Fic: For Want of a Headmaster - for midnight_birth Title: For Want of a Headmaster Author: James Potter was a sick man. Giftee:midnight_birth Word Count: ~6,600 Rating: NC-17 Pairing: Severus/Harry Warnings: * Minor character death before the story begins * Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. Summary: When Hogwarts refuses to accept another headmaster or headmistress, the Board of Governors threatens to exorcise the school and install Lucius Malfoy as headmaster. The solution is to send Harry Potter in search of Hogwarts's missing headmaster. Author's Notes: My thanks to my wonderful betas: E, M, and F. Any errors they didn't catch, or that I added after they read the story, are all mine.
For Want of a Headmaster
For minutes, hours, days, possibly even years, the high-pitched noise raked across Harry's nerves, raising goosebumps over his entire body, making his hair stick up on end, and forcing him to claw at his ears in a futile attempt to block it out.
Then it stopped. Abruptly. In a silence that left Harry's ears ringing. He looked at Neville and Filius, who were sitting on either side of him at the staff table in the Great Hall. Neville shook his head, looking as confused as Harry felt.
Nothing to do with my birthday, Harry reassured himself, although he wasn't completely convinced.
"Minerva!" Filius squeaked, jumping down from his chair and running out of the room.
Harry and Neville stared at each other. As the reality of what that noise had to mean pierced their shock, they shoved their chairs back from the table and sprinted after Filius.
Poppy Pomfrey was racing down the corridor from the other direction as they arrived at Minerva's quarters. Harry could hear feet pounding on stone¬¬ and assumed that meant the other staff members in residence over the summer would soon be joining them.
The portrait frame that guarded Minerva's quarters was empty, but the door opened at the touch of Filius's hand. Minerva McGonagall was slumped on the floor in the living room. Her head rested against the black sofa. One hand draped down her side; the other was reaching over her head and grasping at a tartan cushion. Her grey hair hung in wavy clumps around her face and shoulders.
Even so, Harry found himself holding his breath as Poppy knelt at Minerva's side. He couldn't help hoping that the castle was wrong. Just for once. But it wasn't. The look of devastation on Poppy's face made that clear.
Sinking to his knees, Harry could feel something break inside him. He dug his fingers into his thighs to hide the shaking of his hands and bit his lower lip, understanding exactly why the castle had keened.
Happy twenty-third birthday, he thought bitterly.
"I'm no house-elf. You can't order me around like that," the Sorting Hat said, sounding peevish.
Filius tapped his fingers on the parchment that lay upon the staff table. "We aren't trying to give you orders. However, we must have a headmaster or headmistress. Hogwarts's future depends upon it."
"Do I hear a threat? Oh, my goodness. I don't like threats. No, no, I do not." The Hat twitched and the rip near the brim twisted in on itself.
"Now you've done it. Again," Harry muttered, dropping his head onto his folded arms. A thunk to his left suggested Neville had done the same, only without remembering to fold his arms first. They'd been trying to get the Hat to choose Minerva's successor for almost two weeks, without success.
The abruptness with which Filius cut himself off had Harry raising his head. Filius, normally the calmest member of staff, was clenching his fists and grinding his teeth. He looked one small step away from hexing the Sorting Hat, and that never ended well, from the stories Harry had heard.
But he couldn't think of anything to say that he hadn't said dozens of times in the days since Minerva's funeral, and that the Sorting Hat hadn't ignored those same dozens of times.
After a few minutes of painful silence, Septima Vector suggested, "Since the Hat knows the formula and the values for all the variables in our problem, perhaps we should ask it to recommend a solution?"
Harry felt his jaw drop open. The idea was so obvious and so simple, which had to be why they hadn't thought of it sooner.
When no one responded—probably because they were all as surprised as Harry—Septima huffed and put the Hat on her head. The ensuing discussion, none of it aloud, caused Septima to periodically glance at Harry and smirk. The kind of smirk that made Harry want to either quit his job as Transfiguration Professor and run as far and as fast as he could get, or take a firm grasp of his wand and jump head-first into battle. He was consoling himself with the thought that she wasn't twinkling at him, when the doors to the Great Hall opened.
