Love, Pregnancy and Camel Riding
Love and pregnancy and riding on a camel cannot be hid. ~ Arabic Proverb
"Croatia? Harry Potter, for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary you brought us to Croatia?"
Harry grinned. Ginny was beautiful when she was surprised. The boom of the surf nearly drowned her voice and the sun blazed on her hair, hiding the silver that had begun to invade. "Ginny, it's the ocean. We've always wanted to stay by the ocean."
"No, you've always wanted to stay by the ocean. I've always wanted to go to Paris or Monte Carlo or Prague."
"But look." Harry couldn't help but be giddy with happiness as the wind snatched at his hair. "It's beautiful. And it's all ours, just the two of us, for a whole month."
He looked around the rocky shore and hitched his knapsack higher on his shoulder. A rocky path wandered from the pier to end at a lighthouse that towered over the small, windswept island. The wind smelt of salt and sun-baked rocks. The sea was impossibly blue and the sky arched from one horizon to the next, unbroken but for the spear of the lighthouse. Harry thought he could probably walk the circumference of the island in less than five minutes. Perfect. Tiny. And all theirs.
"There're no trees. No shade. No green. No PEOPLE!"
"But that's the best part of it," Harry said. "We can ride our brooms and swim naked in the ocean and fish for our dinners – "
"In case you haven't noticed, I haven't ridden a broom in twenty years. Twenty years, Harry! My arse is too big these days."
"Your arse is fine," he replied. He reached over to rub it but Ginny slapped his hand away.
"My arse is off-limits." The wind had teased some of her hair from its tight braids and she pulled it off her face. "I burn when I'm in sun like this. I go all red and lobstery."
"D'you think there're lobsters here?" Harry asked eagerly.
Ginny looked as if she were going to burst into tears. "Harry, I don't want to be here!"
Ginny had been distracted lately; maybe this surprise was just more of a shock than he'd anticipated. Harry dropped his knapsack on the rocks and pulled her into his arms. "It'll be fine, you'll see. I wasn't going to tell you, but the kids will be coming next week. There's more than enough room for them here, too. Really, you'll love it." He ran his fingers over her hair.
Ginny pushed him away. "I can't do this," she said. "We've talked about this, Harry. We're not young kids anymore. I want … " she looked away. "I want to have a life of my own."
"But you can, here. We'll be whoever you want us to be," Harry said, still smiling. "Strangers shipwrecked together on a deserted island. Lovers escaping our jealous spouses. Whatever you want, Ginny. We can be that here."
She shook her head. "You're not listening. You haven't been listening." She paused, looking at the sea, and then took a deep breath. "All my life, I've been in love with Harry Potter. I grew up learning how to duel my brothers because Harry Potter was going to fight. I learned how to kiss because I wanted to be ready when Harry Potter kissed me. I stayed a virgin, because I only wanted Harry Potter to touch me. I raised Harry Potter's babies, went to Harry Potter's Ministry events, waited at home, terrified, when Harry Potter went on dangerous Auror assignments, cooked, cleaned, smiled, laughed, lived for Harry Potter. I don't want to be that person any more." She looked at Harry. "I want a life of my own."
Harry's smile faded. "Ginny?"
"It's not you, Harry. Not really. It's me." Ginny looked hopelessly beautiful at that moment, the moment Harry knew he'd lost her. "I've been trying to talk to you about it, but it's been hard. I haven't wanted to hurt you, because you're not the problem. But the truth is, I can't be with you anymore. I just – I've just finally grown up, now. I'm not a romantic little girl anymore."
"Ginny … "
"Do you still have the Portkey?"
Wordlessly, he gave it to her.
"I'll send someone back with a Portkey for you. I'll stay with Mum until everything is settled."
Harry was still standing on the rocks an hour later when James suddenly appeared.
Harry looked at James blankly.
"We're going home, now," James said. He picked up Harry's knapsack and put a gentle arm around him. "C'mon."
A moment later, the wind and the sea were all that remained behind.
Some days, Harry felt as if he were a ghost haunting Godric's Hollow.
He wandered through the house, quiet except for Kreacher's muttering in the kitchen. It seemed so empty now that the children were grown, though Albus had recently returned home, ostensibly to save money while he and Scorpius Malfoy built their business. Harry suspected that it also had to do with the fact that James was currently on the road with the Pride of Portree and Lily had just left home for her next session at Uni.
The galling thing was that Harry was grateful to them for not leaving him alone.
Squashing the thought, he glanced down the hall. Al's lunch sat, forgotten, on the table by the back door.
Harry sighed. His youngest son was brilliant, but he was also as absent-minded as a three-year-old. Harry debated letting Al deal with his own lack of lunch, but decided that he'd rather make sure the young idiot ate than to have him shrug off the lack and make a mistake on a hex or curse while he was working.
Kreacher appeared and bowed low. "Yes, Master?"
"Would you take Al's lunch –?" He stopped.
When was the last time he'd run an errand? In fact, when was the last time he'd set foot outside his door other than for work or when forced to by Ron or Hermione or one of the children?
Harry glanced out the window. It was a beautiful autumn day. He'd shut himself away for far too long. He spied his broom leaning in the corner next to the coat hooks.
"Never mind," he said, turning back to Kreacher. "I'll take it over to him myself."
Kreacher's eyebrows rose in surprise, but he bowed again and disappeared with a soft 'pop'.
The late September air would be crisp, but Al's office was only twenty miles from Godric's Hollow. Anticipation growing, Harry wrapped a scarf around his neck, pulled on gloves and a warm cape, picked up Al's lunch and grabbed the broom. Stepping outside, he mounted the broom and pushed off the ground.
He was a fool. Harry breathed deep, savouring the wind's bite. He should have done this ages ago instead of hiding from the pain of Ginny's desertion and the Prophet's avid speculation.
He was young yet, just forty-eight. He had a good career. He had two sons and a daughter whom he loved fiercely. Ginny was gone; he had to stop acting as if his life had ended with her departure.
The world was his if he wanted it.
Harry flew higher to feel the cool mist of a cloud against his face.
The doormat at Al's office spat out a key.
Al wasn't there, but the calendar on his desk had the words Scorpius's Uncle circled. Harry smiled. He balanced his wand on his hand and said, "Point me."
A half-hour later, he found Albus and Scorpius sitting on the ground under a tree, sharing a sandwich.
"Dad!" Al said, his face lighting. "Wow! What are you doing here?"
"You forgot your lunch," Harry said. He handed it to Albus.
"Brilliant. I'm tired of pate – no offence, Scorpius," Al said. "But Kreacher's egg and pickle is my favourite."
Scorpius accepted half of Al's sandwich with a dubious look and then nodded at Harry, who settled down beside them. Scorpius had always been extremely formal with him, which, strangely, had always relieved Harry. While it was fine that Al was such a good friend to a Malfoy, Harry just had too much history with the family to feel relaxed around Scorpius.
"Your doormat was pretty generous about giving me the key," Harry said, taking an apple from Al's lunch and biting into it. "Don't you worry about that?"
Scorpius carefully laid aside his half of Al's sandwich with only a small bite taken from it; apparently, he didn't share Al's enthusiasm for egg and pickle. "Actually, sir, Albus and I designed that spell. If you're not a Potter or a Malfoy, the welcome mat becomes an appointments book."
"That way we don't lose clients, but we save money on a receptionist," Al said, putting down his bottle of pumpkin juice and taking another huge bite of his sandwich.
"And what happens if I were a burglar?"
"Well then, you'd be restrained in an Incarcerous until such time as Albus or I had the leisure to collect you." A familiar smirk ghosted across Scorpius's face, and Harry found himself remembering stone corridors and green Quidditch leathers.
He glanced at Albus, who was looking at Scorpius with great pride. Al caught his glance and smiled. "Scorpius's dad had something like it at Malfoy Manor, so we copied it."
"And improved on it," Scorpius said. He and Al shared a smile.
"Right. So where's this property you're working on?" Harry asked.
Scorpius and Al looked startled. "Um, well, it's right here, dad," Al said. "I forgot. It's under a Fidelius. That's why you can't see it."
"A very old family," Scorpius said. "It's been under Fidelius for several generations."
"That's why we're here," Al said. "The old spells are wearing out, including the Fidelius. We're stripping them off and replacing them with new ones. Once we've done that, we'll lift the Fidelius and replace it, too."
"You can't lift a Fidelius!" Harry said. "They can't be broken."
"Only while the original caster is alive," Scorpius said. "After that, the spell deteriorates."
"Scorpius's dad's library has a book on it," Al added.
Harry thought of what else might be in the Malfoy library. "These aren't Dark spells, are they?" he asked suspiciously.
Al lifted an eyebrow; Scorpius looked amused. "Depends on your definition of Dark," Al said cheerfully.
"I suspect I might define it a bit more stringently than you do," Harry muttered.
"The one we're working on right now is interesting," Al said. "It's a – well, I suppose you'd say it's a fidelity spell of sorts. We're trying to replace it with a sleeping spell, since they have the same incantation structure. We've found that the spells seem to stick better if we do that."
Harry was intrigued. "Would you be willing to let me watch you do one?"
Al and Scorpius exchanged glances. Scorpius shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, okay," Al said, looking back at Harry. "Scorpius is doing this one. He's better at the conversion spells, while I'm good at the stripping spells."
Harry nodded. They all stood and Harry followed Al and Scorpius, holding back a bit to keep out of their way. Al noticed and slowed to walk beside him. They stopped when Scorpius halted.
"He's going to invoke the spell first – it's easiest to work with it once we see how it's put together," Al said. "This place is really a manor, not a house, so the spells are a bit more complex than we normally work with."
Scorpius began to cast, and Harry was startled to see the spell manifest and take shape. Tendrils of magic wove through one another, twisting and flaring as they intersected. Looking closely, he noticed that areas of the spell looked faded, while there seemed to be a hole in the centre.
Al frowned. "This one looks a little stronger than some of the others have been."
Scorpius made a complex wand movement and continued the incantation.
Harry's eyes widened as he noticed the edges of the spell begin to vibrate. "Is it supposed to do that?"
Al ignored him, focused on Scorpius. "He's gonna get hurt," he said, and stepped forward.
Several things happened at once.
Scorpius shouted, "Get down!"
Harry reacted immediately, grabbing Al's arm and pulling him to the ground. He shielded Al with his body as the spell flared and exploded, catching a glimpse of Scorpius crouched on the ground, hands over his head, already enveloped in the backlash. Then the wave of magic hit.
It felt as if someone had reached into Harry's abdomen and pulled out his intestines. He screamed, the wind from the spell drowning his voice. Beneath him he could feel Albus struggling.
The magic disappeared, but the pain didn't.
"Dad?" Al said, his voice tight and afraid. He managed to crawl out from under Harry as Scorpius ran over to them.
Harry lay doubled over, his insides cramping, tearing at his clothing, which seemed to be unnaturally tight. "What the hell was that curse?" he gasped.
"I tried to convert it to a really powerful sleeping curse," Scorpius said, his smooth superiority gone. "Ingravesca Gravida. If anything, we all should be asleep."
"Scorpius, did you just say 'Ingravesca Gravida'?" Al asked.
"Yes," Scorpius said. "What's wrong with your father?"
"He's pregnant," Al said blankly.
"What?" Scorpius and Harry asked in unison.
"No," Scorpius said. "He's just really tired."
"Tired is 'defessus'!" Al yelled. "Not 'gravida'!"
His jeans finally loosened, Harry moaned as another wave of cramps rippled through his body.
"He can't be pregnant! Mr Potter, you didn't just have sex with another man, did you?"
"Wha–? No!" Harry panted, trying to hold his insides together. "No. Oh, fuck, make it stop!"
"Then he can't be pregnant," Scorpius said, clearly panicking. "He's just dying, that's better, isn't it?"
"Shut up and help him!" Al shouted. "He's not getting better!"
Scorpius seemed to come to his senses. "I'll go to The Haven and get Uncle Severus!"
Suddenly, a huge manor sprang into sight beyond Scorpius. But Harry had more on his mind than the revelation of a Fidelius-protected property. "Uncle Severus? Do you mean Severus Snape?" But Scorpius was already gone.
"Just hang in there, Dad," Al said anxiously, kneeling by Harry with a hand on his shoulder. "Al's uncle is great. He can do anything."
"Did he say 'Snape'?" Harry shivered, feeling strangely weak.
"Yes, Potter, he said 'Snape'," a familiar voice answered. The bitter smell of Bobotuber Pus wafted over Harry. He immediately vomited.
"Erk!" said Scorpius, sounding sick himself.
Harry looked up as another wave of cramps ripped through his body. "Snape? I thought – "
Snape knelt next to him. "You thought what I wanted everyone to think," Snape said. He sounded disgusted. "This is what comes of making a Malfoy my Secret Keeper."
"You made – Scorpius – ?" Harry panted.
"Don't speak," Snape ordered, face intent as he cast diagnostic spells on Harry. "And don't be a dunderhead. Draco was my Secret Keeper, of course, but he seems to have transferred it to his idiotic son," he said, glaring at Scorpius.
"Sorry," Scorpius said. He actually managed to look apologetic.
"Aaugh!" Harry caught his breath. "Oh, fuck, it hurts!" He curled around his middle as tightly as he could.
"Don't swear in front of the children," Snape said. He put a warm hand on Harry's shoulder, frowned and cast some more spells.
Harry clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering. "They're not kids," he said.
"What's happening?" Al asked anxiously.
"You were right," Snape said. "He's pregnant. I detect two distinct magical cores – your father's and one I've never seen before."
"Scorpius said Dad could only be pregnant if he'd just had sex with a man," Al said helpfully.
"So who's the other father, Potter?" Snape sat back, eyes narrowed.
"There is no other father!" Harry moaned. "Please, just kill me now."
"I'm not going to kill you." Snape frowned. "Here, this may help." He waved his wand and incanted a few words.
The pain receded, and Harry gasped in relief. "Thank you." He slowly uncurled.
"Cor," Al said.
Harry looked at his stomach. Or rather, where his stomach should be. Now it stuck out, rounded and tight.
"I'd estimate you're about six months on," Snape said.
Harry felt something flutter inside him just before he fainted.
Harry awoke to his son's panicked face.
"Dad, are you okay?"
"Al?" Harry tried to sit up. "My glasses?"
Al handed them to him. Putting them on, Harry saw he was in an unfamiliar sitting room, lying on an ornate velvet sofa. Tall windows with deep green hangings framed views of a well-tended garden, and a fire snapped at him from a large fireplace. The room was warm and inviting and strangely familiar.
Something moved inside him and he instinctively grabbed his abdomen and lay back. He felt sick as he remembered the spell that had so spectacularly gone wrong. "Al," he repeated slowly. "Am I really pregnant?"
Albus's face was white. "Don't worry. Mr Snape is getting a Healer."
Scorpius entered the room, Levitating a tray with a decanter, several brandy glasses and a glass of water. He placed the tray on a low table by Harry's head and handed the water to Albus.
Harry fervently thanked whoever had the foresight to have spread a blanket over him, since he could feel his jeans and pants gaping open around the swell of his belly. The last thing he wanted to do was to flash his son's best friend. Or his son, for that matter.
"Drink this," Albus said.
Harry obediently sipped.
"I'm so sorry, sir." Scorpius looked miserable. Al looked anxious.
Harry tried to smile. "Don't worry. It was an accident."
Scorpius didn't look very reassured.
A voice came from behind the couch. "Potter. If you'd wanted to visit The Haven so badly, you could have simply asked. I would have refused your request with great pleasure."
Harry shivered. Snape's voice was deep, familiar and disapproving. "Professor," he said, rolling over with some difficulty. "Thank you for helping." He looked up.
Snape's hair was as grey as the stones of Hogwarts. Unfamiliar lines marked his face, while the flesh had sunken with age until it clung to his skull like a glove. He must be nearly seventy Harry thought, surprised. Strange to think of Snape ageing.
Strange to think of Snape being alive.
"I trust you haven't given him any of my best brandy, Scorpius." Snape circled the couch, watching Harry with his dark eyes.
"Good. See that you don't."
The insulting bastard. "I won't intrude on your hospitality any longer," Harry said, glaring but determined to be polite in front of his son. "Thank you for bringing me inside."
"Stop being so sensitive." Snape looked down his nose at Harry. "I merely meant that pregnant – individuals – should avoid alcohol."
Harry blushed and tried to sit up again. His centre of gravity seemed off; he felt clumsy and awkward, which didn't help his composure.
"Lie down," Snape said. "You may as well stay long enough so that Healer Lymejam's Floo trip isn't pointless."
The flames in the fireplace suddenly flared green. A tall, dark-skinned man stepped out of the Floo. His long white hair was tied back with a black ribbon, while his robes flowed over him like an elegant midnight waterfall.
The expression on his face was almost as supercilious as Snape's.
"Jonathan." Snape's voice was warmer than Harry had ever heard it. "Potter, this is Healer Lymejam," he said, glancing at Harry with noticeably cooler eyes. "He has graciously consented to examine you."
"Healer Lymejam," Harry said. "Thank you."
Disconcerting silver eyes met his. "The honour is mine, Mr Potter." He smiled enigmatically. "Seeing a pregnant man is not to be missed. A pregnant hero – well, Merlin himself is smiling on me."
Great, Harry thought to himself, Snape's showing me off to his friends for a laugh. He grit his teeth. "Yes, I imagine he is. I'm glad that I can offer you such an opportunity, unexpected as it has been."
A white eyebrow arched. "No need to be polite, please. I imagine that you're quite unhappy with the situation. However, I can't pretend to be anything other than delighted. Now, please tell me the particulars of the circumstances leading to impregnation."
