|Jai (jairissa) wrote in hp_traditions,|
@ 2008-05-15 09:54:00
|Entry tags:||nc17, severus/harry|
Title: Nowhere To Hide
Gift for: angelmischa
Pairing: Severus Snape/Harry Potter
Summary: After the war the wizarding world concentrates on getting back to normal. It's time to revive some old traditions that have fallen by the wayside during Voldemort's reign of fear. One of those most eagerly anticipated is the Procession of the Maypole. But like all wizarding ceremonies, there's a twist from the Muggle version, and several couples are chosen to take part. Chosen for what? Well, let's say the participants are forced to confront their real feelings. Enter two men who are not expecting to participate in the ceremony; two publicity-shy men who become Chosen Ones. Once picked, they must honour the May. To be honest, when it came to that part, neither of them fought very hard.....
Warnings: None, really. Harry is 18.
Author's notes: angelmischagave me a large choice of pairings to choose from; the one I felt most confident to write was: Severus Snape/Harry Potter..
Her wishlist: At some point, there should be an elaborate bouquet of flowers. There should be a robe-shopping/robe-picking scene. There should be a silent, almost-empty church moment. 3-5 traditions or rituals that you are interested in: Corpus Christi, Lammas, Catholic processions of the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene in France/Italy/Spain!
Well, that's a fascinating mixture! I hope what I've produced is a wizarding variant of some of those, and with any luck it will be something you'll enjoy reading.
Beta: the ever-vigilant H, without whom, as they say...
Read it here or at Livejournal, and don't forget to leave feedback for all our lovely participants!
Nowhere To Hide
Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing,
Fa la la la la...
From a madrigal by Thomas Morley, 1595
"Damn, it's busy in here!" Harry grumbled as they pushed through the doorway.
Madam Malkin's was heaving; every nook and cranny of the Diagon Alley shop was filled with shoppers, all presumably looking to buy festive robes for the first revival of the May Day procession.
Ginny gave him a good prod in the ribs forcing Harry to step forward and let her into the shop. She was determined they should all have new robes in honour of the tradition which would once again become an annual fixture now that Voldemort was dead. It looked like a large part of the wizarding population had the same idea.
"Come on, Ron," Hermione said, exasperated and tugging at his robe. "We can't hang about in the doorway; people want to get past."
Ron's answer was thankfully muffled by the proximity of a rotund wizard in a garish purple robe. He was clutching a Malkin's Fine Fashions bag to his chest, presumably having found his ideal costume for the fertility festival. Harry could only hope it was more tasteful than the outfit he was currently wearing.
The four friends managed to get inside, and once Harry was spotted by Madam Malkin herself they were bustled to the back of the shop, through an archway and into a private area filled with shelves of boxes and Malkin's bags and hanging rails of robes in every colour of the spectrum.
"My assistants can deal with the others for a while," she assured them, puffing and red-faced. "It's unbelievable! Worse than Christmas. Everyone and his dog has to have the latest colour and style that Witch Weekly decrees is just the thing for the May Day procession. No one listens to my advice if I tell them green doesn't suit them. After all, what do I know, I've only been selling robes all my life," she grumbled. "I remember the tradition as it was before the war; it was all very different then. Well, robe-wise anyway; I expect the procession will be the same though, they can't change that, it's the whole point of the celebration. Oh dear, I'm getting distracted, aren't I, dears? Tell me what you need."
"Harry and I would like matched robes," Ginny piped up as Hermione had just opened her mouth to speak on Ron's behalf, but she was not quick enough to beat a determined Ginny. "Green, of course."
"Oh, of course," Madam Malkin said slightly sarcastically. Green was the prescribed colour according to the fashion gurus of the press.
"I don't mind another colour," Harry interjected, hoping to keep the peace; and really, he didn't. Green smacked of Slytherin and he was a Gryffindor, and proud of it.
"Nor do I, I quite like blue," Hermione agreed.
"Green is right for a fertility celebration," Ginny insisted. "It's traditional, and that's what this is all about."
"Well, any spring flower colour is acceptable," Madam Malkin dared to differ with the young red-haired woman.. "Before the war the procession was very beautiful, every colour you can imagine from the pink of briar roses to buttercup yellow, violet to cornflower blue." The robe-maker sounded quite ecstatic, then added more sourly, "Oh, and green, of course."
"Everyone will be wearing green," Ginny insisted with an edge to her voice now. Harry knew better than to argue once he heard it; it wasn't worth the hassle for such a trivial thing as the colour of his robes.
"Very well," the dressmaker sighed. "Choose any style; the colour can be adjusted if they're not green. I'll leave you to it and be back very shortly; I must just check on Verity, she goes to pieces in a crowd and people can be so impatient." She hurried out through the thick curtain that was drawn over the archway.
An hour later the friends fought their way through the shop and back onto Diagon Alley, all clutching their Malkin's bags containing the prescribed green robes. Harry and Ron were glad to be out of the clothes shop.
"If I never do that again it'll be too soon," Ron muttered to Harry as they dawdled behind the girls.
Harry fervently agreed, looking back at the shop with a shudder. "Hey! Is that Snape?"
Ron turned to see a glowering figure stalking away from the robe-maker's shop clutching his own Malkin's bag. "Blimey, so it is! Doesn't look happy, does he, even if he did cheat death."
Harry nodded. "I expect the crowd upset him, he's probably still wary of how some people regard him. Remember, we were luckier and got fitted in the back room."
"All the same, you think he'd be happy just to be alive. Miserable old git." Ron's opinion of Snape had altered little, even after Harry's disclosure of the man's true role in the war. "Bet whatever he bought is black."
Harry snorted, caught Ron's eye and burst out laughing. "At least he wouldn't have to wear green then - that'd clash horribly with his skin."
"Yuck," Ron agreed. "Oh, bugger, they're looking annoyed again, mate. Come on."
The two men hurried after their girlfriends who had stopped, looking back to see what was causing the hold-up.
