The bell above the shop doorway jangled just as Severus was thinking of closing for the evening. Irritated, he glanced up from the ledger and glowered at the late night customer. Severus opened his mouth in order to issue some scathing remark… but for the first time in years he remained speechless. Standing in front of him was a ghost, or perhaps it was some trick of the moonlight.
The face that was half hidden by the hood of its cloak was the face of Harry Potter. But that was impossible! Harry Potter was dead. Severus had seen him fall by Lucius Malfoy's spell, his body crumpling to the ground like so much tangled laundry before disintegrating altogether. Severus had no idea what the spell had been, but the light had been violet, not green, so he knew it hadn't been Avada Kedavra.
"You're dead." Severus had found his voice at last. He had no fear of ghosts; it was memories that disturbed his dreams, not shades of the former living.
"Am I?" Potter asked, trailing a hand along a rack of test-tubes sitting on the counter. A very solid-looking hand. "I'm not a ghost, Professor. Malfoy's spell didn't kill me. It was a new translocation spell he was trying out."
"So where have you been for the past six months?" Severus demanded.
"Around." Potter shrugged his shoulders, as if it was of no importance.
"They even held a funeral for you!" Severus could not help his accusatory tone.
"Did you go?" the brat had the audacity to grin then, and Severus noticed his eyes were twinkling as merrily as the former headmaster's had ever done.
"No," Severus lied. "What are you doing here, Potter?"
"Looking for a job."
"A job? From me?" Severus couldn't hide his incredulity. "You were hopeless at Potions, Potter. You never even took your NEWTs."
"Yes, well there was this rather pesky thing I had to do instead. There was the matter of Voldemort to defeat and then I was a guest in the Malfoy dungeons. The NEWTs sort of passed me by. Look, I need a job and I just thought I'd ask, okay? I thought maybe we were friends. You've always protected me before."
"We were never friends, Potter. I protected you because I was ordered to do so by the headmaster. I had no say in the matter. And anyway, what do you need a job for? James Potter would have left you well provided for."
"My parents did try to do that, but most of my inheritance was in stocks and shares. They invested badly and I had just enough left for my education if I was frugal with it. I was, but there is nothing left." Potter emptied out his pockets. "I have five Galleons and two Sickles to my name."
Is that why he was looking so thin? Severus wondered. He snorted, not wanting to dwell on the fact that he might actually be feeling sorry for Potter. "What about Black? He would have given you his last Knut."
"He tried to," Potter explained. "But he was disinherited when he was first sent to Azkaban and it has never been revoked. He had nothing to leave. The Black fortune and Grimmauld Place has passed to the next male relative: Draco Malfoy."
"I see. What about your relatives in Surrey? Surely they don't intend to let you starve or end up on the street."
"Fat lot you know," Potter mumbled under his breath.
"Why don't you apply for a job at Hogwarts? I'm sure Minerva would bend over backwards to give the great Harry Potter a job."
"Look, I have no formal qualifications and I heard you were looking for an apprentice. I can train and work at the same time."
"You want to take on a Potions apprenticeship?" Severus asked incredulously.
"Yes." Potter's terse reply was determined.
"You have never struck me as the sort of person who was ever remotely interested in Potions, Potter. What's changed? You know very little about the discipline."
"That's true, but I want to learn. I really want to learn. Isn't that what being an apprentice is all about? That you'll teach me?"
"The candidate needs to show a bit more aptitude for the subject than just being willing to learn it. I am not going to waste my time on teaching someone who has never shown an iota of interest in the subject up until now. Go back to Hogwarts, Potter. They won't turn you away, NEWTs or not."
Potter sank down on the wooden stool by the counter, pushing the hood of his cloak aside as he did so. His eyes glimmered in the gathering darkness and he blinked rapidly as if trying to dispel tears before Severus saw them.
"I can't go back to Hogwarts, Professor. I just can't."
The despair in the young man's voice was instantly recognisable to Severus and he thought he understood some of Potter's reasoning. Hogwarts was different now: too many faces were missing or changed from the war.
"Potter," Severus began softly, and he wondered at his own desire to see the man before him happy again. "Swallow your pride and go to Minerva. She'll allow you to take your NEWTs and finish your education even if you no longer have any money to do so. Do you think she'd turn you away?"
"I really need to know about Potions. Please, sir. I'm desperate."
Severus already knew that, otherwise Potter would never have sought him out. "Potter, I will consider your application to be my apprentice if you tell me the truth. You are holding something back."
Potter sighed and played with the test tubes again, lifting one out of the rack before allowing to it drop down with its fellows once more. "You always did see through me, Professor. I – I have a condition, potion-induced. I need to find some way to reverse it."
"Potion-induced? Malfoy dosed you with something?" Potter nodded. "Any idea what it was?"
"No, only what it did to me."
"And what it do to you?"
"I would rather not discuss the particulars, it's personal."
"Very well, although you must realise that will make it exceptionally difficult to identify. Can you tell me anything about the potion itself then? Its smell, colour or consistency?"
"No, I never saw it. They just injected me with something while I was unconscious and when I woke up I was… different."
"And you still don't wish to tell me in what way?"
Severus nodded, but he could hazard a guess at what Malfoy might have given Potter. Probably something to induce impotence or something of that nature; it would be Malfoy's style and would amuse him no end.
"And if I do take you on as my apprentice, Potter, what do I get out of it?"
"I can look after the customers while you do the brewing. I can do the books as well, that sort of thing. You won't have to worry about serving the public."
"That would help," Severus agreed readily; he did indeed hate dealing with the public. "But what if I want something else from you?"
"Something else?" Potter was almost squeaking now and a slight blush crept across his cheeks. Was he really that innocent, Severus wondered? "I don't understand. My duties would be whatever you asked of me, wouldn't they?"
"And what if as one of your duties I wanted to make use of your body?"
"No!" Potter said vehemently, his hands curling around the test tube rack so tightly that his knuckles were white. "No, you can't do that."
"It is traditional for a Master to make use of his apprentice in that way," Severus continued, smirking at the young man's obvious discomfort. He had no intention of doing such a thing, but he wanted to see Potter's reactions. He hadn't had this much fun since he caught the brat sneaking around Hogwarts in his Invisibility Cloak.
"I don't care if it's traditional, I am not doing that!"
"You find me unappealing?"
"It's not that," Potter said quickly. "I just don't want to do that with anyone. It's not just you."
Ah, so Malfoy probably did dose him with some sort of impotence potion..
"Very well, I suppose we can dispense with that aspect of the contract, Potter. I am not in the habit of taking that which is not given freely. Am I to take it from your delightful blushes that you are a virgin?"
"That's none of your business!"
"If you wish to become my apprentice, it is."
"Yes," Potter mumbled to the wood of the counter, his cheeks pink.
"Excellent. I think we will add a clause that while you are my apprentice you are to remain a virgin. Would that be a problem, Potter? Considering the length of an apprenticeship is usually anywhere from five years and beyond."
"No, that won't be a problem," Potter agreed. "I don't see why you need me to be a virgin though."
Severus laughed. "Have you any idea how rare and expensive virgin tears and saliva are? Not to mention the semen. And I'll have my own stock on hand! This will put a dent in Slug and Jiggers' sales! You could make me a very rich man, Mr. Potter."
"You want to use me for potion ingredients?"
"There's no need to sound so surprised. I am a Master Potions Maker, Potter. I use the best ingredients I can find. Of course I am going to use you, as my apprentice it will be one of your tasks. Or have you changed your mind already?"
"No, sir. I want this. I want to be apprenticed to you. I know you're the best."
"Indeed I am," Severus said. He was never one for false modesty. "I think we will draw up a contract for five years in the first instance. Then, if you have learned enough to earn your Mastery, all well and good. If not, the contract can be extended as needed until you finally make the grade as a Potions Master.
"As my apprentice, you are my responsibility. Room and board will be provided and you will get a small allowance for any personal items you wish to purchase. Tomorrow we will go shopping and get you some apprentice robes. I do not wish to see you in Muggle attire while in public or when you are working in the shop. In your own rooms you may, of course, wear what you wish."
"And I'll live here, over the shop?"
"There is only a one-bedroom flat and since I am making use of it, you will need to board elsewhere. You may sleep on the sofa tonight and until I can make more permanent arrangements for you."
"Thank you, sir. And how do I pay you back for all of this? Will I repay you once I get my Masters and start earning money in my own right?"
"Weren't you listening, Potter? It is a Master's responsibility to look after his apprentice. It is not a loan. You don't need to pay me back."
"But I don't want to be in debt..."
"It is not a debt. If your parents had lived and raised you from an infant, would you feel obligated to pay them back for all the food, clothing and shelter they provided for you?"
"Well, no, but..."
"A Master and apprentice relationship is much the same as a familial one, Potter. There will be no debt to pay. Ever. Do we understand each other?"
Potter nodded. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." For the first time, he looked relieved.
They stared at each other for a few moments.
"When did you last eat, Potter?" Snape asked then, his eyes raking over Harry's body as if he could see through Harry's thick cloak to the thin body beneath.
"This morning. On the train," Harry replied.
"A pumpkin pasty or a cauldron cake is hardly going to fill a growing wizard, is it?"
Harry shrugged, not knowing what to answer. The ultimate truth was that he was used to being starved, and it was probably because he was used to it that he had survived the Malfoy dungeons with the little amount of food he'd been fed there.
"I've got some stew left over from dinner. It's too late to start cooking something now," Snape mused, almost to himself. "I'm not going to be waiting on you hand and foot, Potter, so don't get used to being coddled like you would be at home."
Snape disappeared through the curtain that was hanging up behind the counter before Harry even had a chance to reply. Not that he was sure what he could have said anyway. Harry had never been coddled at home and it wasn't something he was used to, or ever intended to get used to. He knew Snape was a hard taskmaster and Harry had every intention of taking this training seriously. Harry needed to find out how to reverse what Malfoy's potion had done to him.
Snape returned a few moments later with a tray in his hands. There was the bowl of promised stew with steam rising from it, along with a wedge of crusty bread still so warm that the butter was running in a yellow stream down the edges of it. There was also a glass of pumpkin juice and a small dish of rice pudding. Harry hadn't expected dessert as well.
"Thank you, sir," said Harry when Snape set the tray down and gestured for him to start eating.
Snape stood there, watching him with his arms folded. "When we are in public, you are to call me Master Snape, but when we are alone you may call me Severus."
Harry gaped at him, a bit of the stew dripping down from the spoon and back into the bowl. "Is that allowed? It sounds very informal."
"Which is why in public, you are to call me Master Snape. As my apprentice, you need to be seen to be adhering to protocol; but in the privacy of my own home, I would prefer it if you call me Severus."
"Oh. Right." Harry took a sip of the stew. He wanted to gulp it down, but knew from past experience that he had to eat slowly to avoid getting cramps. "Thank you, Severus. This is delicious."
There was a slight pink tinge to Snape's cheeks, not deep enough to be called a blush. "How did you finally escape from Malfoy? The wards on the Malfoy Manor are quite extensive and I presume Malfoy took your wand as soon as he had you in his clutches."
"I lost my wand on the battlefield; I didn't have it with me when I landed in the dungeons. So at least he didn't get it. Anyway, I didn't escape. I wasn't really up to much, to be honest." That was an understatement if ever there was one, but Harry didn't feel like going into details. "Moody rescued me and he let me stay with him for a few days to recuperate."
"Everyone thought he was mad when he kept insisting that you couldn't be dead. The Minister wanted him committed to the closed ward at St. Mungo's, but Minerva managed to keep him out. So Lucius Malfoy is in custody, then?"
"For now." Harry nodded after he'd swallowed the stew. "You know as well as I do he'll find some way to wangle out of it. He always does. Money talks."
"And do your friends know you're still alive, Potter? Have you contacted them?"
"Moody lent me an owl to send a note to Ron and Hermione and to the Burrow. I sent a letter to Remus but it came back unopened. I don't know where he is. Everyone else will no doubt read about it in the paper. Moody said he'd deliver a note to the castle for me. I didn't know what to say."
"That's a first," said Snape with a grin. "Weren't you always chattering away with your cohorts when you should have been concentrating on the lesson?"
"Things are different now," said Harry softly. "I'm different."
"War changes people, Potter. That's only to be expected."
Harry pushed the remainder of his stew aside; his appetite had fled as quickly as it had come. He didn't want to be changed. He wanted to be who he always had been: just Harry, not this freak Malfoy had made of him. Harry sipped at the pumpkin juice, relishing the cool liquid as it passed his throat. Malfoy had never given him enough water when he'd been his prisoner and Harry had been constantly thirsty.
"It's late. I'll sort you out some blankets and pillows," said Snape as he stood up and waited for Harry to do the same.
Before going through the curtain again, Snape Banished the tray and the remainder of Harry's dinner. Harry felt guilty that he hadn't eaten everything he'd been given. "This way, Potter."
Snape held the curtain aside so that Harry could pass through under his arm. Harry had forgotten how tall Snape was; Harry felt tiny in comparison. As he passed, familiar scents from long ago Potions lessons assailed his nose and he smiled as he even managed to recognise some of them. Ginger, sandalwood and aniseed.
Once through the curtain Harry found himself in a combined living and kitchen space; although from the lack of seating Harry guessed Snape didn't spend much time in here. There was one armchair with a side table next to it and the rest of the room was taken up with bookcases and kitchen cupboards. A small fireplace held the cauldron and the rest of the stew. At the back of the room a spiral staircase led to the upper level.
Snape removed his wand and Transfigured the single armchair into a small sofa. Since Harry was so small he nearly could have fitted onto the chair itself to sleep. "I'll be back in a moment," said Snape as he hurried up the stairs two at a time.
Harry lowered his eyes when he realised he'd been staring at the shape of Snape's thighs and arse in his trousers as he ascended the stairs, for Snape was without a robe this evening.
Harry took off his cloak and hung it on a coat rack that was standing beneath the stairs. A selection of black robes and cloaks were already there along with a couple of scarves. The dirty dishes from Harry's aborted supper were sitting on the draining board by the sink. Harry rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and began to clear up, putting the food in the bin and starting to wash the dishes.
"Potter, there is no need for you to perform household tasks. You will be my apprentice, not my house-elf. I am perfectly capable of cooking and cleaning up after myself."
Harry dropped the now washed spoon onto the draining board and turned around, feeling embarrassment heat his cheeks. "Sorry. I just wanted to help."
"Here," Snape passed him two pillows and a blanket, along with a flannel nightshirt. Harry hadn't even thought of what he might wear for nightwear. "Is that your school uniform?"
Harry nodded. "They're the only clothes I have left."
"Well, we will get you some extra things tomorrow when we go shopping for your apprentice robes. I've set the alarm for seven. I thought we could have breakfast in the Three Broomsticks before we head off to London."
Was that Snape's subtle way of telling him that Harry had no need to make breakfast for them? "Thank you, sir. I mean, Severus," Harry amended on seeing his eyebrow arch up. "I do appreciate everything you're doing for me."
"Goodnight, Potter. I will see you in the morning."
Severus finished brushing his teeth and spat the toothpaste into the sink; his mind wandering to his unexpected house guest and to where Potter could stay while he trained for his Mastery in Potions. In Potions! Severus could still hardly believe it; but the young man had been insistent that yes, indeed, he wanted to learn everything there was to know about the discipline. What had Malfoy's potion done to him? If it had been an impotency potion; he could see why staying a virgin for the next five years might be preferable for Potter rather than let anyone else know. But impotency potions were similar to aphrodisiacs; they tended to work only for a certain amount of time. Severus knew of a few aphrodisiac potions and impotency potions that could last a few days at most, but he'd never come across one that lasted for months. Had Malfoy created a new strain? One with effects that were either very long-lasting or permanent? Or maybe it was something else Malfoy had given the boy... But what would be so personal that Potter didn't want to talk about it?
Knowing Malfoy's love of inflicting pain and humiliation on others, it wasn't surprising that Potter hadn't wanted to talk about what he'd gone through while he'd been a prisoner in Wiltshire. Severus could see for himself how thin Potter had become; his cheeks sunken and his eyes hollowed out holes in his face. He did look more dead than alive at the moment; but as Severus' new apprentice; he would never want for food or shelter, or for anything else he might need.
Once the Dark Lord had been defeated, Severus was finally free to leave the school and the teaching job he'd grown to detest more and more every year. With little to spend his salary on, as food, board and every ingredient for his potions had been provided by the school, he had accumulated quite a little nest egg over the years. He had enough to pursue the dream he'd had ever since he'd gained his Mastery at seventeen: he wanted to be his own boss in his own apothecary's shop, and now, finally, he'd done it.
His sales were growing steadily each week and even before Harry Potter had surprised him, Severus had indeed been thinking of taking on an apprentice or at least an assistant to help him cope with the workload. But how had Potter known that? Severus hadn't advertised that he'd been looking for someone; he hadn't even mentioned it in passing to anyone. Had Potter finally learned Legilimency and discovered it in Severus' mind?
Severus put his toothbrush back in its holder and made his way back to his bedroom. Briefly, he remembered that he hadn't shown Potter where the bathroom was or even invited him to use it, but he was so exhausted that he was asleep almost as soon as his head touched the pillow.
Severus was wrong; he didn't see Potter in the morning.
Potter's screams woke him up long before dawn had crept over the horizon.
"Harry Potter! As I live and breathe!" exclaimed Madam Rosmerta as Severus and Harry stepped through the doorway of the Three Broomsticks.
Severus did not wish to hear such caterwauling so early in the morning. Thankfully, because it was so early, they were the only patrons in evidence. For one moment it looked as though she was about to clasp the boy to her ample bosom, but Potter had been ready for the attempt and slid sideways so that he was on the other side of Severus from Rosmerta. One look at Severus' face and the attempt at mothering was instantly thwarted.
What was it about Potter that seemed to make every female in the vicinity want to look after him, Severus wondered. Was it the fact that he was an orphan and women needed an outlet for their maternal instincts? That didn't explain Molly Weasley though. With seven children of her own, she could hardly need to mother people; she had mothered enough already! Maybe it was something inherent in Potter's own disposition. Did he want to be looked after? Was that why he had sought an apprenticeship rather than a more usual career?
Severus took hold of Potter's elbow and steered him towards one of the empty tables, cutting off Rosmerta's strident chatter in midstride. She looked affronted for a second, but her usual warm smile was back in place by the time she arrived at their table, pad and quill in hand as she waited for their order. The table was sticky from a previous customer, so Severus cast a surreptitious cleaning charm on the table and floor around them.
"Two full breakfasts, please," Severus ordered, not even bothering to ask for a menu.
"Right, Professor. Tea or coffee?" Rosmerta scratched the quill across the pad. Severus didn't correct anyone's use of his former title; it had been such a part of his life for so long that it was difficult for people to call him Mister Snape, or as was more proper these days, Master Snape.
"I will have a pot of coffee, black, and Harry will have hot chocolate. You do have hot chocolate, don't you?"
"Of course we do! I'll be back in a mo'." The landlady toddled off to the kitchen, leaving Severus alone with his new apprentice once more.
"Would you like to talk about it?" Severus asked softly, remembering Harry's nightmares of the evening before. Severus had rushed downstairs on hearing the screams. Harry had the blanket kicked off; one pillow lay behind his head, the other was lying squashed on the floor as if Harry had been punching it during the night. The boy's arms were stretched behind his head, both hands clasped together as if Harry thought he was bound and unable to free himself. Severus had debated for a few minutes whether or not to wake him up, but after an ear-piercing shriek of terror he knew he had no choice. It would be unnaturally cruel to let the nightmare continue to haunt him. Severus had shaken Harry gently by the shoulder to wake him, only to find himself suddenly with a lapful of the sobbing young man.
"Ron! Ron!" Harry had sobbed in his arms, muffling his cries against Severus' chest. "Don't let them make me go back! Please! Please!"
It seemed Harry had thought he was talking to his friend and one-time dorm mate. But why would he be talking to him about not being sent back to Wiltshire? Ron Weasley, like almost everyone else, had assumed Harry had died that day on the battlefield. They didn't yet know Harry had been a prisoner.
"No. You're not going back, Harry. You're safe. You're safe." Severus had whispered the soothing words until Harry had calmed and he'd been able to set him back on the sofa. Harry's eyes had widened in shock when he'd realised he'd been talking to Severus and not his friend.
Now, in the dim light of the pub, Harry nervously glanced down at the grain on the table. "I'm sorry I disturbed your rest, Master Snape. I won't do it again."
"Harry, look at me," Severus ordered, not liking the way this conversation was going. It was almost as if Harry assumed Severus was angry at him for interrupting his sleep; and what was more, Harry seemed to think he deserved that anger. "I am not angry with you because you had a nightmare. After what you've been through it would be surprising if you did not have nightmares. I am concerned with your wellbeing. It is not just material necessities that an apprentice needs from his master. For the next five years, you are my responsibility, and that includes your emotional health."
"Oh! I didn't know that. No one's ever bothered before."
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing. Forget I said anything."
"Harry, are you telling me that no one ever worried whether or not you were happy or content with life?"
"Just Madam Pomfrey," Harry mumbled.
"What about your Head of House?" Severus couldn't imagine the Minerva McGonagall he knew ever neglecting someone in her care.
"She was part of the Order." Harry shrugged his shoulders and looked anywhere but at Severus; hints indeed that Harry did not want to have this conversation. Severus, however, was adept at reading between the lines. It seemed that Harry thought no one had cared about him as long as he stayed alive long enough to defeat Voldemort. But was that really true? Or had Harry imagined such things? It wasn't as if Severus had worried over whether he was happy or content, was it? Most of the time while Harry had been a student, Harry had resembled James Potter so much that Severus had found it difficult to separate the two in his mind. Severus would have been overjoyed at the boy's misery and knew he had delighted in taking points from him wherever possible.
But things were different now. Harry was his apprentice, his responsibility and Severus took his coming oath seriously.
"If you have any problems that you wish to discuss, you may talk to me. Or, if needed, we can arrange some counselling for you. Whatever you wish."
"Um... what if I don't want to talk about it?"
"Then that's fine too."
By that time Madam Rosmerta had returned with their breakfasts, along with Severus' coffee and Harry's chocolate.
"After our shopping trip, I'll try and arrange somewhere for you to stay during your apprenticeship."
"Oh? Harry's to be your new apprentice then, Professor?" asked Rosmerta, her eyes agog as she set the plates down.
"Yes," Severus said stiffly. It would soon be public knowledge anyway; he had to register Harry's apprenticeship while they were in London.
"He could stay here! I've got plenty of spare rooms; not that much call for holiday lets in the winter."
"I don't think staying in a tavern would be suitable for Harry," said Severus. "You do still have quite a regular clientele who are boisterous and noisy. Harry needs peace and quiet so he can study." Not to mention the fact that quite a few of the Hogwarts students visited the Three Broomsticks on their Hogsmeade Weekends and Severus did not want Harry to have any distractions. Staying a virgin for five years would be hard enough without the added complication of sixth and seventh year girls swooning over the Boy Who Lived Yet Again. Ginny Weasley's face popped into his mind; Severus knew the two of them had been together at one time and wondered what had gone wrong there. Ginny Weasley might see fit to try and rekindle their romance, and that was something Severus couldn't allow.
"That's true," Rosmerta agreed readily enough. "What about Scrivenshaft's? Mr. Scrivenshaft died the summer before last and I know Emily would be glad of the company. You can't object to him staying in a bookshop, can you? It'll be quiet so Harry can study to his heart's content. I never knew you wanted to be a Potions Master, Harry."
"Well, I do."
"That idea does merit some consideration," said Severus pensively. "We are heading up to London after breakfast, perhaps you could have a word with Madam Scrivenshaft before we return and we can talk to her later this evening? I don't know what time we'll be back. We have lots of shopping to do and then we have to get the apprenticeship registered at the Ministry."
"I'll pop over and see Emily later. As I said, I'm sure she'll be glad of the company. Now eat up, before it gets cold."
Once the woman had left, Harry toyed with his bacon and scrambled eggs; seemingly his appetite hadn't returned to normal yet. "Eat what you can," Severus prompted. "We can always get a bigger lunch."
"Master Snape? Can I ask you something?"
"You may ask me something," Severus corrected automatically.
"Um, the registration. What happens at that?"
"It's just a formality. We will both sign copies of our contract to be lodged at the Room of Records, and then we will both be given a full medical to make sure that we are healthy enough to last through the five year term of the apprenticeship. The practice was started when a lot of older wizards starting taking on apprentices. What would happen to the apprenticeship if an old wizard died during the term? Since both of us are relatively young, and with no other Dark Lords on the horizon, I can't see that it would be a problem for either of us."
"I didn't know there was going to be a medical." Harry's face paled to the colour of milk and he dropped his fork with a clatter.
"Harry, you being underweight at the moment shouldn't disqualify you from an apprenticeship, as I do intend to make sure you eat properly in future. Eat your breakfast and don't worry."
Don't worry? That was easy for Snape to say! He wasn't hiding the fact he was such a freak. Harry had no idea how he was going to get out if it, but he needed to get out of it somehow. Once the Healers scanned him or had him undress they would know. But if Harry didn't agree to the medical, then he wouldn't get his apprenticeship and he wouldn't be able to study all the things he needed to do. Maybe he could somehow figure out the cure on his own... Harry tried not to sigh; he knew he wouldn't be able to do it on his own. His previous Potions results were proof enough of that. He needed someone to teach him properly; he needed Snape to teach him. Snape would not accept shoddy or lacklustre work; he would make sure that Harry did everything properly.
The station at Hogsmeade was practically deserted. Besides himself and Snape there was a young mother with a baby in her arms and a toddler tugging around her skirts. She gave both of them a warm smile before sitting down on one of the benches that lined the platform and shifting the baby in her arms. The little boy who had been pulling on her skirts climbed up awkwardly onto the bench. He tottered, his arms flailing about as he lost his balance.
Without consciously thinking about it, Harry had cast a wandless and wordless levitation spell so the child wouldn't fall. He settled on the bench, a look of wonder on his face after his floating adventure. His mother stared slack-jawed at Harry, and then her eyes flicked to his forehead and the scar that hadn't disappeared.
"Oh my! You're alive!" she gasped, holding her baby tight against her chest. "Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome." Harry smiled and turned back to Snape, who wasn't smiling; but it wasn't until they were on the train and settled in a private compartment that he discussed why.
"It would be best not to advertise that you have the ability to cast wandless and wordless spells, Harry. A show of too much power frightens people and they panic when they are frightened. You don't want to be thought of as becoming the next Dark Lord, do you?"
"It just seemed natural to do it. I couldn't let him fall!"
"Natural to you perhaps, but most wizards and witches need their wands even for the simplest spells. A public show of power like you just demonstrated is not recommended. I think a trip to Ollivanders is called for today as well."
"If I was so good at wandless magic, how come I couldn't save myself from Malfoy?"
"Malfoy Manor is warded against any magic not expressly permitted by the family; wandless magic wouldn't have helped you. No magic would."
Harry settled against his seat and stared out the window, his thoughts never straying far from the upcoming medical examination. He wished he could forget about it and just enjoy this trip to London, but it was always there in the back of his mind, casting a pall over everything.
By the time the train pulled in at the station, Harry had half-convinced himself that if he was good at wandless magic, maybe he could cast some sort of undetectable glamour over himself so the Healers wouldn't find out about him. It was with a lighter step that he stepped off the train and followed Snape to the Leaky Cauldron.
It took them almost half an hour to get to the courtyard, as everyone was as keen to shake his hand and congratulate him on his most recent escape from death and pester him with questions from every direction. It took a stern look from Snape and a hand on Harry's shoulder to propel him through the crowds before they were finally able to get to Diagon Alley.
Snape led them through the throngs of curious people; some of whom had copies of the Daily Prophet tucked under their arms; the headline Boy Who Lived Again! and Harry's photo flashed at them as they passed. Harry was glad he hadn't been here on his own; he knew he wouldn't have been able to cope with all this attention by himself.
Snape didn't stop at Madam Malkin's or even at Gladrags; he continued on to another side street, this one looking even more affluent than the area around Gringotts. The pavements seemed cleaner, the glass panes in the shop windows gleamed as if they'd just been washed, and there were expensive ornaments and bric-a-brac on display in most of them. Snape stopped in front of one which had a selection of formal robes in the window display along with leather gloves, silk scarves and fur-lined cloaks. The creaking sign above it proclaimed Bingham and Begley: Tailors of Distinction.
Harry had never been to a tailor before; all his clothes had either been hand-me-downs from Dudley or bought off the peg from Madam Malkin's. He knew that both she and Gladrags did offer a made-to-measure service, but Harry didn't think his school money would have lasted long if he'd bought everything tailored to fit. That was for the likes of the Malfoys and Harry stifled a shudder as the thought of them brought up his imprisonment again.
"Master Snape! How wonderful to see you again!" exclaimed a tall, thin man with an even thinner moustache. Purple robes swirled around him as he walked.
Snape pressed a hand in the small of Harry's back. "Gustav, this is my new apprentice, Harry. We will need a complete wardrobe as well as his apprentice robes."
The man's blue eyes lit up as if he'd guessed how many Galleons that would come to. Harry's stomach jolted with guilt at how much money Snape was going to be spending. Years of being told he was worthless were so ingrained that Harry was finding it difficult to accept that anyone would want to spend money on him.
Gustav waved Harry over to a platform in the middle of the room. Harry flushed, wondering if the tailor would need him to undress, but that didn't seem to be the case. A measuring tape appeared from thin air and soon Gustav was giving Harry directions so he could get accurate measurements.
"Arms out straight."
"Arms by your sides. Loosely."
"Stand on one foot."
"Fold your arms across your chest."
Harry wasn't sure how long he moved around before Gustav nodded and Banished the tape. Next he called on an assistant to bring out a selection of different colours and styles of fabric. Gustav opened the box and looked at Snape.
"I was thinking of grey wool for the apprentice robes. Three sets each of summer and winter robes; grey cotton for the summer."
Gustav draped a swathe of grey fabric over Harry's shoulders and nodded in approval. "The colour suits him. Plain grey, or would you like any trim or piping?"
"Emerald trim on the sleeves and cuffs."
"And do you wish the work robes and aprons to be spelled for safety?"
