Harry had known he was adopted almost as soon as he could talk. His parents had told him everything they knew, which admittedly wasn't much. How they found him one Halloween night wrapped in a blanket on their doorstep. How other than a blanket with the name Harry embroidered on it, they had no clue as to his real identity.
Police and social workers had been called in to investigate, but no-one came forward to claim the baby and no child fitting his description had been reported missing. Two years of legal wrangling and plenty of red tape later, the Johnsons, who'd discovered the abandoned baby were deemed fit enough to adopt and number fourteen Privet Drive became Harry's new home.
He'd called them Mum and Dad for as long as he could remember, even when they tentatively suggested he might want to call them Uncle David and Aunt Helen, considering they weren't his real parents. To Harry they were his real Mum and Dad, he didn't know any others and he continued to call them Mum and Dad.
Sometimes he did wonder about his birth parents. Did he look like either of them? Did he take after them in any way? What had led to him being abandoned on a doorstep? Had he been unwanted? Had he cried too much as a baby that they wanted to get rid of him?
He'd been known as Harry Johnson for the best part of his life, so it was a bit of a shock to come downstairs one morning to collect the post and discover a pale cream envelope addressed to Harry Potter. He was the only Harry in the house. Was Potter his real name?
Harry felt as if all the breath in his body had left him with a rush and he had to sit down on the bottom of the stairs in order to steady himself. There was a very official looking seal on the back of the envelope and Harry's heart beat hard under his ribs. Was he going to be taken away? Had his birth parents been found and wanted him back now?
The walk to the kitchen was achieved by wobbly legs and shaky hands. Harry didn't want to leave his Mum and Dad. This was his home. He didn't want them to take him away. His father was buttering some toast while his mother finished up with the scrambled eggs. As she switched off the cooker and turned round, she almost dropped the pan. "Harry! I didn't hear you come in. What's wrong? You're awfully pale, pet."
"I got a letter today," said Harry, setting the others down on the table, but keeping a firm grip on the pale cream envelope. It was as if his fingers were stuck to it, he just couldn't let it go.
"That's nice, who's it from? A friend from school?" asked his mother as she dished up the fluffy eggs.
"I don't know who it's from," replied Harry. He neglected to mention that he did not have any friends from school, he was considered too weird and he was glad he would be going to secondary school in September; maybe he would make friends there. "It's addressed to Harry Potter. Is that my real name?"
"It might be, Harry, we just don't know. No-one was able to find out anything about you. You just seemed to appear that night as if you'd fallen out of the sky. Why don't you open it?" suggested his father as he poured out three glasses of orange juice.
"You forgot the ice," grinned Harry. His father laughed and ruffled Harry's hair.
"So I did. You'd think I'd remember by now, wouldn't you?" David opened the freezer and removed the ice-cube tray. He popped three cubes into Harry's glass.
"More than that," insisted Harry.
"What's the magic word, Harry?" admonished his mother.
"Sorry. More than that, please."
David added another two ice-cubes to Harry's glass. "No more than that, you'll get stomach cramps if it's too cold."
Harry nodded, but he was a little disappointed. He loved cold drinks, loved the way they made his teeth ache; they couldn't be cold enough in his opinion. Harry didn't like hot drinks at all, his parents had never given him tea or coffee but he was allowed to drink as much hot chocolate as he wanted; only he never wanted to.
"Go on, open it then," urged his mother as he set the plates of egg and toast on the table and they all took their seats at the kitchen table.
"I'm scared," said Harry. "What if they want to take me away?"
"Harry, we adopted you. That means that we are your family now. No-one can take you away from us, I promise," said his mother as she leaned over and kissed Harry on the forehead.
"I'd like to see them try," said his father. "They'll have to get through me first!"
Harry could hardly face his breakfast, his tummy was full of butterflies and he wished no-one else had known who he was. He pushed his thumb under the flap to open the envelope and he read the contents inside. Harry had to read it four times. It wasn't that he couldn't understand the words, he could (his primary school teacher had said on his final report that he was reading at a thirteen year old level), but he just wasn't sure that he could make any sense of them.
Dear Mr. Potter,
It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been accepted as a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed your book list and equipment list for the coming term which begins on the first of September.
As a reminder to all first years, your own broomsticks are not allowed, nor are you allowed any other familiar besides a cat, a toad or an owl.
I look forward to welcoming you to Hogwarts, Mr. Potter.
Harry handed the letter to his parents, unsure what to make of it, while he perused the book and equipment list. It was like something from his fantasy books. Cauldrons, glass vials for potions, a magic wand. Magic was real? And there was a school to teach it? This didn't surprise him as much as he thought it would, for Harry had always thought he was a little bit odd, maybe this could help explain why.
"Oh my," exclaimed his mother, clutching the letter to his chest. "Isn't this exciting, Harry?"
"I guess," said Harry. He could go to a school to learn to magic? Some of the stranger things in Harry's short life suddenly started to make a bit more sense. Like that time the bully from down the road, Dudley Dursley and his gang had cornered Harry in the park one day. No matter how hard they had punched and kicked Harry, it had felt no worse than a tickle and Harry could not stop laughing in their faces. They all yelled that he was a freak, but they looked worried and they never bothered him physically again, sticking to taunts and insults.
"Where am I going to get a cauldron? I don't think I've seen them in Tesco's," said Harry just as someone knocked loudly on the front door.
Severus Snape shuddered as he Apparated into an alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Privet Drive. Trust the headmaster to send him to explain everything to the Muggles and the only scion of James Potter. Remembered shame and pain at Potter's hands and those of his friends had him wishing that he'd been allowed to bring his wand with him to hex something into oblivion. The headmaster knew him too well and hadn't allowed it.
His mind wandered as he walked the short distance to number fourteen Privet Drive. No-one quite knew how the mistake had been made, Dumbledore had been adamant that he had placed the basket at number four. The new address only came to light this year when Harry Potter had turned eleven and the address had appeared in McGonagall's magical ledger ready for his Hogwarts letter to be sent.
The headmaster had attempted a see-all spell to see what was going on, but no spell could get past the wards at number fourteen. Since the Johnsons were not blood relatives to Harry, nor were they of any magical family that could be discerned, it was a mystery as to why wards were in place at all.
It was a good job the property was so warded, as Death Eaters were still at large looking for the boy who had defeated Voldemort all those years ago. So far they had kept their search within the wizarding world rather than the Muggle one, something Severus and the headmaster were both grateful for.
But now that Harry would be returning to the magical world, Dumbledore had informed Severus of his duties concerning the boy. Duties that he raged against but knew that no matter his objections, Dumbledore would make him do it anyway. Severus would be atoning for what he'd done and his penance was to become Harry Potter's protector, Dumbledore's spy and a teacher at Hogwarts.
He wrinkled his nose as he passed the tiny manicured lawns, every house almost an exact replica of its neighbours, square boxes that had no soul. How could Muggles live so close together like this? Even his dungeon quarters were more spacious than these.
Dumbledore had insisted that he dress as a Muggle today, forgoing his robes and without them Severus felt strangely naked, although he was covered from neck to ankle in a black suit. A battered leather briefcase hung from one hand, he swung it a little as he wandered up the path.
In the centre of the door was a lion's head door knocker and he grimaced. Even without knowing who he was, Harry Potter had managed to have the Gryffindor lion on the door. Three guesses which House he would end up in.
He rapped the knocker twice, and then rang the tinny doorbell for good measure as well. No point in standing out here in the middle of Muggle territory for longer than was absolutely necessary.
It was the boy himself who opened the door, dressed in a pair of shorts that reached his knees and a smart blue and white checked shirt. Barefoot and shoeless he stared at Severus through his glasses. His hair was as messy as James' had been. Severus sneered, the sneer that had the students at Hogwarts terrified of him through their entire school career. Unfortunately it didn't seem to work on James Potter's brat. He just smiled, as if he knew something that Severus didn't.
"You must be Harry," said Severus. "Are your parents in?"
"Yes, sir. I'll just go and fetch them for you. Can you wait a moment?" The boy pulled the door over, but didn't close it completely. Although on first glance, Harry was almost the image of James, it was with Lily's eyes that he'd stared at Severus and he certainly did not seem to have James' arrogance. The politeness was a surprise, teaching children for the past ten years had Severus despairing that they'd ever been taught manners at home these days.
Severus could sense the wards at the threshold of the open door. He knew that if he were to try and gain entry without permission, there was a good chance he would land flat on his arse on the garden path. They were strong, almost as strong as the wards surrounding the school and the only conclusion he could come to was that somehow Harry himself had drawn the wards, without realising what he could actually do.
A few moments later, the boy returned with a man and woman in tow behind him. The woman had short brown hair and brown eyes, unlike most Muggle women Severus had seen, she wore no makeup and her dress was long and flowing in a flowery pattern that could almost pass for robes. Her husband had dark hair like Harry and bright blue eyes; he was dressed in a pair of grey trousers and a white shirt. They both looked expectantly at Severus.
"Hello, I'm Professor Severus Snape from Hogwarts School. I believe Harry received his letter this morning?"
"Oh, yes! Do come in, Professor," said the woman, opening the door wide and smiling at him.
Severus took a step across the threshold and somehow knew that his life would never be the same again.
Severus followed the family of three down the hallway towards a kitchen. This calm acceptance from the Muggles of magic was a little disconcerting. Normally when the professors were sent to explain about Hogwarts and the wizarding world before their little darlings attended the school; it was also with a few bottles of calming potion as usually the Muggles were unwilling to accept anything outside their own knowledge.
"Would you like some breakfast, Professor Snape? There's plenty more left," said the woman.
"No, thank you. I had breakfast at Hogwarts before I arrived."
"Let me just clear the dishes, Harry and David, can you show Professor Snape into the living room?"
"Okay, Mum," said Harry. Severus had no choice but to follow them into a different room. The room was decorated well, if plainly, with family photographs along a few walls. There was one of those Muggle inventions in the corner, televisions, wasn't that what they were called? A bit like Magical moving pictures, but with sound as well. The room was also clean and tidy, despite no evidence of house-elves.
"There, all done," said Helen Johnson as she entered the living room and taking a seat beside her husband on the sofa. Harry sat perched on the arm of the sofa, next to his adoptive father and Severus took an armchair, placing the briefcase on his lap.
"Mr. and Mrs. Johnson," he began as he undid the straps.
"Please, call us Helen and David," said David and Severus stared at them, horrified and surprised at once. Didn't they know the power in names? But of course, how could they, being Muggles? It was only polite to invite them to call him Severus, but it was with some difficulty that he opened his mouth to say so. They smiled and obeyed, not even mentioning how unusual his name was.
"Now, as the letter stated, Harry has been accepted in principle to Hogwarts. In order for the acceptance to be firm, I will need your signatures on some papers and of course I will try and answer any questions you might have about the school and magical world in general. One of the requirements of Harry attending the school will be for all three of you to sign the Secrecy Act. I can answer any questions, but you must not discuss the magical world with anyone other than a member of magical society or those Muggles - non magic folk, who already know about it. You will also need to sign the agreement that you will not hold the school responsible for any accidents and sue."
"Accidents?" asked Helen, squeezing her husband's hand.
"It is a school of magic, sometimes accidents do happen, but we do have a fully equipped medical wing and our matron, Madam Pomfrey is one of the most skilled women in her fields."
"That's a relief," said Helen. "Is there anything else we need to know about the school? What about school fees?"
"Hogwarts education is free to all magical children from the age of eleven to seventeen. The only cost will be Harry's books and equipment, along with his school uniform and a couple of sets of robes. All meals and board will be provided free by the school."
"Oh," said David. "We didn't realise it was a boarding school. I'm not sure that a boarding school is the best environment for Harry. It might seem like we were abandoning him. What do you think, Harry? Would you like to go to a boarding school?"
"I don't know," said the boy softly. "I've never really thought about it. I don't want to go away from home, but I'd like to learn magic too."
"I'm afraid that the school is too remote to allow for day students, so the only option is to board if Harry wishes to go."
"Harry, it's really up to you," said Helen. "If you want to go, you can."
"Professor, people at this school, can they do things? Make things happen?"
"Everyone invited to Hogwarts has magical abilities, Harry; you will not be out of place."
"Then, yes, I'd like to go. But Professor, I don't know where we're going to get my equipment from. No-one around here sells cauldrons and things."
"That is another reason why I am here. There is a wizarding street in London called Diagon Alley, but it is closed to Muggles unless they are accompanied by a witch or wizard. It is also where Gringotts Bank is situated; I have the papers and the key to your vaults here somewhere." Severus rummaged about the case and set the items in question on a coffee table.
"Vaults?" asked Harry, blinking.
"Yes, Harry. You are now the sole heir to the Potter family fortune. Of course, until you are of age, your adoptive parents will be your trustees. You will need their signature before you can take any money out."
"Oh," Harry said quietly. "Then my birth parents are dead."
"I'm afraid so, Harry."
"Excuse me, Severus," interrupted Helen, "but who looks after the children while they are away at school?" Severus could almost feel the worry from the woman. She loved the boy like a son, no matter what blood relation they happened to be.
"There are four different Houses at Hogwarts," explained Severus. "Each with their own dorms and common rooms. Each Head of House takes responsibility for the children under their care, as do the other teachers. I myself am Head of Slytherin House. We also select prefects and a Head Boy and Girl from among the older students. The castle and grounds are also protected by magical charms and I must stress that the school rules are there for one reason and one reason only, to keep the students safe."
"Do you hear that, Harry? You have to do what the teachers tell you."
Severus glanced at the boy again, feeling so unsteady under that green eyed gaze that reminded him so much of Lily. Reminded him of how he'd failed. He'd been so determined to hate James Potter's son, expecting him to be nothing except a clone of his father. This child may have looked a little like James, but he was more than the sum of his parents.
"Don't worry, Helen, David. Harry will be well looked after, especially considering who he is."
"Who he is? What do you mean?" asked David.
"Of course, you wouldn't have known. Harry is the Boy Who Lived."
Three weeks later, Professor Snape returned to accompany them to Diagon Alley in order to purchase Harry's school supplies. Harry sat next to the professor in the back seat of his parents' car, his mind wandering to what he'd told them that day about his birth parents. He shouldn't have been with the Johnsons at all; he should have been left with the Dursleys. Mrs. Dursley was his aunt, his mother's sister, so that would make the bully, Dudley Dursley his cousin. What would it have been like living with them? Would Dudley still have tried to beat him up whenever he got the opportunity?
Harry much preferred his Mum and Dad; he'd never really liked the Dursleys and was glad when Professor Snape explained that he would be able to continue living with them when he wasn't at school. The Dursleys didn't know about Harry and it should remain that way so that they weren't put in any danger from the bad wizards who were still after Harry.
Harry was famous in the wizarding world because he hadn't died the night his parents had. Lord Voldemort had attempted to murder him, but the curse had rebounded, the wizard had disappeared and Harry had been left with a strange scar. He and his parents had thought it was a birth mark.
Harry had the impression that Professor Snape had not told them everything, or at least not told him everything, as he'd been sent to his room and the professor had discussed something with his parents for over an hour. What hadn't he been told? What were they hiding from him?
He was excited about going to a wizarding street, but a little nervous too. Going to Hogwarts would be the first time he would be away from home, but he didn't want to worry his parents so he kept all his fears inside. Harry looked across to Professor Snape and noticed the man was hanging on the door handle as if his life depended on it. His other hand lay on the seat beside him.
The man was very pale and Harry wondered if he was feeling car sick or if he normally was that white. Harry had never seen anyone with such dark eyes before; he couldn't really tell if they were black or just a very dark brown. His nose was crooked, as if it might have been broken at some stage and hadn't healed properly.
"Are you all right, Professor?" asked Harry. He had the strongest urge to hold the man's hand to comfort him.
"I've never enjoyed Muggle transportation," he replied, looking paler than ever.
"Don't wizards have cars then, sir?"
"Some do, enchanted ones that can fly."
"Wow!" said Harry, almost bouncing on the seat. Cars that could fly! It was true, there really was magic.
His mother twisted round in the passenger seat and smiled at both of them. "You're quite honoured, Severus. Harry's usually so shy around strangers."
"He's not a stranger, Mum," said Harry, although he didn't quite know how to explain it further than that. Not even wondering about the urge any more, Harry slid his hand across the leather of the seat and clasped the man's hand in his.
Professor Snape gasped and stared at him, but he did not remove his hand from Harry's.
Severus pretended to sip his tea, he'd known for years that the headmaster had been lacing it with Veritaserum and he could not afford to let his guard slip about anything these days. Minerva McGonagall was drinking hers as if it was going out of fashion and he wondered, not for the first time, if his was the only tea the headmaster ever drugged. The lack of trust in him from the headmaster always rankled.
"Is this your doing, Severus?" asked the headmaster.
"My doing, headmaster? I'm not sure I understand the question."
Minerva tutted in the background.
"Harry being sorted into Slytherin," clarified the headmaster. "Was it your doing?"
"He was sorted like every other student here; I have no control over the Sorting Hat."
"Ah, yes, but maybe Harry wanted to be in Slytherin because of you," said Minerva. "You were the first wizard he met, maybe he feels close to you."
"So what? The hat sorted him, that's all there is to it. You assigned me as his protector, Albus. Wouldn't it be easier if he was in my own House?"
"He should have been in Gryffindor!" protested Minerva.
"I quite agree," said Albus. "Severus, you will have to explain to Harry about the mistake. He does not belong in Slytherin."
Severus glared at both of them. "What do you mean?" They couldn't be talking about what he thought they were. That had never been done in the history of the school; it would make the Sorting Ceremony redundant, a laughing stock.
"You will explain to Harry that there has been a mistake with the Sorting and that he really is in Gryffindor. Minerva will go with you so that Harry can collect his things and bring them up to Gryffindor Tower."
"You've got to be joking! I will do no such thing! He's been sorted into Slytherin and there he will stay!"
"I'm afraid that as the headmaster, I have the final say over student's Houses, Severus. Harry will be in Gryffindor and that is final."
"You can't make the boy change Houses! He's settled in Slytherin."
"It's his first night at Hogwarts, he hasn't settled anywhere yet," protested Minerva. "The sooner he changes over, the sooner he will be settled."
"Why are you so keen to have him in Gryffindor? If not Slytherin, why not Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff? Why there?"
"His parents would have wished it," said Dumbledore with a sigh.
"James, you mean," said Severus. "Lily would not have cared as long as Harry was happy and he will be happy in Slytherin. He is not James." Gods, couldn't they see this move would be a mistake? The whole school had been there at the Sorting. They'd seen the boy sorted into Slytherin, how could he have suddenly become a Gryffindor? Harry would never be trusted there, not when he'd been put into Slytherin first.
Severus saw the boy's future stretching out before him, alone, friendless like another dark haired boy and he vowed that he would do all he could to stop Harry from starting down the same path he had. After all, Harry was a Slytherin, one of his little snakes, no matter which House they forced him into now.
Harry was lying face down in front of the common room fire, leaning on his elbows and his legs crossed up behind him, Blaise Zabini sitting opposite him as they played Exploding Snap. The room was filled with the idle chatter of children and Severus could see that already Harry had settled in and was making friends amongst the Slytherins. This was going to be more difficult than he thought.
Minerva nudged him in the ribs, as if telling him to get on with it.
"Mr. Potter," said Severus. Harry didn't move. "Mr. Johnson."
Harry turned round and when he saw Severus, his smile lit up the whole room. Even Minerva seemed shocked at how much the boy seemed to like him.
"Yes, sir?" he asked, still beaming that wonderful smile.
"We need to have a word with you in private, Harry," said Severus. "Please come to my office."
Harry nodded and scrambled to his feet. "I guess you win that one, Blaise."
"I'll wait till you get back," smiled the other boy. Severus didn't bother mentioning that Harry would not be returning to the Slytherin common room. It was something he wasn't ready to face quite yet, despite what the headmaster had told him. Why were they so worried about Harry being in Slytherin? Were they worried he would turn Dark, was that it?
When Harry followed Severus into the office, he stopped at the doorway, his eyes going automatically to his trunk which was in the corner, along with a red and gold scarf on top of it. "Sir?" he questioned and his voice sounded a little on the shaky side.
"Professor McGonagall, perhaps you'd keep an eye on the other students for me for a moment while I talk to Harry?"
"Very well, Professor," she replied, looking at him with a confused expression, but she left them alone after that.
"Sit down, Harry," invited Severus and Harry did, placing his hands underneath his legs and sitting on them. "I'm afraid there's been a bit of a mistake with the sorting, Harry. You should have been in Gryffindor, not Slytherin. Professor McGonagall will show you to your new dorm."
"A - a mistake? You d- don't want me, Professor?" The boy's eyes were shining with unshed tears, but he was stoically holding them back.
"It's not that I don't want you in Slytherin, Harry. You would be very welcome here, but the headmaster has overruled me and insists you go to Gryffindor."
"I don't want to go! Please, let me stay here! I want to stay with you!"
Merlin, was it true? That somehow, without even being aware of it, the boy had become close to him?
"I'm sorry, Harry, but it is up to the headmaster. Even the teachers have to obey the rules."
Harry nodded and hung his head, Severus had the impression he was trying to hide his crying. Severus never knew what made him do it, but he got up from behind his desk and knelt on the floor in front of Harry's chair, tilting the boy's chin up to face him.
"Harry, look at me. I want you to remember that the Sorting Hat placed you in Slytherin. You will always be a Slytherin first and foremost, no matter where you sleep, do you understand me?"
"No, sir," he sobbed. "Not really."
"It means that I will always be looking out for you. If you can't talk to your new Head of House, if you have any problems, Harry, I want you to come to me. I will always be here for you, Harry. I hope you remember that."
"Thank you, sir, I will."
Harry felt like a third leg when Professor McGonagall showed him the Gryffindor boys' dormitory. There were four other boys already there and in bed when he arrived. The fifth bed, which would be his, was smaller than theirs and was jammed right up against the wall, as if it had just been shoved in where there was some extra space. They all gaped at Harry when Professor McGonagall introduced him.
"Well, goodnight boys, I'm sure you'll make Harry feel very welcome." With that, she left Harry alone with the four other Gryffindors. Harry suddenly had the feeling he was a very small fish alone with some sharks. Harry wasn't welcomed at all. They all yanked their bed curtains closed and didn't even to speak to him or wish him goodnight.
Harry's scar prickled uncomfortably and he rubbed his forehead, it had been doing that a lot lately, but he didn't quite know why. He wished he was still in the Slytherin dorms and could go and talk to Professor Snape, maybe he would know. Harry had a sense that the professor knew a lot about things that other people didn't. But it was after curfew now and students weren't allowed out to wander the corridors at night. He couldn't imagine talking to Professor McGonagall about anything.
There was nothing else for it, he would just have to get ready for bed and hope that the Gryffindor boys would be a bit friendlier to him in the morning. Maybe they were just shocked at how he suddenly appeared in the midst of them, when the four of them had already thought they'd be the only ones in this dorm.
He took his pyjamas out of his trunk and got changed, folding his uniform over a chair ready for the morning. Harry settled into bed, removing his glasses and setting them on the bedside table. This would be his first night in a strange bed and he wasn't really feeling tired. The owl his parents had got him for his birthday, Hedwig, was snuggled up safe in the Owlery and he thought about sending them a letter tomorrow, then feeling childish for wanting to write to them on his first day.
His mind wandered as it always did when he lay in bed, sometimes he wished he had an off switch for his brain, things just kept going round and round and he never could figure out any of the answers. Had the Sorting Hat made a mistake by placing him in Slytherin in the first place? It hadn't felt like a mistake, he'd been hoping he would be placed there, with Professor Snape. And now he wasn't. It felt like he'd just been given a wonderful present then the giver had taken it back and left him with a lump of coal instead.
His eyes and throat burned and Harry had been so determined that he wouldn't cry, that he felt even more awful about it and he muffled his sobs in his pillow, hoping the others were already asleep and couldn't hear him. He cried himself to sleep that first night, surprised when he woke to discover that he'd slept at all.
His hands automatically sought out his glasses; he put them on and saw nothing but cracked glass. Someone had smashed his glasses in the night. Harry jumped out of bed and yanked all four sets of curtains open and demanded of each of them in turn, "Who did this? Who broke my glasses?"
Three times his questions went unanswered, but at the fourth, bed, Neville Longbottom gasped. "It wasn't me, Harry. I swear. That was a mean trick. Do you know the repair spell?" he asked. Harry shook his head. "Here, give them to me, I'll fix them for you."
Harry was a little wary, but he handed his broken glasses to the round faced boy, who waved his wand over them. "Occulus reparo," said Neville as blue sparks flew from his wand. He handed Harry his glasses back, they were completely fixed.
"Thanks, Neville," said Harry with a smile.
"Consorting with Slytherins, now, Longbottom?" queried one of the other boys, Dean.
"Harry's a Gryffindor now," said Neville and Harry felt a rush of hope that at least one of them seemed willing to accept him.
"Neville's right, Dean. Harry's a Gryffindor now," said the Irish boy, Sean, no Seamus that was his name. "Sorry about last night, Harry. We were just a bit put out when they said we had to share with someone else again. You'd think with a castle this big we'd all have our own rooms, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, sorry, Harry," said the tall red-headed boy. "I'm Ron. Ron Weasley."
"Hi, Ron," smiled Harry. "I think I met your brothers at the train station, Fred and George? Twins?"
"Yes, they're my brothers," Ron said miserably. "What did they try and do to you?"
"Oh, nothing too drastic. Just tried to scare me with all their tales about the caretaker, how he is allowed to hang us upside down in the dungeons and use whips and chains, but I don't think he's really allowed to do that, is he?"
"I don't think so," said Neville.
Dean held out his hand for Harry to shake. "It was me who broke your glasses, Harry. I'm sorry, I won't do it again."