Lucius Malfoy strode down the narrow aisle between the Slytherin and Ravenclaw tables. His hair hung loose around his shoulders, and his elaborate black robes flared around his legs. A cringing, grey-robed, grey-haired man scurried at his heels, a bulging satchel over one shoulder. Reminded of Pettigrew's behaviour around Voldemort, Harry was revolted.
"Well," Malfoy said, coming to a halt directly opposite Septima and the Hat, "do we have a successor to McGonagall?"
"Hogwarts has a headmaster," the Sorting Hat announced. "No other is needed."
Malfoy rapped the bottom of his cane on the stone floor. "Pray introduce me, so that we may complete the formalities in the required interval before term commences."
The Hat folded its brim and declined to respond.
"The answer remains the same," Septima said, removing the Hat and placing it on the table in front of her. "We have all spoken to Hogwarts through the Hat, and she insists that Severus Snape is the only headmaster she wants or needs."
"A ghost may be qualified to teach—" Lucius's tone and curled upper lip made his opinion of that very clear, and Harry despised having to agree with the man "—but a ghost cannot be headmaster. The rules forbid it."
"And yet, Hogwarts insists that Severus remains her headmaster," Filius said. "Therefore, the man cannot be as dead as you believe."
A whack of Malfoy's cane against his sycophant's flank had the man digging through his satchel and producing a scroll with a flourish. "By-law 4532, subsection (a), clause (xix) requires that the headmaster or headmistress be in residence no later than the fourteenth day before the commencement of the autumn term."
Eyes alight with vicious triumph, Malfoy said, "Term begins September 1. Produce your headmaster on Monday, August 18, or the Board will appoint one for you."
"You?" Harry filled the word with derision.
Malfoy sneered, "Should the board entrust me with such an honour, I would hardly be so rude as to turn it, and them, down."
Before Harry could respond, Neville spoke up. "Hogwarts will not accept you or any other headmaster appointed without her consent. Umbridge was proof of that."
"Umbridge was an incompetent ignoramus," Malfoy said, and Harry almost bit his lip bloody in an attempt not to give that statement his rousing endorsement. Luckily, Malfoy continued before Harry lost the battle with himself. "If Hogwarts refuses to obey its properly appointed headmaster, then Hogwarts shall be disciplined. I am led to understand that a properly performed exorcism would take care of the matter."
And, with that, Malfoy inclined his head to the Hat and strode out the way he came, his lackey once again scurrying behind him.
Instead of hurling a hex at the man's back, Harry turned to Septima and said, "Even Snape would be better than that arrogant arse. Whatever Hogwarts wants, I'll do it."
"And I'll help," Neville added.
Far too early the next morning—a Friday, not that Harry cared too deeply in the summer since he didn't have to set an alarm—Harry sat on the desk in the headmaster's office and contemplated the wall. He yawned widely. His legs swung back and forth, his heels drumming against the wood.
"For Merlin's sake, boy," Phineas Nigellus Black yelled, "would you stop that infernal racket?"
"And if I don't?" Harry asked, putting a little extra force into his next swing.
"I shall arrange for someone to hex you."
"And how are you going to do that, given that I've sealed off your other portrait at Grimmauld Place? Hmmm?"
"Insufferable brat. I'm telling you, Albus, no one rears children as they did in my day."
Albus Dumbledore merely smiled at him and offered Minerva a lemon drop. The other headmasters and headmistresses had had the sense to abandon their portraits in the office as soon as they'd realised what Harry wanted.
"You're assuming that I was reared," Harry said, changing the rhythm with which he thudded his heels against the desk, "which is actually an enormous stretching of the truth."
When Black crossed his arms over his chest and huffed, Harry pulled out his wand and started casting miniature fire spells. Flick and a flame appeared in the air in front of him. Flick again and again and again. Each flame materialised that bit closer to Black's portrait.
"Don't you dare!" Black shifted backwards. "I'll have you arrested and that—" he snapped his fingers "—will take care of any aspirations you may harbour of becoming an Auror."
"Who says I want to be an Auror?" Harry smirked as he created a flame less than six inches from the bottom of the portrait frame. "I like teaching Transfiguration."
"Just answer his question, Phineas," Minerva said. "This is getting rather tiresome. If it keeps up, we won't have time to play Wand and Trump tonight."
"What makes you think I know anything about Headmaster Snape's whereabouts?"
"You're joking, right?"
