Harry placed the candles carefully in the center of the table. He could have done it through magical means, certainly it would have been safer that way, but it felt… more special, to do it by hand. More deliberate. And… he’d noticed that wizards, particularly purebloods, tended to use magic to do things that didn’t need to be done with magic. It felt lazy to him.
He took a deep breath and cast a quiet tempus . It was a quarter till six. Draco would be home soon, and Severus soon after. And… a flashing set of red numbers appeared in front of him, zeroes all. He smiled. Dinner was ready.
Once upon a time he’d hated cooking, since it was something the Dursleys made him do. Now… now that he was cooking for his family, he…
Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It was different because he was cooking for his family, now. The only family that he would ever have. Because… because…
“They’re going to be put to death,” Hermione said quietly. “Tomorrow, as it happens.”
“To death?” Harry couldn’t believe it. “But… but Malfoy never did anything wrong! And Snape… He wasn’t even really on Voldemort’s side to begin with!”
“I know that, Harry, and you know that, but the Ministry doesn’t care! The fact is that too many of the Death Eaters died and there aren’t enough people going on trial and… well, they’re looking to make scapegoats out of them.”
“It’s not right!” Harry protested. “It’s not… it’s not fair!”
“Life isn’t fair, Harry.” Hermione looked down at the scrap of parchment in her hand. “There is… there’s a way to stop it, though. A… there’s a ceremony that could be done. That would… that is to say, the Ministry still has laws on the books saying that they can’t punish an innocent man for his bonded’s crimes.”
“Bonded?” Harry asked.
Hermione swallowed. “You could soulbond with them,” she said. “The Ministry couldn’t do much to them, then. They could put them under a form of house arrest, but they probably wouldn’t bother at that point. They definitely couldn’t throw them in Azkaban, nor could they kill them. It would hurt you too much.”
Harry stared at Hermione, confused. “There has to be a downside,” he said slowly. “Otherwise criminals would do this all the time.”
“It would be for life, Harry,” she said quietly. “You wouldn’t be able to marry Ginny, and you wouldn’t be able to have legitimate children. Adoption would always be an option, I suppose, but… most people aren’t willing to give up those things, especially not here, where bloodlines are so important.”
Sometimes Harry wished that he’d said no. That he’d decided that Draco’s fate, that Severus’ fate, that neither was his problem. And then he pulled himself away from those thoughts. Because they were his family now, the only family that he would ever have, and he was determined to make the best of it.
He closed his eyes and swallowed. The roast. He had to get the roast out of the oven!
It was the work of seconds once he made it back to the kitchen, and fortunately the roast wasn’t damaged by its few extra minutes of roasting. He fiddled with it, making it as perfect as he could, then began the process of carrying it out to the dining room table, where it joined the sides, all in self-warming containers. Just in case.
He took a deep breath and smiled. Dinner was ready. He would have hated doing this for the Dursleys, but for his family? He didn’t mind at all. Especially not on special occasions.
Harry settled at the table and waited after casting another tempus to check the time. It was now just after six, and Draco would be home at any minute. And Severus would probably be with him, since he wasn’t home at his normal time, and they would have a nice dinner together, and…
And Harry tried not to think about what would happen next. Dinner would be nice. Just as soon as they got home.
He checked the time once more after a few more minutes had passed. 6:08. That was fine. Draco was… just running late. He’d be in momentarily, and Severus would be with him. Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Today was… it was an important day. It was the day that…
“I can’t believe this is the only way to save us,” Malfoy was muttering to Snape.
“We’ve done worse things to survive,” Snape responded. “At least in this we’ll be together.” The smile that he gave to Draco hurt Harry, mostly because Ginny had once smiled at him like that.
Now she was too upset to even look him in the eye. And Ron hadn’t spoken to him since he’d told them his decision just the other week. He was pretty sure that he’d lost the Weasleys over this, which… it wasn’t fair, but as Hermione had pointed out, life wasn’t fair. If it was, he wouldn’t even have to do this.
“Well, are we ready?” The Bonder, a Ministry official, looked from Snape to Malfoy and then to Harry, who stood across the room from them.
“Ready when you are,” Harry said, and tried on a smile for Malfoy and Snape. His efforts were rewarded with two grim stares.
This was the right thing to do, but Harry hated sometimes that he was always the one to do the right thing.
Two years ago. They’d bonded two years ago. And… and yes, things had been tense between them, at first, but Harry really thought they were getting better. He thought that maybe… that maybe… maybe they were getting to be friends?
He checked the time once more. 6:30. They were both incredibly late. What if… what if something had happened? They’d been delayed in the past when… when certain people, seeking revenge, sought them out at their new jobs. Maybe…
Harry switched on the wireless. There was nothing about any kinds of attacks, and things like that always made the news. And… and they almost always remembered to send him a Patronus when something like that happened. So perhaps they’d just been caught up at work?
“That has to be it,” he said to himself, shaking his head. Draco worked for the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries. Harry was sure that he was an Unspeakable, mostly because Draco never talked about his work. And Severus, well, he ran a potions shop on Diagon Alley. Not much of a change for the Potions Master, but he seemed to enjoy it. It was more than possible that Draco had some kind of mystery to deal with, while Severus maybe had a last minute customer or two.
But as the candles burned down, Harry lost hope. By the time they flickered and died completely, Harry’s head had drooped to sag in his hands, too heavy for him to hold up. They weren’t coming home for dinner, that much was apparent.
They liked to go out sometimes, and Harry certainly didn’t begrudge them that. They had been together long before they’d bonded with him, after all. He couldn’t expect… the day hadn’t… it hadn’t been a good day for them.
He’d just thought that maybe… and he’d told them…
But when did they ever listen when he talked, anyway?
Harry closed his eyes. The candles flickered, then died.
He stood up and stretched. He’d been sitting for a few hours. “Right,” he said to himself. He took the candle holder away and turned on the regular lights. The food was still warm, still ready to be eaten, but Harry wasn’t hungry. He thought about just leaving it there for the two of them to find when they did come home, but…
They probably wouldn’t care, if they even noticed.
He started to put it all away, a laborious process that would take almost as long as cooking it had. It wasn’t like it was easy to find room in the cold cabinets for everything that he needed to fit in there, after all. Not with all the other leftovers that never got eaten. Why did he even bother cooking anymore?
Harry had to stop because his vision was getting blurry. He swiped at his eyes with a frustrated hand, and when that didn’t help, allowed himself to sink down to the floor. Just for a few minutes. He could feel sorry for himself for a few minutes, and then he would get up and start cleaning up and… and… do something. He wasn’t sure what.
Maybe that was the problem. Maybe he needed to go out and get a job somewhere, but… but going outside, where everyone stared… And he’d always wanted...
He’d wanted a family, and that wasn’t what he’d gotten. But why was he surprised? When had he ever gotten anything he’d wanted in life?
He stood up, shaking. It took him a few minutes to pull himself together, but it wasn’t like there was anybody watching him, anyway.
He finished putting the last of the food away, then closed the door to the cold cabinet with a sigh. He leaned against it for just a moment, and he heard the slam of the door followed by soft laughter belonging to two different people.
“Harry, you in?” he heard Draco call. Followed by another snort and a muttered, “When isn’t he, anyway?”
“In the kitchen,” Harry called back, trying to keep his voice from sounding choked. He scrubbed at his face once more and hoped that his eyes weren’t red and swollen from his pathetic bout of self-pity.
“Sev and I are going upstairs!” Draco called.
“Have fun,” Harry said softly, and listened as they headed upstairs without waiting for his response. He looked around his kitchen, his lonely kitchen, sighed, and turned out the lights.
He headed upstairs as well, and into his bedroom. He didn’t bother turning on the lights, because he wasn’t planning on staying awake much longer. He heard the noise start on the other side of the wall closest to him, heard the soft sounds followed by breathy moans and the sound of the bed knocking against the wall.
Harry listened for several minutes, his heart filled with a longing he couldn’t even begin to explain, then he cast a quiet silencing spell so that he couldn’t hear them anymore. Then he closed his eyes and went to sleep, alone, with only the knowledge that he’d done the right thing to keep him company.