Scorpius answered, his pale skin flushed. "I was trying to convert an unstable fidelity curse into a curse that would send an intruder into a deep sleep. I cast a pregnancy incantation instead of a sleep spell and the fidelity curse immediately destabilised."
"A destabilised fidelity curse coupled with a pregnancy spell. Interesting. Who was present at the time?" Lymejam waved his wand in an elegant gesture and a diagnostic spell appeared above Harry's midriff. Harry leaned forward to see better, but could make nothing of the shapes and colours hovering in the air. However, the Healer watched the images carefully, his silver eyes examining each permutation before an elegant flick of the wrist brought another image.
"Albus, Scorpius and I." Harry fidgeted until a sidelong glance from the Healer's eyes froze him in place.
"Well," Lymejam said. "This is certainly every bit as fascinating as I anticipated it to be. Severus, is this your ancestral manor?"
"The Princes have no ancestral manor, as you well know," Snape said. "This manor was the ancestral home of the Dumbledores. However, Albus Dumbledore bequeathed it to me, so the house recognises me as its master."
"Dumbledore?" Harry blurted. The feeling of familiarity made sense now; he could easily imagine the Headmaster entertaining guests in this room, Fawkes preening on a stand next to one of the bright windows.
Snape glared but remained silent.
"That explains some of the more unusual aspects of the pregnancy," Lymejam said. "You were right, Severus. It appears that Mr Potter is just beginning his third trimester. I can only attribute that to the power of the destabilised spell – an immense amount of magical energy must have been expended in order to advance gestation so quickly without killing the parent."
Scorpius paled; Albus clutched Harry's shoulder.
"However, there do not seem to be any lasting negative effects," Lymejam added.
Harry nearly pointed out that the pregnancy itself could be considered a lasting negative effect, but remained silent.
"Interestingly, you exhibit no female attributes. You'll need to take potions throughout the remainder of your pregnancy in order to sustain the foetus, since your body will not produce the necessary environment that it will need to grow. I'll provide you with a reputable source of potions."
"I can brew them," Scorpius said quickly.
Snape snorted. "Don't be such a Gryffindor, Scorpius. You are under no obligation to make amends, much less involve yourself with Potter's pregnancy."
Harry saw that Albus was closely watching Scorpius, who fell silent and didn't seem to want to meet Al's eyes.
"The delivery will necessarily be magical, since you have no aperture from which the baby will be able to exit your body," Lymejam continued.
Harry winced at the thought of apertures and childbirth. "When will it be over?" he asked.
"If the gestation continues at a normal pace, you should be due around the end of the year."
The end of the year. Christmas. What a hell of a present.
"How is the baby growing inside?" Al asked, his face worried.
Good question. "Yeah, I'd like to know, too," Harry said.
"The spell seems to have created a womb-like space within your abdomen," Lymejam said. "In the absence of an umbilical cord, the foetus seems to be absorbing what it needs from your body magically. You'll likely feel drained of energy much of the time. I imagine that you'll be extremely uncomfortable physically."
"What am I supposed to do?" Harry asked, feeling panicked.
"If you want to keep the child, you will have to be extremely careful about taking proper care of yourself. I must be clear: the pregnancy isn't without risks. Your age is a factor, though your career has left you the legacy of a strong and healthy body, which may offset my concerns about your heart."
"If I want to keep the child," Harry said slowly. "You mean I have a choice?"
The Healer's eyes narrowed. "Of course," he said coldly. "Though I refuse to be a party to a termination."
Harry looked around. Snape was glaring at him, Scorpius looked anxious yet strangely hopeful, and Albus's face was full of doubt. "Dad?" he asked. "You wouldn't really get rid of the baby, would you?"
Before Harry could reply, Snape said viciously, "The Chosen One could never allow a pregnancy to interfere with his precious image of the all-conquering hero."
Harry glared. "That's not it, you bastard." He ignored Al's gasp and Healer Lymejam's raised eyebrows. "It's just –" he paused. It's just something else that makes me different, he thought bitterly, and fell silent. Just that morning, he'd finally started to wake up after a long period of mourning. He'd finally begun to put the past year behind him, all of the heartaches, the loneliness, the guilt and self-pity. And now this. "I need some time to think this over," he finished lamely.
"Magic is a rare resource, Mr Potter," Lymejam said. "It should not be squandered."
Again, something foreign wriggled in his abdomen. He shuddered. Almost as if it understands what's being said, Harry thought. He looked at the fire in order to avoid the others' eyes.
Snape harrumphed. "As it sounds like Potter is perfectly capable of moving about, how soon will he be able to return to his own abode?"
Lymejam snorted. "Hospitable as ever, Severus. Mr Potter can leave at any time, though I'd advise that he not travel via magical means until the pregnancy is over."
Harry could feel Al staring at him, but he wasn't sure he could meet his son's eyes at the moment.
"What sex is the baby?" Scorpius suddenly asked.
The room fell silent. Harry sighed. "I might as well know," he said.
"You have a son," Lymejam said.
Damn him. Of course he'd phrase it like that, Harry fumed to himself. "I'm curious to know who the other father is," he said instead.
"I was wondering if you were going to ask that particular question," Lymejam said. The corner of his mouth crooked up. "When I first examined you, I expected to find that your son or Mr Malfoy would be the father, since they were both involved in the magical accident with you."
Harry's mouth dropped open, though neither Al nor Scorpius looked particularly surprised. Scorpius, in fact, looked a bit shamed-faced. They knew, he realised. They've been waiting to see which one of them is the other father. Oh God, don't let it be Albus.
Snape looked as if he could barely contain his mirth. "Not much of a choice, is it, Potter?" he said, dark eyes alight with malice. "Incest or a Malfoy. I expect your father is rolling in his grave."
"Tell me," Harry whispered hoarsely.
Lymejam looked diabolically amused. "Imagine my surprise to find out that neither of them was the other parent."
Al frowned and Scorpius looked vastly relieved. "Dad couldn't be the other father, too, could he?" Al asked. "Wouldn't that make the baby what the Muggles call a clown?"
"No, the foetus is not a clone," Lymejam said dryly. "In fact, I believe this is where the original fidelity curse on the ancestral home exerted its influence."
"Not Dumbledore!" Surely the Headmaster had been gone too long for his presence to contribute to the pregnancy. Though Aberforth is still alive. Harry felt ill.
"The Dumbledores are no longer the masters of this manor," Lymejam said smugly. "You have that particular honour, I believe, Severus."
There was a stunned pause.
"You must be mad!" Snape shouted.
"You must be crazy!" Harry shouted.
"Well that's a poser," Albus said, a smile breaking across his face. He glanced at Scorpius, who Harry noted was acting more like a Malfoy acted, smirking and sitting back in his chair to watch.
"I'm neither mad nor crazy," Lymejam said, smiling. "Congratulations, Severus. You finally have your heir."
"What?!" Harry shouted. Like hell any child of his would be Snape's heir! He struggled to his feet. "I'm leaving this place and I'm taking my baby with me!"
Since he couldn't stalk convincingly with his jeans splayed open and his belly bulging, Harry decided to settle for speed instead of dignity. He stormed out of the sitting room, down the hall and out the front door.
Lymejam ran after him. "Mr Potter, you must wait for someone to bring you a carriage or a Muggle conveyance of some sort! Do not try to Apparate in your condition!"
Harry ignored him. Fine, maybe he was having some second thoughts about this whole pregnancy thing, but he was damned if Snape was going to take the baby away from him before he'd even got his head around the idea.
He heard someone running up behind him.
"Dad!" Albus caught up to him and grabbed his arm. Harry halted and glared, but Al seemed determined to stop him. "Listen to Healer Lymejam. I don't blame you for wanting to leave, but at least let Scorpius arrange for his dad to send their carriage for you."
"Just call me a taxi," Harry snapped. "Or maybe I'll hitchhike. I'm sure I can flag down the Knight Bus." Al's face fell, and Harry suddenly felt ashamed of himself. "Look, Al, I just want to go home and figure out what's going on, that's all." He felt an overwhelming need to call Hermione and Ron – he needed them, even if it was only so that Ron could rave about Snape being an arse and Hermione could lecture him about the dangers of wild magic. "Don't worry, I'm not angry with you or Scorpius. I just can't be here anymore, that's all."
Albus released Harry's arm, though he still looked worried.
Harry mustered a smile. "It'll be all right." Then he turned and extended his wand for the Knight Bus.
The pain, worse than a Cruciatus Curse, was so sudden and intense he didn't even have time to scream. Harry fell to the ground, writhing. He could feel hands on him and heard Lymejam ordering someone to pull him away from the road. As he was dragged away, the pain receded. Curled into a small ball, Harry panted, trying to regain his breath. Lymejam was kneeling beside him, frowning at a new diagnostic spell.
"That was unexpected."
"What happened?" Snape's voice was sharp.
"I believe that we've just seen the rest of the effects of the fidelity curse," Lymejam said slowly. "It would seem that Mr Potter is being prevented from leaving The Haven."
Harry closed his eyes. No. Please, no.
"You mean that Potter has to stay here?"
"It would appear so." Lymejam put a hand to Harry's forehead and cast a spell that reduced the residual headache Harry hadn't realised he had. "At least until such time as someone is able to lift the curse."
"I don't believe it," Harry whispered.
There was a silence and then Snape spoke. "There's nothing for it, apparently," he said, his voice disgusted. "Scorpius, would you and Albus help Potter back to the manor?"
Harry allowed the others to help him to his feet and guide him back to the manor. He kept his head down, watching each step he took away from the road and freedom, too overwhelmed to risk looking at anyone just at the moment.
All I wanted to do was to make sure that Albus didn't miss his lunch.
"All in all, a risky but not overwhelmingly dangerous pregnancy. I look forward to attending you through the duration, Mr Potter."
Harry nodded woodenly. Lymejam bowed his head with a sardonic smirk and then left.
After a flurry of cleaning spells and fresh linens, Snape had directed Albus and Scorpius to settle Harry in a pleasant burgundy-coloured bedroom in the eastern wing of the manor. Lying in the bed, propped up by pillows, Harry could look out the bank of windows just beyond the foot of the bed.
He looked at the road that stretched away into the hills. I bet the bastard picked this room just so I could look out and know that I can't leave, he thought bitterly. "Thank you for the room, Snape," he said.
Snape said nothing, though his glare spoke volumes.
Harry glared back. "Al, could you have Kreacher bring me some clothes?"
Al looked stricken. "Er, I don't think you'll exactly fit into them … " he trailed off as Harry closed his eyes in resigned disbelief.
"No, of course, you're right," Harry said. "Then, would you please ask your Aunt Hermione to stop by?"
"I will not allow Granger to be party to the Fidelius spell," Snape said.
I need her to tell me how to get out of this. Harry went on the offensive. "I need clothes!" he said. "Maternity clothes! Are you going to go out and buy them for me?"
Snape sneered. "Go naked, see if I care."
"You're inviting me to prance around your home naked?" Harry asked. "Fine." He squirmed as he tried to pull off his jeans.
"Stop!" Snape said. "All right, Potter, you've made your point. No, I don't want you to 'prance around my home naked' as you so eloquently put it. I will allow Granger to bring you clothing."
Harry pushed while he still had the advantage. "And Ron. And James and Lily. And Teddy, if he comes back to England any time soon. Oh, and Ginny." He'd be damned if he was going to be a prisoner with only Snape for company.
"And why would you want your ex-wife to visit you?" Snape asked through a clenched jaw.
"She's been pregnant before," Harry said.
"So has Granger."
"And you think that having Hermione around advising us about my pregnancy will be ideal?" Harry scowled. "Maybe you're comfortable having your every action, your every bite of food monitored to make sure that the baby has the optimum gestational experience, but I'm not. Ginny won't drive us crazy."
Al looked a bit uncomfortable. "Actually, sir, he's right. Mum and Dad banned Aunt Hermione from the house when Mum was pregnant with Lily and things were much quieter."
"You weren't even two," Harry said. "What do you remember of that?"
"Brussels sprouts," Al said.
Harry had nearly forgotten the Brussels sprouts fiasco. He turned to Snape. "See? Even a two-year-old knew that having Hermione monitoring a pregnancy was tantamount to insanity."
"Fine. I'm to have my home invaded by Granger, Weasley, your offspring, the wolf's spawn and your ex-wife."
"And my house-elf," Harry said. "Kreacher will poison us all if we don't involve him. He's been taking care of pregnant Blacks for generations, and he's still got a few strange ideas … " He shuddered at the thought of Kreacher's potential rage if he were to be excluded.
"A house-elf." Snape pondered for a moment. "I agree – but that's all, Potter. No Longbottoms or other Gryffindor refuse, no Ministry personnel, no tribe of Weasleys marauding through my Floo connection."
"As long as someone else tells Molly Weasley that she can't see me, it's a deal," Harry said.
"You realise that I have authority over any house-elf serving in my household?"
"Kreacher's not serving in your household," Harry protested. "He's serving in mine."
"You are my household now, Potter. That's what the curse is about."
Soon after that, he kicked them all out of the room and spent the rest of the day perched on the bed, hugging his knees awkwardly against the fluttering lump of humanity cradled in his abdomen.
He didn't sleep well that night.
The rattle of china and the sound of something bleating woke Harry.
"Kreacher brings Master his morning tea," Kreacher announced. He looked less than happy as he lowered the hovering tea tray to the small bedside table.
"Thank you, Kreacher," Harry said, struggling to sit up. Kreacher snapped his fingers and Harry found himself sitting upright in a nest of pillows, a cup of tea hovering near his hand. He accepted the tea and took a sip.
Kreacher glared at the floor, at the ceiling and finally, at the window, muttering under his breath.
"Kreacher," Harry said. "Are you upset with me?"
"Kreacher not upset with Master," Kreacher said. "Kreacher disgusted by Master Snape."
"What has Snape done?"
Kreacher glared at the fireplace. "Master Snape ordered Kreacher –" he seemed to struggle, then spat out, " – ordered Kreacher to – keep his goats." Kreacher's face was twisted in anger and disgust.
"Keep his goats?" Harry repeated. "Snape has goats?"
"Nasty, mean, smelly goats," Kreacher said. As if to confirm Kreacher's opinion, Harry heard another volley of bleating through the open window.
Snape. A goat-herder. Harry could barely restrain a smirk, but on second thought, frowned. "You don't have to keep Snape's goats. I'll tell him."
Kreacher looked at him as if he were mad. "Of course Kreacher must keep Master Snape's goats," he said. "Kreacher serves Master Snape."
"Kreacher serves – I mean, you serve me," Harry said.
"Yes," Kreacher said. "But while Master is Master Snape's wife, Kreacher serves Master Snape, too."
"I'm not Snape's wife!" Harry could feel himself go red, though he wasn't sure if it was in embarrassment or anger. "I'm his – guest."
Kreacher looked sceptical. "Master carries Master Snape's baby, doesn't he?"
"Yes," Harry said, "but that doesn't make me – "
"And Master is bound to Master Snape's house, isn't he?"
"Well, yes, but – "
"And Master Snape hasn't given the house to Master, has he?"
"No." Oh, sweet Merlin's toe. Kreacher was right. "Kreacher?"
"Do me a favour, will you? Please don't call me Snape's wife again. No matter how true it might seem to be."
Harry and Kreacher shared a look full of mutual commiseration.
"Master Snape has asked Kreacher to tend the goats after he has made Master presentable."
Harry sighed. "Right. Where's the nearest bathroom?"
"Master Snape says Master needs a shave."
"I'll do a Depilatory Charm when I take my shower," Harry said, putting down his cup of tea.
"Master Snape was most insistent," Kreacher said, looking shifty.
"What did Snape insist on?" Harry asked warily.
Kreacher snapped his fingers, and a bowl of steaming water, several towels, a shaving mug, and the nastiest looking straight-edge razor Harry had ever laid eyes on were laid out next to the bed.
"You've got to be kidding," Harry said, his eyes round.
In response, Kreacher dipped a towel into the hot water, wrung it out and hopped up on the bed. "Lie back, Master."
Twenty minutes later, Kreacher left with the shaving supplies, looking quite pleased with himself, while Harry finally allowed himself to take a deep breath. Shakily, he got out of bed and put on a robe that he found in the wardrobe. He opened his bedroom door.
Snape was standing there, obviously lying in wait if the anticipatory gleam in his eye was any indication. "Enjoy your shave, Potter?"
"It's hard to say 'no' to a house-elf with a straight-edge razor," Harry said. "What on Earth prompted you to instruct him to shave me?"
"Don't tell me that you're unfamiliar with close shaves? I like my consorts to look their best," Snape purred.
"I'm not your consort," Harry retorted.
"You carry my child," Snape replied. "Would you prefer me to call you my mistress? Or perhaps my wife?"
Harry glared. "I'd prefer you to call me Harry, actually," he said. "Since I'm going to be here for a while."
Snape studied his face. "Perhaps. I'll see if you earn my respect enough for me to grant you that privilege." His expression implied that he highly doubted that would happen.
"I could point out that I'm granting you the privilege," Harry muttered. "By the way," he said louder. "Kreacher says you raise goats."
"Five hundred of the finest purebred magical bezoar-producing stock available," Snape said.
"Five HUNDRED?" Harry said. "And you're making Kreacher take care of them?"
Snape waved his hand airily. "Your house-elf is extremely capable. I'm sure he'll have no problem, and it saves me a tidy sum each week."
"I'll pay you."
Snape laughed. Harry stared; he thought it was the first time that he'd ever seen Snape laugh in a way that was merely mocking, not nasty.
