Knockturn Alley had lost its terrors, but it would never lose its fascination. Once the home of shadows and iniquities, it was now full of colours and noisy welcome to anybody who dared to cross the line where Borgin and Burkes had been. Its dangers weren't dark anymore, but red like the lanterns outside the many cheap hotels, diverse like the parade of whores in flimsy robes, hot like the Firewhisky sold at Stan's bar.
Whistling a happy little tune, Harry jumped down the stairs that led to the entrance of the Dragon Inn. The Hebridian Black in the sign over the door greeted him with a pocket-size inferno. "Let me in, mate," Harry said. "Don't you recognise me?"
The dragon growled, and red sparks flew from its nostrils.
"Don't look so grim. Bad temper is hard on the stomach, you know."
As if to affirm the truth of the statement, the dragon belched a stream of fire at Harry's robes.
"Hey," Harry said, dodging the flames. "Don't you have a sense of humour?"
The dragon puffed clouds of smoke and stared at Harry with purple eyes.
"All right then, you win. The password is Liberty."
The sign squeaked when the dragon turned its back to Harry. It raised its spiky tail and paid its compliments with a trumpet-load of sulphur, but Harry only grinned and opened the door.
The Dragon Inn was warm and comfortable, a haven for all those who worked the streets, the prostitutes, the dealers of illegal potions and the petty thieves. They found shelter here and company, a hot meal and a stiff drink. Outsiders weren't welcome, and Harry was very proud to be an exception from the rule.
"Hi Stan," he greeted the man behind the bar. "You really should give your dragon a name. I'd like to address it properly before I hex it."
"Harry Potter," Stan Shunpike said. He smiled from one Dumbo ear to the other. "Good to see you. It's been some time. Where have you been the last couple of weeks?"
"Here and there. Mostly at the office. Paperwork, you know, boring stuff." Harry hoped he wasn't blushing.
"What do you like? The usual?"
Harry shook his head. "Today, I want a bottle of your finest oak-matured mead."
Stan winked and disappeared through a trapdoor in the floor. When he resurfaced, there were cobwebs in his hair and he was busy dusting an ancient-looking bottle. "It's from before the Founding of the Ministry," he said in the voice of a storyteller. "Treat it with respect."
Harry searched his robes for Galleons to pay the bill, but Stan would have none of it. "Be my guest," he said, "and give the paperwork my best regards."
This time, Harry knew he was blushing. He muttered his thanks and fled.
Outside, the air was cold and clear. It was only about noon, but the whores had already taken up their positions in the doorways and under the lanterns. They used Heating Charms so powerful that Harry could sense them in the middle of the street. Like warm and tender fingers they caressed him, teased him. He was met with friendly smiles and waves, and the cheerful hellos that greeted him from everywhere made the few passers-by - Ministry employees and shop assistants from Diagon Alley on their lunch break - turn their hooded heads.
"Rosette, darling, how are you?"
"Harry, dear, good to see you."
"Is that a new dress, Lola? Pink suits you, honey."
"How are you, sweetie?"
"Hey there, Jimmy, did you finally get yourself a Pigmy Puff? Cute little fellow."
Carried on a wave of love and belonging, Harry reached his destination in the best of all moods. The ramshackle little house at the end of the street - rumour had it that a great Muggle queen once spent the night here, hundreds of years ago - was deceptive in its appearance. Wizard space allowed a luxurious apartment building to fit inside, with marble floors and an old-fashioned lift that liked to share gossip with its passengers and knew the life story of every single resident. Harry stroked the silver grills.
"Just a teeny-tiny moment, lovey." The bedroom voice came from a small mouth on the control panel. Next to it, a clock said: Fourth Floor. Comforting Irma.
"Don't bother," Harry said. "I'll take the stairs. Tell Irma hello from me."
"Are you sure?" The lift sighed, but Harry was already running upstairs, taking two steps at a time.
Door number 307 was exactly like the other doors in the hall, black and smooth and with a silver owl perch and bell. To Harry, it couldn't have been more different. The playful tickle of the wards made him laugh, and when he placed his hand on the wood of the door, it opened with a soft click.
The curtains were still closed in the living room. Harry drew a figure with his wand and smiled at the chaos that was revealed by the sunlight streaming through large windows. More wand movements Vanished the cigarette stubs and potato crisps on the carpet. Harry put the clean ashtray back on the table and picked up an empty mead bottle from behind the sofa. His fingers stroked the dragon on the label:
Dragon Inn Superior
Finest Elfin Quality
The miniature beast purred and presented its soft belly. Harry decided to keep the bottle. He placed it next to a row of identical bottles on the mantelpiece, retrieved the new bottle and a camellia from his robes and arranged them on the occasional table in front of the fireplace. Satisfied with his work, he went to the bedroom.
"Severus, are you awake?"
A low growl was the only answer. When Harry pushed open the door, he was met by a sight that took his breath away and made his knees weak. Severus Snape was lying on the bed, naked except for one silk stocking. The unstockinged leg high in the air, he was busy slipping the second stocking over his toes. Harry watched in awe as Severus smoothed the green silk over his high instep and adjusted the heel. Severus's body was completely clean-shaven but for a small triangle of hair pointing down at his cock, and the deep green material was a great contrast to his pale skin. While Severus slowly rolled the stocking up his leg, Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and pressed a kiss to the other leg, enjoying the softness of the silk and the even softer skin.
"Mm," Harry said, "perfect."
Severus ignored Harry in favour of the stocking.
"I'm so glad to see you wearing them again." Harry let two fingers slip below the wide lace top band. "You had them on when we first met, but never again after that. I've missed them."
Harry licked below the elastic band, rubbed his cheek against it and started to kiss a trail up to Severus's dormant cock. Severus turned away. He crossed his legs and looked at Harry with an expressionless face.
"They're part of my uniform," Severus said. "I never wear them when I'm not working."
'Working?" Harry asked, pretending not to understand.
"It's high time I get back to work. The last two weeks -"
"If you insist. The last eighteen days have been very pleasurable indeed. Now that I'm out of elf-made mead -"
"I just bought a new bottle."
Severus only shook his head. "The rent won't pay itself."
Harry shifted closer to Severus and took his hand. "I can pay the rent."
"Don't be deliberately obtuse, Potter." Severus sneered, but he didn't withdraw his hand.
"You promised to call me Harry."
"I'll 'Potter' you if you behave like a Potter."
"I mean it." Harry took in a deep breath. "I have all that money at Gringotts. I couldn't spend it even if I wanted to. Let me help you out. I owe you so much."
Severus snatched his hand away and folded his arms across his chest. "So that's what it comes down to? You want to engage my services? Very well. I charge twenty Galleons per hour and a fixed rate of sixty Galleons for the whole night. If you want to book me exclusively for a month that would be - I'll make you a special price - 1,500 Galleons."
Harry gulped. "You can't be serious," he said. "That's three times my salary as an Auror. Not that I'd want to -"
"Of course," Severus continued, "I'd have to ask you to provide a hotel room. My apartment is out of bounds for clients."
"You want to throw me out?"
"I want to make clear once and for all that me being a whore doesn't mean I'm for sale. I sell my services as a sexual worker, nothing less and nothing more. I've been a servant to two masters and I got my reward. I was closer to death than to life when I crawled out of the Shrieking Shack, but I was free. I'd rather die than become a servant once more. I will stay independent. Even from you. Especially from you."
During his whole speech, Severus's eyes had never left Harry's face. Now he looked down at his legs. "Can you accept that?"
The green stockings appeared sinister all of a sudden, dirty. Harry couldn't help but be aroused. He shrugged his shoulders. "Honestly, I don't know. I don't want to lose you again."
"Take your time." Severus's voice was acerbic. It reminded Harry of the old Severus Snape, the hated teacher and Death Eater.
"I suppose I should show my face at the Ministry sooner or later. Kingsley'll have my head on a platter for disappearing like that." Harry's laughter sounded hollow in his own ears. "Will your wards still let me in when I come back tonight?"
Severus took his wand from the bedside cabinet and Accio'd a corset. "Yes," he said.
Harry didn't go to the Ministry straight away. Like a sleepwalker unaware of his surroundings, he drifted towards the Dragon Inn. When he came to himself again, he was sitting at his regular table in the corner, a pint of bitter in front of him. Through a small window to his left, he could see the legs of the passers-by, the long robes of the tricks and the silk stockings of the whores.
He didn't have to wait long, and black robes came into view, swirling around black-laced boots. The movements of the man outside were so smooth that the unusual cut of his robes didn't show until he leaned against the small fence that separated the Dragon Inn from the street. He revealed the secret of his robes in a precise movement of the hip. Through a waist-high slit the leg of a movie star appeared, shimmering in green silk. Harry balled his hands into fists.
"It seems Severus is working again," a falsetto voice behind Harry said. "It's a pity! He always steals away the best clients. I wonder how he does it. He's ugly and old."
A young man with Shirley Temple curls and strawberry lips slid onto the bench beside Harry. He set a pink cocktail and a Pygmy Puff on the table and shifted closer, pressing his leg against Harry's. "I don't mind so much, though," he whispered, "if he only leaves you to me."
Eyes on the street, Harry shook his head. "Please, Jimmy, not that again. You know that I'm not interested."
Jimmy pouted. "A boy can try," he said, but then he quickly turned away to rescue his cocktail from a purple ball of fluff that had managed to climb the glass and was happily sipping away. "Dotty, no! How often do I have to tell you that alcohol is poison for you? Poison, I say!"
Harry didn't listen anymore. Outside, grey robes had joined the black. A big hand squeezed a stockinged thigh right below the green lace band that Harry had caressed merely half an hour earlier. The grey robes moved further down the street, and the black ones followed. Harry's fist crashed down on the table and startled Dotty out of her sulk.
The Ministry of Magic smelled of dust. Harry often wondered how it was possible to reduce magic to millions of stacks of paper. It was a kind of magic in itself, albeit a very dreary one. Not even the dark red of the Auror robes succeeded in livening up the grey place. It didn't help to improve Harry's mood that Percy Weasley was the first person he met when entering the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
"Harry," Percy cried out, nearly dropping the mountain of files he was holding.
"I have to admit," Percy eyed Harry sternly over the rim of his spectacles, "you're the last wizard in the world I'd have thought capable of abusing his fame."
The files wobbled dangerously when Percy wedged them between his chin and one arm to gesture his displeasure with the other. "Do you think you can simply vanish like Merlin himself? Where have you been the last three weeks?"
"Mother has been sick with worry, and my sister -"
"Last thing I heard, Ginny's left the Burrow to play landlady at Malfoy Manor."
If possible, Percy's face grew even sterner. "My sister's honour should be more worth to you than a jibe."
Percy was not only Harry's least favourite Weasley, he was also the only family member Harry didn't understand. While Severus occasionally made him feel stupid - a sensation that surprisingly only incited the butterflies that invaded his stomach every time he thought of his lover - with Percy it was as if they were speaking a completely different language. "Honour? Jibe? What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the fact that my family has finally gained some respect in the wizarding world. It wouldn't do to lose it again over this down-at-the-heel Death -"
A paper aeroplane hit Percy in the back. He lifted his chin to turn his head and the files slipped from his arm, scattering sheets of paper all over the floor. Arthur Weasley appeared from behind an open door. He smiled at Harry and winked. "Kingsley's looking for you. You'd better hurry."
Kneeling in the middle of a chaos of paper, Percy cursed under his breath and raised his wand. Rustling in protest, the sheets reluctantly returned to their files. Harry wanted to help, but Arthur waved him away and knelt beside his son. "Our family has always been and will always be respected in the wizarding world. There's nothing you or any child of mine could do that would change that," Harry heard him say before he turned the corner to meet his boss.
The Head of the Auror Office wasn't behind his desk. Harry looked around the spacious room - a vast improvement to the ordinary Auror cubicles - and noticed a small door in the back wall he'd never seen before. It stood slightly ajar. Harry wondered if Kingsley wanted to play hide and seek and pushed it open. The closet behind it was empty except for shelves full of Potions bottles. It reminded Harry a bit of Severus's old potions cabinet at Hogwarts, only that the bottles here were uniformly round-shaped and carried the seal of the Ministry. Harry read the inscriptions:
And so it went on in endless rows. Harry sniffed at a batch of bottles of Amortentia that had been confiscated at the Three Broomsticks only the day before yesterday. Despite the fact that they were sealed, he could smell the faint odours of cigarette smoke and mead. The butterflies in his stomach somersaulted.
The sound of muted voices startled Harry. He slipped back into Kingsley's office, leaving the hidden door ajar. "Auror Potter is waiting for you," he heard the secretary say, and he had barely time to sit down before Kingsley entered the room with a broad smile on his face and two bottles of beer in his hand.
"Did you see the latest outgrowth of devotion to the Order?" Kingsley sat down behind his desk and pushed one of the bottles in Harry's direction. The label showed a prancing bird surrounded by large letters:
Order of the Phoenix
10 Years Peace and Freedom
Harry grinned. "Looks more like an overgrown chicken to me."
He performed a cooling charm on the bottle, opened it and took a swig. "Too sweet for my taste," he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
Kingsley nodded, but then his forehead creased. "I take it that your long absence means you made some progress?"
Harry turned the bottle over and over in his hands. "I know for sure that Severus Snape has nothing to do with the smuggling of illegal potions out of the red light district," he finally said.