The next morning, Harry woke up in time to go downstairs and make breakfast, though his feet dragged with every step. He fixed eggs and toast and bacon, and had all of it ready by the time Severus came downstairs, dressed for the day. The tea was just finishing brewing when Draco came down to join them.
Harry sat in silence while Draco and Severus spoke to each other about their plans for the day. Draco had some exciting new thing that he was working on (that of course he couldn’t tell Sev about) and Severus was going to be working on some new potion. Neither of them asked Harry about his plans, and Harry didn’t bother to try to interject. He’d seen how far that had gotten him yesterday.
Harry just sat there, idly stirring his eggs around with his fork to make it look like he was eating. He wasn’t. He wasn’t hungry at all. Not that he thought they would notice if he did or didn’t eat, but he didn’t give them the chance to notice that he wasn’t.
When they both stood up to head out, Harry said dully, “Have a good day at work,” as he so often did. He didn’t get a response, as he so often didn’t.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Something had to change, but he didn’t know what. There had to be a way… a way to what, make them notice him?
Harry laughed at himself. Or maybe he should just give up, and accept the fact that the happy ending he’d used to wish for was never going to happen. He should have known it wasn’t coming from the minute they’d first come home, when Severus and Draco had decided to move into a separate room from Harry.
He was done pitying himself. He had things to do. He had to clean the kitchen. It was filthy. Aunt Pet… Harry shook his head. Who cared what Aunt Petunia would have thought, anyway? Not him.
Harry stood up and his head spun. He caught the edge of the table, tried to steady himself, but that didn’t help him when his legs gave out from under him. He went down, but he didn’t feel himself hitting the ground. The world went black around him.
He woke to an unfamiliar white ceiling, alone. Harry sighed and shifted on the bed, and immediately heard the sound of some sort of alarm sounding. He stilled, then decided that he didn’t much care. He felt okay, after all. He curled up on his side and brought his knees up to his chest. That was better. He didn’t ache as much that way.
The door clicked open and a nurse, or a mediwitch, or a healer, or someone, came into the room. “May I cast a diagnostic on you, Mr. Potter?” she asked, her voice brisk and businesslike.
“Go for it,” he said, and was surprised when his voice came out hoarse. How long had he been unconscious?
He didn’t even realize that he’d been speaking out loud until the nurse said, “Three days, Mr. Potter. Your two mates are outside, but we’ve barred their entry into this room.”
Harry frowned. “Why?” he asked, honestly confused.
“We take bond-abuse very seriously here at St. Mungo’s,” she said primly. She finished reading the results of the spell she’d cast and took a single step back. “I’m afraid that I’m not at liberty to answer anymore of your questions. Those will have to wait for Healer Olsen, who will be in within the next five to ten minutes.”
Harry closed his mouth with a snap when she swept from the room. Bond-abuse? What the hell was she talking about? Nobody had abused him, and he wasn’t sure why she would claim that he had been. He was fine. He’d just gotten dizzy because he hadn’t eaten, that was all. He should make more of an effort to do so in the future.
He knew how easily he lost his appetite. Hunger was one of the first things to go when he was feeling stressed or upset, thanks to the Dursleys. He didn’t think that he’d eaten more than a handful of times the entire time he’d been on the run in his seventh year. He knew better than to let himself get into that kind of shape, and was furious with himself that he’d done it anyway.
What if they hadn’t found him? He knew that they didn’t go into the kitchen all that often, and the chances of them actually going in there to find him had been painfully slim. If they hadn’t found him right away… although… they probably hadn’t, now that Harry was thinking about it. They wouldn’t have found him until the morning after, almost 24 hours after he’d first fallen.
The thought made something sharp ache inside of him, and he let out a small sound of discomfort and curled even tighter in on himself. He heard something from outside of the room, something that sounded like a pained cry, but didn’t know who it was from or what it meant. Then he heard the alarm start going off again, and wondered what was happening.
He hoped that everything was okay, but his heart felt like it was breaking and he didn’t know what to do about it. Was there anything he could do? Did he care enough to do anything?
The pain, impossibly, got worse.
“Mr. Potter!” The voice was unfamiliar, and belonged to someone other than the nurse who’d been in with him at first. It was a woman, Harry thought, and he felt strong but gentle hands on his shoulders. “Mr. Potter, please, whatever it is that you’re thinking about, I must insist that you stop.” Her words were steady, but urgent, and Harry tried his best to listen to them.
He thought about Ginny, and how much he regretted not marrying her. He thought about how different his life would have been if he’d said no, if he hadn’t cared about Draco or Severus, if he’d just gotten married and had kids and had the happy family he’d always wished for. What would have happened? Would he have been happy? He thought he would have been. He would have still had his friends.
For all that Hermione had come up with the idea to save Severus and Draco, she hadn’t been in his life much since he’d bonded with them. She was so busy, these days, running the Ministry and everything. He didn’t know why Ron never came by, but he didn’t. Maybe because of Harry’s bondmates. If he’d married Ginny…
“Mr. Potter, whatever it is that you’re thinking about is having the opposite effect of what we’re trying for,” the woman said sharply, breaking through Harry’s increasing depression. “Tell me about your owl, Mr. Potter.”
“Hedwig?” Harry asked, his voice still raspy. “She’s dead.” What else would he say about her? What else could he say?
“You never got a new one?” the woman, who could only be Healer Olsen, asked.
Harry shook his head. “I don’t… I never could. She was my first friend. I couldn’t just find something to replace her.” He’d never looked. He couldn’t bring himself to.
“I can understand that,” Healer Olsen said. “I never got another toad after my familiar from Hogwarts died. He was my favorite. I have since, however, owned a handful of other animals. I find owls to be most useful, since they can deliver my mail and I don’t have to pay the ridiculous postage rates to the Owlery on the Alley. Do you pay postage, Mr. Potter?”
Harry shook his head. The alarm from outside seemed to be calming down, and the ache in his chest was starting to fade. “I don’t have anyone to write to,” he said honestly. And besides, neither Severus nor Draco were willing to mail letters for him.
The alarm started again as his chest started to ache once more.
“Okay, this isn’t working,” she muttered. “Mr. Potter, your bond with Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy is perilously close to snapping. This could kill you. Would you be okay with us letting the two of them into the room to see if their presence can’t stabilize it?”
The words didn’t make any sense. In danger of snapping? Hermione had said that the bond was permanent. How could it break? “Shouldn’t we let it?” he asked, confused.
“Mr. Potter, I don’t think you understand!” Healer Olsen, who had grey streaked Weasley-red hair and bright green eyes, knelt in front of him so that she was looking him in the eyes. “This could kill you, young man. Is that what you want? To die?”
Harry’s immediate, instinctive answer wasn’t the no he would have thought it would have been. Instead, it was a quietly whispered, “I don’t know.” He hadn’t even known it was a possibility, but now that it was being presented to him…
The thought of dying didn’t seem as horrible as it probably should.
Healer Olsen’s eyes widened. “Mr. Potter, are you okay if I let your two bondmates into the room?” she asked, her words gentle and deliberate. She was staring at him like he was something more breakable than she’d realized, and Harry didn’t know what to do with that.
He closed his eyes and nodded. “Fine.” He didn’t care one way or another, honestly. What difference would it make if they came in or didn’t come in? It wasn’t like they cared about him, or worried about him, or anything.
Healer Olsen nodded once, then stood and backed away from Harry’s bed. She opened the door to his room once more, waved her wand and muttered something that sounded too complicated for Harry to follow, and there was the sound of something like glass shattering. Then she said softly, “You may enter, but take care. He’s in a fragile state, and if you upset him at all—”
“We won’t.” He thought that maybe that was Draco’s voice, but he couldn’t be sure.
Healer Olsen left the room, and before the door could swing closed once more, Harry watched as first Draco, then Severus entered. Severus swept to the window on the other side of the room while Draco came to kneel in front of Harry.
“Hello,” he said softly, his brow furrowed. There was an uncertain look in his eyes, like he didn’t know what to do now that he was here. “How are you feeling?”