"I will do those; I know what spells are best for working with potions. No spells on any of the clothes."
"Right you are," said Gustav, conjuring a quill and order pad so he could write the instructions down. "What else do you need?"
"Dress robes, two sets. One in dark green and one in ruby."
"You have an excellent eye, Master Snape. His colouring will suit the darker shades."
Harry was finding it very difficult just to stand there while both of them discussed his clothes as if he wasn't even in the room. It felt very odd, and a couple of times Harry wanted to blurt out that he might not want a dress robe in ruby or dark green, but he stopped himself just in time. Snape was his Master; Harry was just the apprentice and his opinion in these matters obviously didn't matter.
Finally, finally Gustav's order pad was filled with all the clothes Harry thought he would ever need, from the apprentice robes down to underwear and socks; they could finally leave the shop. Snape went through to another room to discuss the pricing and how long the clothes would take to be made while Harry waited on a chair in the front of the shop. God, there were so many clothes! This must be costing Snape a fortune. Harry didn't need that many clothes, surely? His apprentice robes and a couple of shirts and trousers would do, wouldn't they?
When Snape returned, Harry had worked himself into quite a state and Snape noticed it at once.
"Harry, what did I tell you before?"
"That it isn't a debt; that a Master is supposed to do these things for his apprentice."
"So why are you looking so guilt-ridden?"
"I didn't know you were going to be buying so much stuff! I don't need all of that!"
"I am your Master, Harry, and I will decide what you need. And you would do well not to take that tone with me in public. Do you wish to show me up?"
Harry hung his head, immediately contrite. This was going to take some getting used to. He had never had someone in his life who would decide what was best for him, but it seemed Snape was going to do just that and he needed to get used to it. "No, Master Snape. I'm sorry."
"We are both adjusting, Harry. But from now on, you will let me buy what I think you need and there will be not one word of complaint about it from you, are we clear?"
"Yes, Master Snape. Sorry."
"Very well. Come along, I'd like to get your new wand before lunch and then we'll head over to the Ministry to register you."
Harry's stomach dropped again, from fear this time.
There was no way he was going to be able to get out of the medical now.
Harry wondered if Snape would still want him as an apprentice once he found out the truth.
They Flooed directly to the Ministry after lunch in the Leaky Cauldron. Well, Severus had lunch while Harry had picked listlessly at his salad and sandwiches and had barely eaten a thing. Severus knew he was nervous about the forthcoming registration, but not eating anything was only going to make things worse. Severus waited until Harry had eaten at least two of the sandwiches before they left. It wouldn't do for the authorities to think that it was Severus who'd been starving him; that would not help with their registration as Master and apprentice.
Harry tumbled as they landed inside one of the dark green fireplaces at the Ministry of Magic; Severus' arms wrapped around him so that he wouldn't fall but Harry was quick to squirm away. Severus let him go as soon as he'd realised how uncomfortable the boy was with being touched, although there was a strange pang beneath his breastbone that Harry didn't trust him completely. He could hardly blame him after the way he'd treated Harry and his friends at school. If it hadn't been for the fact that Harry was insistent that he needed to know all about potions, Severus knew the boy would never have sought him out.
They were silent as they made their way towards the information desk to sign in and Severus wondered if Harry was still feeling uncomfortable after their small altercation in the tailor's earlier. It was a Master's responsibility to see to his apprentice's material needs and Harry protesting at such things would not show either of them in a good light, which was why he'd had to say something.
As they approached the desk, Arthur Weasley was heading towards them. He stopped stock-still when he saw them, his eyes widening comically before he all but ran and shook Harry's hand vigorously. "Harry! Good Lord, it's really you! We got your letter. You'll be coming to visit us soon, won't you? What are you doing at the Ministry? Has Scrimgeour been giving you trouble?"
"Let the boy take a breath, Arthur," Severus admonished; he had noticed that Harry slid even closer to Severus' side, as if seeking protection from him. "Harry is to become my new apprentice, and of course he will be able to visit. His days off will be Wednesdays and Sundays."
"How about both of you come to dinner on Sunday? We haven't seen you for ages, Severus."
"There is no need to include me in the invitation, Arthur. Harry will probably want to catch up with his friends without me being there."
"Nonsense, Harry wouldn't mind, would you, Harry? And Molly will be glad to have you. You know her – the more, the merrier."
"Harry?" Severus turned to the young man, who was looking desperately as if he wanted to get out of the visit; but that couldn't be right, surely? Harry had been a firm fixture in the Weasley household ever since he started at Hogwarts. Had there been some sort of falling out before the battle?
"I'd like you to come too, Master Snape," Harry said so softly that it was difficult to hear him.
"There, all settled!" Arthur said as he clapped his hands and gave them both a beaming smile. "You're just off to get registered, I take it? Well, I'll leave you to it. I'm off for my lunch. Take care."
"You too," said Harry as Arthur wandered away, leaving Severus and Harry to sign in and head off to the Hall of Records.
"Thank you, Master Snape. You may get dressed now." The Healer pulled the curtain around Severus' bed and he wondered at the fact that privacy suddenly seemed so important, when he'd been entirely naked for the duration of the medical exam. It hadn't taken more than around half an hour; Severus knew he was in good health these days. Now that he wasn't spying and at both the Dark Lord's and the previous headmaster's beck and call all the time, his sleep had finally returned to something resembling normal. Severus was eating well and taking exercise; he knew he was fit and the Healer had confirmed that he was in perfect health, which meant there were no objections to him taking on an apprentice.
Once Severus had dressed and pulled the curtain aside, the Healer led him back to the waiting room so he could wait for Harry's medical to be finished. There were a couple of sofas and armchairs pushed back against the walls with a coffee table in the middle and a toy box to one side. Severus was the only person there and he flicked through a few of the magazines and newspapers on the table, but none of the articles caught his eye so he just sat down and prepared to wait. They'd both started their examinations at the same time, so Severus guessed Harry wouldn't be too long either.
An hourglass hanging on the wall had already turned three times before another Healer appeared in the doorway. He had a large stack of files tucked under his chin, which he placed on the coffee table.
"Master Snape? You are taking on Harry Potter as an apprentice, is that correct?"
Severus nodded. "Is Harry all right? I thought the exam would be over long before now."
"That is normally the case if things are fine, but we are running into some problems. Has Mr. Potter ever discussed with you what has happened to him?"
"I know he was a prisoner in Malfoy Manor for the past few months."
"I see. A few months, you say? That still wouldn't explain the results of our scans. There have been a lot of injuries, many older than a few months. His left arm was broken, did you know about that?"
"Yes, that was a Quidditch injury in his second year at Hogwarts."
"And the broken legs?" The Healer scooped up one of his pages and read down. "Both legs were broken at the same time and his hips are misaligned. Almost as if someone had twisted them. But these injuries are years old, not months. The injuries have been healed, but there is extensive damage still visible in the scans. They have not been healed properly."
"Are you implying that the Hogwarts matron failed in her duty to heal a student in her care?" Severus asked indignantly. Poppy Pomfrey was even more of a perfectionist than Severus himself and if Harry had been injured, she would have treated him with the utmost care, as she did with all her patients.
"No, no, not at all," replied the Healer. "These older injuries wouldn't have showed up on a routine examination. It seems that somehow Harry has tried to heal the injuries himself with his own inherent magic, but since he is not a Healer, or even a mediwizard, his healing would not have worked well and so we can still see evidence of the injuries with our deeper scans. Have you any idea what happened to Harry while he was imprisoned by Lucius Malfoy?"
"Just guesses, really. Harry hasn't talked about it, but he has lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw him. I don't think he was fed properly."
The Healer nodded and scribbled something on his pad. "Well, that could explain the malnutrition, but we really need to perform a full physical examination. But Harry is refusing to cooperate."
"In what way?"
"He is refusing to get undressed; in fact he was quite hysterical when the nurse insisted and tried to remove his clothes. Perhaps you could persuade him? He is in quite a bit of distress. I have seen such behaviour before, Master Snape."
"So have I," said Severus harshly. "In rape victims."
"Indeed," agreed the Healer. "However, according to our scans, Harry is a virgin. He could still have been sexually assaulted though, even if penetration didn't happen."
Was this the 'something personal' that Harry hadn't wanted to talk about? What had that bastard Malfoy done to him?
"Take me to him," Severus ordered the Healer and followed him down the corridor to another examination room.
A nurse in a pale green robe greeted them both at the door. "I've given him a calming potion for the moment; but now he's crying and can't seem to stop. There's not a lot else we can do unless he agrees to his full physical. The registration cannot be completed until that's done."
Severus pushed past her and yanked the curtain back from around Harry's bed. He was lying curled up, his legs tucked against his chest, his arms wrapped around them. His sobs were loud and echoing against the walls.
"Leave us," Severus commanded to the Healer and the nurse; he knew Harry was not going to talk if they were still in the room. If Harry had been assaulted by Malfoy he was hardly going to want to talk to strangers about it. The Healer nodded to his nurse and both of them left the examination room. Severus cast silencing and warding charms on the door just to make sure they couldn't listen in.
"Harry? What is it? It's all right, they're gone now. Can you tell me what has you so upset?"
Much to Severus' surprise, Harry launched himself from the bed and wrapped his arms around Severus' chest, his tears dripping onto Severus' robes.
"I – I can't! I can't!" Harry sobbed, his shoulders hitching with the effort.
Severus didn't know whether a hand on Harry's back would be a comfort at this juncture, or if it would just remind him of other, not so innocent touches.
"Harry, you can tell me. I won't tell anyone else, I promise. I can help you if you let me. Malfoy did things to you, didn't he?" Severus asked softly. "Did he touch you?"
Harry nodded, his hands tightening like claws around Severus' middle.
"You know the Healers don't want to do anything like that, Harry. They just want to examine you. It won't be like what Malfoy did." In his head, Severus wondered whether Lucius Malfoy was in Azkaban or if he was still in the Ministry holding cells. The holding cells weren't as secure and accidents had been known to happen...
"He didn't just touch me," Harry whispered hoarsely. "He changed me."
Harry nodded again.
"What did it do, Harry?"
"I can't let them see! I can't let them see!" Harry was working himself up into hysterics again, despite the calming draught. It probably wasn't as good as Severus' own batches.
"What don't you want them to see, Harry?"
"He made me a freak! I'm a freak! Just like they always said I was!"
"Who said you were a freak? The Malfoys? The Dark Lord?"
The Dursleys? This was news indeed to Severus, but he still needed to know what the potion had done.
"Harry, tell me what is wrong, please."
"The potion... it changed me. I'm not just a boy anymore. I've got girl bits too!" Harry wailed again and hid his head against Severus' chest. "I'm a freak!"
"Harry, you are not a freak. You are a hermaphrodite."
Harry fell asleep almost as soon as they boarded the train to take them back to Hogsmeade. It was barely eight o'clock, but it had been such a stressful day that Severus wasn't at all surprised that the young man had sought solace in sleep. It had taken him more than an hour to convince Harry to let the Healers examine him and even then Harry had wanted Severus to stay with him. Sensing Harry's distress, the Healer had draped a sheet over Harry's lower body and examined him beneath it. He'd looked surprised at finding out Harry Potter was a hermaphrodite, but he didn't mention it on the registration papers or anywhere else for that matter. Before they left the Ministry, Severus had Obliviated both him and the nurse. So the only people who knew of Harry's condition were Severus, Harry himself and presumably Lucius Malfoy. But as for why Malfoy would do such a thing, Severus had no answer.
Severus' hands clenched at his sides as he stared at the sleeping boy opposite him on the other bench. A few packages were scattered around him: Harry's new wand, books, cauldron, inks and parchments that he would need for his studies. Harry's head was lolling; he looked very uncomfortable, although the jostling of the train didn't seem to disturb him. Severus gathered up the parcels to put in the luggage rack; then he gently eased Harry so that he was lying down on the bench. Severus took off his own cloak and draped it around Harry in lieu of a blanket before sitting back down.
Well, at least now he knew why Harry was so keen on becoming his apprentice. Severus had never heard of a potion that turned someone into a hermaphrodite, but he knew that if there was an antidote to be found then he would find it. Potions were in his blood and he would do his best to try and help his apprentice reverse the condition. But Severus also knew that there was a chance the changes in Harry's body couldn't be reversed; it might be permanent. How would Harry cope then? Severus sighed and leaned his head against the window, the cool glass a welcome relief. He dozed on and off until the train pulled into the platform at Hogsmeade station. Frost sparkled in the lights of the station.
Severus shook Harry gently on the shoulder. "Harry, we're home."
Harry jerked awake as if he'd been electrocuted. His hair was an even wilder mess than usual, sticking up in clumps on the right, the side he'd been lying on and his glasses were askew. He straightened them, the cloak falling down around his middle as he did so. There was a diamond pattern from the seat etched into his right cheek and Severus thought he'd never seen such an adorable sight as a newly-wakened Harry. Severus shook his head, since when had he started thinking of him as adorable?
"Sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"You obviously needed the rest." Severus cast a shrinking charm on all their parcels and put them in his robe pocket. Harry followed him out and they made their way back to the shop. It was after midnight already and no lights were showing in Scrivenshaft's on the other side of the road.
Severus opened the wards and locks of the shop and ushered Harry inside before setting up the warding spells again.
"Harry, I think if you wish to keep your condition secret then it would be best for you not to stay with Emily Scrivenshaft. She and Madam Rosmerta are two of the worst gossips in Hogsmeade."
"Oh. Where do you think I should stay then, sir?"
"Well, I will need to contact the landlord about the lease here. I am hoping he will give me permission to extend the premises to make an extra bedroom for you. There is already a fully equipped lab in the basement and we can share the living quarters if that is suitable for you."
"Thank you! That would be great!"
Harry's smile almost knocked Severus off his feet; he looked so grateful for such a small thing. "Well, it looks like you'll be having the Transfigured sofa again until we can get things sorted out."
"That's fine," said Harry. "It was comfy."
Severus shook his head in wonder. Perhaps after the stone floors of the Malfoy dungeon, his old sofa was indeed comfy.
"Goodnight, Harry. I will see you in the morning."
"Goodnight, Master Snape."
Severus turned with a smile of his own. "It's Severus when we're alone."
"Oh. Right... I forgot. Goodnight, Severus."
The screams didn't wake him that night; Severus hadn't yet been asleep before he heard them. He ran down the stairs and shook Harry awake. The boy's green eyes blinked at him; Harry could not see much without his new glasses. Even without any spells being said, Severus found himself inside Harry's mind and saw his most recent nightmare.
Severus was standing by the wall of a Muggle kitchen; there were no fireplaces or cauldrons here. A man so fat he barely fitted into the kitchen chair was glaring hard at the plate of scrambled eggs a small Harry had just set in front of him. This was a Harry looking around eight or nine, dressed in a thin, ragged t-shirt that reached his knees. He was barefoot. The t-shirt and Harry's arms and legs were filthy, but the fat man didn't seem to think this was anything out of the ordinary.
"What did I tell you, boy?" the man snarled at Harry.
"That you wanted eggs for breakfast, Uncle Vernon."
So this was Vernon Dursley and the scene was more of a memory than a nightmare.
"I asked for fried eggs! Fried eggs, you stupid freak!" Vernon lifted the plate from the table and hurled it against the kitchen wall where it smashed into pieces, scattering eggs and ceramic shards all over the floor.
Vernon kicked at Harry's legs, catching him on the shin. Now that Severus looked closer he could see that some of the marks on Harry's body were bruises, not dirt. Harry hobbled to the far wall before kneeling down and gathering up the broken pieces in his hand. Some of the edges were sharp and cut his fingers. Harry glanced over to see if his uncle was looking before grabbing a handful of egg and stuffing it in his mouth. He tried to swallow it quickly, but he'd accidentally caught a piece of the plate in his throat and he began to choke, his eyes watering.
Vernon hefted himself out of the chair and lumbered over. He grabbed Harry by the shoulder and yanked him to his feet. "Serves you right, you fucking freak! Trying to steal our food! Spit it out, spit it out now!" Vernon demanded.
Harry was still choking, his face turning blue and Severus could do nothing but watch helplessly as the young boy tried to spit out the food and the piece of ceramic. When he couldn't manage it, Vernon squeezed Harry's ribs so hard that Severus heard them crack as they broke. The food flew out of Harry's throat, bloodstained where the piece of plate had cut his throat, and now that he was no longer choking – he was screaming in pain.
"Shut the fuck up!" Vernon roared, backhanding Harry across the cheek. "Do you think I want to listen to you caterwauling all day? This is supposed to be my day off!"
But even Vernon's rants couldn't stop Harry's screams and sobs this time; he was obviously in too much pain.
"Shut up! Shut up!" Vernon ranted over and over again; his hands clamped over his ears.
"Please! It hurts! It hurts!" Harry sobbed, his arms wrapped around his ribs, swaying on his feet.
"Do you think I care? Do you think anybody cares about a freak like you? You're a lazy, good-for-nothing freak just like your freaky parents! You think that hurts, do you, boy? I'll show you what pain really means!" Vernon stormed over to a cupboard and removed a long-handled broom. He pulled the brush off the end and threw it down on the table. "On the floor, now!"
"No! Please! I'll be good! I'll be good! I promise! Please, Uncle!"
Severus didn't want to watch, he wanted to wrench his eyes out of their sockets, but whatever spell or mind magic Harry had performed on him, he had little choice. As Harry made no move to lie down on the floor, Vernon did it for him. With one hand he grabbed hold of Harry and threw him onto the floor as if he was nothing more than a sack of potatoes. Harry's head hit the tiles with a crunch; blood poured from his nose and mouth, his screams sounding more like gurgles now.
Just as Vernon raised the broom handle high in the air, Severus was suddenly thrust out of the memory, his head throbbing both at the sudden wrench out of Harry's mind and at the memory of what he'd seen. How could someone do such things to such a small child?
"I'm gonna be sick," Harry warned as he turned and retched over the side of the sofa, but he didn't actually throw up.
Severus got him a glass of water from the sink and knelt down in front of the sofa.
Harry took the proffered water and took a large gulp; his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. "Why did you do that?" Harry asked hoarsely.
"Cast Legilimens on me. You know I'm not very good at Occlumency."
"Harry, I didn't do anything to you; it was something you did. I came downstairs when I heard you having a nightmare. It was more than a nightmare, though, wasn't it? What you showed me was a memory?"
Harry nodded, looking down at his hands wrapped around the glass.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really, no."
"How about some Dreamless Sleep for tonight?" It was the second night in a row Harry had been having nightmares and if Harry wasn't ready to talk about what was causing those nightmares yet, at least Severus could let him have some sleep free from dreams for a while.
"Thanks. I'm sorry I woke you up."
"You didn't, I wasn't asleep yet. And Harry, if I don't hear you when you have a nightmare, you have my permission to wake me, all right?"
"I don't want to disturb you, Severus."
"You won't be disturbing me. I want you to feel safe here, Harry. No one is going to hurt you here, I promise."
Harry nodded again. "I believe you."
Harry stood in front of the bathroom mirror and smoothed down his new apprentice robes; all of his clothes had arrived a few days after their trip to London. Since their visit to the Weasleys was Harry's first outing in public as Severus' official apprentice, he had to wear his new robes. Harry had never worn anything tailored to his own shape before and the clothes were a lot tighter than he was used to. Dudley's hand-me-downs had always been too big and Harry had made a habit of buying his school uniform slightly larger so that he would get more wear out of it, for he knew his money wasn't infinite.
His apprentice robes had tight sleeves so there was no chance of them catching on a fire beneath a cauldron or getting tangled up as he chopped ingredients. They were fitted to the waist and then flared out over his hips; reminding Harry uncomfortably of a woman's skirt. A crest showing a black cauldron with two crossed white quill feathers above it was embroidered over the left breast: Harry's Master's Mark. When out in public, everyone would know that for the next five years Harry belonged to Severus Snape.
Underneath the robes Harry wore a pair of grey woollen trousers and a white shirt; the wool robes were warm enough that he wouldn't need a jumper beneath them as well. Harry wondered if anyone at the Burrow would notice how different he was just by looking at him. Did the flared cut of the robe reveal that he had child-bearing hips now; that his lower body was not as straight as it used to be, but more curvy? At least he hadn't developed breasts – they would have been rather difficult to hide.
"Harry? Are you ready?" Severus called from outside the bathroom door.
No, Harry wasn't ready to face his friends after all this time and after everything that had happened, but if he didn't go now he knew he would just be pestered even more. It was best to get it over and done with.
"Yes, sir; just coming." Harry patted down his hair; even knowing that it wasn't going to help tame it, it made him feel better that he'd at least tried.
Severus too was in grey robes today; although his had black trim rather than the green of Harry's and there was no Master's Mark on Severus' robes either.
"The grey does suit you; I thought it would. Do they fit all right?"
"They feel a bit tight," Harry admitted. "I've never worn anything this tight before."
"It's just because you're not used to something that actually fits you properly. They don't look too tight to me."
"They're fine. I'm just not used to them yet, as you said. Thank you for getting them for me."
"You're welcome. Are you ready to go? I thought a Side-Along-Apparition would be best since you're not quite recovered yet. You'll have to touch me; is that all right?"
Harry's stomach jolted uncomfortably at the thought. "Yeah. Yeah, that's okay. Just hands?" Harry wasn't sure he could manage anything more intimate at the moment. It wasn't that he didn't trust his new Master – he did, but sometimes even the simplest things reminded him of Malfoy or the Dursleys, and when that happened he tended to panic.
Severus held out Harry's cloak and wrapped him up in it; making sure the clasp was tight. This concern, this care, was something Harry was not used to and his breath hitched a little as Severus straightened and stood back from him. Who knew Severus Snape would be this solicitous to his apprentice?
"Hands will be fine, Harry," Severus said as he held his out.
Harry reached for him and gasped in wonder. Far from being cold or clammy, as Harry had expected the Potions Master's hands to be, Severus' hands were in fact warm and dry. It was Harry's hands which were cold; the cold weather had always played havoc with his system. His feet and hands were always so cold in winter, even more so after what he'd gone through in the Malfoy dungeons.
Severus held tight to his hand as they Apparated out of Hogsmeade and landed on the front lawn of the Burrow. A flurry of snow swirled around them as Harry stared up at the crooked house. His heart was beating so fast it was as if it wanted to fly out from his throat. The green of the lawn was hidden by the thin layer of snow, but even that hadn't been enough to keep the gnomes away. They were darting in and out of discarded flowerpots, Wellington boots and an old upturned cauldron, and to Harry's ears they seemed to be giggling.
"I don't know if I can do this," Harry said, making no move to go any further up the front path. It had been over a year since he'd last been here; over six months since he'd seen Ron and Hermione. Harry didn't know what he was going to say to them. What could he say about what had happened to him? It was bad enough that it had happened without going into details about it. They'd all be asking questions, wanting to know everything, and Harry couldn't tell them any of it.
"Harry, it's all right. They're your friends; they'll understand if you don't want to talk about things."
"You don't know Hermione," Harry mumbled. She wouldn't let up until things were explained to her satisfaction, but Harry couldn't explain them. He didn't want anyone else to know what Malfoy had done to him or about the changes the potion had wrought.
Before he could turn around and leave, the front door was flung open by Molly Weasley who lifted up her skirts and ran down the path to wrap Harry in a hug. He didn't even have a chance to protest.
"Harry! Harry! Thank goodness you're all right! We could hardly believe it when we got your letter. Come in, come in, everyone else is already here."
"Who's here?" Harry asked, feeling his throat constrict. He wasn't up to seeing lots of people.
"Oh, just the family and Hermione," said Molly, pinching Harry's cheeks. "Bill wanted to bring Fleur, she normally has Sunday lunch with us, but I didn't think that was being fair on you. Of course he got in a strop about it; complaining that Ron got to bring his girlfriend and he didn't. It's the full moon; Bill always gets in a bad mood around this time."
Molly let go of Harry and started walking up the garden path. "Ron has a girlfriend?" Harry asked, wondering too why they thought he would be happy seeing Ron's girlfriend and not Bill's. At least he knew a bit about Fleur.
Molly turned to him with a broad smile. "Oh, I'm sorry, Harry. You wouldn't have known, would you? Ron and Hermione are together now."
Ron and Hermione? Harry's memories of those two were of them constantly bickering and sniping at each other. And now they were in love? Maybe all their arguments were hiding how they really felt about each other. Harry glanced over at Severus and blushed, remembering all their altercations of old. Did that mean they had some hidden feelings about each other as well? Well, it wasn't as if they were going to be doing anything like that. Harry was Severus' apprentice and he didn't want to do anything to jeopardise Severus teaching him.
Molly led both of them inside the house and down to the kitchen, where everyone was already seated, except for Ron and Hermione, who were helping to chop up some salad leaves and giving each other soft looks as they did so. After greetings were exchanged all round, Molly led Harry to a seat with Bill on one side of him and Fred on the other. Severus was led over to the gap between George and Ginny; a position he didn't seem to relish if the look on his face was anything to go by.
Molly shooed Ron and Hermione over to the table; before she beckoned for Arthur to take the roast out of the oven. Platters of roast potatoes, parsnips, peas, carrots and Yorkshire puddings were already on the large, scrubbed table. Three gravy boats, one at each end of the table and one in the middle; were giving off a wonderful aroma and Harry felt his mouth watering at the expanse of food. No one would ever starve in this house.
Arthur carved the joint of roast beef on one of the sideboards before Molly handed out the plates to everyone, starting with Harry and leaving her plate to last. Molly removed her apron, sat down next to Arthur and waved at the food on the table. "Help yourselves, everyone. There's more if you need it. Don't be afraid to ask for seconds." She smiled fondly at Harry as she said it and Harry felt his eyes prickling. He swallowed quickly, not wanting to cry in front of everyone.
Bill was being very attentive to Harry today, making sure he had enough vegetables and salad and pouring him glasses of pumpkin juice, even before the level had dropped much. The conversation was a bit strained compared to what Harry had been used to at the Burrow, but that was hardly surprising. As so often, it was the twins who came to the rescue.
"Did you hear Mr. Zonko is retiring, Harry?" Fred asked after he'd swallowed a mouthful of potatoes.
"Oh, no. I hadn't heard that."
"Yep, we're going to be taking over his shop in Hogsmeade later this month," George added.
"What about the one in Diagon Alley?"
"We'll be keeping that one as well, but Verity is going to manage it for us. Premises in Hogsmeade are a godsend, with all those students looking for tricks. We do well in Diagon Alley, but we'll do even better in Hogsmeade."
"I bet you're glad you're not teaching anymore, eh, Severus?" asked Arthur.
"Indeed. It will be someone else's problem what tricks the students bring back. I much prefer teaching one on one anyway."
"Oh, yes, congratulations on your apprenticeship, Harry," said Molly. "Your new robes look very fine, dear."
"Thank you. Master Snape got them for me."
Ron's ears turned pink at hearing Harry call Severus 'Master Snape', but they were in public and that was the protocol.
"Harry, can you come up to my room?" Ron asked. "We can catch up properly."
Harry glanced down at his half-eaten dinner; he was still quite hungry and didn't want to leave any.
"Harry hasn't yet finished his meal, Mr. Weasley. He can join you when he is finished," Severus said.
"You can't boss him around like that!" Ron protested.
"Actually, he can," Harry replied softly. "He is my Master."
Ron's bedroom was just as Harry had remembered it: Chudley Canons posters on the wall, a quilt cover and pillowcases to match. Clothes and books were strewn all over the bed and the chair by the desk. Harry had to put his hands by his sides to stop himself from trying to tidy up. Hermione wrinkled her nose a little as she sat down on the bed beside Ron, leaving Harry the desk chair. Harry removed a shirt and a couple of books and set them on the desk instead.
"Merlin, Harry! Snape! I can't believe you agreed to be bossed around by that greasy git! I bet he just loves you calling him 'Master'!"
"Ron!" said Hermione.
"He's not my teacher anymore," Ron snapped back at her. "I can call him whatever I like."
"Don't call him names," Harry said softly. "He didn't have to do this; he could have refused."
"Refused? Yeah, right! As if he wouldn't want all the perks of having you as his apprentice! So, has he buggered you yet?"
"Ron!" Hermione was turning an alarming shade of red.
"Go on, Harry. Tell her what being an apprentice entails. He did make you sign the traditional contract, didn't he?"
"No actually, he didn't. In fact I'm more use to him as potions ingredients. People pay more for virgin's tears, apparently."
Ron looked at Hermione and then back at Harry again. "So if he isn't going to do that, why did he take you on as his apprentice?"
"Because I wanted to learn and he was the best person to teach me."
"Good for you, Harry," said Hermione. "At least you know what you want."
"Hey, I do know what I want!" Ron protested. "I'm an Auror Cadet."
"Yes, but you told me it wasn't quite what you'd envisioned."
"Well no. I thought me and Harry would be in it together for a start. I don't suppose there's much chance of you changing your mind, is there? I'm sure Shacklebolt would let you join, even though we're halfway through the year."
"No, Ron, sorry. I want to study Potions."
"Neville's an apprentice too," said Hermione. "He's studying to be a Healer with Madam Pomfrey at Hogwarts."
Ron laughed. "Can you imagine it? Neville as a Healer. Neville! Hey, I wonder if they've got the traditional contract too?"
"Ooh, gross, Ron! Get your mind out of the gutter. I'm sure that most apprenticeships nowadays are just that: a Master teaching and not taking advantage of his charge in any way."
"I just can't see Neville as a Healer," Ron continued.
"I can," argued Hermione. "He's always been good with his hands."
"But not as good as me, eh?" asked Ron, bending over to tickle her. They both fell onto the bed amid a tangle of limbs and giggles and once they started kissing Harry took it as his cue to leave. They seemed to have forgotten he was even there.
Harry made his way back downstairs but didn't return to the kitchen, he just lingered in the hall for a while, wondering at the easy way Ron and Hermione had with each other. Despite their arguing and disagreements, they could still kiss and be intimate with each other without a care in the world. Harry wondered if he would ever feel that comfortable with anyone. Even before Malfoy, Harry had always had a problem with touches. People hugged him, but he could never bring himself to hug back, to wrap his arms around someone and pull them closer. At Harry's stiff demeanour they must have thought they were hugging a plank of wood.
Harry had always imagined that one day he would fall in love. But who would want him now, freak that he was?