"That's impossible. He may not be the person behind the smuggling, but we have definite proof that he's the brewer. At least of the confiscated Polyjuice."
The phoenix label stuck fast to the bottle. "How can you know? A child can brew Polyjuice. Well, maybe not every child, but Hermione could do it when she was twelve. An average witch or wizard can easily brew it."
Kingsley shook his head. "After the latest robbery of a Muggle bank, we discovered two of the gang's hide-outs. The -"
"Camilla and Prince Charles as bank robbers." Harry couldn't suppress a snicker. "Priceless."
"Auror Potter!" Kingsley's hand slammed down on a stack of files. "The Obliviation Squad wasn't so amused, I can tell you."
Harry smiled an apology and picked at a paper phoenix feather.
"The Polyjuice we found hardly resembles the potion as we know it. Our Potions experts call it Pertinajuice Potion because of its most amazing quality: it doesn't wear off."
"It doesn't wear off?" A second paper feather shared the fate of the first.
"Yes. It has the persistency of a bulldog. One of the experts was stuck as Percy Weasley for a fortnight."
"What a horrible fate." Harry worked hard on the third tail feather. "There has to be a way, though. I can't imagine the robbers still going about looking like Charles and Camilla."
"From the third hour on, it's possible to change back with a simple Finite Incantatem. However, it isn't that easy. The users have to focus hard on their self to achieve their goal."
"A potion with a spell for an antidote? Nifty."
"Indeed. The work of a genius. Do you see now that Snape alone is brilliant enough to make such an invention? It has his name written all over it."
"He's hardly the only Potions genius in the world." Harry had given up on the tail feathers and picked at the head. The phoenix picked back, but to no avail.
"He's the only Potions genius in the red light district."
"And who's responsible for that?" The bottle crashed on the desk, and beer splashed over the files. The heap of phoenix shavings in front of Harry burst into flames.
"I'll tell you who's responsible," Harry said. "The fucking Ministry treating a war hero like a criminal, and people like you who didn't give a damn when Severus was so unpopular that he first lost his job at Slug and Jiggers and then his own apothecary."
The ashes on the desk transformed into a shiny new label. It floated over to the bottle and attached itself to it. The baby phoenix fluffed up its feathers. Kingsley Vanished the puddles of beer and performed a drying charm on the files. With a swish and flick, he guided the reborn poultry and its bottle to the dustbin in the corner. "What exactly is your relationship to Severus Snape?" he asked.
Fate, the great movie director, resorted to an old cliché. There was a knock at the door. The secretary poked her head into the office. "Senior Assistant to the Minister Percy Weasley for you, sir," she said.
"Can't he wait? I need to talk to Auror Potter."
"He insists. He says he has an important message from the Minister."
Kingsley sighed. "I'll be back soon. We aren't finished here, Harry."
The door clapped shut and from the dustbin erupted a high-pitched crow.
Harry's eyes were again drawn to the hidden door in the back wall.
The red line that separated Knockturn Alley from wizarding Britain was a scar, a Frankenstein blemish on the skin of the brave new post-Voldemort world. People stared at it. "It's a shame," the mothers would say and pull their daughters away. "There's nothing like a Knockturn Alley whore," the fathers would tell their sons with a nudge and a leer.
Harry added hairs of a random Muggle from a Soho cafe to the Pertinajuice and gulped down the foul-smelling concoction. A stranger in voluminous grey robes emerged from the ruins of Borgin and Burkes, crossed the street and watched his image in the rippling air above the demarcation line. Blue eyes looked back at him from a face that he hoped he wouldn't remember afterwards. Harry pressed the stranger's lips together and walked through the mirror.
The wards hissed and sizzled. "Harry James Potter," a metallic voice said in his head. "Born: June 31, 1980. Age: 27. Of age. Profession: Auror (suspended until further notice). Marital state: unmarried. Sexual orientation: homosexual. No illegal potions found. Time of crossing: 18:35:14 (British Wizarding Time), Monday February 4, 2008. Welcome to the red light district, Mr Potter. Enjoy your stay." The wards didn't see the shape of his skin, they looked beneath.
A symphony of colours and light awaited Harry on the other side, the voices of the whores a dissonant choir. "Sweetheart, come over here!" - "I'm Lola. I'll make your dreams come true." - "Come to mummy, baby bear, Rosette takes good care of you."
Harry dodged breasts and hands and all other body parts that were thrown in his way and went right to the spot in front of the Dragon Inn where a green leg was the lamp to his moth.
Severus Snape stood dark and sharp, an espresso amongst candy. He didn't move or say a word and only stared down his nose at Harry, challenging him to make the first move. Harry swallowed. He placed a sweaty hand on Severus's leg and squeezed. "I want you," he said.
"I charge twenty Galleons for an hour and sixty for the night."
Severus led the way to one of the hotels, the Golden Snitch. "Do you like Quidditch?" Harry asked. He knew the answer by heart.
"It's a sport for attention seekers and fools who don't care if they break their necks."
"Why then ...?" Harry gestured at the sign over the door where a Seeker that looked remarkably like himself chased a tiny golden spark.
Severus opened the door and motioned Harry inside. "It's the cleanest place around here," he said.
The concierge grinned and offered a key. "There's no reason to look so smug, Gregory," Severus said. "The Snitch is still a flea pit, even if the others are worse."
The stairs creaked under Harry's feet and he couldn't make out Gregory's answer. Severus caught up with him on the landing. The ceiling was so low that Harry had to be careful not to hit his head. Their bodies touched when Severus passed Harry to open one of the doors. Harry shivered.
The room contained nothing but a bed, a chair and a washstand. Severus sat down and crossed his legs. The world turned green, and Harry had to grab a bedpost to keep himself upright. He wondered if Severus's stockings had the same effect on him as Kryptonite had on Superman. "Do you want the money now or later?" he asked.
Severus stretched out his hand. "I get paid in advance. No refund possible. But don't worry, I will satisfy you."
"I ... I wasn't worried," Harry said and fumbled for the Galleons.
"Thank you." Severus put the money in a pouch at his belt and waved his wand. The pouch disappeared.
"It's a Portkey to Gringotts," Severus said. "In case you were wondering. Your payment includes oral and anal penetration. Rimming and object penetration are five Galleons extra each. I reserve the right to refuse objects at my own discretion. You may come all over my face for another five Galleons, but I will under no circumstances deal with body fluids other than semen and saliva. If you want anything more advanced, I can give you the names of renowned specialists."
"Whoa, wait a moment," Harry said. "I'm perfectly happy with the normal stuff."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "You don't look very happy."
"I'm nervous, I suppose." Unsure what to do with his hands, Harry started to undress. He was rock hard.
"So how do you want me?"
"How? I don't understand." Harry folded his robes into a neat package. He was glad he'd thought about buying new pants that Severus wouldn't recognise.
"What position do you prefer me in?"
"Position? I don't ... I don't know." The robes unfolded in Harry's hands and he discarded them over a bedpost. "Can't we simply start and do what comes natural?" Harry moved closer, tearing his eyes away from the green and touching Severus's hair.
"Natural?" Severus uncrossed his legs and leaned back on the chair. "Nothing is natural with a whore. We're virtuosi and the human body is our instrument."
One step, and Harry was caught in a triangle of green. Severus locked his legs behind Harry's back and pulled him closer. "We make art," he said.
Hot breath ghosted over Harry's nipples and his crotch rubbed against the buttons of Severus's robes. Harry caressed Severus's neck and let one finger slip beneath the stand-up collar of his robes. "Can you take them off?" he asked.
Severus stood in one swift motion. One leg on the chair, he undid his robes button by button. More green was revealed, and Harry, mesmerised by his own weakness, investigated the corset with fingers and lips. He played with dark nipples that peeped out from under the satin and tasted soft skin. When he tried to capture Severus's lips, Severus turned away. "Kisses are for lovers and traitors," he said. "Whores are neither."
The lift told Harry that Irma and Nestor were having make-up sex between the fourth and fifth floors, and Harry took the stairs. He was late. Shaking off the Pertinajuice had turned out to be more difficult than he'd imagined. He'd run around Muggle London for hours before becoming himself again. Still confused, he enjoyed Severus's wards groping his bum.
Severus sprawled on the living room sofa in his old tartan dressing gown, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of mead in the other. "Potter," he said. "I didn't expect you to come back."
Harry's eyes fell on the mead bottle - half-empty - and the ashtray - full to the brim - and he sighed. "Why wouldn't I come back?" he said and removed Severus's legs from the sofa to sit next to him. The dressing gown parted, showing pale skin and cotton underpants. Harry pointed his wand, and dry wood walked over to the fireplace and jumped into the fire.
"You tell me. You weren't exactly thrilled when I informed you of my plans."
"I wasn't." Harry caught the hand holding the glass and took a long sip. "I told you I'd be back, though."
Severus freed his hand. "It's half past four in the morning. What was I to think?"
"Dunno. Maybe you could have thought that I'm Harry, your own personal boomerang, and that I always return to you."
"You are a persistent bugger, that's indeed true."
Lifting Severus's arm, Harry snuggled beneath it. "Remember St. Mungo's? For half a year, you told me to piss off every single day."
"You never listened to anything I said. You gave Mr Jiggers a piece of your mind even though I ordered you to shut up."
"I came to your apothecary under every pretext I could think of."
"You gave the Prophet an interview on my behalf against my explicit wishes."
"I was devastated when you disappeared."
Severus stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray and put the glass on the table. He closed his arms around Harry, shifting and turning until they were lying side by side. "You never told me how you found out about me."
"I only found out when we ran into each other in front of the Dragon Inn," Harry said.
"How's that possible? What sin did you commit that would deserve such a punishment?"
"Patrol duty in the seventh circle of hell is surely the worst punishment the Auror office has to offer."
"On the contrary." Harry intertwined their legs and sneaked one hand under Severus's dressing gown. "I asked for the job."
Harry caressed Severus's chest and found an attentive nipple. "You know, I'm tired of being an Auror." The second nipple pricked up. "It's paperwork ninety percent of the time and the rest isn't that interesting either. I wanted something different, and when I had the opportunity to come to the district, I took it. I liked it even before we met. I like the girls and boys, I like Stan and the Dragon ..."
Severus petted Harry's head, and Harry started to purr. "I like it," he said.
"It's a pity," Harry said some time later, "that Muggle electronics don't work inside the district wards. I'd love to watch a movie with you."
"We can make our own movie."
Harry raised his head and placed a quick kiss on Severus's chin. "What do you even know of movies?"
"I'm not ignorant, Potter. I grew up in a Muggle area in the seventies. I know all about movies and rock music."
Harry grinned. "What kind of movie were you thinking of?"
"Let me show you." Severus pushed up Harry's T-shirt and motioned him to lie on his stomach. Dexterous fingers started to work out the kinks in his back.
"I see," Harry told the cushions. "An educational flick. How To Lull Your Partner To Sleep In Ten Easy Steps."
Harry yawned and his eyes drifted shut. Sharp teeth nipping the skin below his shoulder blade woke him. "I'm not a teacher anymore. You better keep that in mind."
Harry was lying spread-eagled on the bed, his prick poking the air. Severus ignored it and kissed his way from Harry's feet up to his belly. Harry had soon realized that the kiss ban only applied to kisses on the mouth. Severus Snape was a kissing master, as Harry very well knew, and he made brilliant use of it. Green silk framed Harry's legs and a professional tongue fucked his belly button. Harry thought of files and dust and Percy Weasley so as not to come right then and there.
"Don't you want to teach me the subtle science and exact art of love-making?"
Severus's hand stung like nettles on Harry's shoulder. "Ouch!"
"Turn around and I'll bewitch your mind and ensnare your senses." The last words were kisses, whispered against Harry's skin.
"No foolish wand-waving," Harry said when Severus fiddled about with the buttons of Harry's jeans.
"That's your domain, Auror Potter. Where are your uniform robes anyway? They're much easier to remove than these Muggle monstrosities."
Percy Weasley played leap-frog over stacks of paper in a corner of Harry's mind while a dark head moved up and down over Harry's cock. Harry caressed the curtain of hair separating the upper from the lower part of his body. With his free hand he grabbed the sheets. Far away at the foot of the bed, he could see green legs crossed in the air, moving back and forth in time with the motions of the head. Harry bucked up into the heat. Percy had reached the end of the row. "One hundred," he said and started anew in the other direction.
"I'm taking a holiday."
Severus's hands stilled over Harry's fly. "Are you planning to go away?"
"No." When Severus's hands didn't return to their task, the beast in Harry's trousers protested against its restraints.
"No," Harry repeated. "I need some time off to think, that's all. I'll be around, just not on duty."
Harry's cock leapt free, only to be recaptured by Severus's mouth. "What?" Harry said. "No barb about me and thinking?"
Harry had long forgotten his remark when Severus finally released his cock. "I've given up on commenting every time your words make no sense. Your qualities lie elsewhere."
A cotton-clad crotch pushed insistently against Harry's face. "Mmph," Harry said and took his time mouthing the soft material and the hardness beneath.
Severus released Harry's cock and moved upwards, the stiff satin of his corset leaving goose bumps on Harry's skin. Harry jolted when their groins met, Severus's cock just as hard and excited as his own. The whole day, Harry had thought of nothing but of Severus working as a whore. In his imagination, a lifeless Severus had lain on his back, his eyes shut tight and his prick shrivelled, while a stinking brute had driven into him again and again. Harry had stolen the potion to come to his rescue, and now that he saw Severus enjoying himself, he realised his own foolishness. Hot anger shot through his veins. "I'm going to fuck you now," he forced through clenched teeth.