Harry just shrugged. Did Draco care? The alarm was still going, somewhere, and Harry sighed. “The alarm is hurting my ears,” he said.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Draco said, and to his credit, he sounded genuinely distressed. He reached out and, with a careful hand, tucked Harry’s hair back behind an ear. Harry felt a frisson of something that he couldn’t begin to explain at the contact, and immediately the ache in his chest eased ever so slightly.
Harry let out a small, startled noise and, as Draco tried to pull back, lashed out with one hand and grabbed onto Draco. “Don’t go,” he begged shamelessly. The frisson turned into something warm and wonderful, and he shivered through it as the ache faded to less than half of what it had been. The alarm, wherever it was and whatever it was for, stopped blaring and Harry’s ears rang in the sudden silence.
He heard footsteps behind him, then felt the bed behind him dip. He felt a hand, as soft and gentle as Draco’s had been, land on his back, right around his spine. Severus slid that hand under Harry’s shirt, so that he was touching Harry’s bare skin, and Harry couldn’t stop the small cry as the last of the pain drained away so quickly that it left him dizzy.
Draco’s hand entwined with his own. “We’re not going anywhere,” he said softly, gently, the words weighty with promise.
Harry’s eyes fluttered closed. He didn’t believe those words, but he found that he genuinely wanted to, more than anything else. He wanted to trust that he wouldn’t wake up and find himself alone again, because he didn’t… he didn’t think that he could handle that. He was so tired of being alone…
“We’ll be here,” Severus said. He rubbed Harry’s back, his hand gentle and softer than Harry had ever felt it. Not that either of them had ever touched him before, any more than they’d been required to during the bonding ceremony two years ago.
It was wonderful, and Harry found himself helpless to resist the lure of sleep as he was pulled back down.
He woke to the sound of an argument, loud and furious. Harry didn’t particularly want to fight, so he kept his eyes closed and his body as relaxed as he could. Besides, he was curious.
“We trusted you with him!” the woman was shouting. She sounded utterly furious, and Harry realized that he couldn’t quite… oh. Wait. He knew that voice. It was Hermione, he thought, unless he was very wrong.
Harry cracked an eye open, only slightly, and found that yes, Hermione was in the room and was screaming at Draco and Severus.
“You trusted us? Weasley, excuse us for being surprised that you care about him at all! You haven’t been by to see him in months, if not a full year!” That was Draco, and Harry flinched as the words hit home for him.
She hadn’t been by to see him. Nobody came to see him anymore. He was alone, except for Draco and Severus, and they didn’t really count, did they? It wasn’t like they spent any time with him, either. He could have gone out, he supposed, gone to the Ministry to hunt down Hermione or something, but…
But whenever Harry tried to go out, people stared at him. And they whispered, and they asked him for autographs, and… And Harry hated the attention. It was just… it was easier to stay at home, where he wasn’t bothered or anything. It was just that it was lonelier, that was all.
“I could have come over, yes, that’s true, but I’ve been busy running a Ministry, Malfoy! What’s your excuse? You live with the man!”
“It’s hardly our fault if Harry failed to express any sort of discomfort from the bond,” Severus said stiffly. “Come now, Weasley, surely you understand that neither of us are psychic. We cannot do anything if he didn’t tell us there was a problem.”
“The way Harry told it, you were,” Ron muttered. “Or didn’t his fifth year happen?”
“I don’t use my Legilimency against my bondmates, Mr. Weasley,” Severus snapped. “Nor should I have to. Harry should have realized that he needed to come to us—”
“For basic contact?” Hermione interrupted, sounding incredulous. “That’s what this level of neglect means, you know. That the two of you weren’t giving him the kind of basic contact that you might give a stranger on the street! When was the last time either of you talked to them?”
Hermione was attacking them, and Harry found that he couldn’t stay silent anymore. “When was the last time you talked to me?” he asked, his voice still hoarse. He really wanted water, but at least he felt mostly better than he had when he’d woken up the first time. He couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t because Draco and Severus had kept their word. They’d stayed.
Hermione’s startled gasp drew him from his thoughts. “Harry, how can you say that to me?” she demanded.
Harry just sat up, every motion to do so slow and deliberate. He was still dizzy, almost as dizzy as he had been when he’d collapsed however long ago it had been. He shifted to lean back against the headboard, or a pillow, and found himself leaning against Severus. Severus didn’t push him away, but instead wrapped an arm carefully around Harry’s waist.
Draco left Harry’s bedside, but only to pour a glass from a pitcher of water. He offered it to Harry with both hands, and Harry accepted it the same way. His hands were shaking too much for him to feel confident taking the glass one-handed. He took a sip, and the water soothed his throat almost immediately. He took a few more, then handed the glass back to Draco with a small sigh.
“Harry, mate,” Ron was saying uneasily. “You can’t just say things like that to Hermione. She’s been busy, you know, with being Minister for Magic and all.”
“And what have you been busy with?” Harry asked tiredly. He stared at Ron, unblinking, until Ron’s eyes dropped and his cheeks flushed with a hint of shame. “Go away, please. Both of you. I’m tired, and I don’t know what’s happening, and I just don’t want to see either one of you right now.”
Hermione’s jaw jutted out and her eyes narrowed. “Well, Harry, what’s happening to you right now is that—”
“I’d rather Healer Olsen explain it when she has time,” Harry interrupted, keeping his voice as bland as possible.
Hermione’s eyes widened, and Harry was startled to see her eyes starting to water. She blinked rapidly, like she was trying to clear them, and finally nodded. When she spoke, her voice was choked. “That’s fair, I suppose,” she said, and swallowed. “If you want us to come visit, or if you want to see us, please. Just… just let us know, Harry.” She tried to smile, but it came out lopsided and not at all like a proper smile. “Come on, Ron.”
“He can’t talk to us like that!” Ron was objecting, even as Hermione grabbed him by the arm and began towing him out of the room. “‘Mione, you aren’t just going to let him get away with saying that, are you?”
“I am,” Hermione said simply. “He can talk to us any way he chooses, because he’s right, Ron. We’ve been—” The door closed on her final words, but Harry could imagine what they were, since it almost sounded like she was agreeing with him.
“I’m sorry that your first interaction with them in so long was an argument,” Draco offered into the silence.
Harry just shrugged. He felt better than he had, immeasurably so, which was strange because he hadn’t even realized that he’d been feeling bad until he didn’t feel bad at all. How long had he been hurting like that? How long had passed and he just hadn’t realized that he’d been feeling that way?
Harry didn’t want to know.
A nurse came back in for another check up, and Harry submitted to the scan without a word of protest. Silence fell over the room after she left, a small frown on her face, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. It was just… silence.
Harry couldn’t be sure, but he thought that maybe he didn’t mind it since Draco and Severus were there to share it with him.
Eventually, though, it was broken. “Why didn’t you tell us that we were hurting you?” Draco asked quietly.
“I didn’t realize you were,” Harry muttered. It was embarrassing to admit out loud, but it was the truth. He hadn’t realized that he was hurting until he wasn’t anymore.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Severus bit out. The anger in his voice made Harry flinch. “Harry, you had to have…” He stopped talking as soon as the door opened.
Healer Olsen entered the room, and she frowned at Severus. “What did I tell you about antagonizing Harry?” she asked, her voice frosty.
“I did no such thing,” Severus protested. “I was merely—”
Healer Olsen just narrowed her eyes. She cast a diagnostic spell on Harry and frowned. “While you aren’t progressing as swiftly as I would like, you’re now well enough to be on your own while we speak about what happened with your bond.”
Harry blinked. “Okay?” He didn’t really understand what she meant, but Severus and Draco evidently did. The two of them left the room without protesting, leaving him alone with the Healer. “What happened to me?”
Healer Olsen let out a heavy sigh. “Mr. Potter, tell me, what were you told about the bond before you decided to enter into it?”
Harry thought back to that day, two years ago, when Hermione had told him that Draco and Severus were going to be executed. “That it was for life,” he said slowly. “That I wouldn’t be able to marry or have biological children, and that I would have to live with them.” He shrugged. “Nothing else that I can remember.”
Healer Olsen let out a sound that could only be described as a growl before reigning herself in. “Whose decision was it that you three bond? I assume that you were involved with the two of them, and that’s why the decision was made?”