"You're pathetic, Potter," he said, walking away. "I hope my son doesn't pick up any bad habits while in your presence."
"My son," Harry said. Three months. He was never going to make it.
He was never going to make it.
Dawlish hadn't even tried to keep a straight face when Harry fire-called the Auror Department to report that he'd be out of work for the next three months because he was pregnant. He doubted that Dawlish even heard his request to keep the information confidential. The Daily Prophet was probably already flooding the streets with the news.
Thankfully, Hermione and Ron arrived with an entire wardrobe of roomy robes and comfortable Muggle clothing.
Kreacher, smelling faintly of goat, served them tea. Snape joined them as Kreacher poured. He exchanged curt but reasonably civil greetings with Hermione, though he and Ron glared at each other with identically suspicious looks on their faces.
Harry decided it was time to divert hostilities and get some answers. He turned to Hermione. "Men don't get pregnant."
"Not often, anyway," Hermione said, putting down her tea and leaning forward. "There was the great Blanket Scandal of 1106 in which the entire village of Trogglereed got pregnant all at once, men included. I understand that there was a fertility ritual accident. There have been other incidents over the centuries, though very isolated."
"This can't be happening to me," Harry said, running his hand through his hair.
"Look at the bright side," Ron said helpfully. "It looks like the curse put the baby in your abdomen, at least. Think if it had implanted somewhere else."
"His head would have made the perfect womb," Snape muttered. Harry shot him a dark look.
"I don't think those are very bright sides, actually," he said. "I'm a pregnant, unmarried, middle-aged man."
"And on that happy note, I'll leave you to your pity fest," Snape said. He swept out of the room.
"You're screwed, mate," Ron said, his mouth full of crumpet. "Not only are you pregnant, but you're starting the worst three months of it to boot."
"Still, three months isn't that long," Hermione said overly brightly.
Harry glared at her.
To her credit, Hermione looked chastened. "I've been researching ever since Al told us yesterday afternoon," she said. "This really is Dumbledore's ancestral home and all of the proper paperwork has been filed to show that the property is now held by one 'S. Prince'."
"How the hell do you think he got out of the Shrieking Shack alive?" Harry asked.
Ron shook his head. "I don't know. He was dead."
"I was sure of it, too," Hermione said. "But we were obviously wrong. I mean, I doubt that anyone else could act quite so … Snape-like."
"Yeah, he's one of a kind," Harry muttered. "What about the curse? I know that Al is trying to break it, but I'd feel better knowing that you're researching alternatives, too."
"Well," Hermione said in a voice that made Harry's heart plummet. "There's any number of fidelity spells, including a number of curses. But after talking to Albus, I think the best fit is one known as the Curse of the New Wife."
"There's that word again," Harry said.
Ron slurped some tea. "What word?"
"'Wife'. Snape used it this morning, too."
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look. "It may be accurate, at least as far as the magic is concerned," Hermione said apologetically. "The spell binds a new bride to the house of her husband. It was used in cases where there was a good chance that the bride would try to escape an arranged marriage. A number of the old houses seem to have incorporated it as a routine part of their wards."
"Right." Harry rubbed his eyes. "How long does it last?" He looked up when there was silence.
Hermione's eyes were full of tears, but her voice was steady. "The bride's entire life."
Harry could feel the blood rush from his face. "Entire life?"
"There's a chance that the curse may have been modified by the pregnancy spell," Hermione said quickly. "It may only last until the baby is born."
"It's our best hope, mate," Ron said quietly.
After Hermione and Ron left, promising that they'd be back later, the manor felt too confining and his predicament seemed too overwhelming. Harry donned a heavy cloak and went outside.
He found Snape standing next to a small paddock, watching Kreacher Levitate mounds of hay into vast troughs. The goats tossed their heads at Kreacher, who shot vicious looks at Snape from time to time.
"How often does Kreacher have to feed them?" Harry asked, figuring he might as well try to make some kind of conversation.
Snape turned to him, looking furious. "I don't want you in my home, Potter."
So it comes out. "I'm not particularly pleased, either, you know."
"Do you truly understand what your presence here will do to me?" Snape said, his voice low and angry. "I'll lose everything – my new life, my privacy, perhaps even my safety and livelihood. All because you can't piss without the entire wizarding world fighting to hold a golden chamber pot for you."
"That's a vivid image," Harry said under his breath. "It isn't through any choice of mine," he said in a louder voice. "And for that matter, did you really think that you could live in Albus Dumbledore's ancestral house, in the middle of England, surrounded by goats, for fifty or sixty years without people finding out you're alive? Even with a Fidelius?"
"I had intended it would be much longer than that," Snape retorted. "My entire life, to be exact."
"I had intentions for my entire life, too, but they haven't worked out for me. Why should you be special?" Harry said bitterly.
"You little bastard," Snape hissed. "I sacrificed everything for you, for Albus, for the magical world and you dare to ask me why I should receive a life free of the entire lot of you?"
"Seems to me that we have a lot in common there, Snape," Harry snapped back. "I'll be damned if you throw your sacrifices in my face and try to make me feel guilty! If you thought that you'd stay hidden for the rest of your life, all I can say is that you're a million times more stupidly optimistic than the doziest Gryffindor that ever lived!"
"Don't you presume to judge me!"
"As if you haven't been judging me all along! I'm pregnant. Pregnant, you bastard! With your baby! I think that just about trumps any other self-pitying situation that you come up with, you great git!"
"Oh, yes, being pregnant is so much worse than being reviled as an evil murdering bastard!" Snape's face was twisted with anger.
"Would you rather try living with everyone thinking you're some kind of saint? 'Harry Potter'," Harry said, managing a passable imitation of Snape's tones. "I'm not 'Harry Potter!' 'Harry Potter' would risk his neck and reputation to make sure that a self-sacrificing misanthropic prick like you could live in wizarding society! 'Harry Potter's' wife would never walk out on him on his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary! 'Harry Potter' would have the baby because it's the right fucking thing to do! Well, I couldn't give a flying ARSE about your life, my wife DID leave me on my anniversary, and I DON'T FUCKING WANT TO HAVE A BABY!"
They stood, nose to hooked nose, glaring at each other.
There was a 'pop' of Apparation, and Kreacher was suddenly beside them, knobbly fists waving in the air. "Masters upsetting the goats, they are!"
Startled, Harry and Snape looked at the goats, which did seem to be somewhat upset, though Harry wasn't sure, not having much experience with the animals. He watched in horrified fascination as Kreacher Apparated back into the field and began running about, breaking up vicious fights, keeping a particularly determined faction from knocking themselves unconscious against a fence post and calming kids that bleated in high-pitched voices while their mothers surrounded them looking murderous.
"Perhaps we should take our discussion elsewhere," Snape said.
"I think that would be wise." Funny, now that he'd finally said all those things, Harry felt a lot calmer. "Would you be willing to show me around the grounds?"
"I have better things to be doing with my time," Snape said with a sneer.
"So do I," Harry replied. "So, the grounds?"
Snape glared for a moment, then gave a sharp nod. Leaving the goats to Kreacher, they began walking.
"It's a nice estate," Harry ventured.
Snape remained silent.
"Did Dumbledore tell you much about his family?" Harry asked.
"Are you going to continue to introduce inane conversational topics?"
"Well, probably," Harry said. "I mean, it would be strange to walk around the grounds with you in silence."
Harry was torn between annoyance and amusement. He decided in favour of amusement and allowed a small smile to cross his face. "Right. Tell you what. If I'm supposed to stay silent, it seems only fair that you have to introduce inane conversational topics."
They walked a little further.
"I imagine you get groped," Snape said.
"What?" Harry said. He stopped.
Snape kept walking. "Groped. People grabbing the arse of the Chosen One."
Harry hurried to catch up. "Are my topics of conversation really as inane as that?"
Snape looked at him. "What do you think, Potter?"
"'Harry'," he corrected with a grin.
"If you call me 'Severus', I'll hex you."
"If you hex me, you hex your son – Severus," Harry said. "Huh. I guess there's one good thing about being pregnant with your baby."
They walked on a bit longer.
The estate was huge. The goat pastures stretched to a stream that meandered across the countryside. In the distance, Harry could see a small dock with a rowboat tied to it. Beyond the stream was a wooded area, the trees thick and dark.
"Do you really want to terminate the pregnancy?"
Harry looked at Snape, startled. Snape's expression gave nothing away.
Did he really want to terminate the pregnancy? He remembered when Ginny had started using contraceptive potions after Lily's birth. He'd been disappointed, though he'd supported her decision without saying anything to her about his feelings. Still, he'd always dreamed of having a family as large as the Weasleys', or at least more than three children.
Of course, that was when it was Ginny who would be the pregnant one.
There was no doubt he didn't want to be pregnant. But having felt the baby move, having talked to Hermione and Ron, and having screamed at Snape about the unfairness of it all, it all came down to the fact that the thought of terminating the pregnancy felt wrong.
Dumbledore had always told him to follow his heart. He sighed. "No, I don't want to terminate the pregnancy."
He abruptly turned around and left Snape standing in the pasture.
The kitchen wouldn't let him in.
Harry pounded on the door again, but it remained stubbornly closed. The baby wriggled, as impatient as he was. He stood back and took out his wand.
There was no comforting click of a lock disengaging, much less the hospitable swing of a door opening in welcome. Harry went through every unlocking spell he could think of, but in the end, the door stayed shut and his stomach kept roaring.
In desperation, he called, "Kreacher!"
Kreacher popped out of the air. "I hope Master has a good reason for calling Kreacher," he said crossly, the smell of goats quite strong. "Kreacher's busy."
"I'm hungry," Harry said.
Kreacher glared, but said, "Kreacher lives to serve, Master." He disappeared and reappeared within seconds, a platter piled high with sandwiches.
Harry, weak with relief, took the platter. "Thank you so much, Kreacher!"
"Kreacher must tend the goats now," Kreacher said. He disappeared again.
Harry stuffed a sandwich in his mouth as he carried the platter back to the sitting room. He'd spelled the fire to make the room warmer, and now the room was as hot as the inside of an oven. Pulling a blanket over himself and curling up on the velvet sofa, he determinedly began to eat his way through the pile of sandwiches.
"Potter, what is the meaning of this?" Snape sounded scandalised. Harry looked up to see him enter the sitting room and point his wand at the fireplace.
"No, don't!" Harry lurched off the sofa. "It's cold in here."
"The Sahara desert in mid-summer with no rain for ten years would be cold in comparison to this room, you imbecile. Have you contacted Lymejam to see what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," Harry said, taking his platter of sandwiches over to the fireplace and crouching on the hearth as close as he could get to the fire. "I'm just cold, that's all. Why is the kitchen locked? I was hungry, so I had to call Kreacher in to get me something to eat!"
"The kitchen is my Potions laboratory," Snape said, frowning down on him. "I keep it sealed so that some of my more delicate experiments aren't ruined by careless idiots who don't know asphodel from aspic."
Harry wrinkled his nose. "I've never liked aspic. Or anything jelly-like. All wobbly."
Snape crossed his arms. "Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject. Have you taken your pregnancy potion today?"
Harry paused, his mouth full. "I can't remember," he admitted after he swallowed. "I hate the taste of it. It's too sweet. Maybe I could have Kreacher add it to pumpkin juice or something to make it taste better. Oh, and speaking of pumpkin juice, could you get me some?"
"Kreacher!" Kreacher appeared and bowed low in front of Snape. "Get Potter's pregnancy potion and ask Lymejam to stop by."
"Of course, Master Snape." Kreacher vanished.
Harry frowned. "Why wasn't he polite with me like that?" he asked, feeling aggrieved.
"Because you're not the master of the house," Snape said.
Kreacher popped back into the room, a goblet in his hand. He presented it to Snape. "Master Healer Lymejam will be here shortly, Master Snape." He disappeared again.
"You never thank him," Harry pointed out.
"Why should he expect thanks for doing his job?" Snape gave the goblet to Harry, who viewed it with distaste. "Drink. And move. Lymejam will be arriving shortly, and he doesn't need to tumble into your lap."
Harry pulled the blanket close and stood, glaring at the goblet. "Really, I mean it. This potion is too sweet. I'm having trouble keeping it down."
"You'd have trouble keeping anything down after bolting enough food to feed five," Snape said. He pushed Harry towards the sofa. "Sit. Drink. Don't spill."
Harry sat. He looked up. "Pumpkin juice?" he asked hopefully. "And while you're at it, could you take the wards off the kitchen door so that I can get in when I need to?"
"No. And no."
The fire flared green and Lymejam stepped out of the flames. He looked at Harry while pulling off his leather gloves. "I imagined Mr Potter was on death's door, based on the summons from your house-elf, Severus. I see no evidence of any kind of an emergency. Unless you meant to call the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes to deal with the excessive heat your fire seems to be emitting."
"Potter's cold," Snape said. "And he's eating me out of my manor."
Harry found himself fixed by Lymejam's silver eyes. "Interesting," Lymejam said. "Have you been feeling abnormally fatigued, Mr Potter?"
"A bit," Harry said. He set the goblet on the table. "But Snape's right. I can't seem to get warm and I'm starving."
Lymejam cast a diagnostic spell. "I also observe that you haven't taken your pregnancy potion, if I've identified the contents of that goblet correctly."
"It's too sweet," Harry said, feeling somewhat ashamed about sounding like a petulant child. "But I'll get it down."
"'Sugar and spice and everything nice'," Lymejam said absently. "Hmm. Have you felt any pain lately?"
Harry shrugged. "My back aches. I constantly feel like I have to piss. And the baby is driving me mad with its kicking."
"Has your magic been working for you?"
"Yes." He gave Lymejam a quizzical look. "Is there any reason it wouldn't?"
"One of the symptoms of magical fatigue is chills," Lymejam said. "I'm detecting some evidence that the foetus is draining your magic at a rate that concerns me. You're a powerful wizard, Mr Potter, but I think even you have limits. I'd like you to refrain from using magic. Rely on your house-elf. And perhaps Severus," he added, smirking as he glanced at Snape. "I'm also going to prescribe a potion that should help balance the foetus's needs with yours."
"I don't have time to coddle Potter," Snape said.
Lymejam straightened. "Of course not. Though in that case, were I you I should have a good story ready for the Prophet to explain why Harry Potter turned into a squib while carrying your child."
Snape glared. "Potter likely can't stomach the pregnancy potion because it was brewed by incompetents. Tell me which potions he needs and I'll see to the brewing of them myself."
"I thought you were busy," Lymejam said.
"Potter and publicity make a compelling argument, as you so kindly pointed out," Snape said. "I am not blind to your manipulation, merely indulging it."
"I wouldn't mind if it tastes like slugs, just as long as it isn't sickening sweet anymore," Harry said wistfully.
Lymejam waved his wand and a parchment appeared in his hand. "Here are the potions that Mr Potter needs. I've noted the dosages and their frequency."
"Will any of them help with feeling like I have to use the loo all the time?" Harry asked.
"Alas, no. Your bladder would have to be made of iron, which would likely cause problems," Lymejam said. "But I believe that you shouldn't feel quite so cold once you start taking them."
"That would be nice."
"For all of us," Lymejam agreed. "Next time, instruct your house-elf to warn me if I'm walking into a climate that holds no resemblance to an environment commonly found in a British manor, would you please, Severus? I feel quite flushed."
"I have to live with it, so I see no reason that others cannot do the same." Snape glared at Harry, who glared right back.
Lymejam smiled graciously. "I so enjoy your company. Mr Potter," he added with a bow before taking a handful of Floo powder from the bowl on the mantle and throwing it on the flames. "Chalet Suisse," he said, and disappeared in a flash of green fire.
Harry pulled off the blanket. "Funny, it's not so cold now."
"Perhaps that's because you actually received treatment for your illness instead of stubbornly refusing to contact the Healer. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some potions to brew. I hope that you're keeping track of my many generosities," Snape said as he left the room.
"He's your son, too," Harry called after him.
He idly wondered what he and Snape would have for dinner.
Life fell into a rhythm that, while chafing in its lack of freedom, was comfortable enough. Harry could temporarily ignore his fear that this was all he'd ever have.
Each night, he and Snape spent time in the sitting room. Snape ignored him while writing letters or reading. Harry tried his best to engage Snape in conversation. Occasionally, he succeeded.
Days, on the other hand, were often full of conversation. Harry found himself absently rubbing his growing abdomen while James complained that the Prides had banned Ginny (his own mother) from attending their games because of her uncanny ability to memorise plays and take them back to the Holyhead Harpies, for whom she was scouting; or when Lily gushed about her latest infatuation, who at the moment was her Advanced Transfiguration professor who seemingly sported the cutest 'dreads'. Harry didn't ask what dreads were, but gathered they had something to do with Jamaica.
"Here are some maternity books that I found at Flourish and Blotts," Hermione announced one day, emptying her bag and enlarging enough books to fill a small bookshelf.
"You can start with those. I'm going to see what I can find in the professor's library." She kissed Harry and left the room.
Harry stared at the pile of books that Hermione left for him to read. They had titles like Rumbly in the Tumbly – You and Your Baby and So You're Up the Spout? and, worst in Harry's opinion, When Good Girls Go Bad – An Unmarried Witch's Guide to Childbirth.
"Who the hell does she think I am?" Harry muttered to himself. He looked up as Snape swept into the sitting room.
"Ever since you've come here, Potter, there has been a distinct lack of privacy available. How you and your friends manage to need every single room in such a very large manor is beyond me. I was just turned out of my library by your friend Granger, whose needs, apparently, are of much greater importance than my own."
Harry had the grace to feel somewhat ashamed. "Sorry about that. It's just that Hermione's worried about me. I'll have a word with her."
