Oh. Should I stop eating then?"
"No, of course not."
Harry finished her second helping quickly, and then looked expectantly at Snape, who was studying her closely. "I look like a git, don't I?"
"You look . . . well."
"What kind of compliment is that?" whispered Liltington, who was somewhere behind Snape's head. Turning it, he saw the back curtain of the pavilion shimmer as if someone were passing there, and said, "Very well."
"Oh! I knew it! You did ruin my philter!"
Harry giggled. "Shit. I giggle now."
Moving closer to Harry—and farther away from the curtain—Snape replied, "That is a better fate than to be sealed within a leprechaunian gold hoard, I think."
"Definitely," she agreed, inhaling the scent of that same aftershave she had caught a whiff of the day she had brought Winky to Snape. "Do you make that yourself?" she asked, reaching out without thinking to caress the wizard's cheek.
Snape turned his head into Harry's hand and asked in turn, "What?"
"The scent you're wearing."
"Ah. Yes. I do," he replied, in between placing light kisses on the pads of Harry's fingers, which he had turned his head to do. Catching her outstretched hand up, he brought it toward his mouth and pressed his lips into her palm.
Harry was sure she would melt into the cushions and leaned back.
Snape's arm was suddenly behind her and he was leaning over her and their mouths were seeking each other's—and then there was a great deal of perfumed purple smoke between them as Liltington appeared to push them apart.
"It's time for gifts. You'll surely wish to digest your meal before having dessert."
"Damn it!" Harry exclaimed, rising from the pillows and stalking off the platform upon which they were scattered, gesturing for the courtship consultant to follow her. "Excuse us for a moment?" she asked Snape, before stalking out of the pavilion and toward the edge of the clearing.
"What is it, Miss Harry James Potter? Is all not to your liking?"
"Why are you constantly interrupting? I thought the whole point of this was for me to—"
"You said that your goal as regards to Mr. Severus Sebastian Snape had expanded, isn't that right?"
Bending down to whisper into Liltington's ear, Harry hissed, "But I still need to sleep with him!"
Liltington pulled back in amazement. "You wish to sleep with him? Now?"
"Uh," Harry said, hesitating to look over her shoulder at Snape, who, philter-prepared ground or no, looked very appetizing indeed as he sat brooding on the pillows, and then continued, "hell yes, I wish to sleep with him."
"You're a very odd sort of person in your tastes."
"Hey! What happened to your compliments only policy?"
"It hasn't changed. Oh, very well. I suppose you can give your presents after you get some kip," the leprechaun said. "Go back over there at once."
Harry did as she was told, only pausing to consider her courtship consultant's use of the term 'kip' as she was lowering herself into the pile of pillows next to Snape, who had lain back and was holding out his arms to her. As soon as she nestled into them, she found herself yawning.
"Oh, hell," she uttered, as she began to fall asleep. The literal bi—
"—nt!" Harry exclaimed, as she awoke to the music of the Æolian harps and Snape's light snoring.
She was still snuggled under his arm, but he had shifted so that one of his legs was wrapped around her body and holding her close to him.
This is nice, she thought, unwilling to break the moment. Shifting a bit, she succeeded in unwittingly pressing her body more firmly against the wizard's—and the unmistakable length of his rigid cock made itself felt against her belly.
"Oh!" I wonder what that would feel like inside of me—inside of me properly? No, perhaps I don't.
It was one thing to consider shagging a man of Snape's considerable size as a witch, but what it would be like to have such a prick inside her arse, she did not dare contemplate. In her self-experimentation, he had never tried any toy as generous.
"Harry?" Snape murmured, thrusting his hips forward a bit.
She whimpered in frustration.
Snape took the sound as distress and pushed himself away from Harry. "Forgive me."
"No, I mean, you didn't have to—I liked it."
"You're just, uh, a bit bigger than I'm used to, is all."
Snape sat up and looked at Harry in astonished consternation. "What do you mean by that? You said you were a virgin."
"I am," Harry retorted, out of sorts but unsure as to why, "but that doesn't mean I'm an innocent, either," she said, and was pleased to see two spots of color appear on Snape's cheeks. "Ha! You really don't know everything, do you?"
"You have apparently been more . . . adventurous than have I," he told her, his tone as stiff as his prick.
"I could demonstrate."
"Cheeky brat—wait. What? Could you? I mean, would you?" he asked, deliberately lowering his voice to a seductive pitch.
That melting feeling made itself known to Harry again. "I . . . I don't think we're supposed to . . . you know," she said, trying very hard not to blush as she said it.
"Wizard or witch, I like it when you flush like that, Potter . . . Harry," Snape said, reaching out to cup her chin with one hand and leaning down to kiss her.
This time, no protest was made by their courtship consultant.
Harry's tongue tasted like mead and cream and berries to Snape as he thrust his own against it, teasing his way deeper into her mouth and delighting to feel the witch fight for dominance of the kiss. It was easy enough to give way to her own explorations within his mouth, and the two of them remained locked in an embrace of dancing tongues for some time before the unwelcome noise of the harps once again intruded upon Snape's senses and he pulled away.