"I do not joke, I'll have you know."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Why doesn't that surprise me?"
"Because you're a cretin."
"Phineas!" The warning note in Dumbledore's voice had Black giving a long-suffering sigh.
"Are you sure there are no other options, young man?"
"We've tried everything," Harry said, pulling up his legs and crossing them under him, "but the Board of Governors will not back down. We have until Monday to produce Snape or to choose another headmaster or headmistress. Otherwise, they'll have Hogwarts exorcised, and we'll be stuck with Headmaster Lucius Malfoy."
"Exorcise...?" Black slammed a hand against the edge of his frame. " Are they mad? In my day, that would have been a burnable offence."
"I wish," Harry muttered.
"Is there no one who will take the job of deputy and pretend to be headmaster or headmistress?" Minerva asked.
"Pretty much every teacher, past and present, has tried in the past couple of weeks. Hogwarts refused them all. Septima believes that you were only accepted because you'd been the deputy headmistress for so many years."
"Then the answer is clear, my boy," Dumbledore said. "Phineas, tell Harry where to find Severus."
"You will explain to him that I was coerced," Phineas said. "It does not do to go against the headmaster's wishes, as Minerva and Albus are aware."
"Severus will forgive you," Minerva assured him, "once he understands the urgency."
"It's on your head, boy. Do not come looking for sympathy when he curses you." And with that warning, Phineas Nigellus Black, the secret keeper for the headmaster of Hogwarts, told Professor Harry Potter how to find Headmaster Severus Snape.
Heather Cottage was located high on a hillside above Loch Hoage. An overhang sheltered it from the worst of the weather. Powerful wards and a Fidelius held by a portrait kept it hidden from Muggles and wizards alike. Made of local stone, as grey as the clouds overhead, it had served as a refuge for the headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts for centuries.
The small house had no garden to speak of, nor did it appear to have any access path from above or below. A small ledge to the right of the house caught Harry's eye. The flat stone was just big enough for someone to Apparate, if he or she were capable of pinpoint accuracy.
Taking a firm grip on the broom in his left hand—there was no point in taking unreasonable chances after all—Harry stepped, turned, and Disapparated.
As soon as his feet touched the stone ledge, he swished his wand in the pattern Black had taught him and spoke the words that would prevent the wards from evicting him over the edge. After a minute or two, his heart still racing, Harry shrank his broom and put it in his pocket. Then, he walked down the short path and knocked on the front door.
No one answered.
Unsurprised, Harry reached into his pack and retrieved the sandwich and bag of salt and vinegar crisps the house-elves had packed for him. Angling himself, so his back was against the doorjamb, he sat on the steps and started to eat.
He'd just unshrunk the pot of tea, and cast his fifth warming charm of the afternoon, when the door finally opened.
"Go away," Severus Snape ordered. And slammed the door closed hard enough that Harry almost toppled over.
Dusting himself off, Harry looked mournfully at the shattered pot and spilled tea. Then he sat back down. "Not likely," he called out as he banished the shards of crockery.
Night came, bringing the cold, dark, and wind. With a sigh, Harry opened up his pack and pulled out his sleeping bag and pillow. Unwilling to leave the doorway, he cast a modified Engorgio on the front step. It still wasn't very comfortable, even with his sleeping bag's built-in warming charms and cushioning charms, but he wasn't taking a chance on Snape escaping while he slept.
It was, of course, always possible that Snape would Apparate or Floo from inside the house, but that would break the Fidelius and let others find him. So, Harry was reasonably sure Snape wouldn't consider doing that. Plus, according to Minerva, the man had enough curiosity for ten thousand cats.
As he rolled into another position that wasn't any more conducive to sleep than his last, Harry cursed himself yet again for agreeing to track down Hogwarts's errant headmaster.
Saturday morning's sunrise over the loch was one of the most spectacular Harry had ever seen. Not that he'd seen that many, but that wasn't the point. A quick spell folded up and shrank his bedding. He paused for a minute, considering his options, and then decided on charms. Clean clothes were all well and good, but he had no intention of changing in front of...
Nobody could see him but Snape. And Snape, according to everyone who knew him, was as queer as a three-pound note. Harry might not have the best body in the world, but he was young and fit and, if Dumbledore was to be believed, exactly Severus Snape's type. That Snape—being tall, dark, and possessed of an utterly wankable voice and pair of hands—wasn't too far from Harry's type, he tried to persuade himself, was irrelevant.