The morning of May Day dawned according to the script: clear blue sky and the promise of warmth later. Ron and Harry had grumbled about having to get up so early; Hermione and Ginny had chivvied them all the way with the result that they were on time. Still, the enclosure on the South Downs that had been magically concealed from Muggles for the occasion was already packed. It looked like every witch and wizard in Britain was there, all standing and waiting with a sense of anticipation, craning to see if anything was happening along the processional way that led up to the enclosure. It was a sea of mostly-green robes, though here and there a maverick was wearing shades of pink or blue, and one or two braver souls wore darker colours. The processional way was warded so only the celebrants, known as the Companions of the Pole, could walk along it; all of them were venerable witches and wizards previously linked with the tradition before it had stopped because of the wars..
Ron was happy enough; he was tall enough to see over the heads of those in front of them. Harry and the girls weren't so lucky so Ron was acting as lookout and commentator.
"Is it coming yet?"
"No," Ron said, "no sign yet. Look, I'll let you know as soon as I see anything, all right. You don't have to keep asking me every ten seconds."
"But we'll never be able to take part from here," Ginny worried, wringing her hands.
"It's all right, I told you - we all get to parade past it once it's set up," Hermione soothed. "The dignitaries parade along the processional way and then the pole is set up in that enclosure in the middle; then we all get to walk in front of it. That's when the divining takes place."
"If it chooses anyone," Harry said quietly. Now he was here the whole procedure seemed more awe-inspiring than he'd imagined it would be. When he'd first heard about the maypole tradition he'd thought it sounded rather silly and childish, but now he was here... "Why are there no children present?"
Hermione looked at him rather scornfully with a look like pity in her eyes. Harry felt his cheeks colour; he hated that look - as if he was intellectually challenged! Right, he wasn't half as clever as her, but he wasn't stupid either. "It's a fertility rite, Harry, the whole early summer celebration of earth and growing things. What happens later is done in private, but none of it concerns children."
"Muggles always have kids involved, Hermione, you know that," Harry said in his own defence as much as anything. "Little girls in frilly dresses dancing round the maypole, that's just about all there is to it."
Ron chuckled rather lewdly.
"What?" Harry demanded, getting annoyed now and glaring at the back of his head.
"Well, that's a bit symbolic, isn't it? Little girls dancing round a great big phallic symbol." Ron snorted.
"That's enough, Ron!" Hermione snapped. "Muggles just got a bit mixed up over the centuries and lost the true significance of the pole. In the wizarding world the rite is only for adults because it is an obvious phallic symbol to us.. In fact... oh, you'll see." She huffed, obviously exasperated at Ron and Harry who had both turned to her and were smirking now and having trouble trying not to laugh.
"That's why we never talked about it," Ginny said, hoping to change the subject a bit. "During the Voldemort Wars it didn't take place at all; no one felt very festive then, did they? So we never got to hear about it when we were at Hogwarts."
"Wait! I think they're coming!" Ron tried to crane his head even higher; he looked rather like an odd bird.
Ginny bounced on the balls of her feet and Hermione actually squealed. Harry rolled his eyes at them but couldn't help noticing his heart beginning to speed up. Hermione had told him enough about the ritual to make it intriguing, and now he was here the atmosphere of the large crowd and the sens of expectation was downright exciting. It reminded him of his first day at Hogwarts, lining up waiting to be sorted. But instead of an old hat...
"I can see the pole!" Ginny yelled.
Harry winced but enough of the crowd were calling out that she drew little attention, only a few nearby heads turning to observe her. Of course then they noticed Harry, and whispers spread among the people nearest them and more heads turned. Harry kept himself stoic, managing to avoid grimacing at the attention. He'd got used to this, but he didn't like it. He was rescued as the pole got nearer and everyone turned back to look.
Harry goggled. It was tall, it was red, it was a pole, yes, but its top was shaped like...
"Circe's tits!" Ron swore. "It's a huge knob!"
Others were gasping and exclaiming at the maypole. From the top - which surely could only be called the crown - ribbons were attached and fluttered in the summer breeze dancing around the maypole, adding a hint of gaiety to its undoubtedly graphic meaning.
"Every colour of the spectrum, Madam Malkin was right about that," Hermione said, looking at the different ribbons. "All the colours of summer flowers."
Ginny ignored the point, laughing and pointing at the pole itself. "It's dark red!"
Harry felt himself blushing; how could a normal bloke live up to that?
The maypole was being supported by magic, no doubt directed by the celebrants surrounding it. Most were wizards looking every inch the part: storybook characters with long white beards, pointy hats and flowing robes. One or two wore green, but the majority wore majestic gold or silver creations covered with arcane symbols: runes, stars, alchemical or astrological ciphers. Harry recognised most of them from his visits to the Wizengamot, though he didn't know their names. There were a couple of elderly witches dressed in dark robes walking among the wizards; they looked like - no, one was - Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry caught her eye as she passed and the corners of her lips twitched. It would have been a smile ordinarily, but Minerva was obviously aware of the gravity of her role as one of the Companions of the Pole.
When Harry tore his eyes away to look behind the venerable figures surrounding the maypole, he saw another figure following along, her wand extended. She was muttering to herself.
"Blimey, Ron, that's Trelawney!"
"The one at the end, look!" Harry pointed behind the Companions of the Pole.
"Bloody hell! What's she doing there? I thought it was her grandmother who did the May Day ritual."
"It was," Hermione mused. "Maybe the old witch is ill - or just too old now."
"Couldn't her mum have done it then?" Ginny asked, peering over Harry's shoulder at Hogwarts' fey Divination teacher.
"Her mother didn't have the Sight," Hermione said scathingly. "Though how you could tell, I've no idea."
Harry snorted. Trelawney's Sight existed; he knew that - it had brought him all sorts of trouble in the form of the Prophecy. But he agreed with Hermione, most of the time Sybill Trelawney spouted utter rubbish.
"She'll be doing the divining?" Ron asked, sounding doubtful. "That's done it then; she'll be a joke."
"It looks that way," Harry said quietly.