Harry shook his head and looked down at his hands. “No, not at all. It was just that the Ministry was going to… to kill them, after the war, and neither one of them deserved it. So Hermione told me about soulbonding, said that if I bonded with them, there was no way that the Ministry would put them to death, and so I… did.”
“And so you did,” Healer Olsen repeated, incredulity making her voice sharp. She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “And, during the time that you’ve been bound to Draco and Severus, have any of you actually researched this bond that you have? Have you learned about what the bond does, how it behaves, what it needs?”
Harry just shook his head again. He knew that it had probably been stupid, and at one point he’d intended to do the research, he just… hadn’t.
“Okay,” Healer Olsen said. “That, at least, aligns with what Severus and Draco have said. This leads me to believe that we aren’t dealing with a case of bond neglect, but instead with a case of stupidity.”
Harry winced, but couldn’t argue against the blunt description. He’d been stupid. He felt like a fool, for ever accepting this bond in the first place, and for having never looked into what the bond would demand of him. Of them, really. But then again, as far as he knew, neither Draco nor Severus had done any research into the matter either, so at least he wasn’t alone in his foolishness.
“Let me tell you exactly what I told them,” Healer Olsen said. “And then, because there isn’t anything wrong with you other than a case of bond neglect, you’re going to be released to go home. Where you will stay, with your bondmates, for a period of no less than two weeks. I can give you a note to take to your employer, if you need.”
“I don’t work,” Harry muttered.
“Then let me add to my suggestions that you begin seeing a Mind Healer, because you don’t seem well, Mr. Potter,” she snapped. Then she drew in a deep breath. “My apologies, that was inappropriate.”
Harry didn’t say anything. She was right; he wasn’t well. He probably should be seeing someone, and if a Mind Healer was anything like a therapist, maybe it wasn’t a bad idea.
“Right.” Healer Olsen drew in another deep breath. “Your bond, Mr. Potter, will demand affection from your bondmates. Severus and Draco haven’t been having the problems that you have because of their romantic relationship, which sustains them, and likely also because I understand that you do most of the cooking?”
When Harry nodded, Healer Olsen nodded in response. “The bond would take that as a sign of affection, a physical manifestation of the care you have for them. That they didn’t return it in any way meant that you were… suffering, when you came in. If the bond had snapped, as it is still in danger of doing, you would have died, and likely taken them with you. Do you understand that you will need to enter into some kind of relationship with them, something more than you had before?”
“I wasn’t the one who didn’t want a relationship!” Harry exploded. He looked away, his vision blurring with tears. “I tried. I cooked, I had meals with them, I tried to make conversation, but they just…” He bit his lip and blinked back the tears that had started to fall.
Healer Olsen’s only response to his outburst was, “I think that you’ll find them much more receptive to your efforts now.”
Harry didn’t say anything, but all he could think was that it wasn’t fair that he’d nearly had to die to get what he wanted from Severus and Draco. But then, as Harry had come to realize a long time ago, long before he’d even bonded with them, his life was never fair.
Harry’s discharge went smoothly enough, and then he was back at the house, where he was helped to the couch by a solicitous Severus. Draco settled next to him and pulled him close, so that he was nestled against the blonde’s side, and Severus sat on his other side.
A strained silence fell over the room. Harry didn’t know how to break it, so he didn’t try. Eventually, Draco ordered out for food, and then they ate and went to bed. Harry was invited to their room for the first time ever, and he found that it was nothing like he’d hoped.
When he went to sleep that night, it was with cheeks damp from crying silently into the night, long after Severus and Draco had fallen asleep. For all that he was surrounded by them, Severus on one side and Draco on the other, he was alone.
They didn’t want him there, he knew. This was just because he would die if they didn’t, and they didn’t want that either.
Harry couldn’t win, so it would probably be for the best if he just gave up and stopped trying.
He woke up in the morning to find that someone had moved in the night. Severus must have gotten up at some point, and when he’d gone back to bed, he’d curled up behind Draco. Harry ached at this visible confirmation that he really wasn’t wanted, and slid from the bed with a heavy heart.
He took a hot shower, during which he stood under the pouring water taking deep, shuddering breaths, trying to pretend like he wasn’t crying again. He only let it happen for a few minutes before shutting off the water, exhaling sharply, and drying himself off.
Self pity wasn’t his thing. His life was what it was, and there was no changing it now.
He got dressed, not sure why he was bothering since he wasn’t going anywhere. Since he never went anywhere. Then he shook those thoughts off and went downstairs, where he started to cook breakfast. He did this mostly by muscle memory, barely paying attention to what he was doing. He didn’t have to. He’d made eggs and bacon so many times that he probably could have done it in his sleep, in the dark, or surrounded by Death Eaters.
Just as he was finishing, he heard a thump from upstairs, followed by another, and then the sound of two people clambering down the stairs. What in the world was the matter with the two of them? It wasn’t like they were going to work, like they were going to be late or something.
Harry opened his mouth to ask whichever one entered the kitchen first that very question while frying up the last of the bacon, but froze when a pair of arms twined around his waist.
“There you are,” Draco murmured into his ear.
Harry opened his mouth, but all that came out was a startled little squeak. He didn’t know what to do, but Draco’s arms around him felt… felt nice. Felt like home, in a way that Harry had never felt before.
“Why on earth are you up so early?” Severus asked from the door to the kitchen.
Harry blinked at him. “Because I always get up this early,” he said blankly. He winced when he smelled a hint of burnt bacon and quickly turned the stove off. “And I wanted to make breakfast.”
“Did you?” Draco asked. He didn’t let go of Harry, but instead continued to hold him close.
Harry wanted to lean against him, to close his eyes and soak in the affection that was so wonderful after years of having gone without, but he didn’t dare. It would only hurt more when it went away if he let himself get used to it. “Of course I did,” he said, and extracted himself from Draco’s embrace. He plated up the food and took it to the table, serving Draco and Severus first. When he settled at his normal spot, he found that they were both staring at him. “What?”
“Nothing,” Severus said slowly, drawing the word out. “Harry, about what happened—”
“You should eat before your food gets cold,” Harry said quickly. He looked down at his own plate of food. He wasn’t particularly hungry, but he was almost certain that part of the reason he’d fainted was because he hadn’t eaten. And because of the bond, but that was getting better already, wasn’t it?
“Of course,” Draco murmured.
The room fell silent, and Harry focused on his food. He only managed to eat about half of it, and when he was finished, he got up and started working on the dishes. For the first time ever, he could feel the burn of Severus’ and Draco’s eyes on him as they watched him.
“You know, there are spells to help with that,” Draco said.
Harry just shook his head. “I never learned them,” he said. “And this is easy enough. It gives me something to do, at least.”
“You could do a lot of things,” Severus said.
Harry set the frying pan in the dish rack with more force than necessary. “I like to do this thing,” he said shortly.
The room fell silent again, and when he took their empty plates, neither Draco nor Severus said a word to him in protest.
The morning’s interaction set the tone for the rest of the day. Harry found himself irrationally irritable with both Severus and Draco and the fact that they were stuck in the house with them. It was even worse than it might have been because they weren’t leaving him alone and going off on their own. Rather, Harry found himself with one of them within arm’s reach at all times.
If he sat on the couch to read a book, Severus settled at the other end. If he went to the dining room to do some cleaning, Draco was at the table doing some paperwork. When he went outside to work on the small garden in which he grew fresh herbs, both Severus and Draco accompanied him and sat on the lawn while he worked, speaking quietly to each other.
It was, perhaps, even worse than when they’d left him alone all the time, because now he could see how happy the two of them were together, and knew how much of an outsider he was.
When he went to bed that night, Harry felt impossibly worse than he had before the day had even begun.
It was three days into their enforced stay in the house, three days of Harry adjusting to the strangeness of being followed everywhere by Draco and Severus, when Severus asked, “Do you think that we can discuss our relationship now?”
Harry hadn’t realized that they were waiting for him to talk about anything. “What do you want to talk about?” His remaining bishop, for he was in the middle of losing spectacularly to Draco at chess, told him to hurry up and get it over with. Harry ignored it.
