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An Accidental Opportunity

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Harry walked the grounds of Hogwarts, looking at the devastation the Final Battle had caused. Hagrid's shack was a charred hulk against the lightening horizon, night slipping into day and the blaze of lights from the castle heralding its passage. It all seemed so surreal to him, the screams of the battle, dying and then living, and Voldemort being defeated by a simple Expelliarmus.

Standing near the Whomping Willow, Harry could see the outline of the Shrieking Shack in the distance. It reminded him of the cost they had paid for the victory won last night: Dobby, Tonks, Fred, Lupin, and Snape. Harry knew he would mourn all of them, but especially Snape, who had done so much for him since he was a child, and kept it all a secret. Two days ago, Harry had hated Snape, despised him fiercely, and then he'd taken the man's memories in the Shrieking Shack. The revelations those contained had stunned him and the epiphany he'd experienced had given Harry the strength to face his own death.

His deepest regret was that he'd never be able to thank Snape, to apologize to him, to simply talk to the man about what kind of person his mum had been. Harry ignored the prickling in his eyes, already tired and stinging from the turbulent emotions of the day. Sadness edged with loneliness had been a constant companion for so long. Letting his head fall back, Harry stared up at the sky, eyes fixed on a distant star.

A soft sound caught his attention. A muffled crying, like that of a small child, brought his head around towards the Whomping Willow. Just outside the reach of the swinging branches, sat a toddler wrapped in black rags, face dirty and tear-streaked. Frowning, Harry stepped closer, only to have the child flinch back as he came closer. The familiar movement tore at Harry and he sank to his knees a short distance away and slowly extended his hand.

"I won't hurt you," he said quietly. "My name is Harry and I just want to help, if you'll let me."

A small hand appeared from the folds of cloth, gripping a familiar wand even as anguished eyes bored into Harry. The recognition was immediate and heart stopping; it was Snape's wand.

"Snape?" Harry whispered, leaning in slowly. "Is that really you?"

The little boy flinched again, crying quietly as Harry scooted closer. Taking the wand from the unresisting fingers, Harry slid it into his pocket. Snape turned his head to follow the motion but gasped in pain and grabbed his throat. Gently pushing the small hand out of the way, Harry could see the two small but jagged wounds in his throat.

"Bloody hell! You're still bleeding!" Harry gingerly picked Snape up, wrapping the boy in the black robes and ran for the castle.

When Harry left the Headmaster earlier in the evening, he had paused long enough to cast the strongest healing spell he knew, putting all his magic into the spell. It had been Harry's hope that Snape would have anticipated Voldemort's action and had protected himself against the snake's venom. Harry had tried so hard to hate Snape, to blame him for everything that had happened his sixth year, despite Dumbledore's insistence that he trusted Snape – that was before Harry had viewed his memories.

After the Final Battle, Harry'd been devastated to find Snape's body gone when he returned to the Shrieking Shack, horrified at the thought that someone had taken it. In his grief and guilt, he had hoped to at least pay homage to his mother's friend with an honorable funeral. Tightening his grip on the little boy, Harry concentrated on running, Snape weighing hardly anything. He was pleased when he felt Snape's arms creep around his neck and hold on as he took the entrance steps two at a time.

Bypassing the Great Hall where many of the grieving families and students were still gathered, Harry took the steps up toward the hospital wing. He knew Madam Pomfrey would be there, as there had been students injured in the battle. Most of the injured adults had already been moved to St. Mungo's and only the steady sound of breathing greeted Harry as he pushed open the door. The mediwitch appeared out of the dark ward, her face set in a frown.

"Potter! What are you doing here?"

Harry turned towards her, Snape burying his face in Harry's shoulder. "I found him, Madam! I found Professor Snape, and he's bleeding!"

Pomfrey peered at them in disbelief before waving Harry towards the far corner. The child clung to Harry as he tried to settle Snape onto the bed the mediwitch had indicated. With some coaxing, Harry managed to get him to lie down, half propped on Harry's thigh, and refusing to let go of Harry's hand. Madam Pomfrey efficiently peeled back the layers of black cloth and Harry had to stifle a gasp as a blood-soaked white shirt appeared. Harry could see the fear in the dark eyes and instinctively reached down to brush a hand through the disheveled hair. The child flinched slightly, a move that broke Harry's heart, and he narrowed his eyes.

"Let's lift you up just a bit, Severus." Pomfrey stripped the boy naked and Harry had to wince in sympathy for him.

"Don't you think Professor Snape is aware in there?" Harry muttered.

Pomfrey glanced up at him with a slight smile. "I've known Severus since he was eleven, Harry; I don't think he'd mind."

Harry wanted to disagree with her, but held his tongue. Nevertheless, the mediwitch tugged the sheet up to cover Snape's bits much to Harry's relief, knowing he'd have to face the adult Snape again. Running his fingers through the matted hair, Harry watched as Madam Pomfrey cast some kind of a diagnostic spell over the little boy. Snape turned his face towards Harry, but whimpered in pain as he did. Carding through the long hair, Harry watched as the mediwitch quickly worked to heal the jagged wounds on Snape's throat.

"Is he going to be all right?" Harry asked quietly.

Pomfrey looked up at him, a penetrating glance, before returning to her ministrations. "I…"

"Poppy? What's going on?" Professor McGonagall appeared out of the shadows.

"Mr. Potter seems to have found the Headmaster wandering the grounds," the mediwitch said, spreading some kind of paste on Snape's throat.

The toddler pressed his face into his thigh and his grip on Harry tightened, making Harry realize that Sna…Severus was terrified.

"What happened to him, Poppy?"

The mediwitch affixed a plaster to Severus' throat. "I believe Severus anticipated an encounter with that foul snake and was taking the antidote for the venom that he'd developed for Arthur Weasley," she said, brushing a thumb over the dried blood on Severus' jaw. "And now that we know he was actually working to protect the students, I suspect he was taking a very strong Rejuvenation Potion, along with Pepper-Up Potion to keep him going."

McGonagall nodded and Harry was sure her face flushed guiltily. Apparently, Headmaster Snape had succeeded in making everyone hate him this past year.

His Head of House cleared her throat. "Yes, quite, but that doesn't explain why Severus looks about two years old."

Pomfrey shot a speculative look at Harry. "Severus seems to have been subjected to a rather simple healing spell which had an incredible amount of magical power behind it."

It was Harry's turn to flush. "I was just so tired of people dying, I…I just wanted him to live!" Harry smoothed Severus' hair back. "And then I found out about everything he'd done…"

McGonagall reached to pat his shoulder. "None of us were aware of Severus' sacrifices or the terrible deeds that he'd performed for Dumbledore, Potter."

"Your spell seems to have combined with the Rejuvenation Spell," the mediwitch told him as she stood. "I think that is what caused Severus to be de-aged, but I have no idea whether he will now re-age normally, or whether his re-aging will be accelerated."

Harry swallowed hard, the incident in the Shrieking Shack flashing through his mind. "Do you think he remembers all the…things that happened, Professor?"

McGonagall gave him a hard look before reaching a tentative hand to stroke Severus' cheek. "I almost hope he doesn't remember, he might finally have some peace."

"He must have retained some memories," Madam Pomfrey said as she wiped her hands. "Severus seems to know that he could trust you."

Harry looked from one woman to the other. "I'd like to take care of, er, Severus, either way."

McGonagall shook her head. "Wizarding law says a magical child must be under the care of a parent or guardian, and specifically addresses de-aging situations."

Memories of his fifth-year and Occlumency lessons told Harry that he could do a better job of taking care of Severus than his parents ever had, than Harry's relatives had ever done taking care of him.

"But his parents were…they weren't very nice to him!" he blurted out, reaching down to lift the toddler into his lap. "They don't have to know! I can take care of him fine myself!"

"I'm sorry, Harry." Kingsley Shacklebolt stepped into view. "Although I don't doubt you are quite correct about his parents, as well as Severus' role in this victory, but until we can present the evidence to exonerate him, Severus will be an easy target for any overzealous Auror or former student with a grudge."

Harry wrapped his arms around Severus, who clung to him tightly, eyes heavy with exhaustion. "I can protect both of us!"

The three adults exchanged looks as Harry glared at them defiantly over Severus' head. He wished he'd just taken the toddler and Apparated away. He might not know everything, but he wouldn't hurt a child, not like he suspected Severus had been; as Harry had been hurt when he was a child.

"I'm sorry, Harry," Kingsley told him, his voice quiet. "Wizarding law is quite emphatic about a situation like this, from ancient times when an heir could be de-aged and, well, I'm sure you understand. Perhaps Poppy will let you look after him until arrangements can be made to return him to his parents."

Harry thought for a moment that the two witches were going to object to Kingsley's decision and Harry suspected they both knew more about Severus' childhood than they were saying. He'd done everything he could to keep the truth about how he was treated at home from anyone at Hogwarts, confiding only selected bits in Ron and Hermione.

"Come along, Mr. Potter," Pomfrey beckoned him. "You can stay in one of the private suites until Minister Shacklebolt makes his arrangements."

Carefully wrapping the sheet around Severus, Harry scooted off the bed, glad that he wasn't the only one who didn't like the idea. She showed him to a door just inside the entrance to the hospital wing, opening it with a wave of her wand. Carrying the silent toddler, Harry stepped into a small sitting room as Madam Pomfrey lit the fire in the hearth.

"The bathroom is through there, Harry," she said kindly, pointing at another door. "If you want to clean both of you up, I will have the house-elves bring pajamas and some food."

Nodding, Harry stepped into the bathroom, managing to strip off his clothes without letting go of the boy, and stepping into the shower. The events of the long day were finally catching up with him and Harry went through the washing and rinsing process mechanically. Stepping out, he carefully dried them both off, before wrapping them in a large towel.