"Unless your 'word' involves the phrase 'never darken this doorstep again', I'll be less than pleased with whatever you might tell the pushy bint," Snape said.
"If it's too bothersome, I'll ask them not to come around any more," Harry said reluctantly. It <i>was</i> Snape's home, and his friends and family had been spending a great deal of time visiting him.
Before Snape could reply, Hermione burst into the room. "I heard what you just said, Harry. Professor Snape," she said, rounding on him. "Harry needs our support. In fact, I would argue that he particularly needs your support, since you are both his host and the father of the foetus."
"Why you rude little – "
"Hermione!" Harry said, tugging at her sleeve.
"Just because you didn't like Harry when he was a child, and just because you didn't like his father or godfather, you have no right to treat him as abominably as you do!"
"For your information, Ms Granger," Snape said, face twisted with anger, "since Potter has begun living here, I have fed him, sheltered him, arranged for his medical treatment with one of the finest Healers available in Europe, spent a goodly portion of each day brewing potions for him, and overridden his poor judgement at a time when it would have seriously harmed him and the child he carries. In addition, I have broken a Fidelius designed to protect me and patiently suffered as a myriad of individuals for whom I hold no affection whatsoever have paraded through my home, eaten my food, partaken of my hospitality, raided my library and evicted me from various parts of my home as their whim has led them. Which of those actions do you see as most particularly abominable, may I ask?"
"Hermione, he's right," Harry said. Hermione, mouth open to repudiate Snape's claims, turned to Harry in surprise. "Snape's been really generous. I'm getting better treatment here than I'd get at St Mungo's. And it would have been a disaster if I tried to do all of this by myself back at Godric's Hollow."
"You wouldn't have been by yourself," Hermione said, sounding distressed.
"Look, I don't think Snape is asking everyone to stop coming around altogether. Just, cut back on it a bit, okay?" Harry said quietly.
Snape looked astonished for a moment before he managed to control his reaction. Hermione stared at Harry, clearly unhappy, but nodded. "If you're sure. We're just watching out for you, you know."
"Yeah. And so is he. I'm doing fine here, honestly."
Hermione looked thoughtful and then she turned to Snape. "Professor, it sounds like I owe you an apology," she said, holding out her hand. "I'm sorry that I was so rude. I was wrong."
Snape glared at her. "Yes, you were." Harry cleared his throat; Snape glanced at him and then took Hermione's hand. "See it doesn't happen again."
Harry rolled his eyes, but Hermione smiled. "I think I'll actually go home now, then. See you tomor– " she paused, " – in a couple of days, Harry."
"See you, Hermione. Thanks for everything."
She waved and then Disapparated.
Snape turned to Harry. "So?"
Harry frowned. "So what?"
"What do you want in return for allowing me to get rid of Granger?"
Harry snorted. "I didn't allow you to do anything. Hermione was out of order, no matter how well-meaning she was. You don't owe me anything for it."
Snape narrowed his eyes. "I see."
"Now what?" Harry said in exasperation.
"You plan to hold this favour in reserve for a future date. Well, don't count on collecting on it," Snape sneered. "You've lost your opportunity."
Harry threw up his hands. "You're right! You saw right through me! Oh well, I guess I'm just a stupid Gryffindor. How could I ever hope to pull the wool over the eyes of an intelligent Slytherin like you?"
"Spare me," Snape said.
"Severus, you're – smiling, aren't you?"
"Don't push me, Potter. And I still haven't given you permission to use my given name." Snape whirled and stalked out of the room.
Harry grinned and settled on the sofa with one of Hermione's books.
Ginny was on the road with the Harpies, so she hadn't been able to visit in person, though she had sent Harry several owls. But one afternoon when Snape had locked himself into the kitchen to brew and Harry was feeling a bit low, he was surprised to see her head poke out of the fireplace.
"Oh, Harry," Ginny said, her face green in the dancing flames. "Are you all right?"
"I'm pregnant, Gin," Harry said, crawling awkwardly over to the fireplace. His knees kept hitting his abdomen. The baby didn't seem happy to be bumped; he could feel his son bump back with a great deal of spirit.
"Well, yes, I know," she said, laughing. "It's an amazing feeling, isn't it?"
Albus and Ginny were both so good at getting to the heart of things, Harry realised. They always had been. James was more like Harry, always involved in the moment, while Lily, bless her, was entirely self-involved. "Yeah," he said slowly. "It's…it's amazing." The baby bumped him again. He looked down at himself.
"He just moved, didn't he?" Ginny asked softly.
"Yeah," Harry said. He looked at Ginny and they simply smiled at each other.
"You'll be so good at this," she said quietly. "If any man had to get pregnant, I'd hope he'd be you."
"There were times … "
Ginny nodded. "I doubt most men would admit to it, but I saw you watching me, and I knew."
"I'm scared," he whispered.
"I was, too. But you were always there for me. We're here for you, now."
Harry swallowed. "What if Snape tries to take him away from me?"
"I don't know," Ginny said. "Will Hermione help you?"
Harry nodded in turn. "She's already researching the legalities. He's being more than decent," Harry said. "I mean, for him."
Ginny looked sceptical. "I don't trust him."
"I think I do," Harry said. "But the baby – "
"The baby," Ginny agreed. "Hermione will come through for you."
"Thanks, Gin." Harry felt lost. "You really love your job, don't you?"
"I love my whole life, Harry. I'm happy in a way that I hadn't been for a very long time." Ginny looked at him through the flames and sighed. "Really, though, I'm here for you. I still love you, you know. If you need anything, just fire-call."
Harry nodded. Ginny withdrew.
The flames wavered from green to red.
That night, Harry didn't try to start any conversations. Instead, he opened one of Hermione's books to disguise the fact that he was surreptitiously studying Snape.
Snape was happy, too, Harry realised. He'd obviously made a life for himself that suited him, isolated as it was. Draco Malfoy stopped by occasionally and Harry had noticed that Snape had a great many professional correspondents, but in the main, life at The Haven was ordered, which suited Snape.
Harry's presence threatened all of that. The Prophet knew that he was staying in the country not far from his home at Godric's Hollow, but so far they hadn't managed to identify the estate or who owned it. But Hermione said that would all change once the baby was born, since all magical children were automatically entered into Hogwarts' registry at birth along with the names of their parents. Snape's secret would be out and his quiet life destroyed.
The light from the fireplace danced over Snape's face as he wrote. Harry recognised many of the lines in his face; he could trace the path of Snape's sneers and explosive anger, remember each Potions class that had etched those lines deeper. He also recognised the lines carved by Snape's hatred one night high on a tall, white, Hogwarts tower, the curve of the mouth that had uttered the Killing Curse.
But there were unfamiliar lines, too. Snape's neck had wrinkled with age, but Harry could see Nagini's scars on his throat, the awful wounds wizened and reduced to silver tracery; hardly frightening any longer, except in implication. He hoped that one day he'd learn how Snape survived, but strangely enough, it didn't seem that important anymore.
"You're staring, Potter."
"'Harry'," Harry said. He turned a page of the book and pretended to read. Within a few minutes, though, he resumed staring.
Later, in his bedroom, he wondered why Snape hadn't objected a second time.
Harry and Al sprawled on the grass. The sun was shining, the wind was calm, the goats were blessedly quiet for once and Al cast a mean Warming spell.
"I got an owl from Teddy. He's doing great in Thailand. He sends his love," Al said. He laid his hand gently on Harry's abdomen. "It's funny to think I've got a little brother. He's getting really big."
Harry squirmed. His son was touching him somewhere where sons didn't normally touch their fathers, except of course when they were roughhousing or the father had taken a really nasty Bludger to the mid-section, in which case it was appropriate, he guessed. He couldn't decide whether or not a father's pregnancy made the current touch appropriate or not, but since it was Albus, he thought he'd let it go.
"Right," Harry said. "Well, er – "
Albus smiled. "You know, if you hadn't been there, I might have been the one who got pregnant."
"I hadn't thought of that," Harry said, horrified.
"Hmm?" Harry was preoccupied by the thought of Al and pregnancy.
"I'm sorry that Scorpius and I haven't been able to lift the fidelity curse."
"You'll get it," Harry said. "You're brilliant you know, Al. Merlin knows who you got it from; my mum I expect."
"But what if we don't?"
Harry watched a hawk turn lazy circles in the air. "We'll figure out something," he said eventually. "You know, you're named after Snape," Harry said apropos of nothing.
Al grinned. "You told me that when you sent me to Hogwarts," he pointed out.
"Your mum was so angry with me," Harry continued, a reminiscent smile on his face. "She hated Snape. So did I," he admitted. "But the first time I saw you, you were staring at the world as if you were ready to take on everything it had to throw at you. So I thought you needed a hero's name."
"I met Mr Snape that first Christmas break from Hogwarts," Al said. "Remember? Mum nearly had a heart attack when I asked to go to Scorpius's home for part of the holidays."
"Yeah, I remember," Harry said. He looked at Albus. "I don't believe it. You've known since you were eleven that Snape was alive?"
Al looked back at him, hands behind his head. "Is that a problem?"
"No." But he frowned anyway. "At least, it shouldn't be. I mean, I'm really proud of you for keeping his secret for so many years, but … " But what? Was he angry that his own son had known that Snape survived while Harry continued to mourn him, along with everyone else lost in the war? Would he have done anything if he had known? Harry imagined himself pounding on the front door of The Haven while Snape leaned out of a window and screamed at him to go away. He snorted. "No, on second thought, it's not a problem at all. Yeah, your mum was really angry that Christmas." He looked over at Al and they shared a grin.
"You weren't the happiest yourself, Dad," Al said. "Though you didn't fuss."
"I don't have good memories of Malfoy Manor," Harry said, shrugging his shoulders in the dry grass and looking back up at the sky. "But Scorpius has turned out to be a good friend to you."
"He messed up the spell because he was nervous, I think." Al studied the sky, too.
"What made him nervous?"
Al grinned. "You, of course. You always make him nervous."
"Me?" Harry couldn't think of anything he'd done that might have made Scorpius nervous. "He hasn't ever looked nervous to me. In fact, he's always seemed to be quite formal."
"It wasn't much of a secret that you hated Scorpius's dad. And all Malfoys act the same way, you know. The more nervous they are the more lord of the manor they get."
"Hmph. Not all of them," Harry said, thinking of Lucius's bigoted snobbery. "And I didn't exactly hate … well, I guess for a while, I did," Harry said with reluctant honesty. "But I didn't by the end of the war. I just didn't trust them. But I didn't know them, either. You seem to know Scorpius pretty well."
For some reason, Al blushed. His voice was light and even, though. "Well, we've been best friends for a while, you know."
Harry looked over at Al, but Albus didn't look back. He seemed to be intent on a cloud slowly drifting above them.
"Oh my God," Harry said softly. "I'm sorry, Al. I'm thick as a plank, aren't I?"
"What are you talking about?" Al's lazy curiosity was almost convincing; there was a reason his son did so well in Slytherin, Harry thought.
"Does he feel the same way about you?" Harry asked gently.
"Don't." Al's smile faded and he glared at the cloud. "Don't feel sorry for me."
Harry thought back over the last few weeks. How often had he seen Scorpius turn as Al walked into a room, how close did the pale head bow to his son's when they spoke together? Then there was Al's revelation that Scorpius was nervous around Harry. Even the pregnancy spell itself spoke of Scorpius's feelings in that strange, subconscious call of mate to mate. All of his Auror instincts confirmed his suspicions even as he kicked himself for being so dense as a father.
"You haven't even told him, have you? You young idiot," Harry said, his voice thick with affection. "Have you ever considered that he's afraid to say anything to you because of his father and me?"
Al sat up and stared at Harry. "Don't say that."
Harry relaxed and rubbed his abdomen. "Huh. I guess your old da's not so dumb after all, if he can still outthink you." He grinned.
"Not really?" Al looked like he was going to fall over. "Really?"
"You might have to woo him a bit if he's worried about Draco and me, but I expect he'd enjoy that." All Malfoys liked attention, Harry reasoned.
Al leapt to his feet. "I'll see you tomorrow, Dad." He Disapparated.
Merlin. Al was the first. Harry chewed on his bottom lip. Teddy was too involved in his work to have time for romance, while James was too busy being a playboy and Lily had a new crush every week. But soon there would be no more fighting with James for the bathroom each morning he wasn't on tour, no sleepy breakfasts listening with half an ear to Lily's chatter when she came home from Uni.
Just as Harry imagined that there would be no more lunches sitting forgotten by the door.
When Al's Warming Charm finally wore off, Harry heaved himself to his feet and walked back to the manor.
Snape was in the sitting room, reading. He looked up as Harry entered.
"How touching," he said, a lip curled. "Father and son, bonding. How much more trite could you be, Potter?"
Harry sank to the sofa and pulled his blanket around him. "Wait until your own son is Al's age. You'll treasure that kind of time."
Harry locked eyes with Snape. Red suffused Snape's face and his mouth opened, but no words came out. After a few speechless moments, Snape closed his mouth, slammed his book on the table by his chair and stood. He glared at Harry and then he whirled and stalked out of the room.
Harry looked after him thoughtfully. For all of Snape's claims that the baby was his heir, Harry suspected that Snape hadn't really understood what that meant to him and his ordered life. It seemed that the reality of the situation might have finally hit him.
He shook his head and took off his glasses. He'd never been this introspective before, much less privy to so many other people's hopes and fears. Was it the pregnancy? He leaned back and closed his eyes.
Whatever it was, it was exhausting.
He fell asleep.
The next evening, Snape had something to say. Or, rather, to announce.
"The child shall be named after me."
"I'd actually thought it might be nice to name him after Remus. Do you really want to saddle him with the name 'Severus'?" Harry said, eating salt and vinegar crisps. He'd really been craving salty, sour food lately. "I'm not sure how it would go with 'Potter'."
"Name a child of mine after a werewolf? Are you mad? And the boy will be a Snape."
"No, I'm not mad." Harry grinned. "Actually, I just thought that if I told you I'd like to name him after Sirius you'd blow up."
"You wouldn't dare." Snape's voice dripped acid.
"No, you're right, I wouldn't. Look, 'Severus' is a great name, but maybe not for a child."
"I suppose you want to name him 'Harry'."
Harry shook his head. "I'd never burden a child of mine with 'Harry'. But I've been thinking," he said, wiping greasy fingers on his jeans. "What about Regulus?"
Snape looked startled. "Why Regulus?"
"Well, I understood that he was a friend of yours," Harry said. "And he was a hero, but nobody knows it. I'd like to give him something."
Snape frowned in thought. "That would be acceptable."
"Though I really wasn't joking about Remus," Harry added, a bit wary.
"Regulus Remus? Isn't that a bit alliterative?"
"Says Severus Snape," Harry teased gently. "I like the sound of it, but I understand if you don't."
"Well, there's certainly no one in my family who I wish to immortalise," Snape said. "Nor in yours."
"But he must be a Snape."
Harry's grin faded. "Yeah. I've been thinking about that. I'm not comfortable giving him your last name."
"It's not a matter of comfort, Potter. It's a matter of wizarding law. The child's conception is tied to my property, therefore he is my heir."
"I don't disagree with that," Harry said cautiously. "But he doesn't need to be a Snape to inherit."
"Why don't you want him to be a Snape?"
"For the same reason that you've been hiding all of these years," Harry said. "He'd be a target."
"As if he wouldn't be a target as a Potter," Snape said.
"You're right. That's why I thought we could maybe think about naming him Evans." He watched Snape closely.
Again, Snape paused. "I would have to give that more thought," Snape said. "The name of Snape would die, if we did."
"We've got time," Harry said. "It's only the end of October."
Snape looked at him thoughtfully. "I anticipated a much more heated argument from you."
"I thought you'd be angry, too." Harry smiled. "In fact, I thought all of this," he waved his hand vaguely, hoping Snape would understand that he meant their living arrangements, "would be a lot worse than it's turned out to be. There are times when I've really liked it."
"You haven't been as much of a trial as I had originally anticipated, either."
Harry decided to take a risk. "Severus?"
Snape frowned but nodded.
"This has been nice. Being here. For the most part." He stood and walked to the fireplace. "Hermione says I might be here for the rest of my life."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "It is a possibility that I considered as well," he admitted.
"Maybe it won't happen – we'll see when Regulus is born," Harry said quickly. He paused at the strange look on Snape's face. "What's wrong?"
"You called it 'Regulus'," he said.
"I called him Regulus," Harry corrected quietly. "This is real. We're going to have to raise a child together."
Snape glanced at him, his expression unreadable. "I had anticipated that you would want to raise him on your own."
Harry's shoulders sagged. "Oh." Alone. No Ginny, no kids, and now no Snape to help him. He'd been so concerned about the potential clash of wills between him and Snape that he hadn't considered that Snape might not want to be involved at all. He was surprised to realise that he'd been counting on Snape's help, awkward and antagonistic as it might be. "Well, yeah. I mean, now that he's here, I want him."
Snape nodded. "I'll contribute to his upbringing, of course. I'll want to have a say in his education."
Harry nodded, feeling numb. "I'd want you to," he said. "He's your son, too." He tried to smile. "Thanks for talking with me. If it's okay with you, I think I'll go to bed now. I seem to get tired really easily these days." He turned away from the fire and stumbled.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!"
Snape was at his side, strong hands holding him upright. "Stop whimpering and tell me something useful, you idiot!"
"Foot cramp!" Harry tried to lean forward, but couldn't. "Ow! I can't reach it! Fuck! Ow, ow, ow!"