Shivering despite numerous warming and wind-protection charms, Harry pulled his jumper over his head and stretched. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a curtain twitch aside, and a pale hand became visible for a moment before it withdrew. The curtain, however, did not fall back into place.
Emboldened by Snape's surreptitious observance, Harry turned to one side and bent over. A wriggle of his arse resulted in an ego-boosting clunk from the window behind him. Moving slowly, he spun around until he was almost facing the window and began to undo his jeans. First the button, then the zipper. He slipped his hands into the waistband and began sliding his jeans down his thighs.
"For Merlin's sake, Potter, pull those up and get inside. You'll scare away the wildlife."
Biting his lip to prevent himself from smiling in triumph, Harry picked up his pack and walked into the warmth of the cottage.
Dressed in clean clothes, with a cup of tea and a plate of toast with butter and marmalade in front of him, Harry looked across the table at Severus Snape.
In a black turtleneck, black trousers, and black open robes, his hair still damp from the bath, Snape seemed calmer than Harry had ever seen him. His nose was still as large, his teeth just as crooked and yellow, but in some way that Harry didn't allow himself to think about, every time Snape's tongue swept over his lips to catch stray crumbs or drops of marmalade, Harry's cock jerked. And when Snape's hands cradled his tea in just that way, Harry was damn grateful the tablecloth hung down over his lap.
Eventually, the toast had been eaten and the tea had been drunk, and he could no longer ignore Snape and his raised eyebrow. "Would you care to tell me, Potter, how you and Minerva coerced Phineas into revealing my location?"
Harry cleared his throat and started, "Well—"
"Well?" Snape said, after Harry didn't continue.
"Well," Harry repeated and then licked his lips. Why hadn't they talked about how to tell Snape about this?
"Do try and make it good, Potter. My time and patience are extremely limited."
"Then stop interrupting and give me a chance to explain."
Snape made a 'hurry up and get on with it' gesture that would have been less intimidating if he hadn't been holding his wand in that same hand.
"Hogwarts needs her headmaster."
"I believe she has a headmistress, does she not?"
"No, she does not." Knowing that what he had to say would wipe that supercilious expression off Snape's face, Harry got to his feet and started pacing in front of the fireplace. "Hogwarts hasn't had a headmaster or a headmistress for five years, not since you ran away—" Snape made a noise, and Harry glared at him. "Fine. Were chased away. Is that better?"
"Accuracy is important."
"Anyway, as I was saying before you interrupted," Harry said, "All appearances to the contrary, Hogwarts considered Minerva to be the deputy headmistress. She wasn't allowed to use the headmaster's office, except for meetings with the Board of Governors, nor did Hogwarts grant her all of the privileges of being headmistress."
"I still do not see the problem," Snape said, although the tightening of his jaw muscles belied his apparent certainty.
Unable to think of any other way to say it, Harry was blunt. Grief and pain made his voice hoarse. "Minerva McGonagall is dead."
Snape paled and his expression blanked, as if a white mask had slid over his face. He stood up and walked away without saying a word. The bedroom door crashed shut behind him.
"Fuck," Harry said and scrubbed at his prickling eyes. He hadn't wanted to hurt Snape that much.
About half an hour later, Snape returned to the main room of the cottage. He stalked across the room, sat in the single wingback chair, and ordered, "Continue."
Harry looked up from where he'd crouched on the rug in front of the fire. Snape's eyes were reddened, and his hair was wetter than it had been. Having a better sense of self-preservation in his twenties than he'd had as a teenager, Harry didn't remark on it. He stretched his legs in front of him, crossing them at the ankle, leaned back, resting his weight on his hands, and did as Snape asked.
"Minerva never quite recovered from the curse damage to her lungs. The potions that Poppy gave her kept her breathing and moving as if she had never been cursed. I knew she hadn't been cured, but I never expected it to be so sudden."
After a long pause, Snape said, "Go on." He was gripping the arms of his chair so tightly that his knuckles were white.
"After the funeral, we set up the usual procedures to select a new headmaster or headmistress from amongst the existing staff." Harry drew up his legs and wrapped his arms around his bent knees. "Hogwarts refused to pick one. According to the Sorting Hat, she has a headmaster and is not in need of another."