Carrying Severus out, Harry found a stack of clothing on the couch and a tea tray on the small table. Quickly dressing both of them, Harry sat Severus down, attempting to persuade him to eat a piece of apple. Watching Severus trying to swallow as he struggled to stay awake, Harry took the apple away, and wiped Severus' fingers. Hesitating for just a second, Harry cast the strongest locking and warding spells that he could on the door, knowing he'd sleep better if he felt they were safe.

"Let's get some sleep and we'll eat later, when your throat is better," he said, carrying Severus into the bedroom.

The four-poster was the same size as the ones in the Gryffindor dorm and Harry was beyond thinking anything but to sleep. Cuddling Severus to his chest, Harry murmured what he hoped were soothing words, promising to watch over Severus as Snape had watched over him. The child relaxed against him, his breathing becoming deep and regular, before Harry let his eyes close and sleep take him.

~~*~*~~

Harry felt Severus' hand tighten around his as they followed Professor McGonagall up the path to a shabby bungalow outside a small coastal village. Kingsley had explained that the area was one that Muggles chose to retire in, which made Harry realize that Severus' parents had to be at least in their sixties. The memories of their Occlumency lessons haunted Harry: the image of hook-nosed man towering menacingly and a flinching, dark-haired boy. It had been too similar to his own upbringing for Harry. He remembered the picture Hermione had found of Eileen Prince last year, wondering how she'd handled such an environment.

The woman that answered the door seemed careworn and wary, but Harry could see the resemblance to her Hogwarts picture. She was still thin, but her dark hair was liberally streaked with gray and her shoulders seemed to curl forward as if they had borne a lifetime of weight. Harry stopped on the pathway, not wanting Severus to hear. Severus pressed close to his leg as a tall man, shoulders stooped with age, filled the doorway, joining into the conversation. They both looked back when McGonagall gestured towards Harry and Severus, and Mr. Snape's face screwed up into a scowl.

"What'da you mean, he's a child again!" Severus' father roared. "Why do we have to be landed with him?"

"Because it’s the law, Tobias," his mother snapped, gesturing angrily at the boy. "Severus, get inside!"

Harry's first instinct was to take Severus and Apparate away, but the stony look on McGonagall's face stopped him. Severus glanced up at him before tugging at his hand and Harry clung to it for a heartbeat, before giving it a squeeze and slowly releasing it. Without looking back, he trudged to where his mother stood, carefully edging around his father. There was another exchange of words, but Harry didn't hear them, lost as he was in the pain of seeing Severus disappear into the small house.

"Come, Potter," McGonagall snapped. "Mrs. Snape knows how to contact us if Severus needs anything."

Harry met Eileen Snape's eyes, watching them dart up to the scar on his forehead and widen. For once, he was pleased with the surprise, narrowing his eyes as the woman blinked at him before backing into the house and quietly closing the door. If her knowing who he was would make her treat Severus better, Harry was glad to be trading on his fame.

"We can Apparate from over here, Harry," McGonagall told him quietly, glancing back at the bungalow. "I'm sure Severus will be fine."

Harry didn't voice his doubts then, nor over the next few days as he attended funerals of those he'd considered family. He returned to Grimmauld Place, but wasn't sleeping very well nor did he seem to have much of an appetite, keeping more to himself than anything. Hermione departed to retrieve her parents, and Ron returned to the Burrow with Ginny and their parents to grieve for Fred. Professor McGonagall had stepped into the role of Headmistress to supervise the clean-up and restoration of Hogwarts. Kingsley Shacklebolt and the Ministry began working on the Death Eater trials and rebuilding of the Wizarding world.

Feeling very much at loose ends, Harry found himself worried more and more about how Severus might be settling in. What little sleep Harry had gotten was plagued with nightmares, where Uncle Vernon became Tobias Snape, with he and Severus were both the little, dark-haired boys being terrorized. Tired, restless, and feeling useless, Harry spent the days with Kreacher making the old Black house livable. It at least made him feel productive.

The fifth morning after leaving Severus with his parents, Harry's resolve crumbled. Showering and dressing quickly, Harry packed his charmed bag with food and threw in a pouch filled with Galleons. It appalled him that after all these years in Hogwarts, Harry still didn't know much about the Wizarding world, or how to maneuver in it, such as finding a Wizarding hotel. Wrapping his Cloak around him, Harry closed his eyes and Apparated to the small bungalow near the sea.

Harry could hear shouting as he came up the pathway and anger surged through him. Flicking his wand at the front door, Harry slipped into the house through the now open door. Inside was dark and cluttered, a dusty window letting in enough filtered sunlight for him to see Tobias Snape's angry face. The man was flailing his arms in an agitated manner, his wife flinching as he did.

"He's costing us money we don't have, woman!"

It took Harry a moment to find Severus huddled in the far corner of the sitting room, a hand pressed against his cheek as he watched his father with wary eyes. Harry's eyes narrowed at the sight of silent tears rolling down the thin face.

"Send the whelp back to them or toss him out, don't much care which!" Snape thundered, his face purple with rage. "We raised him once, not going to do it again!"

For an instant, Harry saw his Uncle Vernon standing there, railing about being saddled with Harry to raise, and his good intentions evaporated. Moving towards Severus, Harry made sure his back was towards the enraged man and opened the cloak. Harry must have made some noise, as Severus' head snapped towards him, his eyes widening as he saw Harry. Stealing a look at his father, Severus made his way silently to where Harry stood.

"I don't bloody well care what their laws say!"

Severus threw his arms around Harry's neck as he picked the child up. He clung tightly as Harry dug his money out of his bag, moving into Eileen's line of sight to set a half-dozen Galleons soundlessly onto a small table. Pushing the hood back far enough to see his face, Harry met the witch's eyes and thought he saw relief flash through them before she gave an imperceptible nod of her head.

Harry readjusted his cloak around both of them and retraced his steps to the front door, leaving without a backwards glance. Severus clung tightly to him, face buried in Harry's neck. Walking out to the lane, Harry swore that Severus had grown taller in the few days they'd been apart. Harry paused, weighing his options.

"Well, wonder where there's a nice place that would take a couple of blokes who didn't want to be found?" Harry wondered aloud. "Hold on, Severus."

Apparating to the ruined house his parents had owned in Godric's Hollow, Harry tried to remember the layout of the village from the time he and Hermione had been there. Just up from the pub on the town square was a building that Harry believed was an inn, so he slipped behind a hedge to remove his Cloak. Setting Severus down, Harry quickly folded the silky material and slid it into his pocket. Severus kept an arm wrapped tightly around his leg, as if afraid Harry would disappear again.

Reaching down, Harry tilted Severus' face up, frowning when he saw the darkening mark on the child's cheek. "I think I've got some Bruise Paste for this."

Rummaging around in his bag, Harry finally found the jar he was looking for and squatted down in front of Severus. "What happened?"

"My da got mad," Severus told him quietly, dark eyes intent on Harry's face.

"It wasn't right for him to hit you," Harry said simply, struggling to keep his anger in check. "Now, do you want to walk or do you want me to carry you?"

"I can walk!"

Harry nodded, hiding a smile at the very Snape sounding tone as he stood up. "All right, let's go see if we can find a place to stay for a while, where no one is going to bother us."

A small hand slid into his as they walked up the road, warming Harry more than the early June sunshine. He covertly studied Severus, dressed in clothing that must have been saved since he'd been a child, worn and outdated. Physically, Severus looked taller and older, more little boy than toddler, silently trudging along beside him as Harry tried to figure out what he should do. Madam Pomfrey hadn't known whether Severus would return to his proper age gradually or all at once, or what might happen physically when he did.

"Harry?" Severus stopped as they walked past the church where Harry's parents were buried. "I'm getting tired."

Lifting Severus into his arms, Harry gave into temptation and kissed his temple as he settled the child on his hip. While he knew that it was likely Severus retained his memories, Harry didn't think he was able to access them, at least not yet. His exhausted brain couldn't process the ramifications of what would happen when Severus became Snape again. Tightening his arms around the child, Harry pushed the thoughts away and concentrated on finding them shelter.

The inn was larger than Harry expected and, surprisingly, a Wizarding inn. The lobby had pictures of Quidditch World Cups that had been held over the years in the nearby moors, reminding Harry that Godric's Hollow had been around since Godric Gryffindor had been alive.

The clerk looked at him with a waspish glare. "Is there something I can help you with, young man?"

Harry supposed they did look a bit bedraggled. "I'd like a room, please."

The clerk looked down his nose at them as Harry set Severus down and pulled out his money. "I don't suppose you have a reservation?"

The condescending tone irritated him and Harry slapped a handful of Galleons onto the registration desk. "No, but I'm sure you have something nice you could put my…brother and me in," Harry snapped. "A large room or two with an en suite would do nicely."

The clerk's eyes widened as he took in the money, his attitude undergoing a miraculous change. "Of course, sir! We have a lovely suite that should meet your needs and I can arrange for a house-elf to bring you lunch, Mr…."

"Peverell." Harry said the first name that came to mind, tightening his arm as Severus stirred as if to protest. "Harry Peverell."

Harry held his breath, but the clerk didn't even blink, just simpering as he paid for a week's lodging in advance. Severus laid his head on Harry's shoulder as both their stomachs rumbled.

"I'll have the house-elf meet you in your rooms, Mr. Peverell," the clerk told him, snapping his fingers and a pimple-face bellhop appeared from nowhere.

"Show the Peverells to three fourteen, Elman."

Harry set Severus down inside the door to a large, airy sitting area, digging for a Sickle to use as a tip. Elman murmured his thanks as a uniformed house-elf popped up, bowing deeply. After asking for some sandwiches and crisps, Harry waited until the elf disappeared to summon Kreacher. The old elf didn't even blink at the surroundings or the small child who wasn't supposed to be there as Harry asked for clothing and toiletry items.

A black leather couch looked inviting and Harry was exhausted. Tugging Severus along, Harry collapsed onto it, yawning widely. He just wanted to rest his eyes for a moment, but knew he shouldn't. There were too many things he needed to take care of.