Harry remained in position—her eyes closed, her breathing shallow, her face upturned, until Snape could not stand another moment of being apart from her.
It was then that Liltington returned.
"Lovely! Just lovely, my dears."
"What?" Harry asked in confusion, as if just waking from a dream.
"You're both behaving exactly as you ought, and I couldn't be more proud, but you've slept almost the entire night through, and you've yet to give each other your gifts."
"You . . . have a gift for me?" Harry asked Snape.
"But I thought—"
Liltington coughed none too delicately. "Is that anyway to go on? Allow him to give it to you, Miss Harry James Potter."
Snape was relieved. He had no intention of Harry finding out that he was also courting her so soon—if at all—for he still did not truly believe that she would welcome his attentions.
"Go on, man!"
"Would you leave us alone—please?" Snape demanded.
"As you wish," Liltington said simply, and puffed off.
There was less smoke this time.
"Good for you," Harry praised him.
I've no doubt that you would be. "Well then," he said, reaching into his breast pocket and retrieving the envelope, "here you are—with my compliments," he added, in an attempt to be gallant.
He knew the phrase from having read the confiscated romance novels of students, which he flattered himself that he had read to relieve the boredom of 'babysitting' brats during their detentions when he had no work to mark. He would have categorically denied finding any interest in the amorous interactions between—and sometimes, among—the characters, had anyone ever discovered that he read such drivel. Although he was currently harboring a suspicion that Liltington's pixies had been through his things during his fittings because the outfit in which he was attired bore a very great resemblance to what the heroes usually wore in the books he had taken from Padma Patil over the years. But he pushed that worry aside as he watched Harry's slender fingers remove the envelope from his hands, and again wondered what was in it.
Laura Lilac Liltington had not told him.
Harry smiled as she carefully opened the envelope, and held her breath as she removed the stiff card of parchment from within it. Written upon the card in a bold and flowing script, was "Mr. Harry James Potter Snape," and nothing more.
She gasped, and the card fluttered into her lap.
"What is it?" Snape asked, concerned. He reached for the card, turned it over and then over again, and demanded, "Liltington! What is the meaning of this? The card is blank!"
"Only to you," came his answer. "The gift is for Miss Harry James Potter, you see, and only she can see it, therefore. That is the way of the given gift when it is yet ungiven."
"You're not making any sense," Snape snapped, looking at Harry. "Is she making any sense?" he asked, taking note of how stunned the witch appeared. "Merlin, forgive me. What is on the card? What do you see?"
The future, Harry thought. It's my future if I want it. Oh. Hell. "I . . . I don't think she wants me to say." How can Snape be my future? she wondered, laughing to keep from trembling. "This is . . . one hell of . . . a philter."
"Damnation, I want to know what it says."
Harry stilled herself with an effort and replied, "It's all right, Severus," pausing for a moment to make sure it was agreeable to the wizard that she use his name. When he did not protest, she continued, "You'll . . . you'll know when it's time. I promise—and thank you."
The Potions master saw the half-formed tears glistening in Harry's eyes and drew in a breath. Very few people called him by his given name, and he, himself, did not even think of himself as anything other than 'Snape," but looking into Harry's eyes and hearing her voice in his mind—calling him 'Severus'—he decided that it was a fine name, his name, and he would make use of it in future.
Well, Severus, are you going to open the gift or not? he asked himself, transfixed by the expression in Harry's eyes.
Suddenly, he did not give a damn what was on the card. No one had ever looked at him with such . . . tenderness before. He decided that he liked that, as well.
Swallowing down his nerves, he responded, "You're very welcome. I'm glad my mysterious gift has pleased you."
"My turn, I think," Harry told him then.
"Oh! Um, just a moment," Harry told Severus, as she turned and looked through the pockets of her cloak. "Here we are," she said, as she pulled out a tiny box and her wand. Tapping the box with her wand, she enlarged it until it was the right size, and then handed her present to Severus, saying, "I hope you like it."
"I'm certain that I will," Severus replied, pulling free the Slytherin-green ribbon from the smoky paper wrapped around his present, and pushing the paper aside to reveal a leather-bound book.
It was clearly a tome of great age, he saw, but when he read its title, he temporarily lost his ability to breathe.
Harry was immediately concerned by his reaction. "Oh God, what is it?"
The book's title was Potions for Brewing to Encourage Healthy Pregnancy in Wizards.
Severus' hands tightened upon the book as he looked at Harry in shock. "Gods, its—"
"Can't you see the title?" No, of course she can't. The gift is 'yet ungiven'. "It's good, Harry, very good, indeed." Completely unexpected—I never dared hope . . . . "I like it, Harry, I assure you of that—although I'm as surprised as you were when you opened your gift."
Both of them blushed at his words, but neither of them found that they minded doing so.
High above them in the trees came the sound of gleeful leprechaunian giggling; Harry and Severus, however, were far too immersed in their own thoughts—and each other's gazes—to pay Laura Lilac Liltington any heed.
The date, the courtship consultant decided, was a high success.
"But then," the lady whispered to Twee, Twaa, and Twuu, "my fifth cousin twice removed—dear Filius—did say that his portrait friend told him it would be."