“I think we’d both like to talk about what went wrong,” Draco said slowly. He sat back in his seat.
Harry bit his lip. He moved his bishop, buying him a precious moment of time, but then Draco took it and successfully put him in checkmate, ending the game. He had no more excuses.
“Harry,” Severus said. He moved from the couch and knelt next to Harry’s chair. “We hurt you terribly, and Draco and I both want to work on this. We’re together for the rest of our lives, and we’d like to make sure that those lives last a long time.”
Harry wondered if that was the only reason they cared. Then, before he could stop himself, he found himself asking, “Is that why you’re concerned?” He busied himself with resetting the chess pieces so that he didn’t see their reactions.
Draco stilled his busy hands by taking them in his own. “Is that really what you think of us?” he asked. It sounded like his heart was breaking.
Harry didn’t think that was very fair at all. “What else am I supposed to think?” he snapped. He pulled his hands away and stood. His chair clattered to the floor, loud in the silence.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Draco stood as well, his arms crossed defensively.
“Draco,” Severus said. He didn’t rise from his kneeling position. “We agreed that we would let Harry speak his mind without getting angry.”
Harry didn’t know when they’d talked about him, but he didn’t appreciate it. “Oh you did, did you?” he sneered. He was suddenly, irrationally angry with both of them.
Draco took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then settled back down in his chair. “Yes, Harry, we did.”
“How kind of you both, to actually care about my opinion!” Harry regretted the words as soon as he’d said them. He wrapped his arms around himself and whispered, “I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry.”
“I think you did mean that,” Severus said. “Even if you do regret saying it out loud.”
Harry closed his eyes. “What do you want from me?” he asked, suddenly exhausted. His shoulders drooped and all the fight left him as abruptly as it had appeared.
“We want to try and fix things,” Draco whispered back, his voice much closer. Harry wasn’t surprised when he was pulled into Draco’s embrace, and went willingly. “Severus and I would like to stop being a couple that excludes you and move on to a more… equitable relationship.”
It sounded like everything that Harry had wanted since the beginning, two years ago, and he didn’t know if he could trust it. He kept his eyes closed and said in a halting, slow whisper, “The night before I collapsed, did you know that I’d made dinner?”
“You tend to do that,” Draco muttered, like it was obvious.
“Right.” Because he did, all the time. Harry drew in a shaky breath. “But that night, I thought it was for a special occasion, because it had been two years since…” Harry didn’t want to think about that night, but… “Anyway, the point is that I waited for you both, and you didn’t… and when you did, you didn’t even come to see me, you just went—” Harry had to stop, because he was suddenly crying too hard to speak.
He tried to wrench himself from Draco’s arms, but Draco didn’t let him go, and Draco was stronger than he was. “We didn’t know,” Draco breathed, holding him even tighter.
Harry finally managed to jerk away. He stumbled back, his breath coming in shaky sobs, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I know that you didn’t know!” He looked down at his feet. “But I don’t know if we can come back from that. I don’t even know how to try.”
“We can come back,” Severus said. He stood, finally, and approached Harry slowly, carefully, like he was something both fragile and precious. “If you can accept that Draco and I are so very sorry for the way we behaved, and if you’re willing to let us try to fix things, we can come back from that.” He placed his hands on Harry’s shoulders, but didn’t try to pull him close.
“I don’t… I don’t know,” Harry whispered. He shifted forward, though, moving into the circle of Severus’ arms. His embrace was warm. “I can… I can try?” He wanted to give a more definite yes, but he was so tired of trying, failing, and hurting.
“We can work with that,” Draco said. He reached out and brushed Harry’s hair from his eyes.
In spite of all of Harry’s best wishes, he found that old, tired hope rearing its head once more, and he found himself powerless to stomp it out.
He hoped that they could work it out.
“Why don’t you get a job?”
The question was sudden, and made Harry immediately tense. He’d been lying peacefully in Severus’ arms, stretched out on the couch while they both read, but Draco’s words… It was a question he’d been waiting on from one of them, since they were trying to get to know each other better.
“Draco,” Severus said, his voice chiding. He looked down at Harry. “He doesn’t mean that in a derogatory way,” he clarified. “But I do admit that we’re both curious.”
Of course they were. Why wouldn’t they wonder why Harry wasn’t working? It was a perfectly normal thing to expect, that an adult would go to work after graduating. Harry sighed and let his head droop back down to Severus’ shoulder. “I guess I just… never found anything that interested me,” he muttered.
“I thought that you were hoping to be an Auror?” Severus frowned down at Harry. “Was that not what you discussed with Minerva back when you were getting career counselling in your fifth year? I remember that she was particularly pleased with the idea.”
“I thought about it,” Harry said. He wanted to curl in on himself, to make himself smaller for the conversation, but that wouldn’t go over well. To his frustration, getting to know Draco and Severus better involved them learning to recognize when he was feeling uncomfortable, and immediately seeking to alleviate the cause. Which was a good thing, Harry knew that it was, it was just… frustrating.
“What happened?” Draco sat on the couch, even though there wasn’t any room, and reached for Harry’s hand. He smoothed over it with his thumb.
“After the war,” Harry started, a bit hesitantly. “I just… I guess I’d had enough of violence,” he said. “The thought of living my entire life fighting off Death Eaters, or dark wizards, or whatever…” Harry shook his head. “And even if it hadn’t been like that, even if most of the time I was just handling the wizarding equivalent of parking violations, I was just… done with it all.”
“That’s fair,” Draco said. He brushed a kiss to the back of Harry’s hand. “But there are a million career options out there! You could pick just about anything, and people would likely be over the moon to have you working for them. They’d probably train you themselves, depending on what the job was.”
Harry winced and couldn’t resist curling in on himself ever so slightly. “No.”
Severus caught the motion and his arms tightened. “Why not?” he asked.
Harry was surprised. Normally, Severus would back off when Harry got uncomfortable, but apparently that wasn’t happening. “I don’t like being famous,” he muttered.
“I think we both knew that,” Draco muttered, a bit sarcastically. He smoothed his thumb over the back of Harry’s hand once more as an apology. “So because you don’t like it, you won’t take advantage of your fame and get job training that you maybe don’t qualify for?”
Harry sighed. Apparently they weren’t going to let the subject drop. “I don’t like it when people stare at me,” he said, less than patiently. “And whenever I go out into the wizarding world, people stare. If I’m at Diagon Alley, I get stopped no less than ten times when I walk between shops, with people wanting to shake my hand or thank me or…” Harry shuddered. “It’s awful,” he finished in a small voice.
He didn’t expect Draco or Severus to understand. Severus had never had that kind of notoriety, or if he had, it had died down quickly after the war ended. And Draco would like that kind of fame, Harry thought. He would enjoy having that kind of power, getting that much attention.
He wasn’t prepared for the way that Severus’ arms tightened further, or for the way that Draco’s face fell into something sympathetic.
If they had been unsympathetic, it would have been easier to stop talking. But since they weren’t, now that he was already talking about how his life hadn’t gone the way he’d hoped, Harry found it impossible to stop talking. “And I always wanted to go out and do things that I’d never had the chance to do,” he said, his voice choking up. “The war didn’t leave much time for travel or anything, not outside of what we did hunting down Voldemort’s horcruxes. I always wanted to see the ocean, you know, like on a vacation, but…”
Harry’s throat started to choke up, making it hard to force his words out, and he was so grateful for the excuse to stop talking. He buried his head in Severus’ shirt and hoped that the potions master didn’t feel the way his shirt was getting damp from Harry’s tears.
Draco stroked his hair soothingly, still holding on to one of his hands, and Severus rubbed his back, which meant they both probably knew that he was crying.
But none of them said anything, and when Harry’s tears had finally subsided, Draco coaxed him into another game of chess that Harry lost. Not as terribly as he normally did, so he supposed that was something like progress at least.
Harry hadn’t felt any side effects from the shaky status of their bond in a little over a week when he received an owl from Hermione and Ron, asking to come and visit him. He’d been so surprised that the owl was for him that he’d nearly gotten his fingers bitten off for not taking the message soon enough.