Snape bowed his head, his hair falling forward to cover his face.
When he didn't say anything, Harry continued. "The Board of Governors... well, actually Lucius Malfoy on their behalf, insists that you're dead and that Hogwarts cannot reopen without a headmaster. They quoted by-laws, and he..." Harry swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. His voice, when he continued, was little more than a whisper. "Please, you have to come back. They're going to kill her."
Snape's head snapped up. "They're what?"
"Malfoy's promised to exorcise Hogwarts and put himself in as headmaster if we don't produce a headmaster by Monday."
"Bastard," Snape hissed. "I'll slaughter him."
Joy, vicious and mean, flared in Harry. He crawled over to Snape, half-kneeling in front of his chair, and held out his hand. "We can do better than that, can't we?"
Lips curving into a smile, Snape took Harry's hand. "Oh, yes, Potter, I believe we can."
Harry smiled back.
They worked until the early hours of Saturday morning. They plotted and planned. Snape examined Harry's memories of conversations with the Sorting Hat and with Malfoy and the other members of the Board of Governors. Harry skimmed through books that only existed in the private library of the headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts — and didn't even try to suppress his grin when he pictured the look on Hermione's face if she got even the smallest hint that they existed.
They also began to talk. Not about the anger and hate that lay behind them, although those years underlay every word they spoke, but about the people they knew, the things that interested them. And the whole time Harry had been ridiculously, unexpectedly, stupidly aware of the caressing slide of Snape's hands across a page, the absent-minded circling of Snape's stained fingers around the rim of a glass or a mug as he read, the flick of Snape's tongue against his upper lip when he discovered something interesting.
Which was one of the reasons why, late Sunday afternoon, as he waited for Snape to emerge from the library where he was reading the book on Hogwarts rituals—apparently there were some books that only a headmaster or headmistress could see, never mind read—Harry started pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace. He needed to get out of there, that was all. Everything would make sense if he could just get—
Startled, Harry swung around to face Snape. His slapdash Occlumency shields crashed into place bare moments after he realised their eyes had met. "You..." he cleared his throat. "You ready?"
Snape considered him, his tongue flicking out to touch the dent in his upper lip, before saying, "Not quite."
"We don't have much time." Harry forced himself to look away from that lip and turned towards the door, where he'd dropped his pack. "Malfoy and his cronies, they'll be at Hogwarts tomorrow. First thing, I'm sure."
"We're hardly in that much of a rush. Even if we take the Floo, we'll be at Hogwarts in no time." Snape did that thing with his tongue again, and this time Harry couldn't deny the way his body reacted to it.
And that irritated him. For no good reason, except that he didn't want to react that way to Snape. Not in that way. Not in a way that meant he'd forgiven him.
"Are you even listening?"
Harry's gaze snapped up to Snape's face. The man appeared amused — Amused! — and that irritated Harry even more. "You just don't care, do you?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You. Swanning off and doing whatever the hell you want and not caring."
"You have no idea—"
"No idea? You have a fucking nerve," Harry snarled. "You left. We thought you were dead."
"Minerva knew. She understood why I came here."
"Well, she said fuck-all to the rest of us, didn't she?"
Snape stepped closer to Harry. "What did you want her to say?"
Unnerved, Harry stepped back. "I don't know. She could have said something. Anything."
"What did you want me to do?" Snape moved forward again.
"You..." Harry stumbled over the hearth as he stepped back again.
Snape's warm hands caught Harry's upper arms and held him steady. "I?"
Balling his hands into fists, Harry brought them up and pressed them into Snape's chest. "Nothing."
Instead of letting him go, Snape drew Harry closer. His breath gusted over Harry's ear; his voice rumbled through Harry. "It's not nothing. Tell me."
"I... no. It doesn't matter. Not now."
"It matters," Snape insisted, tightening his grip. "What did you expect me to do?"
"I didn't expect you to do anything."
"Fine. What did you want me to do?"
The weariness on Snape's face sparked Harry's anger again, giving him the strength to wrench his arms out of Snape's grasp, turn his back, and take a couple of steps towards the door. "Fuck off, all right. Just fuck off."
"I did. I told you to fuck off."