"Harry? Where's the loo?" Severus asked, tugging at his arm.

Blinking, Harry looked up at Severus, before jumping to his feet. "Bloody hell! I'm sorry!"

Running his hands through his hair, Harry made sure Severus was in one piece before scrambling to find which of the doors led to the bathroom. Ushering Severus in, Harry slumped back down onto the couch, only to see a tray of sandwiches and fruit sitting on the table. Groaning, he buried his face in his hands.

A tentative hand patted his head. "It's all right, Harry. You were only asleep for a minute."

Harry looked up. "It's not okay when I am responsible for taking care of you and making sure that you're safe." He sighed, reaching out to pull Severus into a hug. "I'm just glad you are here with me. Let's eat something, all right?"

Fueled by the food and tea, Harry made it through the afternoon. Kreacher returned with clothing and other necessities, including biscuits and sweets, before disappearing to make dinner. Harry gave Severus a bath, grimly applying the Bruise Paste to several other marks on the child's body. He knew his decision to take Severus had been the right one, despite the trouble he might get into. If Eileen Snape reported him, then Harry would be forced to make sure Kingsley knew of the marks and bruises he'd found on Severus.

Kingsley already had the Pensieve full of memories that Snape had given him in the Shrieking Shack, the ones that proved that he had been acting on Dumbledore's orders the entire time. It also showed Harry that despite the way Snape had always acted towards him, he'd always taken care of Harry and now, Harry would do his best to take care of Severus. Harry had no doubt that once Severus regained his memories, he'd go back to despising him, but for now, Harry would make this second chance at a childhood the best he possibly could.

It was early evening when Harry dragged himself into one of the bedrooms. He'd tucked Severus in after reading him a story in the bedroom across from the sitting room, breathing an exhausted sigh as he shut the door silently behind him. His eyes had barely closed when Harry felt Severus climb up on the bed.

"Harry? Can I sleep with you?" Severus asked quietly.

"Severus, I don't…"

"I don't want to have more bad dreams," Severus said, eyes imploring him. "Please!"

Blowing out a breath, Harry lifted the bedding and allowed Severus to scoot underneath them. How could he say no to that? Harry was all too familiar with the same type of night terrors, he thought, settling the child against him as he succumbed to sleep.

~~*~*~~

Severus Snape woke with a start, tensing before remembering where he was. Harry shifted restlessly in his sleep, pulling Severus closer. Settling into the warmth of the protective embrace, Severus assessed his situation. His body seemed to age when he slept, but he was unsure of the rate of growth, and while he seemed to have retained most of his knowledge, he was only able to assimilate it in increments as his brain grew. His memories were more hazy and difficult to decipher, more feelings than true memories for the most part. Severus did know that this Potter had little reason to be treating him as well as he was, and with even less motivation to actually be kind to him, but Harry was both kind and protective.

His adult self was bitter and loveless, which was something Severus remembered quite clearly. Harry had killed the Dark Lord, he assumed, but before that, he had cast a powerful spell on Severus, another clear memory. This spell had somehow provided him the opportunity to grow up again, untainted by a Dark Mark on his forearm. It was one of the first things Severus had checked when he remembered, and he'd been amazed to find it gone. Clearly, Harry had some type of regard for him, even before he'd viewed the memories Severus had given him, in order to have accomplished this miraculous transformation. Severus didn't intend to squander the opportunity.

The hows and whys were still hazy, but Severus knew that Harry had found him and comforted him when he was so vulnerable. Harry had also been the one to rescue him from his bastard of a father, so Severus knew Harry would keep him safe. Closing his eyes, Severus shifted against Harry, burying his face in the hollow of a warm throat. For now, Severus intended to enjoy the care and the feeling that someone was there for him, at least until he was big enough to fend for himself.

~~~*~*~~~

There was an unfamiliar weight on his chest when Harry woke up and he opened his eyes curiously. Dark eyes set in an intense face peered down at him from where Severus was draped across him. Harry blinked at him before attempting to smile around a yawn.

"Good morning, Severus.”

"'Morning," Severus said. "You have nice eyes."

"Yes," Harry smiled, "they're a precious gift from my mum."

Severus screwed up his face in thought, staring intently at him. "Lily."

Harry's heart caught as he smiled reassuringly. "Yes, Lily, she was your friend."

A shadow crossed the little boy's face and his expression closed. Heart heavy, Harry sat up, dislodging Severus from his perch. He was surprised when the child laughed as he tried to grab on to him, before realizing that he'd tickled Severus. Running his fingers along the bottom of Severus' ribcage, Harry was delighted when the child convulsed with laughter. Who would have thought that Snape was ticklish! Harry only tickled him for a few minutes, memories of Dudley tormenting him that way coming back to him.

"Come on, let's see what Kreacher left for breakfast," Harry said, lifting Severus to the floor.

It only took a few minutes to get through the morning wash-up and Harry found himself ravenous. Fresh fruit, toast, eggs, and rashers were already on the table and Harry piled some on a plate for Severus before he filled one for himself. Tucking in, Harry looked up several minutes later when he felt the weight of Severus' gaze. The child definitely looked a little older this morning, by a few months at least, as he sat pushing his eggs around his plate.

Harry met his eyes. "I don't care whether you finish what's on your plate, Severus, but I do expect you to eat something."

"I don't like eggs," Severus told him quietly. "Can I make a sandwich with the bacon and toast?"

Smiling, Harry nodded. "You can eat anything you want, as long as you eat. Do you need help?"

Severus shook his head as he began piling slices of bacon onto a piece of toast, folding it over to make a sandwich. Harry chewed a forkful of eggs as he watched. He certainly was no judge of children or their ages, but Severus had been about two when Harry had found him ten days ago and now appeared to be possibly a year older, having definitely gotten taller. Harry wondered about his re-aging. Madam Pomfrey had said she wasn't sure if Severus would have to grow up at a normal rate, or whether the spell had simply taken him back to a point where he could recover quickly, and would then reverse the de-aging rapidly. It appeared Severus was choosing his own path to re-aging.

His snort of laughter brought a very Snapely look from the child and Harry bit his cheek to keep from laughing at this miniature version of his professor. No matter what the rate was, it gave Harry time to make up for the things they had both missed in their childhoods. He doubted that Severus had any better time of it than he did and there were so many things Harry wanted to experience now. Taking Severus along with him wasn't spoiling him, really, he was simply company for Harry.

Do it before he remembers who your father and godfather were. Harry grimaced at the voice in his head, but agreed wholeheartedly. Once Severus regained his memories, there would be little Harry could do to keep Severus with him or keep him from loathing him. If he were to be damned anyway, he might as well be damned for it all!

Glancing across the table, Harry watched as Severus carefully constructed another half sandwich. He looked pale and his face had the pinched look of someone too thin. The wounds on his throat were mostly healed, thanks to Madam Pomfrey, and the scars would soon be the only reminders of what Severus had been through. They definitely needed to put some weight on the little boy, and perhaps another day or two of rest would build up his strength. So, maybe some quiet activities to start.

"Is your throat feeling good enough to take a walk, Severus?" Harry asked as he pushed his plate away.

Severus' hand shot to the healing wounds. "The snake bit me."

"Yes," Harry acknowledged, wondering how much Severus actually remembered. "I saw it happen."

"You helped!" Severus' voice seemed to be a mix of accusation and surprise.

"I tried," Harry answered quietly. "I didn't want you to die."

"Me, either!" Severus grinned at this suddenly, making Harry laugh.

"Help me clear the table and we'll go."

Severus hadn't seemed to mind, handing Harry the empty plates, which he set beside the small sink for the house-elves to take care of. Harry was reluctant to use magic himself, even though he knew it was harder to trace than he'd once believed, but until he was sure they were safe, he didn't want to take any chances. Severus' wand was in his bag, but Harry wasn't going to say anything about it until he was much older. Harry wasn't sure of the ramifications of a physically under-aged wizard using magic, or how accurate the spells would be if Severus tried to cast a spell in his present form.

The day was warm and breezy as they explored the area around the hotel. Many of the shops had Wizarding sections and had a selection of familiar items. Harry was able to pick up a selection of Honeydukes chocolates and other sweets, as well as some biscuits that Severus had reached for but yanked his hand back as if he'd done something wrong. They found a small bookstore and Harry smiled as Severus' eyes lit up at the sight of the shelves of books. The choice of books Severus made, a child's book about dragons and an adult one on potions, caused Harry to pause. Perhaps Severus had moments of adult insight amid his thoughts.

Harry purposely avoided the main town square, the church and the memorial to his parents. He did not intend to show those monuments to Severus, knowing that they would be particularly painful to the child. And he had no desire to inflict any more pain on either of them.

Carrying the exhausted Severus back to the hotel, Harry tucked him up on the couch while he arranged for the house-elves to make them a picnic basket. There was no reason that they couldn't have a picnic in the sitting room until Severus was strong enough to play in the play park.

That night, Severus climbed into Harry's bed without asking, and with a smile, Harry cuddled him close. There was something very comforting about holding Severus while he slept, something that did seem to keep the nightmares at bay, for both of them.

~~~*~*~~~

Severus slipped out of bed, padding across the room to the bathroom. It was still dark outside, meaning it was too early to get up, but he needed to use the toilet. Pausing at the door, Severus stood with his back against the wood frame, using his thumbnail to mark his height. He knew he'd grown a bit since they had been there and had begun to make a mark several days ago to see how much. Squinting at the marks, it looked like he'd grow the width of a finger, and with a grin, Severus went into the bathroom.

It was nice to have Harry taking care of him and Severus was content to allow it. Going to the play park with someone to push him on the swing was something Severus had never had before. Lily had been the only one who'd played with him, as neither of his parents had ever bothered to. Nor could Severus remember anyone else reading to him or allowing him to sit on their laps while they did. The part of him that scoffed at the coddling did so quietly, as if it didn't want to spoil things.

