Many thanks to Emily, who beta'd this for me.
Spoilers : all five books are considered fair game. No HBP spoilers.
* * *
"I'm very disappointed in you," Dumbledore said.
Potter looked chastised and vaguely guilty. Severus managed to maintain a cool exterior of indifference.
It never paid to let Albus know he was getting to you.
"Your constant bickering has reached unacceptable levels, and it's a very bad influence on the children we are supposed to guide to adulthood. They need to learn that it pays to be professional, that disagreements must be diffused discreetly instead of being fought at the breakfast table."
Severus almost asked whether the dinner table would have been more appropriate. He would have, indeed, if he hadn't been determined to prove how much more mature than Potter he was.
"I hear some of the students are betting money on when the two of you will formally duel, and betting money in this school is unacceptable."
Severus inwardly begged to differ. He had made a substantial amount of money in his seventh year, by betting that the Marauders would be turned into women on the third Potions class of the year. Some people had argued it was unfair, as he was the one who had orchestrated the prank. But, as he had patiently explained to the Petrified Ravenclaw who had foolishly tried to take his money back, as he had had to go through the hassle of planning, it was only fair that he kept the money.
All of which had really nothing to do with the matter at hand.
"So, I asked someone to come here, to teach you the proper way to behave," Albus said meekly.
Potter looked worried.
For once, Severus agreed with the sentiment.
"This woman works on inter-personal relationships, and helps people who have disagreements to deal with them in a peaceful and reasonable way."
"Albus," Severus tried.
Albus lost the meekly-ness. "Silence! You will do as I say, or you will find another job! Both of you!"
Potter and Severus agreed to see the woman.
Not that Severus thought Albus would really fire them. He and Potter were both Albus' protégés -- one redeemed prodigal son, and one knight in shining armour.
Albus would never fire them.
However, Severus reasoned, as a Slytherin, he needed to at least give the appearance of complying. Just in case Albus truly was serious.
Which he probably wasn't.
* * *
The woman was blonde, perky, bouncy. Severus hated her on sight.
Dumbledore made the introductions in the Entrance Hall.
"Candice, this is Severus Snape, and Harry Potter. Gentlemen, Candice Marks. She is a…"
He trailed off and she said with a bright smile, "I'm a coach on interpersonal relationships." She looked as proud as if she had said she had found the way to banish Dark Magic from this plane of existence, Severus thought, disgusted.
"Well, I'll leave you to it then," Albus said. "I trust you will fully cooperate." On these words, he left, smiling benignly. Severus could have sworn he heard the Headmaster humming under his breath.
He shot a look at Potter, who was pouting at the Headmaster's departing back.
Bouncy Candice smiled encouragingly. "Well, let's begin, then. The Headmaster told me to use one of your classrooms for our reunions."
"Let's go to mine," Severus offered.
Potter snorted. "Why would we want to go to the damp and dark dungeons, Snape? My classroom will do just fine."
"If you think for a second--"
"You just can't admit--"
Candice's smile faltered.
* * *
By the end of the three-hour session, Candice had managed to make them agree on neutral ground.
An unused classroom on the third floor would do just fine, she said.
Her smile was less bright than it had been when they had met, Severus noted with satisfaction.
* * *
Five days later, Candice wasn't smiling at all anymore, and she had frequent headaches, but at least, they were making progress. Of a sort.
"What I'm saying is that Potions is an art, while defence--"
"Then why the hell do you beg Albus to give you the damn job every single fucking year?"
"Language, Mister Potter," Candice and Severus said at once. Harry frowned and sat down, snarling.
"As I was saying, there's really no need to have a fine mind to teach DADA, not the way the Ministry wants it to be taught. After all, if Umbridge could do it--"
"Umbridge didn't teach."
"Ah, but the who--, er, woman, was here for a whole year."
"Oh, for Merlin's sake! Just because previous teachers didn't do a good job doesn't mean I'm as bad as them."
"You were taught by them."
"And by Aurors, or did you forget that?"
"I was just trying to make a point." Harry looked about to cut him off and Severus raised a hand. "The DADA deserves more than the minimal material the Ministry forces us to teach, and you know that. And I think that I, with my history, would be more suited to add new material to the curriculum."
"You just can't swallow the fact that you don't--"
* * *
Before Candice left that day, Dumbledore invited her in his office for tea.
"How are things going?" he asked with interest.
"They're still interrupting each other when they talk. On the other hand, their language is slightly less foul now, when they do."
"Good, good. When do you think they'll be ready to come back to the Great Hall for meals?"
"One thing at a time, Headmaster." She forced a smile. "One thing at a time." She sipped her tea, and tried to keep her voice from squeaking when she asked, "How much time do I have, to reach that particular goal?"
* * *
Severus was seething as he made his way to the classroom they used for their "coaching sessions" as Albus called them. He and Potter were the laughing stock of Hogwarts, and the wizarding world at large. And their "coach" was so irritating he would have gladly throttled her.
Days like this, he thought as he entered the room, he regretted Voldemort.
Cruciatus had at least been interesting, in a "oh dear Merlin kill me now" kind of way.
This was just boring.
Although he was beginning to find the arguments more interesting, to his eternal disgust. Now that he actually listened to what Potter had to say, Severus could admit that the brat made relatively passable points. Sometimes. About once a day.
Candice and Potter were waiting for him as he entered and neither of them commented on his tardiness.
"Gentlemen," Candice said, "We're going to go on to the next step today."
Potter was watching her with a disgusted look and Severus wondered if he found her as irritating as he did.
