by Draeconin

Beta: Brenna Starr, aka Phoenix
For story details and disclaimer, please see chapter one.

Chapter Twenty


"Well, gentlemen? Do you have anything to say for yourselves?" the head of Gryffindor House asked.

"As though it would make a difference if we did!" Draco remarked, before his husband could speak up.

Looking over her glasses, Minerva McGonagall replied, "I am not an ogre, Mister Mal - Potter. However, there were several witnesses."

"Did any of them mention why I hexed Creevy?" a rather peeved Harry asked.

"They reported that you seemed to have a problem with publicity," she replied blandly.

"That's why Dumbledore banned that particular issue of the 'Prophet' from Hogwarts, isn't it?" Harry accused, his face slowly becoming flushed as his anger grew.

The Transfiguration professor looked slightly taken aback at his having that knowledge.

"My life is not everyone's business," the Gryffindor said, his voice taut. "Why does it seem that everyone believes they have the right to stick their noses in it, and make decisions for me? At least Slytherins don't get all sanctimonious when they do something to someone! I am so sick of those Gryff-" Harry stopped, shocked with himself. He was shocked that he'd rant at one of his favourite teachers, but especially so for what he'd been about to say. "I- I'm sorry, Professor," he stammered.

Draco looked concerned as he gazed at his husband and took his hand, giving it a little squeeze.

"I should think so, Mister Potter!" Minerva said acerbically. "You are, after all, a Gryffindor yourself!"

Harry slowly shook his head. "I shouldn't have been," he said hoarsely, his voice barely audible. "I really shouldn't have been." He looked at his husband, face pale.

The Slytherin moved behind him and gently enfolded his green-eyed lover in his arms. Draco wasn't overly fond of initiating overt shows of affection in front of others, although he accepted them from his husband, but he knew when to make an exception.

Harry, comforted somewhat by the loving arms around his waist and the blond head lying on his shoulder, looked back to his now somewhat-concerned Head of House. "Just - tell us what our punishment is, please?" he requested quietly.

Minerva debated with herself about which of various courses of action she should take - not about the punishment for hexing Colin Creevy, but about Harry's behaviour just now. She decided to talk it over with the headmaster. Harry had almost condemned his own House - and his contention afterward that he shouldn't have been placed there, as weak as it had been, had been quite definite, and was quite troubling. And since she was concerned about the boy, she reduced the punishment she'd planned. "A week of detention with Professor Snape, Mister Potter. For both of you, of course."

Draco gave her a very cold glare.

Harry nodded. "May we go, now? We have Herbology, and not much time to get there."

The professor looked at the two: Harry, looking a little shaken and pale, and Draco (Harry's husband! She still couldn't quite get used to that), trying to comfort him. It still seemed wrong, but it looked - right; natural. But she had a job to do. She couldn't let sentiment sway her too much. "From now on, Mister Potter, you will bring your grievances to an instructor or the headmaster instead of dealing with it on your own," she lectured. "You will both report to Professor Snape for your detentions starting this evening, at eight. Now, you may go."

Once out in the corridor, Draco asked "Are you all right, love? You look as though you've seen a dementor - from up too close."

Harry managed a smile. "Yours, you mean?" he weakly joked, referring to the prank Draco and his cronies had tried to pull on him in their third year. Then he shook his head. "Just a bit of an identity crisis, pet," he said, answering the question.

"Perhaps you should ask Dumbledore to re-Sort you?"

The Gryffindor smiled fondly at his husband "What good would that do, Draco? We're not living with our Houses, and can you imagine what the reaction would be? Everyone would blame you - no matter that the Hat only takes into account what's in your personality." He shook his head. "No. It would cause far too many problems. I may be mostly Slytherin in everything but name, but I'm still Gryffindor enough to do what has to be done."

There was nothing Draco could say about that, although the implication of his husband's last sentence - that Slytherins couldn't, or wouldn't do what had to be done... It stung a bit, but he took his lover's state of mind into account and let it rest. What Harry had said was logical - and true - so he tried to make a joke of it. "You won't mind, then, if I think of you as my 'undercover Slytherin'?"

Harry laughed, appreciating Draco's effort. He pantomimed a melodrama spy for a few steps, eliciting a laugh from the blond, and then took his husband's hand.

They walked in silence for awhile, during which they neared the hothouses where the Herbology classes were held. "I am rather sorry I lumped them all together like that, though. Just because most of them get on my nerves is no reason to damn them all. There are a lot of good people in that House," Harry remarked.