"I wonder who will end up on the end of the ribbons," Ginny said excitedly, ignoring their changed mood.
Harry had a sinking feeling he might be one of them - a Chosen One again. Trelawney wouldn't pass up the opportunity of affecting his life when it was presented to her.
"Whoever gets to take part will get woven in with someone else when they dance," Hermione explained, although no one needed her explanation. It was just what Hermione did and it made her happy, so the others listened politely. "Then they're Apparated away somewhere to honour May Day."
"You mean to have sex," Ron said, leering.
"Yes, Ronald, to have sex in some form or other. But it doesn't have to be more than a kiss, you know."
"Well, no, but everyone goes at it, don't they? I mean that bloody great pole is a bit of a hint!"
"But what if they don't know each other?" Harry hadn't considered it before, but as he was surrounded by almost the entire population of wizarding Britain he certainly wondered about it now. He was fairly sure he was going to be on the end of one of those ribbons, and that would mean being woven in with someone and then Apparated away... where? He was getting decidedly edgy.
"I don't think it works like that," Hermione said. "From what I read the couples have to at least admire each other. It wouldn't work if they were complete strangers, would it?"
Ron snorted and Hermione rounded on him. "Oh, grow up, Ron!" I know teenage boys can have sex with anything that breathes, but most of the people here are more mature than that. This ceremony, like so many wizarding rituals, is aimed at strengthening the Light, in this case the spirit of summer.. Those chosen will probably have strong magic and, as I said, at least admire each other; they will most probably feel much more. I mean," she said, blushing a little herself now under Ron's warm gaze, "they'll fancy each other."
As Hermione had gone a bit red the others turned their eyes away to give her chance to compose herself. They looked back at the slow-moving procession all of which had passed their position now and was turning to enter the central enclosure.
The crowd watched, becoming silent as the maypole reached its destination in the centre of the area on Blackdog Hill, a spur of Ditchling Beacon named for the headless black dog that was believed to haunt it. The maypole would be visible for miles around, at least to magical folk. There was a sense of awe as the pole was seated in the hole that had been prepared for it. The red pole slid home into the socket in the earth and a collective gasp left the mouths of many in the crowd. Harry felt a tingle in the air as of magic, of expectation, and excitement; of the warmth and strength of the summer sun that was even now beginning to heat up as the day advanced.
"Magical people of Britain!" A voice could be heard clearly; a tall, thin wizard was speaking and his voice was projected by Sonorus. "Our maypole is set up, the power begins to build! You will all walk before us in single file. Our esteemed Seer, Professor Sybill Trelawney, will divine those to be honoured by taking a ribbon. Now, friends, let us begin!"
There was a movement from the crowd towards the entrance to the maypole enclosure. Several burly wizards looking like night club bouncers stood by the entrance and ensured the eager throng went in single file. Once inside the enclosure people were in no hurry to pass through; they walked slowly and with appropriate reverence past the crimson pole, bowing or curtseying when they got to it.. Harry thought they lingered to maximise their chances of being chosen.
For a long time Trelawney didn't move; she said not a word aloud although her lips moved constantly as if she was muttering to herself. Her pale wand was extended toward the line of people passing before her.
Harry glanced at the faces of those who had passed through, un-chosen. They looked disappointed, but they were directed to the back of the enclosure where they formed a crowd of onlookers, still keen to see what would happen. When a short witch with a large bust passed in front of Trelawney the Seer cried out: "You will take a ribbon!"
The woman stood still, surprised. A wizard, one of the Companions, came and took her arm and led her toward the pole. The witch pulled herself together and took the first ribbon: it was orange. Her hand shook a little, but she turned to the crowd and smiled, waving to some who knew her. A cheer went up from her friends. The witch was pretty when she smiled; she had brown hair and a roundish face; she looked warm and friendly. Harry realised he was smiling as he watched her.
"I recognise her. That's Nurse Brown from St Mungo's," Ginny told them. "I remember her from when Dad was in hospital."
The people were passing before the pole again, and Trelawney had lapsed into silence.
It didn't last long. "You! You will take a ribbon." A young man, tall and rather gangly, hurried towards the maypole and was handed a blue ribbon. Nurse Brown was blushing, Harry noticed, and he smiled again. He would bet any number of Galleons they'd be together at the end.
"I think that's Roger Blackett, from Ravenclaw. He's a student Healer; he was a few years ahead of us. Don't you remember him, Ron?" Hermione asked. "He was a bit quiet and shy; looks like the pole is going to help him today."
Ron just shook his head, still concentrating on the proceedings. "Bet Trelawney's arm'll ache by the end of this," he said, sounding rather satisfied at the prospect.
The selection continued; when most of the crowd had passed through there were still four places left. The witches and wizards around the pole looked nervous and excited in equal measure; those hurrying to take their turn before the Seer looked the same. Harry had hung back to the end, he was in no hurry. Ginny shot him exasperated looks and finally burst out: "Harry, what is the matter with you? Don't you want to honour the May?"
"Call me arrogant if you like, but I think I'm going to end up there," he hissed, pointing at the ribbon-holders. "When she gets a look at me Trelawney will choose me. If we're near the end she might have filled it up before we go."
Ron's eyebrows rose. "You reckon? Well, as long as there's two ribbons left it'd be okay. Gin will get one and you'll be able to... y'know. And it won't matter if Mum and Dad see you, because it's an honour. No one objects if you're not married yet, not for this."
Harry just shook his head doubtfully; he couldn't quite say why, but he knew it wouldn't happen like that.
Ginny looked even more excited now he'd said he'd be chosen. "I want to dance," she said happily. "Oh, I can't wait!"
"You!" Trelawney was crying again, and the third-last spot was taken. They all craned their necks to see a tall, thin wizard with long dark hair approaching the pole. He was wearing dark green robes more reminiscent of the evergreens of winter than the fresh leaves of summer.
"Fuck, it's Snape!"
"Ronald Weasley, I have told you not to say that word!" Hermione snapped. Then added: "Merlin, it is Snape!"