"Sickle for them."
Harry looked up, dazed. "Oh, hi, Bill. I was miles away."
"So I see. Did Ron and Hermione kick you out?"
"What? No. They just seemed to want to be alone so I left them to it."
"How about a walk in the fresh air? Clear away the cobwebs, eh?"
Harry darted his eyes to the closed kitchen door.
"Severus isn't ready to leave yet, I'm sure he wouldn't mind you taking a walk," said Bill.
Harry shrugged his shoulders and smiled at Bill. "Sure? Why not?"
"He's so thin!" Molly fretted as she started gathering up the leftovers with help from Severus and the twins.
"Malfoy was starving him for the past six months, what do you expect? It will be a while before he will start gaining weight again. I assure you he is being fed properly." Severus thrust a plate down on the draining board with rather more force than was warranted.
"What? Oh, Severus, I didn't mean it like that! I know you will be looking after him properly."
"Unlike the Dursleys," Fred said with a glance at his twin. "We told you they were starving him, Mum."
Molly's face turned white. "You don't mean, really starving him? I thought you meant that he wasn't allowed sweets, or something!"
"Chance would be a fine thing!" exclaimed George. "They never gave him anything at all. He starved every summer. Why do you think we kept pestering you to send him food for his birthday? It was the only food he got over the summers."
"And – and the bars on his windows? You weren't joking about those either, were you?"
The twins shook their head. Molly sank down onto one of the kitchen chairs. "Oh, God! All this time he was being maltreated and I did nothing to stop it! You should have insisted I take you seriously!" she snapped at her sons.
"We did try," Fred protested. "But no one seemed to want to listen. It wasn't what was expected, was it? That the Boy Who Lived had lived for ten years locked in a cupboard."
Molly held her head in her hands and groaned. "Oh, dear Merlin! A cupboard! Why didn't he tell anyone what was going on? I should have helped him!"
Severus sat down on a chair next to her. "Molly, he was alone with those people for ten years. Ten years in which they indoctrinated the boy into believing he was a worthless freak because he was a wizard. Ten years being told you are worthless, eventually you are going to start believing it. They made him feel as if the abuse was his fault, that he was to blame for every bad thing that happened to him. Abusers are clever; they will always make the victim feel as if they were at fault, and so the victim becomes too ashamed to speak out. How was he going to talk about this to anyone? It is not your fault, Molly. All of us are to blame, we didn't look hard enough, we didn't see what was going on under our noses all this time."
They had all been blind. Severus was blinded by the ghost of James Potter that had hovered around Harry's face since he first started at the school; Molly had been blinded by the love of her own children. It wouldn't have occurred to her that some children were not brought up loved and looked after. She probably could hardly conceive of such a thing; or of the violence inflicted upon Harry by the people who were supposed to look after him.
Harry was his now, and anyone who hurt him would have Severus to answer to; he would make sure of that. The Dursleys and Malfoy would not get away with it. Severus was a patient man; he would wait until they felt the force of his vengeance.
"You will look after him, won't you, Severus?" Molly asked, her eyes filling with tears. "He seems so fragile."
Severus found it odd to be agreeing with her that the powerful wizard who had despatched Voldemort was indeed fragile.
"I will, Molly. I take my duties as his Master very seriously. He will want for nothing while he is under my care."
"A sickle for them," Severus asked. Harry jumped like a scalded cat and spilled his tea over his thigh. Hissing in pain; he stood up from the sofa and got a tea-towel to dab at the stain. Magic would have been quicker, but Severus discovered that Harry wasn't like most wizards; magic was never his first thought when it came to doing things.
"I – I think I'll just take a shower," Harry said, setting his cup in the sink, his back to Severus. "And then I'll go to bed."
"It's very early," said Severus, turning the next page of his book. "But we are up early tomorrow to get to the market. How did you like your new room?"
"It's lovely, thank you."
"How was your walk with Bill?" Severus asked, his eyes narrowing to black slits, no longer pretending he was interested in the book in his hands.
"F-fine," Harry mumbled, still with his back to Severus.
"I do not want you wandering alone with Bill Weasley again, are we clear? Especially not on days of the full moon."
"Yes, Master Snape," Harry replied as he headed for the stairs and his shower.
"Harry, sit," Severus ordered and Harry sat back down on the sofa. "Would you care to explain that? I've basically just banned you from seeing one of your friends and you voiced no objection whatsoever."
"You asked me not to see him."
"No, I asked you not to see him alone. What did he do to you?"
"How did – no he didn't do anything!" Harry protested, his face flushing scarlet.
Did Harry really think Severus wouldn't know that something had happened? Severus had been a spy for the best part of twenty years; he was a master of observation. Severus knew something had happened on their walk.
"Would you rather I make a Floo call to the Burrow to find out?"
"No, please, don't do that."
"Very well then. You will tell me what happened. I know something happened, Harry. You came back from your walk so distressed that you'd left your cloak behind in the orchard, and when Bill Weasley returned to the house and draped it around your shoulders, you flinched away from him. What did he do to you?"
"He didn't mean it," Harry said, his hands gripping his thighs.
"What. Did. He. Do," Severus ground out through clenched teeth. Getting Harry to talk was like trying to get a dragon hatchling back into its egg.
"He – he said some things."
"He said – he said my smell was different and that it was affecting him. The wolf in him."
"In what way?" Severus growled. Harry gulped and looked down at the floor.
"He said my smell was driving him wild and he tried to kiss me. That's why I forgot my cloak; I was running away from him."
"Bill Weasley tried to kiss you?"
Harry nodded. "I'm sorry."
"Did you want him to kiss you?"
"No! Of course not!"
"Then you have nothing to be sorry for. Did he do anything else?"
Severus heard the unspoken words. No, Bill hadn't tried to do anything else but only because Harry had had the wits to run away from him before anything more untoward might have been attempted. No, Harry hadn't done anything to be sorry for.
But Bill Weasley had.
Harry had never been to any sort of market before, and until Hagrid had taken him that first day to Diagon Alley, he'd never done any sort of shopping before either. His aunt would never have trusted him with money, so shopping was one chore Harry had never been subjected to.
They were in a side street off Petticoat Lane in Muggle London, the side street hidden from Muggle eyes. Unfortunately, they were not invisible to the wizard stall holders who were looking agog at Harry in his new apprentice robes but seeing who his Master was, they didn't bother commenting on it. It was good to have a Master with a reputation for cutting others down to size; Harry didn't have to worry about being accosted by strangers in the street when Severus was with him.
Severus stopped at a stall topped with boxes of fragrant herbs and plants. None of them had names on; some Harry could recognise by sight, such as parsley and sage, but some of the others were a mystery to him. The Dursleys had never been keen on using anything more exotic than parsley in the meals they got Harry to cook.
As Severus perused the plants, picking up each in turn before sniffing them and setting them back down again, the woman behind the stall began to perspire. Severus had that effect on people.
"It's all ever so fresh, sir. Picked this morning it was," she gabbled nervously.
"And did you also pick the valerian petals this morning?" Severus held a selection of white and red petals in his hand.
He dropped the petals back in their boxes. "Then these are useless to me. Valerian petals are best when picked during the new moon, not the full."
"Oh, I didn't know that."
"A first year Hufflepuff would have known that!" Severus snapped; his words were scathing and the woman looked as if she was about to burst into tears at any moment. Harry felt bad for her, but at the same time he was glad Severus wasn't talking to him like that. At least not yet… for once they'd gathered up their supplies Harry was to have his first official lesson.
Severus hadn't mentioned anything more about Bill today, but the knowledge was sitting there between them, like a small pebble in a shoe that would gradually feel more and more like a rock the longer it remained there. Harry hadn't wanted Bill to kiss him; in fact it had shocked him a little. Bill had never done anything like that before. And what about Fleur? Weren't they supposed to be getting married?
Was Harry's scent really that different now? Did that mean that Bill now knew what Harry was? And if Bill knew, would that mean that Remus would also know if he came close enough to Harry to smell him? Not that it seemed likely at the moment, for Harry had no idea where Remus was and he knew Severus wasn't the person to ask. They may have worked together grudgingly during the war, but Harry knew the two of them didn't get on at all.
"Come, Harry. We will try elsewhere this morning."
"Yes, sir." Harry had to run a little to keep up with Severus' large strides as he ventured further into the market. The market place itself was a warren of stalls and alleyways, despite seeming to be only a small alley off the Muggle street. Although it was still early, barely past dawn; the market was heaving with people and Harry was finding it difficult to get through the crowds.
A few minutes after they'd left the herb stall, he'd lost Severus in the crowds of people. There were lots of black-cloaked wizards and witches about; why-oh-why couldn't Severus have worn a different colour this morning? Taking a deep breath, Harry made his way through the throngs of strangers, hoping that no one recognised him and tried to start a conversation.
A blur of white-blond hair caught his eye and Harry's heart almost stuttered to a stop in his chest. It couldn't be him; Lucius was still locked up at the Ministry, wasn't he? But as the man came closer. Harry recognised the smirk Lucius always had on his face whenever he decided he would like to 'play' with Harry. Harry turned and tried to walk the other way, but Lucius was stalking towards him from that direction too. Spinning round in circles, Harry saw Lucius Malfoy everywhere. Even though he knew it was impossible, that he must be imagining it. the panic he was feeling was all too real. His arms and legs were tingling with pins and needles and his breath was rasping harshly in his throat, as if he couldn't get enough air into his lungs.
A hand gripped his shoulder and Harry screamed with fright.
"Harry? Are you all right?" Severus' voice broke through the fear and Harry felt himself slump back against Severus' chest.
"Sorry, sir," Harry gasped weakly. "I lost you in the crowd and then I kept imagining I saw him. M-Mr. Malfoy."
"There's no one here, Harry."
"I know." Harry was getting control of his voice now, sounding more normal. "I knew I was imagining things, but that didn't seem to help anyway."
"Have you had these panic attacks before?"
"No, sir. Today was the first time."
"You will tell me if you have another one."
"Yes, Master Snape."
Harry stood up straight, stepping away from Severus, and realised that he'd been touching the man for a few minutes and not once during that time had he felt the fear.
"I would like you to return home and open up the shop at nine, Harry. I have some other business to attend to in London. I will see you later."
"By myself?" Harry nibbled on his bottom lip, wishing he didn't sound like such a child.
"You will be perfectly safe at the shop. The property is warded; only genuine customers are allowed in and no one who means to harm either of us. There are still some Death Eaters at large who feel they must avenge their Lord."
"Harry, I've shown you the stock and how to work the till; you will be fine on your own for a few hours. This is part of your duties, just as much as brewing potions."
"Yes, Master Snape. I'll head back now then, shall I?"
Severus nodded and handed Harry a brown paper parcel tied with string. "Leave this in the storeroom until I return."
"Yes, sir." Harry took the parcel and held it tightly in his hand as he closed his eyes to Apparate back home.
Severus stared for a few moments at the space where Harry had been, his mind working frantically. Harry was more affected by what had happened to him than either of them had realised. Nightmares were one thing, but seeing phantoms of Lucius Malfoy in the middle of a packed marketplace? Perhaps Severus should insist that Harry see some sort of counsellor, for as Harry's Master it was up to him to see to Harry's health, both physical and mental. But getting Harry to agree to such a course was another matter. Severus knew that Harry could be stubborn when he set his mind to it, but if Severus made it part of his apprenticeship conditions...
No! Severus shook his head. Counselling would work only if Harry wanted to talk to the counsellor. Harry had to agree that he needed help or it would be of no benefit to him at all. Severus resolved to talk to Harry about it later, to try to persuade him it was a good idea, and with that decision made, he Apparated to the street outside Gringotts.
The bank wasn't as bustling as the market this early in the morning, but the bank was open twenty-four hours a day, every day. Severus had no idea if Bill Weasley would be in this early, but as he didn't know Bill's current address the bank was his first port of call.
Severus marched straight up to one of the goblins sitting at the polished counter. "I need to see Bill Weasley."
"The curse breaking department is on the first floor." The goblin pointed out a set of marble steps at the back of the building.
"Thank you." Severus nodded curtly and made his way upstairs. There were no polished wooden counters and marble floors on this level. Instead, hundreds of shelving units faded off into the distance, each slot filled with some sort of artefact that was awaiting curse removal. There were jewel-encrusted daggers; diamond tiaras, and even mundane items such as china tea sets. Bill Weasley was sitting cross-legged on the floor, turning a leather-bound book over and over in his hands. He stood up as soon as he saw Severus.
Glancing around at his busy colleagues, Bill led Severus into a room so small it would have put a broom cupboard to shame.
"I know what you're going to say," said Bill, holding up his hand before Severus got a chance to speak. "I swear, Severus, I would never hurt Harry!"
"No? Yet you molested him in the orchard!" Severus snapped.
"I didn't molest him! I kissed him! I didn't even mean to do that, I swear to you. You have no idea what this is doing to me."
"You? What about Harry? He trusted you like a brother and you betrayed that trust. I don't want you to be alone with Harry ever again, is that clear enough for you?"
"He ran away from me rather fast; I don't think he'll want to be alone with me either, Severus."
"What did you expect after what he's been through?"
Bill's eyes widened in realisation. "Lucius Malfoy..."
"He was Malfoy's prisoner for six months, Weasley. Surely I don't need to draw you a diagram?"
Bill shook his head. "Merlin, poor Harry! I've just made things worse, haven't I?"
"Yes, you have. However, you are not entirely to blame." Oh, how it galled Severus to utter those words. He wanted to hold on to his righteous indignation on Harry's behalf, but Severus knew that Bill had no control over his baser instincts around the full moon, at least not without help. Severus retrieved a flask from his robe pocket and handed it to the other man.
Bill read the label and looked up at Severus. "Wolfsbane? Will that help me?"
"I know you are not a full werewolf because Greyback wasn't transformed when he bit you, but you are still feeling the same animalistic urges that a werewolf experiences during the full moon. This potion will help keep your higher faculties intact, and hopefully prevent a repeat of what happened with Harry."
"Severus. I... I don't know what to say."
"Thank you will be sufficient."
The next few weeks soon settled into a routine. During the day, Harry worked in the front of the shop, serving customers and taking orders for potions that were only available by request. Severus didn't allow some of the more potent potions to be kept shelved just for anyone to buy. There were age restrictions on a lot of them and sometimes the students from Hogwarts would try and get Harry to turn a blind eye because he was, as they put it, 'one of them'. Harry was not that stupid; it wasn't just that he feared Severus finding out that he'd done such a thing, but Harry had never known most of these students personally. They were just pretending to know him to get the potions. Soon, rumours were starting to circulate around the village and up at the school that Harry was as much of a pain in the arse as Professor Snape had ever been. It didn't bother Harry; people always made up stories about him when he'd been at school and now it was no different.
In the evenings they had dinner together and after that, Severus would give Harry practical lessons in the lab. The shop was closed for a half day on Wednesdays and all day Sunday; those were the times Harry had to finish his written work and catch up on his reading. Some nights, Harry kept reading his books well into the night. Potions had never interested him this much in school, it was true, but now there were no sly Slytherins trying to sabotage his work all the time. Instead of berating him in front of the class for his ignorance, now if Harry didn't know something, Severus was only too glad to impart his own knowledge.
Harry was fascinated by every facet of potion-making these days. It was just so interesting, all the different things potions could do – from pain potions to mood altering substances, not to mention Polyjuice and a potion that could mimic the effects of the Imperius Curse. Some of the things they were studying would have been considered Dark Arts at Hogwarts, but even if they never brewed some of the more dodgy potions, Harry had to know about them as part of his education. For only by knowing of the effects of the more harmful potions, would he be able to work out antidotes to them.
There was one set of potions they hadn't been studying yet: contraceptive and fertility potions. Harry was still at a low weight, so he knew he wasn't going to get periods straightaway, but once he started to reach his normal weight again, he knew it was a distinct possibility, and not one that he relished. He wished he'd paid more attention to those health lectures from Madam Pomfrey in third year, especially where the female form was concerned. Maybe Hermione still had the pamphlets, for Hermione didn't seem the sort of girl to throw away any written work. She probably still had all her notes from school as well. But would he be able to ask her without her wanting to know what he wanted them for?
Harry had tried to look ahead in some of his books, but the potions looked so advanced he knew he wouldn't be able to brew any of them on his own. Maybe he would just have to forget his embarrassment and ask Severus about helping him to brew some, for most of the contraceptive potions also had the side effect of stopping periods for a certain amount of time.
Harry finished dusting the last of the shelves and made sure every potion vial was in its correct slot. As well as potions, the apothecary sold various ingredients and accessories such as gloves, stirring rods, vials and a very small selection of cauldrons. Harry had become very house-proud over the past few weeks and wanted the shop to look its best for every customer. Monday mornings were usually their slowest, so he made Monday his deep cleaning day, but every day found him doing some sort of tidying or restocking.
The bell jangled as his first customer of the day entered the shop. He was a short man with scruffy hair hanging down over his shoulders and he walked hunched over himself as if trying to hide something. Blue eyes darted all around the shop until they landed on Harry. "Where's Snape?" he demanded sharply.
"Master Snape is brewing at the moment, can I help you?" asked Harry, as he turned around from the shelving, duster in hand.
"No! Snape! I need Snape!" The man backed away from Harry as far as it was possible to go. "Stay away from me!"
Harry placed his palms out in a gesture of peace. "I won't hurt you. I'll just go and get Master Snape."
"I might hurt you!" the man wailed, clenching his hands into fists at his sides. "Get Snape! Hurry!"
Harry ran to the top of the steps leading into the basement and called down for Severus.
Perhaps sensing the urgency in Harry's voice, Severus bounded up the steps two at a time, his eyes widening when he saw the man there. "Darius? What are you doing here?"
"Potion! I need the potion! He bit me! That fucking bastard bit me!"
"Who else? It's nearly the full moon! You must have some potion!"
"I have; come this way. Harry, please stay here."
"Yes, Master Snape," said Harry. Was this another werewolf? Or someone like Bill who wouldn't completely transform?
Harry shook his head and returned to his work.
Severus led Darius through to the living quarters and waved him into a chair. "What are you doing here, Darius?"
"I told you, I need the potion!"
"What were you doing following Greyback anyway? You know how dangerous he is!"
"Not all of us wet our trousers at the mere thought of werewolves! Anyway, it was a job, wasn't it?"
"I thought the Aurors kicked you out?" Severus rummaged in the cupboard to find his last bottle of Wolfsbane; he'd need to brew more soon. It might be time to teach Harry the recipe. Harry was proving to be a very able pupil and Severus didn't doubt that he would one day make a fine Potions Master. It was just a shame he had never noticed the boy's skill before this; Potions lessons at Hogwarts would have been a lot more interesting.
"They did," Darius admitted grudgingly, interrupting Severus' thoughts. "I'm working privately now."
Severus snorted, guessing the sort of people who would hire Darius Prince as a private detective. Darius was his cousin, a few years younger than Severus in years, but decades behind him in common sense. They were the sort of people who wouldn't ask for Auror help, knowing that their own criminal activities might come to light.
"Who hired you?" Severus asked.
"That's confidential information." Darius puffed up his chest, as if keeping a criminal's secrets was a great honour.
"Fine, don't tell me. Just be more careful who you track in future." Severus handed his cousin the bottle of Wolfsbane. "This is my last batch, but you'll need to keep taking it every month. Was Greyback fully transformed when he bit you?"
Darius shook his head, the gesture making him look years younger and more like the curious cousin Severus remembered. "No, he just bites whenever the mood strikes him, transformed or not."
"I know," Severus agreed, remembering the night he saw Bill Weasley mauled by the ferocious werewolf. It was the same night the Headmaster had died. Severus would always regret his actions that night. Because of him; because he could not do what the Headmaster wished, Albus Dumbledore had jumped from the Astronomy Tower to splatter his body on the stones below, instead of dying peacefully by a merciful Avada Kedavra from Severus' wand.
"You'd better do something about your apprentice," Darius was speaking again, bringing Severus out of his reverie.
"What do you mean?"
"His scent; there's something in his scent that makes anyone with the lycanthropy curse wild with lust. Is he a werewolf?"
Severus shook his head. "No."
"Then what is he? What's causing that reaction?"
"I don't know," said Severus, but refused to elaborate any further. It wasn't Darius' business. So it wasn't just Bill Weasley then, but any werewolf who was affected. This would need some investigating.
"You've got your potion," Severus said, heading towards the curtain and the front of the shop. "I'll owl you the next batch along with the invoice."
Darius laughed. "Still the penny pincher, I see. Don't worry, cousin. I pay all my debts."
"See that you do," Severus replied to his cousin's retreating back.
Severus stayed with Harry in the shop for the rest of the day, for Darius' words had worried him more than he cared to admit. What had Lucius done to the boy to make him irresistible to werewolves? And more importantly, why? It was a relief when they could finally close for the day and he could discuss it with his apprentice. Mondays were always a slow day and Severus found himself scrutinising Harry throughout the day when Harry wasn't aware of his attention. There didn't seem to any physical manifestation of whatever was causing the reaction in werewolves, so it must be something else.
"Harry, I need to take a sample of your saliva and your sweat," Severus said without preamble once Harry had placed the 'closed' sign on the door.
Harry's eyes widened behind his glasses, but he nodded his head, accepting the request at face value. He probably thought Severus was going to use them in a potion or something of that nature.
"Yes, Master Snape," Harry replied, without a waver in his voice.
"Harry, are you still awake?" Severus' voice called through Harry's closed bedroom door.
"Yes, just a minute," said Harry as he hastily pulled his pyjama trousers back up. It had been the first time in weeks that he'd actually managed to get an erection and he'd decided he'd best make the most of it. Thankfully, knowing that Severus was on the other side of the door and had almost caught him masturbating, soon had his erection wilting. Harry pulled on a dressing gown over his pyjamas and opened the door to his Master.
"Is something wrong?" Harry asked, frowning. It was almost midnight and Severus never usually disturbed him this late. It must have been something important or Severus would have waited until the morning to tell him.
"Harry, you'd better sit down."
Harry sat down on the edge of his bed, now he was worried. Awful scenarios flashed quickly through his mind: the Weasleys hurt or worse; Remus turning up dead in a ditch somewhere, Hogwarts burned to the ground.
"No one has been hurt," Severus said, as if he could read Harry's mind. Perhaps he had been performing some silent Legilimency on him, or perhaps Harry's face gave it all away. "This is about you."
"Have I done something wrong? I should have chopped the valerian leaves finer, shouldn't I? Or was it the ginger, did I put in too much?" Harry's hands were waving about as he was speaking; he couldn't seem to keep them still.
Severus reached down and clasped both of Harry's hands in his, stilling them. "Harry, your brewing is fine. No, this is about the tests on your saliva and sweat samples. I don't how or why this has happened; I'm guessing it might be something to do with the potion Malfoy gave you that changed you. Bill almost lost his mind around you, and my cousin Darius who you saw earlier today told me that you're giving off a scent that incites lust in werewolves or people like Bill, who have the Lycanthropy curse but aren't full werewolves. I thought at first you must somehow be giving off werewolf pheromones, but that would be impossible unless you were a werewolf yourself. There is no potion that can replicate werewolf pheromones."
"But humans don't have pheromones, do they, Master Snape?" Harry asked, reverting to the title since this seemed to be a lesson.
"Not usually, no. They are used by animals to attract a mate. I've tested your samples over and over again and I keep getting the same result: you are giving off pheromones, Harry, but they are wolf pheromones. That explains the werewolves' attraction to you. But the question is: why would Malfoy do such a thing to you?"
"I don't know," Harry said softly, his heart thundering in his ears. He was giving off a scent that attracted werewolves? What about real wolves and dogs? Could he not even go out without being accosted? "Is there a way to get rid of it?"
"I'm sorry, Harry, no. The scent is now your scent. It can't be changed. We can try to mask it with some stronger soaps or perfumes, but again this is just speculation. There's no guarantee that it would work."
"Oh." Harry didn't know what else to say.
"Since we don't the full extent of how this affects you, I don't want you going out anywhere without me."
"I can look after myself!" Harry said vehemently.
"It's not your job to look after yourself, it's mine. You will not fight me on this." Severus' tone invited no argument. Harry knew when he was beaten.
"Goodnight, Master Snape."
Harry finished dishing up their breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and porridge before setting out a pot of coffee for Severus and a jug of orange juice for both of them. As was usual over breakfast; Severus sat at the table with the newspaper in front of his face while he seemed to eat and drink on autopilot. Harry picked at his own food; after his forced starvation at Privet Drive he'd never really seemed to get a normal appetite back. It didn't help that his sleep had been disturbed all night with nightmares of both the abuse from the Dursleys and Lucius Malfoy.
Severus turned a page, the paper rustling. It had been two weeks since Severus had effectively banned Harry from going anywhere and Harry was getting restless. He wanted to see something else than the four walls of the flat and the shop before he went completely mental. Severus wouldn't even allow him to go across the road to the twins' new shop on his own!
Severus set the newspaper aside, folding it exactly in the same creases it had been delivered with, before taking a sip of his coffee and arching an eyebrow on seeing Harry's still full plate.
"You're not eating, Harry. We have talked about this before."
"I'm just not hungry," Harry said, twirling his fork through the eggs. "Could we go somewhere today?"
"Where do you want to go? I hadn't planned on going to the market until next week."
"We could go and see Fred and George," Harry suggested hopefully.
"An interesting idea," Severus mused. "However, there is a condition."
"What? I'll do it; I just need to get out for a while."
"I want you to see a counsellor to talk about what has happened to you."
"No! I can't talk to some stranger!" Harry protested, his hopes of escape dashed in an instant.
"Harry, you are not coping. I know you are still having nightmares. You hardly sleep, you barely eat. I know it will be difficult to talk about everything, but it will help you in the long run. Your health is suffering, Harry, and as your Master I cannot allow this state of affairs to continue."
"They'll think I'm a freak! That I'm disgusting and horrible! I can't do it! I can't talk to a stranger!"
"Would you consider someone else? Someone who isn't a stranger?"
"I was thinking of Poppy Pomfrey. You know her and you know she can be trusted. Hasn't she always had your best interests in mind?"
Harry nodded; it was true. Madam Pomfrey had always kept his confidences and nothing he'd ever told her had got back to anyone else. There was also the fact that she already knew of some of the Dursleys' abuse, for it was Madam Pomfrey who had given him the nutrition potions and bruise salves after he'd come back from Surrey. Mind you, Madam Pomfrey knowing things that had happened to him, and Harry talking about those things was a different matter altogether. Talking was difficult; Harry would much prefer to keep things to himself but at the same time he knew his Master was right. He wasn't coping, so maybe he did need to talk to someone – a professional.
"Would I have to go to the school? I don't really want everyone knowing my business."
"I don't think that would be necessary. I'm sure Poppy would be quite happy to visit you here one evening. So are you saying you will see her for counselling?"
"Yes, sir," Harry replied. "I – I think I do need help."
"Accepting that you need help is the first step, Harry. I'm proud of you."
Harry's eyes widened; no one had ever said they were proud of him before. His chest filled with some strange emotion that he couldn't define, for he'd never experienced anything like it before. Severus was smiling down at him and Harry felt a blush creep along his cheeks. He's proud of me! He's proud of me!
By the time they made it outside on their short journey to the twins' shop, Harry felt as if he was floating on air rather than crunching through the snow and he couldn't wipe the silly grin from his face. If this is how wonderful it felt to obey Severus' suggestions, Harry knew he would be agreeing with the man a lot more in future. Harry had never felt so – so happy in his life. He was happy? Was that what this strange feeling was? Happiness?
"Harry!" Fred yelled as soon as they entered the shop and had Harry quickly wrapped up in a hug. Harry was quick to wriggle away, noticing Severus' frown as he did so.
"Please do not maul my apprentice," Severus said with a hint of disdain.
"Sorry, Harry. Are you all right?"
Harry nodded, but made sure he stayed close to Severus for the remainder of their visit. The shop had been decorated with hearts and flowers for Valentine's Day. Boxes of love potions, trick sweets and daydream spells had pride of place on the counter. Severus lifted up one of the love potions and glared at George, who was behind the counter. "Please tell me you are not selling these to underage students!"
"Of course not, Severus. These are all perfectly above board; the effects only last an hour."
"I still think you shouldn't be selling them at all! Taking potions in order to make someone fall in love with you is wrong, no matter the duration of the effects."
"Duly noted," said George, but he made no move to remove the potions from sale.
"What's this?" Harry asked, pointing to a small box that had lots of question marks on the top of it, trying to deflect an argument.
"That's the Casus Felicis," Fred replied.
"The Happy Accident?" Severus arched an eyebrow at the twins.
"What does it do?"
"You take two drops of this and it will give you a daydream about something you never knew you liked; but something that will make you happy," said George.
"It doesn't do anything." Severus snorted. "Just another trick marketed to gullible purchasers."
"Oh, I thought it sounded quite interesting."
"It does work!" Fred insisted and Harry was glad there were no other customers about yet so that Severus wouldn't stop the twins' sales.
"Well, you do have some spending money, Harry. If you feel you would like to purchase such a thing, I won't stop you."
Harry rummaged in his robes to get out his allowance.
"Harry Potter! Put that money away right now!" George ordered him. "You know your money is no good here. It's on the house. If it hadn't been for you, we would never have got our start."
"What do you mean?" Severus asked.
"Harry was our first investor, Professor."
"It wasn't my money," Harry protested. "It was the winnings from the Triwizard Tournament."
"Which you won, so it was your money," Severus added. "And does Harry have a return on his investment yet?"
"Yep," Fred grinned. "We've put it in a vault for you, Harry. Did no one from Gringotts ever let you know?"
Harry shook his head.
"Harry was under the misapprehension that he was penniless."
"Well, it's not exactly a fortune, Harry, but there is some money for you and hopefully you'll get more soon once sales start taking off again."
"I told you I didn't want that money!" Harry protested, visions of Cedric's lifeless body in the front of his mind. "I don't want any of it!"
"But Harry, it's yours."
"I don't want it! It's blood money and I don't want a knut of it!"