Draco shrugged. Harry had said that before, but... "I like Granger," he admitted.

"And Ron?" the Gryffindor inquired.

The blond made a face. "I'll put up with him for your sake, but I'd rather not have to," he replied honestly.

"Well, with me not being there to help, he's a lot busier training with the quidditch team. And the few times we've seen him, he's talked mostly about that, and some fourth-year Hufflepuff. So it's not like he's around, much."

Draco smirked. He ignored the part about the Hufflepuff. He wasn't the least bit interested in the redhead's love life. "The Slytherin team has been scrambling more than usual as well," he said. "Blaise says our replacements are pretty good, but still not a spot on what we were."

Harry gave the blond a quick, one-armed hug as they passed through the hothouse door he held open for him. "I miss it, too," he commiserated.


At lunch, a note was delivered to their table, directing them to a meeting with the headmaster in the space between their afternoon classes. Harry and Draco had known that such a meeting would be demanded, and had actually expected to be called before the man before they'd be allowed back in a classroom. As things were going, Harry wasn't terribly worried. Insofar as he could see, they had the upper hand - at least until Voldemort was dead. When that day came, if they survived, they'd deal with it.

And if Harry was wrong, and Dumbledore decided to be difficult, they could carry on with some variation of the plans the Gryffindor had impulsively made after he'd first stood up to the old man. But McGonagall's advice now echoed in Harry's mind, and he intended to put it to use. True, it wasn't in the way the Transfigurations professor had in mind, but that was hardly his fault.

"I think we may want help, love," Harry remarked. "Do you think Snape would, if we ask?"

"Why should we want help?" the blond asked. "I think you did brilliantly, last time."

The Gryffindor smiled, ruefully. "I did very well; so well that we're back here, with detention, and being called on the carpet. And Dumbledore has had time to research rules and laws, and think of a lot of things we probably don't know anything about." Harry had no idea how the headmaster would act; what pressures he might bring to bear. But if there were witnesses he might be less inclined to severity. The man had an image to maintain, after all.

Draco frowned thoughtfully. He didn't think much of the old man, but it was true that he seemed to have ways of knowing things. Harry had some good points. "We should ask, at least," he opined.

Looking up, Harry could see that the potions master wasn't at the staff table. "He's not here. Shall we take a chance and see if he's in his office?"

Harry's plate was still half full. "Aren't you going to finish your dinner, Harry?" Draco inquired.

The Gryffindor shook his head. "Not hungry. I've noticed you picking at your meals, lately," Harry replied, neatly turning the subject from himself.

"Haven't really been hungry," the blond replied, trying to sound casual.

"You weren't going to hide things from me, remember?" Harry reminded his husband softly. Draco nodded. "Have you had any other symptoms?"

The blond nodded. "But can we talk about it privately, Harry?" he asked, looking around. The Gryffindor table was too close. Had anyone heard?

The raven-haired teen coloured, slightly. He had almost said too much. "Sorry, love," he apologised. Then he startled. "Merlin! The time! Tempus!" The lightly glowing numbers that appeared in mid-air, already fading, read 12:43. "We have just enough time to see Snape, then make a dash for Muggle Studies," Harry said hurriedly, standing.

Draco wrinkled his nose at the mention of their next class, but rose as well. "I'm not running, Harry. It's undignified," the Slytherin declared.

"Dignity be damned, Draco!" Harry exclaimed, grabbing his husband's hand. "We need to talk to Snape, and we can't afford to be late to class!"

Harry took off running, forcing Draco to choose between running as well, or being dragged. Being dragged was far more undignified than running - so Draco ran. But he was seething as well, resentful of being forced to run - in his condition! When they pulled up in front of Snape's office, Draco snatched his hand from Harry's.

The violence with which Draco snatched his hand back caught the Gryffindor's attention. Looking at his husband, Harry was surprised to see the expression on Draco's face. "Do you dislike running that much?" he asked.

"Harry James Potter; I'm pregnant, if you've forgotten!" the blond emoted, trying to keep his voice down.

Harry winced. It seemed the only time anyone used his full name was because they were royally cheesed off with him. This was the first time Draco had used his full name, and he found he didn't like it one little bit, especially combined with the tone of voice. The fact that - although he hadn't truly forgotten, he also hadn't taken his husband's 'delicate condition' into account, didn't help. "I hadn't forgotten, love," he said as gently as he could while still trying to catch his breath. "I just didn't think."