It was. Severus Snape, Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts and miserable old git, in Ron's opinion, now held a silver ribbon in one pale hand. Harry's knees went weak and he concentrated on keeping a straight face and not saying a word. The day had just got a lot more portentous.
"Ewww," Ginny was saying, her face twisted in disgust. "Pity the poor witch who's paired with him!"
"Or wizard," Harry said.
"Oh, that's not likely," Hermione said. "The festival is linked to fertility; two wizards can't assist with that."
That should have made Harry feel better, but it didn't. Because by now he knew precisely how this would turn out, but he daren't say a word because Ginny would explode. Possibly quite literally. "They probably can with potions," he muttered, too quietly for Hermione to hear.
And the line moved on and Harry was finally face to chest with the bouncers. He felt very small in their shadow; he was smaller than average for a wizard and so he always tended to feel small, but these man-mountains made him feel like a little boy. They moved aside respectfully though, saying, "Mr Potter," politely as he passed.
There were two places left around the pole. Ginny grabbed his hand and squeezed, her eyes full of anticipation. Harry managed a faint smile, but, "You!" Trelawney yelled then and Seamus Finnegan stepped toward the pole, smiling at Marietta Edgecombe who was already ribboned.
"That's let you off then, Harry," Hermione said turning back from her place ahead of him in the slow-moving line. "It has to be a witch for the last ribbon."
Harry managed another faint smile at her. But he knew, as he took each step nearer to the crimson maypole, he knew. And those in front of him passed by and still Trelawney did not speak. Harry and his friends were at the back of the queue, the very back, where he'd deliberately tarried to avoid what was about to happen, but he knew in his heart there was nowhere left to hide. Harry already knew - who better - there was no avoiding Fate, especially when it was announced via the mouthpiece of Sybill Trelawney. The slightly crazed eyes of the Seer fixed on him and time seemed to stand still: the expectant hum of the crowd, the noise of the summer breeze cresting the top of the hill, the song of the skylark Harry had been listening to overhead, all of it disappeared in that moment as Trelawney's wand moved to point at him. And as it did so the sound suddenly returned to the world and time started up again; Trelawney's wand trembled and several golden sparks spat out of the end. "You! You will take a ribbon."
And Ginny shrieked.
Harry had been ready for it; he knew it had been inevitable as soon as he joined the queue. And when he saw Snape chosen... he knew his subconscious feelings were about to be exposed. The process had begun even as he was lining up to walk in front of the pole, to bow before it and be scrutinised by Sybill Trelawney. Harry had to admit the woman was having one of her better days; she'd got this one right. So he stepped forward without a word or hanging back, and walked over to the giant maypole in all its phallic glory. One of the Companions handed him the final ribbon. It was green. Harry stared at it and took in its significance. He glanced across to the other side of the pole. Snape stood there like a statue, upright and staring straight ahead of himself. He wouldn't meet Harry's eyes, his gaze never even flickered. In his hand was the silver ribbon. Harry sighed. Silver and green, of course.
There was a disturbance in front of the pole. One of the Companions had Ginny in a firm grip. The young woman was struggling to approach the maypole, her freckled face red with effort. Harry cringed, awaiting the scene; he should have known there would be one; Ginny never accepted setbacks quietly.
"He's mine! My boyfriend! He shouldn't be there!"
A disapproving murmuring started in the crowd behind the enclosure. Everyone had treated the ceremony with reverence so far, accepting the choices even if they didn't agree with them.. The choice came from a higher power, one all magical folk should respect. It was considered the height of rudeness, virtual sacrilege, to behave like this, and right in front of the pole.
A couple more of the companions walked towards her, obscuring her from Harry's view. Harry was mortified that she would show herself, and him, up like this. Yes, she was his girlfriend, but they weren't married or even engaged. He didn't belong to her. He looked across at Snape again and saw the man's face had taken on its more familiar sneer.
As everything became quiet again - Harry briefly wondered if the Companions had cast a silencing spell on Ginny - Harry became aware of a tingling in his hand where he held the ribbon. The prickling feel of the magic was in the air around the maypole as well, but concentrated on his right palm. Harry was used to feeling something similar through his wand, which was stowed in his pocket; the ribbon seemed to act like a magical conduit in the same way as the wand cores did. It was then Harry realised that whatever was to happen now would result in a build-up of power; it would be strong magic. He felt his hair prickle on his scalp as the realisation hit home.
Harry looked up again and this time he caught Severus' gaze. Snape's eyes looked resigned; like Harry, he'd accepted that something was to happen between them.. He gave a faint smile at the austere man, and Snape's dark eyes seemed to soften a little. Oddly, he got the impression that Snape was nervous.
The onlookers could not know that Harry was destined for Snape. This working was odd, Harry realised, as there was an imbalance of witches and wizards. Usually it was heterosexual pairings, but this time there would be a male/male pair. The buzz of conversation from the crowd was no doubt because they were trying to work out who would pair up. And of course, he was Famous Harry Potter, so that added to the level of speculation. Only now did Harry notice the flashes from cameras which had been going off throughout but were going mad now. He'd be in the Prophet again, and probably Witch Weekly and The Quibbler too, but it couldn't be helped. Wherever he went, whatever event he attended he was interviewed or at least photographed; if he didn't yet accept it he'd learned to expect it. 'What did you think of the performance, Mr Potter?' Well, actually, I thought it was crap. 'Do you attend Quidditch League matches often, Mr Potter?' No, I hate Quidditch, everyone knows that. 'You went to school with Mr Finch-Fletchley, what do you think of the wedding?' The sushi's dry, the champagne's just cheap fizzy wine and the bride looks like a white elephant in that dress. Oh, how nice it would be to answer truthfully for once, to be just as sarcastic as Snape. Harry's eyes locked on the man opposite, and this time they stayed there.
Everything seemed in slow motion, the air around them was charged with anticipation - their own and that of the thousands of onlookers. So tense, so charged was their expectation that the ribbon-holders did not notice the strains of a flute that began to play. When it was joined by another, then by the tapping of hand drums, their bodies picked up the rhythm before they consciously processed the music. To one side of the enclosure a small group of musicians were standing. They were playing traditional medieval instruments: flutes, drums, shawms and finally a set of Northumbrian pipes joined in setting a lively dance tune. The crowd began to clap.