Harry fluffed up the cushions on the sofa once more; at the same time his eyes were scanning the room for anything disorderly. All the bookshelves and books had been dusted within an inch of their life; all the groceries were put away in the cupboards; the fire was roaring in the grate and a hastily conjured coffee table held a tea set along with a selection of cakes and biscuits that Harry had baked himself. Severus had explained that Poppy wouldn't be interested in what the flat looked like; she was here to see Harry, but Harry wouldn't be swayed from his course. He wanted everything to look perfect for the matron's first visit. There was also the benefit that if he kept busy his mind wouldn't wander to what they might be discussing during his therapy session.
Satisfied that things were as tidy as they could be; Harry allowed himself a small smile. The shop had been closed for the day; he and Severus had already had dinner and now Severus was in the basement lab brewing or researching. At eight o'clock on the dot, there was a knock on the back door leading into the flat rather than the outer door of the shop.
Harry smoothed down his apprentice robes and breathed deeply before he opened the door. Madam Pomfrey was standing on the other side wrapped in a burgundy cloak.
"Please come in," Harry said, standing aside so that she could enter. Once she'd removed her cloak, Harry hung it up on the cloak rack near the spiral stairs. Madam Pomfrey was still dressed in her matron's uniform: a long burgundy dress with a pristine white apron over it, but tonight she wasn't wearing a hat. Her brown hair was swept up in a loose bun and her eyes were raking over Harry's body with a professional air.
"Have a seat," said Harry, waving her to the sofa while he took one of the hard-backed kitchen chairs.
"It's so good to see you again, Harry."
"Thank you. Um... how do we do this? I've never had therapy before."
"Would you prefer just to talk to me or would you like me to ask you questions? Sometimes that can be easier at the start so we can see what subjects you have difficulty discussing. I am not going to lie to you and tell you that this will be easy, Harry. Counselling can be very emotional; we will be discussing a lot of personal things, things that you might prefer to keep hidden. But they do need to be talked through, otherwise you wouldn't have agreed to counselling."
"It was Master Snape's idea," Harry admitted. "He thinks I'm not coping."
"In what way?"
"Would you like some tea?" Harry asked, his hand hovering over the teapot.
"Perhaps later, but right now we will continue with our talk. Why does Severus think you aren't coping?"
"I'm having lots of nightmares. And – and sometimes I have hallucinations."
"What sort of hallucinations?"
Madam Pomfrey didn't seem to be either surprised or shocked at Harry's revelations and Harry wondered if Severus had already talked to her about him and the things that had happened.
"I keep thinking I see Lucius Malfoy everywhere, even though I know he's in custody at the Ministry. That's not normal, is it?"
"It's not normal, Harry, but it is not that unusual either. You could be having some sort of flashback to your time when you were held prisoner. Your mind is playing tricks on you because you still feel afraid and uncomfortable about what happened to you. How does it make you feel when you see these phantoms of Mr. Malfoy?"
"Scared. As if I can't move... as if I can't breathe." Harry closed his eyes, even talking about this was starting to make him hyperventilate. "I'm sorry; this is so hard to talk about."
"I know, Harry, but it's only by talking about these things that you'll get better. What worries you about talking to me?"
"That you'll feel differently about me; that you won't like me anymore. I'm not sure I like me anymore."
"Harry, no matter what you tell me, I am here to support you. That won't change. I don't care what it is you have to tell me, I am not going to dislike you for any reason. Did you always dislike yourself, or is this a new feeling?"
Harry ran his hands through his hair. "No; it's not a new feeling. I always felt worthless or that people only wanted me to do things for them. No one cared what happened to me."
"I cared, Harry, and I still do. Severus cares; otherwise he wouldn't have been so insistent that you needed help."
"I don't mean you. I meant them. The Dursleys."
"Ah, I see."
But Harry didn't think she did, not really. They all pretended as if they understood what had happened; but none of them did. Their lives were all so predictably normal and sometimes Harry had really hated his friends and the fact that they had been brought up with loving families while he was shoved away in a cupboard and forgotten.
"Do you?" Harry asked angrily. "Do you understand what it was like to be in almost constant pain for every day of your miserable existence? Some days I prayed to die just so the pain would stop. Dumbledore just left me there with people who hated me and none of you ever checked up on me! I was just forgotten, like a sack of rubbish!"
"Harry, it wasn't like that."
"It was! It was exactly like that! I want you to go!" Harry yelled, his chest tightening with the effort.
"Our session isn't finished yet, Harry," she replied as calm as anything.
Harry was anything but calm and he didn't want to keep going over and over these things.
"Get out! Get out! Get out!" He was screaming now; his voice rising in pitch with every word.
Severus appeared at the top of the stairs leading down to the basement. "Harry? What's wrong?"
"Make her go! Make her go, Master Snape! Please!" Harry was horrified to find tears threatening to spill over at any moment.
"Poppy, perhaps you should come back another time," Severus suggested.
"Severus, Harry's session isn't finished. It would be most remiss of me to leave in the middle of it."
"I can't do this! I can't!" Harry was sobbing now. Severus looked from one to the other.
"I don't think making Harry talk when it is so distressing to him is for the best at the moment. I think you should come back next week."
"Very well," said Madam Pomfrey as Severus handed her her cloak and saw her to the door.
Harry didn't look as she left; he couldn't. Once he heard the door close, Harry surprised himself by launching himself at Severus and wrapping his arms around his Master's waist. He buried his face in Severus' chest as his sobs continued unabated.
"Ssh, Harry, it's all right. It's all right," Severus said as he stroked Harry's hair to try and soothe him. What surprised Harry even more was that it was working. He was being soothed. Harry felt so safe and secure wrapped up in Severus' arms, when he had thought he would never feel safe again. This was so different to anything he'd ever experienced before. The Dursleys had never offered him comfort; indeed they had usually been the ones to cause his distress in the first place.
One of Severus' arms moved and pressed gently against Harry's back. It wasn't frightening at all; not like the touches from Malfoy and the Dursleys had been. Harry felt he could get used to this, being wrapped up in Severus' strong arms. And they were strong: Harry could feel the muscles against his back and he wriggled closer to Severus' chest so there was barely air between them. Harry's hands were curled like claws around Severus' body but the longer Severus held him the more relaxed he became, until his hands unfurled and his fingers lay flat on Severus' back.
Without being consciously aware of it, Harry began to stroke Severus' back as Severus was stroking his. Up, down, back again; his fingers trailing lightly over his Master's robes. Harry's sobs stopped, but both of them were breathing heavily, their breath sounding so loud in the stillness of the room. Severus didn't say anything else, just continued to stroke and caress Harry as if it was something he really enjoyed doing. Much to his mortification, Harry felt himself harden against Severus' leg. He felt something else too; he was growing wet between his legs, there in that other place.
Harry quickly pulled away and hung his head, feeling so ashamed. Severus had only been trying to comfort him; so why did Harry think it could ever be anything else? And why was he feeling like he wanted there to be more? He blushed and sat down on the sofa; his eyes looking anywhere but at Severus.
"I'm sorry," Harry mumbled to his legs. "I didn't mean for that to happen."
Severus joined him on the sofa. "Harry, it's all right. These things happen sometimes; it's nothing to worry about. In fact, I'm glad you can still feel things like that. Sometimes after an assault finding pleasure can be difficult."
Harry blushed even harder at Severus' words; but he realised the man was only speaking the truth. "Yeah, I know. It's only happened again recently," Harry admitted. "That I can get – that I can get – um – aroused."
Harry couldn't imagine having this sort of conversation with Madam Pomfrey; it was just too difficult to talk about these things with a woman, but Harry wouldn't feel comfortable talking about it with a strange man either. "I don't think I'll be able to talk to Madam Pomfrey, Severus. Not about this. Could I – could I talk to you instead?"
"Harry, I am not a trained counsellor; I'm not sure if I would be able to help."
"I trust you," Harry said softly. "And I know you won't tell anyone else what I tell you."
"That is true. But are you sure you'd be comfortable telling me these things? I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
"I don't think it would exactly be comfortable," Harry said softly. "But it would be a lot better than talking to a woman or to a stranger. And you know some of this stuff already. Like what the potion did to me. I don't really want to talk about that with other people."
"If you really want to do this, then I am happy to accept, Harry."
"Thank you, Master Snape," Harry said as he wrapped his arms around Severus in a hug once more.
Severus observed Harry's work silently; this was his first test. The calming draught was a potion that was fairly easy to brew even for school students. Unlike them, however, Harry had no notes and no ingredients list. All he had was the memory of Severus' lesson a few weeks before. It was important in learning Mastery of Potions that the brewer had good instincts as well as a good memory and didn't rely on notes. Not that Severus himself didn't use notes sometimes, but during Harry's exams for his Mastery he would only have himself to rely on and Severus wanted to get him into that habit as soon as possible.
Harry's face was a mask of concentration as he cut and prepared his ingredients. Once Severus had told him the name of today's potion, Harry had gone straight to the store cupboard to get everything he would need. Severus noted with approval that Harry had gone for the silver cauldron rather than the pewter today, for the armadillo bile would react badly with pewter. Harry also took a set of silver knives as well as the stainless steel for the less reactive ingredients.
Once Harry had everything acquired to his satisfaction; he laid all of the ingredients out on his workbench in the order he would add them to the cauldron. As Harry began chopping and dicing, his tongue peeked from between his lips as he concentrated. Severus tried not to let his gaze linger on that tongue or those soft, pink lips, but it was impossible. His eyes were drawn back again and again. There was just something so inherently sexy about licking lips; even though Severus knew Harry didn't mean anything sexual by it. Harry's lips glistened with saliva, as if he'd just been kissed and Severus felt himself grow hard in his trousers.
Severus looked away and had to keep reminding himself that it was Harry, his apprentice and basically under his care. Harry had enough problems with trust without discovering Severus was having lustful thoughts about him. Or maybe it had just been too long since Severus had felt the pleasure of a warm body next to his own if he was starting to have fantasies about his apprentice.
Hmm, maybe it was time to pay a visit to Madam Carus' establishment once again. Madam Carus catered for the more discerning clientele and was very discreet. Her young men and women weren't just courtesans, they were virtuosos trained from early adulthood to be whatever their clients desired. Sex was on offer, but it wasn't the only thing. Companionship, escorts for public functions, musical accomplishment and intelligent conversation were all available – at a price of course. All of them were expert at their craft and Severus felt his groin tighten even further in anticipation. Yes, he would have to make an appointment soon.
It was Severus' turn to cook dinner that evening; they took turns, for as Severus had once told Harry, he didn't expect the young man to be a house-elf. The fact remained though that Harry was a much better cook, but not once did he disparage Severus' meagre efforts. Severus couldn't understand it himself; he brewed the most intricate potions with ease, but show him a recipe book and an oven and it was usually an unmitigated disaster. Tonight he'd gone for his usual staple – beef stew – and it hadn't been too badly burnt this time.
Harry set the table with plates, cutlery and glasses as well as fetching the jug of pumpkin juice from the cold cupboard. He did that task with the same concentration that he showed earlier in the potions lab and made sure all the spoons, knives and glasses lined up perfectly. Severus felt his gaze darken as he considered how Harry had been taught such things: at the ends of the Dursleys' fists. It was high time Harry talked through some of these things and if he refused to go to Madam Pomfrey, then it would be up to Severus to try and help him. Severus wasn't sure he'd be able to help though. Poppy had been trained in this sort of thing; Severus was just playing it by ear.
Severus ladled out the stew while Harry cut up some crusty bread to dip into it before they both settled down to their meal. Once Harry had eaten quite a bit of his portion, Severus dived in with what he'd wanted to discuss with Harry all day. They had to start sometime after all.
"Harry, can you tell me why you didn't want any of the money back you'd lent the twins?"
Harry swallowed another mouthful of stew, before resting his spoon on the plate. "That money only reminds me of Cedric and how it was my fault that he died."
"I don't get your reasoning there. How could it be your fault? Did you make that Cup into a Portkey? No. Did you hold Cedric at wand point to get him to take the Cup with you? No. Did you wield the wand that killed him? No. Then there is no way on Earth that Cedric's death was your fault. Lay the blame squarely where it belongs: in the hands of Wormtail and the Dark Lord. You did nothing wrong, Harry."
"I couldn't save him," Harry whispered hoarsely. "I should have done something more to save him."
"Cedric Diggory was a fully grown wizard. You were not; why should it have been up to you to save him? He did his best and so did you, but Voldemort has defeated more wizards than you've had hot dinners."
Harry laughed, it was laced with an edge of bitterness that Severus was only too familiar with. "I haven't had too many of those."
"True, but you're being fed enough now, aren't you?"
"I suppose so," said Harry. "I don't feel very hungry usually. I eat because I know it's what I'm supposed to do; but I don't really feel like eating. Food is just there."
"Is it my cooking?" Severus asked. "I know I'm not a great chef."
"No, your food is fine, Severus. It's me. There's something inside me that just doesn't seem to get what all the fuss about food is about. It's a bit like sex, really; I don't think I'll ever want to do it."
Severus was glad Harry seemed to be opening up a bit more, but he wasn't sure what he could discuss about sex without making Harry clam up again. "That might change when you meet and fall in love with someone."
"That won't happen," Harry said softly, but with certainty. "Who would ever want a freak like me?"
"You are not a freak, Harry, and I wish you wouldn't refer to yourself in such a disparaging way."
"Sorry; it's just how I feel sometimes. Most of the time, in fact."
"And that is what these discussions are about – to get you to see yourself as a normal, healthy young man."
"But I'm not a young man any more, am I?"
And to that Severus had no answer.
Harry lay in bed that night going over what Severus had said. No one had ever explained it quite like that before; they just kept saying it wasn't Harry's fault but without any explanation. Harry had listened to Severus' reasoning and realised that in fact he did have very little control over what had happened that night in the graveyard. Wormtail had cast the Killing Curse at Cedric so quickly that Harry didn't have time to do anything to prevent it. And yes, it wasn't Harry who had turned the Triwizard Cup into a Portkey. Harry didn't think the guilt over so many deaths would ever go away completely and certainly not straightaway, but Severus' talk tonight had him thinking that maybe, just maybe, one day he would be able to hear Cedric's name or his godfather's without feeling as if a vice was crushing his chest.
Sleep was a long time in coming and as so often happened when he couldn't get to sleep Harry's hand drifted towards his groin, just hovering there for a moment. He knew if he masturbated it would make him relax enough to get to sleep, but even this normal pastime had been ruined for him by the Dursleys. Aunt Petunia had caught him with his hands down his trousers one day when he was thirteen, just before Aunt Marge's visit, and Petunia had been livid. She'd dragged him to the bathroom (the very first time he'd ever been in the bath there) and made him sit in the scalding water for over half an hour, ranting about what a filthy freak he was. Then she'd taken a scrubbing brush to his whole body and rubbed his burnt skin raw, being especially vicious with his cock.
Harry removed his hand and rested it on the blankets, tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. God, he couldn't even be normal in this, could he? Harry remembered his nights in the dorm when the others seemed to have no qualms about doing this, although most of them had put up Silencing Charms. Harry too had Silencing Charms around his bed, but it was so he wouldn't wake the others with his screams and nightmares.
Harry felt so weird lately. One minute he was fine, the next he felt like crying for no apparent reason. Was Severus still awake? Would he be angry at Harry if he disturbed him? Severus had said Harry could wake him if he had a nightmare, but what if he didn't have a nightmare? What if he just wanted the comfort of someone to hold him?
Harry wiped his eyes and decided he wouldn't know unless he asked. There was still a sliver of light from underneath Severus' bedroom door. Either he was still awake or perhaps he'd fallen asleep while reading. Harry knocked softly on the wood.
"Come in, Harry."
Harry pushed the door open and saw indeed that Severus was still awake and had been reading. He was wearing a grey nightshirt and his hair was pulled back in a ponytail; it made his face seem as if it was made of all angles.
"Did you have a nightmare?" Severus asked as he set his book on the bedside table.
"No. Um – I couldn't sleep and I – I was feeling a bit lonely," Harry admitted.
Severus smiled. "It must take a bit of getting used to after being in a dorm with four other boys for so long."
"I suppose so." Harry shrugged his shoulders, he was still standing by the threshold and all too aware that both of them were in their nightclothes. Harry blushed and wished he didn't do that so often. That's what he got for having such a pale complexion.
"Would you like to stay here tonight? Sometimes just knowing someone else is there can help."
"Can I? You wouldn't mind?"
"Not at all." Severus lifted up the blankets on the other side of his bed in invitation. Harry walked over to the bed, but he just stared at it without getting in. "I'm just offering comfort, Harry. Nothing else. There are no conditions attached."
"I'm sorry. I know you wouldn't do anything like that."
"Indeed. Now get in – or are you like a horse and can sleep standing up?"
Harry giggled and the tension eased out of him as he did so. He climbed into the bed and when Severus opened his arms for a hug, Harry wasted no time in snuggling up to him.
"Comfortable?" Severus asked, kissing his hair.
Harry nodded, already feeling pleasantly drowsy. He could get used to this.
Harry stared up at the boars on top of the stone pillars on each side of the gate and felt his heart lurch uncomfortably in his chest. It was early Wednesday afternoon, but already the light was fading fast and the lanterns were already lit, their light leading the eye up the path and towards the heavy front door. He never thought he'd be here again so soon, but Severus had some business to attend to in London and since it was Harry's half day off, he'd suggested that Harry might like to take the opportunity to spend some time with Neville while he was away.
The world must surely be ending for Severus to suggest that Harry have more contact with Neville Longbottom than was absolutely necessary! Severus had walked Harry to the gate, not even trusting Harry's wellbeing in the short walk from the village to the castle. Harry quite liked the fact that Severus seemed so protective of him; for too long Harry had no one he could rely on. But now that Severus had Apparated away, Harry was in two minds. Part of him wanted to run back down the hill and home, while the other part was looking forward to seeing his friend again. Unfortunately, seeing Neville would probably mean seeing Madam Pomfrey again and Harry was still embarrassed after what had happened last time.
Steeling himself, he pushed open the gate and made his way up the path. Classes hadn't finished yet so the corridors were mostly deserted as he made his way to the hospital wing. Neville and Madam Pomfrey both knew Harry was visiting today as Severus had already sent a Floo message ahead, but Harry was still nervous as he knocked on the infirmary door; his knuckles leaving a damp handprint on the wood.
The door was opened by Madam Pomfrey who smiled warmly at him and didn't seem to bear him any ill-will over his outburst the other day. "Hello, Harry. Come on in, Neville's expecting you."
Madam Pomfrey led the way down the infirmary to a door at the far end of it. Her soft shoes barely made a sound along the floor. All of the infirmary beds were empty today; Harry was glad he wouldn't have to stop and make conversation with some of the students. It felt so different to be back here now he was no longer a pupil.
"Um, I'm sorry about the other day."
"Think nothing of it, dear. Therapy is tough and I completely understand. I do think you need to talk to someone, Harry. I'd be quite happy to refer you to someone at St. Mungo's if you'd prefer that."
"I don't want to do that either," Harry said softly. "I don't feel comfortable talking to strangers. I've been talking to Master Snape. It has helped."
"Oh, I see. Well, as long as you are talking. Professional help might be better for you though, Harry. It will be tough on Master Snape to be your Apprentice Master and try to be your therapist at the same time."
"Oh. I hadn't thought of that. I don't want to make it more difficult for him."
"Well, if you do change your mind, I'd be happy to treat you."
Madam Pomfrey opened the door and ushered Harry into the rooms beyond, which appeared to be some sort of living quarters. Harry had never really thought about where Madam Pomfrey had lived while he'd been a student and frequent visitor to the infirmary; but it made sense that the matron's rooms were so close to the infirmary as to be almost part of it.
Neville was standing by the door, he smiled shyly at Harry when Madam Pomfrey ushered him in and closed the door after her. "Harry, it's so good to see you."
"You too, Neville. You look really well." It was true; Neville had gained a few inches in height since the last time Harry had seen him and the extra height meant that he now looked filled-out rather than slightly overweight. His face was a bit thinner too, he'd lost the roundness of his youth and now he had more of a square jaw and high cheekbones.
"Have a seat," Neville waved his hands around the room at the sofa and chairs. Harry took one of the armchairs next to the fireplace; he was still feeling the cold a lot these past few months and he shivered as he warmed his hands and took a good look at the room around him. The room was circular, making Harry think they must be in the base of one of the towers. Instead of flagstones, the floor was covered in dark parquet flooring with a lighter pattern of diamonds etched onto it and it shone as if it had just been polished that morning. Wood panelling adorned the walls and above the fireplace there was a tapestry depicting a forest dotted with unicorns. There was only one set of bookshelves and most of the shelves only held a few books; Harry guessed Neville's desk and study area must be in his bedroom, much like Harry's own. The sofa was opposite the fireplace, as was a glass-topped coffee table. The armchairs were either side of the fireplace, making a square with it and the sofa.
"So how are you enjoying your apprenticeship with Master Snape, Harry? I never thought he'd ever take on an apprentice; he seemed to hate teaching."
"It's been good, he's teaching me really well. I think he hated teaching so many people who weren't interested in what he had to say. He's much better one on one. So you like your training with Madam Pomfrey, too?"
"Oh, yes! It's brilliant. There's so much more to mediwizardry than just mending broken bones. It's all so fascinating; it was Madam Sprout who suggested I try it. Herbology and Healing are quite closely linked. Potions too, but I must admit I'm glad it's not Professor Snape teaching me those!"
"So Madam Pomfrey teaches you Potions then too?"
"No, Professor Slughorn tutors me in the evenings twice a week as it's more advanced stuff than the NEWTs, but I'll not be attempting a Mastery in it. I just need to know mostly about the medicinal potions and poisons, antidotes, that sort of thing. You look a bit thin, Harry. Have you been eating enough?"
Harry couldn't help the small chuckle. "Now I know you really want to be a Healer; you're channelling Madam Pomfrey."
They spent the rest of the afternoon chatting about their studies and catching up. Gradually Harry started to feel a bit more relaxed about being back at Hogwarts. He'd thought the bad memories would be overwhelming, especially of that night when Professor Dumbledore had jumped from the Astronomy Tower. But there were good memories of Hogwarts too and Harry smiled and laughed with Neville as they caught up on all the gossip. Or at least Harry listened to the gossip, for he'd not heard much being at the apothecary.
"And then Filch threw the bucket at Foster's head!" Neville was laughing so hard he had tears rolling down his cheeks. "It took ages for me and Madam Pomfrey to get it off! That's what he gets for sneaking off to Filch's broom cupboard instead of going to lessons."
"What was he doing in there anyway? Why didn't he go back to his dorm or something if he wanted to skip class?"
"He wasn't in there alone, his girlfriend was with him. Filch caught the two of them being intimately acquainted!"
"No! You don't mean they were actually doing it in the cupboard?"
"Yep! Madam Pomfrey gave them both a lecture on safe sex. God, I know it shouldn't be funny, but I could hardly stop from laughing the whole time. I didn't, of course. Madam Pomfrey wouldn't have been pleased at that. A Healer is supposed to be above that sort of thing."
Harry giggled again. "Yes, but you're not a Healer yet, are you?"
"No!" Neville laughed again, holding his sides. They both calmed down a little as the clock on the mantelpiece struck four.
"Teatime. Did you want to go the Great Hall, or we can order something in?"
"Can we stay here? I don't really want to have to face everyone today."
"Sure," said Neville as he summoned a house-elf and ordered them both afternoon tea. A few moments later; the elf reappeared with a selection of trays hovering in the air in front of him which he set down on the coffee table before disappearing with a loud 'crack'. "Tuck in," said Neville. "There's plenty here."
Indeed there was; from dainty sandwiches with the crusts cut off to sweet looking cakes and pastries. Harry poured himself a cup of tea and lifted one of the fondant fancies; he'd never tried those before. His Aunt Petunia had always served shop-bought ones to her visitors from the Women's Institute, but of course Harry had never been allowed to taste those. It was delicious; he bit into the fondant and the cake beneath melted in his mouth as if it was lighter than air.
"Oh, those are gorgeous! I must get a recipe and try them out for Master Snape."
"He makes you cook?" Neville asked, raising his eyebrow, which for some reason reminded Harry so much of Severus that he blushed.
"No, we take turns. He says I am not his house-elf."
"Good," said Neville. "A Master shouldn't make you do stuff like that. You're there to learn Potions, not how to do housework."
Harry didn't bother pointing out that he had already learned all he ever want to know about housework and more than he would have preferred. He lifted up a cucumber sandwich then put it back down again; he hated cucumber. That was unusual; normally the elves never served anything you didn't like, but perhaps that only applied to the more permanent residents of Hogwarts. Harry ate another few slices of cake and a chocolate biscuit, washing it down with his tea and wondering if he would be too full now for dinner. That wouldn't please his Master.
After they'd finished but before the trays had been cleared, there was a knock on the living room door. Madam Pomfrey popped her head in. "My, you are popular today, Neville. Fred and George Weasley are here to see you too."
"Oh, send them in. The more the merrier. It's like a reunion!"
Fred and George exchanged surprised glances when they saw Harry with Neville. "Sorry, Neville. Didn't know you already had company. Perhaps we should come back another time?"
"Don't be silly!" exclaimed Neville. "Come in, have some food. You don't need to be so formal."
"If you put it like that..." said Fred.
"...then who are we to refuse?" added George as he sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of the coffee table and selected a slice of chocolate gateau. His large hands looked incongruous against the delicate pastry fork, as if he was using a child's toy cutlery set.
"So, Harry, how's life been treating you?" asked Fred. "Have you tried your Daydream yet?"
"No, not yet," Harry replied, his blush returning full force.
"So Snape let you off the leash today, eh?"
"Wednesday's my half day. Master Snape went to London."
"We know," said George. "We've just come back from there; we had some stock to deliver to Verity in Diagon Alley. Snape's a dark horse, isn't he?"
"What?" Harry had no idea what they were talking about.
"We saw him coming out of The Garden of Delights," said Fred with a broad grin and a wink.
"Madam Carus' house?" queried Neville. "No! He was probably just delivering them a potion or something."
"Oh, the innocence of youth," said George, ruffling Neville's hair.
"What are you talking about?" asked Harry, bewildered. "What's The Garden of Delights?"
Fred and George both looked at Harry. "You really don't know? The Garden of Delights is only the most famous brothel in the Wizarding world, Harry; that's all."
"A brothel? No, Master Snape isn't the sort of person who would go to a place like that," Harry said adamantly, but even as he spoke, he started to wonder. How did he know what sort of person went to a brothel? And did he really know Severus that well? They'd talked a bit by now, that was true, but it was mostly about Harry, not about Severus. Harry knew very little, only what he'd gleaned himself from that look into his pensieve and his inadvertent attempts at Legilimency. Severus never spoke of his childhood or what drove him to join the Death Eaters and turn traitor to their cause in the end. Harry wasn't sure he'd get an answer even if he did ask.
"You're thinking like a Muggle, Harry. There's no shame in going to a brothel; it's perfectly acceptable in the Wizarding world," said Fred.
"It is," said Neville, with a fierce blush. "My Gran got me a gift certificate for The Garden of Delights for my Coming of Age."
"Your Gran?" squawked Harry.
"You sly dog!" George laughed.
"I didn't go! I was already seeing Luna by then. But it's perfectly acceptable for people who aren't married or in a relationship to go there, Harry. Master Snape hasn't done anything wrong."
"We've been there a few times," Fred added, grinning.
"You have?" Harry really couldn't understand why people might want to go there; but then he wasn't feeling particularly interested in sex either, so perhaps there was something wrong with him, not the others.
"What was it like?" asked Neville.
Harry was glad his friend had asked, he would have been too embarrassed to ask for himself, even though he was almost dying of curiosity about it.
"Well, when you first go in; it's almost like you've gone to a very fancy restaurant. Madam Carus always greets each guest personally before showing you to a table. Then you're given a menu to choose from. Inside there are sections for whatever you want: man, woman, both, even twins if you want that as well as any kinks or fetishes you might like to pick as well."
Neville was blushing bright pink by now, but Harry didn't understand why. Harry knew he was a bit more naive than the others, for any time the talk in the common room or the dormitory had turned to sex, Harry had excused himself and hadn't listened. He was getting more curious now though. "What are kinks and fetishes?" he asked, only for the twins to burst out laughing.
"My, my, you are an innocent, aren't you, Harry?" George asked, smiling in his direction. "I'm not sure Snape would approve of us telling you though, corrupting his apprentice and all that."
"He was the one who went sneaking off to a brothel!" Harry retorted indignantly.
"Okay, okay, we'll tell you." Fred grinned as he started regaling Harry with a number of things that Harry would never have considered erotic in a million years. Some people liked to be tied up and hurt? Some liked to have their toes sucked? Harry didn't understand how any of that that might be anywhere near pleasurable.
"So, once you've decided on your menu what takes your fancy, men for me and George, for example, you tap the menu with your wand and then Madam Carus takes you into the front parlour where all the men are waiting for you to choose one."
"Oh, I see. But wouldn't the ones you don't pick feel disappointed?"
Fred and George exchanged glances with each other. "We've never really thought about that, to be honest. But you can see, can't you, Harry, that it's no big deal to go there."
Harry knew what his friends said made sense. So why was he feeling so out of sorts that Severus had sought out a brothel? Severus wasn't in a relationship as far as Harry knew and it wasn't as if there was something going on between the two of them, was it? Harry had no hold over the man.
The truth hit him then with the force of a runaway train. He wanted to sit down, then realised he was already sitting and so he sank further into the cushions. He was jealous!
No, he had no hold over Severus... but he wanted one.
Harry was sulking. Severus could think of no other word for the strange mood his apprentice seemed to be in lately. It was almost a week since he'd visited Hogwarts and Severus wondered if perhaps Longbottom had said something to upset him; or perhaps the memories had just been too much for him. But if that was indeed the case, why was he acting this way towards Severus?
The third time Harry slammed a saucepan down on the worktop Severus could bear it no longer. "Harry, what has got into you?"
Harry turned and glared at him; his eyes filled with an inner jade fire that almost made Severus take a step back from him.
"What's got into me?" Harry demanded, throwing potatoes into the saucepan with a loud clatter. "I'm not the one who went to that place!"
"The twins saw you coming out of that – of that brothel!!"
"Ah. I see."
"No you don't!" Harry ranted. "You don't see at all! How could you do that to me?"