With a smile, Severus went back to the bed and climbed up. Sitting beside Harry, Severus reached up and brushed the hair off his face. He loved the way Harry leaned into his hand, as if he liked that Severus was touching him. It made Severus feel warm inside.

"Severus?" Harry blinked his eyes sleepily. "What's the matter?"

"Can we go watch the sun come up?" Severus wasn't sure where the idea came from, but now he wanted to see it.

Harry groaned and Severus leaned over him, surprised when Harry toppled him over and began to tickle him. Harry liked to ambush Severus, tickling him until they were both laughing breathlessly. Scampering away, Severus began to pull his pajamas off as Harry disappeared into the bathroom, leaving the door open so Severus could call him if he needed something. Humming to himself, Severus picked out the clothes he wanted to wear, excited about their outing.

Apparating them to the edge of the moors, Harry held onto Severus tightly as the wind rocked them. He was glad that he wore his jacket now and was content to wrap his arms tightly around Harry's neck as they watched the light grow at the dark edge of the earth. All the colors were amazing and Severus didn't think he'd seen anything as pretty, ever. The wind eased up as the sun rose and Harry set him down as they watched the light come at them over the land.

"You're getting big, Severus."

Harry sounded sad and Severus pressed against his side, glad to see that his head was almost up to Harry's waist. Severus knew that Harry was afraid he wouldn't like him when he remembered everything, but he already remembered a lot and still liked him. In fact, Severus found he liked Harry a lot, and in a way that made him tingle all over. No one had ever been as nice, as caring, as Harry had been, especially to him since they'd been here.

The village was still quiet when Harry Apparated them back to the inn. Leaving their jackets, Harry took him out to a small bakery they had found down the street. Severus loved the special breakfast crumpets they made and every day there was a different marmalade to put on top. The man behind the counter was nice to Severus and always gave him a biscuit for later.

Severus was licking his fingers as Harry tried to wipe his cheek, when the door opened and a short man came in carrying a box. Severus watched as the man behind the counter smiled and leaned over to kiss the newcomer before setting the package on the counter. Turning, Severus was surprised to find Harry staring at the two men.

"What's the matter?"

Harry's head snapped towards him and he cleared his throat. "Nothing!" He finished wiping Severus' hands. "You know, there's nothing wrong with a bloke liking another bloke."

"My father thought it was unnatural." Severus watched his face.

Harry nodded. "So did my uncle, he'd say really nasty things."

"But, you don't think it's abnormal?" Severus asked, poking his finger into the orange marmalade.

Harry grabbed his hand, wiping the finger off before Severus could lick it. "No, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I think you are fortunate when you find love, it doesn't matter whom with."

"So," Severus said quietly, a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach. "It's okay that I like boys?"

"Yes, Severus," Harry told him, brushing Severus' hair back. "It's okay with me, in fact, I think you're lucky just knowing what your preference is. See, I'm beginning to wonder if I like boys myself. Girls certainly don't seem to be doing much for me."

"Brilliant!" Severus bounced in his chair. "Can we get scones for our tea?"

Harry laughed, leaning over to kiss his head – a habit he'd developed lately – and nodded. Severus grinned, deciding he liked Harry's answer very much.

~~~*~*~~~

"Do I have to, Harry?" Severus protested, looking like he wanted to stomp his foot.

"Yes, Severus," Harry sighed. "Please, shower and bed now, because it's late. We'll go down to the beach first thing in the morning."

Severus pulled a long face, but did as Harry asked. The small cottage had one great room and a small bedroom with attached bathroom, but it was cozy and had huge windows that looked over the beach in front of them. Hermione had booked it for them, after she had tracked them down last week upon her return from Australia. Her appearance at the door of their rooms had struck fear in Harry's heart on a number of levels; the most immediate had been the fury in his friend's eyes.

Once it became apparent that Kreacher had been coerced into revealing their whereabouts rather than Harry doing something to give them away, and Hermione calming after the situation was explained, Harry had relaxed slightly. It had been over a month since they had taken up residence in the hotel, and Severus' erratic aging had begun to accelerate lately. While staff members were under an oath of discretion, they were beginning to draw stares from people in the village during their outings as Severus grew seemingly overnight. Luckily, Hermione had been able to find this isolated cottage at the edge of a small Wizarding resort near Cornwall for them.

The only other contact Harry had received was an owl from Kingsley Shacklebolt announcing that the Wizengamot had agreed to view the memories Severus had given him prior to the Final Battle, along with Harry's statements that the assistance provided to him by Snape had helped him to defeat Voldemort. A tersely worded post-script told Harry that Kingsley knew Severus was with him, but hadn't demanded they return, and Harry was grateful for the unspoken support.

Hermione had subjected him to a blazing lecture on why his actions were irresponsible and endangered them both. Harry had listened and even acknowledged that he'd acted in a manner that could be called reckless, but he had quietly added that he had a plan and the means to carry it out. He'd made sure they were careful and had taken every precaution that he could not to put them in any danger. Even though Hermione had agreed that Severus seemed to be well adjusted and happy, she was concerned about the emotional connection that was building between them. In truth, Harry knew that he'd be crushed if Severus rejected him when he regained his memories.

Slender arms slid around his waist and Severus pressed his face into Harry's abdomen, the top of his head coming up to his chest now. Without thought, Harry's arms wrapped the slender figure and Harry marveled at how affectionate Severus had been and had allowed him to be in return. Even more surprising had been how easy it was to be demonstrative with Severus. Harry realized that he'd never had much affection in his life and wasn't sure he was doing it right anyway.

"Are you coming to bed?" Severus asked, rubbing his cheek against him.

Harry brushed a hand through the silky hair. "Yes, you impatient brat, I'll just lock things up."

"You're not mad at me, are you?" Severus' voice was muffled against his shirt.

Tightening his arms, Harry brushed a hand through Severus' hair. "No! Where did you get that idea?"

"Granger," Severus said, tilting his head back. "She yelled at you and I gathered that it concerned me."

A smile curved Harry's lips. "You don't like Hermione."

"Well, she seems awfully bossy and was really mad."

Harry tugged at a strand of silky hair. "She was just concerned about what she thought was my reckless behavior, but I explained things to her."

"I would surmise that she was satisfied by your reasoning for removing me."

Harry blinked. There were times when the adult Snape just seemed to surface and take over Severus' body. It made Harry pause, almost as if waiting for a blow, literal or figurative, but then Severus smiled up at him.

"Yes, Hermione seemed to come around to our way of thinking." Harry couldn't contain the laughter, hugging Severus to him as he leaned down to kiss the silky hair.

Severus unexpectedly tilted his head back further and Harry's kiss landed on his cheek. Turning his head quickly, Severus' lips grazed Harry's jaw, before he pulled back. Retaining his grip on Harry's hand, Severus tugged him towards the door as Harry was still trying to figure out what happened.

"Come on then, the sooner we go sleep, the sooner I get to go see the water!"

Harry didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed when Severus reverted to childish enthusiasm. Ever since their conversation about boys liking boys, Harry had been concerned that Severus would be uncomfortable with him, but it seemed he didn't have to worry about that. There had been surprisingly little awkwardness between them, and while Severus could definitely revert to Snape-like sarcasm at times, it didn't have the biting quality of his adult self.

The hand gripping his was surprisingly strong and Harry visually reassessed Severus' growth. Neither of them knew exactly how old Severus was physically, as his memories remained a jumbled mix, but Harry thought he must be at least eleven, if not older. It was hard to miss the wisps of hair that had sprouted at Severus' groin and under his arms, which seemed to appear overnight.

Harry had even brewed an analgesic potion for Severus last week, when he had complained about aching joints from the re-aging. Severus had seemed taken aback that Harry was brewing something for him, scowling as he saw Harry following the Advanced Potion Making text book he'd retrieved from the Room of Requirement. When Severus had asked about the book, Harry had told him about the Half-Blood Prince without mentioning who exactly that author was. Severus had taken over the brewing as Harry spoke, scowl deepening.

"Sounds like you really liked this bloke," Severus said as he watched the small cauldron simmer. "Did you ever kiss him?"

"No! It wasn't like that, the book is old, and it was…" Harry sputtered.

Severus had looked at him, eyes intense as they studied his face. "It sounds like you would have liked to, though."

Harry had been speechless, his mind spinning as Severus had changed the subject to the potion they were making. Hermione had accused him of being obsessed with the Prince in sixth year and even Ron seemed to think he had some kind of deeper feelings then, too.

You did.

The truth of the thought hit Harry square in the chest, taking his breath away as he followed Severus into the bedroom. Was it a crush that he'd developed for the Prince then, and that he still felt know, even knowing who the Prince was? Harry truthfully wasn't sure, having experienced so little love in his life. He'd thought he was in love with Cho Chang, but realized now that it had been mere infatuation. Ginny was nice, but Harry had never felt aroused when he had kissed her. She was more like a little sister than a love interest, but Harry knew that she and Mrs. Weasley had expected them to become a couple.

Harry went through the motions of getting ready for bed, remembering Severus as he stirred the potion with precise moves, as if tapping into to his adult knowledge; Harry had imagined the adult Snape, superimposing his Prince over the vision and was shocked to find his body tightening. He'd never even thought about another guy in that way before! The closest Harry had come to sex was his own hand and the dreams he'd had of a slender, dark-haired lover.

"Harry?" Severus' voice carried through from the bedroom.

Harry started, suddenly acutely aware that he was now hard. "I'm just going to take a quick shower."

Easing the door shut, Harry stripped off his pants and turned on the water. Not waiting for it to warm up, Harry slid underneath, sighing as the coolness washed over him, but it didn't do anything to assuage the heat in his groin. Grabbing the soap, Harry lathered his hands as the water warmed, flowing over his shoulders and chest. Bracing his back against the tile wall, Harry curled his hand around his cock, biting his cheek to keep from groaning as he began to fist it.

Closing his eyes tightly, Harry wasn't surprised when the image of the adult Severus appeared before him, his black teaching robes flaring around him. The intense dark eyes seemed to look straight through Harry and clear to his soul. Harry squeezed tighter as he imagined it was Severus' hand around him and envisioned being pinned against the wall, kissed breathless.

Reaching behind him, Harry circled his anus with a soapy fingertip, astounded at how arousing it felt. He slid the tip of his finger inside him, feeling the tightness and the heat, fantasizing that it was Severus as he slowly pressed it deeper. His hand flew up and down his prick as Harry moved his finger in and out.

"Oh fuck," he hissed, "Ssseverus!"

The climax slammed into him, harder than any he'd ever experienced and Harry sagged against the wall, allowing the water the wash away the evidence. At least he could crawl into bed without embarrassing himself now.