Trelawney walked around the circumference and cried out, "Weave, weave the web!"
Jennet Brown began to dance, she moved clockwise following the route of the sun, and the crowd took up the chant: "Weave, weave the web!"
The others joined in one by one, Jennet's Beau, Roger, who'd been standing opposite her began just after her, around and around, their ribbons beginning to interweave with others as they stepped alternately in front or behind the others. The maypole spun and the world turned, and life was encapsulated, envisioned.
Snape and Harry had been looking at each other, eyes locked, and Snape gave a little nod before beginning to move in the sunwise dance. Snape looked elegant, tall and slender in his dark green robes, and then Harry moved too, his feet following instinct and the pull of the music. In and out they moved, around some and behind others, following the magical call that directed the weave, following the turn of the dance and the spin of the maypole as the ribbons wrapped around its crimson length, making it look like it was turning, turning like the world itself, like the rhythm of the seasons, of birth and death and the compulsion to join.
The music was playing in a round; each instrument began the tune at a different point, weaving the music into a patterned whole just as the dancers wove the ribbons and the magic wove power.. The crowd clapped and called out and the power built higher as they joined their voices and the sounds of the hands to the musician's lead. Harry's eyes remained locked on Severus throughout, he was only peripherally aware of what they, the dancers, were creating.
It was the same for all of them, their eyes had already sought their partners and their steps wove the ribbons so they gradually closed on one other, exchanging places around the pole as if they were the stars dancing through space. The pattern of colours being woven around the pole changed, its regularity disrupted now as colours converged on each other.
How long the process took the dancers would not have been able to say, but the onlookers knew it happened gradually, the changes subtle. They watched carefully, only slowly seeing the pairs approaching, like planets on their courses that meet in conjunction after different lengths of time. Planets may take years, or centuries on their dances, but their conjunction was inevitable, ordained. It was Fate that ruled here today; Fate had used the Seer as her vessel, and Fate directed the music and the steps of the dancers. As they all approached, the first to join was the pair who had started the dance. Jennet and Roger danced close to each other, their woven ribbons of orange and blue were striking in the bright light of the morning, pulling them tight, holding them as a pair. They were pulled close to the pole and their final turn wrapped the remaining ribbon around the crimson column. Roger smiled at his Jennet as they were pulled close to the pole.
And then they were gone. If it was normal Apparition, magically directed by others, it was silent, for the music continued uninterrupted, and the crowd, after a gasp and a break in their rhythm, took up the cry again with renewed urgency. "Weave, weave the web! The web!"
Harry had seen the couple approach the pole, unable to ignore it as it was so close to him and so charged with significance. When they vanished he looked surprised, then alarmed. His eyes turned to Severus and what he saw there calmed him; his faltering steps regained their confidence and danced the dance the pipes dictated. The soft voice of the flute seemed to whisper its praise.
"Where do they go?" Ron asked, turning to Hermione, the fount of all knowledge.
"I've no idea," she admitted. "No one says. It's personal, sacred. It's just not for us to know."
Ron looked disturbed. "But 'Mione, Harry's dancing with Snape!"
Hermione smiled at him and patted his hand. "Yes, he is."
Ron goggled at her, rendered speechless by her attitude. "But Ginny..."
"Ginny disgraced herself, Ron; I think they've taken her to Auror headquarters for a talking-to. She might get off with a warning, but honestly, she should have known better. This isn't some cosy folk dance - it's powerful fertility magic directed by the very magic and gods of the land. You don't upset them."
Ron's shoulders slumped. "She's lost him then."
"I don't know that she ever really had him," Hermione replied, looking back at the dancers and her friend in particular. "He's always been linked to Snape; it's always been strong."
"He hates him." Ron's mind was whirling, unable to accept the evidence of his own eyes.
"No - not since the war. Not before then, probably. Harry realised all Snape had done for Dumbledore. I think whatever had to be forgiven probably has been a while ago."
The dance continued, the piper played and the couples conjoined, finally pulled close to the pole, woven around with ribbons of Light and power. And then they vanished.
And then there were two. Two special dancers, first because they were two men. Two special dancers, because they were acknowledged heroes of the last Voldemort War. Two special dancers, powerful wizards, powerfully attracted and admitting it at last. Eyes locked, hearts pounding, they drew together. The crowd held its collective breath, the music stopped as they were woven to the pole, green and silver, the colours of Slytherin, still largely unaccepted in the wizarding world. They were close, just looking at each other, not smiling as Jennet and Roger had been. Severus Snape was a dignified figure, and Harry Potter was aware of the significance of this moment.
And they were gone.
"Well, bugger!" Ron said, staring at the woven coloured ribbons, their short ends dancing in the summer breeze.
"Ronald!" Hermione chided, knowing it was pointless but having to do it anyway. Someone had to maintain good behaviour in their relationship, and it certainly wasn't going to be Ron.
"Oh, gods," Ron moaned, "he's not supposed to be with a man. Please, no."
Hermione looked rather surprised now. "Are you more bothered that he's with someone else besides Ginny, or that it's a man?" Her voice held a dangerous edge which Ron was too upset to notice.
"Look, I never wanted him to be with a man. I'm scared, Hermione."
Hermione frowned, perplexed. "Of him preferring men?"
Ron nodded. "Yeah, and of losing him as a mate. He's not like that - he's never been interested in men before. I know Harry; I've been with him since we started Hogwarts. First it was Cho, then Ginny; there weren't any blokes."
Hermione frowned, casting her mind back to their schooldays. "There was Cedric."
"Well, he idolised him during fourth year; if Cedric had offered I think Harry would have gone out with him."
"Did he?" Ron looked more confused, obviously struggling to remember any clues to what Hermione seemed to have seen in their interaction. He shook his head, failing. "Look, I idolised Krum for a while, at least until you went out with him." Hermione glared but Ron continued seamlessly, "It didn't mean anything. It's just a normal teenage phase."