Severus stared at Harry, astounded. He didn't think Harry would have had much feeling on the matter either way, but this anger seemed out of all proportion to what had actually happened at the brothel. Which was nothing, in fact. For as Severus had stared at the young men and women arranged artfully for his and the other patrons' pleasure on stools and couches in the public parlour, he'd realised he didn't want any of them. It had been an epiphany there in the front room of The Garden of Delights. Severus hadn't wanted any of them because none of them were Harry.
"I'm your apprentice! How do you think it looks if my Master is seen going to a brothel? People will think I'm not good enough to satisfy you!"
"But, Harry, we don't have the traditional contract. We are not sexually involved at all."
"But people think we are!" Harry protested. "It doesn't matter whether we are or not, I don't want you going back there! I won't stand for it!"
"Very well," said Severus. "I won't go back. You have my word."
Harry opened his mouth as if to shout some more, but then shut it again when he realised Severus had agreed to his demand. And it was a demand; there was no doubt about that. Severus would have been well within his rights as Harry's Master to punish him for talking in such a way to him, but Severus was glad that Harry was comfortable enough to shout at him and not feel that he ought to be quiet and obedient all the time.
"Would it put your mind at rest to know that nothing actually happened while I was there?"
"So you were just delivering a potion or something?" Harry asked, sounding strangely hopeful.
"No, Harry. I had gone there with the intent of partaking of their services, but when I got there I realised I couldn't do it. It wouldn't have been fair on you."
"Oh, because I'm your apprentice, you mean?" Harry stared hard at him and then his eyes widened as he realised that was not what Severus meant at all. "You – you have feelings for me, like that?"
"I do, Harry, but you are still my apprentice, still under my care. I will never do anything to hurt you, I hope you know that."
"I know, Severus. I trust you."
"Good. And anyway, I still need to keep you a virgin for all my potions ingredients, don't I?"
Harry giggled at that and Severus was pleased to see that the sulk had finally lifted. "What's for dinner tonight?"
"Chicken Cordon Bleu with creamed potatoes, carrots and swede."
"Sounds delicious, do you need some help with that?"
"You could chop the carrots and swede," said Harry as he began to peel some potatoes. "Even you can't manage to mangle that."
Severus laughed again as he headed over to the worktop and ruffled Harry's hair as he passed. Harry tensed up and Severus regretted the familiar way he'd done it. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's okay. I'm just not used to it, that's all." Harry turned back to his potatoes, his face pink. "Speaking of food, when I was at Hogwarts the other day, the elves served cucumber sandwiches. I don't like cucumber; don't they usually only serve what you like?"
"That's true, but the elves have different magic than us, they also have a few old wives' tales of their own as well. To them, cucumber is considered a very good contraceptive. I'm guessing they must know of your condition."
Harry's hand paused in its labours before he set the knife down altogether. "I've been meaning to ask you about that."
"Wouldn't Madam Pomfrey be better if you have a medical question? I'm not a Healer, Harry. I'm not even a mediwizard."
"But you are a Potions Master and I wanted to ask about contraceptive potions. I don't think I'd be able to brew one by myself and I'll need one soon. I don't really want to have periods and all that stuff."
"They are quite advanced," Severus agreed. "But we can start working on them next week. Harry, you do realise that now you are changed and have a womb, that stopping periods for any length of time is not healthy? It would put you more at risk of things like cancer and endometriosis. You should only ever take these potions temporarily; for three months at the most, then have a month off. Have you started menstruating yet?"
"No, not yet." Harry's face seemed to have taken on a permanent rosy hue and Severus knew how difficult these sorts of talks were for him.
"Hmm. How long ago was it that Malfoy gave you that potion?"
"Not long after he abducted me."
"So it's been over six months, then. I do think you need to see Madam Pomfrey for a proper medical check-up, Harry. It could be your low bodyweight that is stopping your menses, but there might be something else. We really ought to find out."
"But then she'll find out what I am!" Harry protested, as Severus knew he would. This secrecy wasn't good for him, but Severus understood the reasoning behind it. It didn't change the facts though.
"I know, Harry. But I still want you to see her. Your health is very important to me."
"Yes, Master Snape," Harry replied, his voice hollow. They continued to prepare their meal in silence, but once the food was put on to cook, Harry seemed to be back to his livelier self and suggested they play a game while waiting for the food.
"I'm not really one for Exploding Snap, Harry."
"Do you have any Muggle games, then? Scrabble, perhaps? I used to be quite good at that."
"Were you now?"
"But I'm probably not as good as you. You'll know more exotic words, I bet."
"We'll play Scrabble then, Harry; but on one condition."
"Oh? What's that?"
"Every word you put down has to be something that you find it uncomfortable to talk about and we will discuss your words after dinner."
"So it's going to be Scrabble therapy then?"
"It is. Do you still wish to play?"
It was a few moments before Harry replied. "Yes. I still want to play."
The dinner had been eaten; the dishes washed and put away; the Scrabble board cleared, but not before Severus had written down all of Harry's words on a spare piece of parchment. It was only now that they sat down beside each other on the sofa that Harry's nerves decided to make an appearance. Deciding on the words and putting them on the board hadn't been that difficult; it was the talking about them now that Harry was worried about. But then wasn't that why Severus had suggested it in the first place? Harry knew that if he didn't start talking about these things and soon, then Severus would either make him see Madam Pomfrey again or maybe even a stranger at St. Mungo's.
"So what word should we start with, Harry?"
"You pick," said Harry. The truth was, he wouldn't feel comfortable about talking about any of it, but he knew that if he was ever to get better and stop letting those people have a hold over him, he needed to talk about the things that made him uncomfortable.
Severus glanced down at the list of words as Harry's heart beat a rapid rhythm against his chest.
"Petunia," said Severus, glancing back at Harry. "You find it difficult to talk about her?"
Harry nodded. "Sometimes what she did was worse than Vernon. I wasn't related to Vernon by blood, but she was my aunt and she was supposed to look after me. She was never supposed to hurt me."
"Yet she did?" Severus prompted.
"All the time. At first it was little things – a pinch on my leg or arm if I hadn't cooked the breakfast properly of if the dusting wasn't done just right. Petunia was very house-proud and very angry when I got it wrong. She didn't want me to show her up in front of the neighbours or her visitors. Petunia was in all of these: the Neighbourhood Watch; the Women's Institute; the Residents' Association and of course she was very active in the local church."
"She was?" Severus asked in surprise.
"Yes. I overheard one of the other church ladies joke that Petunia was in everything but the Crib. She cleaned it; arranged flowers, set up fetes, lots of things like that. I don't think she did it because she was religious; I think she did it because she wanted to be seen to be. She wanted to impress people. Other people, not me. I wasn't considered good enough to impress."
"Did she ever take you to church?"
"No, that would have meant buying me some nice clothes and shoes and they didn't want to spend money on me. They went every Sunday without me and locked me in the cupboard until they came back. Then Petunia would complain because I hadn't done any chores for the few hours they were away.
"I hated Sundays the most," Harry said softly. "They locked me in for hours, Severus. They never even left me a bucket or anything like that. Sometimes I had accidents. I couldn't help it! I couldn't help it!" Filthy, disgusting freak!
Harry shuddered as he remembered the humiliation as he tried desperately to keep control of his bladder and the despair when he failed miserably. He could almost feel it, could almost smell it again. His throat closed up with unshed tears and he wrapped his arms around himself to try and calm himself down. But this time, another set of arms wrapped around his body and he was tugged back against Severus' side.
"Ssh, Harry. It's all right. All children have accidents like that sometimes. You did nothing wrong."
"I – I felt so dirty, Severus. They would make me do the chores in my wet clothes and wouldn't let me wash until the next day when I had to go to school. Then Dudley would tell everyone in the class that I had wet myself the day before and they tried to get me to do it again; holding me down and tickling me or forcing me to drink lots of water and barring the way to the toilets. The first time it happened at school, I was so upset I just ran out of the class even though the teacher kept calling me back."
"Oh, Harry," said Severus, pressing a soft kiss to Harry's hair. "People can be so cruel."
"I know," said Harry, sniffling a little as his tears dried. "I never had any friends until I came to Hogwarts. Dudley had bullied them all into either ignoring me or joining him in tormenting me. I hated that school and everyone in it. The teachers knew how horrible the other children were to me, but they never did anything to stop it."
"And then you came to Hogwarts and got bullied by me," Severus said.
"Yes," Harry admitted. "But you've never held me down and forced me to wet myself so you could have a good laugh at my expense. Compared to them, you were a pussycat."
Severus laughed. "I don't think anyone's ever called me that before. Do you feel better now you've talked about it?"
"I do actually. It was hard at first, but once I got going the words just kept coming. Does that mean you're going to ask me about another word?"
"If you're feeling up to it."
Harry shook his head against Severus' side. "No. It's too soon. I can't talk about that yet, but I promise I will tell you, Severus. Just not yet."
"Well, is there anything else you do want to talk about?"
Harry blushed even more, but he knew he'd feel much better if he told Severus. "Um, about what you said. About you having feelings for me. I..."
Severus cut him off. "Harry, I promised you I wouldn't do anything to hurt you. I won't break my word."
"I know, Severus. That wasn't what I was going to say. I think – I think I might be having feelings for you too. I know I'm not ready for anything more yet and maybe you don't want to be with me anyway, knowing what I am. Would it be too strange?"
"Harry, you're getting too far ahead of yourself there. I'd like for us to get know each other a bit better before we think of anything concerning sex."
"So how are we supposed to get to know each other better? You already know my dark secrets, don't you?"
"Well, in this situation people usually go on dates, don't they?"
"Dates? Like going out to dinner and stuff?" The only date Harry had ever been on was that disastrous tea with Cho in Madam Puddifoot's on Valentine's Day. He hoped his and Severus' dates would work out a lot better.
"Indeed, Harry. And since there will be no sex between us until your contract finishes, no pressure either."
Harry sat up and stared at his Master. He could hardly believe it. Severus would be prepared to wait five years for him? Did that mean that what Severus was feeling for him was more than just lust? Five years was a long time, but it was also a good way for them really to get to know each other without sex getting in the way. Harry knew he was nowhere near ready for a sexual relationship yet; what with his memories of the Dursleys' and Malfoy's abuse, as well as his changed body; he needed time. And Severus was prepared to give him that.
"I would love to go on a date with you, Severus," Harry said, smiling up at him. "Where would you like to go?"
"I'm not sure yet, I'll have to think about it."
"Thank you, Severus."
"For being so patient with me."
"You're very welcome, Harry. It's getting late and it's time apprentices were wrapped up in bed."
Harry nodded and quickly, before he lost his nerve, he pressed a kiss on Severus' cheek and headed off to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Feeling his heart a lot lighter than it had been for a while, Harry eyed the claw-footed bathtub. He felt his cock swell in his trousers as well as the wetness between his legs that he was starting to get used to. Could he actually do it, though? That day when Petunia had scalded him was still bothering him, but she wasn't here, was she? No one was going to come in and catch him. It was his body, wasn't it? If he wanted to do this, he should be able to, shouldn't he?
Harry turned on the taps and added some lavender oil to the water as the bathtub filled. Even if he couldn't bring himself to touch himself, lavender was supposedly good to help you sleep. Harry locked and warded the door; even as he did so he knew that Severus would never invade his privacy like that. Not like them. Once the bath was filled, Harry stared at himself in the mirror above the sink; it was charmed so that even with the steam coming out of the bath, it remained clear. His scar was fading more and more each day and he wondered if one day it would fade completely out of existence. As if Voldemort had never been.
As he started undressing, he turned away from the mirror, unwilling to see the other scars that marred his body. His underwear felt very sticky with the evidence of his arousal and as he removed them; his cock twitched in anticipation. Harry climbed into the bath and sank back against it; his legs were so short they didn't even reach the other end of the bath. For a few moments he toyed with the idea of just having a wash and going straight to bed, but his cock seemed to have other ideas and hardened even further as the warm water lapped against his body. Harry's eyes fluttered shut as he remembered the tender way Severus had caressed his hair.
Harry had had plenty of wet dreams over the years, but he'd deliberately never done this often, not since that day Petunia had caught him. It had been the first time he'd tried to masturbate and it had put him off for a long time. Sinful, disgusting boy!
Harry curled his hand around his length and gasped at the wonderful sensation as he did so. It didn't feel disgusting. It felt good and he'd had so little in his life that felt good. He began stroking up and down like he'd seen some of the other boys do in the shower. Soon his hips were arching up to meet the strokes of his hand as his cock seemed to pulse with its own heartbeat. His sac was feeling very full and as well as that, there was an ache deep inside him. There in that place that he had never touched.
With his left hand still stroking his cock, Harry moved his right hand down beneath the water and behind his balls. He felt so open and so slick with moisture that one finger slid in easily. It felt so strange. Inside it was soft and wet and Harry couldn't help a small moan escape as he pushed his finger in and out. His cock was throbbing even more now and he could feel his abdominal muscles contract around his finger, as if his body was trying to suck it inside him.
God, he'd never felt anything like this before! His nipples were hard and standing up in little peaks above the water line, but he couldn't stop what he was doing with both hands in order to touch them. They were feeling very sensitive and tingly and he wondered what it would feel like to touch them or pinch them and even at the thought his hips jerked erratically.
The sensations were building and building in his lower belly. "Severus!" Harry gasped as he pressed his feet flat against the floor of the bath and arched upwards as the orgasm tore through his cock, spurting white hot heat over his hand and belly. But as he finished shooting he realised he wasn't finished. He still felt so aroused. With one hand no longer on his cock, Harry used that to pinch his right nipple while he now put two fingers inside and squeezed his thighs together. It didn't take long. His body convulsed at the second orgasm; it was a different feeling to the first one, almost as if his whole body was coming, not just where he had his fingers. Harry groaned in relief when it was finally over, his hands working frantically to wring every last delicious sensation from within him.
He panted for breath as he recovered; a broad grin on his face.
Sod Petunia and her scalding baths, he had to do this again!
It was so good to hear from you! I meant to write sooner, I really did, but I've been so busy with my courses that time just slipped away. There are witches and wizards from all over the world at the Wizarding University of Edinburgh; I've become really great friends with my room mate, Elaine. She's from Ireland and you'll get to meet her soon. That brings me to my other big news.
Ron finally did it, he popped the question on Valentine's Day and I've said yes. We aren't getting married yet, Ron still has to finish his training and I want to get qualified before we get married. You will be coming to our engagement party at the Burrow, won't you? Professor Snape is invited too of course; I'll send you both an official invitation nearer to the time, as we don't have a firm date set yet. Molly wanted to make sure that all the family can get there and she doesn't know when they'll next hear from Charlie; he's been away in China for a while. There'd been some trouble with a nest of Chinese Fireball dragons terrorising a Muggle village. I don't know if he is back in Romania yet.
The work is hard, but I'm enjoying it. Elaine is studying to be a Herbologist, so she and Neville will have lots to talk about at the party! I think they'd make a cute couple. What about you, Harry? Any romances on the horizon? I bet all the seventh years are knocking down your door, aren't they?
Harry smiled as he finished reading his friend's letter. Luna would surely have something to say if this Elaine put her sights on Neville, for Harry knew Luna was not one to lie down and have someone else steal her man. Merlin, Neville in a love triangle! Harry giggled at the thought before taking out his own parchment and quill to write back.
I'll forgive you, just this once! You should always make time for your old friends even if you do have some new ones now. I don't think your matchmaking is going to work though, Neville and Luna have been going out for ages now and are very happy together. Neville is really enjoying his apprenticeship and so am I. I never knew Potions could be so interesting.
Master Snape is great and very patient with me even when I make mistakes.
Harry paused and sucked on the end of his quill. Seeing the name written down like that, Master Snape made him feel all shivery in a good way. He dipped the quill in the inkwell again and continued with his letter.
I've got some news of my own, but I really don't want to put it in a letter. The next time you and Ron have some time off; come and visit me and I can tell you then.
The shop has been really busy; Master Snape's potions are the best; we've even got orders from abroad that he sends out by owl order. The twins' new shop is doing really well too; they get lots of customers from Hogwarts! And as for seventh years knocking down my door... no, I don't think so. My taste runs to older men.
Harry stared at the letter and wondered if he should remove that last bit. He'd basically just outed himself to Hermione in the letter, but with him being an hermaphrodite, he didn't know whether the fact that he fancied Severus made him gay, straight or something in between. Sighing, he left it in. It would certainly make her curious enough to write back sooner this time.
Harry finished the letter and as he put it in an envelope, Severus knocked on the open door but didn't come in until Harry had said so.
"Madam Pomfrey is here for your check-up, Harry."
Harry's stomach jolted; he'd forgotten that was today. "Oh, right. I'll be down in a minute."
Severus nodded and made his way back downstairs. Harry's minute turned into five; he was still feeling a bit nervous about this. It was awkward trying to hide his changed body from people, but he knew he wasn't going to be able to hide it from the mediwitch, not if he wanted to find out what was wrong and why he wasn't getting periods yet. Hadn't Malfoy's potion worked properly? Or was it, as Severus thought, that Harry still weighed too little? Harry's appetite had never been anywhere near normal but he tried to eat as much as possible now, although he still couldn't seem to finish what Severus considered a full portion.
Harry lifted his apprentice robes from the back of his chair and put them on, even knowing that they would have to come off again for his medical exam. Being in Madam Pomfrey's company though, meant that he was in public and as such was expected to wear his Master's colours. Harry smoothed down the non-existent creases in his robes, took a deep breath and made his way downstairs. His heart faltered on the middle stairs when he saw that Neville was with Madam Pomfrey. Neville gave him a friendly smile.
"Is it all right if Neville stays to observe, Harry? It's part of his training."
Harry hadn't expected to be telling his friend about his condition so soon, but maybe this was better. Neville had to be professional and Harry knew he wouldn't tell anyone else about his medical history. "That's fine," said Harry, continuing down the stairs. "Can Master Snape stay with me?"
"Would you like him to?"
"Please." Harry didn't want to do this on his own. His tummy felt full of fluttering butterflies.
"Then as long as you're happy he's here, that's fine by me," said Madam Pomfrey. "Take a seat, Harry, and we can discuss what health issues you have."
Harry took a seat on the sofa and was grateful that it was Severus who sat beside him and not one of the others.
"First, I have to tell you something," Harry said quickly before he lost his nerve again. "When Lucius Malfoy abducted me he gave me a potion that turned me into a hermaphrodite."
Neville gasped slightly, his eyes widening, but Madam Pomfrey took the news in her stride. "I see. And your health issues are related to that?"
Harry nodded. "It's been over six months since he dosed me with the potion but I haven't had periods yet. Se– Master Snape thinks it might be because I'm still underweight."
"Right, then. The first thing we'll do is weigh you and then I'll perform an internal exam, just to make sure everything is as it should be. True hermaphrodites are very rare, Harry, that is those who can both father children and bear them in their body as well. It may well be that you look outwardly like an hermaphrodite but in fact do not have a womb or ovaries, in which case you wouldn't ovulate and hence would not have menstrual periods either."
"Oh." Harry hadn't thought of that.
Madam Pomfrey waved her wand at the sofa, transfiguring it into a medical examination table and conjured a screen to go around it along with a hospital gown which fluttered to land on it. "Undress and put on the gown, dear, and hop on the couch for me."
Harry nodded as he ducked behind the screen and removed his clothes before donning the gown, feeling very self-conscious to be wearing so little. The green gown barely came to his thighs and he knew that in a few minutes anyway it wouldn't really matter, the others were going to see everything. As soon as Harry lay down, all three of them came around the curtain. Severus stood by Harry's head and squeezed his hand in comfort. "Okay?"
Harry nodded, glad that Severus had sensed how uncomfortable he was. Neville stood at Harry's other side and gave him a reassuring smile. Madam Pomfrey conjured a small sheet which she draped over Harry's lower half and then her hands dived beneath it, so at least a modicum of Harry's modesty was left intact.
"Knees up, legs apart," the matron commanded in her no-nonsense voice and Harry was glad she seemed to be taking everything in her stride and was being very professional about it. God, had there ever been such an undignified position? Harry had to close his eyes when he felt the matron's hands slip beneath the sheet.
Harry felt Madam Pomfrey's hands press down on his abdomen before examining his prick and balls. Her hands moved lower down and she inserted two fingers inside, making Harry gasp and his eyes shot open at the sudden pain. "Sorry," she muttered as she continued to examine him for a few more minutes. "Take a deep breath and relax for me, Harry." That was easy for her to say! Harry had never felt more uncomfortable in his life! It seemed interminable. Once she'd done that, she waved her wand over Harry's body and a list of numbers glowing red and green scrolled through the air in front of her.
"You can get dressed now, dear," she said, patting Harry's knee as the numbers faded. The others left him alone to dress and once that was done everyone settled back into their seats, the sofa now back to its normal appearance after one of Severus' spells.
"Well, Harry, despite it being a rarity, you are indeed a true hermaphrodite. You have a working set of both male and female genitalia and reproductive organs. As well as a vagina, you do indeed have a womb and ovaries. You are not sterile; you could impregnate a woman or a man could impregnate you."
"Is it his weight stopping the periods, Poppy?"
"No, Severus. Harry's weight is on the lower end of the scale but he is within the normal range for his height. In effect, Harry, what Malfoy did in giving you that potion is causing you to go through puberty again; this time as a female. Have you noticed any mood swings lately? Has your hair been greasier than normal, anything like that?"
Harry nodded. "I thought the greasy hair was caused by potion fumes with all our brewing."
"That could well be part of it, but it is also your hormones going through some upheaval. I've scanned your hormone levels and with those readings I'd expect you to have your first period within a few weeks. I'll leave some leaflets with you, for I suppose you didn't pay much attention to the girls' health lecture at Hogwarts, did you?"
"No, ma'am," Harry said, flushing. Madam Pomfrey had the knack of making him feel guilty about everything.
"You are perfectly healthy, Harry, if just a little different now. It's very rare to actually find a hermaphrodite who can bear children as well as father them; it's usually one way or the other. Now, Neville and I must be getting back to Hogwarts."
"Thank you," said Harry and he meant it. Madam Pomfrey's no-nonsense approach was making him feel a whole lot better about himself.
"You're very welcome, dear. If you need anything, don't hesitate to firecall me and I can be down here in a jiffy."
"Thanks, I appreciate that," said Harry as he walked Neville and the matron to the door.
Neville was looking very curious and Harry knew the two of them would have lots to talk about on his next Wednesday visit to Hogwarts. It had become something of a routine now; Harry would visit Neville on his half day off and Madam Pomfrey had arranged it so that Neville would have his day off at the same time each week so the two friends could spend time together.
"That went rather well, Harry," said Severus once the two of them were alone again.
"Yeah, if a bit embarrassing. Thanks for staying with me. I don't know why I was so nervous; it's not as if I've never been examined by Madam Pomfrey before."
"True, but it was the first time in your new body. Am I imagining it, or are you coming to accept the fact that your condition may not be reversible?"
"Naughty, naughty," said Harry with a small smile. "We haven't got the Scrabble board out yet."
"Do you still need it?"
Harry stared hard at his Master and shook his head. "No, Severus. All I need is you."
"Merlin, Harry, we all knew Malfoy was mental, but doing this to you? What sort of animal is he?"
Ron was sitting on Harry's bed, Hermione was sitting on Harry's desk chair and Harry was standing up as he told his two best friends what had happened to him in the Malfoy dungeons.
"But why would he change you like that? And giving you wolf pheromones, why would he do that?" Ron's eyes crinkled at the corners as he tried to concentrate.
Hermione was being very quiet and Harry wondered if they had finally discovered something that was so strange to her it had rendered her mute. At least Ron didn't seem to think that Harry had changed; not the Harry inside.
"I have a theory about that," said Hermione. "Who was very close to Malfoy and the Death Eaters?"
"You don't mean Greyback, do you?" asked Ron, his face paling so much his freckles all but disappeared.
"Who else? Lucius Malfoy was a sadistic bastard," said Hermione, shocking the two of them. Harry couldn't remember if he'd ever heard her swear before. "It would have amused him no end to sit back and watch as Fenrir Greyback attacked Harry."
"Raped me, you mean," said Harry as he sank down on his bed next to Ron. He could just imagine that Malfoy would have no qualms about doing that. "And that's what he wanted me changed for too, wasn't it? He wanted me to get pregnant by Greyback and have a werewolf baby."
"Yes, it would have been a way to discredit you with the public," said Hermione. "By intimating that you had been having relations with werewolves. People would have been scared. But it didn't happen, Harry. You're safe now."
Harry didn't bother to contradict her, but in his heart he knew it wasn't true. There was no way to reverse his scent; he would always be prey to any werewolf who couldn't control themselves.
"So you're both okay with me being – you know – different now?" Harry could hardly believe they were being so understanding about this. Nothing much ever seemed to shock Hermione; maybe it came from all that reading.
"Harry, mate, you're still you," said Ron, running his fingers through his hair. "You're still my best mate even if you do have some extra equipment down there. Was it weird? How did it feel when you first got it?"
"Ron!" scolded Hermione. "Don't be so rude! You can't ask him that!"
"It's okay, Hermione, I don't mind talking about it now. I'm getting used to it, I think."
"So does this mean you can have children?" Hermione asked, a thoughtful look on her face.
"I suppose so, I never really thought about it before. I was still in a state of shock for a while."
"That's understandable," said Ron. "And Snape, does he know about this?"
Harry couldn't quell his blush quickly enough and Hermione smiled as if she'd just worked something out.
"It was him, wasn't it; who you were talking about in your letter?"
"Um," Harry began but couldn't think of what else to say.
"What letter?" asked Ron. "And what about Snape?"
"Well, we're um – Master Snape and I – we're sort of going out together. Well, actually we haven't gone out together yet, our first date is on Sunday."
Ron gaped like a landed trout, looking first at Hermione and then at Harry. "So you are doing the traditional contract thing after all? But Harry, what happens after the five years are up? Who else will want you if they know you've been with him?"
"Ron!" Hermione scolded him again. "That is none of our business!"
"It is if Snape's abusing Harry's trust!"
"He isn't!" Harry roared. "For your information, Ron, I'm still a virgin and will remain that way until the contract is up! We've both decided that this is the best way to get to know each other without sex getting in the way. I want to wait and so does he."
"He's going to wait? For five years? But why?"
"To some people, sex isn't the be all and end all, Ronald. This is very mature of you, Harry. I'm impressed."
"Thanks, Hermione. It might be difficult sometimes, but we've both decided. This is what we want to do and I won't feel pressured into doing stuff until I'm ready. We can still do other things that couples do, like going out on dates; we just won't be jumping into bed together anytime soon. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?"
"Of course not! Do what your heart tells you, Harry."
"Blimey! I can't imagine giving up sex for five weeks, never mind five years! Can you still wank?"
"Ron!" Hermione threw a cushion at his head and all three of them burst into hysterical giggles.
"Harry." Severus woke him up by softly stroking his knuckles against Harry's smooth cheek. Thinking about it now; Severus had never noticed any stubble on the young man's face. Perhaps it was part of his condition or maybe he just hadn't started shaving yet. "We're here," Severus continued when Harry showed no signs of waking quite yet. Almost as soon as the train had left London earlier that morning, Harry had leant against Severus' shoulder and fallen asleep. It was a shame to wake him, but if they didn't get off the train then their first date was about to be cut short. And Severus knew Harry wouldn't want that; he'd been looking forward to this for weeks and Severus was not about to deny him that simple pleasure.
Away from the constraints of the wizarding world today, they were not Master and apprentice here, but Severus and Harry. Both were dressed as Muggles too. Harry was wearing a pair of knee-length navy shorts, a loose t-shirt in a lighter shade of powder blue and a pair of canvas deck-shoes. Severus might have wished Harry had worn something a bit more form-fitting, but he understood that Harry was perhaps not yet comfortable in clothes that would reveal his figure to others. Severus was dressed in a pair of cream canvas trousers and a checked cream shirt. In deference to the unexpected heat this early in the year, he'd rolled the sleeves up past his wrists but didn't reveal too much of his forearms. He was still uncomfortable with the ragged scar where his Dark Mark had been. Although he could have used a glamour, using magic would alert other wizards in the vicinity and Harry had wanted their outing to be as private as possible.
"Not asleep," Harry mumbled in the slow drawl of someone who, until a few moments ago, had indeed been asleep. "I was just resting my eyes." He lifted his head from Severus' shoulder, blinking as Severus handed him his glasses. There was a small wet patch where Harry had drooled on his shoulder but Severus found that he didn't mind in the least. It was a beautiful sunny day, he was here with Harry and there was nowhere on Earth he'd rather be.
"No?" asked Severus with a smirk as he got their picnic basket down from the rack. "It was the invisible man who was snoring, was it?"
Harry blushed in mortification; he was so easy to tease. "Was I really snoring?"
"Just a little." Severus spoke just as the whistle blew and they had to jump down from the train before it left the platform. Severus steadied Harry with one hand, the other gripping their picnic basket. As Severus had noticed in the past few weeks, Harry no longer tensed or shuddered whenever Severus touched him casually like this. Sometimes they both shuddered, but it wasn't from fear any longer.
Harry had noted the name of the station as they walked out of it and had their tickets scanned perfunctorily by one of the guards at the exit. "Hampton Court? Our primary school went on a trip there once."
"Oh? You've been here before?" Severus asked, he had been hoping to show Harry something new.
"No, I wasn't allowed to go. The Dursleys wouldn't have paid for anything like that. The others went, but not me."
"I see." Severus' grip on the picnic basket tightened as he heard again the casual disregard the Dursleys had had for their nephew. "Well, hopefully you'll enjoy the trip today. They have an Easter Egg Hunt in the grounds today and there are plenty of places to have our picnic. They have guided tours of the Palace and we can explore the maze and the gardens."
"An Easter Egg hunt?" Harry queried with a smile. "I'm not a baby, Severus."
"I know that, Harry. I just thought it would be something fun we could do together; you don't have to be a child to do something that's fun."
"Thank you," Harry murmured softly and Severus could tell that Harry was trying his hardest not to cry. Severus was determined that he would do everything he could to make up for all those things Harry had missed out on while growing up. Harry would never want for anything that was in his power to give.