~~~*~*~~~

Severus closed the door silently, wiping ejaculate off his hand as he dove back into bed. Curling on his side, Severus struggled to calm his breathing. The sight of Harry wanking in the shower had been the most arousing thing Severus could ever remember seeing and he'd been unable to resist stroking his own prick. Then, to hear Harry call out Severus' name as he came had done Severus in.

It had felt awkward at first, stroking himself, as Severus hadn't attempted it before this. His body was aging at an erratic rate, but he was definitely experiencing puberty, as he had originally done at twelve, and thankfully, this time, without the spots he so dreaded. Severus had also found that his memories were more distinct and more accessible now. In some ways that made things easier, as with brewing the potion Harry had done for him and that Severus identified immediately by shade and aroma. On the other hand, the textbook that Harry had been so protective of had sparked a memory that Severus couldn't quite grasp and that had frustrated him.

The only good thing had been Harry's obvious feelings for his Half-Blood Prince, a name Severus had recognized two days after their conversation. The elation he'd felt had been tempered by the appearance of Granger, who Severus immediately pegged as someone who irritated him. This observation was independent of any memory that might have been brought forth by her lecturing tone. While Severus had a good grasp on his memories, he felt, and could fill in the hazy spots, he suspected that he'd been a bastard to Harry as well as Granger when he interacted with them.

Yet, Harry was kind and caring and had never once been impatient or raised his voice in anger. Had the reverse been the case, and Severus had been forced to care for a de-aged Harry, he couldn't say that he'd have done the same. His fingertips brushed over the skin of his unmarked left forearm, hoping that he was able to attain his true age again without the stain of the worst mistake of his life. Whether because of Harry's powerful healing spell or his defeat of the Dark Lord, it appeared that the Dark Mark was truly gone, but Severus would know for certain soon, as he was approaching the physical age when he had been Marked.

Hearing the door to the bathroom open slowly, Severus feigned sleep, keeping his breathing slow and even. Harry slid in beside him, the bed in this cottage no bigger than the four-posters at Hogwarts, and Severus smiled as Harry lined himself up behind him. With a soft sigh, Harry buried his nose in Severus' hair.

"Look what you've done to me," Harry whispered, softly kissing his head. "Please don't hate me when you remember."

I won't, Harry, I promise. Severus thought as he listened to Harry's breath become deep and regular.

The ocean was amazing, although Severus wasn't at all enamored of the sand or its ability to find its way into every crack and crevice of the body. Harry had laughed at him, but spelled the sand away before they went inside each evening. It was comfortable living in the cottage with Harry, even though they had to do some of the cooking and clean-up. Harry's house-elf still popped in to help, even though Harry seemed to like taking care of Severus himself.

It had been particularly emotional the day after their arrival, when Harry had silently returned Severus' wand. There had been no admonishments, no threats of repercussions when Harry had carefully handed it to him. Both knew of the dangers of Severus casting any spell, with his status still under deliberation by the Wizengamot, but Severus was far from the embittered, angry boy that he'd been when he'd been thirteen the first time. The emotion that Severus had felt when he'd closed his hand around that wand had been intense and indescribable, rendering him speechless. Harry had squeezed his shoulder and then left him alone with his thoughts.

Through subtle and careful questioning, Severus was able to confirm a snippet of conversation that he'd overheard when Granger was there – Harry's birthday was at the end of July. Surprisingly, Harry himself had remained quiet about his approaching day, something that Severus would never have believed. Any other teenager would have planned to be the focal point of some type of celebration, something that Severus knew the Potter he'd been in Hogwarts with would have gloated about.

Although only a week away, Severus knew just want he wanted to do. Harry probably wouldn't agree, but Severus was prepared to deal with that when the time came. It seemed appropriate to give a special gift to Harry, especially in light of how his emotions had evolved in their time together and how Severus had come to feel about Harry. Having no intention of letting Harry go, ever, Severus wanted to use his gift to begin his campaign to have Harry transition into thinking of him as an adult.

By the night before Harry's birthday, Severus was thrilled to find he'd grown almost another inch, feeling confident that he had progressed to around fourteen years of age. He slid into bed after Harry, settling against him as had become their custom. Harry threw an arm over his waist and sighed.

"Good night, Severus."

"Night, Harry," Severus murmured, not daring to close his eyes, knowing he'd only have to wait an hour or so.

Having thought it through, Severus knew that Harry would be upset, thinking he was too young to be having sex of any kind, but he was forging ahead. It took all of Severus' where for all to stay relaxed and still while Harry settled into sleep. Severus was determined to launch his gift just before midnight, trying to time it to coincide with the arrival of his birthday.

The hand at his waist shifted and Severus waited several long minutes before stroking Harry's fingers with his own. When there was no reaction, he gently lifted the hand and slid out from under it. Slowly moving down the bed, Severus' body tightened in anticipation. He knew he hadn't had a lover in some time, his responsibilities in the recent years too heavy for any more than a fleeting moment of pleasure at his own hand. Despite the disuse of his skills, Severus planned to make this as memorable as possible for what he believed would be Harry's first sexual experience.

Taking it slowly, Severus eased Harry onto his back and peeled Harry's pants over his hips. Harry shifted and Severus froze, waiting until Harry quieted again to move into position between his thighs. Severus buried his nose in the lush curls at the juncture of Harry's legs, breathing deeply of the unique scent. He traced over the flaccid cock with the tip of his tongue, before concentrating of the tip. Severus sucked the entire prick into his mouth, coaxing it into hardness, gently at first and then stronger as it hardened.