"Potter! Do not be any more of a dunderhead than you can help."
"Fine," Harry huffed. "What do you want to know? How it felt to watch you die? To know that it was my fault. That I couldn't save you? That I couldn't make it right? Because you were dead and that made everything else impossible. You left me to live with all of it."
Snape reached for Harry's hand, and Harry shook his head. "Don't. Not now. Not when it's too late, when I don't know how. I was a kid, and I didn't know, but I..." Harry's voice cracked, and he turned away.
"We did what we had to do, said the things we had to say," Snape reassured him, "and we won."
"And that makes everything okay?"
"No, but it makes everything acceptable. It has to, or we'd go mad."
Something about the way Snape said that forced Harry to turn around, to look at him, to actually see him. And suddenly he understood. "That's what happened to you, isn't it? You were mental."
"I was not myself," Snape allowed. "Not for a long time."
"Me either," Harry said. "I fucked up being an Auror. Fucked up everything with Ginny and with everyone else. I'm surprised any of my friends still talk to me."
"But your friends do."
That note was back in Snape's voice; an alien sound that, if it were anyone but Snape, Harry would have called it defeat. Would have understood the implication that Snape believed his friends wouldn't talk to him after everything. Except it wasn't true. Harry didn't know about any other friends Snape might have, but the professors at Hogwarts wanted to talk to Snape.
His hand steady, despite the weird trembling inside him, Harry grasped Snape's hand and squeezed it just a little. He wanted to be reassuring, but somehow their fingers intertwined and their palms met. Snape's warm skin pressed against Harry's cooler skin.
"They want to talk to you," Harry reassured him. "I want to... to talk to you."
As Harry watched, Snape gathered himself back together, his thin lips twitching and curving ever so slightly upwards at the corners. Then Snape asked, "Talk? Is that what you want to do?"
Their kiss was... well, brilliant, thought Harry. It was the kind of kiss that came with tongues and nips and sucks and Snape's arms holding him close. He was hard and getting harder with each slide of Snape's tongue against his own, each suck or nibble on each other's lips, each squeeze of Snape's hand on Harry's arse, each thrust of Harry's hips against Snape's thigh.
Slipping their twined hands between them, fumbling the buttons and zips of his jeans and Snape's trousers had Harry panting into Snape's mouth. He couldn't decide what was better: the sensation of his own boxers gliding over the sensitive head of his cock or the feeling of Snape's long, narrow cock in his hand.
But it didn't matter. Not after Snape cast a quick lubricating charm, and their joined hands began moving on their cocks, slick and fast, pumping, squeezing, stroking in the same rhythm. They shared breaths as they kissed, open-mouthed. A swipe of Snape's tongue against Harry's lower lip had Harry bucking, thrusting, fucking their hands.
"Oh, fuck, yeah," gasped Harry into Snape's mouth. "Just like that."
Snape's answering growl vibrated through his chest into Harry and then Harry arched, shoved into Snape in little, stuttering thrusts as he came over their hands. A few seconds later, Snape's hand grasped Harry's arse tighter, and Harry could feel Snape's orgasm shudder through him. His semen joining the warm mess of Harry's on their hands and clothes.
"Mmmm," Harry managed, suddenly tired and more relaxed than he'd ever been. He sagged in Snape's arms and let Snape take most of his weight.
This time, Snape's kiss was almost gentle. Almost.
On Monday morning, Harry perched on the front of the staff table in the Great Hall and waited for the Board of Governors to arrive. Behind him, Filius, Neville, Septima, Aurora Sinistra, and Horace Slughorn sat at their usual seats. The house tables stood against the walls, leaving an open space in front of them.
The Sorting Hat sat in front of the headmaster's seat.
At precisely 10 o'clock, the doors were flung open, and Lucius Malfoy strode into the hall. Six other governors followed, providing a quorum of seven members of the Board of Governors for any decisions that were made. With each step, Malfoy's boot heels rang on the stone floor. With every other step, his cane tapped. His head was high, his hair hung loose down his back, and his dark green robes were clearly worth more than Harry's entire wardrobe.
Malfoy stopped directly in front of Harry, far enough away that he didn't have to look up at him. With precise movements, he removed his gloves and handed them to his cringing grey-robed lackey, who all but bowed and scraped before slithering back to join the other governors in their huddle.