"Yes; well, next time, do!" Draco was now fighting to keep back tears. It wasn't that bad, this early in his pregnancy, but Harry forgetting his condition like that hurt. Bloody hormones anyway, making him so emotional.

Harry sighed. He could see that his husband was still angry, and the tears brightening his silvery-gray eyes would just make him that much less approachable. Still, he tried, reaching out and trying to gather the blond to him for a hug. But as he feared, Draco jerked away from him, turning his back. He sighed again, then turned and knocked on the professor's office door. "I don't care if we are late to our next class. We'll walk - okay?" he said while looking at the door. He was unable to watch Draco cry and not do something to try to comfort him; attentions he knew the Slytherin wouldn't welcome in his present state. The next thing he knew, his arms were full of blond, his robes being moistened by tears.

"Did you come to paw each other in front of me, or did you actually have a purpose?" came the acerbic voice of the potions master. Contrary to his voice, however, there was something about his eyes that bespoke a mild amusement.

Draco ignored the man's presence.

Harry looked up helplessly. "I'm sorry, professor, but he..." He stopped. The situation was obvious, and he was sure the professor wouldn't be impressed with him belabouring it. "We came to ask you to be present for our meeting with the headmaster at two, if you don't have a class."

The professor didn't have to think about why they may want a witness there, given the events of the day before. He was the only other person who knew of everything involved and he had made peace overtures last evening as well, so it made sense they'd choose him. Truth be told, he felt validated. "I have seventh-year Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw at that time. But it's a theory class, so I can put them to work reviewing material, and be there a few minutes later. Would that be satisfactory?"

"Yes, thank you, Professor," Harry said, still feeling at a loss about how to deal with his emotional spouse.

"Now, if you wouldn't mind taking that weepy blond out of my sight? Distressing public behaviour for a Slytherin!"

"I - I can't - stop!" Draco quietly sobbed.

"Hormones," Harry softly explained to the greasy-haired professor.

"Get him into an empty classroom, then," Snape ordered.

"Bastard," Draco said without emphasis, still crying. "You could invite us in."

"That will be five points from Slytherin, Mister - Draco, for disrespectful language. However, you are correct. Enter," he invited, standing aside.

Harry was undecided, but only for a heartbeat. "Thank you, Professor Snape," he said quietly, guiding the tear-blinded blond inside.

"It looks like today's going to be our day for losing points," he complained mildly.

"Oh?" the potions master inquired, motioning them to a small sofa.

"Muggle Studies. We're going to be late," the Gryffindor explained, as they sat.

The professor looked as though he were fighting with himself for a moment, and then said, "If you ever tell anyone I said this, Mister Potter, I guarantee you'll regret it; but considering the circumstances, and the fact you're already going to be late, you might want to skip that class today," he said.

Harry looked at the man in wonder. He was actually being nice? "Nobody would believe me anyway," he said ruefully.

Snape smirked.

Draco giggled, then sniffled. "Have you a handkerchief, Harry?" he asked from his position on Harry's shoulder.

Harry started searching his robe, then trouser pockets. "Um... No, I don't think so, pet," he replied, looking to the potions master for help.

The professor looked rather disgusted with the whole situation, but drew a linen handkerchief from his breast pocket and handed it over.

"Thank you," Harry said, taking it and giving it to Draco.

"Just don't return it, Potter," the man replied.

They actually had a rather civil conversation, ranging from their performance in his class to the upcoming Halloween Ball. Somewhere in there, Draco dozed off on Harry's shoulder. And then it was time for them to start making their way to the headmaster's office.

"Draco?" Harry called softly. Then gently nudging the blond, he said, "Come on, love; wake up. It's time to go."

Snape, watching this, was oddly touched. He'd never thought to see this sight - let alone ever approve of it - but it stirred feelings in him he'd thought long dead. For the first time in many years, he felt lonely. "Oh, for Merlin's sake, boy! Wake up!" he said loudly, trying to dispel those feelings.

Draco woke with a start, reaching for his wand. Harry's low laughter reassured him.

"It's okay, love," the emerald-eyed young man crooned. "We just have to leave. It's time for our meeting with Dumbledore."

Turning his attention back to his potions professor, Harry said, "Thank you for your hospitality, sir. We'll see you soon?"

"Rest assured, Mister Potter," Snape replied formally.