"Shall we?" Severus extended his elbow as they reached the beginning of the bridge leading to the Palace. Below them, people were taking advantage of the fine weather. Some were sunbathing, some were messing about in boats and a few hardy souls were even paddling in the river. Severus shuddered; the Thames did not have a reputation as being the cleanest river in the world and Severus would not risk swimming or paddling in it before he had quite a few antiseptic charms in place.
Harry grinned and hooked his arm through Severus'. "Let's."
They spent a couple of hours on guided tours of the Palace itself. All the guides were dressed in Elizabethan costumes and Harry found himself enthralled at the splendour of the rooms they toured. Some of the colours on the bedclothes and wallpapers had faded now, but it still gave a great feel of what the place would have been like all those years ago.
Harry's favourite part was when the toured the Tudor kitchens and the staff actually prepared a meal that was based on recipes they’d found in ancient cookbooks. Harry wasn't too sure he'd want to try any of it, but he noticed Severus nodding at intervals when the guide was pointing out various foods that were used as medicine. Indeed some of it was what wizarding world potions were based on now. Had wizards and Muggles been closer in the past than they were now? And if so, what had caused the rift between them today? He should have paid more attention to History of Magic, but Professor Binns' voice had been so boring that it was all Harry could do to stay awake, never mind pay attention.
The tour finished, with people browsing excitedly around the large kitchen. The fireplaces were so big they wouldn't have looked out of place at Hogwarts. Plastic models of foods and herbs were dotted around the room along with laminated recipe cards. Harry was starting to feel hungry just looking at them all.
"Time for our picnic?" Severus asked, almost as if he could read Harry's mind.
Maybe he could at that. Harry nodded and followed Severus outside.
Harry lay on his back, his head resting on Severus' lap as the remains of their picnic lay scattered on the grass about them. They were on one of the shallow banks that led down to the river with the Palace behind them. From the back it looked more like a Palladian mansion rather than the Tudor manor house it had resembled from the front. The good weather meant that lots of people had decided to visit today and Harry wished they had been able to find a more secluded spot. Severus was trailing his fingers through Harry's hair as both of them just revelled in being in each other's company. Harry had been a bit worried at first how people might react at seeing two men who were quite obviously together, but no one seemed that bothered. They were too intent on their own little dramas.
"We've still got some strawberries left," said Severus, smiling down at Harry.
Harry giggled. "I'll burst if I eat anything else!"
"What, you don't even want to try the Easter egg we found?"
Harry shot up. "There's still chocolate?"
"I thought you didn't have room for anything else?" Severus arched his eyebrow.
"There's always room for chocolate!"
"Indeed," said Severus and he began to unwrap the gold foil as slowly and as teasingly as if it was Harry's clothes he was removing.
There was no way Harry could mistake the heat in that gaze. He blushed and shifted about a bit on the blanket, hoping against hope that he wouldn't get an erection out here in the open. It would be so obvious in his shorts! Robes were a lot better at hiding things like that. Harry's mouth was watering long before the chocolate egg was fully denuded. Severus broke off a small piece and reached it out to Harry, who held his hand out to take it.
Severus pulled it back, away from him. "No."
"No?" Harry tried again to take the chocolate, but Severus held it high above his head, out of Harry's reach.
"No, if you want it, I'm going to feed it to you."
"Yes." Harry's voice was a breathy moan as he arched towards Severus' fingers, sticky now with melting chocolate. Severus lowered the chocolate to Harry's lips. Harry opened his mouth and sucked on the egg and on Severus' fingers at the same time. He stared at Severus' face, his whole body trembling with desire as he sucked and sucked on Severus' fingers. Severus' eyes seemed to have taken on an even darker shade; Severus too was flushed and Harry knew they were both feeling the same desire.
Once the chocolate was finished, Harry lifted his head towards Severus' mouth and tried to kiss him, but Severus shook his head. Harry pulled away, disappointed. He'd been so sure Severus would have wanted to kiss him too.
Severus cupped Harry's face in his hands and tipped his face back up. "It's not that I don't want to kiss you, Harry. But not here. I don't want our first kiss to be in public."
"Oh, right. Sorry."
"There's nothing to be sorry about," said Severus as he caressed Harry's face before letting his hands drop to his sides. "What do you want to do this afternoon? I thought perhaps we could take a boat along the river; they have ferries to Kingston."
"I'm not very good with boats," Harry admitted, remembering his one and only time on a boat. Vernon hadn't been a very proficient rower and the sea had been so rough that Harry had felt sick for most of the journey to the hut on a rocky island. "How about we try out the maze?"
"The maze? Are you sure? I didn't think you would want to with all those bad memories."
Harry nodded, glad that Severus understood, though the fact remained that the maze had been in Harry's thoughts all day. It was pretty hard to avoid. Even when they weren't anywhere near it, there were signposts showing the way from other parts of the grounds. "The maze didn't kill Cedric," Harry said softly. "It was Voldemort and Wormtail. I feel like I want to do it, Severus. No, I need to do it."
"Facing your fears?"
"Something like that. So can we?"
Severus nodded and kissed the back of Harry's hand. "Whatever you want, Harry."
"What I want right now is the loo! Too much pumpkin juice. There were some in the grounds, weren't there?"
"There are a few sets, yes." Severus started gathering up the picnic things. "If you wait a moment, I can go with you."
"That's all right," said Harry. "I won't be long. Unless you need to go too?"
"Not at the moment. Very well, I'll wait here, but if you're gone longer than ten minutes I'm coming after you."
"I'm on a timer?" Harry giggled as he gave Severus a quick peck on the cheek before he ran back to the grounds and his search.
With a contented smile on his face, Severus watched Harry run back towards the Palace. Harry had been so happy today. It had been a joy to see him talking and laughing like any normal young man. Severus still thought of him as a man, despite his new additions. It was only to be expected. Harry had been a boy from birth. He'd been brought up as a boy with all the expectations and mannerisms of a male. He wouldn't suddenly change and become a female. Severus couldn't imagine what Harry had gone through when he first discovered what the potion had done to him. To go through eighteen years of life one way and then suddenly you were different like that... it must have been difficult, but Harry seemed to be coming to terms with it now.
Severus wondered if that had anything to do with the fact that Harry would be able to have children as he was now. During their picnic Severus had noticed Harry's eyes on the children playing on the grass, the way he looked longingly at babies in prams and pushchairs and the yearning stares he'd been giving pregnant women. Severus didn't need to be a Legilimens to realise that Harry wanted children. Severus had never given it much thought himself. He'd considered himself to be gay and so had given up on having children of his own. But he and Harry would be able to have children together. He'd never been with a woman, had never desired a woman in that way, but he knew he desired Harry. Did it really matter what lay between his legs? Severus laughed to himself; here they were on their first date and he was imagining their children already!
"Sir! Sir!" A woman dressed as a sixteenth century maid was barrelling down the hill towards him; skirts held in her hands so she could run better. Hair was escaping from beneath her white cap trailing black curls along her cheeks. She seemed to be heading in Severus' direction. "You were with him, weren't you? The boy in the blue shorts and t-shirt?"
"Harry? Something's happened to Harry?" Severus stood up, his heart faltering. Severus didn't bother to point out that there might have been someone else fitting that description, he knew it was Harry.
"The ambulance is on its way," she said, trying to reassure him.
Ambulance? Dear Merlin, what had happened? "Where is he? What happened? Take me to him," Severus ordered as he followed the woman back up the small incline.
"He collapsed in the men's toilets," the woman continued as they ran.
Both of them sped up to a run, which made them unable to talk any further. A small crowd had gathered outside the brick building, curious as to what was going on inside it. The woman pushed people aside and Severus noted that not one man complained about her heading to the men's toilets. Obviously they thought Harry was in such a state that such niceties were ignored for the moment.
There was a man by kneeling down by Harry's side; brown hair dotted with grey was all Severus could see from the back. Harry was lying propped against the wall; the stalls on one side of him, the sinks and dryers on the other. His eyes were closed, his face was pale and his legs were lying at an awkward angle; as if he'd been in that position when he fell and couldn't move. The man hovering over him reached out to straighten Harry's legs. "Don't touch him!" Severus snarled as he knelt down on the floor and batted the other man's hands away without looking at him.
"Harry? Can you hear me? Are you all right?"
But no answer was forthcoming from his young apprentice. Had he hurt his head in the fall? Or had he in fact fainted and that was why he'd collapsed? There was no point in taking him to a Muggle hospital, Severus knew Harry wouldn't want them to find out about his condition. There was only the kitchen maid and this man to Obliviate, then Severus could take Harry back to Hogwarts and to Madam Pomfrey. She would know what was going on, probably much better than the Muggles anyway.
Severus reached for his wand and was stopped in his tracks when the man kneeling behind Harry stayed his hand before Severus could remove the wand from his trouser pocket.
"You'll need two people to Apparate an unconscious man."
Severus stared hard into the amber eyes of Remus Lupin.
"What the fuck did you do to him?" With one hand Severus had pinned Lupin to the infirmary wall, with the other he had his wand trained at the werewolf's neck.
"I didn't do anything to Harry!" Lupin protested, his voice strained from Severus' hand tight on his throat.
"Right! So it was just a coincidence that you were there when he collapsed? I bet you planned this whole thing! You've probably been stalking him for months and today you saw him on his own and saw your chance!"
"Chance for what?"
"To rape him!" Severus snarled at him, spittle flew from his mouth to land on Lupin's cheeks.
Underneath Severus' hands, Lupin seemed to pale despite the tight grip Severus had on him.
"Rape him? Rape Harry? Severus, what are you talking about? I would never harm a hair on his head!"
Severus' righteous indignation was rapidly turning to confusion. "You didn't attack Harry?"
"No, of course not! I found him lying on the floor, just like you did."
"But the pheromones, why aren't they affecting you?"
Severus released his grip. Remus slumped against the wall and rubbed his neck, gasping for breath. There was a red mark forming where Severus' hand had held him but Severus refused to feel any guilt about it. He had only been trying to protect Harry and he wouldn't hesitate to do it again if he needed to.
"You mean Harry's new scent?"
"Yes, even Bill Weasley had trouble resisting his allure. So what makes you immune?"
"Because I think of Harry as my son, not as a potential sexual partner. It's very unusual for a werewolf to mate with their children. Harry's scent holds no attraction to me. But it did to Bill?"
"But Harry's scent would only have been attractive to werewolves if Harry didn't have a mate of his own yet. In other words if he is unclaimed he is fair game as a mate for others."
"What exactly do you mean by unclaimed?" Severus asked.
"Well, in the most basic sense, he must be a virgin, but there are other ways to claim a mate for a werewolf."
"And they are?" Severus tapped his wand impatiently across his palm.
"Being marked by the blood, semen, or urine of the claiming mate. The most effective is semen, of course. Whoever first claims Harry sexually will have the strongest claim on being his mate."
"And once that's done, no werewolf will be interested in him any longer?"
"I didn't say that. The person who first claims Harry will have the strongest bond with him, but another werewolf might decide to offer a challenge to Harry's mate in order to claim Harry for himself or herself. But Harry isn't a werewolf, so I'm not sure how any of this might play out."
"But you agree the best way to keep him safe from werewolves is for someone to have a sexual claim on him already?"
"That would be the best way, yes, but it is not a guarantee."
Severus put his wand back in his pocket; sensing now that there was no danger from Remus Lupin. But if Lupin hadn't hurt Harry at Hampton Court, then who had?
"Did you see what happened to him?" Severus asked.
"No, like you, I just saw him on the floor. It was a coincidence I was there today, Severus. I would never hurt Harry."
Both of them turned their eyes towards the bed at the far end of the room. Poppy Pomfrey was bustling to and fro. They could see her shadow through the privacy screen. Severus could make out the shape of Harry lying on the bed, but so far he didn't seem to be regaining consciousness. If he had only fainted, he should have been coming round by now. Neville Longbottom was writing down lots of things on a chart in his hand as Poppy reeled them off, although with the Silencing charm around Harry's bed, Severus didn't know what they were.
A few moments later Poppy pulled aside the curtain with a swish and made her way over to them. "Remus, you can sit with Harry for a little while. Severus, I need to see you in my office."
Lupin looked confused, no doubt wondering why Poppy Pomfrey was going to give Severus any details of Harry's health. Had Lupin been living under a rock for these past few months that he didn't know Harry was now Severus' apprentice?
Severus followed the matron into her office and sat down in the chair by her desk once she'd waved him into it.
"What's wrong with him?"
"He's had a bit of a bump on the head, that's why he lost consciousness when he fell."
"But why did he fall? It wasn't just a faint, was it?"
"No, Severus, it wasn't. Have you heard of hypokalemic periodic paralysis?"
"No. Harry's paralysed?" Severus asked in horror. "Just like that, with no warning?"
"Calm down, Severus. The condition is episodic and temporary. Harry should fully recover in a few days at the most. The condition is caused by a drop in potassium levels in the blood. I should have foreseen this. Harry's nutrient levels are very low, has he been eating properly?"
"Yes, of course. But for a long time he wasn't."
"True. This could have been caused over a period of years when he was in a near starvation state all the time and even though his eating has been getting better, it will take time for his nutrient levels to get back to normal. I will prescribe supplements for him and I want you to make doubly sure that he eats properly. You are sure he's eating enough?"
"Well, not what I would consider enough, but he seems to get full very quickly."
Poppy nodded as if she had expected that. "It's because of the enforced starvation when he was younger. His stomach has shrunk in size, so he will always have some trouble eating what you or I would consider a normal portion. What's Harry's normal eating pattern when he's with you?"
"The usual, three meals a day."
"And has he complained of being hungry between meals or anything like that? Does he eat a lot of snacks?"
"No, he eats what he can of his meals, but I've never seen him snacking."
"Well that has got to change. Since Harry can't eat big meals, and I don't think he will ever be able to, I want him to eat more frequent smaller meals or snacks. The amount he is eating now is not enough to give him the nutrition he needs. I still want him to take supplements as well and hopefully that will bring his nutrient levels up."
"You said this type of paralysis was episodic, does that mean it might happen again?"
"It is a possibility, Severus, but I don't want both of you worrying about it. Harry should be leading as normal a life as possible, not wondering if his legs are going to give out on him again. Now that we know his potassium levels are low, we can correct it and hopefully this won't happen again."
"But no guarantees?"
"I'm afraid not, Severus. Nothing is absolute."
Madam Pomfrey decided that it would be best to keep Harry in the infirmary for a few days to keep an eye on his concussion and on his nutrient levels. Harry's head ached for the first few days after he woke and he had a lump the size of an egg at the back of it. The swelling was gradually going down and three days after their trip to Hampton Court, she finally allowed him out of bed. Not that Harry could go very far in his wheelchair as there were just too many stairs at Hogwarts. The use of his legs still hadn't returned and he worried that Madam Pomfrey might have been lying to him about the nature of his paralysis. Was it really only temporary, or were they just trying to break the news gently?
Unlike the Christmas holidays at Hogwarts, over Easter most of the students had stayed, especially the fifth and seventh years who were using the time off to get some revision done. Unfortunately it also meant that lots of the students were keen to take a peek at Harry and in the end Madam Pomfrey moved him to a private suite off the hospital wing so he could at least have some semblance of privacy. He had his own bathroom. It was fitted with someone disabled in mind, with a stool for the shower, lower controls and anti-scalding charms on the water, as well as grab-bars on the walls and a lower sink. In the bedroom there was a small study area with a desk and bookshelf so at least Harry could get some of his essays and reading done, even if he wasn't brewing at the moment.
"Harry, you should rest, you don't need to keep working while you're in hospital," Severus told him.
"I know, but I need to do something," Harry said. "I'll go crazy cooped up in here otherwise. How long do you think I'll have to stay here?"
"I suppose Madam Pomfrey is waiting until you get the use of your legs back."
Harry glanced down at the wheelchair he was in and back to Severus. "What if it is permanent? I've never heard of this hypokalemia paralysis before."
"Neither had I until Poppy told me about it. But neither of us are health professionals, are we?"
"True," said Harry as he took a handful of nuts from the bowl on his desk and began munching on them. He wasn't really hungry but he knew that if Madam Pomfrey thought he wasn't eating enough he wouldn't get out of the hospital wing in the foreseeable future.
"Good to see you eating," said Severus with an approving nod. "Have you been taking your supplements as well?"
"Yes, Dr. Snape," Harry smiled and was relieved when Severus smiled with him.
"It is my job to look out for you."
"I know. Thank you, it's good to know someone does. Did you know Remus is back? He's been to visit me a few times."
"I hope you weren't seeing him alone."
"No, either Neville or Madam Pomfrey was with him. He doesn't seem as affected as Bill was though."
"No," said Severus with a disdainful sneer. "Apparently, he sees you as a son, not as a potential sexual partner."
Harry got the impression Severus didn't like that idea much.
"Severus, no one is going to take your place, not even Remus. I want to be with you, no one else. Remus might think of me as his son, but I don't think of him as my father. He's just a friend, but you are so much more than that to me." Harry reached out and took Severus' hands in his. "You are everything to me."
A/N: I am not medical, so any mistakes in diagnosing Harry with hypokalemic paralysis are my own. I got the info from here:
Part Twenty One
"Harry, breakfast is ready!" Severus called from the bottom of the stairs.
Harry stepped out of the bathroom, a toothbrush lodged in the side of his mouth, foam around his lips. He took out the toothbrush and swallowed a dollop of minty tasting saliva.
"Okay. I'll be down in a minute."
Harry went back to the bathroom to finish up and headed downstairs, still in his pyjama bottoms and a light t-shirt. It was Sunday and since neither of them had to be in the shop today, both of them usually breakfasted in their pyjamas. It had only been two days since the use of Harry's legs had returned and Madam Pomfrey had allowed him home. Harry had yet to get back to any brewing, as Severus still seemed to think he needed fussing over and hadn't allowed him anywhere near the laboratory yet. Harry missed it though. He'd caught up a lot on his reading and written work, but his hands were almost aching to hold a stirring rod or a chopping knife again.
Harry bounded down the stairs two at a time, a broad smile on his face that he could actually walk down the stairs again. Madam Pomfrey had warned him that it might happen again, but that he should carry on with his activities as much as normal and try not to think about it. Harry hadn't known that a lack of nutrients could cause so many different things to go wrong with the body. Maybe they could brew a better nutrient potion to help people like him. His mind was running off on lots of different tracks as he entered the kitchen and sat down on the chair opposite Severus.
Severus was hidden behind the paper and Harry saw the glaring headline on the front page of the Daily Prophet: Harry Potter's Mysterious Malady. The letters flickered through black, gold and silver, as if to make sure that people would notice them. How could they not? The headline was ten times the usual size, even for the front page and there was no story text at all - just a photo of Harry while he'd been a student and a small block of text inviting readers to find the story on pages 3-12. Harry sighed and slumped in his chair. Was it too much to hope for that he would ever have a private life? As in one that was completely private.
Then he looked down at the breakfast Severus had laid out for him and broke into an enormous grin. There, on top of Harry's porridge, Severus had chopped bananas into slices and arranged them in the shape of a smiley face. It was hard to still feel upset after seeing those.
"Thank you, Severus," Harry said sincerely. It was so sweet of Severus to do something like that for him, but Harry knew the man didn't really want that sort of thing acknowledged.
"Hmph," Severus grunted gruffly from behind his paper and didn't bother looking Harry in the eye, but Harry was sure that Severus knew his gesture was appreciated.
"Severus, I'm fine now, I don't need a stool," Harry said later that morning when they'd both headed off to the lab.
"If you want to do any brewing today, yes, you do," Severus replied firmly, before yanking Harry by the waist and bodily settling him on the stool. Harry's mouth opened in a gasp of surprise at being so manhandled and also at the shiver of desire that thrummed through his body at the touch of his Master's hands holding him in such a possessive way. "Stay there, I will get your ingredients."
Harry watched, bemused, as Severus strode to the store cupboard to gather up all of the equipment Harry would need today: the pewter cauldron; one knife each of bronze and silver; a glass stirring rod; brass scales and of course all the herbs and other ingredients he would need in order to make Calming Draught, the next potion on Harry's list.
Severus set everything down at Harry's workstation. Glancing at the stool he cast a spell on it so that it was slightly higher. Harry almost toppled from his perch as the stool enlarged with him still on it; he reached out to take hold of his workstation but Severus had his arms around Harry's waist again so that he wouldn't fall. Severus was behind him, his breath a soft caress on Harry's neck and Harry shivered again.
Merlin, how was he supposed to concentrate on brewing anything now? It seemed a long time before Severus removed his hands, as if he was as loath to remove them as Harry was keen to keep them there. Finally Severus moved over to his own workstation and began preparing his own ingredients.
Harry took a few deep breaths trying to will his erection away. It worked up to a point but that other arousal, the one deep inside, was not diminishing in the least and Harry could feel himself growing wet between his legs. His face was flushed and his breathing was ragged as the memory of Severus' strong hands around his waist refused to leave him. It led to other thoughts, other imaginings and other fantasies: Severus' hands on his bare skin; Severus' hands cupping his face as he kissed him (a kiss they had yet to have in real life, but Harry had imagined it so often it had the thrill of memory in his mind now); Severus' hands caressing his chest, stroking and pinching his nipples. Harry bit his lip to stifle a groan as desire flared even stronger within him.
Shaking his head, Harry lifted up the bronze knife and started dicing his dandelion roots into similar-sized cubes. After a while, he got so engrossed in his work that his arousal did go away and he was no longer distracted enough that he might accidentally cut off a finger.
"Harry," Severus said sharply, as if he'd been calling Harry's name for some time and Harry hadn't heard him. Harry hadn't.
"Sorry, I didn't hear you the first time."
Severus smiled. "It gets to you, doesn't it? The work?"
Harry nodded; glad they shared something like this.
"Have you given any thought to what you'd like to specialise in? I take it you aren't interested in teaching?"
"God, no!" Harry laughed. "Can you imagine it? I'd never get a moment's peace! All the students would want to know is how I defeated him. They wouldn't be interested in learning Potions from me. No, I'd like to specialise in medical potions, that's where my interests lie I think."
"An excellent choice," said Severus, nodding his head. "You seem to have a knack for Potions, Harry, but it was never obvious in class at Hogwarts."
Harry shrugged, not wanting to get into how badly Severus had treated him there. He understood why Severus had had to behave that way, but it didn't make the hurt go away, not completely. To be made to feel as worthless as the Dursleys had always said he was... that had stung, far more than any detention or lost points ever had.
"Anyway," Severus continued. "I need some of your saliva for my potion."
"Virgin saliva?" Harry waggled his eyebrows suggestively, making the corners of Severus' mouth quirk.
"Indeed, and since you are the only virgin in the vicinity..."
"You only want me for my body parts."
"True. Such nice body parts they are too."
Harry blushed and almost fell from his stool again. "Do I need to spit into a cup or something?"
"Nothing so uncouth." Severus conjured something that looked like a cotton bud for cleaning out ears, but was slightly larger. Severus tugged Harry's seat around so that Harry was sitting sideways to his workstation, and then leaned down so that he was almost level with Harry and cupped Harry's chin in his empty hand. "Open wide."
Harry opened his mouth, realising even as he did so, that his nervousness and excitement meant that there was actually a lot of saliva in his mouth now. Severus swiped the cotton swab around the hollow where Harry's cheeks met his teeth, where a lot of saliva had gathered. Harry was staring deep into Severus' eyes as his Master continued to gather as much as he could.
Severus removed the swab and set it carefully on Harry's workstation before casting a containment spell on it and both their cauldrons. In all this time, Severus still hadn't removed his hand from Harry's chin. Now those tapered fingers were no longer just holding him, they were caressing his skin, stroking along his chin and up to his cheeks and fanning Harry's earlier arousal back to full flame. Harry couldn't stop the moan this time. "Severus..." he pleaded on a whimper as his own hands wound themselves in Severus' hair.
Severus didn't deny him this time. They both stared hard at each other before their mouths moved as one, seeking the other out. The first press of Severus' lips was so soft, as if a butterfly had landed to flutter on Harry's mouth and Harry opened wide, seeking more... more... more. His hands tightened in Severus' hair as Severus' arms wrapped around his waist and held him tight to his body. Given Harry's precarious position on the stool it was a natural instinct for him to wrap his legs around Severus' torso and hang on for dear life. Severus was teasing him, torturing him with soft brushes of his lips, then backing away and diving back in for another taste as if his lips were indeed a butterfly and Harry's mouth was a flower filled with nectar.
"Please!" Harry whimpered and arched his body against Severus'. Oh, God! He was going to come if Severus kept this up much longer. The teasing was exquisite agony. Severus pressed his lips hard against Harry's, nipping, biting and then Severus' hands were underneath his arse, lifting him off the stool and Harry was aware of being carried up against the wall of the lab, away from volatile ingredients and potions. Severus was so strong! He was bearing most of Harry's weight, although some was being supported by the wall behind them. Severus was frantic now; kissing him desperately, their moans of combined passion making Harry feel light-headed. Harry was bucking in his Master's arms, writhing and wriggling as if he couldn't get close enough. He wanted to feel skin on skin but knew he was too far on the road of no return to even attempt to get his clothes off.
Harry arched up in the final ecstasy, sucking on Severus tongue as the orgasm was pulled from his cock in pulses of pure bliss, shudders wracking his whole frame as he clung to Severus. Before his cock had finished pulsing he felt that deeper pull too. He squeezed his legs hard around Severus as his second climax rocked him and the whole room whited out for a moment or two. Harry could feel wetness seep through his clothes, but wasn't sure whether it was from him or from Severus. Harry pulled his mouth away and hid his head on Severus' neck. "I'm sorry," he mumbled to Severus' hair.
"Whatever for?" Severus shifted Harry's weight, but he didn't set him down on the floor.
"I didn't mean to come. You must be so disappointed in me."
"Disappointed?" Severus placed a soft kiss in Harry's hair. "Harry, seeing you so passionate and lost to pleasure was wonderful. It was not a disappointment, I assure you."
"But my apprentice contract... we're not supposed to have sex. I'm supposed to be a virgin."
Severus laughed. "My dear Harry, we never even took our clothes off! You are very much still a virgin. Being a virgin doesn't mean we can't enjoy other things. Lips and tongues, hands and teeth."
"Oh, God," Harry moaned, his quickening erection pressing against the front of his sticky trousers. "So – so we can still kiss and – and we can come?"
"Oh, yes, Harry. I intend to make sure you come. Very often."
"You're going to kill me!" Harry groaned.
"Just a little death, Harry. Just a little one."
Part Twenty Two
Severus wasn't at all surprised when there was a tentative knock on his bedroom door later that night. It was after midnight, but Severus hadn't been to sleep yet. He was reading over some of Harry's essays and sorting through which textbooks and practicals they should be going for next. Harry was going through the work so quickly that it astounded Severus and he had been no slouch when he'd been an apprentice himself. "Come in," Severus said, setting aside his notes as he waited for his apprentice to enter his bedroom.
Harry stood in the doorway, as if unsure of his welcome.
"Nightmares?" Severus asked softly; hoping against hope that he hadn't pushed things too far and put Harry's recovery back even further. Harry had seemed very enthusiastic though and he hadn't once tried to stop things, but maybe Severus had wanted it to happen too much to have read the signs. Maybe he hadn't given Harry the chance to call a stop, even if he had wanted to.
Harry blushed and shuffled further into the room. "No. Um, not nightmares," Harry admitted.
Now that he looked closer, Severus could see the erection tenting the front of Harry's pyjama bottoms.
"I used that Daydream the twins gave me that day, remember?"
Severus nodded. "Oh? And what did your hidden desires reveal?" Severus patted the bedclothes beside him. As soon as he did so, Harry grinned and bounded onto the bed like an eager puppy... a puppy with a wild head of hair and jade green eyes that almost seemed to glow in the dimly-lit room. Severus felt his chest constrict as he stared at the young man beside him. Surely this was a dream? He couldn't really be one of the luckiest sods on the planet.
"That's just it. It was weird," Harry said, chewing on his thumbnail. Severus removed Harry's thumb and sucked it into his own mouth, sucking gently to soothe the hurt. "Oh God! Um... where was I?"
Severus let the thumb go and stared deeply at Harry. "Your dream?"
"Oh. Right. Yes. So, can I ask you something?"
Harry shifted restlessly on top of the covers. Severus could see the tent in his cotton trousers growing larger by the second. Whatever the dream was, it had left him aroused – so aroused that he'd sought out Severus to help him with it. "Go ahead."
"Do some people like to be hurt? You know, for that?" Harry waved a hand to encompass both of them.
"Do you mean for sex? You are allowed to say it, Harry. It's not a dirty word. You're an adult so you're allowed to discuss adult things."
Harry seemed to come to a decision then, as if he'd been having an inner argument with himself. Severus could almost guess with whom: the ghosts of the Dursleys. They were probably the sort of people who thought sex and anything to do with it was dirty, but yet felt no qualms about starving and abusing a child in their care.
"Yes, you're right. I mean do some people like to be hurt for sex?"
"They do. Some pain can be erotic, Harry. A light spanking for example; the heat on tender skin can help augment arousal to some extent."
Harry's blush deepened to purple and his hips couldn't seem to stay still. "Yeah. That. The dream. You were spanking me in the dream and I liked it. But I never felt aroused when the Dursleys hit me."
"Harry, the Dursleys abused you. There is a world of difference between being hit with a belt or broom handle and a spanking for erotic play. Haven't you ever hurt yourself a little when you've been alone? Pinched your nipples, for example? And how much firmer you can pinch when you're aroused?" Severus' own hips seemed to be moving of their own accord as well. The bedcover above him was tenting with his erection.
"Yesss," Harry hissed on a moan. "You want to do it, don't you? Spank me?"
Harry was breathless, his chest heaving and his nipples erect beneath his t-shirt.
"Do you want me to spank you?" Severus asked, his own voice sounding quite hoarse with arousal. It wouldn't be the first time he'd spanked a lover – and done plenty of other things besides, but he didn't think Harry was quite ready to hear about some of those escapades quite yet. "I'm not going to do anything to you that you don't want. If you tell me to stop, we will stop, it doesn't matter what we were doing."
"You promise?" Harry nibbled nervously on his bottom lip.