"Well, Potter," Malfoy said. "Do you have a headmaster or headmistress for our approval?"
Here we go, ready or not, Harry thought, and took a deep breath. Then, he said, "Hogwarts hasn't chosen someone to replace Minerva, if that's what you're asking."
"That is hardly the news we were looking to hear," Malfoy sneered, his avaricious smile belying his words. "Hogwarts requires a headmaster."
"Hogwarts doesn't seem to think so."
"Then the school and its hat are as addled as Albus Dumbledore and his successors."
"You think Severus Snape was addled?" Harry clenched his hands, digging his fingernails into his palms, to prevent himself from smiling.
"He was hardly the sanest man on this planet. Permitting Death Eaters into the school and allowing them to teach our children was beyond the pale, even for him."
One of the teachers behind Harry shifted, scraping his or her chair. Harry lifted a hand and the movement ceased.
"You do have them well-trained, don't you?" Malfoy said. "That should make my job a lot easier."
"Your job?" A muscle ticked in Harry's jaw.
"As headmaster, of course. Someone has to ensure that our children receive a proper Wizarding education."
"And you believe you're qualified?"
Before Malfoy could respond, the castle's ghosts began to appear. They formed an arc around the governors, effectively trapping them. Peeves settled down on the ground at Harry's feet. While the other ghosts remained still and silent, Peeves constantly fidgeted and muttered to himself.
"What is this?" Malfoy demanded.
"The ghosts?" Harry asked. "I haven't the faintest idea. I've only been teaching Transfiguration for a couple of years. Not long enough to have been present for the initiation of a headmaster."
"Initiation," Malfoy scoffed. "I've never heard of such a thing."
"You didn't think you'd just assume the position, did you?"
Horace Slughorn snorted in amusement, and at least one of the governors tittered.
Neither Harry nor Malfoy got a chance to respond. The Sorting Hat opened its mouth and began a murmuring chant, barely recognisable as the school song. A few seconds later, the ghosts started humming and drifting forward, one pace at a time.
As the ghosts came closer, the governors crowded behind Malfoy. Eventually they were all on the dais with the staff table, completely surrounded by grey figures. Peeves had floated upwards and was hovering above the headmaster's chair. The school song echoed off the walls and ceiling.
"Stop this nonsense at once, Potter," Malfoy ordered.
"This has nothing to do with me." Harry smiled at him. "Hogwarts doesn't do a damn thing I ask of her. How about you?" He turned and asked the other teachers, who shook their heads.
"Then it is high time we dealt with this death trap of a school, once and for all. Don't you agree?" When the other governors didn't respond, he glared at them and repeated, "Do you not agree?"
The humming grew louder.
The Grey Lady stepped forward and asked the female governor, "Do you agree?"
Nearly-Headless Nick flipped his head on and eyed the mousy man who was clutching Malfoy's gloves like a talisman. "Do you agree, good sir?"
The Fat Friar jiggled his belly and said to the other governors, "Surely you do not agree."
There was a pause and then the Bloody Baron grunted before floating onto the dais. Looming over Malfoy, a hand on the hilt of his knife, the Baron asked in a voice rusty from disuse, "Well, what will it be? Are you a Slytherin or an idiot?"
"No!" The mousy man broke first. He flung the gloves back at Malfoy, directly through the Bloody Baron. When the ghost scowled at him, the man squeaked and scuttled out of the room.
The door to the antechamber opened up with a loud creaking of its hinges, and the humming stopped abruptly. Dressed in his black teaching robes, Severus Snape leant against the door jamb. "Are you quite finished, Lucius? Or do you require further proof that Hogwarts is not in need of a headmaster?"
Malfoy rocked back on his heels, then seemed to collect himself. His smile was tight and forced, and his voice sounded almost strangled. "Severus. What a pleasant surprise."
"Hardly." Robes billowing around his legs, Snape stalked towards the staff table. The ghosts parted before him. And Harry's breath caught at the sight, suddenly aware of how empty Hogwarts had felt for the past two years without her headmaster.
As Snape took the headmaster's seat, Harry slipped off the table and went to stand off to the side, near enough to the antechamber that he could slip out unnoticed.
The Bloody Baron backed away from Malfoy, turned to Snape, and inclined his head. Then he returned his gaze to Malfoy and hovered in place.