Fingers slid into his hair, and Severus heard a low moan as he shifted to his knees, one hand wrapping around the base of Harry's prick as he bobbed his head. It didn’t take long for Harry to start thrusting up into his mouth and Severus took him as deeply as he could. Shouting his name, Harry stiffened, filling Severus' mouth with his release.

~~~*~*~~~

Harry groaned, throwing his arm over his eyes, disgusted with himself. How could he have allowed himself to be aroused and sucked off by an adolescent boy? He felt Severus rub against his leg, had felt the warmth as he'd brought himself off on Harry, and it had felt amazing. Severus shifted, crawling up his body until a weight settled on his chest.

"Severus…" Harry didn't even know how to put what he had to say into words.

"I won't apologize." Severus' voice was pitched low, sounding more like his adult self, as he whispered hotly in Harry's ear.

Harry raised his head, moving his arm. "I'm not…we can't do this – you're too young…"

"Only in body," Severus said huskily. "Inside I am a 38-year-old wizard with full knowledge of carnal relations."

Harry opened his mouth to protest, only to have Severus silence him with a kiss. This wasn't like any other kiss he'd ever experienced. Warm lips nibbled his, the tip of Severus' tongue darting out to taste him and Harry couldn’t help but groan. Severus pressed the advantage, his tongue darting into Harry's mouth and stroking against his. The sensual intimacy of the act made Harry's breath catch in his chest as he tentatively responded in kind.

Changing the angle of his head, Severus tucked his nose into Harry's cheek and Harry threaded his fingers into Severus' silky hair as he kissed back. Incredibly arousing, the kiss seemed to go on and on, Harry's body hardening as Severus nipped at his bottom lip and then sucked on his tongue. Harry could feel Severus' prick pressed against his, only Severus' pants keeping their cocks from touching, skin to skin. Between the unexpected sensations of being thoroughly kissed and the delicious friction between them, Harry couldn't help the climax that ripped through him. In his post-coital haze, Harry was glad as Severus stiffened and he felt the warmth between them.

With a sleepy wave of his hand, Harry cast a cleaning spell before settling Severus against him.

"Happy birthday, Harry," Severus whispered into his throat.

Harry was tempted to tell him that this was already the best birthday he'd ever had, but he could feel Severus relax against him in sleep. It took Harry longer to find sleep, as his mind swirled with what had happened. He'd not been particularly attracted to blokes in the past, but, in truth, Harry hadn't been attracted to girls, either. It had seemed like the right thing to imagine himself imagine himself in love with Ginny Weasley, as Harry had loved her in much the same way that he loved Hermione. None of the kisses they had shared had aroused him like the one he'd just shared with Severus.

Cho Chang was a different story. She had been mysterious, someone he'd admired for her intelligence and Quidditch skills. There had been something about her that had pulled Harry to her, yet he hadn't been aroused at all by her kiss and wasn't disappointed when they went their separate ways. It had almost given him a sense of relief, he remembered guiltily, when Cho had drifted away.

It struck him suddenly, that Harry's first crush had looked remarkably like Severus did at his current age. Severus stirred and Harry almost moaned at the feel of skin sliding on skin. Never had Harry felt like this about anyone before and he had to wonder exactly when he had started to fancy Snape. His Half-Blood Prince had been an obsession through his sixth year, and was the first indication he had, in hindsight, that he might prefer his own sex.

At some point, Harry managed to drift into sleep, his dreams involving a dark-haired man in black robes making him groan with pleasure. Severus woke him with a kiss in the morning, scampering out of bed as Harry was still blinking the sleep out of his eyes. Stretching, Harry yawned as he got up, padding to the table in his swimsuit, sunshine filling the open kitchen through the large windows that looked out over the beach.

There was evidence of house-elf collusion with Hermione and Severus, as a small stack of presents stood on the table, along with the cards that usually arrived with owls at midnight. Kreacher had left breakfast for them and an unusually animated Severus seemed unable to sit still as they ate. The fresh fruit was delicious as were pancakes and rashers that had become Severus' favorite breakfast.

"Come on, Harry, open your presents!"

Even as he could see the adult in Severus, Harry loved the glimpses of the child Severus had been over the past weeks. It was more fun for Harry to watch how animated Severus was as he unwrapped the few packages, not bothering to look at the title of the book Hermione had given him as he moved on. Ron had sent sweets, George a box of WWW products, and Ginny a pair of knitted socks. One package, wrapped simply in dark green parchment, turned out to be a satchel of potions ingredients and carefully hand-written instructions.

"It's a special potion for you to make," Severus told him, a sly look on his face. "I'll even help you!"

"Thank you." Harry smiled, setting the present aside as Severus started towards the door, knowing there would be time later for brewing.

Gathering the needed supplies, Harry followed Severus out of the cottage and across the short strip of sand to the water, the sun warm on his shoulders. A breeze blew across the dark blue waves towards them, carrying a scent that Harry had discovered belonged solely to the seashore. Birds rode the air currents overhead, as the waves crested foamy white, crashing along a ledge of dark rock and fanning out onto the warm sand. It was everything that Harry had ever imagined the ocean would be.

Setting the basket that Kreacher had prepared on the sand, Harry closed his hand around Severus' arm before he could head for the water, and handed him the potion Hermione had sent that would prevent their skin from becoming sunburned. With a grimace, Severus took the potion and Harry nearly gagged on his own, wondering if Hermione had made it that disgusting on purpose. He spread the blanket they had brought as Severus pulled his shirt off and shifted from foot to foot as he waited for Harry. Kicking off his trainers, Harry pulled his shirt off and led the way down to the edge of the water.

The coolness of the water surprised him, but Harry wasn't deterred by it. Neither he nor Severus had ever been taught to swim, but he had learned a few things from his various water-related adventures. With a confidence he didn't really feel, Harry stepped into the waves washing up over his feet. Severus followed him and soon they were paddling about in a relatively sheltered area close to the sand. Harry wasn't sure they were even doing it right, but it propelled them back and forth through the swell, making Severus happy.

It was amazing how easy it was to do wandless Drying Charms and subtle de-sanding spells, Harry thought cheerfully as the day ended and they headed back to the cottage. It had been a wonderful day, with dinner waiting on the table for them when Harry got out of the shower, complete with a small cake and eighteen miniature candles. All Harry's favorites were there and he found that running around the beach had given him a ravenous appetite. Severus came in after his shower, clad in trousers and a long shirt.

Harry glanced at him quizzically.

"I thought you wanted to brew your birthday potion." Severus slouched in the chair as his eyes roamed over Harry's brief shorts and pullover.

"I do!" Harry exclaimed, not willing to admit he'd forgotten. "We can do it after dinner."

"You'll change into appropriate clothing." Severus arched an eyebrow at him and Harry barely contained a snort of amusement.

"Yes, Professor."

Dinner was delicious and Harry had thought longingly of the comfortable couch as he changed into denims and a button-down shirt. There was a moment of apprehension when he stepped out of the bedroom to see that Severus had brought out the small cauldron from the cupboard and had set it up in the kitchen to brew. As Severus laid out the ingredients he'd given to Harry that morning in a precise order, Harry pictured him in the black cutaway robes that his adult-self favored. The more Severus aged, the more Harry expected him to revert to the Snape he remembered.

"I'm ready when you are." Severus looked at him expectantly.

Harry glanced down at the parchment of instructions and the sight of the familiar spiky script bolstered his confidence. It was reminiscent of his Advanced Potions test and Harry found himself smiling as he started to follow the instructions. Severus added water to the cauldron as Harry diced the pickled Murtlap tentacles. Even though he'd looked over the ingredients, Harry was embarrassed to admit that he didn't have any idea what they were making. Almond oil, cocoa butter, Murtlap, and several herbs that Harry didn't recognize.

"Whenever you are done mangling the Murtlap, I'd appreciate it if you would light the fire."

The derisive tone brought a grin to Harry's face, knowing that he was properly preparing the tentacles. Wiping his hand on a towel, Harry reached for his wand and flicked it towards the cauldron. A flame sputtered underneath as Severus moved to stand at Harry's shoulder as he looked over the directions. They worked together well, and there was an ease to their interaction that Harry knew would have never been possible in any previous situation. Severus was quick-witted and sardonic, making Harry laugh with his dry humor as they worked.

The potion turned out to be a thick gel with a light aroma of almonds. Harry couldn't help looking at Severus quizzically as he decanted it into several large phials to cool.

Severus took pity on him. "It is a personal lubricant," he stated matter–of-factly. "It can be used for wanking or in preparation for…" his voice dropped an octave,"…shagging."

Harry stared at him, his prick twitching just hearing the word "shagging". An image of his Half-Blood Prince slowly thrusting into him appeared in his mind, knowing it would feel even better than his own fingers. Severus moved closer, pressing Harry against the counter, eyes hooded as they watched his face. Taking Harry's hand, Severus spread some of the gel on his index finger, curling his palm around it and sliding it up and down.

"See how smooth and silky it feels," Severus purred, his lips against Harry's ear. "Let me show you how it feels elsewhere."

His cock hardened as the blood pooled in Harry's groin and he bit his tongue to keep from moaning. Severus was almost as tall as he was now and it seemed natural to turn his head, dragging his lips across Severus' jaw to his mouth.

"I won't do anything you don't want," Severus whispered against his lips.

Harry answered by kissing him hungrily, banishing the annoying voice in his head that berated him for his desires. Wrapping his arms around Severus, Harry followed as he walked backwards towards the bedroom, shedding clothing as they went. All Harry could think of at that point was the warmth of Severus' skin, and throbbing of his cock. Hands stroked his back, dropping to massage his arse, helping to push his jeans over his hips.

By the time they fell onto the bed, Harry's arousal was at a fever pitch and he was more than happy to obey the instructions to get on his hands and knees. His body quivered in anticipation, but Harry almost climaxed instantly when he felt Severus' hands spread his arse cheeks and his nose trace the crease. The tentative lap of a tongue made him gasp and distracted him from the slick finger that pressed into his anus. Only the burn kept him from embarrassing himself and Harry concentrated on delicious sensations Severus' tongue was creating to counter the strangeness of someone else's finger inside him.

"Doesn't that feel good, cool and slick?" Severus' breath was hot on his cheek as a second finger joined the first.

"Fuck, yes!" Harry moaned, pushing back against them. "Ssseverus!"

Severus bit him lightly, groaning. "Merlin, Harry, I love it when you talk like that!"

You like Parseltongue, Harry hissed softly.

Severus' fingers jerked inside him, giving Harry his answer, and he grinned wickedly. Then fuck me, Severus, hard and fast as I've fantasized my Prince would!

~~~*~*~~~

Severus bit his lip as the sibilant sounds enflamed him. His cock was so hard it ached, and while his arousal was that of a man, he knew his teenaged body wouldn't last more than one or two thrusts. Concentrating on stretching Harry fully as he added a third finger, Severus was glad that he hadn't quite attained his adult size, knowing it would be less painful for Harry. Crooking his finger, Severus rubbed over the nub of Harry's prostate, and was rewarded as Harry convulsed with a yelp.

"Oh, fuck, do that again!" Harry pleaded, rocking back. "Please!"

Severus brushed the nub lightly, teasing Harry. "I can do it with my finger, but it would be so much better if I did it with my cock."

"Yes! Please, Severus!" Harry was panting, his inner muscles clenching around Severus' fingers.

Continuing to teasingly stroke Harry's prostate, Severus scooped more of the lube they brewed and spread it gingerly on his cock. Bringing Harry to the brink again, Severus removed his fingers and pressed into him. The tip of his cock popped through guardian muscles with little trouble and Severus gasped at the tightness and heat surrounding him. He froze, his legs quivering as he waited for Harry to adjust to him, unprepared when Harry thrust back against him.

"Severus!"

Harry's voice was breathless, needy, and Severus pulled back slightly before fully sheathing himself. Snapping his hips back, Severus changed his angle and thrust forward. On the third stroke, the yelp from Harry told him he'd hit the right spot and Severus concentrated on hitting it again as he felt his balls draw up. Harry hissed, his muscles clamping around Severus as he buried his cock deep, filling Harry with his release, before collapsing over Harry's back.

Somehow, Harry managed to maneuver them around in bed and Severus felt the tingle of magic wash over him. Smiling, Severus allowed himself to be drawn close, burying his face in Harry's warm throat.

"I'm damned to the seventh level of Hades," Harry muttered, arms tightening. "But it is so worth it."

Snorting, Severus relaxed completely, secure in the knowledge that Harry would keep him safe. "I'm sure you'll have plenty of company."

The morning had them up with the sun, a pattern that their days seemed to settle into. Early breakfast and the morning spent in the water, back to the cottage for lunch, and an afternoon spent reading, brewing, or in quiet conversation. The nights were incredible, filled with teaching Harry how one man can pleasure another. Harry hadn't been comfortable with intercourse again, but on every other level, he was the most responsive lover that Severus had ever had.

A week after Harry's birthday, Severus woke up before dawn with a painful cramp in one thigh. Recognizing it immediately as the sign of an aging spurt, Severus slid out of bed and limped to the bathroom where the analgesic potion was stored. The cramp eased off within minutes and Severus straightened up, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Leaning closer, Severus could see that he'd aged by several years, looking much as he did when he left Hogwarts for his Potions Apprenticeship at eighteen.