Had it been part of Albus's plan? To give them a common enemy to vanquish, so they could learn to cooperate?
Hm, perhaps this was worth investigating.
"I'm going to leave," Candice said, "and come back in half an hour. I expect to see you talking civilly, then."
They didn't react, and she smiled encouragingly before leaving.
Potter sat and stretched his legs in front of him. "She didn't take our wands," he observed.
"Foolish oversight," Severus admitted, standing ramrod still.
"Yeah." Potter sighed. "On the other hand, if we can prove to her that we can stay in a room unsupervised for a few minutes, perhaps she'll go away."
Yes, really, that may very well have been the reaction Albus was aiming for.
"So you're not going to hex me," Severus said.
"Ah!" Severus smirked and sat down, arms crossed in front of his chest.
There was a blissful silence for twenty seconds, then,
"'Ah,' what?" Potter insisted.
It was so easy to insult him, really. After all these years, Severus didn't even need to say anything anymore. The brat just took his silences as insults. Which they were, most times.
"Nothing really." He took his wand out and rolled it between his fingertips. "It's probably more… prudent, for you."
"God, you sound like a ten year old," Potter said, shaking his head.
"And I notice you didn't insist on duelling."
Potter clenched his jaws and raised his eyes to the ceiling.
Potter clenched his fists.
The silence lasted at least thirty seconds, this time, before Potter said, "I'm bored."
Severus shrugged. "This is a 'coaching session'," he said, with heavy emphasis on "coaching." "They're always boring."
Harry squirmed a few times on his chair, then got to his feet, aimed his wand at the chalkboard and started drawing.
Severus stayed where he was, thinking that for a Professor, Potter looked remarkably like a ten-year-old with the attention span of a mosquito.
Potter played near the chalkboard for almost fifteen minutes before curiosity got the better of Severus, and he went to see what the man was doing.
He was surprised, when he looked over Potter's shoulder, to see an accurate drawing of two duelling opponents, the curses flying between them.
"I don't think the Disarming spell should be drawn that way," he said, pointing.
Potter ignored him.
"And this… were you trying to draw a Disorientation spell?"
When Potter continued to ignore him, Severus continued to criticize, becoming increasingly harsh as the other man's indifference didn't relent.
At some point, as he was discussing the proportions of the characters, Potter spun on his heels, bringing himself face to face with Severus. Severus went on, undeterred. "And really, that man--"
Potter's kiss was a surprise, Severus could freely admit it.
It was brief, a light flutter on his lips.
And then, his eyes met Potter's. "Did you try to shut me up?" he asked.
"Did you really think a kiss from you would be enough to stop me?" he asked.
Potter opened his mouth, and closed it soundlessly.
"Thought so. As I was saying," he went on, ignoring Potter's groan, "the character…"
* * *
When Candice came back, Severus was lecturing, and Potter was sitting at a desk, his head resting on his arms.
"As it was a success," Candice said before leaving, "Tomorrow, I'll leave you alone for one hour."
* * *
"I'll have you know I'm a great kisser," Potter said the next day, as soon as Candice had left.
"And what, pray tell, brought on this fallacious declaration?" Severus asked.
"You, when you asked if I thought a kiss was enough to shut you up!" Potter got to his feet and started pacing in front of the chalkboard. "As if it was nothing."
"I've had better," Severus said evenly.
Lucius may have been certifiable, but the man had known how to kiss.
"Cho may have had grievances, but she was the first one, and she was, well, a girl. Fred was a lot more impressed. And so was Bill."
"Just how many Weasleys did you exchange corporeal fluids with?" Severus asked.
Potter made a face. "Just the two."
"They were friends, Potter. You didn't need to impress them, it was more camaraderie than anything else, I'm sure."
"Draco wasn't a friend."
"An enemy provides good motivation," Severus said. "There is often a fine line between hatred and attraction."
Potter stared at him. "Is that why you're always so mean to me?" he asked with a coy smile.
Severus would have spluttered, if he hadn't been so dignified. As it was, he limited himself to a glare. "Do not insult me, please," he said, trying not to pay attention to the fact that Potter was walking deliberately to him, still smiling, a daring look in the eyes.
Severus was surprised to find himself caught between a wall and Potter. When had he stood up and backed away?
Potter reached up and kissed Severus. Again.
"And how was that?" he asked.
Severus gulped. "Give it up," he said.
Potter didn't give it up.
Three kisses later, Severus had to concede. "There was a minimal amelioration."
Potter smiled, eyes shining. "Good. Let's practice some more."
Serverus hesitated, but Potter was kissing him again before he could protest.
When they came up for air, a few minutes later, Severus allowed, "After all, practice makes perfect."
* * *
"You'll see for yourself, Headmaster. I think you can safely let them back on the--"
Candice opened the door, Dumbledore on her heels. In the room was a sight no witch or wizard had ever seen before. Severus Snape and Harry Potter, who had, apparently, reached a new stage in their complicated relationship, were half lying on the desk. Snape's hands were on Harry's ass, Harry's hands were under Snape's head, and they were kissing so deeply they hadn't even noticed the door opening.
Dumbledore smiled, and closed the door. He turned to the red faced and rather flustered Candice.
"They would, indeed, appear to have got over their differences."
"Ah," she said weakly. Without smiling.
Dumbledore escorted her out of the schools grounds, secure in the knowledge that the teacher's betting pool on how long it would take for Severus and Harry to realise that the tension between them had other causes than enmity was his.
Life was good, Albus reflected.
Harry and Severus, who had just sent a locking charm at the door of the classroom, would have agreed.