The cotton of Severus's pants was soaked through with saliva and precome, and Harry unwrapped his prize. He loved Severus's cock, its banana shape, the pattern of blue veins and the purple head that looked so small on top of the big shaft. Harry lapped a pearl from the slit and enjoyed Severus's taste. Then he swallowed the whole length.
Harry was very proud of having overcome his gag reflex. When his nose made contact with the triangle of hair that pointed at the cock deep down his throat, he was at the top of the world. During the last eighteen days he'd absorbed every minuscule detail about Severus's likes and dislikes. He knew the exact amount of pressure to apply with his lips, the precise way to roll Severus's balls between his fingers and the accurate angle to wriggle his forefinger inside Severus's hole. Severus Snape had never had a more talented lover - he himself had told Harry so with mead-slurred voice - and Harry was determined that it stay that way. Severus's moans were the most beautiful sounds Harry could imagine.
When Severus's hands stopped caressing Harry's hair, Harry looked up. A soft tug, and he let go of Severus's cock. "What's the matter?" he asked. "Something wrong?"
Severus watched him with a strange expression in his eyes. Sometimes Harry wished he could perform Legilimency in moments like these to learn more about his lover and his moods.
"Nothing's wrong, idiot," Severus said in a low voice. "I want you to fuck me now."
"Very well," Severus said. "Do you want to prepare me or do you prefer I do it myself?"
Severus's businesslike demeanour calmed Harry down a bit. "You do it," he said and watched Severus inserting the tip of his wand into his own arse.
"Wait a minute." Harry listened to Kingsley rattling off the iron Auror rules in his head. "Isn't that bloody dangerous?"
Harry could see a smile tugging at the corners of Severus's lips that nobody else would have noticed. "It's an ancient spell, as old as wand lore itself and passed on among the witches and wizards of my trade. I wouldn't advise you to try it at home."
Harry nodded, distracted by Severus's hands that were busy applying the slippery substance from the tip of his wand to Harry's cock. "Ready if you are," Severus said.
Harry nodded again. Green legs straddled him, and Severus lowered himself on his cock.
Harry grabbed his wand. "Accio lube," he said, and an oversized blue vial floated through the open bedroom door. Harry caught and opened it. He poured the viscous liquid into his hand and shook the bottle. "It's high time for you to brew more lube," he said and put a slick finger up Severus's arse.
"I don't brew it myself," Severus said and moaned when Harry crooked his finger.
"No?" Harry added a second finger. "I thought a potions maniac like you wouldn't trust the work of others."
"I'm not a maniac, and I haven't brewed a single potion in the eight years since I sold my apothecary. Stop pestering me with inane questions and concentrate on the task at hand." Severus wiggled his arse.
Harry scissored his fingers and lubed up his prick with his free hand. "I've heard," he said, "that whores use their wands to prepare themselves."
Severus became very still. "Did you talk to Jimmy again?" he said. His voice was soft, but there was an edge to it that Harry remembered from before the war. "I told you he's a malicious little bastard. I wish you wouldn't associate with his sort."
"Yeah, well. He seems nice enough." Palpable silence filled the room. Even the logs in the fireplace sulked.
"Of course," Harry said, "he's a bit stupid and totally not my type."
The fire crackled and Severus pushed back against Harry's fingers. "Fuck me already," he said.
Harry clung to Severus's corset like a life buoy. He wanted to watch Severus's face, but all he could see was green. "Do ... do you enjoy it?" he asked.
"Yes," Severus moaned, "oh yes. Yes." It sounded so fake, so different from Severus's usual moans, but could Harry really be sure?
Harry freed one hand and stroked Severus's cock. "What's it like, being a whore?"
"It's the best job I've ever had," Severus said, punctuating each word with a movement of his pelvis. "I love cock. I can't get enough of it."
The walls constricted around Harry's cock, and Severus came. Harry drowned.
"Turn around," Harry said. "I want to see your face."
Harry upended the vial of lube and spread the last droplets over his cock. When Severus faced him, his legs high in the air, Harry aligned his cock to Severus's pucker and pushed inside. Harry would never get used to the sensation of being so close to Severus, nor would he ever be able to put his feelings into words. He tried to convey them through the intensity of his lovemaking, through every touch, every movement, every deep and slow stroke. Soon, his greed took over and his thrusts became frantic.
"Touch yourself." Harry's voice was a mere rasp, a tickle deep inside his throat, but Severus understood. His hand blurred over his prick. Harry wiped the sweat from his forehead and his glasses came off. Unseeing, Severus's moans were his only guideline.
"You're mine," Harry said. "Mine." Severus's body clenched, and Severus came in long spurts.
Harry bent forward and kissed Severus's mouth. Severus welcomed him with open lips, and their tongues danced. "Mine," Harry's tongue claimed - mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. Harry shuddered and came.
The headlines screamed DAVID & VICTORIA BECKHAM: BANKROBBERY and wondered if drugs were to blame in bold letters. His wand hidden in the sleeve of his jacket, Harry Accio'd single strands of hair from the heads of random, average looking strangers. The tube was his favourite hunting ground, supplying him with an endless stream of unsuspecting Muggles. The victims hardly noticed the assault. They scratched their heads and returned to their reading.
Having harvested more than enough hair to last him another fortnight, Harry left the tube and walked to the Ministry. His next task was a lot more challenging. The first Pertinajuice theft had been a mere matter of luck; this time Harry had to be cunning. He assured himself one last time of the presence of the shrunken and fake Ministry-sealed bottles in his pocket and took a deep breath. Then he entered the telephone box.
The Ministry was in an uproar. Wizards and witches were pouring from the Floos in the entrance hall like rats from a sinking ship. The air was full of paper aeroplane crashes, and the lifts were stuck. Harry found an emergency staircase and made his way down to his office against a current of employees, all complaining about the impossibility to Apparate inside the Ministry.
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was deserted. It looked as if a tsunami had swept through it, leaving destruction in its wake. Papers were strewn everywhere, rustling under Harry's feet. Kingsley's secretary wasn't at her desk, and the door to his office stood wide open. Harry stepped inside. He was just about to close the door when he noticed that he wasn't alone. Kingsley was huddled in front of the fireplace, his head in his hands.
"What happened?" Harry asked. "Why all the panic?"
"Harry," Kingsley got to his feet, "I'm glad to see you. Do you have new information about Snape? Anything?"
"I don't believe it. You suspended me because of my relationship with Severus, yet you still want me to spy on him?"
Kingsley sank into his chair. "Suspension is standard procedure in a case like yours. Aurors aren't allowed to have personal relationships with suspects."
"If you had told me right away -" Harry fingered the glass bottles in his pocket and forced himself to stay calm. "- that patrol duty in the red light district meant spying on Severus Snape, I would never have accepted the job."
"Please, Harry, take a seat. You must understand my position. The Pertinajuice robberies jeopardise the Statute of Secrecy like nothing has done before, not even the Voldemort crisis."
Harry cast Reparo on one of the chairs and sat down. The hidden door was closed, and only an infinitesimal line on the wallpaper betrayed its existence. Harry had no idea how to get rid of Kingsley who still hadn't finished talking.
"Today, the Obliviation Squad was too late. The Muggle papers got wind of the robbery long before we even noticed. Right now, the Minister is talking to the Prime Minister. I can't even imagine the consequences." Kingsley raised a beseeching hand. "We must find and arrest the delinquents. I implore you, Harry, if you know something, anything, tell me."
"Severus hasn't brewed a single potion in the eight years since he sold his apothecary," Harry said.
"How do you know?"
"He told me so."
The last files on the desk jumped to safety when Kingsley's hand came down. "He's lying!"
"He isn't!" Harry placed both hands on the desk and leaned towards Kingsley. "How can you even be sure that the Pertinajuice really comes from the red light district?"
Kingsley mimicked Harry's pose. "There's a close-meshed web of security spells in place all over Britain and Ireland, as you very well know. We get an alert every time a witch brews a harmless healing potion, and sometimes the spells even register a refined curry. Because of its special status and the complicated wards, the red light district is the only place we can't control. Ergo -"
"If there's a way to smuggle an illegal potion out of the district, sure as hell there's a way to smuggle a brewer inside. Severus is innocent. You need a scapegoat, that's all."
Kingsley leaned back in his chair and wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Occam's razor," he said, "Occam's razor."
Before Harry could ask what a razor had to do with anything, the Floo flared up and Arthur Weasley's head appeared in the flames.
Kingsley leapt to the fireplace. "Arthur. Finally. What's new?"
"The Obliviation Squad has been successful. The Muggles now believe that everything has been an elaborate prank. The Minister is asking for our advice. She's considering Obliviating the Prime Minister as well."
"Merlin's hairy balls!" Kingsley jumped to his feet and shot out of the door.
"Hello, Harry," Arthur said. "I'm a bit in a hurry, but we should meet for a beer some time soon. I miss our boys' nights out."
Harry nodded until the flames had receded. Once again, Fate had smiled upon him from the director's chair. Harry smiled back and set to work.
Opening the hidden door - the seventh unlocking spell was successful - and replacing the Pertinajuice with the fake bottles was a walk in the park. When Harry left Kingsley's office ten minutes later, his pockets once again clinking with shrunken vials, he had a wistful tune on his lips. The secretary, busy with the clean-up, batted her eyelashes at him and blushed.
On his way to Grimmauld Place, the perfect hiding-place for the Pertinajuice and still his official home, the headlines screamed PRANKSTER at him and asked if he was a master or a moron.
"Harry, gorgeous, what a pleasure." The lift opened its grills. Harry stumbled inside and fell on the red plush sofa that took up about two thirds of the cabin space.
"Goodness me, that's passion," the lift said. "I knew you had it in you."
Harry rubbed his eyes and yawned. Changing into someone else twice a day was taking its toll, and he wished there were another way to keep Severus from doing tricks. It hadn't become easier to shake off the Pertinajuice, either. When he wasn't with Severus, Harry was wandering around aimlessly, desperately trying to remember the shape of his hands or the way he walked. Coming home inhabiting his own body was bliss. He yawned again and rested his head on the sofa cushions. The lift breathed a dreamy sigh.
"... told Severus just the other day ...
"... fifth floor ...
"... darling ...
"... wake up ...
"Oh come on, darling, wake up. There's nothing like a little nap afterwards, I know, but -"
"What? Severus? What's wrong?" Harry jumped up from the sofa and looked around in panic. When he became aware of his surroundings, he blinked his eyes.
Stepping out of the lift, he gave the grills a parting stroke. "Sorry for keeping you."
"Nothing to be sorry about, sweetie. You're beautiful when you sleep."
Severus wasn't home. For a second, Harry wondered if he was with a trick, but then he remembered number seven of Severus's ten commandments (more than two clients a day is sheer murder, especially with a greedy lover like you, Potter). Harry thought that he hadn't been so greedy lately and stripped out of his jeans. A Malfoy look-alike appeared on a back alley in his mind and offered Severus a million Galleons for a night. Harry shook his head to get rid of the image of silver hair and green silk, rolling around on expensive sheets. He knew that Lucius Malfoy was dead, Draco ostracised as a former Death Eater and the Malfoy fortune seized by the Ministry, and that if anything, Draco was pitiable; he wasn't a proper wizard anymore and didn't have the money to afford even a half-hour of Severus's time.
Harry slipped under the covers of the bed, knowing that if he didn't find a solution to this fucked-up situation soon, he'd go crazy. He reached for his wand and promised himself that he'd think about everything tomorrow. A triangle drawn in the air, and the curtains closed. A staccato of dots extinguished the candles. The fact that, after all, tomorrow would be another day, comforted him, if only marginally. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Harry woke to the smell of coffee and smoke. Severus was sitting next to him on the bed, blurry and with a mug and a burning cigarette in his hands. The Daily Prophet rested against his drawn up legs.
"Yuck," Harry said, waving the smoke away from his face and grabbing his glasses from the bedside cabinet. He couldn't remember having taken them off; Severus must have removed them when he came back.
"At this time of the day, I should be the only fag you suck."
Severus blew a couple of smoke rings in the air. "I won't comment on the quality of the pun and your blatant use of an Americanism, but it makes me wonder ..."
He transferred the mug to the hand holding the cigarette and let the other slip under the covers. It was still warm from the mug, but all the tugging and coaxing was to no avail; Harry's cock remained uninterested.
"I thought so," Severus said. "At least this fag -" He took a demonstrative drag. "- burns for me."
"Ouch," Harry said, hiding his frustration behind what he hoped was a funny face. "And that's a good pun how?"
"If you want coffee, there's some left in the kitchen." Severus dropped the cigarette into the coffee and put the hissing mug on the bedside cabinet. "I'm going to take a shower." The Prophet slipped from the bed - SECRECY IN DANGER - when Severus moved his legs.
"Wait." Harry wrapped his arms around Severus's shoulders. "Wait."
"I ... We need to talk. I'm sorry."
Pale legs disappeared back under the covers. "Potter," Severus began. Harry shifted closer and waited.
"There's no reason to be sorry. You've lost interest. It happens all the time." Severus once again turned to get up. Harry clung to him.
"I haven't lost interest. There's no way that's ever going to happen, trust me." Harry caressed Severus's shoulders until they had relaxed somewhat and only wished his prick would speak up for him.
"I don't understand," Severus said.