"I promise, Harry. So what's it to be? Would you like to try spanking or not? We don't have to do it tonight; it's something we can explore later if you like."
Harry shook his head and then broke into a small grin. "I've been a very naughty boy, Master Snape."
Severus' breath hitched on hearing his title spoken in such a sensuous voice. "Have you now?"
"Yes, sir," Harry replied breathily, his chest rising and falling rapidly.
Severus never would have guessed Harry would have been into role-play, but then what did he really know about Harry's love-life before except for the fact that he was a virgin? Maybe his daydreams or fantasies had always been something like this, but who would Harry have told? Being not just a virgin, but quite an innocent one, Severus guessed Harry hadn't told his previous girlfriends anything about spanking or anything of that nature. It was pretty obvious that Harry had been very inexperienced during their first kiss when Harry had got so carried away.
"So what did you do that was so naughty?" Severus smiled back at him; enjoying the game.
"I spilt armadillo bile all over the storeroom floor. The expensive bottles; the ones from Peru."
"How many bottles did you waste?" Severus asked mock-sternly.
"Six bottles, sir." Harry looked down at his hands; his eyelids shading the green of his eyes.
"Six bottles? You know what that means, don't you? Six swats of my hand for ruining such expensive ingredients. It might remind you to take better care of my ingredients in future!"
"Strip and then get over my lap," Severus commanded in a rough voice. Never mind if Harry was going to last long enough for six smacks; Severus was on the verge of erupting already and Harry hadn't even touched him! Just the thought of him over Severus' lap, writhing in pain and pleasure...
Harry stood up from the bed and yanked his t-shirt over his head eagerly enough, but his hands paused by the waistband of his pyjama bottoms. Severus knew what was bothering him: the fact that he looked different now. Maybe they did need to draw things back a little until Harry felt more comfortable with someone else looking at his changed body. Madam Pomfrey hardly counted. "Leave those, just lie across my lap, Harry."
Severus pulled down the covers and stretched his legs out flat on the bed. Harry nodded and clambered back over him so that he was lying face down across Severus' lap; his delectable, pyjama-clad arse in perfect reach of Severus' hands. Severus caressed the stripes of Harry's pyjamas and wondered what the skin underneath would feel like.
"Um," Harry angled his head around so he could look at Severus. "Um – you can pull them down a bit if you want. Just don't look at my front, okay?"
"Very well, Harry." Severus tugged the pyjamas down so that they rested beneath the swell of Harry's buttocks, on his upper thighs, the arse in view. And what a view it was! Two perfect ripe peach-halves that fitted delightfully into his hands as he squeezed and stroked, unable to resist mapping their contours. Beneath him, Harry was squirming and moaning and Severus could feel a damp trail of precome along his own lap.
"Brace yourself," Severus warned as he raised his right hand ready to come back down again for the first of Harry's punishments. Harry's fingers scrabbled for the sheets; gripping them in white-knuckled hands. "Count them."
Smack! Severus reined the first one in, for he truly had no wish to hurt Harry but educate him to the fact that a little pain could indeed be very pleasurable.
"O-one!" Harry gasped out, his hands tightening further on the sheets, the warbled cry hardening Severus' cock even further. Severus' hand came down again, a rash of red appearing on Harry's arse as he did so.
"T-t-two!" Harry cried and arched upwards.
Severus' hand came down again and again, but Harry didn't make it to six. By the fourth slap he was bucking wildly and spilling himself in wet heat against Severus' lap. Severus pressed a hand to Harry's back and kept him in place as his own hips arched upwards and he felt the warning signs of his own impending orgasm: a tingle and fullness in his balls and cock. "Mine!" Severus cried as the first pulses left his cock, his hold on Harry tightening.
"Yours, Master. Only ever yours," Harry said softly as he continued to rock against Severus.
Harry's erection was long gone and Severus belatedly realised that just because Harry had come one way, it didn't necessarily mean he was entirely sated yet.
"You're still aroused, aren't you?" Severus whispered in Harry's ear, his voice deep and husky.
"I'm okay. It'll go away in a minute." Harry knelt up on the bed, facing away from Severus and tugging his pyjama bottoms back up. "I know you won't want to touch me like that."
"Whatever gave you that impression?" Severus asked, genuinely curious.
"Well, you're gay, aren't you? You wouldn't want to touch girly bits, would you?"
"True, I haven't touched any girly bits before, as you put it, but I'm in love with you, Harry. I want to do whatever makes you happy. If you'd like me to touch you there, I would find great pleasure in it."
"You're in love with me?" Harry turned back around, two spots of colour high on his cheeks. "And you – you wouldn't mind touching me... you know... there? It wouldn't be disgusting?"
"Harry, nothing about you is disgusting. No part of your body is disgusting. I would love to pleasure you like that, but only if you want me to. Nothing you don't want, all right?"
Harry nodded, but made no move to remove his pyjama bottoms again. "Maybe one day, but not tonight."
"That's fine, Harry. Would you like to stay here tonight?" Severus cast cleaning charms over both of them before the sticky mess became dried on. A shower would have been good, but he was feeling too languid for one now. The morning would have to do.
"Please!" Harry bounded back into the bed, all smiles again. Severus opened his arms and Harry scooted across the bed, leaning his head on Severus' chest. It was as if he was made to be there. Severus rested his chin on Harry's head and caressed his back.
"Don't forget we have to go shopping for Ron and Hermione's engagement present on Wednesday," Harry mumbled sleepily. "You didn't forget about their party, did you?"
"No, Harry. I've kept Saturday night free."
"Thanks for coming with me," Harry said as he drifted off to sleep.
Severus lay awake for a while longer. Harry thought he was just being a considerate lover, when in reality Severus didn't want Harry anywhere alone with Bill Weasley ever again.
"Nox," he whispered and the room went dark.
Part Twenty Three
Harry couldn't seem to help angling his head up for a kiss as they Apparated on a small hill overlooking the Burrow. The lights of the Weasley homestead flickered in the evening twilight as Severus bent his own head – for truth be told, he too wanted the kiss. Ever since that first kiss in the lab it was if they were addicted to each other's mouths. It was as if an invisible string joined them and tugged each other back if they ventured too far away from each other.
Harry had all but moved into Severus' bedroom now. The past week had been a feast of discovery for both of them, but some of Harry's body still remained uncharted territory. He wasn't yet comfortable with being completely naked with Severus, but Severus was a patient man. They could still enjoy other things that didn't involve complete nudity, and Harry was eager and responsive to all of them. Severus had never taken such a young lover before, but the age difference was not so great when you considered how long wizards lived compared to Muggles.
Severus continued kissing Harry until they were rudely interrupted.
"How touching," sneered a cold voice. Severus' arms instinctively held Harry tighter to his chest to protect him, at the same time summoning a wandless and silent Shield Charm to envelop both of them. "So distrustful, still, Severus? How very like you."
Severus turned to see the haggard and ragged form of Fenrir Greyback. The werewolf's hair was white now, but so completely matted with filth that it was hard to tell. The hem of his leather coat was so mud-splattered and torn that it was difficult to discern what colour it had once been. Underneath the coat he was shirtless, his chest covered in dark grey hairs and scars too numerous to count. His trousers and boots were also filthy, as if he had been living rough for some time. Severus knew no one in their right mind would have given this vicious werewolf a job.
"What do you want, Greyback?" Severus growled in reply. In the circle of his arms, Severus felt Harry stiffen in fear. They should have Apparated straight to the Burrow and its extensive wards rather than take the walk that would have been so romantic. Greyback didn't care for romance, that much was for sure.
"You know what I want, Snape. My mate. Hand him over."
"Your mate?" Harry laughed hollowly. "I belong to Severus Snape."
"Such naivety. You have not yet been claimed by him. You belong to me!"
"I do not!" Harry retorted with a cry so shrill that the Shield around them rippled with it.
"You were promised to me!"
"Lucius Malfoy is in prison," snapped Harry and Severus could feel the tension in the boy's shoulders. "His promises mean nothing!"
"Oh, yes, it was Lucius who was going to hand you over eventually, but it was my Master who promised you to me, boy! I will tear you to shreds!"
"I am not your boy!"
"You will fight me for him," Greyback said, twirling his wand and apparently paying no attention to Harry's outbursts. "Tomorrow."
"At dawn I suppose?" Severus feigned boredom. "How tedious. You know I will win."
"Well, we'll see tomorrow, won't we? At the Dancing Maidens."
Severus nodded his acceptance, his heart only keeping its steady beat by sheer force of will. He didn't relax until Greyback had Apparated away.
"What did you just agree to?" Harry demanded, stepping out of Severus' embrace and disrupting the shield as he did so.
"It's the only way to stop him haranguing you. We will duel for you."
"A duel? You agreed to duel a werewolf? You do know he'll cheat, don't you? It won't be an honourable fight?"
"I wasn't in Slytherin for nothing, Harry. I will win. It's only two days since the last full moon. He will be weak from the change and won't be back to his full strength. Greyback always thought his wolf strength would be all he'd ever need; he never bothered to study magic properly. I will best him a wizard's duel, Harry. I promise."
"Good," said Harry. "Good."
Severus wrapped Harry in his arms and Apparated them straight to the Burrow and the engagement party. Almost as soon as they arrived Harry was occupied with greeting his friends. Hermione Granger was showing off the small diamond engagement ring with a proud smile, while Fleur Delacour was dressed in something that would have looked more suitable for a nightclub rather than a family party. It was a slinky, silver affair with no sleeves and cut so low at the front that it almost stopped at her navel. Two splits at either side revealed her long, pale legs up to the thigh.
Hermione kept giving Fleur scathing glances and Severus could hardly blame her – it seemed that Fleur had to be the centre of attention no matter what the occasion. Hermione herself was dressed conservatively in a peacock blue robe, her hair swept up in ringlets rather then the bushy hair he was used to seeing. Ron was holding onto her arm and steering Hermione round the room to all the guests. Quite a few of them must have been Weasley relatives judging by the amount of redheads in the crowd.
Neville Longbottom was dressed in his apprentice dress robes, as was Harry, they being the only apprentices in attendance tonight. Bill Weasley took Fleur's arm and steered her towards the buffet table, where they seemed deep in argument about something, probably Fleur's attempts to upstage the bride-to-be. Remus Lupin was talking with Minerva, both of them holding champagne glasses.
"Harry, I need to talk with Remus Lupin and Bill Weasley. I will be back in a moment."
Harry nodded and turned to talk to Longbottom and the Weasley twins. Severus debated whether or not he should leave Harry alone with those mischief-makers, but knew he had to talk to the only two people in the room who shared the werewolf curse. Severus hadn't told Harry everything.
He and Greyback would duel, yes, but it wouldn't be a wizard's duel. As Greyback had claimed Harry for his mate, it had to be a werewolf duel and there could only be one outcome. One of them would die.
"It's a lovely ring, Hermione," said Harry as he held Hermione's hand in his and studied the diamond in question.
"Thanks, Harry. Ron must have saved up for ages to get it. I just wish he wasn't spending half the night ogling her." Hermione jerked her head towards the buffet table where Fleur was standing, a crowd of men around her offering drinks and food and Ron was indeed one of them. Bill was nowhere to be found, he must still be with Severus, but Harry didn't think the man would be too pleased at they way the other men seemed attracted to his fiancée. "She'll ruin the whole night."
"I don't think she will," said Harry, trying to reassure his friend.
"That's right, defend her! Just like a typical man!"
Harry flushed, he wasn't sure whether it was from embarrassment or anger. "Oh, Harry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"I know what you meant," said Harry and he wandered off to find Neville or someone else he could talk to until Severus came back. He wasn't sure he'd be able to keep his tongue around Hermione for much longer if she kept going on about things. What did Severus need to talk to Bill and Remus for anyway? Why couldn't Harry have been there too? It was him they were bound to be discussing, wasn't it? Him and Greyback's so-called claim on him. Harry shuddered, although it was quite warm in the Weasleys' large kitchen.
Harry couldn't find Neville in the crush of guests. Harry was too short to see over people's heads, so perhaps he just couldn't see him or maybe Neville had taken advantage of the balmy evening and taken Luna out for a walk in the orchard. Harry hid a sigh and sat down on one of the sofas dotted about the room, a plate of party nibbles in front of him. Someone poured him a glass of champagne. Harry didn't see who, but he just caught a glimpse of red hair melting away into the crowd. He took a sip, but didn't really like the taste, so he set the glass back down and instead absently ate a few of the Cauldron Cakes and Pumpkin Pasties that were arranged on the plates in front of him. He hardly tasted anything though, too worried about what Severus and the others were discussing, not to mention the duel at dawn.
Harry had no idea how long Severus was gone. The Weasleys' kitchen clock didn't tell the time: the hands were all pointing at Party and had been in that same position ever since they'd arrived. It could have been ten minutes; it could have been hours. Without a watch of his own there was no way of telling.
"So, what's going on?" Ginny asked as she plopped down into a chair next to him.
"What do you mean?"
"Snape, Bill and Remus all left rather suddenly, didn't they?" Ginny fanned her hands out, looking at her nails.
"They left? When?"
"Almost as soon as you two got here."
"Did they say where they were going?" Harry stood up, frantically searching for Ron in the crowd.
"Nope, but they did say they wanted to wait there all night, just to be ready. You do know something, don't you?" Ginny accused him.
"I have to talk to Ron and Hermione," said Harry, pushing past her as he saw them bickering in a corner. They stopped as soon as they saw Harry and plastered smiles on their faces.
"Do either of you know where the Dancing Maidens are?" Harry asked them.
"They're a few miles away," said Ron. "It's a circle of standing stones."
"Can you take me there? Tonight?"
"Harry, mate, what's going on?"
"Greyback challenged Severus to a duel there. Over me. I have to be there!"
"Shit!" Ron exclaimed in a loud voice, earning him a disgusted look from an elderly aunt.
"Aren't duels traditionally held at dawn?" asked Hermione.
"I don't think Greyback cares about the finer points of etiquette, Hermione. If Severus has gone to the Dancing Maidens now, there's only one reason for that. He knows Greyback will cheat and will be there tonight, probably trying to sabotage the stones themselves or something. Please, we have to go!" Harry's voice was rapidly rising towards hysteria. He'd seen some of Greyback's victims during the war: their bodies savaged and mutilated, with blood everywhere. He couldn't let that happen to Severus. He couldn't.
Hermione and Ron both nodded. "You slip out first, Harry. We'll follow in a minute."
"Right." Harry opened the back door and stepped out into the night, his heart frozen in his chest.
Severus would be fine. He would be fine.
Anything else didn't bear thinking about.
Part Twenty Four
Ron had to hold on to both Hermione and Harry as he was the only one who knew the way to the Dancing Maidens. Harry took a deep breath as the nausea was starting even before the strange squeeze of Apparation. Stumbling in an ungainly sprawl of limbs as they arrived, Harry was quick to note that both Ron and Hermione had kept their feet. Harry's head was spinning, his stomach roiled and no matter how much he didn't want to be so undignified in front of his friends, it was a fruitless task. He threw up over the grass, his throat and abdomen aching with the effort. He cut the palm of his hand on a sharp stone near to where he was kneeling, but as there wasn't that much blood, Harry didn't think too much more about it. It stung a little, but he'd felt worse.
"Merlin, Harry!" exclaimed Ron. "You still get travel sick? I thought you'd grow out of that."
"Are you all right?" Hermione knelt down on the grass beside him after she'd Banished the vomit with a wave of her wand and handed Harry a clean handkerchief.
"Yeah, I'll be okay in a minute. I hate Apparating." Harry wiped his mouth but didn't offer Hermione the handkerchief back; he knew she wouldn't want it with his vomit all over it – not until it had been cleaned properly, anyway. Cleaning charms just weren't that effective on blood and vomit.
"It was the quickest way to get here," said Ron, his gaze wandering up the hill to the ring of stones standing at the top of it. The night was cloudy, so there was very little light from the moon at all, but up on the hill there were three floating orbs of light that illuminated the scene very well.
Harry pushed himself to his feet with a little help from Ron and all three of them ran up the hill. Ron and Hermione skidded to a halt at a gap in the stones, but Harry's feet propelled him forward in response to what he'd seen: three figures; two standing and one lying prone on the ground. Remus and Bill were the two figures who were standing, and the black-robed figure on the ground must be... "SEVERUS!" Harry roared as he sank down next to him.
Severus' robes were torn like flaps of canvas ripped from a painting and there were bloody welts all over his arms and legs. His left arm looked as if it had been painted crimson: blood covered him from elbow to fingers. A few yards away from Severus lay the still form of Fenrir Greyback. The very still form.
"Is he dead?" Harry asked of no one in particular.
Remus and Bill both nodded. "The Aurors should be here shortly to deal with the body," Bill told him.
Harry turned his attention back to Severus, trying to discern where he was hurt and why there was so much blood.
"I'm fine, Harry. It's just a few scratches," said Severus as he struggled to sit up.
"He didn't bite you?" Harry asked, his gaze lingering on Bill and Remus.
"No. It was just spells. He never got a chance to bite me."
Harry reached out his hand to help Severus up. As they touched, a blue glow settled around their joined hands and a warmth spread throughout Harry's body.
"Harry, no!" Remus screamed and yanked Harry away from Severus, pulling Harry's hand towards his. "You're bleeding!"
Harry shrugged out of Remus' grasp. "What the hell are you doing?"
"It was a werewolf duel, Harry," explained Bill. "As you're the contested mate, if you share blood with either of the combatants, it will mean you choose them as your mate." Harry looked from Bill to Remus again in the light of their wands. His hand was still glowing blue and there was a small smear of blood on his palm from his earlier cut.
Harry placed both of his hands over a cut on Severus' arm before Bill or Remus had a chance to pull him back and pressed his wound to Severus'. The blue glow grew and grew until it enveloped both of them and on until it encompassed the entire Dancing Maidens, lighting up the site as bright as noon. Wind began to ripple around them, increasing in intensity. Fallen leaves, loose grass, dirt and stones began to rise in a whirlwind around Severus and Harry. The others faded from sight in the strength of the blue glow.
"I choose you, Severus. I choose you," Harry gasped before he fell to the floor in a dead faint.
When Harry came to he was lying on Ron's bed and one of the Quidditch players from a Chudley Cannons poster was winking at him from the ceiling and stroking his broom handle in what could only be described as a suggestive manner. Harry wondered if he'd hit his head harder than he'd thought if he was seeing things like that.
Outside the bedroom he could hear the sound of low, hissed voices raised in argument.
"You're awake," said Neville from the side of Ron's bed.
Ron and Hermione were nowhere in sight; Harry wondered if some of the voices outside belonged to those two, but none sounded female.
"How are you feeling now?" Neville lifted Harry's wrist to check his pulse and scanned him with his wand.
"I'm fine," said Harry as he made to get out of bed and quickly realised he was still feeling rather lightheaded. Neville clucked his tongue, for all the world sounding like Madam Pomfrey, and Harry had to stifle a giggle.
"You should rest for a bit more."
Harry nodded and shuffled a bit so that he was at least sitting up rather than lying down.
"Where's Se- Master Snape?" Harry asked, remembering in time that he was supposed to address him as Master Snape in public.
"Arguing with Bill Weasley and Professor Lupin about you."
Harry gaped at his friend and this time insisted on getting up, no matter how dizzy he might still be feeling. Harry opened the bedroom door to find Bill, Remus and Severus all shouting at each other on the landing of the next floor down. Harry marched down the stairs and put himself between Remus and Severus, both of whom had their wands pointing at each other.
"That's enough!" Harry shouted, glaring at each of the three men in turn.
"Harry, you don't know what you've done!" Remus protested. "By sharing your blood with Severus, you have now become his mate. You can never be anyone else, ever."
"I know that, Remus. Didn't you hear me? I chose Severus as my mate; I don't want to be with anyone else."
"You want to be with Severus?" Remus sounded lost and Harry couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for him. All the Marauders were gone now and Harry was the last link to them. And for Harry to fall in love with one of his schooldays enemies... well, it was no wonder Remus felt lost. But Harry couldn't live his life for other people; he'd done that, been there and lost the t-shirt long ago. No one else had any say in what Harry chose to do now. They couldn't stop him being with Severus if that's what they both wanted.
"Harry, we can get your apprentice contract revoked if there has been an abuse of it," Bill chimed in.
"Can we take this somewhere a bit more private?" Harry asked. He didn't really feel like discussing his personal life on the Weasleys' landing. Bill nodded and led all of them back to his own childhood bedroom. Harry noticed too that Bill didn't seem to be having much trouble being around him now either; he didn't have that strange gleam in his eye anymore when he looked at Harry.
Bill seemed to sense Harry's confusion. "I don't find you attractive anymore, Harry. Your scent has changed. You belong to Severus now."
Bill sat down on the edge of his bed; Remus took Charlie's and Severus sat down on a desk chair, leaving Harry standing in the middle of the room feeling like he was on stage and needed to give the performance of his life.
"I do," Harry agreed. "I belong to him. I am an adult, so is Severus. We are in love, and there hasn't been any abuse or coercion or anything like that! We just want to be together because we love each other! Why is that so difficult for people to understand?"
"Harry, Ron told me that you don't have the traditional contract and that you agreed to remain a virgin for five years."
"That's right, Remus." Harry willed himself not to blush, but it happened anyway.
"And how is this any of your business, Lupin?" Severus asked, his eyes searching out Harry's.
"I'm only looking out for Harry's best interests. Now that he's claimed you as a wolf mate, Severus, remaining a virgin is going to be a very big problem. Harry will soon feel a strong sexual pull toward you and the longer it is denied, the worse it will feel. He could die if the bond isn't consummated."
"But it's a magically binding contract," said Harry. "We can't break it, can we?"
Severus shook his head. "No, but we can supersede it with an even more formal one."
"What do you mean?"
Severus sank to his knees and looked up at Harry. "Harry James Potter, will you do me the honour of becoming my husband?"
Part Twenty Five
If Harry had ever given a marriage proposal any thought, he never would have considered that it would take place in Bill Weasley's bedroom with both Bill and Remus there to witness it. For a start, he'd always imagined that he would be the one doing the proposing. Misty images of Ginny and Cho lingered in his mind for a moment. In the past Harry had thought of candle-lit dinners, romantic walks and even a picnic, but this scenario had never entered his head.
Harry realised all three of the other men were staring at him and waiting for an answer. "Um, could you give us some privacy?" Harry asked.
"Oh. Right. Sorry," said Remus as he and Bill vacated the room. Harry sank down onto Bill's bed, his legs suddenly very unsteady. Severus almost jumped out of his chair in his haste to make sure that Harry was all right. Severus sat down beside Harry and hugged him close, not looking at him.
"Harry? It's too soon, isn't it? I shouldn't have asked," Severus said despondently.
"No, it's not that," Harry was quick to reassure him. "My answer is yes, Severus. I want to marry you. It was just a bit of a shock. I wasn't expecting that tonight."
"I wasn't expecting to propose tonight either," Severus added. "I was going to ask you on your birthday."
"You were? So you were thinking about this already?" Harry hadn't been thinking ahead that far; he knew he wanted to be with Severus; he wanted them to become closer but marriage had seemed a long way off in the future. Oh, he had daydreamed about it occasionally, but it was never anything concrete and he certainly didn't expect either of them to propose so soon. They hadn't even been together a year yet! The funny thing was, it didn't feel too soon. It seemed natural that they should get married.
"Yes, I was. I want to spend the rest of our lives together, Harry. I take it you hadn't been considering marriage?"
"Not yet, no," Harry admitted. "This – us – it's still so new, I didn't want to do anything that might jeopardise it. I do love you, Severus and I'd love to marry you."
"Good." And Severus leaned down and kissed Harry softly on the lips.
Harry pulled away first. Marriage was all well and good, but he was a bit worried about Remus' announcement that he would feel a sexual pull towards Severus unless the bond was consummated. And what counted as consummation for Harry? Would they have to have sex every way for it to work? And what about his apprenticeship? Could he still study under Severus if he was married to him?
"I can see your brain working," Severus said with a small smile. "What's worrying you?"
"A bit of everything."
"Would I still be allowed to be your apprentice if we're married?"
"Of course, your exams are taken at the Ministry of Magic, I just teach you. If you become a Potions Master it will be on your own merits, not because you were married to me."
"But being married to a Potions Master would probably help." Harry grinned cheekily up at his future husband.
"Indeed. What else?"
"The sex. The consummation," Harry admitted.
"Harry, we can take it as slowly as you wish; I think Lupin has perhaps exaggerated the sexual compulsion you will feel because he was worried about you. I think as long as your body knows that you will feel like consummating the bond in the near future, you will be fine. You'll know when you are ready for more. We can get married, but the consummation doesn't have to be on the wedding night. We can take our time, Harry. We'll have a lifetime together."
"I'm still a bit embarrassed, you know? In my head, I know I shouldn't be. I still feel so different and I'm worried that you won't like that part of my body at all."
Severus stroked Harry's back and the nape of his neck, making Harry shiver. "Harry, I love you. I don't dislike any part of you, even the parts I haven't seen yet. I know it will take you awhile to get used to having someone else touching you there, but everyone is embarrassed at first when they first make love. It gets easier, I promise."
"Thanks, Severus. I'm just being silly, aren't I?"
"Nonsense, you just have fears and doubts like everyone else on the planet, but talking to me about them is a good start, isn't it?"
Harry nodded. "Have you thought about having children?"
"Not until I'd fallen in love with you, no. I don't think we should rush into that quite yet, Harry, but it's certainly something we can both think about."
"I'd love to have your baby, Severus."
"As long as he doesn't inherit the Snape nose!"
Harry laughed and felt the tension drain from his shoulders; he hadn't even been aware of it until it was gone. "I suppose we'd better get back to the others. Hermione won't be happy."
"Why not? Does she disapprove of your choice?"
"No, but it's their engagement party and I have a feeling your proposal will make her feel like she was being upstaged. You saw how she was with Fleur."
"With good reason." Severus snorted. "That dress was not really appropriate for a family gathering."
"Severus, I didn't realise you were such a prude!" Harry giggled again.
"I am not a prude; I just think there is a time and a place for everything. There would be nothing wrong with her dress at a nightclub, for example."
"Um, Severus, you don't – you don't want me to dress up in women's clothes, do you?"
"If I did, it would only be because I could then take them off you... very slowly," Severus waggled his eyebrows, making Harry laugh even harder.
"I take it that's a 'no' then?"
"Idiot boy, where do you get these silly ideas? Unless you want to dress as a woman?"
"God, no! They do have some sexy-looking lingerie though, all satin and lace. Why don't they make that sort of stuff for men?"
"You'd like some lacy underwear?"
Harry shrugged and could feel the blush creeping into his cheeks. "Maybe. It just seems it might be nice to feel it against your skin." Then, with a worried look he added: "Do you think I'm turning into more of a girl?"
"Hardly, you just want to explore some sensual fabrics. Men and women both do that, Harry. It has got nothing to do with what parts you have."
Harry stood up and waited so they could both have a full body embrace before heading back to the party. Severus was so much taller than him that every time Severus wrapped Harry in his arms, Harry felt so safe and protected. After years of trying to fend for himself, it was wonderful to have someone to care for him and for him to care for. Severus kissed the top of his head before they both headed back downstairs.
Hermione wasn't angry at all, in fact she couldn't stop gushing over how romantic it all was – duelling for Harry's hand in the moonlight and then a proposal, all on the same night. "Oh, Harry! We'll have to go shopping for wedding robes together, Ron can't see mine of course, but we can see each other's, can't we? Where were you thinking of having the ceremony? We're getting married here. I know! We can have a double ceremony, that would be great, wouldn't it?" Hermione hardly seemed to take a breath.
Harry turned to Severus. "What do you think?"
"Miss Granger, I was under the impression that you were waiting until you'd finished your education before embarking on married life. That's three years away, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, but you and Harry aren't getting married right away, are you?"
Harry nodded. "As soon as possible."
Hermione glanced down at Harry's abdomen. "Harry, you're not..."
"No! Of course not!" he hissed at her. "We need to get married soon because of the wolf-bond, not because I'm pregnant."
For the next hour or so, Harry and Severus had to put up with lots of hearty backslaps and congratulations. This was what Harry had been worried about – would Hermione think the focus was removed from her and Ron's night because of this? But Hermione was still smiling, except when she happened to catch sight of Fleur, and then her mouth would purse into a thin line as if she'd been sucking on lemons. Hagrid almost knocked Harry to the floor with the force of his hug and was soon sobbing uncontrollably into his champagne glass, which looked like a child's toy in Hagrid's large hands. "Yer parents would be so proud of yeh, Harry. So proud!"
Harry wasn't too sure about that; would they really have approved of him marrying Severus Snape? But in the end the only two people who could decide this were Severus and Harry themselves. Even if Harry's parents had still been here and disapproved, he still would have married Severus. He loved him and wanted to be with him, and there was nothing else to it.
There was a loud crash from the direction of the buffet table; all heads turned in that direction. Ginny Weasley had dropped or thrown one of the large silver platters onto the floor. Canapés of every description lay on the floor like downed soldiers after a battle. Ginny's eyes flashed angrily in Harry's direction before she threw her hair back and flounced out.
"Maybe I should go after her," Harry started moving in that direction but Severus stopped him with a firm touch to his arm. "No. You owe her no explanations, Harry. Not any more. She was the one who cheated on you with Ernie Macmillan."
Harry gaped at Severus. "How did you know that?" Harry had only found out when Ernie had confessed it himself, too guild-ridden to continue seeing Ginny if she was still with Harry.
"I caught them together one Hogsmeade weekend in the Astronomy Tower. A weekend she was supposed to have been spending with you."
Harry didn't bother asking why Severus knew so much about his movements while he'd been a student. It was pretty obvious now that part of Severus' spying duties had involved looking out for Harry. It was something the Headmaster would have wanted. Harry's throat closed over as he held back tears, the sudden upsurges of grief still taking him by surprise. Sometimes it was hard to believe that Dumbledore was really gone.
Severus seemed to sense Harry's distress at once. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," Harry replied. "I'd just like to go home now."
"Very well. I think we've been at the party long enough."
Remembering the look on Ginny's face, Harry reckoned they had.