Hermione looked doubtful now. "You know he was always rather obsessed with Snape; they've definitely got an intense relationship."
"Yeah, one of hatred," Ron said again.
"It's a fine line between love and hate."
"Who the hell said that? What a crock of shit!" Ron waved his arms around, agitated.
"Ron! Will you calm down and mind your language!"
So Ron threw up his hands in surrender. "Look, it hardly matters now. They've gone Merlin-knows-where and they'll be having sex. It's done and Ginny's single again, and Harry's going to change, you wait and see. Oh, bugger it! Why don't we just go and have a pint or two in the beer tent. None of us know what's going on, so it's pointless worrying about it. I'll worry about the real meaning of it all when he gets back."
Hermione took his proffered arm, hoping Ron would calm down when he'd had a little while to consider. They walked off in the direction of the refreshment tent. Ginny's absence was a yawning void, but Ron was right, they'd all have to re-evaluate their relationships when Harry and Snape got back. And perhaps it was better this way, better than a messy, slow break-up later, because if Harry had always denied this attraction it would have come out eventually, perhaps as resentment towards Ginny.
Severus and Harry felt the slightest of tugs as their realities changed from being on a hilltop in England to... well, it could have been anywhere.
They were in a room, empty of furniture and silent.. Sunlight streamed in through tall, multi-coloured stained-glass windows showing summer landscapes. The walls were of plain stone but the room was full - full of flowers and their beautiful scent. There were tall vases, smaller ones set in niches around the walls, large pots with tall, growing plants and small trees.. Garlands surrounded them, suspended from the walls and the ceiling. The space felt vibrant with the energy of growing things, all the power of the Earth in early summer.
The heady scents made Harry pause; he didn't speak or move, just stood and breathed it in, taking in the atmosphere of this quiet, sunny room. He closed his eyes so he could really feel it, and his breathing slowed. As Harry stood there he felt covered in a blanket of calm, a feeling of such goodness that all his questions about where he was and what was to happen next seemed irrelevant, or at the least easily delayed. He didn't want to interrupt this feeling.
And when it ended - that precious moment that might have been a second or an hour - it was broken by a noise behind him. A sigh.
Harry opened his eyes and turned, Snape was standing behind him and when their gazes met Snape held out his hand.
"Come, we must be together here."
Harry stepped forward and took the hand; the long pale fingers wrapped around his own and again the scene changed. It was disorienting, though Harry had somehow expected something to happen, for the flower-filled room had felt like a holy space, but not a place where the thing that would happen next would take place. And so here they were, very much in a place whose function was clear. It was a bedroom.
There were still flowers in this room, though not so many. There were bottles of wine and other drinks on a table set with glasses and plates of finger food. Harry walked over and helped himself to some cheese and crackers, suddenly feeling ravenous. Severus meanwhile opened a bottle of white wine.
"Would you like some, Harry?"
Harry didn't stop to question the way they were interacting, the naturalness of it all. He and Snape had worked together before now and also met in social settings. They'd been polite if remaining distant enough, but their eyes had always held each other's gaze awhile, wherever they were. Now they could indulge that urge without others watching them, without the need to comply with some social etiquette that would constrain them.
Severus brushed Harry's fingers as he passed over the glass of wine to the young man. "I've wanted you for a long while now, Harry."
Harry shivered inside at the tone of Snape's deep voice, at the touch of his fingers. At what it was the man was telling him.
"I've never had a man before, never been with one at all," Harry admitted shyly.
"I will take care of you, I promise." Severus' deep voice and the expression in his dark eyes made harry shiver. He sipped his wine, which slipped down his throat and gave him a feeling of steadiness.
But when Severus spoke again, Harry's calm was shattered. "Have you had sex at all?"
Harry blushed. "Well, not really, not going the whole way. I mean, me and Ginny have kissed and petted, but not the whole thing."
Severus winced at Harry's grammar, but didn't correct it. Now was not the time for his schoolmasterly role. "It doesn't matter, as I said, I will take care of you." He took the final step then; closing the distance between them he took Harry's glass and put it and his own aside before turning back and pulling Harry into a close embrace. Looking down at the younger man he held his gaze, his eyes serious and implacable. Harry gave the slightest of nods, acknowledging what came next, permitting it.
When it began Harry melted into the warmth of the kiss, overwhelmed by the difference of this kiss from all his kisses with Ginny. Those had become routine of late, he'd even started avoiding anything more than a peck on the cheek, but this...
Severus was taller than him; Harry felt swept up, enclosed, kept safe, and rather to his surprise he liked it very much. Years and years of being the one who had to have the ideas, to be the leader, damn it, to save everyone else, were forgotten as he let the older man dictate their actions. Harry opened to him and Severus delved into his mouth, his lips and tongue moving purposefully, tracing and tasting Harry.
Severus pulled back a little and looked down into Harry's eyes, questioning this. Harry had melted into his kiss and Severus was surprised by it; he'd expected some fight. "Is this all right?"
"Yes," Harry's voice was a little breathless. "Gods, yes. It's perfect."
Severus' doubts were banished and he pulled Harry close for another kiss. He'd not felt so enthusiastic, so delicious a response from any man before. He'd not had a lover in recent years, turning down a couple of old lovers who'd come back to try their luck with the newly-respectable Deputy Headmaster. Those men hadn't been so keen in the past; their kisses, if granted, had been mean things, holding back more than they gave. But Harry, who'd never kissed a man before, was mind-blowing. His responses were obviously instinctive and generous; their responses to each other meshed together like their bodies fitted - despite their differences in personality and height it was perfect. Perfect for Severus to gather Harry into his arms and lead him where he wanted to go, perfect for Harry to accept that lead and be taken wherever it went. To that place where, it now seemed, they both wanted to go.
Harry felt Severus turning, stepping back towards the bed. He pulled back and looked up into Snape's deep, dark eyes. "It just feels so right," he said, sounding rather overwhelmed as he was lost in those dark tunnels, fathomless with no way out.