Harry understood. Once they left this room, this interlude would have never happened. It would be business as usual. He nodded, to indicate his acceptance.

They called in at the boys' toilet on the way to allow Draco to wash away the evidence of his emotional outburst, and use the facilities. Harry refreshed himself, as well. They paused for some light kisses, and then continued on their way.

"We still need to visit Madam Pomfrey, Harry," Draco reminded him.

"I haven't forgotten. Right after classes, all right?"

"We haven't discussed the Halloween Ball, either."

"You were awake for that, were you?"

"I didn't go to sleep. I was just resting my eyes," Draco replied, denying the possibility that he could possibly have napped.

"Whatever you say, love. But what about the Ball?"

"I wasn't sleeping, Harry," Draco insisted.

"Then you make the cutest sounds when you're just resting your eyes," Harry replied with a teasing grin.

"What sounds?" the indignant blond inquired.

"You must have heard them, Draco. You were awake the whole time, right?"

Trapped, Draco surrendered. "Right," he said. "Just trying to rid myself of a little tickle in my throat," he bluffed.

Harry smirked. "Uh-huh. Now, what about the Ball?"

Draco was quiet for a moment, thinking - but not about the Ball. "I don't really make noises when I sleep - do I, Harry?"

They had arrived outside the headmaster's office. Harry left his husband hanging on that question. "And again he didn't give us the password," he said, frustrated. "I'm not going to play his guessing game this time. If he wants us, he can ruddy well open the door." With that, he sat down against the wall opposite the gargoyle, prepared to wait.

Draco gave a mental shrug and sat down beside his husband, again laying his head on the Gryffindor's shoulder. It seemed like he was tired all the time, these days. He knew it was because of the pregnancy, but that didn't mean he liked it. Still, he was resigned to it. He was going to put up with whatever it took in order to have their baby. But there was still something he needed to know.

"Harry... Noises?"

Harry grinned. "No, baby; you don't make noises when you sleep," he lied. Actually, Draco's noises were rather cute. They weren't loud or annoying, at all: just little grizzling noises, purrs, and such.

He was rewarded with a short punch to his arm. "Ow! What was that for?" he asked, laughing, though he had a fairly good idea.

"For making me think I'd make noises when I sleep!" the blond fumed.

"Well, you're the one who wasn't asleep, remember?" his husband teased.

Draco's cheeks tinted, but he refused to rise to the bait. "You've been calling me a lot of pet names lately," he observed, changing the subject.

"Too much?" Harry inquired.

"I like my own name, too," Draco hedged.

"Too much," the Gryffindor affirmed.

"My mother used to call me 'Dragon'," the Slytherin offered.

It was less 'sweet', while still being a personal nickname, Harry mused. "Okay,"he said, "but don't beat me if I slip from time to time," he said, lightly.

Draco snuggled a bit closer in response, and they settled into a comfortable silence.

A few minutes later the gargoyle jumped aside, and the door to the headmaster's office opened. "Ah, there you are," the headmaster acknowledged. "Did the password stump you, this time?" he asked. He seemed almost disappointed.

"I didn't bother trying," Harry admitted, getting to his feet. "The last time we were here I asked you to treat us with respect. Forcing me to play guessing games doesn't seem to fit with that goal," he accused mildly, as he assisted Draco to his feet. The blond didn't really need the help, but he liked doing these little courtesies for him.

The headmaster didn't reply, but seemed a bit saddened.

Once seated in Dumbledore's office, and having refused the old man's customary offer of refreshments and sweets, the headmaster sat back and looked at them.

During some of their conversations in the two months they'd been together, Draco had taught Harry a little about power plays, so Harry recognised this tactic. The person who spoke first was put in a less powerful position. Therefore, Harry sat back as well, and upped the ante by taking his husband's hand, and kissing it. When a full minute had gone by without a word being said, Harry got to his feet. "It seems this meeting is over, Draco. There's just time to get a snack before our next class."

"Sit down, Mister Potter," the headmaster said calmly.

"Ah, the rude man speaks," Draco said, ostensibly to Harry.

"I believe the rudeness occurred last night, Mister Potter," Dumbledore corrected.

"Quite right, Professor. I'm glad to see you've learned the error of your ways," the blond replied, smirking.