"Sit down!" Snape pushed Harry into a chair and yanked his boots off. "Which foot?"
"Left!" Harry yelped again.
A moment later his foot was engulfed in a warm hand, long fingers pressing and kneading into the spasming muscle. He leaned his head into Snape's shoulder. "Yes," he hissed. "Ow. Ow, ow."
"Stop your whinging," Snape said. "You're such a child, Potter. A fifty-year-old man acting like a three-year-old."
"It hurts," Harry snapped. "And I'm forty-eight."
The fingers kept kneading; the tight pain began to loosen. Harry relaxed more, slumping against Snape's warm body. His head lolled as the pain finally disappeared. "Soo good," he crooned. "I love your hands."
Snape snorted. "I'd always suspected that you were a hedonist at heart."
Harry chuckled. "I wish. But really, I could get used to this."
"Do you experience cramps often?" Snape kneaded more vigorously.
"Mmm. Yeah. Kreacher's been helping me with Muscle Relaxing Charms every night, but this time it flared up before I could get to the bedroom."
"You should have said something. I could have made you a potion."
"I hate how the potions make me groggy," Harry said, utterly relaxed. "I'm going to fall asleep any moment now."
"Idiot." Snape stood and cast a Hover Charm on Harry.
Harry yelped yet again. "Stop it! I hate floating! I'll walk, I promise!"
Snape lowered him to the floor and helped him get to his feet, slipping Harry's arm around his shoulder. It had been a long time since Harry had felt another person pressed against him; he felt a flush bloom across his face. Keeping his face turned away, he leaned into Snape as they made their way to Harry's bedroom, where Snape deposited him on the bed.
Kreacher popped into the room. "Time for Master's Charms."
"Thanks, Kreacher," Harry said, leaning against the headboard. However, Snape waved Kreacher away.
"Potter doesn't need a charm tonight," he said. "If you put him in his night clothes, I'll take care of the rest."
Kreacher bowed. "Yes, Master Snape." He straightened and snapped his fingers. Pyjama bottoms replaced Harry's jeans and robes. He blushed harder and tried to slip under the covers.
"Warm milk and honey," Snape said. Kreacher disappeared. "Stay on top of the blankets. If your foot is cramping, most likely other muscle groups are tense as well. Turn over."
"Er, it's a little hard to lie on my stomach," Harry said apologetically.
Snape surveyed him. "Lie on your side, then. I should still be able to reach what I need to."
"Are you sure you want to –?"
"Would you prefer pain to the momentary humiliation of accepting assistance?" Snape asked snidely.
"Pot, kettle," Harry muttered.
"Ten points, Mr Potter," Snape said. "Where do you keep your liniment?"
"I don't have any," Harry said. "Ten points?"
"If you insist in behaving as a child, I shall treat you as one." Kreacher appeared with a new goblet. "Give that to me and fetch the liniment potion from my bedside table," Snape said. Harry glimpsed Kreacher's face just before he Apparated; he didn't look at all pleased.
The goblet was thrust into Harry's hands. "Drink this."
Feeling like a five-year-old, Harry levered himself into a semi-reclining position. Pillows suddenly appeared behind him and he leaned back. Sipping the milk, he watched Snape get ready.
As Snape rolled up his sleeves, Harry's eyes were drawn to his left arm. Snape paused and then deliberately held it out, rotating his forearm in front of Harry. It was bare.
"Curiosity satisfied, Potter?" His voice was bitter.
"I still don't know how you survived," Harry said quietly.
"Nor will you. Drink." Snape finished rolling up his sleeves.
Kreacher appeared again, giving Snape a small bottle and bowing.
"Take the goblet," Snape said.
"Kreacher lives to serve Master," Kreacher muttered, accepting the goblet from Harry. "Is there anything else that Master Snape requires, or is Kreacher free to put the goats in their sheds?"
"You're free to go," Snape said. Kreacher glared at him and disappeared with a pop.
Harry pushed the pillows away, took his glasses off and lay back down. He felt Snape settle on the bed behind him. Warm hands brushed his shoulders and fingers dug into his muscles.
"Aaaah," Harry said. So wonderful. He closed his eyes and laid his head on his pillow.
The fingers were still kneading when he fell asleep.
Harry wanted curry. Spicy lamb curry. Specifically, the spicy lamb curry from the take-away curry shop just down the street from the Muggle entry to the Ministry of Magic.
Unfortunately, that was one errand that Kreacher couldn't undertake for him.
He looked out the window at the howling snowstorm. Al wouldn't be by today, either, not in this weather. Harry wondered if he could fire-call Ron and bribe him.
"You look as if you're about to do something inordinately stupid."
Harry smiled and turned. "I'm plotting a take-over of Auror headquarters," he said.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "For what purpose?"
"An unending supply of rogan josh and rice pilaf." Harry turned back to the window, leaning his face against the glass. "Every Auror would be assigned take-away duty in rotation."
"You're getting fat."
"You say the most – " Harry paused in horror before the word 'romantic' crossed his lips. Wildly, he searched for another word. " – sensitive things."
"No one has ever accused me of that before." Snape was standing right behind him now, his face reflected on the window next to Harry's.
Harry met his eyes in the glass. "I've still got immunity for another six weeks or so."
"You insist on living dangerously."
Snape's voice triggered a hidden place deep inside Harry. He shivered. Regulus squirmed, startling him. He automatically rubbed his abdomen to soothe the brat, silently blessing the interruption.
"You do that often."
"What?" Harry asked, desperately trying to keep his voice light.
"Rub your abdomen."
"Regulus is pretty active," Harry replied. "I'm just letting him know that he's not the only person using this body. Um," he dithered a moment, not sure his next action was a wise one. "Would you – would you like to feel him?"
Snape started, his eyes widening. Harry turned to face him, searching his face to see if he'd made a mistake, but Snape didn't look angry.
He looked … intrigued.
Harry's mouth went dry.
Snape looked down at Harry's middle before he looked back up and met Harry's eyes. Harry slowly raised his shirt, leaving his stomach bare. Snape's eyes dropped again, watching.
Regulus kicked. Snape started in surprise. Harry shivered again as cool fingertips trailed over his skin.
"You can lay your hand right over him," Harry said. His voice was embarrassingly husky.
Snape glanced up as if to receive permission, then focused on Harry's stomach again. He laid his hand on Harry softly, then more firmly.
Regulus kicked again.
Snape looked up and met Harry's eyes. "Potter," he said helplessly.
"'Harry'," Harry said.
Snape straightened as if cursed, a stricken look distorting his face. He searched Harry's eyes for a moment, then whirled and stalked out of the room.
It was only then that Harry realised he was hard. He cursed. Snape couldn't have helped but notice.
Harry lowered his shirt, sighed, and decided to fire-call Ron about the curry.
Then he'd have a quick wank while he was waiting for Ron to arrive.
Snape showed up at his bedroom door later that night. Harry looked up in surprise, feeling a touch of trepidation.
"Is there anything I can help you with?" he asked.
Snape frowned. "I'm here for your massage."
Though Snape's massage the night before had been bliss, Harry hadn't expected it to happen again. It had seemed like one of those once-in-a-lifetime things, like losing one's virginity. Seeing Hogwarts for the first time. Having Snape give one a massage. "Of course," Harry said politely. "Er, just let me get ready."
"You didn't think I'd be back, did you?"
Harry blushed. "Honestly? No. I really appreciated it last night, but I didn't have any expectation that you would be willing to offer to do it again."
"I'll send Kreacher in to you if for some reason I'm unable to make it," Snape said, rolling up his shirtsleeves again. "Otherwise you may expect it."
"Thank you!" Harry put his glasses on the nightstand and squirmed into position. He nearly melted at the first touch of Snape's hands. "I feel rude. Last night I fell asleep."
"I'm told that's the best compliment a masseur can receive." He kneaded harder at a particularly tight group of muscles in Harry's back.
"I love your hands," Harry said. He already felt sleepy. "Has anyone ever told you that before?"
"No, Potter, I can honestly say that no one has ever told me they love my hands." There was amusement as well as irritation in Snape's voice. "My touch has never been actively sought."
"Never?" Harry said dreamily. "I would think your lovers would take advantage of your skills every chance they got. Hey, don't stop," he protested as the hands left his back. He rolled over to meet Snape's furious face.
"Do not think that because you are living in my home that you have the right to information about my private life," Snape said, his eyes blazing.
"I – I'm sorry," Harry stuttered. "I didn't mean to be rude. It just came out!"
"If you want to continue to live here, you will learn to censor what comes out of your mouth." Snape glared, but strangely, he made no move to leave the bed.
"Right. I'm an idiot," Harry said apologetically. "I'll just shut up now, shall I?"
"Turn over." Harry settled back into position and felt the warm of the hands return. "For your information, and to avoid further forays into my private life, let me say only that I have been an ascetic since the moment I took the Mark."
"Er, what's …?"
Snape sighed and dug into Harry's shoulders. "An ascetic, you fool, is a person who forgoes the pleasures of the body in lieu of directing energy to the mind, or to one's magic in the case of a wizard."
"That sounds … " Harry struggled for a moment, uncertain whether to be honest or not, but couldn't find any polite words to say. "That sounds really twisted, actually," he said. "I mean, it's your life of course, but it sounds really lonely."
"Why am I unsurprised by your ignorance?" Snape prodded him and Harry obligingly rocked to the side. "If you had practised asceticism while you attended Hogwarts, you would likely have defeated the Dark Lord years before you finally fulfilled your destiny."
"I don't imagine that I'd be very good at it, actually," Harry mused. "Wait. What about Hermione? Hermione's smart enough for ten people. She's no ascetic."
"Oh, I see. If Granger isn't an ascetic, obviously the practice is flawed," Snape said sarcastically. "As intelligent as that little swot most likely is, her concentration still leaves much to be desired. Potion making requires a subtle, focused mind."
It went unsaid that so did spying. "Focus the mind by denying the body," Harry said. "So if I don't wank for say, the next month, by Christmas I'll be smarter?"
"Potter, desist! This is not a topic of conversation that I intend to follow."
Regulus kicked. "Your brat takes after you," Harry murmured.
"Thank Merlin. Now will you shut up and let me work?"
The warm glow that Harry felt was not limited to his relaxed, well-massaged body.
Harry wished he could remember what his prick looked like. He wondered how women got through life, never seeing their bits unless they used a mirror or were flexible in ways that most human bodies were not. With guys … well, it was like losing one's best friend, in a way, ever since Regulus had settled in.
Of course, he'd never tell that to Ron. Though if he did, he knew Ron would understand completely.
However, what made the unseen prick situation so much more difficult was that it seemed to be a bit wayward these days. The strangest things seemed to set it off.
For instance, Snape's massages didn't set it off. They simply put him to sleep. But Snape's voice often did, especially when they were sitting together by the fire in the sitting room, Harry making polite conversation about goats and potions and Snape studiously ignoring him except for the occasional snide comment.
Snape's eyes had also made Harry's prick stand to attention once or twice. He had this strange way of glaring that was, well – hot. Really hot.
And he couldn't quite put his finger on it, but Snape's walk sent Harry's prick into ecstasies. Though that also could have been because Harry's walk – even when he hadn't been carrying two and a half stone extra – had never been extraordinary, and could only be described as 'disastrous' at the moment. Stairs were a bastard when one couldn't see them.
Oh, and of course there was the Snape-touching-Regulus-through-Harry's-belly moment, but since that hadn't been repeated, Harry's prick simply used it for an excuse when none of the other explanations quite seemed to fit the situation.
In order to take his mind off such things, he had taken to observing Al and Scorpius as they tentatively began their romance.
Al's eyes rarely left Scorpius. He was in love. Harry saw it in the heat in his son's eyes, the way that Al listened when Scorpius spoke, the way he laughed as Scorpius argued with his uncle. And if the glances that the normally aloof Scorpius was giving Al were any indication, the feeling was returned.
Al had always been his self-contained child, the child who thought the most deeply about the world around him, and the one most fearless about creating emotional ties with other people. He hadn't lost those attributes as a man. Much different from his brother or sister, or his father, for that matter. Harry was proud of him, proud of all of them. He and Ginny had done a good job.
But that had been when he and Ginny were a team. When he allowed himself to think about it, he was terrified of raising Regulus on his own. Not that he could really imagine Snape helping. What would Snape do, make their son serve detention if he soiled his nappies?
Al wandered into the sitting room, peeling an orange. He Transfigured the orange peelings into orioles.
"You better get rid of those," Harry said, grinning. "They're pretty, but the first time they leave a mess, Snape will explode."
At a wave of Albus's wand, the birds became butterflies. He looked at Harry with mischievous eyes. "Scorpius told me that his dad said that you and Mr Snape hated each other. They're laying odds on how long it'll be till he hexes you after Regulus is born," Al said, eating an orange section.
"As long as you didn't place any bets, I'm fine with that." Harry ignored Al's sudden studied nonchalance. "How are things going with Scorpius?"
Al's face went goofy. "Good. Really good." He suddenly laughed. "You were right, you know. He was terrified of you! He thought that you'd tear down Malfoy Manor with your bare hands if he ever came on to me."
"Came on to you? This isn't just sex for him, is it?" Harry asked, suddenly incensed on behalf of his son.
"Just sex? Dad. You're really old-fashioned, aren't you?" Al replied with a snort. "No, but even if it were, I can take care of myself, you know. Besides, neither of us would allow anything like that to happen – it would ruin the business."
His son, the Slytherin. "Business concerns be damned, you dolt," Harry said mildly, relieved. "I just want to know if you need me to take him aside and give him a talk."
Al squinted at Harry. "You know, pregnancy has driven you batty. Are you going to be like this for Regulus? Though of course, you'll be ancient by that time."
"Regulus?" Harry was just getting his head around Al's love life; he'd be damned if he worried about Regulus's. Yet. "Regulus isn't falling in love and having sex at the moment. And seventy isn't ancient. Look at Snape."
"Dad – did you just tell me to think about Scorpius's uncle falling in love and having sex?" Al shivered. "This conversation is surreal."
"No, I … " Harry trailed off as an image of Snape filled his mind, the bastard spread out all white and snarky iron-grey against Harry's sheets, sporting a hard-on, which he slowly stroked with those damned hands of his. "Wait. What were we talking about?"
Albus laughed. "I really don't know. You don't seem to be able to hold two thoughts together at the moment."
Harry groaned. "I'm sorry, Al. It's – well, it's just everything."
"Yeah," Al said, sobering. "James said he'd be around sometime this week. I know he's barely capable of using a Shoelace-Tying Charm, but he's worried about you."
"Now who's the idiot?" Harry asked. The last thing he wanted was for his children to start worrying about him. "I'm fine."
"If you say so," Albus said, popping the last bit of his orange into his mouth. "I'm off, then. Need to talk to Scorpius about the wards on the east wing."
"Just don't go getting pregnant on me," Harry said under his breath.
Albus winked. "Who's to say that I don't want that? Maybe you'll start a Potter trend, Dad. Oh, wow!" he said, getting a faraway look in his eye. "I can't wait to see James's face when I suggest it!"
"Don't scare me like that!" Harry said. "James can barely take care of himself, much less a baby."
Laughing, Albus left.
Without Al to talk to, the sitting room seemed too empty. He liked it best when Al or Hermione or Snape was there. He debated fire-calling Hermione, but shook his head. As much as he loved her, he didn't really feel like talking to her at the moment.
Restless, Harry wandered the manor looking for something to do. He found himself drawn to the west wing stairway, which led to The Haven's sole tower.
Halfway to the fifth floor, he was panting, but determined. By the fourth landing, he needed to sit for a bit before climbing the final flight of stairs.
The sight was worth every breathless step.
Three windows gave a panoramic view of the countryside below. White hills rolled gently as far as the eye could see, occasionally broken by roads or farms. From the left-hand window, Harry could see a small village. A few houses had smoke drifting from chimneys; he imagined those might be the homes of wizarding families. The snow blazed impossibly pure in the sunlight, a silver fire that leapt in sparks from ice-covered tree branches.
Movement caught his eye and he craned his neck to see Snape striding across the snow from the direction of the goat paddocks. Snape seemed a natural part of the landscape, his great black cloak whipping in the wind, his strides smooth and rapid.
Snape belonged to The Haven as much as the manor belonged to him. Harry wondered if Dumbledore had ever imagined Snape as the lord of his family's home, imagined Snape sweeping across the snow-covered grounds, sitting by the fire, sleeping in his bedroom. Or had he simply hoped that the manor would provide Snape a refuge? Harry had received Dumbledore's Pensieve, which had seemed a princely gift at the time, but it was plain that Dumbledore felt that Snape deserved more than memories: he deserved a home.
Harry felt like he stood outside of his life, waiting to see if he could rejoin it or if he would sink into the manor's quiet depths, like a stone thrown into the ocean.
Could he really live like that? Seeing no one but his family and Snape, occasionally Malfoy? Would Ginny have been the last opportunity that he would have for love?
His prick nudged his trousers insistently.
"Where did that come from?" Harry whispered. But he knew. His prick had been trying to tell him for days.
He was falling in love with Severus Snape.
Harry hugged Regulus's bump and laughed bitterly. "Oh, Al," he said. "I barely saw it happening with you. I never saw it happening to me."
"Mr Potter, if you don't stop constantly eating crisps, you'll retain enough water that your heart will be in serious trouble. As it is, I've had to ask Severus to add a diuretic to your potion."
"That just makes me piss more," Harry protested, obediently setting aside the crisps. He could always eat them later. "Look, I can't help it. I need to eat salty things. Or sour things. And lately I've had a really strong craving for bitter things. Kreacher's getting tired of finding the Bertie Botts earwax-flavoured beans for me."