A slow, wicked smile curved his lips as Severus made his way back to bed. Now that they were the same age, Harry couldn't object to them shagging. Sliding into bed, Severus was inordinately pleased to find that he was now taller than Harry and able to cradle his lover to his chest comfortably. Never before had Severus felt as content as he did in this quiet place with Harry, yet he knew the idyllic time was bound to end. The closer he came to his actual age, the more he would have to admit remembering, and Severus was certain it would change what Harry felt for him.

It was late when he awoke, the bed next to him empty, and Severus' heart constricted. The clattering of cutlery in the kitchen reassured him, and Severus let out a breath as he got up. Stretching, Severus was delighted to finally be back in his adult body and a sly smile twitched at the corners of his mouth as his mind provided him with a perfect way to celebrate.

Padding across the room, Severus went to the bathroom and cleaned his teeth. After a moment of hesitation, Severus stripped off his sleeping pants and walked out of the bedroom. Harry was busy at the counter, his back to Severus as he approached.

"Good morning! I'll have breakfast on the table in a shake."

Severus stopped a short distance away, his body already stirring as he looked at Harry, clad only in low-slung shorts.

"I was thinking more like breakfast in bed," Severus said huskily.

~~~*~*~~~

Harry looked up from the toast he was buttering, Severus' low voice flowing over him like a caress. His eyes widened as he found he had to look up, an obvious growth spurt overnight had Severus now standing taller than he was. A feeling of dread went through him as his eyes skimmed down the lean body, unknowingly becoming hungry as they took in Severus' half-hard prick. Definitely, a growth spurt, Harry thought idly as he allowed Severus to take the knife from his hand and lead him back to the bedroom.

Severus pressed him back against the pillows, his shorts disappearing somewhere along the way. Kissing him hungrily, Severus demanded a response that Harry was happy to give. Hands roamed his body, stroking and tweaking. Harry arched up, loving this sure, confident lover, loving Severus. His gasp of realization was lost in devouring kiss, as Severus nudged his legs apart with his knee. A slick fingertip traced his erection, ghosting over his balls to press into him. Harry threaded his fingers into Severus' hair, arching as those fingers worked to quickly stretch him. He moved his hips, trying to direct their movements and Severus laughed softly against his lips as he pulled back slightly.

"Lift your hips."

Harry complied and Severus shoved a pillow underneath him, pushing Harry's thighs towards his chest. Feeling the blunt head press into him, Harry eagerly jerked his hips upward, gasping at the burn of penetration as Severus slid into him.

"Impatient git!" Severus growled, holding his position.

Harry took short breaths, trying to ease the discomfort. As the pain subsided, he began to move his hips encouragingly and with a moan, Severus began to make shallow thrusts. Shifting slightly, Severus brushed his prostate and Harry cried out with pleasure, the movement causing his prick to rub against Severus' abdomen. Severus thrust deep and Harry clenched around him, encouraging him. With cry, Severus pressed his thighs forward even further, thrusting hard and fast, sending jolts of pleasure through him. Harry clamped down even harder as he felt his climax rip through him, coating both their bellies. Two more strokes and Severus stiffened, Harry feeling the warmth filling him.

Severus straightened out his legs before slumping forward across Harry's chest. Welcoming the weight, Harry wrapped his arms around the now older teenager and pressed a kiss to his temple, his heart still pounding. It was several long minutes before Harry felt Severus stir and then move away. He grimaced at the mess when they pulled apart, skin sticky with semen.

With a grin, Harry grabbed his shorts. "Race you to the water!"

Snagging a piece of toast as they went through the kitchen, Harry ran down to the water, holding his toast high as he splashed in up to his chest. Severus was a few steps behind him on the deserted beach and Harry found his eyes following the lean line of his body. Despite the re-aging that Severus had experienced overnight, he didn't seem upset with Harry, quite the opposite actually. Harry smiled as he ate his toast with one hand and washed off his front with the other, trying to put his apprehension to the back of his mind.

It became apparent over the next ten days that Severus was re-aging every time he slept, and as he moved into his mid-twenties, Harry grew more uneasy with each day. Severus' demeanor towards him didn't change and the casual relationship they had fallen into continued, but Harry knew that at some point, it would. Every time Harry had tried to bring the subject up, Severus seemed to distract him with kisses which led to other, more pleasant activities.

As the month progressed, Harry knew he was going to have to make a final decision about going back to Hogwarts. He had lost his desire to become an Auror, but wasn't sure which direction to go in and completing his studies would give him time to decide. An owl from Kingsley had brought the news that the Wizengamot had reviewed the evidence of Severus' true role in the war and they would hand down a ruling by the end of the month. His future seemed secure at Hogwarts if he was cleared, but Harry didn't ask, glad that Severus didn't question him about what charges he was being cleared of.

During an afternoon in late August, the weather turned stormy and they retreated inside to read. Harry sat at the end of the couch, Severus lying with his head in Harry's lap. One hand stroked through Severus' hair as Harry read through an advanced Transfiguration textbook. Magical theory was a fascinating subject for Harry, especially when he considered the way his magic seemed to be so influenced by Harry's emotions. The fact that something like the Elder Wand could amplify the magic of its owner seemed to be contrary to the way his feeling intensified Harry's magic. Yet, using that wand had made Harry feel like he could do anything, like the impossible task of repairing his wand with a simple Reparo.

In the paragraph Harry was reading was a spell that the author suggested be used to test his theory, but offered no explanation as to what it did or how it should be cast. Harry snorted derisively.

"What?" Severus asked, eyes still on his own book.

"There is a spell here that I'm supposed to try, but it doesn't tell me what the spell does." Harry told him. "I tried that once before and it didn't turn out so well."

"Yes, I'm sure Draco Malfoy would agree with that summation."

Harry froze as the stillness around them became brittle and he could feel his heart beating in his throat. "You…remember."

Closing the book in his hands quietly, Severus set it down on the low table in front of them without looking, his eyes riveted on Harry's face. Sitting up, Severus turned and rose to his knees, plucking the book from Harry's hand and the glasses from his face.

"I seem to be remembering people and incidents randomly, as if the memories have been there all along but I haven't had reason to access them." Severus moved to straddle him and leaned in close. "I can even remember some of my more erotic fantasies…"

Harry shivered, offering his lips for the kiss he knew was coming, pushing to the back of his mind the unsettled feelings he had. Frantic hands and nimble fingers soon had them both naked and Harry panted, his prick rubbing against Severus with delicious friction.

"No!" Severus gasped, pushing back with a hand on Harry's chest. "Summon the lube!"

Harry obeyed silently without a second thought, the phial of lube slapping into his hand. His hand shaking with arousal, Harry tried to get the stopper out and only succeeded in spilling the gel onto both of their hands. Setting the lube to the side, Severus grabbed his hand, drawing it down to his arse.

"Help me," Severus growled, lifting up enough to slide a finger slowly into himself.

Hesitantly, Harry pushed his slicked index finger in beside Severus' finger, the heat and tightness making him groan. "Fuck, Severus!"

"That would be the idea," Severus said, moving his finger in and out, his other hand gripping Harry's shoulders so he could cant his hips towards them.

Harry copied his movements, fascinated by the sight of the both their fingers disappearing into Severus' hole. He added a second finger without being told, searching around for Severus' pleasure point, gratified by the hiss Severus let out when he found it. Severus' breath was ragged by the time he grabbed Harry's wrist and pulled his hand away.

"Enough," he gasped, sloppily rubbing the lube over Harry's cock.

Holding himself perfectly still, Harry could barely breathe as Severus positioned himself and slowly sank onto his cock. The incredible tightness and sheer heat almost had Harry spilling himself prematurely. Severus leaned closer, nipping sharply at Harry's bottom lip, before kissing him hungrily.

"Don't think about it!" Severus told Harry, slowly rocking against him. "I want your full concentration on me."

Harry tilted his head back slightly, his eyes watching the expressions that flicked across Severus' face as he moved back and forth, rising up and down, as he pleasured both of them. One hand wrapped around Harry's, entwining their fingers, and the other still gripped his shoulder. Their eyes locked together as Severus' muscles clenched rhythmically around Harry. Feeling his climax coiling tightly in his abdomen, Harry jerked his hips upwards, thrusting as deeply as he could.

"Oh, yessss," Harry hissed. Severus!

Severus reached between them, fisting his cock with their joined hands as Harry flooded Severus with his release. Gasping, Severus spurted between them, coating their hands. Without thinking, Harry drew their hands up to his mouth, licking their fingers clean. Severus' eyes widened as he watched, curling his hand around Harry's cheek as he leaned in to kiss Harry.

A flick of his wand cleaned them up and Severus drew Harry down on to the couch, where Harry settled against his chest. One arm looped around his waist and the other carded through his hair. Closing his eyes, Harry tried to shut down the thoughts that were trying to surface again.

"Stop thinking so hard," Severus said softly. "When and what I might have remembered has little bearing on what we are enjoying here. Any habits I have found questionable in the past have been put into a new perspective in the past months."

Relief washed over him and Harry was able to relax fully. "You could at least let me know, you git."

Severus sighed sleepily. "I'll endeavor to advise you in the future."

Harry lay with his face nestled Severus' throat, feeling both their hearts beat as he pressed Severus' chest. It was unsettling that Severus hadn't told him that he'd remembered, but he certainly didn't act like he still had the hatred he'd once felt for Harry. Perhaps this meant that Severus was content to put the past behind them and move forward, which Harry was hoping for. Why else would Severus still be there with him?

Clinging to that belief, Harry enjoyed their time at the cottage, knowing it would have to end soon. Severus didn't discuss his memory as the last week of August arrived, but became increasingly quiet as he aged. The more overt playfulness had ceased when they had become lovers, and while they still spent time in the ocean, more often than not, Severus brewed in the afternoons as Harry revised with his sixth-year textbooks. Their silent companionship was comfortable and not strained, which Harry took as a good sign.

Their more intimate relationship was incredible. Harry found that he loved the taste of Severus' cock almost as much almost as his kisses. While Harry enjoyed when he occasionally topped, the feeling of Severus in him, filling him, was incredible. He might not have had any previous experience with sex, but the passion and depth of feeling that Harry felt every time Severus touched him gave mind to every description Harry had ever heard of love.

It was inevitable that their idyllic interlude would have to end. Harry knew that, but he dreaded the feeling that the world they had created would disappear in the harsh light of reality. The fact that Severus had not immediately left once he regained most of his memories had reassured Harry. Until the morning Harry woke up to find himself alone in bed and a strange silence in the cottage.

With a feeling of apprehension, Harry slid out of bed, dressing quickly. When he stepped into the great room, his eyes immediately found Severus, clad in familiar black robes, standing in front of the window. Kreacher had undoubtedly brought the robes along with the breakfast that sat, untouched, on the table. As Severus turned towards him, Harry's heart sank as he took in the stoic expression on the now completely re-aged face and wand in his hand.

Harry swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Severus?"