"Enough, Draco," Harry said gently, re-taking his seat, and then turning his attention back to Dumbledore. "You were so nice to us when we showed up before start of term," he reminded the old man. "You helped Draco and I quite a lot. But even then you were telling us what to do rather than laying choices in front of us. I'm not saying that any of what you told us to do was wrong, and as I said yesterday, I'm not disagreeing with what you think we need to do now. Please let me finish," he hurried to add when it appeared the headmaster would interrupt his flow of thought. "What I am disagreeing with is your methods. We need to be included in any planning that affects us. I agree that Draco and I should be tested to see how our bond may have affected our magic, and receive training to control it. But we will decide when, and how often. The timetable you outlined left us little time together. No, headmaster, one day a week is not enough quality time," he said, closing off the possibility of objection from the old man. "We're quite young yet, and we will likely make mistakes," he ignored Draco's soft snort of dissent, "but we are not so young that we should be denied the right to make our own decisions. Where school matters are concerned you have the right make all the decisions; but not where our private time is concerned."

"Actually, Mister Potter, I do. This is a boarding school. While you are here I am, legally, 'in loco parentis'."

Snape's voice came from the doorway. "There are signed contracts from the pupils' parents or guardians which agree to that?" he inquired.

"Severus? I don't recall asking to see you, today. Did you need something?" Dumbledore inquired.

"We asked Professor Snape to be here, Headmaster," Harry informed him.

"Not that it matters, in this case," the potions master continued, ignoring the byplay.

That statement caught everyone's attention.

"I beg your pardon?" Dumbledore inquired, requiring an explanation.

"Draco was granted emancipation which made him, legally, an adult," Snape explained. "He then married Harry Potter - at your insistence, Albus. As I understand it, Harry's legal status was rather vague to begin with. His legal guardianship was never settled on anyone, Muggle or wizard, after his parents' death. But even were guardianship by custom observed, the marriage would have changed Harry's status. He is an adult in his own right. While children are allowed to become engaged in wizarding society, only adults are allowed to marry. You performed the ceremony, with witnesses, and the Ministry accepted and registered the wedding contract, which confirmed his legal status as an adult. The marriage has been consummated," Snape continued with a moue of distaste, "which would make annulment problematic in itself. That there is going to be issue, makes a forced annulment impossible."

Harry's mouth was hanging slightly open at this display, and Draco's eyes were, perhaps, open wider than normally. Professor Dumbledore was looking slightly dismayed.

Harry found his voice first. "How did you... ?"

Snape smirked. "Did you think the only thing I knew anything of was potions, Mister Potter?"

Harry nodded dazedly, caught himself, then shook his head in denial. "I just never really thought about it," he explained, awe showing in his voice.

"I think another time would be best for that discussion," the headmaster interjected. "This puts me in something of a sticky situation, gentlemen, since I am still responsible for everything that happens in this school, regardless."

"I simply do not see the problem, Professor," Draco replied, somewhat sharply. "We are, after all, not asking for special treatment."

"What do you think is a reasonable schedule, Mr Potter?" Professor Dumbledore inquired of Harry, ignoring the reprimand.

The scarred young man, looking at Draco for signs of disagreement as he spoke, replied, "I think we can agree to all day on Sundays," seeing no sign of disagreement from his husband, he continued, "and Tuesday and Thursday evenings?" Draco nodded, and Harry turned back to the headmaster. "That should give us plenty of time to keep up with our lessons, give us time together, and make sure Draco doesn't get overstressed."

At Harry's last point, the blond's cheeks tinted a bit, but remarkably, he didn't argue the point. His pregnancy was making it difficult for him to handle stress, and he'd sometimes start crying over what he could later admit, if only to himself, were some of the silliest things. If he'd seen someone else acting like this before experiencing it himself, he would have waxed quite sarcastic, indeed. So far he'd been able to either avoid crying when others were about, or hide it - except from Harry, who seemed to always be able to tell, and helped by distracting attention from him when necessary as well.

"Three days a week," Dumbledore mused.

"Eight to twelve hours of idividual instruction per week, plus whatever private practice time Draco and I find time to put into it, should be more than enough time, Professor," Harry said, reinforcing his choice. "Unless you have information on Voldemort's activities that require more strenuous effort?" Harry regretted giving the headmaster the opening as soon as he'd done so.

Fortunately, the elderly man refused it. "Nothing that I'm aware of at this time, Harry," he replied. His face had been expressing frustration, but now he seemed to become aware of that, and smoothed his features into the more familiar one of good-natured humour. "Very well, Mister Potter. We'll try things your way for awhile, and see what progress we can make."