"It's meant to be, Harry, never worry." Snape's voice was mesmerising, deep as his eyes, and just as inescapable. It delved through Harry's bones into his soul. "The magic that chooses us doesn't get it wrong, Harry. It reads our hearts.
"However, I must confess to being surprised about you," Severus continued with a crooked grin. "I had given up hopes of being able to tell you my feelings. You were too young, then you were away destroying a Dark Lord, and then you were back but you were with Miss Weasley; I thought your preference was clear."
"I didn't know what I wanted, that's obvious now," Harry admitted shakily. "I just wondered why it never felt right; I thought there was something wrong with me, that I couldn't commit to anyone." He swallowed, his throat giving an audible click, then decided he had to admit the truth, because this was a place for truth if anywhere was, a place where his heart and emotions were stripped bare. "I thought I couldn't love."
Severus lifted his fingers to trace Harry's cheek. "There was no time for you then, for your wants and your needs. I do understand, for my life has been the same. I had time, but my path led me away from the opportunity. Not until now have I had chance to think of a future, and by then you were gone, or so I feared."
"I didn't think you liked men," Harry said, sounding confused. "You loved my mum."
"I did. She was my only true friend, Harry. And yes, I loved her, and I thought it was romantic back then, but with hindsight I'm not so sure. My mature adult preference has always been for my own sex."
"And yet you never settled with one person."
"No. Being a well-known Death Eater - whatever Albus might have said - was not conducive to being sought out as a partner. The only choices I was offered were bad ones."
"It was not your doing. I have long known that you, Harry, are the solution and not the problem; you always have been."
Harry reached up and kissed Severus then, relishing the feel of his ex-professor's hard body. There were no soft breasts getting in the way; Harry could press close and run his hands up and down the strong, slender back. It was so good that Harry thought he could happily do this, just this, touching and kissing Severus for hours. Until Severus flipped him down onto the bed.
Harry landed on his back, his legs hanging half off the bed. Severus loomed over him, smirking. "Damn!" Harry admitted.
"No, I was just a bit surprised, that's all. You don't stand on ceremony."
"Would you prefer it if I took you for a moonlit walk, perhaps? Or whispered sweet nothings in your ear for an hour or two?"
Harry glared. "No thanks. I've had to do enough of that and frankly, it gets boring."
"Just so. You want me," Severus said and his voice had gone deeper. He ran his hand down Harry's chest, and further until he encountered the hardness of Harry's cock.
Harry gasped. "Yeah," he admitted raggedly. "Yeah, just a bit." And then he mirrored Severus' gesture and gasped in pleasure when he found a mirroring hardness standing proud over Severus' belly. "Oh, yeah."
"Lost your vocabulary, I see. You were never noted for erudition."
"And you could never use simple words when obscure ones could be found."
"Which, naturally, is all the time," Severus smirked, but his expression morphed to one of surprise when Harry squeezed the cock resting beneath his hand.
"I don't think this is a time for talking, do you?" Harry said, and his voice, too, had deepened with desire.
Severus slid out his wand, pointed it at himself and divested himself of his dark green ceremonial robe, Madam Malkin's finest. He turned the wand on Harry, who watched him calmly. Questions of trust did not arise between them; they were old comrades in arms as they now appreciated.
Severus crawled onto the bed and gestured for Harry to join him in the centre, patting the space beside him. Harry, a little to his surprise, felt no embarrassment at his body being revealed. The warmth of Severus' gaze left Harry in no doubt that he liked what he saw. And Harry, hungrily looking at Severus' torso and especially at his cock, could only agree with the sentiment. He wrapped his arms around Severus and pulled him close, lifting his head for another kiss, which the older man willing gave.
Severus let his hands map Harry's back and shoulders; they kissed, and all the while Severus appreciated the young man's muscles beneath his hands. He whispered in Harry's ear: "You're delightful. I see you've been exercising."
Harry chuckled. "Yes, Auror training's quite intense. By the time the day's finished I can usually do nothing but collapse into bed. To sleep, you git!" he added, grinning at Severus' raised eyebrow.
"Hm. I'm surprised that's all you do; you're very attractive. I would find it hard to keep my hands from you if you collapsed within my reach. Merlin knows, you were enough of a temptation when you were younger, but now..."
"I was?" Harry interrupted.
After that one, deeply growled word, Severus spoke no more for a while, instead making his meaning plain with lips, tongue and the excited touches of his questing hands.. Harry could only moan into his mouth at the waves of heat those touches created, thrusting his hips forward to show Severus his need.
Severus worked his way down Harry's body, appreciating the swell of his pectoral muscles before pausing to linger awhile at his nipples. Severus played with them with tongue and fingertips.
Harry responded by tracing the lines of Severus' lean back, feeling the puckered patterns of old scars beneath his sensitive fingers. A wave of emotion surged through Harry at the realisation of what he was feeling and he held Severus close, determined to protect him from now on, that no one would hurt him anymore. The threat of Voldemort was gone, but Harry was determined that no one else would harm Severus, whether by physical attack or the sharp slander of wicked tongues. Severus was largely accepted by their society these days, but there was still a residual faction that was suspicious of his motives and his Death Eater past. Harry wasn't going to put up with that anymore; he would be outspoken in his approval of Severus Snape, whether by word, or, he rather hoped, by the deed of being with him.
Harry knew, even as they lay there enjoying each other, feeling at the same time both desperate in their desire and languorous in the rightness of the feeling of being together, that everything had changed for him as he walked up to the maypole. Severus' dark head lowered further and Harry looked down to where Severus was tonguing his navel. Ginny was a thing of the past; the tradition they'd honoured today had done what Harry had been working himself up to do: to break up with her. Instead, he would be with Severus from now on. He wanted that, realised he'd wanted it for the longest time but hadn't admitted it to himself, going along with everyone else's expectations for his future. Harry knew the professor was alone, that he was still single, and he knew he had a chance. If Severus would accept him...