"That's simply disgusting," Lymejam said. "Stop eating that rubbish or I'll order you to your bed with your feet up in the air for the duration of your pregnancy."
"I can't help it," Harry said. "Aren't cravings a normal part of a pregnancy? According to Hermione, Muggles think it's a natural response to the body needing some nutrient that isn't necessarily found in the regular combination of foods a pregnant wo– person eats."
"Perhaps for Muggles," Lymejam said, looking superior. "But since their medicine is so primitive, it doesn't surprise me that they think like animals. You, on the other hand, are receiving a perfectly balanced mixture of nutrients and supplements specifically tailored to you and your foetus's bodies and magics. There is no need for your body to 'crave'."
"Regulus. The baby is named Regulus. Stop calling him 'foetus'." Harry frowned. "Look, I grew up amongst Muggles. I don't think that they're 'primitive'. I think that they might have something there."
Lymejam looked at him, openly sceptical. "Muggles read meaning into everything – they're worse than the idiots who practice Divination. Your cravings are just that – cravings. Deny them or risk hurting the foetus."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Fine. Call him 'foetus'. But remember, he's a Snape as well as a Potter. And Snapes have long memories for slights. Just like Potters have long memories for injustices, by the way."
Lymejam arched an eyebrow. "I see that Severus's subtlety hasn't yet rubbed off on you. However, that's none of my concern. No. More. Crisps." The Floo flared, and Lymejam was gone.
Snape walked into the room. "Is Jonathan still here?"
"He just left." Harry picked up the packet of crisps.
"Accio crisps!" Snape deftly fielded packets from several directions before Harry could grab at least one of them for himself. The packets disappeared with a wave of Snape's wand. "So tell me, what did Lymejam say about your latest examination?"
Harry glowered. "You know damned well what he said."
"As do you," Snape said, glaring back. "I will not have you endanger either yourself or my son simply for the sake of an irrational craving."
Harry sneered. "I didn't know you cared. Look, a few crisps are not going to hurt Regulus and me."
"Use your head, Potter." Snape's eyes glittered. "Of course I am concerned about your welfare. If you die while under my care, I'll be lucky if I see the inside of Azkaban before the Dementors suck my soul away."
God, I'm a fool, Harry thought bitterly. "That's all that you're worried about, isn't it?" He lumbered to his feet. "Fine." He stalked out of the room.
"Potter!" He heard Snape following and broke into an awkward run. He reached the stairs and started up them. Snape was right behind him.
Harry felt a hand on his shoulder. "Let me go!" He yanked himself away from Snape's grasp.
Snape must have caught him, because Harry had a confused impression of another body tumbling with his before they both crashed to the stone floor of the front hall. Harry felt a sharp pain in his head. "Regulus," he gasped.
"Potter!" Harry felt someone shake his shoulder. "Harry! Are you injured?"
"My head," Harry whispered, dizzy. "Regulus … "
"I'll check," Snape said, his voice hoarse. Harry waited, his eyes closed.
"Thank God," Harry said, opening his eyes. Snape knelt above him, his face ashen. "I felt him."
"He … his signature looks strong," Snape said. "Kreacher!" He swallowed and tried again. "KREACHER!"
"Master calls?" Kreacher said, popping into the room. His bulbous eyes widened. "Masters?"
"Get Lymejam! Now!"
Kreacher Apparated. A moment later he reappeared, a startled-looking Lymejam in his grasp.
"Did your house-elf just Apparate me –?" He suddenly seemed to take in the scene before him and swiftly knelt and began casting spells. "Mr Potter, are you injured anywhere?"
"Just make sure that Regulus is all right," Harry said. "Deal with me later."
"Be quiet and let Lymejam do his job, Potter."
"Severus, please," Lymejam said quietly. "I know you're worried, but I need space to work."
Harry's head hurt. "I felt him move. He has to be all right."
"Stay calm, Mr Potter. Severus, could you assist me in moving Mr Potter to his bedroom?"
Harry's stomach rebelled as he was Levitated. "Gonna be sick!" A moment later, he was, copiously.
Lymejam Banished the vomit. "Perfectly natural with a head injury. You'll be in your bed within moments. You're doing very well indeed, Mr Potter."
"Close your eyes, Potter. I've got you."
Snape's low voice reassured where all of Lymejam's soothing words hadn't. Harry obediently closed his eyes and relaxed. He could feel Snape's magic cradling him, powerful and steady.
Within moments, Harry was in his bed. He felt his clothing disappear.
"Regulus," Harry whined.
"Hold my hand," Snape said.
Harry obeyed, his head lolling towards Snape's voice. "He's okay, isn't he, Severus?"
"He's fine. You're both fine. Now stop being an idiot and let Lymejam work."
"Where is the pain?" Lymejam asked.
"Head. Severus, I'm sorry."
"Shut up," Snape said in a low, angry voice. Strangely, Harry found Snape's anger reassuring. He smiled.
"The foetus seems to be fine," Lymejam said. "But Mr Potter is mildly concussed. I've healed him, but he'll be sore for a day or two. Now it's your turn, Severus."
"I'm fine," Snape said.
"He fell, too," Harry said. "Ouch."
"Shut up, Potter. Kreacher, fetch me a pain potion."
"Yes, Master Snape."
A moment later, Harry heard Kreacher pop back into the room. A bottle was pressed to his lips. He drank and shuddered. "Tastes awful." But the pain in his head and side disappeared, so he reckoned that made up for the nasty flavour.
"If you can complain about the taste, you're well on your way to healing," Lymejam said.
Harry finally opened his eyes. Snape was watching him closely, still holding his hand, while Lymejam was pulling on his gloves.
"You're fine other than a few bruises, Severus. Mr Potter, you'll need to stay in bed for a day or two, just to be safe," Lymejam said. "I'll stop by later to look in on you. Severus, keep him quiet. I'll see myself out." He left.
Harry looked at Snape. "I'm sorry."
"You said that before," Snape said. "You have nothing to be sorry for. Potter, we fight. We will always fight. The only thing we did wrong during this fight was to forget that you're pregnant."
Harry sighed. "I hate fighting with you." Harry waited for Snape to say the same.
Snape was silent.
After a moment, Harry turned his head aside and pulled his hand from Snape's. "Thank you for taking such quick action."
Snape pulled out his wand. "Go to sleep." He waved it and Harry found himself clad in a pair of pyjama bottoms. Snape stood. "I'll send Kreacher in to watch over you."
Harry swallowed. It was probably stupid, but … "Would you stay?"
Snape paused. "Sorry?"
"If you're not busy, would you stay with me? Instead of Kreacher?"
Snape seemed to study him, as if gauging Harry's truthfulness. Then he sighed and conjured a large, overstuffed chair.
Harry smiled. "That looks like one of Dumbledore's chairs. Except it's black."
"If I'm going to stay here, I plan to be comfortable." Snape scowled and sat. "Now will you go to sleep?"
Harry obediently closed his eyes and within moments, slept.
He woke up with his bladder so full that he grabbed his prick, just in case. Slipping out of the bed, Harry took his glasses from the bedside table, perched them on his nose and crept into the bathroom. He sighed happily as he relieved himself. When he finished, he shook himself off, brushed his teeth and crept back into the bedroom.
"That was truly disgusting." Snape opened his eyes. "Good lord, Potter."
Harry grinned. "Just be glad I made it to the loo in time." He crawled back into the bed clumsily, but frowned as Snape rose from the chair and started to walk away.
"Where are you going?"
"Where do you think?" Snape left, and Harry heard him using the facilities. He leaned back against his pillow, hands behind his head.
Eventually Snape emerged, rolling up his shirtsleeves. "Stay here and I'll bring up breakfast."
Harry sat up. "Bring enough for two, okay?"
"You're that hungry?"
"Well, yeah, I'm hungry. But I meant, bring enough so that you can have breakfast up here, too."
"I have an estate to run."
If Harry hadn't known better, he would have guessed that Snape was avoiding his eyes. "Take a day off," he said.
Snape looked out the window, where heavy clouds full of snow threatened on the horizon. "I need to take care of the goats," he said.
"Let Kreacher take care of the goats," Harry said, ruthlessly condemning his house-elf.
"Harry." Snape's voice was strangely gentle. "It won't work."
Harry froze. Snape knew.
He took a deep breath and strove to sound nonchalant. "I think it could."
Snape looked at him. "What I said last night is true. We fight. We'll always fight."
"So what?" Harry said, sitting upright and ready to argue. "Fighting isn't all bad. And make-up sex can be brilliant."
"I wouldn't know," Snape said. "And I believe that seventy is much too old to find out."
"Sixty-eight," Harry said. "And you're an idiot if you think like that."
"Perhaps. But better an idiot who is realistic about his shortcomings than to be an idiot who believes that love conquers all."
Harry huffed. "Look. Come here and kiss me."
"No, I'm not. Unless," Harry paused, stricken. "Unless you don't like that I'm pregnant."
"That is quite possibly the most surreal comment I have ever heard," Snape said. "I doubt that any other man in history has been propositioned by a fifty-year-old pregnant wizarding hero."
"You have a problem with rounding numbers that don't need rounding. I'm forty-eight. And if it's any consolation, as far as I'm concerned, you're the last man who will ever be propositioned by this particular forty-eight-year-old pregnant wizard, hero or not. I want you, Severus. Please. Kiss me."
Snape seemed drawn to Harry's side despite himself. "This is the height of folly."
Harry didn't bother to answer; he simply grasped Snape's collar in his hands and pulled. Snape bowed his mouth to meet Harry's.
Snape's lips were dry and a bit chapped. They lay unmoving under Harry's mouth, so Harry drew him closer, nuzzling Snape's bristle-covered chin. Snape sank to the bed and Harry started kissing him in earnest. Snape's lips moved and Harry pressed closer.
"Mmm. I'm going to have to have Kreacher give you a shave," Harry murmured.
Their night-beards caught on each other's skin, a delicious rasp of rough over rough. Snape relaxed, his weight bearing Harry backward onto the bed, his mouth slow and firm against Harry's. Harry released Snape's collar and slipped his hands into thick, grey hair.
Snape shifted so that he was draped over Harry's upper body without pressing on his abdomen. Snape's hands began to explore Harry's naked chest, cupping his pectoral muscles, soft and a bit puffy these days. But Harry's nipples were as sensitive as they'd ever been. He arched into Snape's touch, Snape aggressively pinching while pressing his mouth even closer. Harry hissed in pleasure and pain and opened his mouth.
Snape paused infinitesimally and then slipped his tongue between Harry's lips. Their tongues tangled, Snape's hesitantly, then with more authority as Harry returned his caresses. Wet sounds filled the air. Snape huffed into Harry's mouth and slid his hands further down Harry's torso.
Harry felt Regulus shift under Snape's hand. They broke their kiss and panted, their foreheads pressed together.
"D'you think we'll hurt him?" Harry asked. "You know, scar him for life by having sex with him stuck between us?"
"Shut up, Potter," Snape breathed, and claimed Harry's mouth once again, rubbing his hand in circles over Regulus's bump.
Harry had never seen or felt anything hotter in his life. Snape's hand was warm on his skin as Regulus squirmed again. Snape nipped at Harry's neck, coaxing a series of extremely embarrassing sounds from Harry's lips.
Harry untied his pyjama bottoms and spread them open, letting his legs fall open.
Snape hesitated, then slid his hand into Harry's pyjamas.
"Aaaahhh," Harry cried as Snape's long fingers encircled his prick. "Yes!" He yelped as Snape gripped a bit too tightly and yanked. "Not quite that hard," he said. Snape relaxed his grip and tried again. Perfect. Harry's prick throbbed in approval.
Snape's hand hadn't moved more than a half-dozen times before Harry gasped and spilled over his fingers. A strange expression crossed Snape's face.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked, panting.
"Your face," Snape said. "You looked like you were in pain."
"Just the opposite." Harry grinned and brushed Snape's hair from his face. "That felt great. Give me your hand." Snape grimaced and started to wipe his hand on Harry's pyjamas. "No, don't," Harry said softly. "Give it to me just like it is."
Snape extended his hand with a dubious look. Harry grasped Snape's wrist and brought it to his mouth. "I love your fingers," Harry whispered, then began licking them, one by one, before he sucked them into his mouth.
Snape watched in fascination. "Potter, that's disgusting."
Harry dragged his tongue over Snape's hand, dipping it in between each finger to clean every last drop of his essence from Snape. He groaned. "This is so much better than crisps." He met Snape's eyes and grinned mischievously. "And better for me, too. I think I need some more." He struggled to sit up.
Snape sat back. "What are you trying to do?"
"Take your clothes off," Harry commanded. "I'd do it for you, but it would involved clambering and I'm not quite up to that at the moment."
"I think we've done enough," Snape said. He started to slide out of the bed, but Harry caught him by the wrist.
"No. We're just getting started."
"Potter, I'm seventy. Believe me when I say my body is nothing special. It's an old man's body."
"Severus Snape, you are anything but an old man," Harry said. "Now strip, you dozy twonk."
Snape shook his head, but complied. As he methodically took his clothing off and draped it over the armchair, Harry watched avidly.
Snape's body was a strange combination of wiry and soft. Harry could see strong muscles roped around a rangy build; Snape's skin, on the other hand, hung wrinkled and sagging in places. His body was covered with sparse silver hair sprinkled with a few remaining strands of black, thickening gradually from the middle of his chest until it became a trail leading towards a very fine-looking cock with the heaviest balls Harry remembered seeing on another man. His arse was hollow and flat and he had a small paunch that bulged in a rounded hill above his bobbing prick.
"C'mere," Harry said, reaching for Snape. "I want to suck you." He saw Snape's hard cock twitch and tried to roll towards it. "Fuck. Regulus is in the way."
It took several minutes of increasingly frustrated squirming and snapped instructions before Snape straddled Harry's upper chest, Harry propped up by pillows and salivating as Snape's prick was finally in the right position.
Harry grabbed Snape's arse and pulled him closer. He licked the tip of Snape's cock and grinned at Snape's startled gasp. Then he engulfed Snape's prick.
He moaned around his mouthful, feeling Snape twitch and following each movement with his tongue, chasing Snape's taste. Salty at the tip. Sour, musky sweat closer to the root. A hint of elusive bitterness.
This was what he'd needed, not those damned crisps and Bertie Botts beans. He was never letting Snape out of his bed, never letting Snape's cock out of his mouth. He could suckle this man forever.
Snape was emitting a startling variety of gasps, moans and instructions. "Move that tongue. Oh, yes. Oh. Pressure – right there, yes, NO TEETH – oh, wait, ignore that, yes, some tooth. Subtle, subtle – perfect. Oh. Oh. Yes."
Harry encouraged Snape's thrusts and applied some more vigorous suction as the cock slid in and out between his lips. Snape grabbed Harry's hair enthusiastically and immediately began to piston his hips, fucking Harry's mouth. Harry relaxed and focused on making his mouth as wet and slick and tight as possible.
"Gnnngaaahhhh!" Snape cried, frozen in place, his cock pulsing come into Harry's waiting mouth. Harry gulped it down, eagerly devouring it, his tongue busy coaxing each bitter drop from Snape's cock.
Snape collapsed, his cock slipping from Harry's mouth. He slid off Harry's chest and tumbled to the bed, his head next to Harry's hip.
"So that's sex," he said, panting. "I'm truly an idiot, aren't I?"
"Better late than never," Harry said cheerfully, licking his lips. "Trust me, it gets even better."
"I'm going to die now," Snape said matter-of-factly.
"Well, do it up here, then," Harry said, tugging him until his head was on the pillow next to Harry's and the bedclothes were covering them both. Harry snuggled closer and slipped an arm under Snape's neck, pulling him close for a kiss.
Snape fell asleep in the middle of it.
Harry knew he was grinning like an idiot. Snape's breath whistled in and out; Harry smoothed Snape's greasy grey hair back from his permanently frowning brow.
Not bad for a couple of virgins, Harry thought smugly to himself. He definitely needed to improve on his oral technique, and Snape had to develop technique, but all in all, Harry was quite satisfied with his first foray into gay sex.
Strange to be discovering sex with another man at nearly fifty years of age. But Snape. How much more strange must it be to be discovering SEX at age seventy? Much less, sex with another man.
Merlin, but the old bastard was courageous.
Regulus wriggled, pressing into Harry's bladder. With a sigh, he got up and stumbled to the loo, already missing Snape's warmth. If Snape deigned to continue to share Harry's bed, it might be wise to invest in a chamber pot.
Maybe one in gold. Harry grinned, aimed at the toilet and pissed.
"I'm pleased to see that your dietary habits have changed, Mr Potter. I don't want you to eat another crisp for the duration of the pregnancy."
Harry nodded, secretly amused by his new-found, so-much-better-than-crisps obsession for Snape's come. He'd sucked Snape off when they woke together and he had plans to jump the man as soon as he came out of the kitchen. "Another clean bill of health, then?"
Lymejam gave him a sharp look. "You look entirely too pleased with yourself."
"Er," Harry said. "Could it be the blush of pregnancy or something? Speaking of which, how much longer before Regulus is ready to come out?"
Lymejam snorted. "That has to be one of the clumsiest changes of subject that I've ever heard. Some free advice, Mr Potter: allow Severus to conduct any sensitive business the two of you may have."
Harry thanked his years of Auror training as he successfully managed not to blush. "Thanks for the advice, Healer Lymejam."
"I think it's time you called me Jonathan."
Harry felt a genuine smile cross his face. "And I'm Harry. But really, how much longer?"
"Perhaps a week? Maybe two, but only if he's as stubborn as Severus."