"You better not," said Harry. "After all, you never know what tricks Fred and George might have taught me!"
"Or what you've learned in your brief stay in enemy territory," grinned Ron. "What's it really like in the dungeons, Harry? Is it true there are skeletons in cages hanging on the walls?"
Harry looked around at all the eager faces, intent on his every word and he'd never felt more powerful in his life before. "How long until breakfast?" he asked.
"Almost an hour," said Dean.
Harry sat down cross-legged on the floor; the others did the same and stared avidly at him. They wanted a story; he would give them a story. His Muggle teachers had encouraged him imaginative streak and he now had a captive audience, hanging on his every word.
"Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin."
It was February of his first year before Harry came to him, hanging behind after the rest of the class had filed out. Harry's potion had been perfect, so he knew the boy didn't want to discuss his work. Severus had been keeping an eye on Harry in the preceding months, as per Dumbledore's orders, but he would have done it anyway. He didn't trust Quirrell as far as he could hex him and he'd noticed the Defence professor had taken an inordinate amount of interest in Harry.
He'd worried at first that Harry would have found it difficult to fit in after the disaster with his sorting, but the Gryffindors seemed to have taken him in as one of their own, and surprisingly the Slytherins seemed to still get along with him too and much to Severus' surprise, it was more than likely that the Gryffindors and Slytherins would work together in his classes and he'd noticed them socialising with each other outside of classes as well.
Dumbledore didn't seem to approve of this new unity between the two Houses who were normally bitter enemies, but Severus found it quite refreshing. His classes were a lot easier when the two of them weren't actively trying to out hex the other. Less headaches and stress that way.
Not sure why the Gryffindors and Slytherins were suddenly getting along, Severus saw Harry sneaking down to the dungeons one night and was about to reprimand him and take points for being out after curfew, when the door to the Slytherin common room popped open and Draco Malfoy and what seemed like the entire compliment of first year Slytherins wandered out, smiling at Harry.
Curious, he decided to follow them all instead and ended up on the fourth floor corridor and a door that Severus wasn't sure had been there before. The other students followed Harry inside and Severus stuck close to the shadows, wishing he'd had the foresight to take some invisibility potion, but how was he to know he would have ended up here, spying on students in the room of requirement?
If the students had been older, he might have expected some form of romantic tryst, but as he leaned his ear against the door, he could hear what was going on. Harry was telling stories and judging by the silence of the rest of them, they were hanging on his every word. The boy was a born storyteller, animating his tales with different voices for different characters and Severus could almost imagine the hand gestures as Harry told his tale.
He'd smiled to himself and headed back to his quarters, he wouldn't be taking any points that night.
He turned now to the boy standing by his desk. Harry was paler and thinner than he had been at the start of the year, but Severus knew he had been eating. Dark purple shadows under his eyes hinted at lack of sleep. It was as if the boy was being worn down by something, but what?
"Harry? You wanted to see me?"
"Yes, sir. I wanted to ask you about my scar, my curse scar. Is it meant to hurt?"
"What do you mean by hurt exactly, Harry?"
"It aches sometimes, like it's burning, but when I touch it, it feels really cold. Sometimes I have nightmares and when I wake up, it bleeds and I feel sick."
"Have you seen Madam Pomfrey about this, Harry?"
"Yes, Professor. She doesn't know why it's doing it. She said to ask you."
"Did she now?" He'd have to have a word with the matron. His own scar was something that he preferred was not discussed, particularly with students, especially this one.
"When does this happen, Harry? Is there any pattern to when your scar aches?"
"No sir, not really, it just happens sometimes."
"What about the nightmares, Harry? What happens in those?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't really remember the dreams, sir. I just wake up from them sore and sick."
"Sore? With your scar hurting?"
"That too, but it's my muscles that ache, as if I'd been running or something for a very long time and my legs have gone all wobbly. Sometimes I can't move when I wake up and it scares me, Professor. It feels as if I can't breathe."
Severus could not believe what he was hearing. Harry was describing accurately the after effects of the Cruciatus curse, a curse that the boy didn't even know existed. Yet somehow he'd been experiencing it in his dreams. Who was doing it? Who was casting the curse on the boy as he slept? Was Voldemort on the rise again? Already?
He strode to his store cabinet and removed a vial of Dreamless Sleep. "Harry, I want you to take two drops of this tonight, so that you won't have nightmares. I don't know what is going on with your scar, but I will discuss it with the headmaster, maybe he can shed some light on it."
"Thank you sir," smiled Harry as he toddled off to join his friends for lunch, Slytherin and Gryffindor alike.
"Lemon drop, Severus?" asked Dumbledore as he passed the bowl of candied sweets across the desk.
"No, thank you, Albus." Gods, all the headmaster seemed to want to do these days was ply him with tea or sweets and he had not tolerance for either. The boy's scar hurting was significant, he was sure of it, but yet again Dumbledore had played down his fears.
"I think you're over-reacting, Severus. Every child has nightmares now and then and scars are often painful after the fact."
"This is different, headmaster! The boy is being cursed in his sleep!" Severus stood up and stomped about the room. Why was no-one taking the risk seriously? "I think it might be time to recall the Order," said Severus. "He's coming back."
"Really, Severus. I've never known you to be so melodramatic. The boy's had a few nightmares and suddenly it's the dead Dark Lord cursing Harry in his sleep. The Order was dissolved after Harry defeated Voldemort ten years ago, we will have no need of it again. Voldemort will not be returning, I can assure you of that."
"I wish I had your confidence, headmaster. But I suppose you are right."
Merlin, how could he not have seen it earlier? Severus quickly shielded his mind of his intent, he knew first hand of the headmaster's Occlumency skills. "Goodnight, headmaster."
"Goodnight, Severus." Albus turned back to his sweets and ruffled some parchments on his desk as Severus made his way down the moving staircase and to his destination. The castle was quiet, all the students tucked up in bed, or at least should be, but as a professor, he could wander the halls as much as he liked and Filch couldn't do a damn thing about it. Vile man, Severus had detested him even when they were at school together; Filch had been a few years ahead of him and had taken pleasure in bullying the younger children whenever he could.
How could the headmaster be so naïve? The man was going senile, Severus was almost sure of it. Voldemort was not gone completely, if he was, Harry's scar would not still be hurting and neither would his. If Dumbledore wasn't going to do anything to protect Harry and prepare him for what was to come, then Severus was.
Dumbledore didn't know that Severus knew all about the prophecy from Sybill Trelawney, but the Divination teacher had revealed it to him on a rare occasion when she had gone to the staff Christmas party and had been drunk on too many sherries. He hadn't really understood the significance then, but he did now.
The Dark Lord would rise again and Harry was the only one who could defeat him. Dumbledore knew this, he'd been the first person to hear Sybill's prophecy, why was he so keen on ignoring the facts?
As Severus reached the staircase to go down to the dungeons, someone grabbed his arm. He whirled round, wand out to stare at the pale face of Minerva McGonagall, who looked as if she expected to be hexed.
"Minerva! What are you doing here?"
"I wondered if I might have a word with you, Severus? It's about young Harry."
"Is he all right?" Severus asked automatically.
"For now. Please, can we go to your quarters?"
"Very well," Severus descended the stairs, Minerva following close behind him. He whispered his password to the portrait hanging on his door and felt the wards dissolve. He held the door open for his colleague so she could precede him into the room. Minerva stared around the large sitting room with a kind of surprised awe. His rooms were plain, pale cream walls with dark wood furniture and a leather sofa dotted about the room.
"What were you expecting? Jars of sheep brains?"
"Maybe," admitted Minerva, standing by the fireplace and rubbing her hands as though to warm them. Severus quickly cast a spell to light the fire. "Severus, have you noticed anything odd about the headmaster lately?"
"Odd? In what way? He's always been a bit eccentric."
"I know, but I think it's more than that. Sometimes he forgets things, or thinks people are someone else, as if he's stuck in a memory from years ago. I've been trying to talk to him about Harry; I'm really worried about him, Severus. The other boys tell me he wakes up screaming every night and Madam Pomfrey thinks he's been suffering from the Cruciatus curse. I've told the headmaster, but he doesn't seem to think that anything is amiss!"
"I know, I've just had the same problem tonight. He's not taking any of this seriously. The site of my Mark is aching, Minerva. I don't think he's really gone. I've given Harry some Dreamless Sleep for tonight, so at least he shouldn't be having the nightmares."
"Severus, they aren't just nightmares. They're visions. Harry Sees in his sleep."
What? Why hadn't Harry told him that?
"He told me he couldn't remember his dreams."
"He can't, the headmaster has been using Legilimency on him to find out what he was dreaming. Insists that he needed to know."
"What? He used mind magic on an eleven year old? The brain is far too delicate at that age to undergo that type of meddling! Harry could end up insane!"
"I know, Severus, that's why I am here. The headmaster cannot be allowed to continue, I'm afraid that one day he'll push too far and Harry has no protection from it. Albus doesn't know what he's doing, Severus, Harry's mind could be damaged beyond repair. He needs to learn Occlumency."
"That's almost as bad, Minerva! You aren't seriously suggesting that I teach an eleven year old Occlumency?"
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting, Severus. You know about the prophecy? That Harry is the one?"
"I want you to teach him Occlumency and everything else he will need to know, Severus. Everything," she stressed.
Did she just ask him what he thought she had? That he was to teach one of the students Dark Magic?
"Gods, Minerva, how did it come to this? He's a child; he isn't ready to have the fate of the wizarding world resting on his shoulders."
"Whether he's ready or not, Severus. It is his destiny and no matter what we do, he can never escape it. All we can do is prepare him for it."
And prepare him, Severus did.
Harry's destiny came to call midway through his seventh year, two weeks into January. Or rather, unknown to any of the staff or members of the Order, Harry went looking for it.
They all knew something had gone very wrong with the headmaster when in Harry's third year, he had allowed the Dementors to administer the Kiss to Sirius Black, later discovered to have been innocent. Harry had protested that Dumbledore knew it all along, but it was only in Harry's fourth year that Severus and the others began to believe it.
Severus watched as Harry threw himself into his work, he'd mastered the Patronus by twelve, Occlumency by thirteen and by fourteen, even Severus knew that Harry's powers surpassed his own so he hadn't been too worried when somehow the boy's name had ended up in the Goblet of Fire. Harry had even managed to save the other boy who'd been transported to the graveyard that night, by casting an immobilising spell and an invisible shield over the boy's body, Wormtail never even knew his Avada Kedavra hadn't worked.
However, when it transpired that it was the headmaster himself who had placed Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire, the staff knew something was going on. Under Veritaserum, the truth was discovered. Dumbledore had been under Imperius by Lucius Malfoy since before Harry had even started at the school. That was why his mind was dwindling; he was trying to fight the curse but failing miserably. They had no choice, Dumbledore was taken to the closed ward at St. Mungo's and Minerva McGonagall took over as headmistress and recalled the Order.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind now that Voldemort had returned except for those idiots at the Ministry who refused to believe Harry's story of the confrontation in the graveyard. Severus knew there was a reason he distrusted the Ministry of Magic.
What Severus hadn't known, what none of them had, was that while Severus had trained Harry in every defensive spell, in every duelling technique, in Occlumency and Legilimency, in every spell, Light or Dark that could be used to defeat the Dark Lord, Harry had been training the rest of the students, even the first years had gone into battle.
The final battle happened not at Hogwarts nor at the Riddle Mansion, but at Malfoy Manor.
Lord Voldemort was there for Draco's initiation, a dubious honour at best, one the Dark Lord had decided to gift Severus with. Severus had tried to turn the young man away from his course in the intervening years without being obvious about it, but Draco had been determined that he would bear the Dark Mark, as per his father's wishes. What Severus hadn't realised, nor had any of the other Death Eaters or the Order that Draco had been spying on his father for Harry for years and Draco's initiation had been the culmination of the children's plans all these years.
Severus was just about to bring the brand down on Draco's arm (being very slow about it) when the whole place was suddenly filled with hundreds of Hogwarts students, Draco had dismantled the wards. They had all Apparated into the Manor, never mind that not even half of them were of age and could legally Apparate anyway.
Draco stunned him and Severus could only watch what happened next. A few of the children fell, whether or not they were dead, he wasn't sure, but Severus could feel the power in the room gathering momentum and heading towards its target, Harry. Harry turned to the rest of the students and screamed, "NOW!!!!"
Severus was blinded by the green light of Avada Kedavra, a green light from hundreds of wands. Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Gryffindor all united in their effort to get rid of the Dark Lord. The first time all the Houses had been united since Salazar Slytherin had left the school.
When Severus could see again, Voldemort was nothing more than a smoking pile of ashes, his wand broken beside him. Most of the Death Eaters had been stunned and bound, but a few were missing, Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange among them.
Harry was nowhere in sight and his wand was lying cracked and broken next to Voldemort's.
Harry woke up half an hour before the alarm was due to go off. The house was quiet; he couldn't hear anyone else stirring yet. He never felt rested anymore; even Snape's improved Dreamless Sleep was not strong enough to stop the nightmares.
For months he'd been a prisoner of Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. They'd broken his wand, not knowing that Harry could perform wandless magic, but it hadn't mattered in the end. He never got a chance to use it and he had endured almost constant torture, both from curses and from more old fashioned physical methods. Bellatrix Lestrange was a deranged artist and had used Harry as her canvas.
Had the battle only been a few months ago? It seemed longer to Harry, but then time passed differently when he'd been locked in a bare stone chamber, with not even a rat for company. His throat bled he'd screamed so much at first, but soon he couldn't even do that, his voice just disappeared and all his screams were silent after that.
It was Snape who found him; he'd never stopped looking even after the Ministry had refused to send any more Aurors on what Fudge had called a wild goose chase, insisting that Harry surely must be dead by now. Harry learned all this later of course; no news ever reached him or his cell.
Harry struggled to hoist himself up with his one good arm, his right, but by the time he'd managed to get himself into a sitting position, he was panting and sweating heavily as if he'd just run a marathon. Fat chance of that anytime soon. Due to his prolonged exposure to the Cruciatus curses over the months he'd been imprisoned; a lot of his nerves had been damaged beyond repair. His left arm was now just hanging there, he couldn't move it, but he could feel pain in it and it pained him constantly. The left leg hadn't been as badly damaged, but Harry now walked with a pronounced limp and he could only manage a few steps before it would give out on him.
The doctors warned him that he would lose the complete use of it soon. For the past few weeks his parents had dragged him to every Muggle specialist they could find, private and NHS alike. They all said the same thing. There was no hope, Harry was crippled for life. There was no way to repair nervous tissue so damaged as his. Even in the magical world, there was nothing to be done. The damage was too severe and had happened too long ago for anything to be done now.
Harry had wallowed in self-pity for the first few days he was home, but he felt so guilty when his parents were so grateful to have him back and alive. He was alive and the bastard who had made the wizarding world a world of terror and fear for so long was finally gone. A couple of times he'd thought of ending it, but he knew he could never do it to his parents.
"Harry? Are you up?" his mother called through the door. She never came into his room now without an invitation, not since she'd accidentally walked in on him wanking when he was fourteen. He still blushed at that memory and even more at the one later that evening, when his father had given him the talk. "Severus will be here soon. Do you want Dad to help you get ready?"
Harry had been so determined to be independent, unwilling to rely on anyone's help to do those things that he'd been doing for himself for years, but he knew he hadn't quite got the hang of it yet. It was only now that he no longer had the use of one arm, that he realised how much he'd relied on it to do things. Buttons were a whole new ball game these days. Harry tucked his pride away. "Okay, Mum, thanks."
A few minutes later, his father knocked and pushed the door open, probably knowing that there was no chance of catching Harry wanking anymore. It wasn't just the nerves in his arms and legs that had been damaged. David Johnson was holding a basin and a sponge that Harry hated the sight of. It was humiliating having to be bathed like this, but Harry wasn't strong enough to stand in the shower and he certainly couldn't climb into the bath. The people doing the bathroom conversion couldn't come for a few more days yet and so Harry had to submit to this.
"Where's Severus taking you?" asked his father as he began to undress Harry, briskly and efficiently, he'd had plenty of practice these past few weeks.
"I don't know, he said it was a surprise," replied Harry. Today was Harry's eighteenth birthday and his ex-professor had invited Harry and his family out, his parents had declined, smiling sweetly at Harry as they did so. If Harry didn't know any better, he could almost swear it was a date, but that couldn't be. Severus Snape did not seem the type to go on dates.
If it had been before he was injured, Harry would even have looked forward to that scenario. A date with the man he'd been in love with for years. He'd known he was gay since the age of twelve and he first saw Snape in those well-fitting, shorter duelling robes. The man had been in his fantasies for years, but that's where he would remain.
For who would want Harry now, broken as he was?
Severus wasn't sure exactly when it had happened, but one day he'd been training Harry, training the boy and realised that somehow that boy had grown up and he was no longer looking at the face of a child but of a young man. Harry would never be tall, but his chest had broadened and his voice had deepened, rich and full. Severus' body had reacted to that and he had been horrified at first. He'd never been attracted to a student before and he had pushed Harry even further in his studies, trying to ignore how he was feeling about one of his students and cut off all contact outside of class or training, even after promising Harry that he would always be there for him.
It was a promise that he wished he had been able to keep. Severus still had nightmares of the day he found Harry, locked in the dungeons in one of the Malfoy properties in France, Draco had been able to key Severus to get round the Anti-Apparation wards.
Harry had been delirious with pain, so sticky with blood that it almost looked like a coat on his nakedness. What nightmares must Harry be having after his ordeal? An ordeal that wasn't over just because he'd been rescued, he would have to live with what they'd done to his body for the rest of his life.
Azkaban was too good for them.
"Would you like some tea or coffee, Severus?" asked Helen as she fluttered about the living room, unable to settle, almost as if she could make up for Harry's lack of mobility by moving as much as possible herself. "They shouldn't be long now."
"No, thank you, Helen. I'm fine. How's he doing?" he asked, even as he said it realising how inane the question was. Harry had been through months of torture, how did he think he was doing?
"I don't really know, Severus. He has his good days and bad days. Some days he just doesn't want to even get out of bed, he's looking forward to his outing today though. He's been talking about it for days now."
"Yes. Severus, I don't know how we can ever thank you for finding Harry. You were our strength when Harry was gone. You never giving up hope, that gave us hope too. It means so much to all of us."
"It was nothing," said Severus, flushing.
"It was everything! Not once did you think he could be dead, you were so determined to find him. And you did. Thank you, Severus, thank you." The woman burst into tears and Severus was at a loss, he had very little experience of weeping females. He removed a clean handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to her. Helen dabbed her eyes and pulled herself together, it seemed to take a bit of effort.
"Did you know that Harry had a job offer from Hogwarts?" Helen sniffled into her handkerchief.
"Yes, it's a new position, Muggle/Magical co-ordinator; he doesn't need to use magic to do it. Madam Hooch is staying on for a while as the flying instructor; we all had hoped Harry would replace her when she retired. But now..." Severus trailed off.
"I know, I think it's the flying Harry will miss even more than walking. Harry always wanted to fly; I can't imagine what it must be like for him, knowing he'll never be able to fly a broom again. And now because of those fucking bastards he can't! Oh, God, Severus, I'm sorry. I don't usually swear."
"Don't upset yourself, Helen, you're only saying what we're all thinking."
Helen sat down on the sofa and twisted her hands together. "Severus, I know it's a lot to ask, but I was wondering, I was hoping that perhaps you could persuade Harry to take the job at Hogwarts? He's thinking of turning it down."
"What makes you think he'd listen to me? I'm no longer his teacher, he doesn't have to listen to me anymore."
"No, he doesn't have to. But he will, Severus. Didn't you know? Harry's worshipped you since the day you met. Didn't you wonder why he said you weren't a stranger?"
"What?" squawked Severus. "Helen, I can assure you that nothing inappropriate has ever happened between myself and Harry!" He didn't think dreams and fantasies counted. After all, thinking wasn't the same as doing.
"I didn't think it had, Severus. But Harry is no longer your student, is he?"
Severus just gaped at her and was saved the necessity of a reply when David entered the room carrying Harry in his arms. Harry flushed when he saw that Severus was already there and he could almost feel the boy's distress. Harry had been such an independent spirit, how must it feel to suddenly have to rely on others to do those things that you could normally do yourself?
David set Harry down on the sofa and Harry grimaced as he tried to shift to make his position more comfortable. Harry was wearing a pair of khaki trousers with multiple pockets down the legs, as if he was going on a jungle expedition and a long sleeved emerald shirt which brought out his eyes, making them seem to shimmer with their very own glow.
Harry's lightning bolt scar stood out a livid red against the pallor of his face; it looked raised and raw today, as if Harry had been scratching it. The scar hadn't disappeared when Voldemort was destroyed, but all the Dark Marks on the Death Eaters had. The only reminder Severus had of that particular brand was a slightly paler, slightly smoother patch of skin where it had been.
"Hello, Professor," Harry smiled shyly.
"Hello, Harry. Looking forward to our outing?"
"Yes, sir. It'll be good to go somewhere besides a hospital for a change."
"Well, we'd better be heading off, the train leaves at eleven."
"Dad, you haven't shown Professor Snape my new wheels yet, have you?"
"New wheels?" asked Severus, a little confused. Had the Johnsons bought Harry a car for his birthday? Severus didn't even know if he could drive, or whether he'd be able to.
"Harry got his wheelchair last week," explained Helen as David left, presumably to bring it in.
As it was wheeled into the room, Harry stood up. "I can still walk," he protested. "I'm not completely crippled yet." Everyone in the room heard the silent soon will be but duly ignored it. Harry took a few slow, shaky steps. He'd barely taken five when they all saw his leg give out completely and it was only by Severus’ quick thinking and casting of a levitation charm that Harry didn't end up a crumpled heap on the floor. Severus carefully lowered Harry to the ground, where he lay on his back and tried to blink back his tears.
Helen rushed to his side. "Harry! Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Mum. Stop fussing!"
Severus knew firsthand how much Harry hated being fussed over, he'd been with him enough times in the school infirmary to know how terrible a patient he was. Harry hated to be seen as weak as unable to do things for himself.
"Please, Professor, can we just go?"
"Of course, Harry." Both Severus and David bent down at the same time in order to lift Harry up from the floor and gave each other an awkward smile.
"I think Professor Snape should do the honours today, Dad," said Harry. "He'll need a bit of practice at looking after me today, won't he? Are you sure you're ready for the responsibility, Professor? It's not easy to take care of me, just ask my parents," he said bitterly.
Merlin knew he had plenty to be bitter about.
"I'm sure I'm up to the task, Harry. I taught Neville Longbottom Potions for five years, you hold no fears for me."
With that, Severus scooped Harry up in his arms (he could have used magic, but he'd need to get used to doing without it on their trip, it was all Muggle today) and placed him gently in the wheelchair. Harry's left arm hung limply by his side, Helen knelt down in front of Harry and placed his left hand on his lap and there it would stay unless Harry moved it with his right. "Do you have all your potions, Harry?"
"Yes, Mum," said Harry, sounding exasperated and pointing to the rucksack hanging over the back of his wheelchair. Severus had the impression they'd had this conversation many times before and he knew Harry was becoming more and more impatient go get away. He hoped his birthday surprise would help lift Harry's spirits, for Merlin knew they needed lifting.
After their goodbyes were said, along with tearful hugs from Helen, they were finally on their way and Severus now realised why the Johnsons' front garden now had a ramp instead of steps and a path.
"So, where are you taking the birthday boy, Professor?" asked Harry, turning round and angling his head up.
"I think it's about time you called me Severus, isn't it, Harry? I am no longer your teacher. And it's a surprise."
"Why are you doing this, Pro - Severus?"
"It's your birthday; I believe it is traditional to give gifts to mark the occasion."
"I don't mean today, I mean all of it. I know it was you who found me, I know it's you who've been brewing all my potions even though Madam Pomfrey sends them to me. Why are you doing it? Why are you helping me? What's in it for you?"
"Does there have to be something in it for me? What if I just want to help?"
"Everything has a price," said Harry, turning round so that he was facing forwards again. "The question is, what's yours?"
"I don't know," Severus blurted out before he could stop himself.
Harry's days were no longer divided into minutes and hours, they were divided by potions, which colour, how often and how many drops. The dark blue one was to be taken every night before he went to bed to prevent constipation (his whole system was more sluggish now), the green one three times a day to prevent infection, the strong purple one to combat the tremors in his good limbs (which were not as hale and healthy as he'd allowed his parents to believe - only Severus and Madam Pomfrey knew the truth), the clear one twice a day to ease his pain and of course the Dreamless Sleep (which didn't work anymore).
All in all, Harry felt like a waking apothecary, well, a wheeled one anyway. Every boy's dream, wasn't it? To have his own four wheeled transport but all Harry could think of was that now he was in a wheelchair it would be that much more obvious that there was something wrong with him. He knew it was only practical, he could not walk very far on his own any longer, no matter how much he wanted to do things under his own steam.
Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if he could have used magic to help him along; Ron had taught him a spell (which Ron learned from Fred and George of course) that made clothes disappear instantly. It would have made things a lot easier for Harry to undress himself if he'd been allowed to use it. But he couldn't.
The Ministry had decided that Harry was too powerful a wizard to leave unfettered, it was either submit to his magic being stopped or an all expenses paid trip to Azkaban. Harry glared at the chunky silver bracelet on his right wrist, the lock for his magic. He wasn't even allowed to Apparate or use a port-key or travel by Floo whenever he wanted to any more. It was allowed, but only if he filled in requests in triplicate and lodged them with the Ministry three months in advance. They were scared of him, even though he could hardly walk by himself never mind do anything else. It didn't matter that it was because of Harry that the magical travel ways were safe again. He'd done his duty, fulfilled his destiny and the Ministry had turned their backs on him.