"It's ..." Harry braced himself. "It's the whole situation. That you have to work to stay independent ... it makes sense to me, rationally, but obviously ..." Harry gulped. "... my body can't get over the fact of your constant infidelity."
The last words fell off Harry's tongue like a Seeker off his broomstick, and Harry's face burnt from the falsehood as if it had been slapped.
"Infidelity?" Severus broke free from Harry's grasp. "I haven't been unfaithful to you. You knew about my work from the beginning. I've never lied to you."
"I'm sorry," Harry said. "Yes, you've never lied. It's one of the things I lo... I like most about you."
"So what is it then? Let me guess, Potter. You're repulsed. Disgusted. Isn't that so?"
"No!" Harry wiped Severus's spittle from his chin and his nose. "No!" He stretched out a hand and caressed the lines on Severus's face. When Severus didn't bite off his finger, he dared breathing again. "I could never be repulsed by you," Harry said. "There's nothing you could do that would disgust me."
"Nothing?" Severus rubbed his stubble against Harry's cheek. "Nothing?" he repeated in a whisper.
"Nothing," Harry whispered back and worried Severus's earlobe between his teeth. "Back at Hogwarts, I thought it was disgust and hatred that made me burn every time I saw you. When I realised the truth, it was too late. You were gone. Now that I've found you again ..." Harry wound his arms around Severus and kissed the corner of his lips. "I promise I'll make it work," he said. "Somehow."
"I won't work as a whore forever." Severus licked his lips where Harry had kissed them. "I can promise you that."
Their tongues met, and Harry's prick took an interest.
Much later, Harry took a deep drag of Severus's cigarette. The sharp smoke tickled his nose and he sneezed. Severus retrieved his hand to take a drag himself and stroked Harry's calf with his toes. Outside, the sun had risen high in the sky, a fuzzy dot of light on the closed curtains.
"Of course, everything would be easier with a client like old Archie," Severus said into the silence.
"Who's old Archie?"
"He was a client of mine some time ago. I suppose he's dead now, or paralysed. Albeit, I think he would've managed to come and see me in a hover-chair." Severus smirked, and Harry's stomach clenched.
"What was so special about him?" he asked. "Why did you like him so much?"
"I didn't like him, moron." Severus's toes had reached the inside of Harry's knee. "He was a senile dodderer with his mind constantly in the gutter. He couldn't get it up anymore, and not even all the virility potions in the world could've remedied that."
A clever movement of Severus's toes made Harry laugh. "So what did that Archie guy want from you?" he asked.
"Not very much, that's the point. Sometimes he asked to touch my prick, but most of the time he was content with watching me wank. Afterwards he would tell me of his old love affairs. He fancied himself quite a Casanova."
There was a short fight of legs that Harry won. "Must've been very boring."
"Yes," Severus said and pulled away the covers. "Very boring, but also very lucrative. He used to visit me twice a week for the whole night. That's enough money to pay the rent and everything else."
When Harry said goodbye to Severus later, he told him not to wait up for him. "Arthur wants to meet up for a beer, and our boys' nights out are usually long and heavy on the alcohol."
The lines on Severus's forehead deepened to a frown. "Don't let him grope you when he's drunk."
Harry didn't like Severus's mocking tone. "He's the straightest man on earth," he said and laughed.
"I'm not so sure about that." Severus Accio'd his stockings. "He used to stare at Kingsley's arse every time he believed himself unobserved."
"He's got a wife and seven children."
Green silk seized pale skin, and Harry swallowed. "He's hardly the only one," Severus said. "You wouldn't believe the stories I've heard from clients."
"Probably not." Harry shook his head to clear his vision. "I know for sure that he's a decent man and a great father, though. I'm like a son to him."
Severus didn't answer and began to roll up the second stocking. Harry fled.
"Arthur ..." he muttered when he closed the door, "... Archie."
"Let's have another one," Arthur said. "The evening's still young."
Harry watched him stagger to the bar and cast a quick Timepiece Spell. Glowing red numbers told him that far from young, the evening was long gone and a new day had taken over. It was half past two in the morning. Harry Accio'd another strand of Arthur's hair and carefully put it into his wallet. Having collected several strands already, he decided to leave it at that for the time being. The thought that it wouldn't do to alert Molly to the expansion of Arthur's bald spot made him grin. Arthur, of course, was completely unaware of Harry raiding his head. He was happily chatting with Tom at the bar.
"Harry, my lad," he said, returning with two bottles of beer in his hand, "try one of these Phoenixes. They're dee- Oops!" He crashed down on a chair. " -lishes."
The Phoenix Ale had become the wizarding world's most fashionable commodity, more popular even than Pygmy Puffs. The Leaky Cauldron was full of cackling and crowing, and Harry noticed at least three burnings. He sighed. He would have preferred his usual bitter by far.
In full father mode, indivertible, Arthur continued their conversation. "So you're happy with Severus?"
"Happier than happy. The happiest." Thinking of his lover made the butterflies in Harry's stomach go wild, and he could barely suppress a giggle.
"I'm glad," Arthur said. "With Ron and Hermione so far away ... You seemed so very lonely all the time. Kingsley and I, we have been worrying about you. Molly, too, naturally -" Arthur wiped the sweat from his forehead. "- only that she doesn't know about Severus."
"It's reassuring to hear that your Ministry gossip stays within the Ministry." Harry sipped from the too-sweet poultry to wash his bitterness away. "Don't believe everything Kingsley says. Severus is a good man. An honourable man. A hero," he said.
Arthur laid a heavy hand on Harry's arm. "I trust you and your judgement. I have to admit, I had difficulty accepting Severus as an innocent man right after the war."
"You weren't the only one," Harry said and pulled his arm away.
"I know and I'm very sorry, please believe me that." Arthur looked just as uneasy as he would whenever Molly criticised one of his Muggle gadgets. "Everything was so fresh back then. Dumbledore's loss and Ginny's stories of the evil Headmaster. She's got quite a talent for storytelling, my little daughter."
"How's she doing?" Harry asked, more to change topics than out of interest for his former girlfriend. He hadn't seen her in eight years and had long forgotten her face.
"Fine," Arthur said and smiled. "Fine." Then his features crumpled. "Actually, I don't know. She hasn't been home for months now."
The phoenix on Harry's bottle started to cackle. Harry poked it with a toothpick, but it wouldn't stop. "Is she still with Malfoy?" he said.
"I'm sure she'd have told Molly if they had broken up. She's living with him in that heap of rubble. Malfoy Manor, I should say."
Harry's phoenix tried one last time to fend off the toothpick. When it didn't succeed, it let out a loud and drawn-out cackle of protest and jumped from the edge of the label. Harry watched the abandoned label for a moment before he remembered the conversation. "What's Malfoy doing?" he asked. "Still without a job?"
"From what I've heard I believe he's found a job in the Muggle world."
"What? Malfoy?" The phoenix from Harry's bottle thrust a tentative leg into Arthur's label. When it was greeted with an enthusiastic cackle, a beak and a second leg followed. "He always hated Muggles," Harry said and poked at Arthur's bottle.
Taking a long draught, Arthur saved the two birds. "Not anymore. He was very interested in everything Muggle the last time he visited."
"Was he?" Harry asked, his eyes on the neighbouring table where a witch doused a burning phoenix with ale from her bottle. The fire died down and only black grease remained. Harry grinned at the thought that the little beasts weren't invincible and that they carried their own destruction around with them. He was sure that Fawkes would have hated those feeble caricatures. All of a sudden very sad, he turned back to Arthur.
"... I've rather come to like him." Arthur finished his sentence and opened the top two buttons of his robes. "It's hot in here," he said. "What were we just talking about?"
"Family." Harry placed a hand on Arthur's arm, offering a silent apology for not listening.
"Ah, yes." Arthur pressed Harry's hand in return, and they sat like that for a while. "It's very hard sometimes," Arthur said, "having such a large family and still being alone. With Fred ... you know ... and Charlie in Romania, Ron in Bangkok, Bill in Marseilles and George never leaving his shop ... It's Molly who suffers most, of course." Arthur wiped his face. "I can't tell you how grateful I am for your friendship, Harry. You're the only son left to me."
Harry watched a tear-drop dangling from the tip of Arthur's nose, and the knowledge that he was going to betray the trust of the only father he'd ever known weighed like a stone on his heart. "It's for Severus," he muttered under his breath. "For Severus.
"I'm very proud of being your son," he said to Arthur, "but didn't you forget someone?"
Arthur blew his nose. The phoenixes on his bottle cackled louder than ever. When Harry looked closer, he noticed a bright orange egg.
"Percy," Arthur said and started to cry in earnest. "Percy. I've done him wrong."
"How?" Harry asked and found himself being pulled into a close hug.
"He never felt right. Not like a Weasley, not like a son of mine. As a father I'm a complete failure."
Harry stroked Arthur's head and patted his back. "You know that's not true," he repeated over and over.
When Arthur released him they were both crying. "I'll get us some more Firewhisky," Harry said and staggered to the bar.
"Carrot-headed scum, blood traitor, filthy abomination with the breeding habits of a stinking rabbit ..."
Harry raised his arm in a gesture of triumph. Being able to deceive Walburga Black meant being able to deceive the world. The last three days he'd worked hard on achieving his goal. Arthur Weasley was taller than Harry, and, even though he was a thin man, much heavier. His joints were stiff, and his back ached constantly. Harry thought that being in Arthur's body was like walking on stilts while being trapped in an iron maiden. He'd had to learn not to trip over his own - or rather Arthur's - feet and had achieved a new awareness of proportions. Everything appeared fragile and delicate in Arthur's large hands.
After he'd managed an acceptable imitation of Arthur's gait, he'd been strutting around Grimmauld Place like a diva. Mrs Black had brought him back down to earth in no time at all, insulting his mum and dad as she was wont to do whenever she got sight of Harry. ("Disgusting spawn of a Muggle trollop, how dare you befoul the house of Black? Do you think your masquerade can fool me? Feculent blood traitor or half-blood swine, it's all the same to me!")
Harry had studied Arthur in the Pensieve then, rehearsing his gestures and facial expressions in the bathroom mirror. The mirror had complimented him on his acting skills, but it had taken Harry more than two days to convince Mrs Black of his adopted identity. For three days now he hadn't found the time to disguise himself as a trick and engage Severus's services. The blood in Arthur Weasley's veins started to boil when Harry imagined Severus being with real tricks, yet he smiled at the thought that from today on, all this would have an end.
"Kreacher," he called, and the house-elf appeared with a loud pop.
"Master." Harry was glad for the fact that, obviously, house-elves had the ability to recognise their magic folks in any circumstance.
"Silly old thing," Mrs Black said, and for once she wasn't screeching. "Why do you call him your master?" Her voice rose again. "Isn't the vile half-blood enough of a nuisance? Do you have to serve blood-traitors now?"
Kreacher only shook his head, and Harry noticed a tear rolling down his cheek. "See to it that she calms down," Harry said.
He waited in the kitchen until Kreacher had quietened the portrait and closed the curtains. "I'm not going to be around much in the future," he said. "You can visit with Winky at Hogwarts, if you like."
"Will Master abandon Kreacher?" More tears formed in Kreacher's saucer eyes.
"No. Not at all." Harry patted Kreacher's head. The freckles on Arthur's hand distracted him for a moment.
Kreacher blinked, and the tears in his eyes spilled over. "Kreacher will take good care of Master's house and of Kreacher's old Mistress. Kreacher will wait for Master."
Arthur's fingers had almond-shaped nails, very unlike Harry's own squarish and bitten ones. "I'll come and get you when I know what to do with my life. Hopefully I'm going to have a real home soon."
"Kreacher will be very happy." The house-elf wiped his nose with his towel and beamed at Harry.
"In the meantime, why don't you have a look at the books in the library. I'm sure they're in need of some dusting. I have a hunch they'll be used again in a little while."
Kreacher's ears flapped like those of an excited baby elephant. "Oh Master," he said and clicked his fingers. An iridescent feather duster popped up. Kreacher caught it and all but tap-danced into the library. Wrapping Arthur's body in a coat and hiding his face under a huge hood, Harry heard Kreacher hum a silly melody.
Outside, the air smelled of spring and new beginnings. Harry was in the mood for tap-dancing himself. He bought an enormous bunch of tulips for Severus instead.
Standing in front of the district wards and staring at his reflection, Harry regretted the impulse. He looked ridiculous in his incongruity. His grey robes weren't inconspicuous as much as they had TRICK written all over them in blazing letters, and with the pink, white and red flowers in his hands he gave the impression of a student on his way to the Valentine's ball. He pondered throwing them away, or at least shrinking them, but then he couldn't stand the thought of destroying their beauty. Summoning up all his courage, he pushed through to the other side.
The voice in his head and the voices of the whores, the colours and the glittering lights, everything became one single polyphonic blur until he stood in front of Severus who, fortunately for Harry, wasn't showing leg at the moment. His mouth dry and his face hot, Harry was nevertheless unable to speak and only stretched out his hands with the flowers.
Severus looked him over. His face remained expressionless, and not even the slightest eyebrow movement or twitch of lips indicated amusement or wonder. Harry was incredibly thankful for the hood hiding Arthur's face.
"Follow me," Severus said after a too many heartbeats. He ignored the flowers and walked in the direction of the Golden Snitch. Black robes swirled around black-laced boots. A flash of green, and Harry, time and again mesmerised, tripped over Arthur's too-large feet. Tulips sailed through the air.