Peeves giggled and muttered a nonsense rhyme until a glare from Snape shut him up and sent him over to float near the governors, who huddled into a tighter knot and began whispering amongst themselves.
Eventually, Snape tapped a long finger on the table and everyone quieted. "What? No felicitations on my unexpected survival, Lucius? I am cut to the quick."
"You always were easily hurt, Severus. However, it was thoughtless of me, and I do so hate to be rude." Malfoy's fingers twitched in a way that had Harry placing a hand on his wand holster. "Felicitations on your unexpected survival."
An awkward hush descended on the room. After a minute or so, Septima asked, "Are you satisfied?"
"Satisfied? That's such an all-encompassing term." Cocking his head, Malfoy seemed to consider the question.
Harry adjusted his position, so he could more easily get to his wand and cast spells if needed. When no one said anything, Harry cleared his throat and drew everyone's attention to him. "We have met your demands and produced Hogwarts's headmaster. Now if you don't mind, we need to prepare for the school year."
"A very good point," Snape agreed. "I have yet to meet with some of my newer teachers." He nodded at Harry and then at Neville, who squared his shoulders and nodded back. Turning his attention back to Lucius, Severus stood up and said, "If that's all, Lucius, I shall see you at the end-of-year board meeting."
"Still impatient, Severus?" Malfoy tutted and rapped his cane against his boot. "While I am satisfied that you are alive and that Hogwarts, for whatever reason, considers you fit to be her Headmaster," a smile, cold and clear, curved Malfoy's lips, "I would be entirely remiss in my duties as governor if I didn't take steps to ensure your... shall we say, optimal recovery from your near-fatal wounds and to verify your fitness for such a... demanding position."
"You suggest that I am unfit? Or that Hogwarts is not capable of selecting a qualified candidate for headmaster?"
"The board received more than one complaint about the treatment of pupils during your tenure—"
"I see." Snape stared at Malfoy for a moment, then quirked an eyebrow and asked, "Do you truly wish to compare our experiences during that time period?"
"I do not believe that is necessary at this juncture. Circumstances, however, compel us to keep an eye on you. I'm sure you understand." Malfoy smiled again.
"I understand completely." Snape's predatory smile sent a flutter of arousal down Harry's spine and a flood of heat into his cock.
Dry mouthed and half-hard, Harry slipped out of the Great Hall and into the antechamber. Much more of this, and everyone would know how much he wanted Snape.
Violet and the Fat Lady stopped gossiping and started whispering to each other behind their hands when the door to the antechamber opened. Harry slumped a little further down in the chair in front of Violet's portrait and waited.
"It's safe to emerge now," Snape said, as he shut the door behind him.
"With his tail tucked between his legs."
"Brilliant." Harry supposed he should sound happier about it, but the strength of his reaction to Snape had left him feeling a bit off-balance.
Snape arched an eyebrow at Violet and the Fat Lady.
"Oh," Violet said, giggling. "Is it that time already? We must dash. Tea in the commons."
A few seconds later, the portrait frames in the room were empty.
"Handy that," Harry said.
Harry braced his hands on the arms of his chair, preparing to rise, and said, "Well, since you're back and everything, I guess I should be..." Harry trailed to a halt when Snape reached out a hand to him. He stared at Snape and then, closing his mouth with an audible click of teeth, accepted his hand.
The tug that drew Harry to his feet was just strong enough to make him stumble into Snape. Who slid an arm around his waist and supported him.
A shiver ran down Harry's spine, and he tried again, "I should—"
"I have no desire to search for a Transfiguration Professor at this late date."
"Oh?" Harry licked his lips, which had become inexplicably dry, and wondered how he had never known that this man could turn him on like this. He curled his hands around Snape's biceps and lowered his voice to ask, "What do you plan to do about that?"
"You have a contract, and I intend to hold you to it," Snape placed a hand beneath Harry's chin and tilted his face upwards, "whilst we explore other... possibilities."
Harry's heart sped up. "Possibilities. Right. Any particular kind?"
"Definitely," Snape purred. "The kind that requires you to call me Severus."
"Only if you call me Harry."
"I believe I can remember that, Harry."
Drawing Harry tight against his body, Severus kissed him. And Harry began looking forward to the upcoming school year.