"Sorry, I was thinking," he said after realising that he had been silent for quite some time. Severus had already bought their train tickets while his mind had wandered; Harry hadn't even heard their destination. Their train wasn't due for another half an hour, so Severus wheeled him over to the small coffee shop on the platform.
"What would you like?" asked Severus, fumbling in his pocket for his wallet.
"I'll get it," said Harry. "I have money on me."
"No, it's your birthday, my treat."
"Okay, I'll have a Sprite, thanks."
Severus returned from the counter a few moments later with a plastic bottle for Harry and a mug of cappuccino for himself. It had never even occurred to Harry that he would not be able to unscrew the bottle cap by himself. He struggled through the motions for a few moments before Severus leaned over and held the bottle steady while Harry unscrewed it one handed. "Thanks, we make a good team, don't we, Severus?"
"We do indeed, Mr. Potter."
"It's Harry. Harry Johnson. Harry Potter no longer exists. I never wanted to be the Boy Who Lived or any of that."
"I know, Harry. I'm sorry I brought it up, I wanted today to be perfect for you."
Harry didn't know what to say to that. He knew what he wanted to say. The day would be perfect, he was spending it with Severus, the man he'd been in love with for as long as he could remember, but would the man ever be able to love him back? How could Harry ask anyone to be in a relationship with him, when he was not capable of having a physical relationship? How could he ask anyone to make that sacrifice? Everything seemed so much more awkward today, it had been the first time they'd been alone together for a while. He hoped he would be able to get through the day without blushing every five minutes.
"Talking of teamwork, have you thought any more about Minerva's job offer?"
"My parents put you up to this, didn't they? They want me to take it, but I'm not sure, Severus. I don't want to be charity case."
"No? Then how come this job never existed until this year?"
"Minerva just decided it was needed no, especially after the war. You'd be great at the job, Harry. I know you would."
"Don't any of you understand? How can I go back there, take a job at a school for magic and not be able to do even first year spells. It hurts, Severus. It hurts that they won't let me use magic anymore. It's always been a part of me and the Ministry took that away from me."
"I'm sorry, Harry. We'll talk about something else. I didn't want to make you feel awkward today."
Things were going to get even more awkward as Harry felt the pressure in his bladder making itself known with a sharp pain. He wouldn't be able to hold off for much longer.
"Um, Severus," he began, staring at the table top. "I need - um - I have to go to the bathroom."
"Oh," said Severus. "Oh," he repeated when he realised what Harry's reticence meant. "You need some help?"
"Please, they don't have a disable toilet here and I need a bit of help getting in and out of the wheelchair. God, I'm sorry that you have to do this."
"It's no bother, Harry." Severus pushed Harry along the platform; their journey was impeded by a row of five steps leading up to the entrance to the men's toilets. "I'll have to carry you up, Harry. Put your arm round my neck." Harry did as he was bid, it felt so strange to be held in this man's arms, he'd gotten used to his father carrying him at home, but this was different. He felt a little self-conscious as all the other passengers were staring at them, but sod it, he needed a bloody pee!
Severus hefted him to a more secure position and walked up the steps with his burden. For such a thin man, he was surprisingly strong. Harry hoped he wasn't too heavy. The bathroom itself was empty of any other passengers. "Urinal or stall, Harry?" asked Severus as he set Harry down on the floor and held onto him to support him.
"Um, urinal, if you don't mind me using you as a balancing post."
"No, that's fine, balancing post it is." Severus wrapped his arms around Harry's waist, gripping him firmly but not too tight. If Harry felt unbalanced, all he had to do was lean back against the man's chest. If Harry had been capable of feeling anything else in his lower extremities, he knew he would have been suffering a hard-on at the proximity to this man so close to his own body. He felt a little weak in the legs, but he didn't think it was because of his injuries.
He fumbled with his buttons for a few moments, but Severus was quick to offer his help.
"Yes, thanks," squeaked Harry and watched the man's slender hands as they made short work of his buttons and finally it was done. This was not how he had ever imagined the man unbuttoning his trousers would go. Harry reached in and fished out his prick with his right hand as he leant slightly on Severus. This was so humiliating. He had never peed in front of someone like this before, the doctors hardly counted and suddenly his prick was too shy to go, but the pressure in his bladder was still there. Harry knew that if he didn't take advantage of this opportunity, then he run the risk of having an accident later. The thought of that happening in public was enough incentive for his reluctant cock and he let go with a sigh or relieved bliss.
He wondered if Severus was watching or if he'd closed his eyes.
"All done?" asked Severus once Harry had finished. He buttoned Harry's trousers without being asked, but Harry found he quite liked being taken care of by Severus, he didn't feel like a child when Severus did things for him. Harry even managed to walk the few steps to the sink by using Severus as a crutch. Severus stood behind him again and wrapped his arms around Harry's waist so he could wash his hands. Their eyes caught in the mirror.
"Thanks, I hope that wasn't too gross," said Harry.
"Not at all, Harry. We all have to pee, don't we?" He grinned at Harry's reflection.
"I suppose so."
A crackly voice came over the tannoy. "The eleven o'clock to Bristol is now approaching at platform two."
"That's our train," said Severus just before he swept Harry up in his arms and went down the bathroom steps faster than they'd gone up them. Harry closed his eyes, afraid that both of them would end up splattered across the station. Thankfully the floor of the carriage and the platform were almost level, so Severus was able to wheel the chair on without too many bumps. There was a space near the door for luggage and wheelchairs, so Harry was placed there, with his wheels locked and Severus sat down opposite him.
"As you may have guessed, Harry, we're going to Bristol; I think it's time to give you your present." Severus slipped his hand inside his jacket and emerged with a red envelope, which he opened and removed the contents to give them to Harry. He handed Harry a voucher.
He read it, but didn't quite understand it.
Champagne balloon flight for two.
"Severus? You're taking me on a hot air balloon?"
"I am indeed, Harry. I wanted to show you that you don't need magic to be able to fly."
Harry's throat tightened and he felt teardrops gathering at the corners of his eyes. Severus knew, he knew how much flying had meant to Harry.
"Oh God, Severus! It's wonderful! Thank you, thank you!" If he'd been able to hug him, he would have done so, but his right arm trembled so much that he dropped the voucher instead and could just sit there staring as Severus retrieved it.
"Harry? Are your tremors getting worse?" he asked as he replaced the voucher back in his jacket pocket.
"A bit," he admitted. "But I didn't want to worry anyone."
"Harry, how we can we help you if you don't tell us what's wrong? I can make a stronger dose of the potion if you need it, but you have to let me know that you do in fact need it. Me or Madam Pomfrey."
"Okay," he agreed. "I don't mean to be a bother."
"You aren't a bother, Harry. Far from it." Severus reached across and pressed Harry's hand to his. "You could never be a bother to me."
Severus knew Harry's present was the right thing, when Harry's eyes lit up as soon as he saw the tethered balloon in the park a few miles outside of Bristol. Harry couldn't seem to stop smiling the whole day, even if his smiles were sometimes accompanied by a few tears. Of course, Harry had to be helped in and out of the basket, something Severus was quite willing to do. Holding and carrying Harry against his chest was certainly no hardship; the boy was as light as a phoenix feather.
Harry didn't speak a word as the balloon soared over the English countryside, just kept looking from the view and to Severus, smiling the whole time. There were three other couples in the balloon with them, along with the operator, but they seemed to sense that he and Harry weren't ones for small talk and so left them in peace.
When the balloon came back down to earth, Harry was crying again and couldn't seem to stop. Severus knelt down in front of Harry's wheelchair and touched Harry's cheeks with his fingertips; Harry's tears were hot on his skin. Harry's eyes widened and he gasped as Severus continued to caress his skin. Severus couldn't seem to let go, he didn't want to stop touching Harry. He couldn't stop staring into his eyes; he wanted to drown in that emerald gaze. Harry was biting his lower lip and breathing heavily.
Dappled sunlight filtered through the leaves above the tree Harry was under, casting strange green shadows across his face, making him seem other worldly.
Severus pushed himself up on his knees, leaning forward as Harry leant down and Severus Snape did what he'd been dreaming of all day. He kissed Harry full on the lips. Harry's lips were so soft; Severus kissed them gently, cupping Harry's face in his hands. Severus heard someone moan, but wasn't sure whether it was himself or Harry who'd done so. The kiss was long and lingering and surprisingly satisfying. Before Harry, a kiss was something to get over and done with to get to the good part, but with Harry, the kissing was the good part. Severus nibbled on Harry's lips, soothing the bites with a soft swipe of his tongue. He felt Harry's mouth opening under his, like a flower unfolding to the sun, but he could sense some reticence too. Severus kissed him hard, one last time before pulling away.
"Severus, we have to talk."
Oh. Those words never boded anything good. Harry closed his eyes and Severus could have kicked himself. Had he tried to soon? Pushed things too far? Maybe Harry didn't feel the same way about him as he felt about Harry. Perhaps he'd been reading too much into things. The talk with Helen that morning had him believing that maybe his hopes weren't beyond hope after all.
"Harry, I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable, that was not my intention. I - it just seemed a good idea at the time."
"Just at the time?" Harry quirked an eyebrow at him.
Severus didn't quite know what he meant by that.
"Severus - I - I really like you, but I can't do this."
"Do what, Harry?"
"I can't have a relationship with you, no matter how much I might want to. It wouldn't be fair on you."
"Harry, what are you talking about it?" Harry wanted a relationship with him? Harry had feelings for him?
"I can't - I can't do things," said Harry, flushing a delightful shade of pink. "I can't feel things - there," he waved his right hand around his groin.
Severus clasped Harry's right hand between both of his. "Can you feel that, Harry? Can you feel my hands on yours?"
Harry nodded. "Yes."
Severus moved his hands, stroked Harry's neck, Harry's cheeks, Harry's forehead, and Harry’s eyelids with barely a touch. "Can you feel that?"
"Yes," Harry's voice was a breathy whisper.
"Does it feel good, Harry?"
"Sensation doesn't only happen in your groin, Harry. Lots of things can feel good, even if it isn't an orgasm. I'd love to teach them to you."
"Oh God, Severus, are you saying you want to be with me? Even if I can't - you know?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying, Harry. Do you think you can put up with me? Of course, we could spend a lot more time together if you took that job at Hogwarts."
Harry grinned at him. "I knew there was an ulterior motive for that kiss, you just want me for my brain."
"Of course, Harry. It would come in very useful in a lot of potions."
"Oi, I'll not go if you're going to be using me as a potions store, you know." Severus had the impression if Harry could fold his arms, that's what he would have done then.
"Does that mean you'll take the job?"
"It means I'll think about it."
Number fourteen was in darkness when they finally arrived home, much later than they'd intended. After their talk, Severus had taken him to a small Italian restaurant, where they spent more time talking than actually eating the food. They talked of everything, from their childhoods to the incompetency at the Ministry, but Harry didn't want to think of that too much today. It was his birthday and he was going to enjoy it.
During dessert, Harry's mind wandered back to that amazing kiss and he smiled with what he was sure was a faraway look in his eyes.
"A galleon for them," said Severus.
Harry blinked at him. "What?"
"Oh," Harry blushed. "I was thinking about our kiss."
"And how does it measure up?"
"To all those other kisses? What about your first kiss? They say you always remember that one."
"When was your first kiss, then?" asked Harry, stalling for time.
"Mine? I was in fifth year, had just turned sixteen and we had just won our first Quidditch match that year. My team captain kissed me full on the mouth just before we went to the changing rooms. I thought it meant he liked me, but he really was just excited about winning the match. Can't even remember his name now. So, what about you, Harry? Who was the first to claim those virgin lips of yours?"
"You," Harry said, feeling his heart beating frantically against his ribs. "Today, that was my first kiss."
"What? You're not serious?" The ice-cream dripped from Severus' spoon onto the tablecloth.
"Perfectly, I was always studying or training with you, I never had time to pursue anything like that. And you're right, Severus. I will always remember it." Harry reached across the table with his one good arm and squeezed Severus' hand.
Harry was remembering it now as Severus wheeled him up the ramp to the front door. "I think they must be in bed, there's a key in my rucksack, Severus, can you get it?"
Harry heard Severus rummaging through the bag, the clink of potions bottles sounding loud in this small corner of suburbia. "I can't find it."
"Try the front pocket," suggested Harry. It was smaller than the main part of the bag and a lot easier to find things in it; he normally put little things like keys in there. He heard another zip being opened and a key was waved in front of his face.
"Okay, can you do it, Severus?" Harry may have had the key, but the lock was too far off the ground for him to reach from his wheelchair. "I wonder why they're in bed so early. It's not that late, is it?"
"It's just gone past ten," said Severus as he turned the key and pushed the front door open. The house was so quiet and there were no lights on anywhere, not even the porch light. His parents normally left that on if they expected anyone to come back when it was dark. The hairs on the pack of Harry's neck stood to attention like miniature soldiers.
"Severus," he whispered urgently. "Something's wrong. It's too quiet."
"You're probably just tired, Harry."
"I'm not bloody tired!" he hissed to the other man. "There are still Death Eaters out there, what if something's happened to my parents?"
"Nothing's happened to them, Harry. No-one can get past the wards on this house unless they are specifically invited."
"What wards? Did the Order out wards on the house?"
"No, Harry. You did."
"I did? How? I've never learned how to ward a property."
"As far as we can gather, you did it inherently, knowing instinctively what to do to keep yourself and your family safe."
"Well, that instinct is telling me now that something is wrong here, Severus. I can sense it."
Just as he finished speaking, Harry was momentarily blinded by a flash of white light as all the lights in the hall were switched on and there were shrieks of "Surprise!" from every room in the house. When Harry could finally see again, it was to see most of his year mates from Hogwarts along with the Weasleys, the Grangers, Professors Vector and McGonagall and some people he didn't even know as well.
"You didn't really think we'd let you turn eighteen without something to mark the occasion, did you?" asked his mother, bending down to give him a peck on the cheek.
"You do look very surprised," said his father. "I was sure Severus would let something slip."
Harry turned round and treated his former professor to a glare. "You knew about this?"
The man's face was inscrutable. "I couldn't possibly comment."
That was as good as a signed confession from Severus and Harry couldn't stop the giggle. When was the last time he'd laughed like that? When was the last time he felt like laughing? Severus pushed Harry's wheelchair into the living room, where they surprised a snogging couple on the sofa.
"Get a room you two," said Harry and was gratified to find that the two bolted apart as if they'd just been given an electric shock. Draco and Neville both grinned at him before wishing him a happy birthday.
"Sorry, Harry," said Neville. "You know Draco just can't keep his hands off me."
"That is entirely too much information, Mr. Longbottom," said Severus and gilded away to talk to Hermione. Harry wanted to shout from the rooftops that he and Severus had kissed, but at the same time he wanted to keep it a secret for as long as possible. Something that only they knew. Something only the two of them shared.
"You don't mind, do you Harry? I know you're not normally one for parties."
Looking round the room at all the happy, smiling faces of his friends and another face in particular, Harry didn't mind at all.
"No, Mum. It's brilliant, thanks. It's been the best birthday ever." Harry sought out the dark eyes of Severus Snape. Severus seemed to sense Harry's gaze for he looked across the room at Harry and when their eyes locked, Harry felt as if he didn't need a broom or a balloon in order to fly.
The party continued in the wee small hours, but Severus could sense that Harry was getting more and more tired by the minute. His face was pale and scrunched up as though against pain. He realised that Harry hadn't taken his next dose of painkilling potion. It seemed that Harry was determined to play the martyr and suffer through it, rather than let his friends know how often he had to take his potions.
Severus had a quiet word in David's ear and shortly thereafter the party broke up, with only Severus remaining behind. He had already been invited to stay the night, not that there was actually much night left. It would be dawn in a few hours, but since school hadn't started yet and all of Severus' lesson plans were already done, he didn't need to be up so early.
"Come on, Harry, let's get you to bed. You must be exhausted," David bent down, ready to carry Harry upstairs.
"Dad, can Severus do it?" asked Harry, looking pleadingly at the man in question. "That is, if you don't mind, Severus?"
"Not at all, Harry," replied Severus as he bent down and set to his task, one he was rapidly becoming familiar with. Harry fitted so well in his arms and it was getting easier to automatically adjust to the weight to find the best centre of balance for both of them. "Do you need the bathroom?" Severus asked him as they reached the top of the stairs.
"I suppose I'd better. It's the first door on the right."
Severus kicked the door open with his foot and set Harry down. He reached for Harry's trouser buttons without being asked and on automatic pilot; he slipped his hand inside and fished out Harry's prick, not even thinking about it.
"Er, Severus, I can do that part by myself."
"Oh, sorry. It just seemed..." It had just seemed natural to do it, but just because they'd shared a kiss did not mean that Harry was ready for any more intimacy than that. "Sorry," he said again. Once Harry had finished, washed his hands and brushed his teeth, Severus carried him into his bedroom, with Harry pointing it out, despite the small wooden sign in the shape of an aeroplane proclaiming that it was "Harry's Room" in curlicued lettering.
Severus lay Harry gently down on the bed as if he was a precious object and in Severus' eyes, that wasn't far from the truth. He could hardly believe that Harry returned even a fraction of his feelings. He removed Harry's trainers and socks, and then turned to Harry's shirt.
"You're not using magic?" asked Harry, struggling to lift his head from the pillow.
"I didn't want to upset you by using magic when you can't. Do you want me to use magic?"
"No, I want to feel you undress me," sighed Harry and Severus felt his groin tighten. How he wished for robes to hide his reaction behind. Severus continued to pop each shirt button out of its hole and soon the whole shirt was open to Harry's waist and he could see the myriad scars covering Harry's chest. He'd seen them before, when Madam Pomfrey had finally washed away the blood, but to see them now, like this, it was as if he'd been doused in cold water. He'd forgotten how many of them there were.
"They're ugly, aren't they?" whispered Harry, his voice tight.
"No, Harry. They're badges of honour." And with that, Severus leant over and kissed every scar he could reach.
Harry's hand reached down and tangled in his hair. "Ah!" Harry groaned and it took a few moments for Severus to realise that it was one of pain, not pleasure. Harry groaned again, softer this time, as if he was holding back how much pain he was in.
"Where's your potion, Harry?"
"Second drawer down," Harry wheezed pointing to his bedside cabinet. Severus found the potion and uncorked the vial, placing three drops on Harry's tongue. He knew the dose was normally two, but Harry had been late in taking it, he'd need the extra.
Harry's eyelids fluttered closed and he breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks."
"You should be keeping the doses regular, Harry."
"I know, but today was an exception. It won't happen again."
"Good." Severus lifted Harry up in a sitting position so that he could remove the shirt, than lay him back down and began working on removing Harry's trousers. He pulled them down and tried his best not to stare at the scars decorating the young man's arms and legs. There wasn't a part of Harry's body that was unmarked and he knew Harry was very self-conscious about it, hence the long sleeves even though it was summer. "Pyjamas?" Severus stared around the room as if hoping they'd jump into his hands.
"Under my pillow, but it's too warm. I'll just sleep in my underwear."
"Very well," said Severus, his voice little more than a croak. He slipped the blankets down on the side of the bed Harry wasn't lying on, then slid him over and into the bed. Severus began to pull the blankets back up, trying not to look at the clunky bracelet. He didn't want to draw Harry's attention to it, but how could Harry forget it?
"No, just the sheet," said Harry. "It's far too hot for anything else."
Severus removed the blankets, folded them and set them on the only chair in the room. "Dreamless Sleep?" queried Severus. "Is it in the same drawer?"
"Yes, but I don't want any tonight," said Harry.
"You want to dream?"
"Yes, I want to dream of you and how you kissed me."
Severus cleared his throat. "Well, really, Harry, I do think you need something to compare that kiss to."
"You do?" Harry's eyes seemed brighter than the bedside lamp.
"Yes, I do," he replied, leaning over the bed and pressing his lips hard against Harry's.
Harry didn't wake up until well after midday, he really was tired after his outing and his party the day before. It was however the first time he'd woken up with a broad smile on his face for a very long time. Severus had gone to the guest room, but not before he had kissed Harry so long and deep that he was almost sure the man had been trying to suck his soul out through his mouth. He grinned as he remembered it.
When his father got him ready and brought him down to the kitchen, Severus was already there, drinking a glass of orange juice.
"There you are, Harry!" exclaimed his mother. "We thought we'd have to send out a search party for you, didn't we, Severus? Breakfast? Or should I say lunch?"
"Just some toast, please," said Harry, his stomach suddenly tying itself in knots as he saw Severus. The both of them had discussed this last night when they weren't trying to steal the breath from each other's body, but now that the moment was here, Harry didn't know how he was going to do it. He'd never even told his parents he was gay, never mind anything else. But he didn't want to hide this from them.
Helen made some toast, placing it and a glass of orange juice in front of Harry, the toast already buttered and ice cubes already in the glass. Harry's right hand trembled as he lifted the glass to his mouth, but he didn't think it was because of his injuries. After a few sips of the liquid, Harry set it back down on the table.
"Er, Mum, Dad. Can you sit down a minute? There's something I have to tell you." Harry looked at Severus who inclined his head slightly in support. Maybe after he told them, they could hold hands. Harry needed that comforting touch right about now.
David and Helen both sat down with worried frowns on their faces and that was the last thing Harry wanted. He never wanted to worry his parents.
"Mum, Dad - I - I'm gay."
Helen smiled at him. "Harry dear, we knew that already."
"You did? How?"
Helen tapped her nose and smiled. "A mother always knows these things."
"You don't mind?" Harry had been dreading this moment, telling them, afraid being rejected, abandoned again because he was different, because he wasn't what was considered normal by some people.
"Of course not, son," said David. "As long as you're happy, that's what matters, isn't it?"
Harry couldn't stop the tears. What had he done to find such wonderful adoptive parents as these?
"And this one," David jabbed a finger in Severus' direction. "Make sure you hold onto him, Harry. He's a good one."
"What?" sniffled Harry. "You mean you knew about me and Severus?"
"Harry, it's pretty obvious how you two feel about each other," said Helen, pouring out some more orange juice all round. "Not to mention the way you two were making moony eyes at each other all last night. It was as if there was a magnet binding the two of you together, if you weren't near each other, you were looking for each other and gravity did the rest."
"You approve?" asked Severus. "You approve of our - our relationship?"
Harry could hear the worry in the man's voice. Both of them had been prepared for a battle, he realised, a battle to stay together despite what objections might be raised. Their age difference, Severus' past sins, Harry's lack of magic, his disability and a hundred and one other things besides.
"We do, Severus. Anyone can see that the two of you love each other. David, we have to take that casserole dish back to Mrs. Phillips."
"What casserole dish?"
Helen nudged him in the ribs and gave him a glare that could rival Snape's. "Oh, that casserole dish," he said as they both got up and left the kitchen. Harry didn't hear the front door open and he didn't know of a Mrs. Phillips either. His mother was a professional cook and had never borrowed an item of cookware in all the time he'd known her. As subtlety it was a complete failure but as a gesture it worked beautifully.
"Alone at last," grinned Harry.
"Indeed," drawled Severus. "What do you suggest we do to take advantage of such a situation?"
"Do you think you could just snog me silly?"
"Addicted to it now, are we?"
"To kisses with you? Definitely yes. I've all those lost teenage years to make up for."
"You're still in your teenage years, Harry." Severus stood up and moved a little bit closer to him.
"I know, all the more reason to get in as much snogging as I can before I turn twenty."
"And what happens when you reach twenty?" Severus was almost right beside him.
"Then I have to get in as many kisses as I can before a reach thirty. Imagine it, Severus. A whole decade of kissing me." Harry looked up, falling into the man's eyes, even though he was the one who was sitting down.
"Longer," breathed Severus as he lowered his head. "An eternity of kissing you would never be enough."
The kiss was soft, unhurried, Severus cupping his face again, Harry loved that gesture. It made him feel safe and wanted at the same time. Harry wrapped his right arm around Severus' neck and trailed his fingers in the hair at the nape of the man's neck. Severus shuddered and pulled away from the kiss. Harry wasn't strong enough to pull him back down into it. He licked his lips, already missing the other man's taste.
"Harry, we have to stop now." Severus' face was flushed, two red splotches high on his cheekbones. As he stood up to his full height, Harry could see the reason for the man's discomfort. Severus sat down on the chair next to Harry's, wincing a little as he did so.
"Do you want me to - to help you?" asked Harry, reaching over and placing his hand on Severus' thigh.
Severus shook his head. "No, Harry. It's fine. I'll calm down in a minute."
"I didn't know that kissing could do that - could make you aroused, I mean." Harry blushed, he'd just offered to jerk the man off and now he was blushing about taking about sex.
Severus stared at him, as if he was suddenly seeing Harry for the very first time. "It can do, especially if you haven't had sex for a while, or you're young or inexperienced. Merlin, I never even realised it until now. You said you'd never been kissed before me, you haven't done anything before me, have you, Harry? You're a virgin?"
Harry nodded. "But I have done some things. You know, I touched myself, before - before..." Something else that they'd taken from him, the ability to feel pleasure like that again. He wanted to break something. Preferably Lucius and Bella's necks. Could almost feel the bone underneath his fingers. But the only thing that broke was his heart, somewhere down the middle as the tears just kept flowing and flowing.
Severus scooted his chair closer to Harry's, he lifted Harry out and cradled Harry on his lap, whispering soothing words in his ear and rocking him against Severus' chest. It felt wonderful and Harry just let the tears come, knowing that Severus wouldn't think he was weak or think any less of him because sometimes he could do nothing but cry.
"So, Harry. Have you thought any more about the job?" asked Severus once Harry's tears had dried to a mere trickle.
"I have, Severus. I think it's something that I would like to try. There are some conditions, though."
"Oh? And what might those be?"
"I'll need ground floor rooms, big enough for two of course."