Just as Harry was worrying about what this rush of feeling, of these emotions, might all mean, accepted what in fact he wanted it to mean, Severus gripped his hips, pinning him against the bed and reached his cock. Then he took it inside his mouth, and the sudden perfection of heat and wetness shocked Harry from his thoughts. "Oh, Severus, that's so good!"
And it was. Harry had only had one blowjob before, and that was from Ginny. She had been willing enough but lacking in technique. Severus obviously knew how to do this well. The suction was mind-blowing, and Harry panted before crying: "Gods!"
Severus smiled, his lips quirking and sending a shivery feeling into Harry's cock. Harry couldn't help smiling back down at him, at the sight of that dark head nestled against his lower body. The feelings continued, the intense suction and pleasure, and Harry's legs flopped wider apart to accommodate Severus comfortably in the cradle of his legs.
Severus was loving the opportunity to finally taste Harry; the warmth of Harry's cock in his mouth, filling it, so strikingly present inside him, part of him. His. Severus' mouth was full of saliva and he worked the cock with delicious suckling noises. How long had he dreamed of this, of having Harry beneath him? Too long, far too long for decorum, but now, just when he'd talked himself into the sad acceptance that Harry was with the Weasley girl, he had another chance. And Severus intended to show Harry that they were good together: perfect.
Harry was melting under Severus' hands and mouth, his limbs relaxing into the bedding even as his cock was hardening further; there was nowhere to go, Severus had him pinned with strong hands on his hips.
Severus had no intention of penetrating Harry on this, their first encounter; the boy was obviously a virgin with men - and very inexperienced in any other way if Severus was any judge. No, he'd take his time, introducing Harry to such delights he'd never dreamed of, winning him with pleasure.
"Severus, oh, Merlin, that's good!" Harry moaned. He had no idea how to tell the man how good it was, it was so far beyond the scope of what he'd ever felt before - how perfect it was having Severus there, going down on him. He whimpered a little at the thought. If they could be together, spend time together from now on, there would be more of this. And Harry could show Severus his appreciation, as he very much wanted to. But right now he was too boneless to do anything except moan his pleasure to the rafters.
Severus felt Harry's hands in his hair, clasping the sides of his head. He was so hard himself, his nostrils full of Harry's scent, his mouth full of Harry's taste. He rubbed his hips back and forth, rutting against the bedding, needing the friction. Harry's body beneath him was warm and tempting and Severus turned his hips toward it, feeling Harry's leg alongside his cock. Flesh, the firm, warm, muscular flesh of Harry's calf. Severus began to rub more vigorously. He heard Harry gasp at the feeling, and wondered just how it felt to him, what the young man would think of having Severus Snape rubbing himself off against his leg. And then the thought fled, disappearing into nothingness as his brain was flooded with sensation and his mouth with Harry's come.
Harry's eyes were screwed tight shut as he spasmed again and again, shooting his semen into Severus' mouth, down his throat, feeling the rhythmic, determined swallows as the man took it all into himself. Ginny had pulled away from him as soon as he started to come, spitting out the bitter fluid, complaining about the taste, but Severus took it, all of it, and he seemed to enjoy it. Harry moaned as that realisation hit him, that Severus wanted all of him, every part of him, however basic, however earthy or potentially unpleasant. The man wanted him.
Harry cracked open his eyes and looked down to see dark, dark eyes glittering up at him. And then he discovered that his leg was wet, his calf coated in warm fluid.
Severus let Harry's cock slide from his mouth, treating it to a few gentle swipes to clean the final traces of his orgasm. The sight was amazing, most certainly not what he'd expected when he'd donned his May Day robes this morning. "Oh, Severus."
"Harry. Will you come home with me?"
Severus' direct question wasn't what Harry had been expecting then. Severus, however, had already decided he wanted this to go on. There was no point procrastinating, so he asked right away. Why risk the young man worrying, getting the wrong idea about what this meant to him? The simple truth was that it meant they were fated, it meant the Seer had read their hearts as they stood before the maypole.
When Harry recovered from the shock of Severus' first words after their mutual climaxes, he gave a radiant smile and simply said: "Yes."
Ron plonked his empty pint mug onto the wooden table top next to Hermione's empty wine glass. "Right, we might as well go home. No good waiting here any longer, they could be hours yet."
"I agree, and besides, you've had three pints, that's quite enough."
"I just wish they hadn't gone," Ron said, bemoaning Fate again.
"Well, they did, and it was for a reason. You see, in front of the maypole there's nowhere to hide; the truth will out. They've hidden their attraction too long, now it's out in the open for all to see I think they'll accept it and go on from there."
"So you don't think they'll be in any hurry to get back."
"No. And the longer they stay together the more they honour the rite, and the more powerful the blessings will be on our world and on them."
"Yeah, and the more likely Harry won't ever go back to Ginny."
Hermione said nothing to that, because they both knew it was true. Whatever Harry and Severus were doing right now, it involved sex. They both knew Harry had always admired Snape's role in the war and his dignity as a professor and Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts. They'd both noticed he spoke about Snape too often for it to be casual, it had revealed Harry's obsession with the man. It was all explained now. Hermione stood up and took Ron's arm and they Apparated back to the Burrow.
On the South Downs next to Ditchling Beacon, the maypole was visible for miles around to magical eyes; it remained invisible to Muggles inside its pocket of wizard space conjured at the top of Blackdog Hill. It was powerful - the weaving dance had been strong. Those bound by its ribbons might try to fight their attraction at first, but they would remain bound by them long after the coloured streamers vanished into the magical ether and the maypole disappeared.
Harry and Severus knew that; they didn't fight their mutual attraction any longer. Before that May Day they'd already known of its existence, tucking it away into the corners of their minds where they had resolutely managed to ignore it. The maypole had decreed otherwise, as it had for the other couples that day. Thus it was no surprise when, two years later on the afternoon of another May Day, they were bound by more mundane means at a ceremony conducted by the venerable, aged Seer, Madam Delphine Trelawney, who had come out of retirement for that special, happy day.