"How will I know?"
Lymejam tilted his head. "I imagine the spell will let you know. I'm not sure if you'll have labour pains or not, but I suspect the spell will reproduce a woman's experience fairly closely. It has so far."
"Ginny hexed me during all three deliveries," Harry said.
"Well, you can hex Severus if it makes you feel better," Lymejam said dryly. He stood. "I'll stop by again on Monday. Don't call me unless you have a true emergency. I've got plans this weekend and I would be quite unhappy if they were interrupted for any trivial reason."
"We won't call unless I'm dying," Harry said dryly. "And only then if it looks like Regulus or I can't hang on until the end of the weekend."
"Perfect." Lymejam pulled on his gloves. "Your pregnancy has progressed very nicely, Harry. I see no reason the end of it won't follow the same pattern. Until Monday."
"Cheers," Harry said. After Lymejam Flooed away, he made his way to the sitting room.
Snape was already there, reading by the fire. "I see Lymejam gave you a clean bill of health."
"Yeah." Harry settled at his feet and spread Snape's knees. "May I?" he asked, his hands hovering over Severus' lap.
Snape looked surprised. "You're insatiable."
Harry grinned. "You bring out the best in me." Figuring no answer was as good as a 'yes', he reached forward and unbuttoned Snape's trousers, pulling out Snape's cock and fisting it. It seemed quite happy with his attentions; Snape shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
"Potter, anyone might come in," he said, frowning.
"Lock the door," Harry suggested. He leaned forward to lick a stripe up Snape's cock, but Regulus pulled him off-balance and he ended up sprawling in Snape's lap. "Er, would you mind conjuring a pillow or two that I could use to prop myself up with?"
Snape rolled his eyes, but the pillows appeared immediately. Harry heard the door of the sitting room close and lock while he stuffed them strategically around Regulus's bump.
"Much better," he said. "Now, let's try this again." This time, Snape edged forward and braced his hands against Harry's shoulders, supporting him while Harry dragged the flat of his tongue along the underside of Snape's cock.
"Yes," Snape said. "Use that tongue."
Harry pulled back. "I love how you talk when we're having sex," he said in a husky voice. He dipped his head and sucked Snape's cock into his mouth.
"Your mouth is so hot," Snape said quietly, his voice rumbling in his chest. "So wet. Ungh. So good."
Harry redoubled his efforts, taking Snape deep, then pulling off and nibbling up the underside of Snape's cock, concentrating on the area just below the head. Snape grunted and thrust helplessly, catching Harry's lip and nearly poking him in the eye. Harry grinned wickedly and plunged his head again, sucking hard.
"Fuck," Snape said, letting go of Harry to brace himself on the arms of his chair. He snapped his hips and came, groaning. Harry swallowed and licked, only releasing Snape's cock when it lay limp and clean in his hand. Snape shivered.
Harry looked up. He knew he looked like a besotted dolt, but Snape just looked thoughtful as he gazed back down at Harry.
Snape ran his hand through Harry's greying hair.
"What are you thinking?" Harry asked.
Snape shook his head. "Nothing," he said. "You're an attractive man, Harry Potter."
Harry leaned on Snape's knees. "I like this. I like you."
Snape examined him a moment or two longer and then said, "Lie back. It's your turn."
Ten minutes later, Harry lay splayed in front of the fire, his trousers around his ankles and a silly grin on his face. "Your hands should be cast in bronze. Put on display. Maybe at the Ministry."
"Why at the Ministry?" Snape asked, licking his own fingers curiously.
Harry doubted that he'd left Snape much of a taste, but it was sexy anyway. "So everyone could be jealous of me."
Snape snorted. "You're delusional."
"No, just lucky," Harry said. "Want to come lie down here with Regulus and me?"
"On the floor?" Snape shuddered. "No." He tucked himself in and secured his trousers. "I should go help Kreacher with the goats."
Harry stifled a pang of disquiet and watched as Snape stood and, without looking back, left.
Harry enjoyed having sex every day, sometimes more than once if he could get Snape to agree. But it seemed that even as he enjoyed Snape's body, Snape himself was drifting further and further away.
He tried to entice Snape with various positions, somewhat limited due to Regulus's mandatory participation. Snape refused to penetrate Harry, though once Harry persuaded him to fuck between Harry's thighs as they lay together, Snape curled around Harry's back, his arms pulling Harry into a tight hug as his hips pumped. Once Snape had climaxed, though, he pressed his head against Harry's back for a moment before he'd released Harry and then rolled away.
Harry had remained silent while Snape methodically cast Cleaning Charms on both of them, dressed, and left the room.
Nearly a week passed. Snape and Harry had sex. Regulus refused to budge. Kreacher spent more and more time in the sheds with the goats.
The evening before Christmas Eve, they found themselves in the sitting room, Snape reading and Harry staring into the fire.
"This will be the first Christmas in twenty-six years that I'll celebrate somewhere other than Godric's Hollow," Harry mused. "If I were at home, this would be the night that all of us would barricade ourselves somewhere in the house and wrap our presents for each other. Ginny used to make Kreacher bring us all cups of hot cocoa, no matter where we were hiding." He smiled. "We used to try to spy on each other to see if we could find out what we were getting."
Snape glanced at him, frowned and turned back to his book. "I hope that you don't expect any such tripe this year."
Harry looked away, but kept his voice light. "Never. Though I do have something for you. Kreacher!"
Kreacher popped into the room, wearing a tattered night hat. "Master calls?"
"Could you please bring me the package under my bed?"
Kreacher glared, but a few moments later, he brought the discreetly wrapped package.
"Is that all, Master?"
"Yes, thank you."
Kreacher disappeared and Harry gave the package to Snape. "Happy Christmas, Severus."
"I got you nothing," Snape said, watching Harry warily.
Harry shook his head. "I don't expect anything. This is to thank you for everything – your home, your care, your friendship. Those are gifts far beyond anything I can give you."
Snape looked at Harry for a moment and then carefully unwrapped the package. Harry bit his lip. Snape withdrew a pair of huge antique keys and frowned at them. Harry crossed over to him and knelt by his chair.
"That one is a duplicate key to a Gringotts vault I've set up in Regulus's name. And that one," Harry took a deep breath. "That one is to Godric's Hollow. Just in case, you know, the curse lets me go after Regulus is born. I'd like you to be able to come and go as you please."
Snape stared at the keys, his frown deepening.
Harry swallowed and continued quickly, before he lost his nerve. "If the curse does release me, I'd like to ask you to break your Fidelius. Raise Regulus with me. I'll make sure that the Ministry doesn't try to harass you, and I've got excellent wards, so we wouldn't be bothered while we're at home."
"So you would extend your protection to me?" Snape asked tonelessly.
Harry nodded. "I want you to be a part of my life. A part of Regulus's life. Please, Severus."
Snape started shaking. "Get away from me."
"Is something wrong?" Harry asked, confused.
"Get away from me!" Snape said. He sprang from his chair, sending Harry sprawling on the floor. "This is what you've been planning all along, isn't it? Take Regulus away from me and hold him hostage, force me to leave my home and become one more notch in the hero's belt. 'Oh, look, it's Harry Potter and his tame Death Eater.' Well, you can't buy me! And if you try to take Regulus away from me, I'll bring suit against you so fast your empty head will spin!"
"But I don't want to take Regulus away from you," Harry said. "I want us to be a family. I was trying to show you that everything that I have is yours, too, if you want it."
"You can't bribe me to love you!"
"I'm not trying to!"
"You expect me to believe that, you with your job, your adulation, your public persona? Don't insult me." Snape's words dripped with vitriol. "You are nothing to me, Potter. Nothing. Now get out of my sight."
He watched as Harry silently struggled to his feet and walked to the door. Harry turned in the doorway. "I know you won't believe this, but Regulus is your son and will always be available to you. No matter how you feel about me. I'll guarantee that, at least."
"Get out, you bastard," Snape whispered. "I don't need your charity."
Harry nodded and turned to make his way to his room. He was shaking so hard by the time that he reached the stairs that he sat down to wait for it to pass.
Snape stalked out of the sitting room, threw a vicious look at Harry, and then continued down the hall to the kitchen. The door slammed.
Harry looked at the door to the sitting room. Making up his mind, he returned.
Both keys lay in the fire, glowing brightly against the blazing coals. Harry sank to the sofa, his head in his hands. His gift had gone so very wrong. He'd completely misjudged Snape. He'd thought that they were building something that could, perhaps, evolve into a relationship, but instead found that Snape didn't even consider them to be friends.
He looked up to see Ginny looking at him through green Floo flames. She smiled at him. "I hope I'm not bothering you, but I'm busy over the next three days between Christmas at Mum's and the Harpies' exhibition game on Boxing Day, so I thought I'd look in on you and wish you a Happy Christmas while I had the chance."
Harry mustered a smile. "Happy Christmas, Ginny."
"You look miserable. When is the baby due?"
Her sympathetic voice nearly undid Harry, but he tried to inject some spirit into his voice. "Any day now. Jonathan tells me that I'll know when Regulus is ready to come out."
"Regulus? Is that what you're calling him? What does Snape think about that?"
"We decided together," Harry said. Except they still hadn't decided on the baby's last name, he remembered. "Regulus Remus."
"That's wonderful! Teddy will be so pleased," Ginny said, smiling.
"Yeah," Harry said. "It's good to see you, Gin."
She studied him. "Something's wrong, isn't it?"
Harry looked away and shrugged. "Nothing I can't handle."
"You're always like that," she scolded. "Whenever you have a problem, you bottle it up. Is it something to do with Snape?" He shook his head, but she sighed. "Right. I'm coming through."
A moment later Ginny tumbled through the Floo. She stood up and brushed the ashes from her clothes before crossing to sit next to Harry. She put her arm around him and pulled him close. Harry rested his head on her shoulder.
It felt so familiar. So good.
"What's he done?"
Harry shook his head. "He hasn't done anything. I screwed up."
Ginny huffed. "Right. What do you think you screwed up?"
Harry sat silently for a few moments. "I fell in love," he whispered.
He nodded. Ginny smelled of broom wax and Quidditch leather. She must have contacted him directly after a Harpies practice.
"Yeah," Harry agreed.
"I take it that he doesn't return your feelings," she said, her voice full of exasperated affection.
He shook his head.
"This is really important to you, isn't it?"
"What do you think?" he asked, annoyed.
"I think you're lonely and suffering from the results of a curse that's made you and Snape co-parents in a magical pregnancy," she said. "You're not happy unless you love someone, Harry. I never had a single doubt about your feelings while we were married. That's who you are."
"So you're saying that I'll just fall in love with whomever I live with, is that it?" Harry asked bitterly.
"You berk. No. I mean that you won't live with someone you don't love. There's a difference. I just don't think that Snape is capable of loving you back," she added gently.
"You're probably right," Harry said. He wondered if Snape had ever had the opportunity to learn how to love, considering the life he'd had. "Thanks a lot, Ginny. I guess I really did need to talk." He looked up at her and smiled.
"Give us a Christmas kiss, then," she teased. Harry obediently lifted his lips to hers.
"I expected no less."
Harry leapt back from Ginny in a panic. "Severus!"
Snape stood in the doorway, looking murderous. "Didn't take you long to find someone else. Quite convenient having a devoted ex-wife, isn't it, Potter?"
"Now see here, Severus Snape," Ginny sputtered.
"Ginny, no!" Harry looked from her back to Snape. "Thanks for stopping by. I'll handle this."
"Are you sure?" she asked, glaring at Snape.
"I'm fine. Happy Christmas," Harry said. "Give my love to your family."
Ginny kissed the top of his head. "Right. I will." She turned back to Snape. "If you hurt him, I'll hurt you."
"What lovely manners you have," Snape said. "Threatening a man in his own home."
"Ginny, it's okay. Thanks."
With one last glare at Snape, Ginny crossed to the fireplace and took some Floo powder from a bowl on the mantel. "The Burrow!" she said, and disappeared in a whirl of green flame.
Harry watched Snape warily.
Snape curled his lip. "Well? Aren't you going to start telling me how I drove you into her arms with my rejection?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm not telling you anything. It's none of your business."
"I want you out of my home the moment the child is born," Snape whispered. He turned and disappeared down the hall.
Harry sighed and made his way to his bedroom.
Regulus seemed restless once Harry finally went to bed.
Harry woke Christmas Eve, exhausted from a restless night. Something seemed … off. He worried about it as he allowed Kreacher to terrorise him with the straight-edge, took a shower and went downstairs prepared to confront Snape with a strong sense of foreboding.
Harry had nearly reached the bottom of the staircase when Al, Scorpius and a huge pine tree burst through the front door and into the foyer. All of them looked gleeful and adorned with snow. Harry felt a wave of misgivings.
"Happy Christmas!" Al called out to Harry. "Couldn't let Reggie think that all there is to the world is the inside of your abdomen, Dad."
Before Harry could answer, Snape's voice came from the doorway of the sitting room. "Get that out of here! It's dripping snow and sap everywhere!" He stalked over to Al and Scorpius. "I will not abide such nonsense in my home!"
Harry gingerly lowered himself to sit on the steps, reluctant to get involved. He had the nagging feeling that something was wrong, but he was having difficulty putting his finger on it. It felt like something he knew, but just couldn't remember. Something vitally important.
"We haven't set up a nursery yet," he blurted.
The other three men paused and looked at him.
"Where will Regulus be living? Where will he sleep? Where will he grow up knowing he's got a home?" Harry panicked. "We've got to set up a nursery!"
Snape frowned. "Potter, have you been in the kitchen? You sound as if you've taken a Babbling Potion."
"It's just – you've brought a tree, but –" Harry stood and whirled, looking around frantically. "But what good's a tree if there's no place for the baby to sleep? It can't sleep in a tree! Our priorities are all wrong!"
"Kreacher!" Kreacher popped in, responding to Snape's call, tiny wellies mucky with goat droppings. "Summon Lymejam, immediately!" Kreacher bowed, growled under his breath and disappeared. Snape turned to Al. "Albus, calm your father."
"What?" Al looked panicked and stared at Snape with his mouth open. "I've never seen him like this! I don't know what to do any better than you do!"
"Don't be stupid, Snape. What is Lymejam going to do?" Harry demanded, obsessed with a need to act quickly. "He's a Healer, not a Magitect! Send Kreacher for someone who can build us a nursery!"
They heard the flare of the Floo and turned to see Lymejam storming out of the sitting room. "Will someone please tell me why a house-elf dripping with unmentionable organic materials pulled me away from my morning tea?"
"We don't have a nursery!" Harry cried. "Regulus will have to sleep in a shoebox if we don't do something!"
"I'm sorry," Lymejam said, frowning, "but I really don't see why planning your accommodations demands my presence."
"Use your eyes, man. Potter's going mad," Snape said.
"I'm not mad!" Panic threatened to overwhelm him. "Regulus will be here any time now, and we've made no plans for him! He can't stay in my stomach forever!"
"Dad, we can get that sorted – "
"We have to childproof the manor!" Harry looked around frantically. "Look! Over there! Sharp corners! We need cushioning spells! And there, flagstones! We need carpeting! Is that a potted fern? Aren't they deadly? Would it be best to just seal off a part of the manor d'you think? Maybe if Kreacher pretended to be a baby and crawled through the house we could figure out where the worst bits are!" He paused, panting. "WELL? WHY AREN'T YOU ALL DOING SOMETHING?"
"This is the worst case of nesting I've ever seen," Lymejam whispered. "Something must have triggered this reaction. Either the spell will drive him mad or the manor will resemble a padded cell at Azkaban if this keeps up."
"There must be a treatment for this," Snape said, reaching for Harry.
"NO!" Harry stumbled backwards; Snape barely had time to cast a cushioning spell before he hit the floor. "Don't touch me! You might hurt the baby!"
"Nobody's going to touch you, Potter!" Snape whirled and glared at Lymejam. "Well? Do something!"
Lymejam shook his head. "I've never treated anyone this bad. Most women seem to be happy simply spending an inordinate amount of Galleons on useless fripperies for the baby. Perhaps you should give him a Gringotts key."
"He can't shop! He can't leave the estate, you imbecile! There must be something else!"
"Other than a series of Calming Potions, there isn't, I tell you."
Kreacher appeared, glowering. "Master called?"
"Get me the strongest Calming Potion in my stores. Immediately!"
A double crack of Apparition, and Kreacher offered Snape a potion bottle seemingly before he'd left to fetch it. "Kreacher lives to serve, Master," he said through clenched teeth. "The goats, Master!"
"Forget the blasted goats!"
"The goats!" Harry moaned. "We've got to get rid of them. They'll kill the baby!"
"We're not getting rid of my goats, Potter. Regulus will just have to learn to defend himself. Now drink this."
"No!" Harry pressed against the wall. "You don't want me here! You'll throw Regulus and me out of the house!"
"I won't throw you out of the house! Drink!"
Harry shook his head desperately. "Al, help me."
Al looked back and forth between Snape and Harry. "Tell you what, Dad. If you drink the potion, I'll make sure that Mr Snape doesn't throw you and Regulus out."
"And we'll start to work on a nursery immediately!" Harry insisted.
"Yeah, we'll start right away," Al said. "But you drink that, first. Then you'll be able to help us."
Harry eyed the potion bottle nervously.
Lymejam seemed to lose patience. "Mr Potter, you are my patient and you will drink that potion immediately."
Harry obeyed, though his hand shook. The panic receded, leaving only emptiness. He dropped the bottle and slumped, head in his hands. "What just happened?" he moaned.
"The spell seems to be pressuring you to make a home for the baby," Lymejam said. "You seem to feel the baby's security is being threatened."