"Big enough for two, eh? You're thinking of sharing with someone, are you?"
"I am, but I haven't asked him how he feels about it yet."
"Hmm, a male lover? The tongues will be wagging at Hogwarts. Boy Who Lives and Death Eater in Gay Sex Scandal. It's got a nice ring to it, doesn't it? There a few feathers at the Ministry who could do with a bit of ruffling."
"I'm not quite sure what you just said there, Severus," Harry smiled at him.
"Idiot boy," Severus ruffled Harry's hair and kissed his head. "It means I said yes."
Harry returned to Hogwarts the third week in August, a week before the students were due to return. Professor McGonagall had managed to get Harry a dispensation from the Ministry to allow him to Apparate there; Severus had already taken all Harry's thing with him. So all Harry needed to bring was himself, his wheelchair and of course his potions. It was a lot easier than trying to negotiate trains by himself. It helped that the transport minister was Ernie Macmillan’s uncle. Albert Macmillan was more inclined to believe his nephew's version of events (after all, Ernie had been there, hadn't he?) about Harry channelling the power of all the other students, something that had to be done with their permission, rather than the gossip that graced the pages of the Daily Prophet every day. That Harry was too powerful for his own good and all the rest of it.
Severus and Professor McGonagall were waiting for Harry at the edge of the wards, but Harry had eyes for no-one but Severus, he was barely aware of the woman's greeting. She took his hand and smiled softly at him. "So wonderful to have you back, Harry."
"Thank you, Professor."
"Harry, you must call me Minerva. After all, we're colleagues now."
"Thank you, Minerva." It felt very strange to call this formidable woman by her first name, but he supposed he might get used to it in time. After all if he could get used to calling Snape Severus, Minerva shouldn't be too much of a problem.
"Severus can show you round your new rooms, Harry but I expect both of you to be at the staff-meeting at three. I never thought I'd see the day when we could get Severus out of the dungeons!"
Once Minerva had left to return to the castle, Harry glanced up at Severus. "She knows about us, then?"
"It's Hogwarts, Harry. Of course she knows. Do you mind about people knowing?"
"No, it's not that. It's - oh, when people find out I can almost see their brains working, wondering what we do, how we do it with me in a wheelchair. I don't particularly want people to wonder about our love life."
"Harry, they'd be wondering about that whether or not you were in a wheelchair. It's none of their business anyway, just try and ignore them. Now, shall I give you the grand tour?" Severus bowed before going round and pushing Harry into the castle to show him their new rooms.
They were light and spacious, with large windows so that they enjoyed a wonderful view of the lake from their living room. All the doors were broad enough for his wheelchair and opened or closed automatically with a word.
"But I'm not allowed to do magic," protested Harry.
"It's the doors that are magic, Harry. Not you. They've been approved by Cynthia Cole, the minister for health. Fudge can't do a thing." Harry glanced down at his bracelet and wondered about that. Severus continued showing him around, first his office, then Harry's and then onto the bathroom. It had been designed with someone disabled in mind with a large double shower, with low controls; grab rails and a stool so that he wouldn't need to stand for too long. It would enable him to be a lot more independent.
There was also a large claw footed tub in the middle of the room, but Harry didn't think he would be able to use that unless Severus could help him in and out of it, although that scenario certainly had its merits. He smiled to himself.
"Who did all this?" asked Harry. "I don't remember there being rooms here before."
"Hagrid asked the castle what was needed and the castle did the rest."
"Hagrid? The castle?"
"Didn't you know? Hagrid is the Keeper of the Keys."
"Yes, I knew that. I thought it meant he locked the castle up at night and things like that."
"That too, but you're thinking too literally, Harry. Hogwarts doesn't just have physical keys. The Keeper makes sure the wards are intact, he has a connection to the castle, as does the head, but the Keeper is the one who can request things of the castle."
"Wow! So Hagrid asked the castle and it did all this for me?"
"It did indeed, Harry. This way, kitchen's next."
Harry was ushered into the most modern room yet, a veritable kingdom of white and chrome and kitted out with every conceivable electrical gadget. Coffee maker, electric kettle, microwave, sandwich toaster and more. All the counters and wall cupboards were lower than normal so that Harry would be able to reach them from his wheelchair.
"I didn't think electricity worked at Hogwarts."
"Technically, it doesn't," explained Severus. "Arthur Weasley worked on it. He's created a dampened magical field around the kitchen. It's the only place in the castle where electricity will work. So now you can cook whenever you like."
"There's just one problem with that, Severus. I can't cook."
"Your mother is a professional chef and you're telling me you can't cook?"
"Exactly. Do you really think she'd let someone else in her kitchen?" laughed Harry.
"Oh, I see your point. Well then, it looks like I might just have to teach you how to cook as well as ... other things." Severus leaned down and caressed the back of Harry's neck with his fingertips. Harry arched into the touch, his neck had always been sensitive, but it was much more so now, as if making up for loss of feeling in other places.
"God, that feels wonderful, Severus," sighed Harry.
"Good. I aim to please."
"Your certainly do that, Severus." Harry angled his head round so that he could look at the other man. He arched his neck up in invitation, ready for a kiss. Severus seemed only too happy to oblige.
A little breathless, a little flushed, they did manage to get to the staff-room five minutes before the meeting was due to start. A space had been cleared in the circle of chairs for Harry's wheelchair; Severus pushed him into it and then took the seat next to Harry.
"Well, Harry, you know everyone here except for Robert Andrews, he's our new History of Magic teacher. Robert, this is Harry, Harry Potter."
"Harry Johnson," said Harry automatically. He'd never got used to that name. He didn't feel like a Potter, no matter how many times people told him that's who he was. It wasn't James or Lily Potter he remembered who read him bedtime stories; who looked after him when he was sick with coughs and colds as a child, it was David and Helen Johnson he thought of as his parents. Johnson was his name now, not Potter.
"Sorry, Harry. I keep forgetting," said Minerva. Robert Andrews leaned across the circle and held his hand out for Harry to shake. His hair was long and blond, reminding Harry uncomfortably of Lucius Malfoy and he shrank away a little from the man's touch, feeling as if he couldn't get enough air. Severus noticed his distress and rested his arm on Harry's knee, not moving it, just letting Harry know he was there.
"What happened to Professor Binns?" asked Harry. If Death hadn't stopped the man from boring countless students, he didn't know what would.
"He finally gave up the ghost!" the new teacher guffawed, immensely amused at his own joke. No-one else was laughing.
McGonagall glowered at him. "Professor Binns decided it was time to move on to a higher plane."
"You and I will be seeing a lot of each other, Harry," said Andrews. The man's eyes were the strangest hue of violet that Harry had ever seen, but despite the warmth of the colour, the man radiated coldness. This was a man who was out for himself, no matter what he said or did. Harry could sense things about people; he knew instinctively who he could trust and who he couldn't.
He'd never really thought of himself as psychic or anything like that, he just accepted that sometimes he knew things, could sense things. All the hairs on his body were standing on end as he reacted to the danger this man represented, only he did not what that danger was. He just got flashes of sensations, nothing as concrete as a vision.
"We will?" asked Harry, not at all enamoured of the idea of spending any sort of time with this man.
"Yes, I can help you with all the wizarding customs that you won't know, being brought up by Muggles as you were."
He made the word Muggle sound like some sort of disease. "Muggleborns don't know our ways."
"Next you'll be saying that they shouldn't be allowed to attend Hogwarts at all," said Professor Lupin. "What's your stance on werewolves?"
"W- werewolves? Headmistress, surely you don't allow werewolves at Hogwarts?" The man had paled considerably.
"You mean you didn't know?" Severus asked smoothly. "Of course, Remus is quite safe as long as he takes his Wolfsbane potion. Pity I hadn't developed it when I was still at school, might not have had that near miss."
"Are you always going to bring that up?" Remus smiled at Severus and Harry. "It was nearly twenty years ago!"
"He - h - he tried to bite you?" If the man got any paler, he would rival Hagrid's porridge.
"Yes, but don't worry. I take my Wolfsbane now," Remus grinned and Harry was sure he heard a low growl, Andrews almost toppled from his chair.
"Thanks, but I won't need your help," said Harry, glancing round at Severus and smiling shyly. "Severus will teach me everything I need to know."
Harry didn't scream anymore when he had nightmares, he whimpered, trying to curl himself into a ball as though to protect himself again from the torture he still dreams of every night, but his broken body can't even manage to do that. Those whimpers were enough to have Severus awake in an instant and going into Harry's room, wrapping his whole body round Harry's, a few soft whispers in the boy's ears until his breathing eased out again and he fell back into a deeper sleep. Harry never woke up from the nightmares, but Severus liked to think that his presence helps to soothe him back to sleep, for he could do little else. Once Harry was calmer, Severus went back to his own bed. He didn't think Harry even knew he'd been there.
He had an idea for a potion, a topical one that he could rub on Harry's skin, something to ignite the nerves again, but he'd been through every journal, every book in the Restricted Section, every Dark tome at his ancestral library and at the Black house, but nothing existed that would repair nerve damage, not even a Dark spell. He wanted to create something, but he had no idea where to start, there was no base to build from, nothing had been done with victims of nerve damage due to the Cruciatus curse. Most people had gone insane long before the curses got to the level that had damaged Harry and the torture stopped. What was the point of continuing to torture your victim if they were so crazy they didn't even know what was happening to them?
There was nothing else for it; Severus knew he was going to have to investigate Muggle treatments, something that went against the grain. After meeting David and Helen, he knew that all Muggles were not as bad as Lord Voldemort and Snape's father had made out, but it still galled him that his beloved potions were unable to help Harry, unable to help his other beloved.
He didn't tell Harry, he wanted to find out if there was even any hope, before that hope might be taken away. Harry had been through too much already only to have the rug pulled out from under him again.
Someone knocked on the door to Harry's office just as he was about to leave for dinner, but he never denied any student his time, no matter what other plans he might have had. His job as helping Muggleborns to integrate more fully into the magical world had ended up with him becoming more of a counsellor and not just to Muggleborns.
Except for the latest intake of first years, he'd known all of them before and maybe they thought it would be easier to talk to him about things that concerned them than one of the older faculty members. Bullying, problems at home, even sex, they asked him about all of it and he tried his best, but worried that he wasn't really qualified to tackle all these problems.
"Come in," called Harry, whispering the spell to open the door. It wasn't a student. It was Professor Andrews.
"Professor Andrews. This is a surprise. Severus is expecting me for dinner."
"I won't keep you long, Harry. I just brought some books I thought you might be interested in."
"Oh?" Harry couldn't see any books and had that uncomfortable, prickly feeling at the back of his neck again.
The man clicked his fingers and about twenty books popped onto Harry's desk. "There are quite a few interesting anecdotes in these about wizarding culture through the ages; I thought it might be useful for you."
"Thank you. I appreciate it." The gesture was unexpected, but Harry hoped the man wouldn't make a habit of frequenting his office, whether bearing books or not.
"Good evening," said Andrews, turning on his heel and walking out, just as Severus was about to knock the door to come in. The two of them were barely civil to each other.
"What was he doing here?" asked Severus once the man was gone. His hands were fisting in his robes and his left eyelid was twitching uncontrollably. That only happened when the man was really angry.
Harry stared at him. "My God, Severus, are you jealous?"
"Do I have reason to be?" he demanded.
"I'll forget you even asked me that," Harry said angrily, throwing his scrolls haphazardly into his bag. How could Severus even think that Harry would...
Of course, Robert Andrews was a blonde, handsome young man and if they were giving awards out for low self-esteem, Severus Snape would win hands down. Harry could almost see the man's thoughts. He was older than Harry by almost two decades, he had sallow skin and greasy hair, he had a condition that caused excess oil secretion, so although he washed his hair every day, it didn't stay clean for long. His nose was large and hooked, he had yellowing fingernails due to all the handling of potion ingredients he did every day, and plenty of those were entirely for Harry's benefit. But Severus Snape had one thing that Robert Andrews would never have, he had Harry's love. And Harry would never let the man in front of him forget it.
"I love you, Severus," he said, as he told the man every day. He'd yet to hear the sentiments returned, but it was clear in his actions, how much he did for Harry that he loved Harry too. Harry would probably die of shock if he did actually hear the words from those lips.
"I made shepherd's pie," said Severus, ignoring Harry's declaration, as he usually did. Harry never let on how much it hurt him, he knew Severus found it difficult to express emotions, but sometimes he just wished it was easier, like sometimes he wished he was still whole, but both wishes were an exercise in futility and he tried not to dwell on it.
"My favourite," smiled Harry as Severus came around behind him and pushed him into their living room, where the table was already set for two.
"I know," said Severus. The table itself was draped with a white tablecloth, there were two sliver candlesticks with glossy white candles already lit, the only illumination in the room. A bowl of flowers were in the centre of the table. Two crystal goblets and a jug of iced pumpkin juice sat to one side. Harry couldn't drink any alcohol, not with the amount of potions he was taking, and Severus had forgone as well.
"What's the occasion?" asked Harry.
"It's three months since our first date," smiled Severus.
"It can't be that long already!" protested Harry.
"Time flies when you're having fun, eh?" Severus wheeled Harry and positioned his chair underneath the table, before bending down and kissing Harry behind the ear. "We'll eat," he whispered. "And then I thought we could take a bath. Together. I'll wrap you up in fluffy towels and carry you to bed, where I'll stay. If I'm welcome."
Harry nodded, unable to speak with anything resembling coherency. In those three months, he and Severus had yet to share a bed, their quarters contained two bedrooms and after Severus usually got Harry ready for bed, he left for his own. Harry wasn't sure how to broach the subject, that he wanted Severus to share with him, even if they couldn't do a lot, but now it looked as though Severus had decided it was time and Harry was getting more and more nervous as the evening wore on. He barely tasted the food and was glad when they both decided to skip dessert and decided to have their bath instead.
When they reached the bathroom, Severus seemed to sense that something was bothering Harry, he had an uncanny knack for that. Harry thought it might be something residual left over from their shared Occlumency lessons. "Harry, we don't have to do this if you don't want to," said Severus, kneeling down in front of Harry's wheelchair.
"No, it's not that. I do want to; just - just can you go slowly? I'm a bit nervous."
"As slow as you like, Harry. We've got all night." With that, Severus stood up and proceeded to gift Harry with the slowest strip-tease Harry had ever imagined. He realised that he had never seen the man naked before and he swallowed around the snitch that had lodged in his throat as inch after inch of pale skin was revealed. After the robes were unbuttoned it was the shirt's turn and Harry wished that it was his hands that were able to undress the man before him. Severus' dark eyes were locked with his own and Harry felt the breath rush from his body as Severus shrugged out of the shirt and tossed it on the floor in a crumpled heap of fabric. That was almost more shocking than the man's soon to be nakedness.
The slow tease as Severus popped first one button on his trousers, then another, was just that. Too slow, too teasing.
"Oh, God," moaned Harry. "Severus, please!"
Severus smirked and undid another button; Harry saw a trail of dark hair leading down into the open vee of the trousers. Then finally the last button was undone and Severus pushed the trousers down his hips and Harry was treated to the view, the first view he ever had, of the man's erect cock.
"You don't wear underwear?" Harry gasped in surprise.
"Not tonight, but it looks like one of is still a tad over dressed."
"I was hoping you'd be able to remedy that," smiled Harry.
"Oh, I intend to, my dear Harry. I intend to."
Once Harry was undressed, which took a fair bit of time in itself; Severus scooped him up in his arms and lowered him into the bath, using his arm as a cradle for Harry's head as he began washing Harry with a sponge. Harry sighed and sank lower into the tub, it was so relaxing, and he hardly even noticed that he could not move freely. The water made it seem as if he could, the small ripples in the water moving his body slightly without any of Harry's help.
It was as Severus washed his abdomen that the pain first started, sharp jabs behind his eyes and Harry winced. When Severus prepared to go lower, to wrap the sponge around Harry's prick, it felt like an explosion in his skull and he screamed in agony, batting Severus' hand away with his right one. "Stop! Stop touching me!"
"Harry? What is it?" Severus dropped the sponge in the bath, but he still had hold of Harry's shoulders with his other hand. Harry was in too much pain to speak for a few moments. Someone was cleaving his head in two.
"Potion, Severus. Pain potion."
"What? You had your dose before dinner, Harry, don't you remember? It's too soon to take it again."
"Fuck!" yelled Harry. "Get me out, Severus, get me out!" Harry tried to move, tried to get himself up but it was a hopeless task and he only succeeded in banging his good arm against the side of the bath, the pain in his wrist almost rivalling that in his head. Angry, frustrated tears leaked from his eyes and he tried to blink them away before the other man saw.
"Harry, calm down, you're going to hurt yourself," Severus said calmly. "Let me help you. Calm down. Breathe. That's it. That's it."
"Stop talking to me like I'm a bloody child!" screamed Harry, the pain in his head making him lash out at the one person he never wanted to hurt.
Severus ignored his outburst as he'd done with all the previous ones. Harry wondered how the man could be so bloody patient. He silently got Harry out of the bath.
Severus did wrap him in a fluffy towel and put Harry to bed, kissing him on the forehead and getting ready to leave.
"Stay, please," begged Harry.
"Do you want me to?"
"Please, Severus. I need you to hold me. Like you do when I have nightmares."
"You knew about that? You were awake?" Severus paused by the door.
"No, but my dreams changed when you were there. They were no longer nightmares when you touched me; I think I must have sensed you or something."
"Are you sure about this, Harry? I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
"I'm in pain, I'm miserable, I'm being a jerk and you can make me feel better. I want you here, Severus. Next to me."
Severus nodded and climbed in next to Harry, dressed only in boxers. Harry was lying on his right side; Severus curled up behind him, wrapping his arms around Harry's torso and pressing soft kisses into his neck. It seemed to ease the pain in his head somewhat and he thought he might be able to get some sleep after all.
"Professor Andrews, this is becoming quite a habit," said Harry as the man sauntered around his office. For the past three weeks the man had been visiting Harry, on the pretence that he had some books Harry would find interesting. Madam Pince already sent Harry any books he needed from the library, most of the books Andrews gave him, Harry had already read.
"It is, isn't it?" said Andrews as he stalked closer to Harry's wheelchair. "You're such interesting company, Harry. I always like to get to know my work beforehand. I like to think there's some connection between us."
"There is nothing between us," Harry ground out between gritted teeth. Was Severus right? Did the man have designs on him? That wasn't the sensation Harry was getting from him, but there was still an element of danger there. "I'm with Severus."
"Oh, don't worry your pretty little head, Harry. I'm not into kink. I don't go for guys in wheelchairs, don't go for guys at all actually. But Severus is, isn't he? Tell me, was he interested in you before you were in a wheelchair?" Andrews leered. "Needs that bit of extra kink to get him up these days, does he?"
"Don't you dare talk about him like that!"
"Why not? It's the truth, isn't it? He's only with you because of that chair, because you can't look after yourself. He feels responsible for you, wants to atone by looking after you. Do you think he'd stay if you were whole? He doesn't love you; he just wants to redeem himself. It wouldn't matter who you were."
"That's a lie!"
"Believe what you like, Harry, but it won't change the outcome today." The man raised his wand and cast a binding spell on Harry, so that even with his good limbs he could not move away. "That's better." Andrews sank down in front of his wheelchair and caressed Harry's cheek.
"Get your fucking hands off me!" screeched Harry, almost willing his body to move despite his bindings and disability.
"I told you not to worry, Harry. I won't compromise your virtue. I like my partners to be both willing and able. You'd be neither."
Andrews stood up, raising his wand. There was nothing Harry could do. He was at this man's mercy. Just as Andrews uttered the first syllable of the Killing Curse, Harry could only speak. "Expelliarmus!" Harry screamed as three other voices joined his. Andrews was thrown clear across the room. As he slid down the wall, a trail of blood followed him where he'd banged his head. Harry looked up, surprised to see Madam Pomfrey, Remus and Severus all with their wands drawn against Professor Andrews, who was still unconscious.
Madam Pomfrey released the bindings and checked Harry over. "How? What?" asked Harry.
"Our quarters are warded, Harry. In case you ever needed help but couldn't move to get it, Madam Pomfrey placed a monitoring spell on you so that if you were ever in danger, we'd know and could come to help," said Severus.
"A monitoring spell? You've all been monitoring me all this time without my permission?" He couldn't believe they'd done it.
"It wasn't like that, Harry," said Madam Pomfrey.
"No? What was it like then? I'm fed up of people deciding what is best for me! I'm not a child and my mind is perfectly intact. I don't need to be monitored twenty four hours a day!"
"Actually, Harry, you do," Madam Pomfrey patted him on the knee. "What would have happened if you hadn't had that spell on you? You'd be dead, you need it."
"Remove it," said Harry firmly. "I don't want it."
"Harry, please," Severus begged.
"No, Severus. I don't want it. I don't want to be spied on. Remove it."
Madam Pomfrey nodded her head and cast her wand over him. He felt the magic shimmer in the air as the spell was removed. "Okay, Harry. It's done. I'll take Professor Andrews to the infirmary. I guess you'll want to question him later, Severus?"
"You are correct, Poppy. Make sure to keep him bound."
Once Madam Pomfrey had left, levitating her burden, Severus turned back to Harry. "Harry - I -"
"Don't, Severus. Don't say anything. Nothing you can say can make this right. I was under a spell, against my will. How could you do that to me after what I've been through? How could you put me under a spell without my permission? And you too, Remus, you agreed to let them."
"It was for your own good, Harry," said Remus.
"For my own good?" Harry laughed without humour. "Like this thing?" Harry held out his arm, showing where the bracelet bound his wrist.
"Severus! How could you!" roared Remus. "How could you put that thing on him!"
"What? It was put on by the Ministry, by Fudge himself. I had nothing to do with it."
"It's a lock for my magic," said Harry. "He doesn't want me to become the next Dark Lord."
Remus looked from one to the other. "That isn't a lock for magic, Harry. At least, not unless you're... Are you a virgin, Harry?"
Harry nodded, beyond blushing by this time. "What is it, then?" he asked.
"It's a chastity device; they were outlawed about two hundred years ago."
"What exactly do you mean by chastity device, Lupin?" demanded Severus.
"As you probably know, Severus, the most powerful and pure magic comes from virgins. Pure-blood families wanted to keep their children pure until they could make a good marriage, but chaperones were hard to come by. Enter this device, it inhibits the libido and if any intimate touching is about to take place, anything below the waist there is -”
"Pain," said Harry. "Excruciating pain."
Was it true? That the reason he hadn't an erection for months now was because of this device and not his injuries at all?
"Yes. It was considered Dark Magic by the Wizengamot and was banned."
"So how come Fudge has still got one? You said it wasn't a lock for my magic?"
"Technically, it isn't, but because you are a virgin, it has also inhibited your magic. The same thing happened with all those children, they could only do magic again once they got married and their husband or wife removed the device after the ceremony. Sexual activity is connected to magic, it's why a lot of people can do wandless magic when they are going through puberty, but most of them lose the knack as they get older."
"What if they didn't want to get married?"
"It could be removed by the parents, but most of them were so keen on getting a good marriage that they refused unless the child married."
"That's barbaric!" said Harry. "They'd do that to their own children? It was like selling them as slaves!"
"History is full of barbarity, Harry. Muggle as well as Magical. I didn't say we were proud of it."
"No, Remus, you didn't. I'm not angry at you, I shouldn't have shouted at you like that. But how can we get this bloody thing off me?"
Remus smiled at Harry and then gave an equally broad grin to Severus.
"Severus, don't you think it's time you invited your in-laws to see Hogwarts?"
After dinner, Harry, Severus, Remus and Professor McGonagall headed to the infirmary along with Severus' newest batch of Veritaserum in order to interrogate Professor Andrews and why he'd tried to kill Harry. Harry guessed it was some form of Death Eater plot; there were still plenty of them around who wanted to see him dead, the Aurors hadn't rounded all of them yet. Harry didn't think they ever would.
The bracelet on his wrist seemed heavier than usual, was it because he knew now what it did? To think that Fudge had done that to him, had taken away his ability to feel pleasure was an abomination. He wondered which function of the bracelet Fudge loved more, the fact that it took away Harry's magic or his sexual pleasure.
Severus rested his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry? Are you all right? Are you sure you want to do this?"
"I'm fine, Severus. I want to do this. I want to know why he tried to kill me."
His earlier anger at Severus and the others over the unauthorised monitoring spell had dissipated somewhat, how could he stay angry at them when they had saved his life? It still rankled though, that they hadn't trusted him enough to tell him, that they hadn't thought he was mature enough to know. He wasn't a child anymore, when would all of them start realising it?
Professor Andrews was lying in bed, leather restraints at his wrists and ankles tying him to the bed. His head was bandaged and his face was pale and flushed. There was a tattoo of some sort of bird on his left forearm, certainly not the usual Dark Mark.
"He's a Hawk!" exclaimed Severus as soon as he saw the drawing.
"You don't believe all that rubbish, do you, Severus? That the Ministry has its very own Order of assassins?" asked Remus.
Severus didn't answer; he was too busy dosing the man with Veritaserum. "Who are you?"
"And what are you?"
"As you rightly guessed, I am a former member of the Order of the Hawk."
"You work for the Ministry? Did Fudge order Harry killed?"
"I used to work for the Ministry, but no longer. Now I'm freelance. Fudge was not my employer in this instance."
"So you've worked for Fudge before?" asked Severus.
"All the Order did. I left when it became clear that Fudge had little interest in the artistry of a good kill, he only wanted us to suppress Goblin rebellions and the odd Minister who stood in his way. I wanted something more."
"Something more? Like what?"
"Like recognition for my art. My name would never have been forgotten. The murderer of the Boy Who Lived. Who would not want fame such as that?"