He gave them permission to visit, asking them to dinner that night after a brief discussion with Draco and Severus. Then he spent the rest of the morning and afternoon in a flurry, cleaning and cooking, because the house couldn’t be seen the way that it was.
“Harry,” Draco called from the couch as Harry dusted off the shelf above the fireplace for the thousandth time. “The house is perfect, and dinner smells fantastic. Come sit with us.”
Harry let out a huff. “It’s not perfect,” he muttered, but let himself be coaxed into sitting. The house might not be perfect, but it was fine, and anything else was Aunt Petunia’s voice inside his head. He knew that. And he was an adult and he hadn’t seen Aunt Petunia in years, so he didn’t have to listen to her ghost.
“It’s more than perfect,” Severus said. He wrapped an arm around Harry. “It looks amazing in here.”
Harry sighed and made himself relax. The house was fine, and besides, Ron and Hermione hadn’t been to see him in so long that they wouldn’t know what the house looked like normally. Who cared if things were still a bit out of place?
The clock chimed six, and Ron and Hermione’s arrival was signalled with a knock on the door. Nobody in the house wanted it hooked up the Floo, and their house had the best kinds of wards that money could buy, so the only option to visit was via the front door.
Harry hurried to open it for them, and offered both of them a painfully nervous smile. “It’s good to see you both,” he said honestly.
“It’s good to see you too,” Ron said, with genuine warmth in his tone. He gave Harry a quick hug.
Hermione, on the other hand, hung back and observed him through narrowed eyes. “How are you feeling, Harry?” she asked.
“Much better,” Harry said honestly. “Dinner’s cooking; we have about fifteen minutes until it’s ready.”
“What’d you make?” Ron asked. He sniffed the air. “It smells amazing.”
Harry beamed at him, and opened his mouth to answer, but cut off when Hermione said, “You’re looking much better than you were the last time we saw you. It looks like your bond is recovering nicely from the neglect your partners put you through. I suppose that’s something, at least.”
Harry swallowed, all the joy sucked from him at Hermione’s words. “Like I said, I’m doing much better.” He drew in a deep breath, trying to reign in his temper, but ultimately was unable to resist saying, “I might have been doing better all along if I’d been properly warned about what to expect as a result of the bond.”
There was a moment of awkward silence. “Why don’t we all go sit down?” Draco suggested brightly, breaking the tension. “I think we could maybe break out some before dinner drinks? Weasley, what are you drinking tonight?”
“Everything you’ve got, mate,” Ron muttered, glancing askance at his wife.
Hermione had a thin smile on her face, the expression as sharp as a blade. “Are you blaming me, Harry, because you rushed into something without understanding the consequences?”
Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This was supposed to be a pleasant visit. He wasn’t going to start a fight with Hermione. He wanted to get to know his friends again, whom he hadn’t seen in so very long. This was his chance to do so. “No,” he said through gritted teeth. “I’m not blaming you for anything.”
“Very good,” Hermione said. She sniffed. “Because I would think that, at your age, you would understand the importance of researching major life decisions. We aren’t children anymore, and I shouldn’t be expected to do your homework.”
Harry snapped. “It was your idea in the first place, Hermione!” he shouted.
“Oh, yeah, I need alcohol for this,” Ron muttered. He took a step back, physically disengaging from the conversation.
Neither Severus nor Draco said anything, but Harry felt their presence at his back, strong and solid. He supposed that if they weren’t trying to hush him, they probably agreed with him, at least in part. Or they were watching the show, which could also be true. They did both have something of a mean streak, Harry knew.
“We needed to save their lives!” Hermione shot back. “They didn’t deserve to die, even though they did terrible things during the war!”
“Yeah, but you were the one who came up with the idea of soulbonding in the first place!” Harry shook his head. “I don’t regret saving their lives. I never would. I do kind of regret not marrying Ginny, but I knew that was going to be a consequence. I didn’t know, because no one told me, because you didn’t tell me, about what the bond would demand from me! About the fact that I would get sick if I wasn’t given enough attention from my bondmates! And that’s on you, Hermione, no matter how you want to put it.”
“It is not on me!” Hermione shrieked. “I just…” She hung her head. “Harry, I just gave you the tools with which you could save their lives. It isn’t my fault that you didn’t do the research before binding yourself to them. I didn’t tell you that everything would be okay after the bond had been secured. You should have done your own research, and—”
“I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have researched!” Harry shouted. “I should have, absolutely, after the bond was in place, but there was no time to research anything because you only told me about the impending executions the day before they were supposed to happen!”
Hermione stared at him, her eyes wide and almost betrayed. “Well if that’s how you feel, Harry Potter, you can… you can just go rot!” She turned on her heel and left the house, her robes swirling behind her. She didn’t get too far outside before Harry heard the sharp crack of her Apparating.
Ron sighed. “I should… I should go with her, yeah?” He backed up a step. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, Harry. Hope things continue going well.”
Harry sagged after the door closed behind him, the sound painfully final. As if to mock him, the timer that indicated that dinner was ready sounded in the silence that stretched out. He let out a strained, sad, bitter laugh.
“Come on,” Draco said quietly. He wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulder and steered him into the living room. “Severus can finish up with dinner, and you and I can sit together and talk about anything other than what just happened.”
Harry leaned into Draco. “They were my best friends,” he said tiredly. “I hadn’t seen them in over a year before the collapse, hadn’t heard from them, but they were my best friends once upon a time.”
“I know,” Draco murmured. He helped Harry settle on the couch. “But you and Hermione can still work this out, I’m sure.”
Harry didn’t think that they could. Hermione was very stubborn, and probably wouldn’t come to see him unless Harry was prepared to apologize for yelling at her. And, at least in that moment, Harry wasn’t feeling inclined to apologize for something he didn’t feel sorry for. Hermione should have told him more about the ritual. He should have researched it, yes, but she should have told him more before he’d agreed to do it.
He just sighed and leaned in to Draco’s side, and didn’t say anything out loud. If Draco wanted to be optimistic, that would be strange and not like him, but Harry would let him.
Severus came into the living room with two plates of food, one for Harry and one for Draco. “I assume that we’re still going to eat this fantastic meal that you made, Harry,” he said after handing them off.
Harry didn’t know that he was hungry, but it would be foolish to let the meal go to waste. “Yeah,” he said quietly.
Severus returned with a plate of his own and joined them on the couch. He and Draco ate their food, while Harry picked at his. He’d made one of his favorites, chicken and pasta, but his stomach was churning and he just wasn’t hungry, no matter how good the food smelled. Harry eventually gave it up as a bad idea and put his plate on one of the side tables.
He sank back into the couch’s embrace and closed his eyes, but not before he caught the look that Draco and Severus exchanged over his head. He didn’t open his eyes to investigate. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to know.
“So, Harry,” Draco started, his voice casual in a way that raised some alarm flags for Harry. “Severus and I have been thinking that our Healer-ordered house arrest, as pleasant as it’s been, ends later this week.”
Harry sighed, because he knew that it did, and he wasn’t looking forward to the end of house arrest. He was terrified that things would go back to the way they’d been, at least, when he let himself think about it. “Yeah,” he finally said out loud, when he realized that a response was required from him. “I bet you two are looking forward to going back to work.”
“I think we are,” Severus said. “But Draco and I thought that maybe, once our period of seclusion ends, you’d like to let us surprise you with something.”
Harry opened his eyes and looked from one of them to the other, his brows furrowed. “Surprise me with what?” he asked, suspiciously. He didn’t have much experience with surprises, either good or bad, and he couldn’t help but wonder what they were up to.
“Harry,” Draco said, laughing. “If we told you that, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?”
Well, that… made sense, actually. “I don’t know,” Harry said. He glanced from Draco to Severus. “This isn’t… it’s not anything mean, is it?” He couldn’t resist asking the question, even though it made both Severus’ and Draco’s face fall. “Not that I think you would do that,” he added quickly, even though he wasn’t quite sure whether they would or not.
“It’s nothing mean,” Severus promised, and set his plate aside to pull Harry into a hug. “In fact, dare I say it, Draco and I are hoping that it’s something you’ll enjoy. We wouldn’t suggest it otherwise.”