Harry looked up. He glanced at Snape and immediately looked away. "Right. What should I do about it? I mean, will the Calming Potions control it or do I need to start buying wallpaper?"
"I don't think it would hurt to designate a room as the nursery, just in case. But the potion seems to have calmed you this time," Lymejam said cautiously. He turned to Snape. "However, I think it's safest if someone stays with Harry at all times from this point forward. He may go into labour at any time. I suspect the baby is nearly ready to be born."
Harry shivered and rubbed his abdomen. Regulus seemed to be quiet, as if he were waiting for something.
"Of course," Snape said. "Do you have any further instructions?"
Lymejam shook his head. "Just contact me immediately if his condition changes."
"Thanks for coming so quickly, Jonathan," Harry said quietly.
"I had little choice," Lymejam said. "Your house-elf is quite persuasive. And smelly, I might add. Next time, at least make him take off his boots before he comes to get me." He lifted an eyebrow and smiled. "I expect that I'll be returning soon," he said. He left through the Floo.
Snape whirled and pointed to the tree. "Get that out of my house this instant!"
Al and Scorpius looked at each other. Levitating the tree between them, they left the house.
Harry watched warily as Snape turned back to him. "Potter. This changes nothing. You will not talk unless it is to tell me that you are in labour or that you need something such as food or a Calming Potion. You may have the bedroom next to yours as a nursery if it keeps you from becoming hysterical again."
"Thank you," Harry started to say, but Snape cut him off.
"Do not talk. Do you understand?"
Harry nodded. So much for talking to Snape about the night before. Harry wasn't sure if it was the Calming Potion or despair, but he didn't feel like fighting.
His stomach ached.
They spent the day in the sitting room, silent. Snape stared at a book, but Harry never saw him turn a page. The ache in Harry's stomach grew. He stared at the fire or out the window; anywhere, so long as he didn't look at Snape.
Who just as studiously avoided looking at him.
When night fell, Kreacher brought them dinner. Harry couldn't eat; he could barely make himself drink a glass of milk.
Harry felt like he had the first days that he'd spent at The Haven. Trapped with a man who was a stranger, cold and contemptuous, unable to escape, not knowing what was about to happen, or whether Snape would take Regulus from him. Images of Snape's face, the ghost of his rough kisses, the taste of him – each time a memory haunted him, Harry crushed it down. That Snape didn't exist, except in his mind.
Kreacher crept into the room. "Master Snape?"
"Yes, Kreacher." Snape put down the book.
"What should Kreacher do about the goats?"
Snape started to turn towards Harry, but caught himself. "You'll have to do without my help tonight, Kreacher."
"But the kidses, Master Snape. The kidses is being difficult."
This time Snape did look at Harry. "Potter, are you in labour?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't feel any different from what I've felt all day." Other than his ache, but that was emotional, not physical.
"When did you last drink some Calming Potion?"
"Half an hour ago. Look, go help Kreacher. I'll call if anything changes."
Snape glared at him suspiciously. "You are not to go into labour until I return."
"I'll let Regulus know," Harry retorted. Regulus kicked hard enough to make Harry wince.
"I'll be back directly," Snape said. "A half hour at most." He and Kreacher left.
Harry stood with difficulty and walked to the window. He watched as Snape and Kreacher trudged through the snow in the direction of the goat paddock, until they rounded the corner of the building and he couldn't see them anymore.
He leaned his forehead against the glass, its cold surface soothing against his warm skin. This silent waiting was going to drive him crazy. He wondered how much longer he and Snape could possibly continue to sit in the same room without talking, without even looking at each other.
He'd originally thought to try to persuade Snape of the sincerity of his feelings and intentions. But after the long silence, he felt ready to give up. Maybe it would just be better to let Snape think whatever he would, since he was such a stubborn bastard. They could raise their son between them without having to have a relationship themselves. They'd have to be careful with Regulus, but as much as Snape seemed to hate him, Harry thought that he would probably refrain from speaking badly of Harry around their son.
Harry closed his eyes.
The ache threatened to envelope him. In fact, it felt like he had a stitch in his side, as if he'd been running too long and too hard.
Regulus squirmed and the stitch redoubled. Harry rubbed the spot, then gasped for breath as an overwhelming cramp rippled through his abdomen. He fell to his knees.
"Kreacher," he whispered, but the house-elf didn't appear.
Oh fuck. Another cramp rippled through him and he moaned. "Regulus, not yet," he gasped. "Hold on just a bit longer."
Regulus seemed to disagree as another wave of pain washed over Harry. "Kreacher!" he tried again, but no sound came out of his mouth.
Harry pulled himself up to the windowsill. Snape was just outside, just beyond the curve of the manor. He pressed against the window, panting. He needed to find Snape.
The glass suddenly disappeared and Harry tumbled through the opening.
The snow shocked him to his senses, and he stumbled to his feet. Hugging himself, he began to wade through the snow towards the goat pens. Snape was there.
The thought of Snape dragged him forwards, making him stand every time he fell, keeping his feet moving long after he lost sensation in them. It seemed to take Harry forever to reach the goat paddock. He could see light shining from the middle shed.
Another cramp incapacitated Harry and he tumbled, clutching his abdomen. "Severus," he whispered. He curled around Regulus, protecting him from the cold while he tried to catch his breath.
Harry was vaguely aware that he was being lifted and held through a series of jolts that ended in warmth and scratchy straw and the sound, the blessed sound of Snape's voice. "Severus," he murmured again and heard the word "Harry" as if from far away. Then the cramps rolled through him, wave after wave and there was no more breath, though he continued to chant Severus' name in his head. At one point, he was sure he heard Jonathan; at another, Hermione.
The pain crescendoed; he choked out "Severus" one last time before it crashed over him.
Dimly, he heard the sound of a baby's cries as darkness overtook him.
Harry really didn't want to wake up, but someone was shaking him.
"Harry. Potter, stop lazing about. Wake up."
He cracked an eye open. "Severus?"
Snape sighed. He was completely dishevelled; straw clung to his clothing and grey bristles covered his face. He looked about ninety.
Harry couldn't take his eyes off of him. "'Morning," he murmured.
Snape ran a hand through his hair. "You've been out for hours. Whatever prompted you to walk through the snow without a coat when you could have stayed in a warm house and called for help?"
"Kreacher didn't come," Harry said. He sat up and froze.
Something was very wrong. He automatically reached for Regulus, but his stomach felt deflated.
"Regulus," he gasped. He looked at Snape, fear coursing through him. "What happened?"
"You had the baby," Snape said. "Before you panic, Regulus is fine."
"I want to see him."
"He's with Granger. I'll bring them in."
"Severus, wait." As Snape paused, Harry realised he didn't know what to say. "Never mind. Please, go get Regulus for me."
Snape gave him a long look before nodding. He left the room.
Within moments, Hermione came through the door, a bundle of cloth cradled in her arms. Her face lit up when she saw Harry. "Thank Heavens you're all right!"
"Is that –?" He held his breath.
Hermione smiled. "He's perfect, Harry." She crossed over to his bed, and lowered the bundle into Harry's arms.
Two dark eyes gazed at him myopically and a spastic hand nearly hit Harry in the eye. "Regulus."
"Yes," Snape said, standing in the doorway. "He's been making his presence known all night. How you slept through it, I'll never know."
Harry unwrapped the baby, totally entranced. "Look! He's got all his fingers and toes! And oh, his little prick – it's perfect! And his nose – I've never seen such a big nose on such a little face! He looks just like you!" he added, looking up at Snape. He looked back down at Regulus. "But wait a minute," he frowned. "Something's not right."
"He doesn't have a navel," Snape said.
"What happened to his belly button?" Harry asked. "Is something wrong with him?"
"He doesn't have a navel because he never had an umbilical cord." Lymejam said as he entered the room. "He's perfectly healthy. Congratulations, Harry. He's a fine baby."
Harry looked at his son, who was scrunching up his face with a cross-eyed look of rage. A furious wail bubbled up and burst full-blown.
"Bloody hell!" Harry said. "He's loud!"
"He gets that from you," Snape said. "Could you possibly hand him to someone competent to stifle his cries?"
Harry nodded as he quickly pushed the screaming baby towards Hermione. "Would you please … ?" he asked, looking at her helplessly.
"You're pathetic," Hermione said, picking up Regulus. His cries immediately ceased. "I'll be back later to teach you how to hold him. Honestly, for someone who's been a father three times and pregnant for the last three months, you're hopeless."
Harry watched as she took him from the room and then turned back to Snape, his eyes shining. "He's perfect."
Snape shook his head. "Granger's right. You're pathetic." But Harry noticed that Snape's eyes wandered towards the door, too.
"I want you to stay in bed the rest of today and tomorrow," Lymejam said, casting a diagnostic spell and examining Harry's results. "You're suffering from exposure as well as recovering from the delivery. I must say," he fixed Harry with his silver eyes, "I had thought to go through life eschewing the dubious experience of delivering a baby in a goat shed on Christmas Eve."
Snape rolled his eyes. "The second coming, I'm sure. Is there anything in particular that I should know about Potter's health?"
Lymejam's look was purely wicked. "I've just confined him to bed for two days, Severus. Is there anything in particular that you think you should do about Potter's health?"
"Get out now," Snape said, looking as if he could strangle Lymejam.
"Call me if you need me." Lymejam winked and left.
Harry resettled himself against his pillows and regarded Snape warily. "Tell me what's happened."
"Before I do, I've been instructed to inform you that I'm a bastard, an idiot, and too stupid to actually be a Slytherin. Apparently these attributes will not change until I apologise to you." Snape's words were mocking, but Harry could see that he was tense.
Harry shrugged. "Consider it done, as long as you're accepting mine, too. Though I have to admit, I'm not sure what I'm apologising for."
"For presuming that I should have to break Fidelius to be with Regulus."
"Oh," Harry said, his heart sinking. "Sorry. Of course you wouldn't want to do that. I'm sure we can arrange something that works for both of us."
"You look constipated. What are you thinking?"
Harry shrugged. "Nothing," he lied.
Snape glared. "So you meant nothing when you declared your feelings for me the other night?"
Harry wasn't sure what to say. He finally decided to opt for the truth. "No. I meant every word." He licked dry lips.
Snape looked shifty. "I suppose that I was less than truthful about my own," he admitted stiffly.
"How much less?" Harry didn't want to hope, but damn it, hope stirred regardless.
"Quite a bit." Snape seemed to struggle for words, but finally sighed. "The truth is, I believed that you were merely interested in me because I was the only adult available to you. That belief was strengthened when I witnessed you exchange intimacies with your ex-wife."
"Ginny was comforting me," Harry said.
"So she informed me. At length and with great conviction."
Harry smiled. "Ginny can really work up a head of steam."
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose and continued. "I had also assumed that you wanted Regulus for yourself, and that my participation in his life would be limited."
"But that's –" Harry looked away. "I've been panicking because I thought that I'd have to raise him on my own. You didn't seem to want to help."
"I do, though I doubt my abilities to be a proper father."
Harry turned back to Snape, cautiously hopeful. "It's a learning experience. We can work on it together if you're concerned."
Snape sighed and looked at Harry. "I know nothing about love, Potter."
"All I need is for you to be willing to try," Harry said.
Snape paused for a long moment as if in a silent internal struggle. He finally nodded. "Though I still believe that we have greater potential to damage each other beyond belief than we do to live a peaceful, happy life. But I am willing to risk killing you when you act like a suicidal imbecile with a hero complex, if you are willing to risk your future with an old, bitter ex-Death Eater ex-spy."
Harry's heart began to race. "I want you. I've wanted you for a while, now. Come here."
Snape slowly walked over. "You've just delivered a child. Are you sure this is appropriate?"
Harry growled and pulled him onto the bed. "The baby was magicked out of me, not pushed out my arse. I'm fine. In fact, I'm better than fine. I want to feel you inside me. Though if you hurt me, I'll murder you. Now kiss me."
"You realise that I've never penetrated anyone before," Snape said, barely comprehensible under Harry's eager mouth.
"I don't care. Fuck me," Harry said.
Snape returned Harry's kisses, his beard rough against Harry's skin. Without Regulus in the way, Harry pulled Snape to lie on top of him; the feeling of his weight was exciting and just a bit frightening. Snape rubbed his hard prick against Harry's bulging erection.
Harry groaned. "Hurry!"
Snape pulled back and propped himself on his elbows. "Potter, I have no idea what you want me to do! I doubt that I can simply mount you and take you dry."
"Fingers. Lube. Stretch," Harry panted.
"Clothes. Stomach. Release me," Snape retorted.
Harry started to rip at his clothing before he suddenly paused. "I can do magic now!" he said in a delighted voice. "Where's my wand?" Snape pointed to it sitting on the bedside table and Harry snatched it up.
The door slammed closed and locked. "Evanesco! Evanesco! Scourgify! Lubricus!" He flipped over to present his arse to Snape.
"Well that was certainly thorough," Snape said, somewhat dazed and extremely naked as he looked at Harry lying on his stomach sans clothing, arsehole clean and gleaming with lubricant.
"Get on with it!" Harry demanded. "I've done all the hard work."
Snape growled and sank a finger deep inside Harry.
Harry caught his breath. "Oh, bugger!"
Snape slapped his arse. "You idiot. Now what should I do?"
"How do I know?" Harry asked. "Move it about a bit, why don't you?"
"Haven't you done this with the ex-Mrs Potter?" Snape grunted as Harry twitched. "Stop it. I can't move my finger when you do that."
"What Ginny and I did in bed is none of your business," retorted Harry. "Although no, we didn't." He squirmed as he felt a second finger make itself at home. "Bloody hell," he muttered.
"Stop swearing," Snape said. "I only want to hear swearing if it is painful beyond endurance or sublime beyond compare."
"What if it's both?" Snape's fingers, gorgeous when wrapped around Harry's prick, seemed to have gained the stature of Bludger Bats. Harry bit the pillow as a third was introduced, then spat it out. "Poke around a bit, will you? There's supposed to be some little knobby or button inside that feels – YIPE!"
"I believe it's called the prostate," Snape said.
Harry humped the bed. "Again! Again! Don't stop, you bastard!"
"Up," Snape commanded, pulling on Harry's hips. "On your knees."
"You've wanted to say that forever, haven't yo-ooooh," Harry said as Snape pushed into him. "Oh, fuck," he gasped.
"Stop complaining," Snape said. He was shaking. "Good lord. You're tight."
"Just give me a second," Harry said. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all.
Snape leaned over him, panting but otherwise unmoving. His sweat dripped onto Harry's back. After a few uncomfortable moments, Harry felt his arsehole relax somewhat.
Snape slipped in deeper and grunted.
Harry rocked back a bit and they both groaned. Snape's hips snapped forward automatically and brushed against the sweet spot inside Harry. "Oh, yeah," Harry said. "That's it. Do it again!"
Snape withdrew and pushed again. And again. And again.
He now had a definite rhythm started that made Harry's cock throb. "Yes," he said. "More."
Snape began to thrust harder. Harry threw back his head and collided with Snape's, nearly knocking Snape unconscious. "Ow!"
"Sorry. Don't stop." Harry braced himself on the mattress and reached for his cock. It was hard and leaking; he could barely stand his own touch.
"I won't be able to go much longer," Snape warned. He panted above Harry.
"Let go then," Harry said. "I can take it." He began to pump his own cock in time with Snape's thrusts. After only two strokes, he gasped, "Oh, fuck, Severus, I'm coming! Harder!" Semen sprayed; Harry could feel a new spurt each time Snape hit the spot inside him.
Snape grunted and swore. "Harry, you're – ungh!" Snape said, his hips thrusting helplessly in shallow jabs as he emptied himself inside Harry. He collapsed, taking Harry down with him.
They lay there, covered with sweat and semen. Snape's breath huffed hot and fast on Harry's neck.
"That was brilliant," Harry said with a groan. "Ouch."
A spell tingled around his arsehole, relieving the pain. Startled, he turned his head and glanced at Snape lying next to him. Snape looked unbearably smug.
"Thanks." Harry contemplated Snape's demeanour. "Interesting. You're already looking a bit dimmer."
Snape's smug expression fled. "What?"
"You know. Being an ascetic. Having sex. It looks like it's already taking a toll on your mind."
"I rather think association with you would be the cause of any decline in intelligence," Snape observed, pulling Harry towards him. "I can always withhold sexual favours if I feel the need to practice asceticism in future."
"I'd like to see you try," Harry said, pinching a nipple that happened to be in the vicinity.
Snape hissed. "If you think to arouse me again, I regret to inform you that seventy is the age of perseverance, not rapid recovery."
"Sixty-eight. I won't sleep with seventy-year-olds until I'm fifty, at least," Harry replied. "Too much of a generation gap."
They both jumped as Kreacher popped into the room.
"Kreacher needs help with the goats!" the house-elf shouted, waving his arms.
"Who's staying at the manor?" Snape demanded as Harry frantically yanked the bed covers over them.
"Master Albus and Master Scorpius and Master Ron Weasley and Mistress Hermione and Master Baby ... "
"Yes, yes," Snape said, waving his hand to cut off Kreacher's litany. "Tell Master Ron Weasley that he has been promoted to help you with the goats."
"Yes, Master Snape," Kreacher said with relief. He Disapparated.
"The Haven is being overrun," Snape grumbled.
"I know a place in Croatia where we could be alone. Maybe this summer."
"We still don't know if you can leave the manor," Snape pointed out.
Harry smiled. "Well, we can look into that later. We've got plenty of time." He nuzzled Snape's neck and closed his eyes.
Plenty of time.