Harry felt sick. The man was crazy and he just wanted to get away, but knew he was stuck here, unable to do anything but listen to the man as he related his skewed tale, as much as he was unable to get up and walk out the door on two good legs.
"So this was all your idea? You just wanted to kill Harry for some twisted sort of fame?" demanded Severus, so angry that spittle was flying from his mouth.
"Oh, no. It was a job. I was hired to kill him."
"Who? Who hired you?" asked Minerva. "Was it Lucius Malfoy?"
"No, it was Albus Dumbledore."
"What? That's a lie!" protested Minerva. "Albus would never..."
"Oh? Like he would never allow Dementors to Kiss an innocent man? Don't tell me you believed his little fairy tale about being under Imperius by Lucius Malfoy? That he's insane? The man is as sane as he ever was. He's had all of you fooled, especially you, Severus. You were his little spy all along, weren't you? You've all been so caught up in destroying Voldemort that you didn't realise what was under your noses all this time."
"Speak!" commanded Severus, his wand out as though to hex the man into next week.
"Why do you think Dumbledore went after Grindelwald, wanted Voldemort destroyed?"
"Because they were Dark Wizards," said Harry.
"And you, Harry? Are you a Dark Wizard too? No, I didn't think you were. All three of you had one thing in common; you were competition to Dumbledore's power. He wanted no-one to stand in his way. Dumbledore wants to be the next Dark Lord."
Helen and David wouldn't be able to visit Hogwarts until Christmas Eve, as they explained to Severus and Harry in their letter. They'd already taken so much time off when Harry was missing, when he'd then been found and their days had been spent taking him to doctors and specialists, that their respective bosses were not keen on them taking even more time off. If they weren't back the day after Boxing Day, then they would both be out of a job.
Robert Andrews, Fudge and Dumbledore's trials were set to start in the New Year, on the third of January. Both he and Harry were required as witnesses, Severus wasn't sure Harry was up to it. He seemed to be in shock over this ultimate betrayal. No-one in the school could actually believe that it had happened, was happening. Maybe at the trial they'd finally get to the truth.
When Christmas Eve did finally arrive, Severus held Harry in his lap, stroking his hair. Harry had spent most of the morning throwing up. Severus knew it was from nerves, but why would Harry be so worried about his parents visiting? Didn't he want them to visit him?
Professor McGonagall and half the Order had gone to escort the Johnsons by Floo from the Leaky Cauldron. There were still plenty of Death Eaters out there who would hurt Harry's family in order to get to him. They were taking no chances with the Johnsons' safety.
"Harry? What's wrong? You know you can tell me."
"How do I explain to them about this?" Harry held out the offending bracelet. "How do you talk to your parents about sex? They don't even know we share the same rooms, never mind the same bed. I don't want to offend them, but I don't want to lie to them either."
"You think they'd be offended?" Severus kissed the top of Harry's head. He wondered why David had never had this conversation with Harry, instead of him. "Harry, they already know. Your father talked to me about it. He knows we are sharing both these quarters and our bed. The only thing he mentioned in regards to our love life is that I don't allow you to over-exert yourself."
"What?" spluttered Harry, blushing. "He said that? To you? Why didn't he talk to me about it?"
"Would you really have wanted him to, Harry? You said it yourself; it's not easy to talk to your parents about these things."
"No, you're right. It's difficult to talk to your parents about your love life, or lack of it." Harry glared at the bracelet. "I hope it can come off," sighed Harry. "Do you, Severus?"
"I do indeed, Harry. I can hardly wait to see you come," he whispered in Harry's ear and was gratified when the boy in his arms shivered a little.
"You'd better wait," said Harry, smiling. "The Floo's just activated." Even as Harry finished speaking, Minerva stepped out of the Floo, not a hair out of place. Closely following her, Harry's parents looked as if they’d been dragged through a hedge. Backwards. By their hair. He heard Harry trying to stifle giggles.
Once the greetings were done all round, Minerva left them to their "family dinner", as she called it. Severus was entirely too pleased that Minerva considered him part of Harry's family. Harry was still on his lap, he much preferred it to his wheelchair, but didn't object when Severus placed him there again just as they were about to have dinner.
"Don't worry," said Harry. "Severus cooked. He's excellent."
"I'm sure he is, Harry," said Helen, patting Harry's hand. "Now, what is it that you wanted to tell us?"
When he and Harry had finished their tale, the Johnsons looked gobsmacked, as well they should.
"Just tell us what we need to do, Severus," said David. "We won't let this go on."
"Nervous about tomorrow, Harry?" Severus asked him later that night, once they were snuggled up in bed. Together. His parents were in the other bedroom. They hadn't seemed to mind. Harry felt a bit foolish at all his worrying. He was nervous about tomorrow, but it was anxiety over whether or not the spell would work, not about what his parents would think about his and Severus' relationship.
"A little," he admitted. Harry was lying on his back; Severus was lying next to his left side. He had his head propped up on one elbow and with his other hand he was drawing random circles on Harry's skin. Severus was careful not to venture too close to the waistband of Harry's shorts and nothing below that. Harry loved the touch of the man's fingers on his skin. It was nice, but in a kind of asexual way. He wondered how different it would feel once the bracelet came off.
When Severus touched him on his left arm or leg, Harry knew he was being touched, he could see it, but he couldn't really feel it, the nerves were too damaged. Sometimes he could feel pressure there, but it was distant and didn't last very long.
A few weeks ago he'd lost all the feeling in his left leg too and he could no longer walk at all. He'd cried when Madam Pomfrey had told him, despite them all knowing that this was something that was going to happen eventually. Severus had held him all that night, rocking him and whispering to him. Neither of them slept that night as Harry wept what he was sure was the entire water content of his body.
Because his nerves could no longer tell him that he was being hurt, they had to be extra careful. He could easily hurt himself without realising it. Small cuts that he didn't know about could become infected if they weren't treated straightaway, although the potions he was still taking helped with that. Severus checked Harry's body every morning, every lunchtime and every evening, just to make sure they hadn't missed anything.
As Severus gasped and moved away, Harry knew it was because he'd gotten aroused again at caressing Harry. It had been happening more and more. And more and more, Severus was pulling away from him.
"Severus, lie on top of me," Harry urged, reaching round with his right hand and pushing a lock of Severus' hair out of his eyes. "I want to feel you. I want to touch you."
"Harry, no. It's all right. I'm fine."
"You're not fine. You're aching and aroused and I want to help you. Don't you want that, Severus? Don't you want to straddle me, have me feel your cock against my chest? Don't you want me to stroke you until you come? Don't you want that?"
"Merlin, Harry! Don't tempt me! The bracelet, we can't. I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't, not if you don't touch me anywhere near my cock. But I can touch yours." Harry lowered his hand and squeezed. Severus groaned.
"Harry, it wouldn't be fair on you."
"Why? Because you can have an orgasm and I can't?"
"Well, yes, I suppose." Severus tried to move even further away.
"You told that me things can feel pleasurable even if I can't come, Severus. Watching you, feeling you come will be very pleasurable for me. Please, Severus, please." Harry was almost in tears with the need for this. He needed to feel that Severus did in fact see him as a sexual being, and not just someone he was looking after.
They'd kissed and hugged, even shared some more intimate touching, but when things got too intense, Severus would back away, refusing Harry's offers to bring him to orgasm. Harry couldn't do much, it was true, but he could do some things, if only Severus would let him. He had a nagging suspicion that Severus' reticence was not due to Harry's injuries or the bracelet at all, but that Severus was finding it difficult to separate the child Harry had been from the young man he now was. Harry didn't need a father or a father figure; he needed and wanted a lover.
"Please, Severus. Please," he begged again.
"Are you sure, Harry?"
"I'm sure," said Harry, as Severus moved off the bed. Harry panicked at first, before realising that Severus was only removing his underwear. He stood by the edge of the bed, looking uncertainly at Harry.
"How do you want to do this?" he asked.
"Help me to sit up, and then kneel over me," suggested Harry. Severus complied, settling Harry into a comfortable position against the pillows and headboard. Severus knelt down on the bed, his knees either side of Harry's hips, but he was careful not to let his lower body touch Harry's, both of them wary as to what might happen if they did. Harry had no wish to repeat what had happened in the bath. He stroked Severus' chest, concentrating first on the man’s nipples, loving the breathy gasps his touches engendered. He trailed his hand down the hair leading from Severus' navel and lightly ran his index finger up and down the length of Severus' cock. It twitched in his hand, as if it had a mind of its own.
Harry glanced up. Severus' eyes were closed, eyelashes dusting his cheeks, his face and neck red. Harry gripped the cock firmly in his right fist and began to stroke in a steady rhythm. Severus moaned and bucked his hips, as if he was fucking Harry's hand. Severus was so hard already, copious amounts of precome leaking from the tip of his cock, that Harry knew he wasn't going to last long. Harry increased his pace, watching the man above him thrusting into his hand. "Oh, God! Harry!" he screamed just as he came and Harry's hand, stomach and chest were bathed in drops of pearl.
Severus collapsed in a heap atop Harry's chest, his whole body was shaking. Harry could feel all of the man's tremors, and it was almost as if they'd shared the orgasm. Severus looked up into Harry's eyes. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Severus. More than fine," Harry smiled at him. "You're beautiful when you come." Harry brought his hand to his mouth and proceeded to lick his fingers clean, one by one. He was really taking longer than necessary to clean them, but he was enjoying watching Severus watch him with that hungry gaze. "Mmm, you taste good too."
Severus' eyes darkened and he pressed his lips firmly against Harry's, pushing his tongue inside and licking Harry's palate clean of his own seed. Harry moaned at that thought, it was so erotic. Severus was even licking his teeth and he shivered, he never knew his teeth could be that sensitive. Neither of them stopped kissing each other for a long time, it was only when the need for air became more of a priority.
Severus climbed off Harry and helped to settle him back down into bed again. He cuddled up behind Harry and wrapped both arms around Harry's chest, spooning them together. Severus kissed the back of his neck. "Thank you, Harry."
"You're welcome," replied Harry. "Maybe tomorrow night you might be able to return the favour."
No-one had breakfast. For the spell to work, all the participants had to fast and come to the ritual cleansed and wearing white. Harry gaped when he saw Severus dressed in the sleeveless white robe, his hair such a dark contrast and it seemed strange to see him not wearing black trousers. All of them wore nothing underneath their robes and Harry couldn't wear his glasses, metal would interfere with the ritual, so that meant no wheelchair either.
Harry was sitting down on one of the wooden chairs Severus had conjured, his parents standing either side of him, Severus standing in front of him. He felt a little light headed and hoped it wouldn't take too long, he was getting hungry. The whole room was nothing but a blur.
"What do we have to do now?" asked his mother.
"You and David need to each hold one of Harry's hands. Severus, you kneel in front of Harry, but don't touch him yet," said Remus. As the Defence teacher, he was the only one who knew how to perform the ritual that would release Harry from the bracelet's spells. They had to do it as if it was a betrothal.
Everyone got into position, Helen held Harry's left hand, his father held his right. Harry saw Severus wince as he sank to his knees on the cold stone floor. Harry's heart was beating frantically against his chest as Severus stared up at him and they smiled nervously at each other. What if it didn't work?
Harry had been so anxious about this, afraid that his parents wouldn't do it, that they'd be angry at him for allowing Fudge to put the bracelet on him in the first place. They were certainly horrified all right, but not with Harry. With Fudge and anyone else at the Ministry in doing this to Harry without his consent and without theirs, considering the bracelet had been placed on Harry's wrist before he was eighteen. Harry knew that if either of his parents had a wand and five minutes lone with Fudge, the outcome would not be pretty. He'd never seen them so angry before.
Remus was chanting something in Latin, but Harry struggled to understand the words. He didn't really grasp their meaning, Remus was speaking too fast. After he'd finished speaking, Remus anointed each of them on the forehead, starting with David and ending with Harry. The oil seemed to burn his skin.
"Now," said Remus, nodding to David and Helen, who were still holding Harry's hands. They moved Harry's arms forward, so that his hands rested on his thighs. Severus knelt up, close to Harry but made no move to touch him just yet. Helen and David squeezed Harry's hands, although he couldn't feel the left one and spoke together.
"We pledge to you our son; do you accept all of him?"
"I accept all of him," replied Severus, reaching out to claim Harry's hands in his. As their fingers touched, the bracelet on Harry's wrist glowed blue and it felt like his whole arm was burning. Harry struggled not to scream, screams would interrupt the flow of magic and he would be stuck with the bracelet.
After what seemed an eternity later, Severus touched his hand to the bracelet and it fell to the floor with a loud clunk. Everything seemed to happen at once. Severus cast a wandless spell on the bracelet and it exploded in a kaleidoscope metal and sparks, Harry's cock filled with blood and he toppled from the chair into Severus' waiting arms, unable to stop moaning, feeling too hot and cold at once. His cock pressed up against Severus' stomach and thighs, delicious friction right where he needed it. Harry's whole body felt awash with pleasure. Everywhere. He could feel it everywhere. Harry couldn't keep his eyes open at the onslaught of bliss, his whole body was tingling, not just his prick. He wasn't even aware that he was coming until he felt wet warmth spread on the inside of his robes. It seemed to go on forever, he'd never come this much before in his life.
"Severus," groaned Harry as the aftershocks left him reeling. "Severus." He couldn't remember feeling anything like this before. He clung to Severus with his right arm, afraid he was going to fall or faint. Severus wrapped his arms around him and kissed the top of his head. Harry was sure the man must have felt him coming, but Severus didn't mention it and Harry suddenly came down to earth with a bump. Remus and his parents were still in the room. He flushed, mortified beyond endurance at what had transpired.
He wanted to run from the room, but considering his condition, that was impossible, so Harry settled for hiding his face against Severus' shoulder.
"Harry, don't be embarrassed," advised Remus. "It's an after effect of the spell, but it least it lets us know that it worked. You are no longer bound by the magics in the bracelet. Try casting a spell." Remus handed him his wand.
"Accio glasses," whispered Harry and his glasses zoomed into his hand.
Remus whispered something to Severus, who blushed and was actively avoiding looking at Harry's parents, but Harry couldn't hear what they'd said. What had Remus told him?
Severus turned back to Harry and his parents. "Harry, let's go and get you dressed for breakfast. Breakfast in an hour or so?" he said to David and Helen.
"Yes, yes, that's fine," said David, tugging his wife away and back to the guest room. Helen looked as bewildered as Harry felt.
"Thank you, Remus," said Severus.
"Don't mention it," he replied as he left their quarters. Severus warded the door after he was gone, holding onto Harry with one hand, casting his spells with the other.
"Severus? What's going on?" asked Harry, but Severus' only answer was to scoop Harry up in his arms and carry him back to their room, where he set Harry down on their bed. "Severus?"
"How are you feeling now, Harry?"
"A bit surprised, a bit embarrassed that I came like that in front of my parents. I didn't know that was going to happen."
"Neither did Remus."
"What? But he said it was an after effect of the spell."
"I know what he said; he was trying to reassure you. It has never happened like that before, or at least that has never been reported in any of the books on the subject. The bracelet being removed was supposed to make you able to feel pleasure, at some point in the future. Not right away like that."
"So, there's something else wrong with me?" asked Harry, wondering why he felt so surprised.
"No, not wrong, just unusual. But we have to test it out."
"You have to have another orgasm, to make sure it wasn't just a reaction to the spell, that you are actually able to feel sexual pleasure."
Harry snickered, unable to stop himself.
"What's so funny?" demanded Severus.
"You, if you're trying to seduce me that isn't the way to go about it."
"No? What do you suggest then, Mr. Johnson?" Severus leaned down and began to nibble on Harry's ear. "Is that better?"
"Much," replied Harry finding himself growing hard again just at that soft touch. Severus' lips trailed a damp path across his neck, nipping lightly at his collar bone then ducking his tongue under the neckline of Harry's robe. Harry moaned, he felt the urge to thrust his hips, but found it difficult to move his lower body at all.
"Severus, please!" he begged.
"What do you want, Harry?"
"Kiss me, touch me."
Severus moved his head up, kissing Harry, only it wasn't just a kiss. Harry was being claimed, being devoured, being possessed and he moaned into his lover's mouth. Their tongues tangled together as Severus' hand skimmed down Harry's torso, caressing his hip before moving to Harry's core. Severus wrapped a firm fist around Harry's cock, rubbing Harry through the cotton of the robe. The man knew exactly how to touch Harry, how much pressure and when. How he liked to be teased before he would finally allow himself to come. His own hands had never felt this good.
Harry was feeling delicious tingles again as Severus began to stroke him faster and faster, the frantic movement of his hands making up for Harry's own lack of ability to thrust like he wanted to. He groaned around the tongue in his mouth and pulled his mouth away, finding it difficult to breathe now that he was nearing climax. There was an ache low down in his belly and balls and he knew it wouldn't be long now.
Severus tugged the robe up and stuck his hand under the robe, skin on skin. That extra stimulus was too much. Harry wailed soundlessly as he came, pulsing spurt after spurt over Severus' hand and his own stomach. "Severus, God, Severus," Harry gasped as he came down from another intense orgasm in the space of about twenty minutes. Severus smiled and kissed him hard again, their teeth clacking together as they kissed each other breathless.
Severus pulled away after a few moments and began to lick Harry's stomach clean. Harry's cock throbbed a little at the sight, but he didn't get hard again. He guessed he needed some recovery time after those two orgasms, but he enjoyed the sensation of Severus' lips on his skin, lapping at him like a kitten at a bowl of cream.
"I think we can safely say that you are no longer bound by the magics that were in the bracelet, Harry," Severus grinned up at him, lifting his head from Harry's stomach. "How did it feel?"
"Bloody brilliant!" enthused Harry. "You can scrape me down from the ceiling now."
"That good, eh?"
"Severus, what about you? You didn't come," Harry glanced down to the erection still tenting Severus' robe.
"No, Harry. This was for you. But maybe later we can do something together, would you like that?"
Harry nodded eagerly, he could hardly wait. "I suppose we better get ready for breakfast, your parents will be expecting us any minute now. We forgot to put up a silencing charm."
"We didn't?" Harry flushed; he had been very vocal after all.
After breakfast, it was time for the presents to be handed out. Severus seemed almost as nervous as Harry as they gave Helen and David their gifts. The Johnsons hadn't mentioned anything about what noises they might have heard coming from his and Severus' room, they were just pleased that the bracelet's influence on Harry was finally gone.
Helen and David stared at the final envelope Harry gave them. If Harry had been able to, he would have been bouncing up and down in his excitement. "Go on, open it," urged Harry, gripping the arm of his wheelchair so that his knuckles turned white.
Helen was the one who opened the envelope, then she handed it to David to remove the contents. A glossy brochure fell out along with lots of other papers. It had taken Harry and Severus the best part of two months to get everything organised, even with Severus' magic abilities.
"The Wishing Well," David read the title of the brochure.
"It's a restaurant," said Harry, turning to Helen. "Your restaurant. Yours and Dad's. Well, it will be soon."
"What? Harry, you can't give us this, it's far too much!"
"No, it isn't. It isn't even nearly enough for all you've both done for me. I know how much you hate being beholden to someone else for your jobs. This way you'll both be your own boss. Mum can be the chef and you can handle the staffing and finances, Dad. I'll know you'll both be great at it."
"Harry, we can't accept this," said David, Helen was close to tears.
"Please, Dad, it would mean so much to me. I want to do this for you, I can afford it. Really. It's in Kingston-Upon-Thames, right by the river so you'll have plenty of trade and it's not too far from Little Whinging, so you don't even have to move. Not unless you want to of course."
"Harry, I don't know what to say, this is such a generous gift. Thank you, thank you," said Helen, fishing in her pocket for a handkerchief.
"Severus did all the decorating," Harry smiled at them. "But we had contractors in to design the kitchen and things like that. If you don't like it, let us know and we can change things around, can't we, Severus?"
"Of course," said Severus, squeezing Harry's right hand.
"There is one condition," Harry said.
"Oh, what's that, son?" asked David.
"That Severus and I get free meals every once in a while." Harry grinned at both of them.
Helen bent down and gave Harry a firm hug. "I think that can be arranged."
The night before the trial, Harry didn't sleep a wink. He was too afraid of the nightmares and he really, really didn't want to go back to the Ministry of Magic. Back to the place where Fudge had placed that horrible bracelet on his wrist in the first place. Severus was spooned up against him, arms wrapped protectively around Harry's waist and he could feel little puffs of air on the back of his neck, tickling him a little.
God, he didn't want to see any of them again, but they'd all be at the trial. Fudge. Dumbledore. Andrews. He hadn't been asked to testify at Lucius Malfoy's trial and he wasn't sure what to expect or what questions the advocates might ask him.
Severus stirred and began kissing the back of Harry's neck. Harry could feel the touch, but he wasn't enjoying it, like he usually did, he was too anxious about their trip to the Ministry. Severus seemed to sense how tense he was.
"Harry? What is it?" Severus rubbed his abdomen in slow, soothing circles.
"I'm just worried about the trial."
"Don't be, just answer the questions they ask you," Severus said close to his ear.
"Will they give me Veritaserum?"
"It is standard procedure for any trial, don't worry."
"What about all the other potions I'm taking, will it react with them?" Harry didn't really want to spend the day vomiting over the floor of the courtroom.
"No, Harry. It's designed to work no matter what other potions anyone might be taking, otherwise people could use that as an excuse not to take it."
Severus kissed the top of Harry's head, before sliding his arms out from beneath Harry's body and moving round to stand in front of Harry's side of the bed and helping him to get up.
"Don't worry, Harry," Severus kissed him on the lips. "It'll be fine, you'll see."
Harry nodded, although he wasn't entirely sure that would be the case.
He and Severus were waiting in the anteroom to the courtroom, a courtroom situated so far in the basement of the Ministry building that the lift didn't go that far down and he had to levitate his wheelchair down the steps, guided carefully by Severus, Harry's aim was still slightly off. He could do his magic again, but it was different, as if he needed to learn everything all over again. His spells worked, but sometimes not the way he'd intended them. It was getting easier though and his magic did help him become more independent, when he wanted it to. For he couldn't deny that he quite enjoyed it when Severus helped him undress or bathe.
Severus' Christmas present to him, a crocheted blanket in a myriad of colours was draped across his knees, he felt the cold more now and it was absolutely freezing down in the bowels of the Ministry. After what seemed like hours but in reality couldn't have been more than about fifteen minutes, the usher emerged from the courtroom and led them both into the room.
The room was entirely circular with tiered rows of seats reaching almost to the ceiling. It reminded Harry somewhat of the Roman arena he'd seen at Pompeii when his parents had taken him to Italy when he was thirteen. He wondered whose blood the spectators would be baying for here and he shivered. A small table was sitting in the middle of the floor, with three chairs on one side and one chair on the other. The usher chivvied him and Severus along to the side where there was one chair, Severus placed Harry's wheelchair next to it and sat down on it.
A few moments later, the three defendants were brought in, shackled at the wrists and ankles. Harry tried not to let himself feel sorry for them, but he couldn't help it. They were seated in the other three chairs and a few moments later there was a pop as the judge Apparated into the seat behind the desk. From the front row, two green garbed wizards stood up and walked towards the judge, bowing low and touching their hands to their foreheads. These must be the advocates, guessed Harry.
A mediwizard administered the truth serum to all five of them before he too bowed to the judge and resumed his seat.
"Defence may start. Advocate Taylor, you may begin your questioning," said the judge.
Harry swallowed nervously as the advocate stalked towards him. He couldn't even lick his lips; the serum had rendered his mouth dry.
"Can you tell us your name and occupation for the record," began Taylor.
"Harry Johnson, Muggle-Magical advisor at Hogwarts School."
"That is a blatant lie!" spluttered the advocate. "Everyone here knows your name is Harry Potter, why did you lie?"
"I was adopted, my legal name is Johnson. It wasn't a lie."
"Advocate," sighed the judge. "Everyone in this courtroom knows those facts, including you. Now, can we please get on with it?"
Taylor moved about the room, his robes swishing along the floor, but he didn't have the presence of Severus to carry it off half so well.
"You have accused Minister Fudge of dampening your magic illegally; did he not have permission of the Wizengamot to do it?"
"He told me he had, but he'd lied. They didn't know he'd done it."
"And how did he commit this alleged crime?"
"He used a bracelet, a castimonia obsido," said Harry.
There were surprised gasps all round.
"And where is this bracelet now?" demanded Taylor.
"It was destroyed."
"Destroyed? You mean you removed it without Minister Fudge's permission? He after all must have had a good reason for placing it on you in the first place. Why did he do it?"
"He told me it was to protect everyone else."
"Why would they need protecting from you, Mr. Potter?" sneered the man. Harry noted the man's deliberate use of a name that Harry did not use.
"He was afraid I'd become the next Dark Lord."
This time the rumblings around the room got louder and louder until the judge shot sparks from his wand into the air. "Silence! Or I will clear the courtroom. Advocate, continue."
"Isn't it true that when you first attended Hogwarts, you were sorted into Slytherin House?"
"Yes," replied Harry, wondering what on earth that would have on anything.
"And isn't it true that Professor Dumbledore removed you from that House, worried that you might become corrupted from certain influences within that same House?" The advocate deliberately avoided glancing at Severus, but Harry and the whole room knew whose influences he meant.
"I don't know why he removed me; I wanted to stay in Slytherin."
"So, you agree that you were ambitious? Seeking power?"
"What? No! It wasn't like that!" protested Harry. "I wanted to stay with Professor Snape."
The advocate's eyes glittered. "You wanted to stay with Professor Snape? A Death Eater, a spy? You felt safe with him, did you?"
"Why? Why would you feel safe with such a man?"
"Because he loved me." Harry knew it was a mistake as soon as the words left his mouth and the buzz of the spectators seemed to drown out any other sounds. He could hardly think never mind hear.