~~~*~*~~~

The look on Harry's face was almost Severus' undoing, but he hardened his resolve, knowing in the end it would be the best for all of them. When the intense burst of heat had awakened him early that morning, Severus had known instantly the significance of it – conception. It was the classic description of fetal implantation and had occurred within a reasonable timeframe after Harry had topped, something he seemed to have an innate talent for. Male pregnancy was very rare, but if the wizards were exceptionally powerful and compatible, it was achievable.

And Severus should have known, with Harry involved, they would achieve it. The burst of magic that signaled the fetal implantation had also jolted his body back to his true age and Severus knew it was time to make a clean break. He didn't want Harry sacrificing his happiness out of a misplaced feeling of responsibility, despite what his possessive, shattered heart would prefer. On the other hand, Severus needed to make sure that he didn't crush Harry by just disappearing as he knew the young man would be distraught by his perceived inadequacies.

"Harry," Severus intoned quietly. "I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye."

"You're leaving?" Harry looked stricken. "I thought you promised not to…"

"I do NOT hate you, on the contrary, I have enjoyed our little interlude immensely," Severus said carefully, striving for a casual tone. "You have my gratitude for taking such good care of me, but it is time to return to reality."

His heart broke at the devastated look on Harry's face, but Severus pressed on, knowing a clean break was the best.

"I'll be more than happy to transfer the appropriate amount of Galleons into your Gringotts account in order to cover any of the expenses you incurred during my re-aging…"

"No!" Harry's voice was sharp and Severus was happy to see the spark of anger in the depths of the green eyes. "Don't you dare!"

Severus inclined his head, his breath constricting painfully in his chest and his stomach churning. "As you wish."

Unable to stop himself, Severus reached out slowly, cupping Harry's face, and leaned in to kiss him one last time, before Apparating away.

~~~*~*~~~

Harry stared at the spot where Severus had stood for a long time, heart feeling like it had been ripped in two. He couldn't believe that Severus was simply walking away from the relationship that they had worked so hard to establish, from him. A single tear escaped and slipped down his cheek as he tortured himself with Severus' last words. Did he really see the time they spent together over the last three months as nothing more than an interlude?

His hand went to his lips as he remembered Severus' kiss, fingers tracing the slight dampness that was left there. If Severus felt their relationship was so casual, why had he kissed him like that? It certainly hadn't felt like a goodbye kiss to Harry. Why would Severus feel the need to push Harry away after what they had shared?

Harry narrowed his eyes as he thought back over everything he'd learned about Severus Snape. This was the same man who had been so possessive of his mother's memories and not above using Slytherin cunning to protect Harry from himself. For some reason Severus believed Harry would be better off without him or would reject him, why Harry couldn't fathom. The painful ache in his chest eased as his anger built.

Harry grabbed his Invisibility Cloak and Apparated to Hogsmeade.

~~~*~*~~~

"So you used the boy?" Minerva accused, clearly aghast at what she was hearing as the afternoon sun filled the Headmaster's office where they sat.

Severus snorted bitterly, pain clenching at his heart. "Not at all, Minerva, I went with what felt the safest initially, and Harry, Potter, was someone I knew instinctively would protect me. I may not have admitted what I remembered or when, but I never lied to him."

"Yet, here you are, pregnant with Harry's child and refusing to tell him!"

The old tabby gave him a look designed to cow a lesser man and Severus could feel his heart palpitate. "I'm giving him the opportunity to make his own choices without projecting undue pressure that would influence his decision!"

"Really?" Minerva looked at him over the rim of her teacup. "That sounds like the rationale Albus always tried to use when he imparted his truth; about everything from the Harry's 'normal' childhood to your role in his own death."

Severus flinched at the biting truth behind her words. "He's too young and too…noble, Minerva, he needs the chance to experience life before he settles to parenthood and…me."

"You're counting on Harry's forgiving manner, but in this situation, you'll be sorry, Severus. Harry won't forgive you for taking away the family he so desires." Minerva set her cup in the saucer. "And if you can't see how deeply in love he is with you, then you are an idiot, Severus Snape, and don't deserve him anyway."

His head snapped up. "He only believes himself in love with me, Minerva! What will happen when his infatuation turns to bitterness and anger?"

Minerva smiled slightly, reaching over to pat Severus' arm. "You love him," she said simply, the approval in her voice touching. "I must confess that I am delighted and certainly hope you make the right choice, as this love would suit you both."

She stood to leave. "Seek Harry out and tell him, Severus. Then, accord him the opportunity of making the decision himself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Severus watched as Minerva walked out the door, closing it silently behind her. There was finality to the snick of the latch and Severus closed his eyes against the despair that welled up in him. He knew that Minerva was right, but he'd already done the damage, sending Harry off as he had thinking that Severus had ill-used him. It seemed like the damage he'd done was certainly irreparable, much like the damage he'd done to Lily all those years ago. With his child's grandmother, he thought with a heavy heart, dropping his head into his hands.

A rustle of cloth brought his head up with a snap, and Severus' breath caught in his chest as he saw Harry draping the Invisibility Cloak over the arm of the chair Minerva had just vacated. Severus couldn't decipher the expression on Harry's face, but there wasn’t the anger he would have thought would be present. Then it dawned on Severus, pain twisting his heart, that the look was disappointment.

"Is it true?" Harry demanded in a harsh voice.

"That I minimized the significance of our time together to push you away? Yes, it's true." Severus took a breath, but didn't move from his chair. "Did I fail to tell you that I was carrying your child or that I might…have deeper feelings? Yes…"

"And?" Harry held himself as if expecting a blow.

"I did, I am, and I do," Severus said, gripping the arms of the chair. "I would not have anyone who felt forced by duty to stay at my side."

"And I wouldn't want anyone who didn't feel I was incapable of making my own decisions!" Harry took a half step towards him. "Bloody hell, Severus! I thought we'd made some progress in trusting each other over the past three months! You completely trusted me with your physical welfare, but you can't trust me to be as careful with your emotional welfare!"

Severus flinched slightly, but knew Harry would catch it. "You are as needy, as inexperienced as I am when it comes to…this!"

"Just because I wasn't ever shown any love, doesn't mean I don't know how to love," Harry yelled. "I have enough love for both of us, but you aren't even willing to give us a chance, to give me a chance to prove it!"

Severus was on his feet, anger surging unexpectedly. "It's not you that I question, you self-centered idiot, it’s me! What if I don't have the capacity to love unconditionally, or can't hold onto…" He turned abruptly, knowing he'd exposed too much of himself.

"Then you are an idiot," Harry snapped, "because I already love you more than my own life!"

Severus opened his mouth to return a scathing retort, but Harry was there and fisting his hands in the front of Severus' robes and kissing him fiercely. The anger and uncertainty seemed to dissolve as Severus wrapped his arms around Harry, taking over the kiss, gentling it into one of unspoken feelings and promises. It felt right, these ties that seemed to bind them together, and Severus thought that they might just be strong enough to get them through the inevitable arguments and misunderstandings. Even through parenthood, it seemed.

Harry pulled away slightly, burying his face in Severus' throat. "Is it true? The bit about being pregnant?"

Severus rubbed his cheek against Harry’s hair. "Yes, rare, but not surprising of the Chosen One."

"Git," Harry said softly, arms tightening. "Thank you."

Snorting, Severus shook his head. "We'll see how you feel in three or four years."

~~~*~*~~~

Four years later:

Harry stepped out the back door of the small seaside cottage, shading his eyes as he watched Severus and their son in the small garden. It was apparent that Severus was trying to show the three-year-old how to harvest the echinacea, but the little boy was more interested in chasing the butterfly they'd startled, a small bouquet of battered flowers gripped tightly in one small hand. Smiling, Harry walked out to join his husband, a hand rubbing slow circles on his rounded belly.

Severus' pregnancy had been effortless – not a minute of morning sickness, backaches, or swollen ankles. Aside from the food cravings that could still nauseate Harry just by thinking of them, Severus had remained his usual cantankerous self. On the other hand, Harry had been sick for months, around the clock, suffering through gas, bloating, and mood swings. Luckily, his symptoms had eased in his final trimester and their daughter was due any day.

"I'm convinced that our son may have Hufflepuff tendencies," Severus announced grimly as Harry walked up.

Rolling his eyes, Harry caught Chad as he careened into him, redirecting the child toward his father. "Well, I think we will survive even if he does, but I can already tell you that your daughter is pure Slytherin."

Severus smirked as he lifted Chad into his arms. "Practicing her Seeker moves again?"

"Yes," Harry said as he rubbed his back, following him towards the cottage.

"What would you say if I put someone down for a nap and offered you a back rub?"

"I'd pledge my undying devotion."

"I already have that," Severus said airily, stopping in the great room to give Harry a smoldering look. "Perhaps something more physical in nature?"

"I'd love to." Harry grinned, leaning in to kiss Severus before taking the flowers from Chad.

Watching his husband carry their son off, Harry hummed as he set the flowers in a glass of water. Sometimes accidental opportunities were the most amazing things.

~fin~