Severus waited patiently in front of the hotel until Harry had Accio'd every single flower and gathered them in a bunch again. When Harry wiped the sweat from Arthur's face, the hood slipped away.
"Arthur, what a surprise," Severus said after he'd closed the door to the hotel room. His voice was mocking, but there wasn't even the hint of a smile on his face. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
Harry arranged the tulips in the washstand and cast Aguamenti. He concentrated hard on Occluding his mind, hoping that Kingsley's lessons had given him sufficient skill to resist Severus's Legilimency. When he turned around to meet Severus's stare, he pushed a memory of the last Christmas before the war to the forefront of his thoughts. Molly and six young Weasleys greeted Severus in the entrance hall of Harry's mind. Smiling and waving, they blocked every door he would turn to.
"I don't think your family sent you." Severus sat down and crossed his legs in his usual manner.
"Stop assaulting my mind and I'll tell you why I'm here." Harry swallowed. He knew that he couldn't block Severus for very much longer, now that he was exposed to green.
Severus nodded and broke eye contact. "I'm waiting," he said after several seconds had passed in silence.
"It's ..." Harry took in a deep breath. He knew that everything he'd worked so hard for was at stake now, and that his next words would decide his own and Severus's fate. "I met ... Harry last week," he said. The panic in his voice and the sweat on his forehead were symptoms of his own very real emotional turmoil, but he embraced them as a part of his performance.
"I know," Severus said. "Did he send you?"
"No." Harry shook his head once. It was a plain gesture that conveyed nothing but honesty and resolution, or so Harry hoped. "He doesn't know I'm here, and I ask you not to tell him."
"I see. Be assured of my discretion. What happens in this room stays in this room."
Harry sat down on the bed, allowing himself a small smile of relief. His Arthur wasn't at ease with the situation yet, but he began to adjust to it. "Harry was very tight-lipped about the matter, of course, but from the little he told me, I got an impression of the problems he has with the specific ... erm ... circumstances of your relationship."
"I see," Severus repeated. He fixed Harry with a stare that would have brought a first year to tears, yet he didn't probe his mind again. He waited.
"He told me that you can make a living with just two night-long engagements per week." Harry had the urge to bite his nails, and only the sight of freckles and almond-shaped fingernails reminded him to stay in character. He dug his - Arthur's - nails into Arthur's - his - palms until it hurt.
"So you thought this to be the perfect opportunity to do your good deed of the decade and save the saviour for a change. After all, you owe him so much, you, your family, the wizarding world in general ..." Severus's laughter, high-pitched and cruel, jarred in Harry's ears and raised goose bumps on Arthur's arms.
"Harry's like a son to me," Harry said. "It's not a question of who owes whom. He's family."
"Of course. How could an interesting little detail like that have slipped my mind? Fucking his son's lover is certainly what every father would do."
"I don't want to fuck you."
"I'm devastated." Severus leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his lap. "I appreciate that you want to help Harry, especially since it's such a selfless act. All those Galleons - are you sure you can even afford me?"
"Vice Minister and Muggle Secretary are two of the best paid jobs at the Ministry. Don't worry about your Galleons."
"I'm not in the least worried. I don't accept charity. And now please leave." Severus raised his wand and the door squealed open. "I won't charge you anything for the last half-hour, but I have to get back to work. Good day, Arthur."
Harry reached for his wand, but then it crossed his mind that Severus would surely identify it as Harry's if he saw it up close. He got up from the bed, closed the door and leaned against it. "You misunderstood me completely," he said.
Severus cast a Timepiece Spell and watched the red numbers with an unreadable expression on his face. "By all means, go on," he said. "My time is your money."
"I've got yet another reason for wanting to engage your services. It has nothing to do with charity at all."
"I'm a whore, Arthur. If you don't want to fuck me, what other reason can there be?"
Harry slumped down on the bed again. "I have a problem, Severus," he said. "A stupid and embarrassing problem."
Severus's eyes glowed red behind the numbers of the Timepiece Spell. He sat motionless. Harry knew that hiding Arthur's face in his hands was the right thing to do. He couldn't afford to make a mistake now. "I haven't had sex since ... since the end of the war," he said. The quivering in his voice was calculated. "I'm impotent."
Harry waited an eternity before he dared peeking through his fingers. Severus had ended the spell and sat with his legs crossed and his fingers steepled. He wasn't as impassive as he tried to make Harry - Arthur - believe, though. He didn't blink. Once more, Harry forced the Weasley Christmas party to the forefront of his mind and looked up.
"Did I understand you correctly? You want me to cure your impotence?" Severus said.
"I'm sure you're aware of the fact that I don't brew anymore." Severus's voice was ice cold, and he didn't accept the eggnog the memory of a smiling Molly offered him. "I haven't brewed a single potion in the eight years since I sold my apothecary."
In the entrance hall of Harry's mind, Kingsley shot through one of the doors, pushed Molly and the twins aside and glared from behind his desk at Severus. Harry averted his eyes. "Stop this at once!" he shouted, silently berating himself for not having thought of potions at all. "I don't want a potion. Potions are useless. I've tried them all."
"So what do you want from me?" Severus had halted the Legilimency attack, but Harry could sense his distrust in the way his head was tilted to the right. He used to look at Harry like that all those years ago when he was scolding him for meddling in his affairs.
"You've just seen it."
"What do you mean?" Severus said indifferently. His lack of concern was faked, of that Harry was certain.
Harry only wished he could attack Severus's mind to see for himself. It would have meant giving up his own defences, though, and so he bit Arthur's lips and concentrated on his performance again. "You've seen it. My secret. The reason for my impotence."
Severus raised an eyebrow. Waiting was his favoured strategy, and for a fraction of a second, Harry hated him for it.
"Kingsley. And to be honest, it's not only him. I've had this ... inclination for as long as I can remember. I've never acted on it. My love for Molly was always stronger than anything else."
To give his acting authenticity, Harry thought of his last months with Ginny. The loss of Severus had triggered the awareness of his own sexuality. Every man he'd met, attractive or not, had soon turned into an object of his fantasies. He'd wanted them all. His sex drive had never been stronger, and whenever the urge had become unbearable, he'd turned to Ginny for release. He'd believed their love to be absolute, an irrefutable fact of existence. Only that it wasn't. It hadn't even been strong enough to let him withstand the first real temptation, the advances of an openly gay Auror in Harry's training group. Harry had cheated on Ginny for weeks, not only with Donald, but with many others, nameless and faceless men he'd met in gay bars, at public lavatories or, his favourite place, the cinema.
When Ginny had found condoms in his jeans - most of his partners had been Muggles - he'd told her the truth. They'd tried to save their relationship, an attempt that had resulted in not only their final break-up, but also in disillusionment on his side and open hatred on hers.
The tapping of Severus's foot brought Harry back to the here and now. "I ... I even told her. She was full of understanding and acceptance. We lived like that for over ten years. After the war, everything changed. Molly withdrew from me. We hardly talked anymore. One day she caught me wanking over the cover of Witch Weekly."
Harry nodded. "Witch Weekly's Most Gorgeous Ministry Official Award."
"Aha. Who would've guessed?"
Harry wanted to kiss the smile only he could see from Severus's lips. He had to visualise Ginny's reaction to him blowing Michael Corner in a back alley behind the Three Broomsticks to be able to carry on. "She was furious. I've never seen her like that. She accused me of not caring for our family. She even went so far to say that Fred's ... you know ... that it didn't really matter to me." Harry paused for a strategic ten seconds. "It was as if she'd cursed me. From that day on I couldn't get it up again."
"Are you sure she didn't curse you?"
"Yes. Yes, of course. We talked things out and all is well again. That is, except for my ... little problem."
"I still don't understand why you're here." The heels of Severus's boots clicked on the wooden floor in a fortissimo of impatience. From time to time, there was a flash of green. Harry decided that it was high time to bring the encounter to an end.
"I want you to tell me stories, erotic stories, stories of your life as a whore. They don't have to be true. Just entertain me with your voice and your fantasy as you would entertain me with your body if I were a normal man."
"How would that be helpful?" The clicking had stopped.
"I'll remember your stories when I'm with Molly. They'll turn me on, and I might even share some details with her. It'll help us to get closer again, and maybe ..." Harry let Arthur's voice trail off. After an eternal ten seconds he asked, "Do you accept?"
"I can't say I'm convinced of your motives." Severus invaded the Christmas party one last time and got up. "Be that as it may," he said, "I'd be a fool to pass up a golden opportunity like that. Which nights do you want us to meet?"
Severus led Harry down the stairs. It wasn't until he stood on the other side of the wards that Harry remembered the tulips.
Harry whistled a happy tune as he jumped down the steps to the Dragon Inn. The dragon in the sign tapped its claws and blew smoke rings in the air.
"You know, you remind me of someone," Harry said. He pulled out the packet of cigarettes he'd nicked from Severus just for this purpose and put one between his lips. With his legs apart, he stood like a gunslinger at the O.K. Corral. "Happen to have a light, Nameless?"
A jet of fire hit the fag and consumed it. The dragon was so skilled that it didn't scorch a single hair of Harry's.
"Wow," Harry said and scrutinised the blackened remains of the cigarette. "That's what I call mastery."
The dragon raised an eye ridge and Harry smiled. "You definitely remind me of someone," he said. "A very special someone."
The dragon growled its approval and appeared very pleased with itself. Harry said, "Liberty."
Blowing a final smoke ring, the dragon closed its eyes and allowed Harry to slip through the door. Harry thought it looked disappointed.
Stan wasn't in the least disappointed to see Harry. He greeted him with a slap on the back that sent Harry's glasses flying across the bar. Cleaning them with the towel he'd been using to wipe the grime from the windows, he asked, "The usual?" and returned the glasses with the air of a king bestowing a decoration.
Harry nodded and cast Oculus Tergeo as soon as Stan had disappeared through the trapdoor behind the bar.
"Severus and you," Stan said, resurfacing with cobwebs in his hair and a bottle in his hand, "you've made quite a dent in my supplies." He cleaned the bottle with his towel and grinned when the dragon on the label succeeded in burning a hole through it. "You can be grateful the Ministry doesn't allow me to sell my stuff anywhere else but here at the Dragon. It'd be sold out in no time at all."
Harry paid for the mead and tickled the little dragon until it purred. "Speaking of the Ministry," Stan said, "when are you planning to go back to work? Your colleagues are bad for business, strutting about as if they owned the place and keeping the tricks away with their nosy stares."
"Dunno." Harry shrugged his shoulders. "I like life better without the red robes."
"I understand you, man," Stan said with a sly expression on his shrew-like face. "The law's a nasty bitch. You're much better off without it."
"I'm not sure if I agree with you on that." Harry laughed.
"If only I could afford it," Stan said, "I'd leave the wizarding world for good. I'd go to Muggle America and become a famous moving star." He winked, but all of a sudden, his eyes grew wide. "How did you just do that?"
"Merlin's hairy balls, is it true, then, do you really have super powers? Are you - what's it called? - a Metaphor magus, too?"
"Nonsense," Harry said, wondering if those kinds of rumours would ever die down. "What do you mean?" he asked. "What did I do?"
"Your hair." Stan pointed the towel at Harry. "It turned red."
Harry ran his fingers through his hair. He thought that it could do with washing and a haircut charm, but otherwise it felt normal. He was just about to cast a Pocket Mirror Spell when Stan blinked his eyes like windshield wipers out of control. "It's gone," he said. "I mean, it's back. The black is back." He shook his head. "How odd. Must've been a trick of the light."
It was drizzling outside, and Impervius Charms covered the whores like grey veils. Even their voices seemed subdued. Smiling and waving, Harry attempted to transfer some of his own joy and happiness, but to no avail. The world remained black-and-white, and he was all alone on the yellow brick road with not even a Crup for company.
Williamson and Dawlish nodded greetings and resumed their patrol, whispering to each other. Only Jimmy was up for a chat. He'd changed his look from Shirley Temple to Jean Harlow, and Harry complimented him on his peroxide hair and the black seamed stockings. All in white, Dotty looked like a powder puff.
Finally home, the lift informed him that it was busy quarrelling with Severus on the fifth floor. Harry stroked the grills with a freckled hand. Shaking his head in amazement, he looked closer. The hand was his own, un-freckled and with bitten nails. Stan was right, he thought, the light was indeed odd today. "Be generous and let Severus win," he said to the lift. "I want him to be in a good mood later."
"Anything for you, darling," the lift whispered and sighed.
Back at the apartment, Harry arranged the dragon bottle and a bunch of lilacs on the living room table and quickly undressed to wait for Severus on the sofa. Life was a bed of roses since Arthur Weasley had entered it a couple of months ago. When he felt a sudden prick in his side, he reached for the proverbial thorn, but all he found was a crown cap.
It was four o'clock in the morning and the red light district as good as deserted when Harry left the Snitch while still being in Arthur's body. Not for the first time, he wished the Pertinajuice wouldn't be so bulldog persistent. He'd spent more than six hours as Arthur now, and according to the Potions experts at the Ministry, he should be able to shake it off with a simple Finite Incantatem. Experience had shown, though, that he needed at least two hours of privacy in order to become focused enough to make the spell work. With every new change it got more difficult to change back.