"Professor Snape loved you? An eleven year old boy?" demanded Taylor and the crowd quietened again, eager now to hear Harry's testimony.
"Yes," Harry had no choice but to admit, the serum not letting him do anything else. His head was pounding and he felt sick. He just wanted to go and lie down somewhere. He couldn't look at Severus, couldn't bear the horror that he knew must be etched on the man's features after Harry's revelations.
"So are you telling us that this man," he jabbed a finger at Severus, "molests children?"
"No, of course not!"
"So you deny that he has ever fucked you?"
"Language, Advocate," warned the judge.
"Has he ever had intercourse with you?"
"No, I'm still a virgin," replied Harry truthfully. They hadn't yet gone that far in their explorations and right at this moment he was entirely glad of it.
Advocate Taylor seemed entirely disappointed. He turned to Dumbledore. "Professor Dumbledore, can you tell the Wizengamot why you thought it prudent to remove the boy from Slytherin House?"
"I was worried for his safety."
"In what way?" asked the advocate.
"I saw the way Professor Snape was looking at him. I was worried he might act... inappropriately towards Harry."
Harry felt nausea churn his stomach. Severus had never, had never acted that way towards him while he was still at school, not even an inkling of anything untoward. Dumbledore was lying, but how? Was he resistant to the Veritaserum or something?
"Inappropriately? So you did suspect that he might abuse the boy?" continued the Advocate.
"I did," confirmed Dumbledore. "After all, he'd done it before."
"Done what, Professor?"
"When he was a Death Eater, he raped Muggle children. Boys and girls both."
It seemed that Harry was going to end up throwing up all over the courtroom floor after all.
A/N: castimonia = chastity
The mediwizard jumped up from his chair to help Harry, but Severus was quicker and managed to grab hold of Harry before he toppled unconscious to the floor.
"Please retake you seat," said the judge to him as the mediwizard took Harry out of Severus' arms and lay him down on the floor. The mediwizard banished the vomit before scanning Harry with his wand, looking grimmer as the moments passed. The mediwizard conferred with the judge, but Severus couldn't hear what they were saying. Harry was so pale.
"There will be a brief recess," said the judge. "The trial will resume in half an hour."
"Professor Snape," said the mediwizard. "Can you come with me please?" The mediwizard cast mobilicorpus on Harry and levitated him out of the courtroom. Severus followed both of them down twisting corridors and into a room which seemed almost carved out of the stone.
The room was painted completely white, a bed was pushed up against one wall and on the wall opposite was an alcove with shelves full of healing equipment, potions, bandages, bowls and the like. The healer set Harry down on the bed, and then fussed about, conjuring water for one of the bowls.
"Hold his hand," said the mediwizard. "It might help."
"What's wrong with him?" asked Severus as he did as the mediwizard suggested, but Harry didn't stir. His face was almost whiter than the room they were in.
"Nothing too serious, Professor. He's just fainted; he has a touch of Wizard's Flu. Was he never inoculated against it?"
"No, he was brought up by Muggles." All wizarding children received their final inoculations by the age of six, it had never occurred to anyone before that the Muggle-born and Muggle-raised children would be at risk, but obviously their logic was a little flawed if Harry could get Wizard's Flu. It wasn't life threatening, but could play havoc with a wizard's magic and Severus realised that Harry might have been suffering it for some time. His magic had been erratic lately and he'd been complaining of being colder a lot these past couple of weeks. Harry hadn't mentioned any aches or pains, but then he hardly ever did, suffering in silence as was his wont.
"He really should be at home in bed, rest and plenty of fluids are the best thing, but the judge wants to get this trial over with as soon as possible. Let's just hoped it doesn't go on for weeks," said the mediwizard as he placed a damp cloth on Harry's forehead.
Harry moaned. "Sev'rus?" he said thickly.
"It's okay, Harry. I'm here," Severus ran his thumb over the back of Harry's hand, feeling so useless. There was no potion cure for Wizard's Flu, just like there was no cure for damaged nerves. He wanted to do something, anything to stop feeling like this. The Flu would just have to run its course and perhaps he and Harry had better get used to the fact that Harry would never be able to do certain things ever again.
"Harry? How are you feeling?" asked the mediwizard, Severus didn't even know his name, but he seemed to be cut from the same cloth as Madam Pomfrey and he found himself warming to the man, when he was usually so wary of strangers
"Cold," said Harry, his teeth chattering as he shivered. "A little sick."
"Do you think you can drink some tea for me?" asked the healer, conjuring a pot, steam rising from the spout.
"Harry doesn't like hot drinks," said Severus.
"It'll help warm you, though," said the healer.
Harry nodded. "I'll give it a try."
Severus helped Harry to sit up and held the cup to his lips, Harry grimaced as he took a sip, Severus knew how much he really hated hot liquids, and it was an effort even to get Harry to have soup sometimes. "Willow bark?" asked Severus of the healer.
"Yes, it'll help with the aches and the fever and it won't interfere with his other potions. You're quite the apothecary, aren't you Harry?" smiled the mediwizard. Somewhere in the distance a bell rang. "Oh, that means we have to get back to the courtroom. Shall I levitate you?"
"I'll carry him," said Severus. "It isn't far." The relief on Harry's face was palpable; Severus knew that when Harry wasn't feeling his best, holding him soothed him like nothing else did. He'd never known someone who was so tactile, not that he was complaining. It was no hardship for him to hold Harry.
As expected, there was an angry buzzing as he entered the courtroom carrying Harry and he received a very cold stare from the ex-headmaster as he settled Harry back in his wheelchair. Severus ignored the man, but he could not ignore the words he had spoken earlier. He shouldn't have been surprised, he was just wondering how on earth the man had managed to circumvent the Veritaserum, no-one was supposed to be immune to that.
The judge called for order and turned to the Defence Advocate again. "You may continue."
"Thank you, your honour," said the green-robed man who headed back to Dumbledore again. "So, Professor, you were worried at what might happen to Harry if he was left in Slytherin House?"
"So in fact, you were looking out for Harry's best interests?"
"Would you care to tell the court why you contracted someone to kill Harry?"
"You deny that you hired Robert Andrews, a former Hawk, to murder Harry Potter?"
"Mr. Andrews, what have you to say to this? Were you acting on your own?"
"No, Dumbledore hired me to kill the boy!"
The Advocate turned to Fudge. "And you, Minister, why did you lock the boy's magic?"
"It was on Dumbledore's orders. He asked me to do it."
The crowd was in uproar. The judge fired sparks from his wand again until they'd settled down. "We are not getting anywhere with this, some of you, or all of you are lying, Veritaserum notwithstanding. Auror Pleasance, we will have need of your skills after all."
One of the Aurors who'd been standing at the back of the room made his way down the steps and stood bowing in front of the judge. The judge addressed them all. "Auror Pleasance is a skilled Occlumens and Legilimens, even if someone is resistant to Veritaserum, which I suspect is the case with some of you, no lies can get past him. I will need each of you to give him permission to perform the spells; a denial will be taken as an admission of guilt. If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear."
Severus hoped his shaking wasn't too noticeable. He'd heard of Pleasance's skills, they paled in comparison to his own and there was no way in hell he wanted to grant that man, or anyone for that matter, access to his mind.
"Who would you like to begin with?" asked the judge.
"I think Professor Snape," said the Auror. "With your permission, Professor?"
Severus nodded. May as well get the worst over with now. He was barely aware of the man probing his mind, his touch was so light. A few moments later he nodded to the judge. "Professor Snape is telling the truth and he was never involved in raping children." The man never mentioned anything else, Severus wondered if he'd unintentionally blocked him or if he was just being polite by not bringing in up in front of an open court.
"Thank you," said the judge. "Next?"
The Auror did Harry next, with the same replies, Harry had been telling the truth all along. His scanning of Dumbledore's mind took longer and he whispered something to the judge when he was finished. The judge nodded and addressed the court again.
"Aurors, all spectators are to be removed; only the Aurors and Wizengamot are to remain."
There were grumbles of discontent as the crowd was ushered out and when the seats were cleared except for those of the Wizengamot, the judge turned to Dumbledore and shook his head.
"The only liar in this courtroom today is you."
"You're all so gullible," said Dumbledore with a smirk. "Why did none of you realise it before? For over fifty years you thought I was one of you, on the side of Light. Ha! There is no such thing as good and evil, only power, but none of you have ever realised that. Voldemort tried to get the Philosopher’s Stone from me, but Harry here stopped him, unfortunately Professor Snape had put a spell on the stone so that it could never be found again. Of course he'd thought he was protecting the Stone from a different Dark Lord. You were all so stupid you didn't even see the one under your nose all this time."
"Why?" cried Severus, unable to comprehend it at all.
"Why not? I was the most powerful wizard alive, until he came along," spat Dumbledore in Harry's direction. "Do you think I would just roll over and die? Let a child take over? Let a child rule? I was sure that Voldemort would kill him. You were such a disappointment to me, Harry. You survived. You weren't meant to survive."
"I survived again," said Harry, his voice unwavering. Severus was amazed at the boy's strength of will.
"Albus Dumbledore, it is the opinion of this court that you are guilty of the attempted murder of Harry Potter Johnson, that you conspired with Cornelius Fudge and Robert Andrews in an effort to achieve this without blame falling to you. Cornelius Fudge and Robert Andrews you are both sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban. You will never be released."
Fudge and Andrews whimpered like kicked dogs, Harry had paled again, but he looked them both straight in the eye as the judge passed sentence. The judge tapped his wand and the two of them were Apparated out of the courtroom and Severus guessed straight into cells at Azkaban
"Albus Dumbledore, you are found guilty of conspiring to murder, of innumerable counts of actual murder, of using Unforgivables on other humans, of rape and of High Treason. Considering your advanced age, clemency will be granted and you will not be sent to Azkaban."
"No!" screamed Harry and made as if to dive from his wheelchair. Severus held him back.
"Wait," he whispered, knowing exactly what clemency in this instance meant.
The judge continued as if he hadn't heard Harry's outburst at all. "Aurors send in the Veil," intoned the judge.
"NO!!!" yelled Dumbledore. "You can't! It's forbidden!"
"Not for High Treason," said the judge. "All of you here know the penalty for that."
Harry was shaking beside him and Severus knew that Harry hadn't even known that executions were still carried out in the wizarding world. Severus laid a hand on his shoulder and Harry's trembling eased somewhat. He just wanted this over with so they could go home and Harry could get some rest.
There was a loud crack as an archway popped into being by the front of the judge's table. A tattered black curtain hung from it, billowing as if in a breeze.
Three Aurors lifted Dumbledore out of his chair and stood with him next to the archway.
"Do you have any last words?" said the judge.
Dumbledore's only reply was to spit on the floor. Harry tried to hide his head on Severus' shoulder. "Harry, no you have to watch. You're a witness."
Severus looked at him; Harry's eyes were filled with unshed tears and his face as pale as parchment. Harry sat up as straight as he could and stared at the tableau in front of them. Severus wanted to hide too, but he knew that they had to witness this.
The Aurors took hold of Dumbledore's arms and turned to Harry. "With your permission, your highness," they said.
Harry stared at them, then at Severus. "Severus, what's going on?"
"I'll explain later," promised Severus. "But you must give them permission to do this, Harry. His treason was against you."
"I can't!" protested Harry. "I can't just let them kill him!"
Auror Pleasance then turned to Severus. "For his crimes against you, do you give permission?"
Severus nodded and the Aurors pushed Dumbledore through the curtain and beyond the veil. For a few moments they all heard the man screaming and then abruptly it was cut off. Harry looked like he might be sick again.
Auror Pleasance came over to them and shook Harry's hands and then Severus'. "Professor Snape, you're a brave man, a very brave man," he said. "I don't know that I could have kept it to myself for so long. What he did to you..." The man trailed off, as if he realised that perhaps this was something that Severus would rather not be discussed in public.
"Harry, let's get you home," said Severus.
And later, much later, when Harry was feeling better they'd better have a little talk.
Harry knew he was in the Hogwarts infirmary long before he opened his eyes. It always smelled of disinfectant and wax polish. He didn't know how long he'd been there. Dimly he remembered people talking over him, but not to him, as if they didn't think he could hear them.
His eyelids were heavy and he was having difficulty opening them. Muted voices were in conversation close by.
"How's he doing now, Poppy?"
"Getting a little better, Severus. He couldn't keep anything down, he was dehydrated. I've got him on a magical drip to get some fluids and nutrients into him. He won't be able to eat anything solid for a few more days yet. Oh! Harry, you're awake," exclaimed the nurse rushing over to him.
Almost without him realising it, Harry's eyes opened and he stared at her and then Severus. His head was pounding and he had a horrible taste in his mouth. Madam Pomfrey scanned him with her wand, smiling as she did so.
"Excellent, you're cured," she grinned, tucking her wand into an apron pocket.
Cured? "You mean I can walk again?" Harry hardly dared hope.
"Oh, Harry, no. I'm sorry. I meant the Wizard's Flu. That's why you were in the infirmary."
"Oh," he wouldn't cry, he wouldn't. It wasn't as if he'd really expected it to happen after all and much to his surprise the tears did stay away. "How long have I been here?"
"Almost a month," said Severus. "It was a very bad bout."
"So I've been here since the trial?" asked Harry. He remembered the trial, but he didn't remember much after that. "Was I unconscious?"
"You lapsed in and out," added the mediwitch. "You were also on a lot of potions, that's probably why you feel as if you don't remember some things."
"But I'm okay now?"
"Except for the dehydration. I'd like to keep you in for a few more days, Harry, just to make sure that you're all right."
Harry nodded; he knew he still wasn't feeling a hundred per cent. "Can Severus stay with me for a while?"
"Of course he can," she smiled as she left, pulling the curtain across the bed to give them some privacy.
Severus kissed him on the forehead. "We were so worried about you, Harry. Your parents are in the Hall having lunch, they'll be in to see you later."
"They're here?" gasped Harry, the tears flowing freely now. He looked away and saw the drip attached to his left arm. He couldn't feel it there.
"Of course they are, where did you think they'd be with you so ill?"
"What about the restaurant?"
"That's what managers are for," said Severus.
"Can you help me to get up, Severus?" asked Harry as he struggled in the bed. It was awkward trying to talk while he was lying down. Severus placed his arms under Harry's and tugged him up, as he settled back against the pillows, Harry felt a wave of nausea engulf him. He took a few deep breaths, which seemed to help. Severus conjured a jug of iced water and handed Harry a glass of it.
Harry sipped it slowly, it helped the sickness abate somewhat. Severus sat down on the chair next to the bed and set his hands on top of the bed, he looked nervous and Harry remembered what had happened at the Ministry. It was the only thing he could remember about that past few weeks.
"Severus, what was all that about at the Ministry? Why did the Aurors call me 'your highness'? And what did Dumbledore do to you?"
"I thought you'd have figured it out by now, Harry. There was only one reason why you were able to pull Gryffindor's sword out of the hat in your second year. You weren't the heir of Slytherin; you were the heir of Gryffindor, as your father was before you. Godric Gryffindor was the Prince of a small kingdom, the British Isles used to be full of small kingdoms like that. He was the Prince of Mercia, which as a place no longer exists, but the title does. You are now that prince. It's an honorary title, you don't have lands or anything, nor do you rule per se, but it will be up to you to appoint the next Minister of Magic for example, as well as take an interest in wizarding law and whatnot."
Harry just gaped at him. "You can't be serious! I know nothing about politics!"
"I know, which is why you will have advisors, handpicked by yourself and Arthur Weasley. He will know who would be best to advise you, Harry. I would of course recommend that Arthur be a permanent advisor to you."
Harry thought he might faint, he was certainly light-headed. He was a prince? It was all a bit too much to take in. "Mr. Weasley would make a good Minister of Magic, wouldn't he?"
"I think he would, but the final decision is up to you, Harry."
Harry didn't want the decision to be left up to him. He didn't want to decide anything. He just wanted to be Harry.
"Severus, what that Auror said, about Dumbledore, what did he do to you?" he tried changing the subject.
Severus blanched and Harry wished he hadn't asked. "Sorry, I don't mean to pry. You don't have to tell me."
"I know I don't, Harry. And it isn't prying. I think it's something you need to know and I need to tell you. You do realise that he had to be executed? That if he'd been left alive, he would have found some way of escaping and becoming the next Dark Lord?"
"I know, Severus, but I just couldn't do it, I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry for being merciful, Harry. I had no mercy left for him anymore. This is difficult for me. I have never spoken of this to anyone before and I don't quite know where to start. Perhaps you'd like to know why I joined Voldemort in the first place?"
"Only what you want to tell me, Severus. I'm listening."
"My father was an angry, bitter man, Harry. He was a pure-blood, as was my mother, but his magic was weak, he was almost a squib. I could do wandless magic by the age of five, I had no idea how much my father resented that fact. I was soon to learn it at the end of his fists. My mother did her best to protect me and my sisters from the worst of it, but he only hexed her out of the way and punished me even more for not standing up for myself. When his fists no longer seemed to satisfy him, he cast curses on me, including the Unforgivables. I was resistant to Imperio but not Cruciatus. He enjoyed that one, enjoyed watching me scream in agony while he just sat there and laughed."
Severus took a shuddering breath; Harry reached out his right hand and placed it on top of Severus' clasped hands, knowing that no words could ever make this better for the man beside him.
"I vowed that one day I would get my revenge. When I first came to Hogwarts, I knew lots of Dark curses and magic, the other children were scared of me, but the reason I knew them was so that I could try and protect myself and my family from my father. Dumbledore found out when I was in sixth year and he blocked my magic for a month, telling me that he would block it permanently if I ever used Dark magic again. You know what that was like, Harry, how it feels as if a part of you was missing. When Lucius Malfoy told me of his mentor, who he said was more powerful than Dumbledore, that he could unlock my magic again, I jumped at the chance to join with him."
Severus shivered again. "I know now that I made a terrible mistake, but at the time it seemed the best thing to do. I did things, Harry, terrible things in order to prove my loyalty to Voldemort, to get this vile mark on my arm. I was driven by hate and fear of my father, I wanted him to pay for what he'd done to me and my family and I was convinced that joining Voldemort was the best way to achieve that. What I hadn't known, what I'd never known was that my father was one of Voldemort's supporters already. Not the inner circle, his magic wasn't strong enough for that, but one of the many hangers-on. When I was finally marked, Voldemort gave me to my father. My magic was still locked, Voldemort didn't release it. There was nothing I could do to defend myself. I was under Cruciatus for days, I don't remember much about it except the pain. At some point I blacked out and when I woke up, I was in Dumbledore's bedroom and he was standing over me."
Severus choked back tears before he could continue. "Dumbledore said, 'You've done a very foolish thing, my boy. Very foolish.' I don't know how I ended back at Hogwarts, just knew that I was there and that Dumbledore wanted me to spy for him on Voldemort. I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to go anywhere near that madman again, how was I to know that Dumbledore was just as bad? I refused at first, I didn't want to go back anywhere near Voldemort. A few days later, Dumbledore had my mother come to visit me at Hogwarts, in the headmaster's study. In front of her, he asked me again, she hadn't known what I'd done, that I'd joined Voldemort. The shock almost killed her, but it was the headmaster's Killing Curse which finally did. My sisters were threatened with the same if I would not spy for him. He told me that he would unlock my magic, if I would submit to him."
"Submit to him?" asked Harry. His head was fuzzy and he was getting confused.
"Submit to him ... sexually," said Severus hanging his head.
"What?" spluttered Harry. "Oh my God! He raped you? That bastard murdered your mother in front of you and raped you?" Harry's hand clenched around Severus'. "How often?" demanded Harry, never feeling this angry in his life. He wished now he had been the one to condemn the man, instead he'd left it up to Severus; let him take the blame for killing his tormentor.
"Just that one time, Harry. But he'd put a geis on me, so that I would never feel arousal or a climax unless I was with him. I think he was hoping that I would come to him, begging him to do it again. He liked to see me begging. He never really trusted me, knowing how unwilling I was to go back to Voldemort. What I did, I didn't do for Dumbledore, I did for everyone else. He rendered me incapable of pursing any physical relationship. But I never begged him for sexual favours. I would rather put up with the geis than let him touch me like that ever again. That's why the Auror knew I hadn't been involved in any rapes; it was a physical impossibility at the time."
Not to mention how horrified Severus would have been to perpetrate a rape on someone else after what the headmaster had done to him.
"Severus," Harry began tentatively. "Why didn't you tell anyone what he did to your mother?"
"Who would have believed me, Harry? I had the Dark Mark on my arm and Dumbledore killed her with my wand. He threatened to expose me as a Death Eater and have me sent to Azkaban. He held my sisters hostage, Harry. If I didn't do what he asked, or if I told anyone, they were the ones who would suffer it most. It was a choice of Dumbledore or Dementors. I chose Dumbledore. Is it rape if you've chosen it?" asked Severus quietly.
"Yes!" Harry said adamantly. "Severus, you did not choose to be raped, the man threatened you and your family to get what he wanted. It was not your fault." And suddenly Severus' reticence about intimacy made a lot more sense. It hadn't got anything to do with Harry's disability or age or anything like that at all. Oh, God and Harry had pushed and pushed, cajoled him into things that perhaps Severus was nowhere near ready for. "Severus, I'm sorry if I pushed you into anything. I didn't know."
"Harry, it's okay. Being with you is a lot different. Being with the person you love is a lot different. I love you," said Severus as he bent down to give Harry a quick kiss. Harry's heart was pounding in his ears. Severus had finally said it. Severus said he loved him. There was still something Harry didn't understand.
"Severus, you said you were under a geis, so how could you be with me?" For Harry remembered with clarity every time the man had been aroused and had climaxed when he was with Harry.
"Oh, I thought I'd told you. The geis disappeared. That day in the car, the very first time you held my hand. It could only be broken by a non-sexual touch, but one that had love behind it. You released me, Harry. You released me."
Harry doesn't recognise the room in his dream, but it still feels familiar. A large four-poster, red and gold curtains draped around it. He cannot see what is happening on the bed, the curtains are pulled across so tightly that there is not even a crack. But he can hear. He can hear. He can hear his lover's sobs.
"Severus!" Harry woke up with a scream on his lips, only to have Madam Pomfrey hurrying to his side and trying to dose him with more Dreamless Sleep. "No," he waved the vial away. "I don't want any more of it. It's not working."
"Harry," Madam Pomfrey clucked her tongue at him, but she set the vial down on his bedside table. "It's there if you want it. Can I get you anything else?"
"No, thank you. I'll just try and rest."
"Goodnight, then," she said and left him alone.
Harry had only told her that to get her to go; he knew there was no way he was going to be able to rest. Severus' revelations had left him reeling. His parents had taken the news that he was a prince in their stride, much as they had accepted his magic. Nothing about it seemed to faze them. To them, he was still just Harry, the orphaned baby they'd found on their doorstep.
Harry didn't know what he was going to do. He had no idea how to become a prince, how to fill that role which was expected of him. He knew nothing about politics, nor did he want to attend all the Ministry functions he was expected to, including dances and balls.
He'd slowly been getting used to the fact that he would probably be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, but he was normally among his friends and family. He didn't want to go to these functions as the guest of honour, where strangers would be staring at him the whole night and there was no doubt they would be staring.
Of course, his own concerns seemed pretty paltry compared to what Severus had endured and he felt guilty for even worrying about himself. Severus had told him that the geis had been lifted when Harry was eleven, Harry wondered if the man had ever had any lovers before him. In all his years at Hogwarts, there had been no rumours about Snape's love life, like there had been for some of the other teachers. Maybe he didn't have any, or maybe he was just very discreet about it. Harry wanted to know, but was wary about asking.
His heart ached for Severus, what the man had endured was appalling and Harry vowed that he would see to it that nothing could ever hurt him again. Harry sighed and closed his eyes, but sleep was a long time coming.
"I'm fine, Mum. Really," insisted Harry as his mother fussed around him. It was his first day back out of the infirmary and his mother was the only other person in their quarters. His father and Severus had gone out somewhere together, but Helen would not say where. Harry was more than a little miffed that Severus hadn't been there to welcome him home and that he was being kept in the dark about things again. He had the impression that his mother knew exactly where they'd gone, but was just not telling him.
Helen tucked Severus' blanket around Harry's knees and he had to resist the urge to shout at her. He loved his mother, but sometimes this fussing got too much. "Mum," he said in an exasperated tone. She left off and took a seat on the sofa. "When do you have to get back?"
"Looking rid of us already?" she grinned at him. "Want to get Severus all alone so you can have your wicked way with him?"
"Mum!" Harry flushed to the roots of his hair. "Please, please don't joke about that."
"Harry? What is it?" she reached out and patted Harry's knee. "Harry, did something - did something happen to you?" Her face was paler than Harry had ever seen it.
"Not to me, no," replied Harry.
"Oh, no. Not Severus?" she whispered.
Harry nodded. "Please, I can't talk about it. It's not my secret to tell. Don't tell him I told you and please don't tell Dad."
"Okay, Harry, I won't. But is he all right?"
"I think so," Harry couldn't elaborate any further than that; he did not want to betray Severus' confidence any further than he had already. "Do you know where they've gone?" asked Harry, trying to change the subject.
Helen twisted the plain gold chain around her neck. "They told me not to tell you, they want it to be a surprise."
Harry wasn't sure how many more surprises he could take.
"This is the place?" asked Severus with disdain. It was gaudier than one of Trelawney's shawls. A building of glass and chrome and inside Muggles rushed to and fro, carrying shopping in plastic bags. Severus hated plastic, horrible substance that was useless for storing potions ingredients. It hadn't stopped him and David from carrying some of their own.
"The travel agent's is further inside," said David and for one horrible moment, Severus had the idea that David was going to lead him by the hand like a child. Or like a wizard who didn't know his way around this Muggle emporium.