As the boys made to get up, Dumbledore spoke up again. "Are you unhappy in your House placement, Mister Potter?"

Both boys looked at him, surprised. But since the old man's eyes were on Harry, he assumed the question was for him. "I beg your pardon, sir?" Harry asked.

"Minerva tells me you said you shouldn't have been placed in Gryffindor," Albus said, enlightening him.

Harry settled back in his chair, and sighed.

Draco took his hand in support, and settled back down, as well.

"We discussed it in my second year, Professor. I assumed the Hat would have told you in first year."

Dumbledore frowned. "After the Chamber incident. Yes. I thought we had cleared that up?"

"I was supposed to be put in Slytherin. I begged it to put me anywhere else, because of what I'd been told about Slytherin; so it put me in Gryffindor. In second year, you made me think that I would have become like Voldemort, had I allowed the Hat to put me in Slytherin. It made me feel better at the time, but it was only putting off the inevitable."

At Draco's look of askance, Harry said, "It's a long, complicated story, my Dragon. I'll tell you everything later, okay?"

"I'll hold you to that, Harry," the blond replied.

"A minute please?" the headmaster requested. He then got up, went over to a large, heavy, aged birch cabinet, made a series of passes over the front of it with his wand, took a large, silver key from an inner pocket, and unlocked it. Once open, he withdrew the Sorting Hat, returned to his chair, and placed it on the desk. This was going to be sticky. He had never questioned Harry's story. There had been a good reason for that. Now he needed to walk a fine line, in order to maintain credibility. Talking to the Hat with them here was a risk, but one he had to take.

"There seems to have been an irregularity in placing a student, Hat."

"Irregularity? I place pupils where they need to go."

"And Harry Potter?" the headmaster replied.

"Ah, yes; very powerful, that one. You wanted him in Gryffindor - he belonged in Slytherin, but didn't want to go there. So, I put him in Gryffindor."

The headmaster suppressed a frown. It was that information - that he'd wanted Harry sorted into Gryffindor - that he hadn't wanted to come out. "So you placed a student where he didn't belong?" Albus said, trying to gloss it over.

There was a shrug in the Sorting Hat's voice as it replied "I said he was powerful."

"Are you saying he overpowered you?" the headmaster asked, frowning now.

"I am the Sorting Hat; not a wizard. He - convinced me," it replied.

The headmaster sat back in his chair, and stared at the Hat. He had thought the Hat had done it in order to comply with his wishes. "'Convinced' you..." he echoed, almost in a whisper. Then a wry grin twisted his lips.

The young couple had watched and listened to all this without a sound. But Harry, while looking a bit worried, was looking a bit smug as well; and Draco's smirk almost wound around his face, it was so big. The blond had now heard confirmation from the Hat itself, and was very proud on his husband's behalf.

Nobody thought to look at Snape, but if they had, they would have seen the man's mouth hanging slack before he bethought himself, and pulled himself together. He had more than half-believed the Potter boy, but had never thought to hear confirmation of the story, and was flabbergasted when he did.

"It seems, Mister Potter, that you've been in the wrong House for several years," the headmaster said. Perhaps if he pretended to make some potentially disastrous decisions, he could get Harry to fall into line, again. "I'll make the announcement at... "

"I don't think that would be wise, sir," Harry interrupted.

"Why would that be, Harry?" Albus asked, surprised to have a student interrupt him.

"It can only cause trouble for us. Gryffindor would blame Draco for it. Slytherin, or at least those sympathetic to Voldemort, would like nothing better than a chance to get their hands on me, and both houses would likely wind up with even more bad feeling between them. And it doesn't really matter now, anyway. Neither of us is living in House dorms, so... "

"But this way you could move back into House dorms together, Harry," Dumbledore broke in smoothly.

"I won't have my House disrupted, Albus," Snape interjected. "The boy is right; that move could only cause trouble, and would solve nothing."

Dumbledore glowered at his potions master for a moment, then acceded. "You're right, of course, Severus." Turning back to the boys, he said, "Very well, then; you may go."

The three of them - Harry, Draco, and Professor Snape - left at the same time. Out in the corridor, the potions master had a few last words for them. "I've known Albus Dumbledore for a good many years, gentlemen. I jeopardised my relationship with him today by balking him. I do hope you prove worth it." And with a swirl of billowing robes, he set off down the corridor. They didn't see his wide grin.

"Thank you, Professor!" Harry called to his back.