His thoughts were occupied with Severus and tonight's story - a fairy-tale about a young merman's desperate longing for a wizard whore, so many obstacles and so much delicious wanking - and Harry didn't notice the stranger before he bumped into him. In the dawn twilight he could make out the standard grey robes of a trick and not much else. Too tired to make an effort to disguise Arthur's voice, he said, "Sorry." When Harry turned away, the stranger gripped his arm.
"Father?" Percy Weasley's voice shrilled through the silence. "Father?"
A split second was enough for Harry to decide that flight was his best chance, and it took him only a few seconds more to break free from Percy's grip, dash across the street to the Dragon, whisper an urgent, "Liberty," and slip away to safety. Turning back, he saw a wall of fire. Then the door fell shut.
The Dragon Inn was as empty of patrons as it was full of noise. The chairs were fighting over the best resting places, jumping up and down tables and pushing their fellow chairs out of the way. In an attempt to avoid the annoying relatives, the tables huddled in the back. Several brooms, each carrying two buckets of water in translucent hands, made their way through the chaos and started to clean the floor. "We're closed," Stan shouted from the top of the bar, conducting the turmoil with his wand. "Go home and get some sleep."
Harry tripped over a bucket and escaped the wrath of a broomstick by taking refuge behind the bar. Stan drew a line in the air, and the brooms and furniture became lifeless again. A last chair crashed to the floor, and then everything was silent. "Who are you, anyway?" Stan said and jumped off the bar. "I don't remember you. How did you get the password?"
"It's me, Harry," Harry said and took off the hood. "Harry Potter."
"Sure. And I'm the Minister for Magic herself."
"Trust me. It's really me. Remember my hair the other day?" Harry pointed at Arthur's hair. "It turned red."
"So you're a Meta-magus thingie for real?" Stan drawled, and his voice dripped with disbelief.
"No," Harry said. "It's a potion. Listen, Stan, I need your help." He looked out the window. Grey robes were moving up and down in front of the inn. "Is there a back door?"
"Nope." Stan shook his head. "Where our back door used to be are district wards now. There's no way out. The wards can only be crossed at Borgin and Burkes."
"I know." The robes outside the window had stopped moving. "Do you have a room for me, then?" Harry asked.
"Both upstairs rooms are taken. Do you want me to ask Lola or Rosette if they're willing to share?"
Outside, two red robes had driven the grey ones away. Harry wondered if he should risk it. Most probably, the Aurors weren't interested in a late trick on his way to Borgin and Burkes. If he had something illegal on him, the wards would soon find out. Harry dismissed the idea. He wouldn't put it past Percy to lie in ambush on the other side.
There was a knock at the door, a reflection of fire in the window and someone screamed, "Ouch."
"Please," Harry said. "It's really me. You can see for yourself if you only give me a place to hide and two hours time."
Stan didn't look convinced. The door reverberated with a Battering Ram Hex. "Shunpike," Dawlish's Sonorus'd voice roared. "Call off your dragon and let us in. This is an official control."
Harry fumbled for his last Galleons. "It isn't much," he said, "but it should be enough for a cupboard. Anything."
When another Battering Ram Hex hit the door, Stan shouted, "Just a moment."
"Quick," he said to Harry and opened the trapdoor in the floor. "I'll have to seal it in order to hide it, so don't try to open it from the inside. I'll come and get you two hours from now."
"Thank you," Harry said and climbed down a ladder. The trapdoor closed with a loud thud, and he was surrounded by darkness.
Lumos was too feeble a spell to allow Harry to see much of his surroundings. The tip of his wand emanated just enough light to help him find his way without tripping. He walked through a maze of storage racks full of bottles, dust and cobwebs until he reached the far end of the cellar where a recess in the wall gave way to a small staircase. Harry could feel wards, but they only tickled and teased him. He thought that they must be centuries old to have weakened like that. Steep and well worn, stone steps led downwards to yet another cellar, much bigger than the first one and with a vaulted stone ceiling. It contained nothing but rows and rows of casks, casks as big as cottages and with carved grapes and grotesque faces that hissed at Harry when he walked by.
Harry wondered if he should wait here or go back upstairs. If only they weren't so hostile, the casks would have made perfect hiding places. Harry walked further down the row until he was stopped by a heap of debris. It radiated magic, and Harry cast Mysterium Revelio without thinking. Stones in all forms and sizes became airborne and whirled in a wild dance. Several of them hit Harry's head, forcing him to retreat and conjure a shield. After settling down again, the stones formed a wall with a circular opening in the middle. Harry climbed through the hole and found himself in a small passageway, just wide enough for one person. Twisting and turning, it headed steadily upwards until it ended in another pile of rubble.
This time, Harry acted less rashly. He noticed a shimmer of light falling through a crack between two of the larger stones and cast a minor digging charm. The tip of his wand emitted a jet of mist that formed into a ghostly mole. In no time at all, the small animal had dug a hole, big enough for Harry to poke his head through.
The first rays of the morning sun blinded Harry, and he closed his eyes. A Sun-Shield Charm later, he was able to identify the place. It didn't matter that his field of vision was limited and all he could see was a small part of a brass tablet on the opposite wall. Harry knew the memorial plaque very well. He'd been the one who had cut the ribbon:
Tom Riddle, self-proclaimed dark lord, worked here from 1945 - 1948, laying the foundation for his reign of darkness.
Forever let these ruins be a warning against dark magic and its practitioners.
Retreating the same way he had come, Harry covered his tracks with Cobweb Charms and Dust Spells. He needed several Finite Incantatems to restore the pile of debris at the entrance to the passageway and reached the upper cellar just in time to meet Stan. Only the innkeeper's repeated exclamations of admiration made him aware of the fact that he once again inhabited his own body.
Fate was a second-rate director with a bad sense of timing and even worse humour, Harry decided when later that day, he bumped into Percy once more, this time in front of Kingsley's office. In a fit of completely un-Percy-ish behaviour, Percy didn't comment on Harry's clumsiness and only knelt down on the floor to Accio the scattered sheets of paper and guide them back to their files. His nose and forehead were covered with blisters. Kneeling at his side, Harry did his best to help him restore order to the paper chaos.
"Head Auror Shacklebolt is out lunching with the Minister," Percy said after a while. "They won't be back for at least another couple of hours, if I understood her correctly." There was a hint of his old smugness in Percy's voice, and with every Accio'd sheet, his movements became more confident. When he finally rose with a meticulous flourish and a well-ordered stack of files in his arms, complacency surrounded him like a shield.
Harry staggered to his feet and brushed the dust from his robes. He was actually glad for the delay, dreading the conversation with Kingsley and its consequences. The discovery of a secret passageway bypassing the district wards would not only affect Stan and the Dragon Inn. If there turned out to be a connection between the bank robberies and the red light district, the status of the district and the special rights granted to its inhabitants were at risk. The conservative members of the Ministry would have a field day.
Harry pushed the unwelcome thoughts to the back of his mind and chose to do something useful with his time. He needed more of Arthur's hair. "That's fine with me," he said to Percy. "I'll go and visit your dad instead."
Percy's face turned bright red, and the blisters stuck out like white freckles. Once again, the files crashed to the floor. Harry and Percy cursed simultaneously.
Arthur was busy polishing his collection of DVDs, and not for the first time Harry wished he wouldn't use them as wall decorations. "When do you think they'll invent a square Veedeevee?" Arthur asked, welcoming Harry with a broad smile. "I could have a complete wall of them, then, wouldn't that be beautiful? And I'd have a good excuse to get rid of those cows the Minister is so fond of."
Harry looked at the cows in question, paintings of rural landscapes. The green pastures were devoid of cows at the moment, though. All he could see were hundreds of odd little creatures, crawling on the grass and climbing the fences. Covered with black scales and spikes, they had orange beaks, red tail feathers and yellow feet. With their enormous beaks and slender, wingless bodies they couldn't fly and were barely able to walk.
"What are they?" Harry asked and pointed at the creatures.
"I call them Gonnixes," Arthur said.
"When those Phoenix Ale bottles came out, I started to collect them. I thought Molly would like the birds, but she banished them from the Burrow. I had over a hundred bottles here at my office at one point. It's a pity I had to give them away."
"What happened? And what has all this to do with these mini-monsters?"
"Hmm." Arthur scratched his head, and Harry wondered what could possibly distract him enough to allow Harry to harvest some strands of his hair. "I don't know how it was even possible," Arthur said and blushed, "but Draco's dragon must've impregnated the phoenixes."
Arthur nodded. "I've really come to like Draco. The war has changed him for the better, and I honestly hope that he and Ginevra will marry soon." Harry gripped his wand and was just about to Accio a strand of hair when Arthur looked up again. "I don't understand why she never accompanies him on his visits anymore."
"What about the dragon?" Harry asked.
"Ah, yes." Arthur's head disappeared behind his desk and Harry could hear him rummaging in the drawers. "Draco gave it to me as a birthday present. Where do I have it?" Arthur put a box full of batteries on the table, followed by several plugs and a bunch of screwdrivers in all colours of the rainbow. "Here it is," he finally said, reappearing with a bottle in his hands.
Harry slipped his wand back up his sleeve and stared at the bottle, all thoughts of hairs and potions forgotten.
"It's the best mead I've ever had. Unfortunately, Draco wouldn't tell me where he got it," Arthur said and offered Harry the bottle. Harry made an effort to close his mouth and took it with shaking hands. The label said:
Dragon Inn Superior
Finest Elfin Quality
The little dragon snored softly, and from time to time, heart-shaped puffs of smoke emanated from his nostrils.
"Fuck!" Harry said.
"What's wrong?" Arthur called after him, but Harry didn't listen. He dashed out of the office, took the first lift to the Atrium and hurried to the Apparition point. It was sheer luck that he didn't bump into anyone on the way.
Malfoy Manor was an extravagant heap of rubble. Marble blocks, fragments of gilt stucco and pieces of frescoes were strewn all over the place. By virtue of one of the most rigorous verdicts in the history of the Wizengamot, it had been stripped of all magic. As it had turned out, mere mortar and plaster wasn't enough to keep a building together that generations of wizards and witches had altered with their charms. Centuries of pureblood culture were slowly returning to dust, and if Harry hadn't resented Malfoy so much, he would have felt pity for him.
Harry wasn't a saint, though, and so he couldn't help but grin when he materialised on top of the belly of an overturned and beheaded statue that was only recognisable as a Malfoy ancestor by the snake cane it held in its one remaining hand. "Malfoy!" he shouted and crossed the courtyard, "Malfoy!"
"Potter." Malfoy appeared from behind a leaning column. "What do you want? You aren't welcome."
Harry hadn't laid eyes on Malfoy since the trials, and he was shocked to see that his erstwhile enemy had turned completely bald. His eyes were still the colour of steel, though, and his nose as pointy as ever. In his grey Muggle suit and purple tie, he looked like a comic book super villain - not that Harry had read many comic books, but he knew all the movies by heart. "Where did you get that?" Harry asked and showed Malfoy the bottle. The tiny dragon aimed a weak but precise jet of fire at Malfoy's tie.
"I've never before seen it," Malfoy said and sidestepped out of harm's way. "I'll thank you to keep this thing away from me." Malfoy made a great show of examining his tie. "And now if you'd be so good as to repair the damage your toy monster has done and then leave my property."
Harry had to squint to see the pinhead sized black spot on the garish purple silk. He cast Reparo. Much to his dismay, he enjoyed performing magic in front of Malfoy, in front of a man whose broken wand was an exhibit at the Ministry and who'd been forced to undergo an operation at St. Mungo's to ensure he'd never use another one. Angry at himself and his own pettiness, Harry snapped at Malfoy, "Stop lying to me!"
Malfoy looked smug.
"I know you've seen it before. You gave it to Arthur Weasley for his birthday."
"If you say so. I'm afraid I can't remember." Malfoy's smirk was just as annoying as it had been during their school days. Harry's fist itched to punch it off his face.
"You should. It's rare and expensive, a very thoughtful present. The question is how you acquired it."
Malfoy shrugged his shoulders, and Harry wondered if there existed a Most Foppish Shrug of the Shoulders Award somewhere in the Muggle world. Those suits were just made for it. "Ginevra must have bought it," Malfoy said. "She knows her father best, after all."
The tables had turned. Now it was time for Harry to look smug. "And just how often does Ginny visit the red light district?"
Malfoy ran his hand over his bald head and two red spots appeared high on his cheeks. "She doesn't," he said.
"So how could you possibly have obtained the bottle? The only place where this is sold," Harry waved the dragon in front of Malfoy, "lies within the district wards. As a wizard with a criminal record, you can't cross the wards. If Ginny didn't give it to you, how did you acquire it?"
"Did I just hear my name?"
Three things happened at once: the dragon, unhappy with the way it was being treated, belched a streamlet of fire. Malfoy hid behind the leaning column, and a woman unknown to Harry entered the scene. "Did you call me, darling?" she said.
She didn't look bad in her fancy Muggle dress, Harry decided disinterestedly. A classy blonde with red lips and painted fingernails, she was at least ten years Malfoy's senior. "Who are you?" Harry asked.
Malfoy jumped out from behind his column like a jack in the box. "Let's go back inside," he said and put an arm around the blonde's shoulder to lead her away.
The blonde would have none of it. "Harry?" she said, "Harry?" There was something odd about her, but Harry couldn't quite put the finger on what it was. She seemed to expect him to know her and looked at him with question marks in her eyes. Harry stared back, perplexed. For a moment, it was as if her hair had turned red and her eyes changed colour. Aristocratic blue-grey gave way to the most vibrant Weasley blue. In the blink of an eye it was gone.