The wizarding world did not have travel agents, as most of them travelled magically. Australia was a long way away though, and no-one had ever Apparated that far. Australia wasn't connected to the Floo network, as most of it was too hot for fireplaces at all. Wizards travelling there had only one option, Portkeys wouldn't work over that distance and it was too far to fly by broom. He and Harry were going to have to go the Muggle way, by plane.
David pushed open the door to the travel agency; a young blonde woman greeted them and urged them to sit down.
"Can you give us some prices for flights to Australia?" asked David.
The woman typed something up on a computer screen. "What dates and which airport are you flying from?"
"Heathrow, Severus, where is it again?"
"A place called Melbourne," said Severus, feeling increasingly out of his depth. He was so glad David was able to come along with him. "We need to get there by the twentieth of February."
"My, you are cutting it a bit fine, aren't you?" she smiled; it faltered when she received one of Snape's glowers. "Wait, there is a flight going on the sixteenth, but they only have first class seats left."
Severus glanced at David. "Means it's more expensive," said David.
"The price will not be an issue, I can assure you." Severus had already changed his galleons into Muggle currency. He had intended on paying for the trip in cash until David had seen how much cash he had on him.
"Do you want to be mugged?" David had ranted at him and took him to his own bank, where the money was put into his account and David would then pay for the flights with his card. Severus wasn't exactly sure what this 'card' was, but it seemed to be accepted by the shops they'd been in already, where they'd bought lots of things for Harry's trip.
"What date would you like to return?" asked the clerk.
"Can it be open ended?" asked David, looking to Severus for confirmation. Severus nodded; they didn't know how long it would take.
"Of course," the woman tapped once more. "That's more expensive though. How many seats?"
"Two," said David.
"You and Helen aren't going?" asked Severus in alarm, he'd never been alone somewhere so far away and so Muggle before.
"No, Severus. We do want to, but I think this is something that you and Harry need to share by yourselves. Helen would only be fussing over him and I don't think that's what he needs at the moment, do you? Considering what is going to be attempted, Harry needs someone strong with him. Helen and I won't be able to be that for him, Severus. You will."
"Very well," said Severus, his throat tight. "Two seats."
He just hoped that they were doing the right thing.
His father and Severus didn't return to Hogwarts until a few minutes before lunch. With his parents visiting and Harry only just out of the infirmary, by mutual agreement they had lunch in their chambers rather than the Great Hall. Harry was glad of it, his appetite really hadn't been much ever since he'd been struck with the Wizard's Flu and he just knew that everyone would be staring at him in the Hall and wondering when he would be coming back to work.
Helen had made them all lunch, grilled chicken with pasta in a pesto sauce. Harry would probably only have bothered with sandwiches or something, but his mother was determined to feed him up again after his illness. Once lunch was over, the four of them settled back into the living room with their coffees, except for Harry who had a glass of pumpkin juice.
His father and Severus kept looking at each other nervously; they'd been giving each other wary glances ever since they'd arrived back. Severus had headed straight for their room, laden down with plastic shopping bags. Muggle shopping bags. Where on earth had his father taken Severus? And why were they being so secretive about it now?
"Okay, spill," said Harry once the silence seemed in danger of stretching to infinity. "I know something's going on. Where were you all morning?" He didn't know whether he was asking the question of his father or his lover.
Severus stood up and removed a leather wallet with the words 'travel documents' embossed on the front, from the inner pocket for his robes. He handed it to Harry.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Harry," said Severus as he knelt down in front of Harry's wheelchair. Harry's heart skipped a few beats.
"It's Valentine's Day? I'm sorry, Severus. I didn't know, I didn't remember." His mind had been one mixed-up mess when he'd been in the infirmary with all the potions he'd been on, time held little meaning there. Harry set the leather wallet in his lap and with a shaky hand he removed the contents. Two airline tickets to Australia. "Severus? What? You're taking me on a holiday to Australia?"
Severus smiled and shook his head. "Not exactly."
"It's not a holiday?" asked Harry, staring at the tickets in his lap.
"You'd better read this," said Snape, handing him a typed letter. A Muggle letter.
Australian Institute of Neurosciences,
Dear Professor Snape,
Thank you for your letter. From what you have said, it seems likely that Harry Johnson would be an ideal candidate for our new experimental program.
The next round of trials begins on the twentieth of February this year. We have added Harry's name to our lists, please let us know if for any reason you are unable to attend as we can then open a place for someone else.
As I mentioned in our earlier correspondence, this is an experimental program, there are no guarantees but we are hopeful of success, particularly in this instance.
We look forward to welcoming you and Harry to our facility soon.
Dr. Charles Scott, Head of Neurology.
Harry's hand was trembling as he finished reading the letter and his eyes were dripping tears onto the page.
"Severus?" he sobbed. "Does this mean what I think it means? They're going to try and cure me?"
Harry could hardly breathe he was crying so much.
"They are certainly going to try, Harry." Severus knelt up and hugged him, Harry wept onto his shoulder, and he just couldn't stop crying. His throat ached and his eyes stung as the tears just fell and fell.
"Harry, we've got to get back," said David, standing up and hugging Harry from behind. "You and Severus have a lot to discuss."
Harry nodded, he didn't even have any voice to say goodbye to them. When his parents left, Severus scooped Harry up from his wheelchair and sat them both down on the couch, just holding Harry on his lap until Harry's crying stopped. Neither of them moved away afterwards though. It was sometimes a lot easier to talk when they were touching each other like this.
Severus took out a handkerchief and dried Harry's tears away from his face. "Why didn't you tell me?" asked Harry looking up into the man's dark eyes.
"I've been writing to a lot of Muggle specialists for months now, Harry, but they all said the same thing, there was nothing they could do. I didn't want to tell you about the Australian program in case nothing came of it either. I didn't want to get your hopes up only to have them dashed again."
Harry nodded, that made a lot of sense.
"It's very short notice, isn't it?"
"It is, Harry, the letter went astray, I only got it yesterday, but it was postmarked in January. They sent it over a month ago."
"Why do they think I'd be suitable for the treatment?"
"It's because of what you told me when you're aroused, that you can feel sensation, tingles everywhere then."
"What?" Harry blushed. "You didn't tell them that, did you?"
"No, just that sometimes you can feel sensations in your damaged limbs. That's why they're so hopeful that this new treatment might work for you."
"But no guarantees," added Harry, well aware that he was about to be a guinea pig for Muggle medical science.
"No, no guarantees, Harry."
Harry was silent for a while, just thinking it over. He still remembered the brief flicker of hope when he'd been in the infirmary and had mistakenly thought Madam Pomfrey had been talking about his disability being cured. He remembered too how crushed he felt when he realised it wasn't true. Could he put himself through that again? Could he put Severus through that? He still remembered the hope and despair that soon followed every time his parents had taken him to a new specialist. It was hard on them too and he knew it would be hard on Severus. He didn't know if he could do it.
"Do you think it might work, Severus?"
"I don't know, Harry, but the option is there if you want to try."
"What do you think I should do?"
"It's your decision."
"No, Severus, it's our decision," said Harry, squeezing his hand fiercely in his own.
Harry lay in the bath that night, relaxing in the bubbles, thinking of Australia. Since he got his magic back, he was able to levitate himself in and out of the bath with ease, although he still enjoyed it when Severus carried him. He sometimes missed his old wand, the one that had been destroyed in the battle, but he was an adept at wandless magic now and he hardly ever used the new one, except when they were in public or around the students.
Severus popped his head round the bathroom door; it was never locked when it was just the two of them. Both in case Harry fell or something, as well as the fact that they were comfortable being naked around one another now.
"Would you like me to wash your back?" asked Severus, his eyes glinting hungrily.
Harry grinned at him. "With pleasure." Severus glided over to the bath and knelt down beside it, gifting Harry with a very passionate kiss. Harry was breathless by the end of it and was glad of his levitating spell, he had the impression he might have sunk below the water otherwise. Severus held onto Harry while Harry finished the spell, so that the only thing holding him up was his lover's arms. He slumped a little at first as the levitation ended, but Severus was there to keep a firm grip on him.
Severus slowly sponged his back, making little circles on his skin and Harry shivered at the sensuous touch. They didn't speak; each seemed to know the other's thoughts. Harry ducked his head down as Severus lifted the shampoo bottle and washed Harry's hair. He felt really languid as Severus tended to him; it was bliss to be looked after like this. It was awkward trying to wash himself with only one useful arm, but he managed it. It was much nicer when he allowed Severus to do it for him though. He knew that Severus didn't think him less than capable on his own; he just wanted to do it for him, because it was something lovers could share, not because Harry couldn't do it himself.
Harry couldn't stop smiling even when Severus lifted him out of the bath and wrapped him in two large fluffy towels and carried him to bed. He lay there, feeling as if he was floating as Severus began to dry him, not briskly like he usually did, but spending lots of time on every inch of Harry's skin. When Severus finished with his feet and began on his legs, Harry felt a very slow arousal build in the pit of his belly and around the base of his cock. It felt different to how it usually was, there wasn't that same urgency, just a slow build-up of sensation that he was dimly aware of. Had Severus put some calming draught in with the bath bubbles?
As Severus moved the towel further up Harry's legs and began to dry his thighs with slow, sensual strokes, Harry's cock jerked and grew even further. Harry moaned, it felt so good. He'd never been so aware of how sensual things could be before, even something as mundane as being dried after a bath. It was as if he could feel every fibre of the towel inside himself, little tickles and tingles all along his body.
Severus avoided drying his cock, he continued up Harry's body, drying his chest, but paying particular attention to his nipples until they both stood out in little peaks. Harry cried out at the sensations flowing throughout his body, but all of it centred on his prick and sac. He was aching now, wanting a touch, needing a touch. Severus stared into his eyes and even without Harry voicing his need, Severus seemed to understand, for in the next moment he scooted down the bed and took Harry's cock in his mouth. Harry screamed at the strange, wonderful sensation of having Severus' mouth there. They'd never done it before and Harry was lost.
Hot, wet warmth engulfed him, feeling hotter than the bath water. Harry lifted his head slightly, seeing a head obscured by dark hair bobbing up and down on his shaft. If he'd thought having the man's hands on him was bliss, his mouth was even better. Harry lay back down, feeling too shaky to hold himself up much longer. He could feel Severus' tongue licking him, a firm pressure against his length and he groaned as the man sucked and sucked at him.
Severus' hands were trailing along Harry's thighs and then behind and under, to that secret space and Harry sucked in a gasp. On hearing the noise, Severus looked up and teased around Harry's entrance. "May I?" he asked round his mouthful of Harry's prick. Harry nodded, although he was feeling a bit nervous. He'd never been touched there before and wondered if it was going to hurt.
Severus put his finger into his mouth, while he still had Harry's cock there and moistened his hand. Harry relaxed a little; Severus did seem to know what he was doing. Severus just circled his finger around the skin just on the outside of Harry's entrance for a few moments before pressing his slicked finger inside. Harry heard a slight pop as the muscles gave way to welcome the intruder. It didn't hurt, not exactly, but it was a little uncomfortable and Harry tried to breathe through it.
"Why do some people like - OH! OH!" Harry wailed as Severus touched something inside that had him seeing stars behind his eyelids, bursts of pleasure like little sparks across his whole body.
Severus looked up at him and grinned, before going back to his task with a will. Harry was lost in a daze of sensation, of ecstasy so profound that he thought he might faint. He knew it wouldn't be long before he was going to come but he wasn't even coherent enough to warn Severus when it happened, Severus' agile mouth and finger working in tandem to draw the orgasm from him in four short, sharp pulses. It was as though the man was sucking the essence of him right out through his cock.
Before the spasms had stopped, Severus let go and looked up at him, hair plastered to his head in a sweaty tangle, his face flushed red, a white smear of Harry's come still on his lips. "Marry me, Harry," said Severus.
"Yes!" moaned Harry. "Yes!" and even then he wasn't sure whether he was answering to the proposal or to one of the strongest orgasms he'd ever had.
Severus scrambled up the bed and kissed Harry, long and deep on the mouth. Harry could feel a damp patch on Severus' trousers and his eyes widened. Severus had already come and he was still dressed! Harry pulled away from the kiss, giggling like mad. He hadn't even noticed that Severus hadn't taken his clothes off. There had definitely been one of Severus' potions in that bath water.
Severus lay down beside Harry and stroked patterns on his chest. "Did you mean it, Harry? That you'll marry me?" Harry had never heard the man sounding so uncertain in his life before.
"Yes, I can't imagine my life without you in it, Severus. You mean everything to me."
"And you to me, Harry. I love you," Severus kissed his forehead. "And Australia?"
"I think it might be worth a try, do you, Severus?"
"I do, Harry. I do."
One good thing about being a wizard was that their packing hardly took any time at all. Severus did all of it, Harry was in too much pain to concentrate on any spells. Severus had taken him off all the potions the day before they were due to leave as there was no telling what might happen if Muggle medication and wizarding potions were mixed. It was best not to take any chances. Severus did fret over him though, wondering if Harry being in constant pain for their journey was really a good idea. Their instructions from the institute had been very specific though; Harry was to have no medication or herbal remedies for at least thirty six hours before they arrived at the clinic as they needed to know Harry's condition when he wasn't having any help from outside sources.
Professor Sprout would be taking over his potions classes and Hermione Granger would be taking over Harry's duties until they returned, although Merlin only knew when that would be. He and Harry would Apparate to Surrey where then Helen and David would drive them to Heathrow.
"Ready?" asked Severus as he glanced around their quarters one last time. It seemed empty, even though it was still filled with furniture.
"As I'll ever be," said Harry, wincing as he struggled with the pain. "Do you even have a passport, Severus? I forgot to ask you."
"I do, courtesy of Mundungus Fletcher."
"It's not forged is it? You could end up in jail!"
"No, it's not forged. Honestly, Harry, how stupid do you think I am? No, his brother, a squib, works at the passport office, was able to get me an appointment at short notice. It's all perfectly legal, Muggle legality anyway. Right, have we forgotten anything? Toothbrush?"
"I think you packed everything that was in our quarters, Severus. Anyway, even if we did forget something, I'm sure they have shops in Australia too."
"Hmm," Severus said. "Right, off we go." Severus levitated their trunks out as Harry wheeled himself one handed out the door, it was a little awkward as he had to stop, and he kept veering to the left as he could only use one wheel to steer. When they reached the hall, the entire school seemed to be gathered to see them off. Hermione came over and wheeled Harry out to the edge of the wards, as the whole school followed. Severus wasn't sure Harry was up to all this fuss. He was pale and sweating already and Severus knew it was going to be a long, hard trip for his betrothed.
"Good luck," Hermione whispered, giving Harry a brief hug. Harry nodded and said goodbye. The young woman turned to him. "Look after him, Professor," she said.
"I will Miss Granger," he replied and Apparated the trunks to Surrey. Minerva shook both their hands as she said farewell to both of them, her eyes misting over. The other students and teachers waved at them as Severus took hold of Harry's chair and his arm and Apparated them both away from the school.
They landed a few streets away from Privet Drive and Severus was reminded of the first time he'd gone to Surrey, determined to hate an eleven year old boy, the son of the man who had made his school life one of misery and loneliness. But Harry wasn't that man, had never been like that man and Severus wondered what strange twist of fate had brought them to this pass, where he was no engaged to his enemy's son. He would never be lonely again, not as long as he had Harry and his family.
As they headed to the house, they saw their trunks sitting haphazardly on the front lawn. The wards hadn't even let the trunks in to number fourteen, seeing them as an intruder. Severus was quite glad of that, it meant that Helen and David would be safe in their home even when he and Harry were gone.
As Severus wheeled Harry up the path, he noticed that Harry gripped the arm rest with his right hand, but not before Severus had noticed the tremors. They would get worse now that Harry was no longer on his potions. Helen opened the door even before they had a chance to ring the doorbell.
"Harry! Severus!" she cried, bending down flinging her arms around Harry. She pulled back and arched an enquiring eyebrow at Harry's chest. Severus couldn't see it, but he could imagine Harry's smile as he showed her the necklace he'd hidden beneath his shirt. Harry hadn't wanted anyone at school to see the necklace before he'd told his parents. On a silver chain around Harry's neck was the silver symbol for infinity, the traditional wizarding betrothal gift. Severus was wearing its twin. A gold one would be exchanged on their bonding day.
"That's beautiful, Harry," said his mother. "Did Severus give you that for Valentine's Day?"
"Sort of," said Harry. "Where's Dad?"
"Right here," said David emerging from the house dangling his car keys. "What's all this, then?"
"Mum, Dad," said Harry. "Severus and I, we're engaged."
"Engaged?" spluttered David. "Harry, I know you and Severus love each other very much, but don't you think you're a bit young to get married?"
"No, I don't," said Harry, his voice cool. "I thought you'd both support us in this."
"Of course we do, pet," said Helen, giving her husband a glare. "Whatever makes you happy, that's what important. Now come on, there's a plane to catch," she said as she ushered them towards the car.
Severus had never been to an airport before, he'd never been somewhere so ostensibly Muggle. The airport itself seemed to be the size of a small city, with roads criss-crossing this way and that and he was feeling a little sick again. Harry moved his hand across the back seat and squeezed Severus', smiling at him as they both remembered the first time they'd been in the car together. They'd come a long way since then.
David hadn't mentioned their engagement again, but Severus guessed he was still a little upset about it, especially since Severus hadn't told him anything about it beforehand. But Severus had wanted the first one to know about it to be Harry, not his parents. It was almost a relief when they finally arrived at one of the airport car parks.
As Helen helped Harry out of the car, David took Severus aside and he prepared for an attack on how he and Harry were doing the most stupid thing ever. They hadn't even been together a year and now they were engaged? What was Severus thinking? Hadn't Harry enough to worry about without this? So Severus was a little unprepared when David looked him straight in the eye and asked, "Do you love him?"
"I do," Severus said without hesitation.
"Then I'm happy for you. For both of you," said David, shaking his hand and wrapping Severus in a bear hug.
They heard a laugh from behind them. "Hey, get your hands off my intended," scolded Harry, with a beaming smile.
David smiled back at his son. "He's all yours."
Once Helen and David had seen them get checked-in and made sure they had a good meal before the flight, it was a round of queue after queue. There were so many security checks, with machines checking everything that Severus wondered how Muggles could even be bothered to travel anywhere. They were making it all so complicated but at last they found themselves in the first class lounge as they waited for their flight to be called. Harry had been very quiet ever since his parents had left. His hand was trembling more too; he couldn't seem to control it at all unless he was holding onto something, gripping something firmly seemed to help.
"How are you feeling?" Severus asked him, noting Harry's pallor. His face almost looked blue rather than pink.
"Not too good," he admitted. "I just want us to be there already."
"I know, Harry. I know. It won't be too long now."
"No, just twenty three hours and forty five minutes." Harry was breathing heavily and his right hand clawed at his throat. "Severus - can't breathe," gasped Harry, looking completely panic stricken. Severus had seen his panic attacks before and knew that Harry might faint if he couldn't get his breathing under control again. He removed his pastry from the paper bag on his lap and had Harry breathe into it until he stopped hyperventilating, cradling Harry's head with his other hand. A few of the other waiting passengers were giving them strange looks, but at the moment Severus couldn't care less. He was too worried about Harry.
"Okay now?" asked Severus, kissing his hair.
"Thanks, sorry about that. I just freaked out about being in the plane for that long."
"Don't worry about it; anyway, we have a brief stopover in Los Angeles while they refuel, so you will be getting out of it for a little while."
"That's good. I'm so glad you're coming with me, Severus. I don't think I could do this on my own."
"You won't have to, Harry. I'll always be with you."
The flight wasn't as bad as Harry had anticipated, but he was still glad when they finally touched down in Australia at long last. He'd flown before, but never somewhere so far away. At least both of them had managed to get some sleep, as their seats in first class had converted to a six foot bed. There was plenty of room for Harry to lie flat, but at six foot three, Severus' legs had dangled off the edge of his own bed and Harry didn't think Severus was as well rested as he could have been.
He wasn't in so much pain after his sleep, either that or he was getting used it. It had dulled to a small ache at the base of his spine and along his right shoulder blade. The cabin crew had been plying them with water and soft drinks throughout the flight to prevent dehydration and more than once Harry was sure he saw them eyeing Severus up, the men and the women. He had to admit that he was rather jealous, even though Severus had never given him any reason to be.
Harry just thought how much easier Severus' life would be if he didn't have Harry in it.
As they emerged from customs with their luggage on a trolley, a sea of faces greeted them in the arrivals hall. Harry finally spied someone holding a placard with their names scrawled across it in black marker.
"Over there, Severus," Harry pointed out the man wearing a short sleeved shirt and a pair of shorts. He had curly dark hair, an even darker beard and beamed at both of them as they made their way over. He was tall, taller even than Severus, but he seemed stooped, as if he was ashamed of his full height and tried to hide it.
"Harry, Severus, so good to finally meet you. I'm Charles Scott."
Harry's mouth opened in an 'O' of surprise. The head honcho himself had come out to meet them at the airport? Hands were shaken all round and then Dr. Scott led them out to his car. Dr. Scott placed their trunks in the boot of the car and stared at the Hogwarts crest on both of them. "Hogwarts?"
"The school where Harry and I work," explained Severus. "I teach chemistry and Harry is a guidance counsellor."
The lie was so smooth that even Harry wouldn't have known that Severus wasn't telling the truth. He guessed being in service to a Dark Lord made lying an inevitable part or he would have been dead long before now.
"The institute's a couple of miles outside the city, probably about half an hour's drive in this traffic. I bet you're both glad to be out of the plane, eh?" he smiled as he straightened up.
"You have no idea," said Severus and helped Harry into the car.
Despite sleeping a little on the plane, Harry was exhausted and fell asleep almost as soon as the engine started.
When he woke up, he was lying on a bed and Severus was dozing in a chair by his side. The room didn't seem like a hospital room. The walls were painted pale blue with framed prints of white flowers on each wall that he could see. The doors and woodwork were white and the bed he was lying on had a blue and white striped quilt and matching pillowcases.
There wasn't a window that he could see, but the room temperature was cool enough without being cold and the unseen lighting was soothing.
Someone knocked on the door; Severus wakened immediately and went to answer it. A nurse in a crisp white uniform stood there, a tray holding vials and needles in her hand. "Good afternoon, Harry. Dr. Scott wanted me to start your tests as soon as you were awake." He wondered how she'd known he was awake already. Were there cameras or something monitoring him?
Harry eyed the needles with some trepidation. "Can Severus stay?"
"Of course, as long as he's not in the way," she smiled then, as if she didn't really expect Severus to do anything of the sort. Harry guessed it might have helped that they thought that Severus really was a chemistry teacher, a fellow scientist as it were. In a way, Potions were science, but just not the sort the Muggles expected.
Severus held his right hand while the nurse searched his left for a vein to extract the blood. Harry could feel the colour drain from his face and he was feeling very light headed. "Harry look at me," ordered Severus. "Don't worry about what the nurse is doing. It'll be over before you know it." Severus kept talking to him until the nurse finished.
"There, all done. That wasn't too bad, was it Harry?" she asked. Harry turned his head and happened to catch a glance of his blood collected in the vials. He hadn't realised they would be taking so much of it. His stomach roiled and he barely managed to turn his head before he was retching over the side of the bed, feeling as if he'd torn his stomach muscles inside out.
"Sorry," he mumbled. The nurse went into the bathroom and fetched a cloth, wiping his mouth with the ease of someone who'd been doing this for a long time. She disappeared again, returning with a mop to wipe the floor and then took mop and bucket away again.
"That's quite all right, Harry. Was it just the needles are you feeling sick because of something else?"
"Just - just seeing the blood."
"Okay, that's good. So you don't think it's an infection or anything?"
Harry shook his head. "I'll just get these sent to the lab and then Dr. Scott will see you for the rest of the tests. Don't worry, Harry. You're in good hands."
"Thank you," Harry said to her as she left. She was hardly gone five minutes before Dr. Scott knocked and entered the room, trailing a bank of machinery behind him.
"Hi, Harry, Severus. Now before we start on any more tests, I need to take a history from you, Harry as well as ask you a few questions about your condition, if that's all right?"
"That's fine, doctor," said Harry.
"Please, call me Charles. We don't stand on ceremony here. Now, do you know if anyone in your family has suffered from any hereditary diseases?"
"Oh, I'm adopted," explained Harry. "I don't know. Severus?"
"I knew Harry's birth parents before they died; both were healthy as far as I know."
"How did they die?"
"They were both murdered, Harry was orphaned, that's why he was adopted."
"Oh, I see. I'm sorry," said the doctor, scribbling on his clipboard. "And when did your paralysis start, Harry? Were you in an accident?"
An accident? No, Harry couldn't even pretend that what Lucius and Bellatrix had done to him was an accident.
"No," Harry said softly. "I was tortured."
Dr. Scott stared at both of them. "Tortured?" His beaming smile faltered at that.
"Harry was kidnapped and tortured for over three months when he was seventeen. He's been paralysed for about eight months now, that's about right, isn't it Harry."
"Yes," said Harry, not wanting to talk about what brought him here in the first place.
"And do you have any pain anywhere, Harry?"
"I sometimes get headaches, but most of the pain is in my right shoulder and in my lower back. Sometimes in my hips, but it varies from day to day."
"Tremors, I see as well," said Scott looking at Harry's hand. "Can you move your left arm or leg at all, Harry?"
"No, I used to be able to use my left leg but not anymore."
"Any feelings, sensations at all?"
"Can you be more specific?"
"Um, when I get aroused, I can feel tingles, like pins and needles, but I still can't move my arm or leg."