“Yes, we’re definitely hoping that you’ll like it,” Draco said. He smiled at Harry, the expression oddly hopeful. “Won’t you let us surprise you?”
Harry sighed. “Yeah,” he said finally. It wasn’t like he could stop them from surprising him if they were planning on bringing something home. They were finished with house arrest, after all.
Severus’ face softened into a warm smile. “Thank you, Harry,” he said, and then he bent his head, like he was going to kiss Harry. Harry’s eyes widened, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted it or if he was terrified, and Severus must have seen the expression because he went still, then sat up straight. “We really hope that you’ll enjoy it,” he said smoothly, like Harry hadn’t just panicked at the idea of kissing.
It was just… it hadn’t come up before. They hadn’t been interested in him like that, and Harry hadn’t dared to hope that they ever would be. So he’d kind of put… kissing, and things like it, to the back of his mind. What good did it do him to hope for things that could never happen?
It made the rest of dinner awkward, though, and Harry eventually couldn’t stand the strained silence anymore. He got up and escaped to put the food away and work on clearing out some of the dishes, and hoped that whatever the surprise was, he would like it.
It seemed like Draco and Severus both hoped he would, and Harry didn’t like the idea of disappointing them.
The day that their house arrest ended wasn’t that much different from the days prior to it, in that Harry woke up, cooked breakfast, and saw Draco and Severus off to work.
And then it wasn’t like anything, because he was too nervous to follow his normal schedule. There was going to be a surprise at the end of the day, and quite frankly, it was making him nervous. And when Harry was nervous, he cleaned. By the time Severus came home, slightly earlier than Harry expected, the entire house was completely spotless, and Harry was sitting in his chair, his back painfully straight, almost vibrating from nerves.
“Harry,” Severus murmured upon spotting him. “Tell me that you haven’t been this nervous all day?”
Harry flushed and looked down at his hands. “I probably shouldn’t lie to you,” he admitted.
Severus knelt in front of him. “This is supposed to be fun for you,” he said. He brushed Harry’s hair from his face with gentle, potion-stained fingers. “If you aren’t going to enjoy it, I think that it might be better if we wait.”
“I’m okay,” Harry said quickly. “I just… I haven’t had many surprises, and most of the ones that I’ve had haven’t exactly gone well.”
Severus studied him through narrowed eyes. “If you say so,” he finally said.
“We wouldn’t be angry if you weren’t ready,” Draco said.
Harry jumped. He hadn’t realized that Draco had gotten home, mostly because it was still early for him as well. “I’m fine,” he said quickly, though he was almost certain the speed with which he spoke betrayed his nerves.
“Okay,” Draco said. He brushed past Harry on his way to the stairs and, on his way past, he ran a hand over Harry’s hair. “Come upstairs, then, and see what I’ve bought for you to wear.”
Harry blinked. “You bought me something special to wear?” he asked, the words coming out in a squeak. He stood anyway, in spite of his surprise, and followed Draco upstairs.
“We bought clothes for all of us,” Severus clarified. “We all need to wear different clothes for this evening’s adventure.”
Harry frowned. Where were they going, or what were they doing? What could require a special set of clothes? And then he walked into Draco and Severus’ bedroom and froze.
“That’s a Muggle suit,” he said, a bit confused. What was it doing in Draco’s bedroom? Did all three of them have them?
“You said that you didn’t go out because you don’t like being stared at,” Severus said.
Harry jumped when Severus’ arm wound around his waist. “Okay?” He leaned hesitantly into Severus’ hold, his cheeks turning pink.
“So we thought that maybe you might like to go on a date in the Muggle world,” Draco said. He turned to Harry and crossed to stand in front of him, so that Harry was sandwiched between the two of them.
It was a secure feeling, being braced between them both, and Harry found that he liked it very much. He found himself wanting to lean into one of them, to kiss them both, but he didn’t dare. He’d panicked earlier, and besides, he still wasn’t entirely sure of how far this relationship would go with them, because he wasn’t sure of what they wanted.
It didn’t matter that Harry wanted more if they didn’t. This, this closeness, it would be enough. Harry closed his eyes and let himself relax. It had to be enough.
He didn’t know how long he stood there, savoring it, when Draco asked quietly, “So, would you like to go to dinner with us tonight?”
Harry still wasn’t entirely sure about that, but… “Yes,” he said, a little shyly. He did like the idea of going on a date, even if he wasn’t sure about going out in public yet.
“Then let’s get changed.” Severus kissed Harry gently on the cheek, then pulled slowly away from him.
While Harry was still reeling from Severus’ kiss, Draco pressed one to his other cheek and then pulled away as well. He started stripping out of his robes casually, like it was nothing. Harry turned away, his cheeks flaming, and focused on putting on his own suit. It wasn’t complicated, not compared to putting on dress robes, but tying the tie did take a small amount of concentration.
When eh was done, he turned around to find Draco and Severus staring at him, their eyes deeply intent, both of them still only half-dressed. “What?” Harry asked nervously. Had he done something wrong?
His question, nervously spoken, seemed to spur everyone into action, and Severus and Draco scrambled into motion to get dressed. Harry watched them finish, and when they were ready, he let them each take one of his arms and then Apparate him away.
They arrived in a dark alley with a well-lit street before them. Harry stayed between Draco and Severus as they walked a few blocks down said street to a restaurant the likes of which Harry had never seen before. Outside of the few movies he watched, anyway. Severus gave their names to the maitre’d, who smiled and immediately asked them to follow him, in spite of the large crowd waiting in the lobby. Harry could feel the weight of eyes on him, but it wasn’t like it would have been in a place like Diagon Alley. Harry couldn't put his finger on why it was different, but it was.
They were seated in a tall, semi-round booth. Harry tried to hold back from sitting, so that Severus and Draco could sit together, but Severus coaxed him into sitting in the middle. Because the booth was so tall, it was very private, and Harry found himself relaxing. Nobody stared at him, and he was someplace relatively public.
The only problem was that the restaurant was very nice, and Harry had never eaten any place like it before. He couldn't even read the menu, since it was mostly in another language. And those words that might have been English, well, Harry couldn't make sense of them. It was a strange feeling, almost embarrassing, and Harry found himself blushing as he stared at the menu blankly.
When Draco asked him what was wrong, Harry shrugged. “I don’t—” He didn’t want to admit to being as uncultured as he was.
Severus was the one who figured it out, and he quietly broke down the menu and gave Harry some tips about what he might like When the waiter returned, Harry let Severus and Draco order for him, Severus the food and Draco the wine.
When the first course arrived, Draco showed him which utensils he was supposed to use. That was less embarrassing, because Harry couldn't bother to be upset about not understanding the proper usage of the fifty utensils on the table.
The dinner stretched for what felt like forever, but it wasn’t a bad forever. Rather, Harry found that he didn’t want it to end, because if it did…
If it ended, there was a chance that the relationship would… They couldn’t leave him, and Harry knew that, but things could go back to the way they’d been. And Harry didn’t want that, didn’t think that he could survive that.
But dinner did come to an end, and Harry was quiet as he left the restaurant with Draco and Severus, with Severus’ arm around his shoulders and Draco’s around his waist. They got a few strange looks as they returned to the dark alley they’d used to arrive, but nothing intolerable.
When they arrived home, Harry remained quiet, and Draco and Severus took their queue from him. Harry went upstairs to change and shower, and by the time he returned from the bathroom, both Severus and Draco were also in their pajamas, sitting on the bed.
Harry found himself hovering awkwardly in the doorway. He wanted to join them, there was even space on the bed for him to do so, right between them, but…
“Did you enjoy yourself tonight?” Draco asked. He stood and crossed the room to stand in front of Harry.
“I did,” Harry said. He looked down, his cheeks heating up.
“Good,” Draco murmured. He stepped even closer, so that he was in Harry’s space.
Part of Harry wanted to step back, but it was only a small part. The rest of him wanted nothing more than to move closer, to try and get Draco to hold him. He compromised with himself by standing still.