The once again blonde looked at her hands. "Shit," she said. "That infernal Potion." Then her eyes met Harry's and she put a hand over her mouth. "Oh fuck!"
Harry drew his wand and Accio'd, "Ginny's wand." It slipped out of the sleeve of her costume and sailed into Harry's hand before the blonde - Ginny - could hold it back. Harry motioned for Malfoy and Ginny to sit on an overturned statue and chose a Malfoy stone head for himself. "So I was right," he said. "You're responsible for the bank robberies, Malfoy. You found the secret passage bypassing the district wards and used it to brew illegal potions inside the district and smuggle them out. And as if that weren't enough, you decided to corrupt Ginny."
Malfoy looked defiant, but it was Ginny who spoke. "It was my idea," she said, holding her head high. "I've read some interesting Muggle novels. They were a bit like manuals, really."
"Did you come up with the idea of Prince Charles and Camilla, too?"
"Of course. I planned everything out. Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, Cherie and Tony Blair, Victoria and David Beckham, Condoleezza Rice and George Bush -"
"That was an ugly one," Draco said and shuddered.
"I went to charity events and state visits." Ginny sounded proud. "I even have a hair of the Queen."
"And who is she?" Harry asked, pointing at Ginny.
"A badly aimed Accio," Ginny said. "She's just an unknown Muggle children's book author who happened to stand between me and my target. I intend to make her famous, though."
"I wish you would abandon that plan," Malfoy said. "She isn't good for you. Sometimes I think she's about to completely take you over."
"It's that sodding Potion," Ginny said. "I haven't used it for weeks, and it still changes me into her from time to time." As if to underline her words, her hair turned red, blond, and red again.
"It's beyond me why you even want to be her." Malfoy smiled at Ginny, and Harry thought that he looked sad.
"She's the perfect identity for me as a Muggle author," Ginny said. "And she inspires me. You know that I've already written a novel and two sequels. I'll get that Potion under control, you'll see."
"I hope you do." Malfoy took Ginny's hand, and they looked deep into each other's eyes.
"I don't understand why you needed a potion like that at all," Harry said. Malfoy and Ginny turned their heads. They seemed surprised to see him, as if they'd forgotten that he was there. "Wouldn't a glamour have been enough?" Harry asked. "Or ordinary Polyjuice?"
"You know perfectly well that I can't do glamours anymore," Malfoy said.
"And Polyjuice would've been too dangerous," Ginny added. "What if we'd been arrested? The Muggle police surely would've taken the flasks with the Polyjuice from us. Can you imagine their surprise when, after an hour, we would've changed back?"
Harry could. He suppressed a grin and put on his stern Auror face. "Why impersonate Muggle celebrities?" he said. "Wouldn't it have been much cleverer to change into average and inconspicuous people? That way nobody would've been the wiser and the Statute of Secrecy not at risk." Harry covertly began to weave a rope spell that would allow him to transport Malfoy and Ginny to the Ministry without the struggle of a Side-Along Apparition.
"Don't you get it?" Malfoy said. "I wanted to alert the Ministry."
"We aren't ordinary thieves," Ginny said.
"It was our plan from the beginning," Malfoy continued, "not to rob Muggles, but to find a way to get the Malfoy fortune back."
"In their effort to protect the secrecy of the wizarding world, the Ministry reimbursed the Muggle banks," Ginny said, flashing a smile at Harry.
"They acted exactly as we had anticipated," Malfoy said. "You see, the robberies were nothing but a method of converting Malfoy Galleons into Muggle currency. An ingenious method, if I may say so myself." Malfoy's smile rivalled Ginny's, and together they resembled a Witch Weekly cover.
Harry completed the rope spell. "What do you think you're doing?" Malfoy asked when a noose of yellow light tightened around his and Ginny's shoulders like a lasso.
"I hereby arrest you in the name of the Ministry of Magic," Harry said.
Malfoy shook his head. "That's the worst idea you've ever had, Potty," he said, his smile never wavering.
Red demon eyes, the hotel lanterns mocked Harry on his way down the alley. The painted signs piffled and prattled, jabbered and gibbered and quacked. He was a failure, a miserable failure, and soon the whole world would know. The tale of the Auror who'd trusted a whore would spread like wildfire among the inhabitants of Knockturn Alley.
"You wouldn't want to risk Severus's freedom and his magic now, would you?" Malfoy said, slipping his head out of the noose.
"After all, you love him so much, don't you?" Ginny said.
Harry's eyes burned. Fire ran through his veins, and he could barely contain it. The little dragon and Harry's wand, they both spewed the flames his mouth was incapable of belching out.
"What's Severus got to do with anything?" Harry asked. His wand drooped before they had even answered. The rope vanished, and Malfoy enfolded Ginny in his arms.
"Who do you think invented and brewed the potion?" he said.
The front door didn't wait for the jet of fire from Harry's wand to scorch it and opened wide. Without paying attention to the lift's sweet-Merlin's, oh-my's and good-heavens's, Harry shot up the stairs. Severus wasn't home. Harry set the dragon on a table and aimed his wand at Severus's wardrobe. Green silk didn't stand a chance against red-hot flames.
"Because he felt pity for me? Because Slytherins help each other?" Malfoy shrugged his shoulders. "Hardly. I say he was in it for the money. He demanded half of everything and used his Legilimency skills to ensure he got it."
Harry hadn't been on the fifth floor before. With black doors and silver owl perches and bells, it looked exactly like all the other floors. Harry walked along the row of doors, gritting his teeth and holding his wand in a tight grip. The individual wards of the residents repelled him whenever he came too close, pushing him aside, kicking his shin or slapping his face.
"I don't believe you!"
Malfoy and Ginny shared a grin. "Didn't you wonder how you could pass the wards in the cellar that easily?" Ginny said.
"There were no wards. I mean, they were centuries old and weak."
"They're Severus's strongest wards. Nobody could pass them, not even I," Malfoy said. "Severus insisted I wait on the other side until he would personally admit me. He isn't a very trusting person, you see. Shunpike doesn't even know the second cellar exists."
"Isn't it reassuring, darling," Ginny said to Malfoy, "to know that even the most acerbic and tough-minded wizards are bound to make mistakes when they ... fall in love?" She broke out into giggles.
The broom cupboard at the end of the hallway didn't push Harry away. It tickled and teased him and pinched his bum. When he placed his hand on the small door, it opened with a soft click.
The wonders of wizard space never ceased to impress him, and he stood in awe when the cupboard door revealed a complete Potions laboratory, equipped with several workstations for different cauldron sizes and forms. It was well stocked with all kind of ingredients and hundreds of vials of different potions.
"I haven't brewed a single potion in the eight years since I sold my apothecary."
Harry roared like a wounded lion. His wand erupted in machine gun fire. Vials exploded. Cauldrons crashed, banged and boomed. Ingredients burst into flames. The air was full with glass and fire.
"Severus hasn't brewed a single potion in the eight years since he sold his apothecary," Harry said.
"How do you know?"
"He told me so."
A shelf collapsed. In a perfect demonstration of the domino effect, a second and a third one followed. Potions dripped from the walls, the shelves and the workstations. Seething and hissing, they mixed and mingled and burnt their way through every surface. The stench was unbearable.
Harry covered his face with his hands. He'd been a fool, an utter and complete fool, and to suffocate from potion fumes would be a fitting end to the world's greatest moron, that was clear to him now. He also knew that he wasn't ready to die yet, and that he had to talk to Severus first.
He cast a Containment Spell on Severus's lab. The flames died down in the vacuum, and the potions stopped sizzling. Harry closed the door and breathed the fresh air of the hallway. Several Cleaning and Healing Spells later, his robes and his skin were immaculate once more. Only when he sank to the floor, exhausted, he noticed the oversized blue vial his left hand was clutching as if it were a Portkey to paradise.
Harry unstoppered the lube and basked in its scent. They hadn't used the good stuff for months, and the smell of rose petals and morning dew brought back memories of their first time.
"I thought you'd left the country." Harry was barely able to break lip contact long enough to speak.
"It would have been better if I had," Severus said, but his tongue told Harry something else.
"Never. Never. Never leave me again!"
"How could I ... now?"
Harry remembered the taste of their kisses, the feeling of Severus's skin under his fingertips and the heat of Severus's body against his own. He remembered the glorious awkwardness of a dream come true.
The butterflies in his stomach, long forgotten in the stress of the last months, were back. Harry didn't welcome them. Their somersaults hurt.
Kingsley had been right, Harry thought. The moment he and Severus had met again, Harry's priorities had changed and his Auror job - the routine duties of which he'd hated anyway - had ceased to be important. His suspension, standard procedure or not, had only been consequential. Harry knew now that he could never turn Severus over to the Ministry. Arresting Malfoy and Ginny would have meant doing exactly that. Their encounter had proven that he wasn't able to fulfil his responsibilities as an Auror anymore. He resolved to quit his job and went to look for Severus. Whatever might come of this, it was a matter between Severus and himself and no one else's affair.
It was raining again. This time, Harry was in sync with the black-and-white world around him. Everything was blurry, and when he removed his glasses to cast Impervius on them, he noticed that his sight was better without them. How odd, he thought and put them away.
Severus wasn't at his usual place in front of the Dragon. He wasn't in the Dragon either, and Stan hadn't seen him all day. Harry walked up and down the alley, practising the conversation he dreaded so much. When he passed the Snitch, Gregory waved him inside. "He's waiting for you upstairs," he said.
Harry thought that Malfoy must have had already informed Severus and decided that having their argument on neutral ground was a good idea. He climbed the stairs with nervous anticipation, but a less heavy heart.
The door squealed open to reveal a breathtaking view. Severus was lying on the bed, naked except for stockings and corset, green legs spread wide. He stroked his cock with lascivious skill and watched Harry with glittering, dark attention.
"I don't think this is a solution to our problem," Harry said and slumped into the chair, incapable of averting his eyes.
"On the contrary." Severus got on all fours, his thick cock swinging beneath him when he moved closer. "It's the only logical solution," he said.
Harry swallowed. His own cock betrayed him and got hard within seconds. "Wouldn't it be better to talk?" he said.
A green python, Severus slithered from the bed and between Harry's legs. "We've done more than enough talking," he said and pushed up Harry's robes. "It's time to suit the action to the word."
Harry closed his eyes and threw back his head. Severus's mouth around his cock was perfection, and wasn't Severus right, could there be a better answer to their issues than making love? He moaned and thrust into the heat. His hands found Severus's head.
Caressing Severus's hair, Harry wondered about the nature of love. He remembered the time when he hadn't trusted Severus. He'd still burned for him then, as much as he burned for him now. Was there even a difference? As an ignorant boy he'd believed anger and hatred to be the cause of the red-hot fire eating him alive. The Pensieve revelations had changed his attitude towards Severus, and after the war, he'd learned to trust him. The fire had been there all the time, smouldering under the surface, but only after he'd lost Severus had he learned of its true nature.
So what is love? Harry thought, moaning and thrusting. Has it anything to do with trust at all, or is it only the heat? He was so close, so close, and he wanted nothing more than to be consumed by the flames. Yet he had to know. "Wait," he said. "Wait! This isn't the solution."
Severus released Harry's cock. "What do you mean?" he said. "It seems the perfect solution to me." He licked along the length of Harry's cock. "You're hard. Isn't that what you wanted, Arthur?"
"What?" Harry looked down where his freckled hands were a stark contrast to Severus's dark hair. Arthur's freckled hands.
Harry took in a deep breath. Bucket loads of freezing water doused the flames. He covered his groin and wrapped his robes tight around him. Severus got up from the floor, still hard and gorgeous. The green had lost its pull on Harry, though, and he averted his eyes. "Why did you just do that?" he asked, and the words rattled in his throat. "I told you I didn't want to fuck you."
"You did." Severus had resumed his position on the bed. "It has been a challenge."
Watching Severus stroking his cock, Harry shivered from the cold. Arthur's back hurt. "I don't understand. I thought you were glad not to have to ..." He made a helpless gesture.
"Did Harry tell you that?" Severus's face was a blur, then it was sharp again. It was a mask, inscrutable. "Harry," Severus said, circling his thumb around his cock head, "Harry is a good boy, very enthusiastic and not a little bit naive."
Pushing up into one hand, Severus used the other to play with his balls. "Of course, Harry could never understand the professional ethics of a whore," he said. "I want to satisfy you, Arthur." He stopped playing to pat the mattress beside him. "And not just with words. I want your cock. I want you."
Harry bolted out the door and down the stairs. Everything was blurry. Severus's laughter followed him all the way into the alley.
"You're totally off your rocker," Harry said, and he cringed at his own laughter. "If Severus had all that money, why would he still be working?"
"For some reason far beyond anything I or any other sane person could comprehend, he seems to want to stay in the wizarding world." Malfoy's steel eyes watched Harry with avid interest. "He can't very well exchange hundreds of thousands of Muggle pounds into Galleons without alerting the Ministry. I dare say a single ten pound note would be enough to -"
Ginny silenced him with a kiss. A superior smile on her painted lips, she turned to Harry. "It's an acknowledged truth that you homosexuals -" the word dropped from her lips like poison, "- that you can't remain faithful to another. One partner isn't enough to satisfy your needs. And isn't being a whore just the perfect job for someone -"
Harry Disapparated before she could finish her sentence.