"So you can feel arousal as well? That is good news, from what you've said Harry, we'll be doing a few more tests to confirm it, it does seem that you would respond well to our treatment. Nerve cells are like pathways from the brain, telling your body what to do. In effect, some of your nerves have short circuited and the signals telling your arms and legs to move aren't getting through. What our treatment will attempt to do is to bridge that gap."
"How will you do that, I thought nerve cells couldn't be repaired?" asked Severus.
"Normally they can't. Nerve cells don't regenerate like other cells do, but a recent discovery was made. Some nerve cells can actually regenerate and do it all the time, the olfactory cells in the nose which allow us to smell. We take tissue from Harry's nasal passages and inject them into the spinal cord, where the damage has occurred."
"Will it hurt?" asked Harry, not liking the sound of it.
"You won't feel a thing, Harry. You'll be under a general anaesthetic for the whole procedure. There will be three operations in all, over the course of week to enable you to recover between bouts. If the operations are successful, don't be expecting to run or anything straightaway. Even with the nerves repaired, it will be some time before your body is ready to move again. We have a physical rehabilitation department here and you will be able to stay as long as you feel you need to. The important thing to remember is that there is no rush, take all the time you need to recover. Now, just a few more tests for you, Harry and then I can give you some pain relief. Can you flex your hands for me?"
Harry's right hand flexed normally but his left hand remained stubbornly still.
"Wriggle your toes?"
Again, Harry could move the right toes but not the left.
The doctor smiled as he took out a small pin and proceeded to prick Harry's whole body with it. Nodding and hmming as he went along. Severus held Harry's hand the whole time and the doctor didn't seem to think he was in the way.
"Ow," Harry protested as the felt the pin prick in his big toe.
Severus squeezed his hand. "Oh my God, Harry! That was your left toe!"
"What?" Harry struggled to sit up.
"Yes, Harry, that was your left foot," agreed the doctor. "I think this treatment might be the one for you."
Harry lay his head back down on the pillow, blinking back tears.
Severus kissed his forehead and wiped away his tears. "You're going to be fine, Harry. I just know it."
A/N: Yes, I know this treatment sounds a bit weird, but it does actually exist. :-) The Australians were the first to trial it in 2003, I don't know if it has ever been successful at curing paralysis though. I'm not a medical professional, so any mistakes in this are my own.
Severus wasn't sure how Harry got through that first day, with test after test. He was hooked up to electrical devices, put into metal machines that had Severus almost screaming from the room. It all seemed so unnatural to him, after having known only magical medical facilities. He didn't yell or scream or leave the room. He had to be strong for Harry and he tried not to think of the operations Harry would soon be going through.
At long last the tests were done and the doctor followed them back to Harry's room, a sheaf of papers in his hands.
Severus was curious as to what they contained but knew he probably wouldn't be able to understand the Muggle jargon. The doctor was smiling again, Severus wondered if it was because there was good news or that he just hoped to put people at ease.
"Well the good news, Harry, is that your paralysis does seem to be treatable and that you are not suffering from anything else. Other than that, you are in perfect health. No infection or disease. Your first operation will take place tomorrow morning, so other than your pain relief, nothing to eat tonight."
"So soon?" asked Harry.
"The sooner the better, I thought. There's no point in having you worry about it for weeks before we start, is there?"
"No, I suppose not," said Harry, sounding very subdued. Severus squeezed his hand.
"Now, I have some consent forms for you to sign before we can go ahead with the operations. Have a read through them and I'll nip back later if you have any questions." The doctor plucked a bottle of pills out of his pocket. "Take two of these tonight, that should help with your pain, Harry and I'll see you both later."
Severus poured Harry a glass of water as he took his pills, swallowing them very quickly as if he didn't like the taste.
Harry laughed when his stomach growled. "That's funny; I wasn't even hungry until he said I couldn't eat anything tonight. Good job we had a good lunch, wasn't it?"
Harry's idea of a good lunch must have been different to his own idea. From what Severus remembered, Harry had picked at his salad and sandwiches and had barely eaten a thing. Severus knew it was probably down to nervousness, after all if he was going to have an operation, an experimental one at that, in the hands of Muggles, he would be nervous too.
Harry read through the papers the doctor had given him then handed them to Severus. Risks of surgery, anaesthesia and more. Severus was horrified. No-one had mentioned that there was a risk that even with the surgery; Harry's condition might worsen, as the spinal cord was very delicate. One slip of the knife and Harry might lose power in his right side as well. Nor had anyone told them that there was a risk, a slight risk, but a risk nonetheless that patients sometimes died on the operating table.
"Are you going to sign this?" asked Severus. "Harry, the risks..."
"I know, Severus, but it is something I want to try. I took a risk every time I flew onto the Quidditch pitch. A rogue bludger almost killed me once, but it didn't. This is no different."
Severus thought it was different. A lot different, but he left the decision up to Harry. It was his body, his life that was at risk here and Severus didn't feel right trying to persuade him otherwise, no matter how scared he might feel himself.
"If you're sure," said Severus, bending over to kiss his cheek.
"I am, Severus, I am."
Severus said goodbye to Harry the next morning as he was wheeled away to the operating theatre, but Harry was on so much medication he wasn't even sure whether or not Harry knew he was there. It was the last he saw of Harry until all three surgeries had been completed. Harry was sedated in between the ops and wouldn't have known Severus anyway.
He spent that week in the guest quarters of the institute, in a room very like Harry's, except his bathroom didn't have grab rails and things in it. Severus ate his meals in the canteen, he and the caterers the only ones in there. The place seemed very quiet to him. Where were all the doctors, the other patients or visitors even? He couldn't imagine that he and Harry were the only ones here, but sometimes it seemed much like that.
After Harry's third operation, Dr. Scott sought him out in the library. Severus was finding Muggle medical journals quite intriguing.
"Ah, Severus, here you are. Harry's been asking for you."
"He is, would you like to go and see him?"
"Please." Severus followed the doctor down miles of white corridor, his heart beating so hard he thought the man with him ought to be able to hear it. He had been so worried that Harry wouldn't even survive the operations, never mind anything else. Those consent papers had really scared him. To entrust Harry's care into people who were cutting him open, it hardly bore thinking about.
Harry was lying back propped up on pillows, his face bandaged with a white strip of gauze across his nose. He didn't seem to be aware that he and the doctor had entered the room; Harry was too engrossed in his magazine. A magazine that he was holding with both hands.
Severus was dimly aware of the ground rushing up to meet him.
It took a few moments for Severus to come round. Harry put down his magazine as Dr. Scott led Severus over to the chair beside Harry's bed and handed him a glass of water. Maybe Harry's idea of surprising him hadn't been such a good one after all, he hadn't wanted to make the man faint.
So far, Harry's arm was working normally, but it still got tired easily and he couldn't do anything too strenuous with it. Dr. Scott however was confident that it would make a full recovery. The leg was another matter. Harry had lost count how many more pin tests he had and this time there was nothing, not even a twitch or a flicker of pain. He wondered if the doctor's assurances that sometimes these things didn't happen straightaway were just that, assurances to keep the patient calm.
"Harry," gasped Severus as soon as he came round. "Your hand. You can move it?"
"Yep, it's not a hundred per cent yet, but I'm getting there."
"And the leg?"
"No change yet."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Severus leaned over him and took both of Harry's hands in his. Harry didn't even know he was crying until Severus wiped away the tears, avoiding touching his nose.
"I can feel you," whispered Harry.
Dr. Scott patted Severus on the shoulder. "I'll leave you two alone, I'm sure you've got lots to talk about. Harry, just ring the bell if you need anything, won't you?"
"Yes, thanks. For everything," said Harry, remembering the conversation he and the doctor just had before Severus arrived. He wondered if he should just tell the news to Severus or wait until he was out of the hospital part of the institute at least. It wasn't as if they could do anything about it here after all.
Harry felt a little groggy from the anaesthetic but he wanted Severus to be there, even if Harry himself wasn't such good company, fragile as he was still feeling. Severus still hadn't let go of both of Harry's hands as if not that Harry could touch him back, he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for as long as possible.
"How are you feeling, Harry?"
"My back hurts, but the doctor said it's because of the operations, not the pains I usually had. They should be gone completely once my back heals."
"That's good news, then."
Harry nodded. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to burst into tears again or to giggle, the pain medication he was on was making him feel a little strange.
"Oh, you're parents phoned earlier, but you were still in surgery. They'll ring later to talk to you."
Harry gripped Severus' hands as tight as he could. "Don't leave me," he blurted out.
"Harry," Severus let go of Harry's hands and climbed onto the bed beside him, wrapping his arms around him and rocking him. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Harry thought that perhaps he was being irrational, but it was just how he felt. "I was scared you would leave me if I could never walk again. You're disappointed, aren't you? That it didn't work?"
"Harry, of course I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed for you; I know how much you hoped this would work. But as for leaving you, I will never leave you, Harry. I love you, whether or not you can walk. Were you thinking that just because you might be unable to walk that I wouldn't still love you? That I wouldn't want to be with you? Whatever life throws at us, we can adapt. We'll handle it. Together."
"Oh, Severus," sobbed Harry. "I love you too. I must be the luckiest man alive."
"No, Harry," said Severus, turning round and giving Harry a soft brush of lips against his. "I am."
Three weeks after his final operation, Harry and Severus moved into one of the guest cottages that lined the grounds of the institute. Harry's phyiso had been going well and his arm was getting stronger by the day, but he knew that Dr. Scott wanted him to continue for at least another month or so. He was still tested every day to see if any sensation had returned to his leg, but so far nothing was happening with it.
Their cottage was a small white washed wooden bungalow, all on one level with wide doors for his wheelchair. It reminded Harry of a holiday home and even though most of his days were spent at physio and being tested, it did feel somewhat of a holiday for him and Severus.
There was just one thing spoiling that illusion. Ever since they'd moved in, almost a month ago now, Severus hadn't seemed at all interested in pursuing anything sexual with him. He had as many kisses and cuddles as he wanted, but if things started to get too heated, Severus would back away.
Harry didn't quite know how to broach the subject without alienating Severus even further.
"Severus, that was delicious," said Harry after finishing their meal. They'd had dinner on their veranda, watching the sunset and Harry couldn't think of a more romantic spot. He was sitting on Severus' lap and the man had been feeding him chicken and pasta, neglected his own meal somewhat in the process. Their dinner was cold before they'd finished, as between each forkful of food, they shared rather lingering kisses. Harry was no longer hungry for food at all.
He twined his hands in Severus' hair, both hands; he was still amazed at that, and leaned over for more kisses. Harry groaned into the kiss, already hard and aching. He'd been feeling strong arousals for days now, wanting Severus' touch on him, only to have his advances rejected time after time. But this time, Severus wasn't stopping their kissing and soon he was moaning too, his tongue dancing inside Harry's mouth. Severus' hands moved, stroking Harry through his jeans and he ground their mouths together, unable to get enough taste of him.
Harry fumbled with Severus' shirt buttons, wanting to feel his bare skin. Severus pulled away, gasping when Harry's hands pressed hard against the bulge straining the man's trousers. "Harry, stop," he protested.
"Fuck!" screamed Harry, but removed his hand, feeling foolish and frustrated. "God, Severus, I'm sorry. I don't mean to push you, but I want you."
Severus reached up and caressed his cheek. "Harry, I wanted you to stop, because I'm afraid I'll go too far and hurt you. I want - Merlin, I've been wanting this for weeks now. I want to be inside you."
"God," moaned Harry, leaning his forehead against Severus'. "I want that too, Severus, I didn't know how to ask you."
"But is it all right? I mean, can you?"
"Yes, I've had a long talk with Dr. Scott about it, the day when I had my final operation."
"You were thinking about it then?"
"Yes, even then. I want you to be inside me so much, Severus. I want to feel you. All of you."
"And you're sure it's okay? I won't hurt you?"
"It'll be fine, just so long as I don't put any weight on my leg. We may have to try out a few different positions," smirked Harry. Severus kissed him again, harder this time as if already thinking of those positions they could try.
Still kissing him, Severus stood up with Harry in his arms and carried him to the bedroom. Harry wondered how the man could concentrate on steering and kissing at the same time. Harry was sure if it had been the other way round; he probably would have ended up banging Severus' head on the doorframe or something.
Once they got to the bedroom, Severus was so impatient to get them undressed and he just ripped Harry's t-shirt down the middle of his chest, sucking the breath from Harry's body as he did so. Harry had never known him to be so forceful and he gripped the man's back with his arms and gave in the primal urges that seemed to be overtaking both of them. Severus groaned when he had difficulties opening Harry's jeans, he cast a wandless spell which left them both naked. Harry gasped at the delicious friction of skin against skin.
Severus was lying flush along his body, pressing Harry deep into the mattress and kissing him passionately. Harry felt as though he might combust at any moment. When Severus finally broke that wonderful, breath stealing kiss, Harry couldn't stop a small whimper of protest, afraid that Severus was going to stop.
"Ssh, it's okay," said Severus, placing the tips of his fingers against Harry's lips. Well, what was a boy to do faced with such a temptation? Harry sucked the man's fingers into his mouth and licked and suckled them, enjoying the man's moans as he kissed his way down Harry's chest. He was cast adrift on a sea of bliss and Harry did not want to be rescued.
"Can you roll over?" asked Severus after he'd been kissing Harry's bellybutton for a few minutes. "It'll be easier if you're on your stomach."
Harry sucked in a shaky breath, his arousal diminishing as he realised what they were actually about to do. Something he'd never done before. Something he wanted to do, but something a little scary all the same.
"Harry?" Severus stroked his stomach.
"Will it - will it hurt?"
"It might do a little, but my dear Harry," Severus nibbled the skin around his bellybutton. "But I intend to make you so relaxed," another nibble. "That the only thing you'll remember is pleasure." Severus' eyes locked with his and Harry nodded. He trusted Severus to know what he was doing, for Harry had no idea. Oh, he knew the theory, courtesy of Madam Pomfrey's health lectures, but nothing could quite prepare him for the reality of it. The way his heart was beating like bird wings against his chest, the sounds they were both making, and the fine sheet of sweat that covered both of them.
Harry managed to roll himself over, even with a damaged leg. Once he had settled, Severus lifted up Harry's hips and placed a pillow beneath them. "Ohhhh," moaned Harry as his prick was pressed between the bed and his body. He could feel Severus kneading the cheeks of his arse and his face flushed, imagining Severus staring at him back there. His hands were so smooth on Harry's skin, caressing, pressing and he sighed with pleasure. There was a soft fluttering at the base of his spine and it took a moment to penetrate Harry's lust addled brain that Severus was kissing him and his tongue moved - no - he couldn't. He wouldn't - but he did. Severus' tongue pressed lower, pressed deeper.
"Ahh!" Harry cried out and gripped the pillow in his fists as he felt that first delicate touch against his entrance and then the tongue was dancing inside him. Harry moaned again. God, what the man could do with his tongue! Harry was in heaven, a delicious heavy ache in his balls.
"Stop! I'm gonna come!" he warned. Severus reached below him and gripped the base of his cock, staving off Harry's orgasm for the moment. Severus gave him one last lick before pulling out and sidling up along Harry's body.
"Not until I'm inside you," growled Severus in his ear. Harry shuddered.
"Yes! God, yes! Hurry, oh, please! Please!" He was begging now, wanting nothing more than to feel the man inside him. But Severus would not be rushed, taking his time to prepare Harry with oiled fingers until Harry was nothing but a bundle of writhing need on the bed. He was almost in tears of frustration before he finally felt something thicker, something harder than fingers press against him.
"Ahh!" It didn't hurt, not exactly, but Harry felt over stretched, over full and he held his breath. His body tried to repel the invader and he bit down on the pillow beneath him.
"Relax, Harry, breathe," urged Severus as he slowly, ever so slowly breached Harry. "Relax; it'll hurt more if you tense up." Severus leaned down and kissed Harry's neck, that most sensitive spot and Harry felt himself melding to the mattress as Severus was finally sheathed inside him.
Severus thrust in and out of him slowly; kissing Harry's neck and shoulders on each downward thrust and Harry had never felt so cherished in his life.
"I won't break if you want to go a bit faster."
"Slow is good sometimes too," panted Severus. "Let's you feel everything." Severus changed the angle of his downward thrust and he touched that magic spot inside again. Harry shrieked in pleasure, seeing stars behind his closed eyelids.
"Oh, God, Severus! That feels too good! I have to come!"
"Merlin, Harry! You're so perfect, so tight, so perfect," Severus speeded up his thrusts, gripping Harry's hips hard. "Come for me, Harry. Come for me now - ahhh!" Severus screamed as he found his peak, releasing deep inside Harry. It was enough to send Harry tumbling over the edge, soaking the sheets beneath him as he shot pulse after pulse of come. He was still trembling with little aftershocks when Severus pulled out and lay alongside him, kissing Harry's neck and face.
"Did I hurt you?" Severus pushed a strand of Harry's sweaty hair away from his eyes.
"God, no!" said Harry, feeling boneless and languid. "That was wonderful, Severus. We have to do that again!"
"I'm sure it can be arranged."
"I don't think I can move," mumbled Harry.
"Is that good or bad?"
"Oh, definitely good. I think my bones have melted. Could you do me a favour, Severus?"
"Can you scratch my foot? Just below the ankle."
Severus scooted down the bed and began to scratch Harry’s right foot in exactly the right place, but there was just one problem.
"Severus," Harry looked round his pillow and smiled down at his lover. "It's not that foot. It's my left foot that itches."
When Harry and Severus returned to London they were pestered by reporters and photographers from the Daily Prophet almost as soon as they got off the plane. Luckily Harry's parents were there, along with a few members of the Order who dealt with the fuss swiftly and efficiently and Harry and Severus were led to the car.
Harry knew his parents were probably still a bit disappointed that he still needed the wheelchair, but they never mentioned it. He lay on Severus’ shoulder as his father drove them back to Surrey. They would have a few days rest to combat the jet lag and then it would be back to work.
There was also an ulterior motive for his parents wanting them both to stay at Privet Drive. Both of them wanted to know when Harry and Severus were going to set the date for their wedding.
"The thirty first of July," said Harry, squeezing Severus' hand.
"Your birthday?" queried Severus.
"Not just that. It was the day I first met you."
Watching the two of them mooning over each other, Helen and David quickly withdrew.
Harry smiled at Severus. "I suppose we ought to get some practice in," he said, shifting himself out of his wheelchair and onto Severus' lap, there was no place on earth he'd rather be.
"Oh? And what pray do you think we need to practice?" Severus caressed Harry's jawline with his index finger.
"I think we need to practice for the honeymoon," said Harry, leaning in for a deep kiss.
The wedding preparations were in full swing, his mother ably helped by Molly Weasley and Hermione Granger. He and Severus seemed surplus to requirements for most of it and they left the women to it. All they would have to do was turn up. What did Harry know of flowers? Catering? Music? He hadn't a clue and knew he would be more of hindrance than a help.
The wedding ceremony would take place in the grounds of Hogwarts, which had been heavily warded to stave off any reporters who tried to sneak in for a peek at the wizarding prince's wedding. Only those invited could get past the wards, those not on the guest list would suddenly find themselves in the holding cells at the Ministry and since the Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley would be performing the ceremony, there they would stay until he returned.
The day before the wedding, he and Severus were shooed out of the Great Hall by his mother when Harry happened to ask if it was too late to change to a simple civil ceremony at the Hall of Records at the Ministry. Harry, of course, had meant it as a joke; he knew how much work Helen and the others had put into organising everything to make the day perfect for him and Severus.
After their dismissal, he and Severus steered well clear of the castle altogether and made their way to the edge of the lake. Severus parked Harry's wheelchair underneath the shade of a large oak tree, acorns littering the ground by their feet. Severus scooped up a few handfuls and cleared a space before taking Harry in his arms. He settled them both down on the ground, Severus leaning against the tree, Harry leaning against his chest.
"Happy, Harry?" he asked as he rubbed his index finger along the length of Harry's jawbone. Harry melted into the touch.
"Very," replied Harry, arching his neck up so that he could kiss the tip of Severus' nose. He could hardly believe that tomorrow they would be married. He was going to be able to spend the rest of his life with the man he loved. "I love you so much, Severus. Sometimes I think it's all just a wonderful dream."
"Then it's a good dream, for I'm dreaming it too." Severus leaned over and kissed him as if he was drowning and Harry was air. Severus tangled his hands in Harry's hair and they both moaned into the kiss. They would have continued if it wasn't for the fact that they were in full view of the castle and all its inhabitants. Harry pulled away, but Severus continued to pepper Harry's face in little darting kisses as if he couldn't quite let go of him yet.
"Tomorrow," Severus promised in a husky whisper.
It took ages for Harry to get to sleep that night; he was so used to the solid form of Severus in the bed beside him, curled up around him. His parents had insisted they followed the Muggle tradition of not seeing each other the night before the wedding and they were back to separate rooms for now. Helen and David were in the living room, tucked up on the sofa that Severus had transfigured into a bed for them. With his parents between the two of them, he couldn't even sneak out and into Severus' room. The thought of doing just that sent an illicit thrill through Harry and had heat pooling in his groin. Harry turned over and muffled his groan in the pillow. Great, he had a raging hard-on and no Severus to have some fun with. A brief thought of what his parents might be up to in the other bed soon dampened his ardour and he fell into a fitful sleep.
When he woke up, he discovered that a flower fairy had been at work, garlands covered most of his wheelchair, there were even daisies pushed through the wheel spokes. Harry managed to get himself up, showered and dressed long before his father came in to help him.
Harry grinned at David from his wheelchair. "It's all a lot quicker when you can use two arms."
"So I see. Severus is having his shower and I have my orders to get you to the gardens before he sees you."
"Okay," said Harry, wheeling himself out.
"Don't you want some breakfast before you go?"
"No, thanks. I'm too nervous to eat."
It was a beautiful morning, the sky so blue it looked painted and not a cloud to be seen. It was much too warm for robes on top of his suit, so Harry had forgone them today. His suit was in a deep forest green, he had on a crisp white shirt and a green bow tie just a shade lighter than his suit. His heart fluttered a little wondering what Severus was going to be wearing. He'd been dropping hints for the past few weeks, but only Helen knew what his outfit was and neither of them were telling.
A small gazebo had been erected on the shores of the lakeside, roses twining around the latticed roof. Arthur was already there, resplendent in silver robes that shimmered every time he moved. Conjured chairs adorned the lawn and even now they were filling up with the guests.
"Ready for the ceremony, Harry?" asked Arthur in a friendly tone as David put the brakes on Harry's wheelchair.
"As I'll ever be," replied Harry with a smile. Now that he was here, now that he knew he was really going to marry Severus, he was no longer nervous but excited.
There were muffled gasps from the assembled guests and Harry craned his neck to see what the commotion was.
His jaw opened so wide he was sure he'd cracked the bones. Severus Snape was dressed in a black Muggle jacket, a white ruffled shirt with a black bowtie and a kilt. A kilt. Not just any kilt, but the Johnson clan tartan.
When Severus reached Harry's wheelchair, he knelt down on the shingle of the lakeside so that they were on the same level and gave him a chaste peck on the cheek. After the kiss, Severus didn't get up, but continued kneeling beside Harry as they exchanged their vows.
"I, Severus do take you Harry to be my partner in whatever this world throws at us. I want to bring you sunshine when it rains; I want to shelter you from harm. I will cherish you, I will adore you and I will be faithful to you all the days we are blessed with. Please accept me as I accept you." Harry bent his neck forward to allow Severus to place the gold pendant around his neck.
"I accept you," said Harry and then it was his turn to speak the vows. Harry's hands shook as he placed the other pendant around Severus' neck. The man looked up and their eyes locked.
"I accept you," said Severus and much to Harry's surprise, both of them had tears in their eyes.
"It is done," said Arthur and the guests let out a holler of celebration.
Severus had little appetite for the feast laid out in the Great Hall. He was a little nervous about his and Harry's surprise for the guests and wondered if maybe they should have told David and Helen at least already. After the meal was cleared, the cake was cut and the speeches made, the band struck up the first tune. The guests were all staring at him and Harry, no doubt wondering how they would manage the tradition of the first dance.
Severus pushed his chair back from the table, bowed to Harry and held out his hand in invitation. "Would my husband do me the honour of this dance?"
"He'd love to," smiled Harry, pushing his wheelchair out from the table. Using the table itself as leverage, Harry hoisted himself out of his chair and almost fell into Severus' waiting arms. Severus swooped him up and carried Harry onto the dance floor. He twirled round a few times, dancing with Harry cradled in his arms as the rest of the guests just stared at them.
"Now, Harry?" Severus whispered.
Harry nodded and Severus Accio’d Harry's cane from their bedroom. As Harry grabbed hold of the cane, Severus set him down on the floor and Harry stood there on shaky feet. He was wobbling a good deal but he waved Severus' hand away when he attempted to help him.
Then Harry took not one, not two, but three steps towards him. Harry was limping, he always would but he was now able to walk for little periods of time with the help of his cane. It was a magical one that turned blue when it thought Harry had been overdoing it.
There were loud snatches of conversation and Severus heard some cutlery clatter to the floor.
"Harry!" screeched Helen running across the dance floor to embrace him. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"We wanted it to be a surprise," smiled Harry. Severus hoped his mother wouldn't keep Harry on his feet for too long, he may have been able to take a few steps but he was far from healed. He never would be healed completely and as he got older, his leg would get worse but for now he and Harry were happy with the brief respite they'd been given.
"How long ago?"
"For about three weeks now, after my last physio. I just could do it. It'll never be perfect and it tires a lot more easily than my right, but it's better than we ever expected."
Helen hugged Harry then hugged Severus. "Severus, I do believe you owe my son a dance?"
"I do indeed," Severus wrapped his arms around Harry's waist and danced them both around the floor. Harry managed two songs before he needed to sit down again, but he was smiling and enjoyed watching everyone else dance.
Later that night, alone in their room, they did their dancing lying down.