Draco didn’t. He stepped impossibly closer. “I’d very much like to kiss you right now,” he said, and lifted a hand to gently cup Harry’s cheek.
Harry shivered and tilted his head into the touch. “I’d very much like it if you kissed me,” he confessed in a hushed whisper.
Draco stroked his thumb over Harry’s cheek, then used his hand to tilt Harry’s head up. He pressed his lips to Harry’s, the pressure light and gentle.
Harry’s eyes fluttered closed and he let out a small, needy noise. They’d kissed during the bonding ceremony, but both of those had been short and perfunctory, with no feeling in them. This was different. There was warmth in the kiss, a genuine affection that made everything feel so much better.
Draco’s arms slid around Harry’s waist and he pulled him even closer, even as he pulled back from the kiss. “Would you like to come to bed with us?” he asked, his voice warm and inviting.
Harry looked at Severus, whose eyes were hot and intent as he watched them. When Severus saw him watching, he smiled, the expression just as inviting as Draco’s tone had been. “We’d like that,” he murmured.
Harry let out a shuddering sigh. “Yes,” he whispered.
Draco’s smile softened, and he took Harry’s hand and drew him further into the room. Severus stood to meet them, and pulled Harry into his arms, where he also kissed him. This one was slightly stronger than Draco’s had been, more possessive, and Harry found himself shivering through it, his eyes fluttering closed.
They didn’t actually sleep for a long time that night, and Harry very much enjoyed himself.
Part of Harry’s recovery, now that the bond was more stable and he felt more secure in his relationship with Draco and Severus, involved speaking with a Mind Healer at St. Mungo’s. He didn’t want to, wasn’t sure that it would help, but didn’t care enough to fight it when Draco and Severus insisted that he go. So it was that he went, and was immensely surprised to find that it helped.
He learned that it was okay for him to have doubts, and it was okay for him to express them. More importantly than that, he learned that Draco and Severus both preferred it when he expressed his doubts about their relationship. Communication, it seemed, made everything easier. The more that Harry discussed things with the Mind Healer, the better his relationship with Draco and Severus became, and Harry found himself almost enjoying his life for the first time in two years.
The one thing that kept him from being truly happy was his boredom during the day. Harry still couldn’t bring himself to go out into the world, because if he went to a wizarding establishment, whispers and stares followed him wherever he went. All the therapy in the world couldn't help Harry adjust to that. That didn’t mean, however, that Harry’s Mind Healer was willing to give him a complete pass on going outside.
“He wants me to go out in the Muggle world,” Harry muttered, his head resting in Severus’ lap and his feet in Draco’s. He’d just come from a meeting, and wasn’t particularly thrilled with his homework.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Severus murmured. “You aren’t content being shut away in the house all the time.” Severus’ long, graceful fingers ran through Harry’s hair, soothing him.
Harry let out a small noise of contentment and let his eyes flutter closed. “Didn’t think that you’d approve,” he said.
“And why wouldn’t we?” Draco rubbed a proprietary hand over Harry’s feet, his touch both soothing and grounding. “We want you to be happy, and if that’s what you need, Severus and I have no right to complain.”
“I don’t know why I thought it,” Harry said after a moment of consideration. He didn’t know what his reasoning had been. They’d taken him out to that amazing Muggle restaurant, and it had been wonderful, so of course they wouldn’t mind it if he chose to go wandering in the Muggle world.
The next day, Harry followed his Mind Healer’s orders and went wandering. It was strange, going out alone for the first time in forever to someplace other than the grocery store. At first, Harry found it difficult to trust that he would be fine, but the more often he walked past someone and was ignored, the better he felt. No one even glanced in his direction.
He wandered for hours, losing track of time until the sun began to set. Then he Apparated home and slipped in the door, feeling guilty because he hadn’t yet cooked dinner, and Draco and Severus had to be home from work. They never stayed out late anymore, a fact which Harry greatly appreciated.
The smell of food hit him as soon as he walked into the house. Draco and Severus were, as Harry had suspected, already home, and they were sitting in the dining room, several unopened cartons of Chinese food in the middle of the table.
Harry winced as he slid into his seat. “I’m sorry that I’m so late,” he whispered.
He wasn’t prepared for the two bright smiles he got in return. “We aren’t sorry at all,” Draco said. He took Harry’s hand and squeezed it. “In fact, I think that Severus and I are thrilled that you were out for so long.”
There was a time when Harry would have taken that in the worst possible way, but as his relationship with the two of them had improved, he’d learned to take things in the spirit they were intended. And Harry knew that Draco meant that they were glad that he’d been able to go out and have fun without them.
“Thanks,” Harry said, a bit shyly. He swallowed and looked away. “So, Chinese food?”
The change of subject was gracefully accepted, and the rest of the evening was spent in quiet conversation. Harry went to bed that night with a smile on his face.
A week later, Harry was still wandering Muggle London. He’d found so many fascinating places, and found himself intrigued by a handful of shops with help wanted signs in their windows. A small, part time job might be exactly what he needed. He hadn’t talked it over with Draco or Severus, but he was pretty sure that they would approve of something that got him out of the house regularly.
It wasn’t until he found a small flower shop that he was actually moved to go in and ask about the sign in the window. He’d always enjoyed gardening. It had been the one chore that he hadn’t minded doing for his Aunt and Uncle when he’d been a child.
There was an old woman behind the counter, fidgeting with a small flower arrangement, a fierce frown of concentration on her face. She looked up when she heard the bell ring, though, and offered Harry a small smile. “Come for a flower arrangement?” she asked.
Harry shook his head. “Actually, I came about the help wanted sign in the window,” he said, nodding at it. “I’m looking for a job. Nothing big, just something small to pass the time.”
She studied him, her expression going critical. Harry was suddenly intensely aware of the fact that he’d worn ratty jeans and sneakers for his wandering, and probably didn’t look employable in the slightest. He tried to straighten up, to lend himself at least a small air of respectability.
“I can’t pay you much,” she said suddenly. “Are you okay with that?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t really need money,” he said. “I’m just looking for something that I might enjoy doing to get myself out of the house more regularly.”
“Hmm.” She stepped out from behind the counter and circled him. Harry felt more scrutinized than when he’d been standing in front of Voldemort himself. “Do you know anything about flower arrangements?”
Harry shook his head. “I don’t,” he said honestly. “I liked to work in my Aunt’s garden when I was younger, though. Working with flowers was… soothing.”
She studied him for a moment longer, then nodded once, sharply. “Very well. We have some paperwork to fill out, of course, and I’m only looking for someone to mind the shop in the mornings on Mondays and Tuesdays, but if that works for you, then I’ll give you a chance.”
Harry beamed at her. “That sounds perfect,” he said. He spent the rest of the afternoon with her, working on the paperwork that he needed and then learning a bit about how the shop worked.
When he went home that evening, incandescently happy over his new job, Draco and Severus took him out to a much smaller, far less fancy restaurant to celebrate. It was every bit as nice for Harry, perhaps even more so because he could actually read the menu on his own and didn’t need to worry about using the wrong fork for the wrong course.
Once they were home for the evening, Severus tugged him into his arms and kissed him until he was breathless and laughing. “We’re very proud of you,” Severus murmured in his ear, his voice low and husky.
Harry shivered when Draco came up behind him and pressed a series of soft, sucking kisses to his neck. “So very proud, and so pleased that you’re happy.”
Harry leaned back against him. “I really am happy,” he whispered, and found that he meant it. He never could have imagined this being the way his life would have turned out, two years ago when he’d been preparing to bond with Draco and Severus to save their lives.
“What do you say we celebrate properly this weekend?” Severus whispered in his ear.
Harry flushed, not sure what they meant by celebrate. “Okay?” he asked, a bit hesitantly.
“We’ll take you to the ocean,” Draco murmured. “Make a weekend of it, and bring you home early on Sunday so that you’re nice and rested for your first day of work.”
Harry’s heart stuttered, so great was his joy. “That sound amazing,” he breathed. He’d always wanted to see the ocean. He hadn’t thought that anything could ever make him happier than he was in that moment, but apparently he’d been wrong.
And now, he knew that he would enjoy the rest of his journey through life, so long as Draco and Severus were with him.