"Another one," Harry said and pushed his empty glass across the counter. Ogden's Old blazed into the glass, and Stan manoeuvred it back to Harry with the help of his towel.
"Careful," he said, "that stuff is hotter than hell."
Harry didn't mind. He downed the Firewhisky and cast Healing Spells on his fingers and lips. Whatever he did, the numbness and the cold wouldn't go away. "Another one," he said.
"What's it like, being a whore?"
"It's the best job I've ever had," Severus said.
Scurrying along the bar, a silver fluff-ball conquered Harry's glass. A small drop of Ogden's Old at the rim flared up and set the Pygmy Puff on fire. It shrieked in panic. The combined efforts of Harry's Aguamenti and Stan's towel saved the Puff, but it looked decidedly the worse for wear, grey and wet and shaking. "Dotty," a falsetto voice said. "Didn't I tell you to stay away from the bad, bad liquor."
In his silver mini robes and high heels, and with glittering lipstick and eye shadow, Jimmy looked as if he came right from outer space. His fish-net stockings were black. When Jimmy climbed the bar stool next to him, Harry could see the lace suspenders framing his pale firm buttocks. "Thank you," Jimmy said, batting metallic eyelashes, "I'm forever in your debt." He cast a hot air charm on Dotty and talked high-pitched nonsense until she was her old fluffy self again. "Champagne," he ordered and cuddled her against his cheek.
"What can I ever do to thank you?" Jimmy said, leaning very close. Harry shivered from the hot breath in his ear and Dotty's fur caressing his temple. He adjusted his glasses and his robes.
"Tell me," he said, lowering his voice so as not to sound offending, "what's it like, being a whore?"
"It's the best job I've ever had," Severus said, punctuating each word with a movement of his pelvis. "I love cock. I can't get enough of it."
"Oh, I don't know." Jimmy sighed and sipped his champagne. "It's not too bad, I suppose." He lifted Dotty to his mouth and kissed her, his eyes never leaving Harry's face. "A boy can't help dreaming, though."
"What are you dreaming of?"
Jimmy giggled. "What do you think?" he said. "Of a knight in shining armour, of course. He'll be riding a white horse when he comes, and he'll save me and take me away to his kingdom over the rainbow."
"Don't you love cock?" Harry said.
"Yes," Severus moaned, "oh yes. Yes." It sounded so fake, so different from Severus's usual moans, but could Harry really be sure?
"Of course I do." Jimmy licked his lips. "Let me show you just how much."
Placing Dotty on his shoulder, he slid from the stool. "Follow me," he whispered, nibbling Harry's earlobe and stroking his half hard cock through his robes.
Harry downed his own and Jimmy's glass of champagne. "Oh, come on," Jimmy said and took him by the hand.
The lavatory was empty, and Jimmy pushed Harry against the door as soon as it closed behind them. Harry moaned when a hot mouth engulfed his cock. He shut his eyes. When he opened them again, Jimmy stood bent over one of the washbasins, his wand up his arse. "I need you, sweetheart," he said. "I need your big cock."
"I love cock. I can't get enough of it."
Drawn by invisible strings, Harry crossed the distance between him and Jimmy. He fumbled with his robes and had to tuck them into his belt to have both hands free. The wand made a squishing sound when he removed it, and Harry gathered some of the lube in his hands to spread it over his cock. Jimmy moaned and wiggled his arse. "Hurry up."
Harry watched his face in the mirror while he fucked Jimmy. He was his old self again, glasses, scar and tousled hair, and if his vision got blurry, it was only because there was sweat running down his forehead and into his eyes. "Yes," he said, "yes."
"Oh, yesss," Jimmy answered.
Was there a shimmer of red hair in the mirror? Harry looked down at his hands. No freckles, and the nails were squarish and bitten. "Yes!"
It didn't take long, and Jimmy trembled beneath him. "I'm coooooming!"
Harry intensified his thrusts. He was close - bitten fingernails, "Yes" - so close - tousled black hair, "Yes" - so very very close. He blinked his eyes. A dark figure appeared in the mirror. Harry cried out and came.
The mirror shattered with a loud crash and a rain of shards poured into the washbasin. Jimmy stumbled sideways. "If you ever come near my lover again," Severus's voice roared, "I'll not only hex off your prick and balls, I'll replace them with slugs - flesh-eating slugs!"
Pulling down the hem of his mini robes with both hands, Jimmy tripped over his high heels when he pushed past Severus and through the door. Dotty hissed at Severus from the top of Jimmy's head. The door shut with a loud bang. Silence.
"Potter," Severus said, "what am I to do with you?" His voice was very soft now, and so much more dangerous. Harry stood with hanging arms, the front of his robes still stuffed in his belt and his flaccid prick dangling. Severus raised his wand, and Harry doubled over in pain. He clutched his privates.
"What have you done?" he asked, blind with tears.
"Just a cleaning spell of my invention," Severus said. "Rest assured, there'll be no permanent damage."
Harry leaned against the cool tiles of the wall and breathed heavily. Slowly, the pain receded to a dull ache. He rearranged his robes and staggered to the door. "Where do you think you're going?" Severus said.
"Out of here." Harry tried in vain to push Severus out of the way. "You make me sick!"
Seizing his wand arm in an iron grip, Severus forced Harry back against the wall. "I make you sick?" he hissed. "Having to watch your sorry performance with the little slut, what do you think that made me?" Severus made a mock retching noise and shook Harry violently. "What was all that about? Explain yourself!"
"Maybe I wanted to understand what's it like, being a whore," Harry said. "Maybe I wanted to be a bad boy for once. Maybe I just wanted to overcome my naiveté."
"You moron!" Severus's laughter sounded bitter, and he loosened the grip on Harry's arm. Harry used the opportunity to break free.
"Expelliarmus," he shouted. Severus's wand shot up into the air and landed among the mirror shards in the washbasin. Harry raised his own wand and stood with his legs apart, posturing as a fantasy hero he now knew he could never be in the real world. "Explain!" he commanded in his Auror voice. "Why did you want to fuck Arthur Weasley even though it wasn't necessary?"
Severus crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. "I haven't met Arthur for a long time, and I certainly never wanted to fuck him."
"You ... you ..." It was as if the world had stopped spinning. Harry let his arm sink. Severus disarmed him in slow motion. He Accio'd his wand and drew a complicated figure. The shards ascended from the washbasin and reformed into a mirror.
"You knew?" The moment Harry finished the sentence, the world resumed its normal pace. Severus's full body weight hit him and pressed him back against the tiles. "Ugh," Harry said. "Since when?"
"Since I woke up next to Arthur this noon. Imagine my surprise when, before I could wake him and ask him what he was doing in our bed, he changed into you."
Severus's eyes glittered, and Harry mustered all his courage. "You knew it was me," he said and kissed him.
For an infinitesimal amount of time, Severus kissed back. Then he turned his face and wiped his mouth. "You betrayed me," he said. "Month after month after month, you betrayed me."
"As if I were the only one," Harry said.
"What do you mean?"
"Imagine my surprise -" Harry mocked Severus's tone, "- when I found a secret passageway from the Dragon to Borgin and Burkes. Imagine my surprise when I talked to Malfoy about the bank robberies. Imagine my surprise -" Harry's voice shook with anger now, "- when I found your lab on the fifth floor."
Severus's face turned ashen and he took a step back. "You know?" he said.
There was a long silence. Harry lowered his eyes. "What are you waiting for?" Severus finally asked. He took both his and Harry's wands and presented them to Harry, handles first. "Why don't you arrest me?"
Harry grabbed his own wand. He shook his head. "I can't," he said and fled.
Severus caught up with him when he was just about to enter the lift. "Don't worry," Harry said, "I'll just pack up my things and leave. I won't bother you any longer."
The lift was silent when Harry stepped inside, unnaturally so. Harry thought that it was holding its breath in anticipation. He pressed the third floor button, but the grills wouldn't close. Severus held them open with his hands, his knuckles white against the silver. "I don't want you to leave," he said.
Severus nodded and there was only a tad of cynicism in his voice when he spoke his verdict. "As far as I am concerned, we're even. I didn't trust the Auror and you didn't trust the whore. We should quit our jobs."
"I will." Harry stretched out his hand. Severus took it and entered the lift. The grills closed with a drawn-out sigh.
"I can't believe it'll be that easy," Harry said and swallowed. Severus was standing very close. "You aren't the forgiving type."
"I'm certainly not. Nor am I stupid. I know which battles to fight, and which opportunities to grasp."
"And you don't even want an apology? I mean, of course, you should apologise, too ..."
"Shut up already, Potter." Severus's kiss was soft, tentative, and it was Harry who pushed him onto the sofa and made their tongues dance.
"Would you say that you're having make-up sex?" the lift said. Its bedroom voice quivered excitedly, and when Severus moaned in agreement, it came to a shuddering halt.
"So if kisses are for lovers and traitors," Harry whispered, "what are we?"
The cooling charms of the whores tingled on Harry's skin, ice kisses in the afternoon heat. Despite the high temperatures, he enjoyed walking arm in arm with his lover. Severus was clad in his usual austere black, and Harry wondered if, on a summer day like this, he missed the slits in his robes.
Harry looked at his hand on Severus's sleeve. "Are you sure I won't change into Arthur again?" he asked.
"Adding your own hair to the Potion should have solved your freckled problem," Severus said. "You can be glad you still had a bottle of it left at Grimmauld Place. When you had your little temper tantrum and demolished my lab, you also destroyed all my notes on the Polyjuice modification."
Harry winced. So much about forgiving and forgetting, he thought and braced himself. "I'm glad I did," he said. "The stuff was dangerous. Remember your promise?"
"Yes, Potter." Severus became tense. "I remember. In the future, I'll inform you whenever I plan to brew and smuggle illegal potions. Don't think I'm going to ask for permission, though."
"Never," Harry said. "I want your trust, not your obedience." He could feel Severus relax next to him and added, "Although I have to admit, I hope that you won't join forces with Malfoy again."
"He has his fortune back, and now, his interests lie elsewhere." Severus pressed Harry's hand. "As do mine, Harry."
Harry smiled up to Severus. He was just about to kiss him, when a female voice startled him. "Harry, dear, good to see you."
"Rosette, Lola, darlings, how are you?" Pulling a reluctant Severus with him, Harry went to the hotel entrance where Rosette and Lola were showing their assets in friendly togetherness. "Thanks again for moving out of the Dragon so quickly," he said.
"No problem, sweetie." Rosette patted his shoulder with the reassuring roughness of a mother bear.
"Your old apartment is so much more comfortable." Lola's smile rivalled the glittering sunlight. "We'll love it there, won't we, sugar?"
Rosette nodded. "To be honest, I can't understand why you want to give it up."
Severus only glared down his nose at them and resumed his way.
"See you, girls." Waving and smiling, Harry followed him down the alley.
A conversation floating down from an open hotel window distracted Harry for a moment, and he paused to listen. "Are you really sure you want to go through with it?" a falsetto voice said.
"Don't worry, love, my family will adore you." The speaker cleared his throat. "My father is the most understanding and tolerant man in the whole wizarding world."
"If you say so." The falsetto sounded doubtful. "Don't you fear for your reputation at all? Doesn't it matter to you if your family loses respect?"
"'We Weasleys have always been and will always be respected. There's nothing anyone of us could do to change that' - that's my father's motto. I only follow in his footsteps." Harry had never before heard such an odd mix of bitterness and pride.
Severus waited in front of the Dragon. "What took you so long?" he said in a gruff voice, but Harry could see the smile on his face.
The dragon tapped its claws and raised an eye ridge. Severus raised an eyebrow. Harry raised his wand. "I name you Ulrich von Lichtenstein," he said.
Ulrich bowed his head. The smoke from his nostrils mixed with smoke emanating from Harry's wand. For a second, Harry could feel the dragonheart beat in his chest. He bowed his head, and the smoke evaporated.
"Ulrich von Lichtenstein is an unusual name for a dragon," Severus said.
"He's the hero of one of my favourite movies, A Knight's Tale," Harry said. "Don't you like it?"
"As long as it isn't from An Auror's Tale." Severus stepped closer, but he didn't quite touch Harry. "Do you miss the hero job?"
Harry shook his head. "Nope. I have everything I ever wanted. What about you? Do you plan for A Whore's Tale Part Two?"
"The sequel is never as good as the original," Severus said and pinched Harry's bum.
"Hey!" Harry grabbed Severus's hand. "Did you like the original that much?" he asked, and despite all his efforts, there was still fear in his voice.
"Moron." They stood like that, hand in hand, and Harry forgot the world around them. In moments like these, he could see himself in Severus's eyes without using Legilimency. A jet of fire barely missing the top of Severus's head reminded Harry that they weren't alone.
"I'm very glad indeed," Severus said, "that Shunpike took that useless Muggle money to leave wizarding Britain and sold me the Dragon. I still have to get used to the special effects, though."
Harry pecked Severus's cheek and grinned at Ulrich. "Let's go inside," he said. "What's the new password?"
"Pertinacity," Severus said, and the door opened wide.
Inside, Kreacher was busy popping in and out with huge stacks of books. More than ever, his ears resembled those of a baby elephant, and Harry thought that he looked happy for the first time since he'd met him.
"Are you happy?" he asked Severus.
Severus looked at Harry with the same strange expression in his eyes he sometimes had during sex. Harry could read it now. "I am too," he said and kissed him. The door closed with a soft thud. Nobody noticed.