Harry wiped his sweaty hands on the outside of his apprentice robes, wondering again why he was doing this... to betray his Master like this. Harry had lied before. He had even lied to Severus in his role as Professor Snape while at Hogwarts, but Harry had never lied to him since becoming his apprentice. And he had certainly never lied once they'd become lovers and now a betrothed couple. Until today, that was. Severus thought Harry was at Hogwarts visiting Neville as he usually did on his day off, but Harry was nowhere near Hogwarts and had no intention of going there today. He knocked on the wood for a second time, wondering whether or not he hoped it was answered. Maybe he should just go straight back home and confess everything.
Well, he was here now and he heard footsteps from within heading towards the front door. Molly Weasley opened the door and stood staring at Harry with a beaming smile on her face as soon as she saw who was visiting today.
"Harry! What a lovely surprise! Is everything all right? Severus isn't hurt, is he?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that." Harry was quick to reassure her. "I just wanted to ask your advice, really."
"Of course, come on in." Molly stood aside to let him enter the hallway and she led the way down to the kitchen. Molly had been in the midst of cooking – there were baking bowls, a rolling pin, and measuring cups, pastry and other ingredients were dotted about the large, scrubbed table. A knife was chopping parsley in midair and Molly waved her wand at it so the knife and spell were put to rest. She pulled out a kitchen chair and waved Harry into another one. "Now, dear, what did you need advice on?"
"I actually wanted to talk to you about wedding cakes. Would you have any recipe books or anything?"
Molly's smile got even wider, although Harry could never remember a time the woman wasn't smiling in his presence. "Oh, Harry, I would be honoured to make you and Severus a wedding cake! Isn't it so exciting? I love weddings!"
Exciting it might be, but that wasn't what Harry had in mind. He hated to disappoint people and she was going to be disappointed. "Um, Mrs. Weasley, that wasn't what I meant. I was hoping to borrow some recipe books. I wanted to bake the cake as a surprise for Severus as a wedding present. You know how hard he is to buy for." Harry grinned, hoping to take some of the sting out of his words.
Molly nodded. "He is indeed. Have you ever baked a wedding cake before?"
"No, but I've baked a few Christmas cakes."
"How about we bake it together, Harry, and I can teach you as we go along?"
"Oh, that would be wonderful. But I don't want to put you out."
"It's no trouble, I'll enjoy it. None of my lot have the slightest bit of interest in cooking. Hermione got Ron one of those wave machines and he uses that all the time."
Wave machine? For a moment Harry had visions of Ron on a surfboard trying to surf, and then the light dawned. "You mean a microwave?"
"Ah, yes. I never can get the hang of these Muggle names. Arthur has a few of them in the shed, but I don't think they work. I think you need a proper oven for a cake anyway. Have you any idea of what flavour and style you'd like?"
"I've no idea to be honest," said Harry. "It was all a bit spur of the moment."
"Well, you've come to the right place. Hermione and Fleur have some wedding magazines about here somewhere and I'm sure I have some back issues of Witch Weekly that have some great wedding cake recipes. Why don't you make yourself a cup of tea while I go and look? You know where everything is, don't you?"
Harry nodded and began sorting through the cupboards to find the tea things. He got two mugs and made enough tea for both of them as well as taking some Ginger Newt biscuits. To Harry, tea wasn't worth having if you didn't have a biscuit to dunk in it – he just hoped Molly didn't mind him helping himself to their groceries. Harry had never been in the Burrow when it was just him and Molly before; it was so quiet that it was hard to imagine it was the same house. He wondered if Molly got lonely being in the house by herself all day when everyone else was either at school or work or had moved out altogether.
Harry moved some of the cooking stuff aside to make room for the two mugs of tea and the side plate of biscuits and just as he had them set on the table, Molly returned with a stack of magazines and cookery books hovering in the air in front of her. They fell to the table with a thump, making a cloud of flour rise up in their wake. Molly cast a containment charm over the rest of her pastry preparation and luckily none of the flour had got into their tea or settled on the biscuits.
While sipping their tea in comfortable silence, they browsed through the magazines, occasionally showing each other designs that took their fancy or even ones that didn't. "I don't think Severus is the pink roses type," Harry said, pointing out a veritable tower of twelve pink tiers heavily decorated with sugar flowers, ribbons and lace. Twelve tiers seemed an awful lot and it was going to be a small wedding after all.
Molly nodded in agreement. "True, I don't think he's much of a fan of pink either. Isn't black his favourite colour?"
"We are not having a black wedding cake!" Harry said vehemently. There must be something they could find that would suit – there were hundreds of designs in the magazines. He rustled the pages and scanned a few more. "Found it!" Harry said triumphantly, pointing it out. It was a three-tiered cake covered in buttercream icing and had a tracery design of ivy leaves on it with not a ribbon or flower in sight.
"Oh, Harry, yes. That's so elegant. And we could design the wedding invitations and the napkins and everything to match it so that everything ties in. Do you have the guest list yet?"
"No, not yet. But we wanted something fairly small. Severus isn't that fussed on crowds." Truth to tell neither was Harry, but as the Boy Who Lived and all that rot, he was supposed to like being the centre of attention. Severus' dislike of other people was well-documented and so it was only to be expected that he wouldn't want a large turnout to his wedding, even if he did happen to be marrying Harry Potter.
"I didn't see an announcement in the Prophet yet either."
"No, we haven't decided on the date yet and we wanted to wait a while before we get the Howlers."
"Harry, I'm sure..." Molly trailed off when they both heard a knock on the front door. Molly smiled. "Two visitors in one day, I am popular this afternoon."
Once Molly left to answer the door, Harry made his way upstairs to the top landing so that he was hidden from the occupants of the kitchen below but could hear what was being said.
"Severus!" Molly said loudly just before they got to the kitchen, as if she was warning Harry. Molly pushed the door aside and entered with Severus trailing behind her. "I wasn't expecting to see you today, Severus."
"Indeed, I am sorry for calling unannounced but it was Harry's day off and I took the opportunity to seek your advice."
"Oh? Do go on, Severus."
"I am not much of a cook but I would like to do something special for Harry for our wedding day. I would like to learn and then make our wedding cake as a surprise for him. Could you find the time to teach me?"
Harry's eyes widened, both at the thought that they had the same idea and the novel fact that Severus had admitted he didn't know something and even asked for help.
"Harry, you can come down now," called Molly.
Harry walked downstairs as slowly as he could manage, for he knew Severus would be angry with him for lying.
"Master Snape," Harry greeted him and sat down on one of the empty kitchen chairs.
"What are you doing here? You were supposed to be with Neville Longbottom this afternoon."
"Harry had the same idea as you, Severus. He wanted to bake the wedding cake as a surprise for you."
"Did he now? Gather your things, Harry. We are going home."
Harry lifted up his cloak and scarf and wrapped them around himself; his stomach plummetting at the look on Severus' face. He was not going to get off lightly, that was for sure. "Thank you for the tea, Mrs. Weasley," said Harry politely even as Severus propelled him towards the front door with a hand on his shoulder.
Molly's reply was cut off by the banging of the front door; it wasn't quite a slam, but almost.
Severus wrapped his arms around Harry and Apparated them straight into the living room of their flat. As soon as they were indoors, Severus stepped away from Harry, making him stumble on the rug, but Severus never reached out to help him.
"Go to your room and stay there until dinner. I can't even look at you right now."
Harry felt the colour drain from his face. His room? Harry hadn't used his own room for weeks now; he'd all but moved into Severus' bedroom. "Severus, please, let me explain."
"Explain what? How you felt it was okay to lie to me? You lied to me, Harry. Straight to my face, you lied to me!"
"But I just wanted it to be a surprise!" Harry protested. "It wasn't like I was having an affair or something."
"So you thought it was excusable? I hate liars, Potter! I hate them!" Severus was working himself up into a state; his face was red and blotchy; his eyes were almost bulging out of their sockets and spittle flew from his lips to land on Harry's skin.
Harry reached out to touch Severus' arm, but Severus jerked away out of reach. "Don't touch me!" he yelled, yanking up his left sleeve to show the scar where the Dark Mark had been. "This is what lies got me, pain and betrayal and I will not have it from anyone again, not even you! Spies are liars, Harry. They both made me into what I detest."
"I'm sorry, Severus," Harry said in a firm but quiet voice. "I never did it to hurt you. And you're not a spy anymore. They no longer have any hold over you. I am sorry."
"I thought I told you to go to your room? Are you not even obeying your Master now?"
"This has got nothing to do with my Apprenticeship and you know it," Harry said firmly. "I'm not going to leave you here to stew about this for hours. So you're angry with me for lying to you, fine. Let's clear the air now and then we can have dinner. I'll cook. I'm not going to be sent to my room like a naughty child. You'll just have to get used to arguing with me."
"I will, will I?"
"Yes," Harry said softly and as he looked at his intended husband he knew what it was that Severus feared. It wasn't the lies. It was what they might have represented: that Harry no longer trusted Severus with all his secrets, his dreams and fears. Harry moved closer to Severus and stood on tip-toe to brush his mouth across Severus' jaw, hearing a sharp intake of breath as he did so. "Don't worry, Severus. I am not going anywhere without you. You are my world, didn't you know?"
"That doesn’t excuse what you did. Things are not that simple!"
"Of course they are," Harry said, not giving in to Severus’ paranoia.
"Promise me you will never lie to me again, not even a white lie."
"But what if I want to surprise you?"
"Then just tell me it’s a surprise and you can’t tell me, but don’t make up a lie. I can’t have that from you, Harry. I can’t." Severus tried to move out of Harry’s embrace, but Harry wasn’t letting him go that easily. Harry held on tight and kissed him hard.
"I promise, Severus. I never meant to hurt you, you know that."
"Knowing it and feeling it are too different things," Severus whispered. "I'm sorry if I was harsh."
Harry angled his head up to look deep into those dark eyes. "Did you just apologise to me? So does that mean we've made up?" Harry wagged his eyebrows, making Severus chuckle. Harry could feel the rumble of it deep in his own chest.
"You could say that. I suppose you are angling for some make-up sex, are you?"
"Maybe," Harry answered, grinning.
"I don't suppose I would be averse to it."
Harry grinned even wider. "So we're okay?"
"We are, Harry, we are." Severus kissed the top of his head. "But we're having dinner first."
"Not really, I don't want you fainting from hunger once I have my wicked way with you, do I?"
Arousal, hot and sudden, flared throughout Harry's whole body at the promise implied in that statement. He wondered if he'd even make it through dinner.
Harry was right, neither of them made it through dinner. They sat at opposite sides of the small, square table; platters of salad and bread sat in the middle of the table with their own plates of Spaghetti Bolognese in front of them. When he thought back on it, Harry wasn't entirely sure what had precipitated it, but he knew that in an instant things had changed.
It could have been the way Harry was sucking the spaghetti strands into his mouth or perhaps the way he moaned around his mouthful of food – for Harry had always appreciated food, never having had much of it growing up. He just knew that one minute he was enjoying his meal and the next Severus' eyes had darkened and now glittered with a desperate hunger. Harry knew it wasn't food Severus was hungry for. It was him.
The knowledge plunged Harry headlong into the fires of arousal and he felt his stomach and balls jolting with the suddenness of it. His cock pressed hard and uncomfortably against the seam of his trousers. He was wet too, his briefs sticky with it. Harry shifted on his chair to try and find a more comfortable position and it was as if his movement was a signal of some sort to Severus.
Severus swept everything off the table: there was a crash as plates shattered on the floor, the chink of glasses breaking and the clatter of cutlery as it too landed on the floor. Harry gasped and stared at Severus, stunned. He had never seen his lover so uncontrolled before, so forceful. By the rapid beating of his heart, the sudden jerking of his cock and a pulse throbbing somewhere deep inside him, Harry realised he wouldn't mind seeing a lot more of this side of Severus.
Severus stood up and prowled to Harry's side of the table. He yanked Harry out of his chair by pulling on the lapels of Harry's apprentice robes. Harry was too shocked and breathless even to make much of a protest. Severus had never been this forceful before, but that didn't mean Harry didn't want it. He swallowed the saliva that had built up in his mouth and licked his lips. Severus' eyes darted to Harry's mouth and suddenly Severus was upon him, kissing him passionately, desperately. All other thoughts fled Harry's mind. There was nothing but the sensation of being kissed within an inch of his life by the man he loved.
There was nothing gentle in the joining of their mouths and tongues: there were bites and moans; nips and teeth; pain and groans. Harry wrapped his arms around Severus' neck just as Severus pushed him back towards the table. The back of Harry's knees hit the edge of the table and Severus continued to push until Harry was flat on his back on the wooden surface. His body was almost overwhelmed with sensation. It had never felt like this before. Harry's legs dangled off the edge of the table, he was too short for his feet to reach the ground but it was uncomfortable just leaving them dangling there. Harry widened his legs so that Severus could fall between them, then he wrapped his legs around Severus' waist as Severus placed his arms under Harry's neck to protect his head from the table.
Harry bucked up against Severus, the pressure a welcome relief to his aching cock. They were rutting against each other now, the wooden legs of the table scraping along the tiled floor. Briefly Harry wondered if it would take their weight but after a mind-numbing kiss from Severus he forgot all about the table, too intent on what was happening to him on top of it.
Harry could hardly believe how hot this was: both of them were still fully dressed as they kissed the breath from each other and thrust against each other with an urgency that could not be denied. There was no time to undress, no time even to fumble for zips or buttons. They had to come. They had to come or die! Harry pulled his mouth away to get breath enough to shriek out, "Severus! Severus! Oh God! Oh! I'm coming! I'm coming!"
"Yes! Yes!" Severus howled as he bucked hard against Harry almost at the same time as Harry's orgasm was torn from him with the force of a tidal wave. He spurted, hot and wet in his trousers even as he felt the warm, wet results of Severus' climax seep through his clothes.
Severus kissed him softly, first on the mouth, then down along his cheeks and jawline. Harry couldn't seem to stop himself from squirming in the embrace. Severus smiled down at him.
"You need more, don't you?"
Harry blushed and nodded; feeling ashamed that he hadn't been fully sated after what they'd already done. A few tears leaked out from beneath Harry's glasses and trickled down his cheeks. Severus wiped them away with a kiss.
"It's all right to ask for what you need, Harry. I will never deny you." Severus moved so that his thigh was between Harry's legs, but his arms were still underneath his neck. "I'm not going anywhere. Wrap your legs around me and rub against me."
Harry did as he was told; wrapping his legs around Severus as if he was some sort of climbing vine.
"Oh, fuck!" Harry gasped as the delightful pressure between his legs made him see stars.
"Feels good, does it?"
"You have no idea," Harry moaned and arched again.
There was nothing inside him, not even a finger, but Harry knew he could come like this with nothing more than the sensation of Severus' thigh between his legs. He bucked up one last time, squeezing and squeezing Severus' thigh as he wrung as much pleasure as he could from the second orgasm. He gasped and shuddered in Severus' arms as the bliss washed over him again and again until his vision whited out and he heard Severus' voice mumbling in his ear.
"Are you all right?"
Harry glanced up into the worried face of his lover. "Did I faint?"
"Very briefly," Severus assured him. "A few seconds, nothing more. I've never had someone faint in my arms before." Severus was looking down at him with an expression of such awe and adoration that Harry felt humbled by it.
"I love you," Harry said, reaching up to caress Severus' face. As he moved; he felt how sticky and uncomfortable his underwear and trousers were. "Ugh! I need a shower."
"Do you need someone to scrub your back?"
Harry paused for a second or two, unsure. They had never actually seen each other naked before, despite what they'd done in the bedroom. But it wasn't as if Severus was never going to see his body, was it? They were getting married soon and it was time Harry finally let Severus see that part of himself that he'd kept hidden. "If you promise to hold me up. My legs feel like rubber."
"In that case, how about we make it a bath instead?"
Harry pondered... to be wrapped up in Severus' arms; relaxing in warm bubbles? "Sounds good to me."
They were barely in the bath ten minutes before Harry fell asleep; his back resting against Severus' chest. Severus smiled indulgently and kissed the top of Harry's head before scooping him up in his arms and carrying him through to the bedroom. Harry mumbled something and snuffled against the pillows, but he didn't wake. Not wanting to disturb him; Severus cast a drying charm on both him and the sheets rather than try and dry him with a towel. Once Harry was dry, he magicked a pair of pyjama bottoms onto him; knowing that even though Severus had seen Harry naked in the bath; Harry still wasn't one hundred percent comfortable in his own skin yet.
Severus took a while to just look down at his sleeping lover; for it was a side of Harry Severus rarely got to see. Harry was too self-conscious when he was awake for this sort of intent study but maybe as they got to know each other better, Harry would become more comfortable with being looked at.
Sometimes Severus felt like pinching himself, for at times it was hard to believe this was really happening – that Harry was in love with him and had agreed to spend the rest of his life with Severus. Severus knew he was no prize catch: he was ugly, with crooked teeth and skin turned sallow from working in dungeons for the best part of twenty years. He was also stubborn and had a cruel streak that Harry and his friends had already borne the brunt of during their school years. Why had Harry chosen him as his mate when he could have had his pick of any witch or wizard he wanted?
Harry, on the other hand, was handsome and kind, even if he did have some large self-esteem issues left over from his time at the Dursleys'. Ten years or more being told you were ugly and worthless was bound to have left its mark. Severus suppressed a shudder as he remembered the memories of Harry he'd seen and what had happened to him at Privet Drive. Severus wondered if he would have treated Harry any differently in school if he'd known how appalling his home life had been; then realised he would have had to act exactly as he had done. There would have been no point in treating Harry well so that wannabe Death Eaters could carry tales to their parents and their Master. Severus could almost imagine the pain of the Cruciatus if that had been the case. Voldemort would not have believed him a spy then.
So what had made Harry choose him?
Not that Severus was stupid enough to ask him. He lay down and tugged Harry close to his chest. Harry had chosen him; that was enough for Severus, for he was determined to keep him.
Harry was his now. And Severus always looked after what was his.
Vernon stared at the stack of paperwork on his desk and felt a headache coming on.
Twice now he'd been up for promotion and twice now he'd failed. The first time was when the brat had still been living with them and had scared Mrs. Mason witless with that ruddy owl! Vernon had lost the Mason contract and in turn the promotion that would have gone with it. It was the Potter brat's fault – it always was. Now Vernon had been turned down again even though Potter had disappeared one day and had never returned. It didn't matter that Potter was no longer living at Privet Drive, it was his fault that all of these things kept happening in Vernon's life. Potter was the reason he wasn't as successful as he should be. Potter had probably cast some sort of curse on them; yes! that was it, he and his magic were to blame. Vernon would quite gladly have wrung Potter's neck if he'd seen him right then. He should have done it when he had the chance, should have taken the infant to the river and drowned him like the unwanted cur he was! It was Potter's fault, all of it!
Vernon banged his hand on the desk, scattering papers everywhere, but he didn't really care. If it hadn't been for Dudley's school fees (he'd had to repeat a year at Smeltings after failing every exam, and that too was Potter's fault – Dudley had never got the attention he needed when he and Petunia had to keep such a close eye on Potter) Vernon would have walked out of Grunnings and never looked back. As it was he had to keep the money coming in for fees and uniforms – Dudley needed new ones every few months the way his weight was see-sawing – not to mention the company car and the villa in France. Money, money, money, it was all money! If the brat had still been around, Vernon was sure he could have conjured some out of thin air, for how else were those freaks supposed to survive? They couldn't get real jobs, not like normal people. Who would hire freaks like them?
"Mr. Dursley, there is someone here to see you."
Vernon looked up from the mess of papers to see his secretary, Lisa, standing by the open doorway of his office. She never closed the door when she was alone with him anymore, not after that one time he'd tried to be pleasant with her and she'd screamed about sexual harassment. He couldn't afford to lose his job, so he'd tried to explain it away as an accident and couldn't they forget all about it? She hadn't complained to Mr. Grunnings, but she had never been alone with him again either. That too was Potter's fault, making him think about women other than his wife, for until Potter had turned up to live with them, Vernon had never thought of straying.
"Does he have an appointment?" Vernon asked.
"No, but he says it's important."
Vernon looked again at the paperwork. He wasn't in the mood for paperwork so at least a visitor would be a good excuse as to why it wasn't done. "Very well, send him in."
Vernon sat down on the chair by his desk, his breath wheezing. "Fetch us some tea and biscuits, will you?"
Lisa nodded and scurried out, no doubt glad to be away from him. Pity he'd scared her off so soon, she was a pretty little thing. The man who entered was tall, but there was something else apart from his height... he seemed to fill up all the available space in the office so that Vernon was finding it difficult to breathe.
The man screamed money and he was wearing black in the middle of May: black trousers, black shirt, black jacket and black boots in some sort of strange leather; Vernon thought it might be crocodile or some such other exotic animal. Vernon sat up straighter. Maybe he was a rich property developer and wanted Grunnings to supply all their sites with drills. This could be his chance for promotion at last!
The stranger wasn't exactly handsome; his face was sallow and his nose was crooked, as if he'd been in a few fights and it had never healed properly. His dark hair was tied back at the nape of the neck like some sort of nancy-boy. But that didn't matter, if he had money, Vernon would be glad to take it from him.
"Take a seat, Mr. ...?"
"Snape. Severus Snape." But the man made no move to sit down.
"Snape? Snape? That name sounds familiar. Have we met before?"
"No, Dursley for if we'd met before you wouldn't be sitting here talking to me." Snape waved his hand towards the door, which slammed shut, the blind falling down to cover the glass. "You'd be dead."
"I'll scream!" Vernon warned, even as his mind shied from the fact that he was alone with one of those freaks who could quite possibly kill him without laying a finger on him.
"Go ahead, Dursley. Do you think I would allow anyone to hear you? This room is locked and silenced; you are alone with me and no one can help you."
"You don't scare me!" Vernon blustered, even as he felt the trickle of urine down his thigh.
"You are a vile waste of human flesh, Dursley, and you don't deserve to live."
"Checkmate!" Neville cried with a triumphant grin, his chessmen waving at him and then blowing raspberries towards Harry. "Are you okay, Harry? You seem a bit distracted today."
"Sorry, Neville. I just have a lot on my mind recently."
"Not that, no. Master Snape went to visit my relatives today and I'm a bit worried what he might do to them."
Neville's mouth opened wide. "But you don't think – you don't think he'd really hurt them? I mean, I know he was a spy and everything, but he didn't really want to do all those horrible things, did he?"
"But he did join Voldemort of his own free will the first time around. I don't know if he enjoyed doing such things, but he did them at the time. He's very protective of me, especially now with the wolf-bond and he won't stand for people hurting me." Harry looked down at the chessboard; not sure what he was feeling. His chest hurt and he wasn't sure whether it was from worry about what Severus might do to the Dursleys or what doing such things might mean for their relationship. Could Harry stay with someone who could murder someone in cold blood? For that's what it would be if Severus killed the Dursleys. This wasn't like the duel between Severus and Greyback where it was kill or be killed.
Harry knew he was partly to blame. For the past few weeks his nightmares of the Dursleys' abuse had increased and every night Severus was the one who'd held him and soothed him until he'd fallen asleep again. Maybe if Harry had been stronger and could have stopped the nightmares Severus wouldn’t have been so gung-ho about getting revenge on the Dursleys for what they'd done to Harry. Harry couldn't say that he was over it, he knew he wasn't. But did he want the Dursleys dead?
"They hurt you, didn't they?" Neville asked quietly.
"Yeah, yeah, they did." Harry couldn't say any more. The most recent nightmare was still too fresh for him to talk about it out loud and if he lost it now, Harry knew what would happen: Madam Pomfrey or the closed ward.
Neville gripped one of the chessmen so hard his knuckles turned white. "Then they deserve everything they get."
It was late when Severus returned, but Harry had been too anxious to sleep. He was sitting up in bed with a book in his lap, but he couldn't concentrate on the words on the page. They merged into little black blurs and he’d just settled on giving up when he heard the key in the back door. Harry's heart thudded in his chest as he heard Severus' footsteps coming up the stairs. What would he say if Severus admitted that he'd killed the Dursleys? Harry loved Severus, he knew he did, but could he marry someone who felt it was okay to kill in cold blood?
Severus paused in the doorway, stopping short when he saw that Harry was still awake. "I thought you'd be asleep."
"You expected me to sleep after you told me the Dursleys deserved to die after what they did to me?"
Severus gaped at him. "Dear Merlin, you believed it, didn't you? That I'd go and murder them? Do you really think so little of me, Harry?"
"I didn't know what to think! You were so angry at them."
"And I still am." Severus marched over to the bed and sat down on it, wrapping Harry up in his arms. "They deserved to hurt for what they did to you. They hurt you so much, Harry, and it's still affecting you even now. I just wanted them to pay somehow, but I didn't kill them. Having me sent to Azkaban for murder is hardly going to help you, is it?"
"Is that the only reason you didn't do it, because there might be consequences?"
"No, Harry. I didn't do it because it's wrong."
"But what about in the battle? I killed Death Eaters and – and him. I'm a murderer. It's me who should be in Azkaban."
Severus hugged him even tighter. "No, Harry, no. That's different. In a battle it's kill or be killed, it's self-defence. But killing Muggles, or anyone in cold blood, that's wrong. Do you see the difference?"
"Not really, people are still dead." Harry kissed him. "I just wish none of it had ever happened."
"I know, Harry, but we'll just have to deal with it."
"So, what did you do to the Dursleys?"
"I just scared them a little, a few threats here and there. Vernon pissed his pants in fear when he realised I was a wizard."
"Really?" Harry asked, remembering all the times he'd been punished when he'd had accidents when they wouldn't let him out of his cupboard to go to the toilet. "Good! Did everyone see it?"
"Oh, yes, the whole office was laughing at him and his boss sent him home and suggested the stress of the job might be getting too much for him. He was ranting and raving about freaks and wizards and they sent for a doctor. As of tonight, Vernon Dursley is in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. And apparently Mr. Grunnings' niece is a reporter, so it will be in the paper too."
"The paper? Oh, they'll never live that down," Harry said, knowing how much store Petunia set by what the neighbours thought.
"Indeed, Harry. So you see, they didn't need to be killed to make them pay."
"I'm sorry, Severus. I'm sorry I thought that of you."
"It's all right. Harry, I may have been a Death Eater, but the only time I've killed directly was during the last battle. Indirectly, I don't know. I knew that my potions were being used to torture and kill people, but I still made them anyway. It was only later that I started to feel guilty over what I had allowed to happen to those innocent people. One of the reasons I turned spy for Dumbledore – I wanted to atone."
"You have, Severus. I think you've paid for your mistakes."
"Thank you, Harry. Now enough of this maudlin talk, have you thought any more about a wedding date yet?"
"The sooner the better," Harry said.
"How about the summer solstice?"
"That's barely a month away, will we have time to organise everything?"
Harry laughed. "Molly Weasley is helping. We'll have time."
The front garden of the Burrow was bustling with activity when Harry and Neville Apparated onto the front lawn. A large marquee was being erected by a group of wizards dressed in green and white striped robes, ably supervised by Molly Weasley. A green trellis adorned with white roses and ivy climbing up it was standing at the head of two sections of chairs. Neville and Harry had just happened to Apparate right into the middle of the aisle. Six champagne flutes skimmed past their heads and into the marquee, earning Molly's wrath. She turned to the wizards who had been levitating glasses and china. "How many times do I have to tell you? Don't use magic for the delicates!" Her eyes widened when she caught sight of Neville and Harry.
"Harry, Neville! Welcome to the madhouse!"
"Do you need any help?" Harry asked, staring around at all the activity going on.
"Of course not, it's all under control. Not the blue napkins, the cream ones with the ivy leaves!" Molly snapped at another unfortunate wizard, and Harry considered that maybe it was better if they didn't help after all. "You two go on up and leave your things in Ron's room," Mrs Weasley said turning her attention back to them. "Bill, Charlie and the twins are here too. The twins have something arranged for your stag do, but I've learned by now not to ask."
Neville and Harry exchanged wary glances as they made their way to the house. It wasn't that Harry distrusted the twins, but sometimes what they thought was fun or entertaining might be painful or humiliating for other people.
"Harry, are you all right?" Neville asked as they reached the front door.
"Yeah, just feeling a bit out of sorts today. It's um - I'm - um - it's a certain time of the month." Harry flushed and hoped Neville didn't want any more details, although as Neville was an apprentice Healer, Harry wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to know all the ins and outs of Harry's menstrual cycle. It was only the second period Harry'd had and he still wasn't quite used to it. Severus' pain potions helped with the cramps somewhat but he always felt very low on energy during it. He just hoped the twins hadn't arranged anything too lively.
They'd barely set their overnight bags on each of the camp beds that now cluttered up Ron's bedroom before Ron himself entered the room. "Have you got anything Muggle to wear?"
"No, all I've got are my apprentice robes and my wedding robes for tomorrow."
"Same here," said Neville. "We're not supposed to wear anything but our apprentice robes in public."
"Well, you'll both stick out like a sore thumb if you wear those to Muggle London."
"What have the twins arranged?"
Ron tapped the edge of his nose. "Now, now, Harry, that would be telling. They want it to be a surprise."
"As long as it doesn't involve getting drunk and leaving me tied to a lamppost somewhere."
"Eh?" Neville asked.
"It's what a lot of Muggles do apparently," Harry said. "I saw it on television once when I was cleaning the living room. Some soap opera or something."
"Soap opera? You mean Muggles have soap that can sing?" Ron asked, bewildered.
"No, no, that's just what they're called. They're dramas on television. I think years ago they used to have advertisers who made soap or something."
"Oh, right. Okay," said Ron still looking confused. "Well, I suppose you could Transfigure your apprentice robes into shirts and trousers, that should do, shouldn't it? I don't think any of my clothes are going to fit either of you."
Looking at the tall, broad form of Ron, Harry had to agree. Harry and Neville were much the same height but Harry was thinner. He'd never put on as much weight as Madam Pomfrey or Severus had hoped; the malnutrition he had suffered for years saw to that. It wasn't that he didn't like food, he just couldn't eat a lot of it at one time or he started to feel sick.
"So what sort of things should we wear?" Neville asked. "Is it formal or casual?"
"I think casual should be fine."
"Not even a hint?"
"No, Harry. Just get changed and then we can go. It starts at eight." Ron gave them a broad grin and a wave before heading back downstairs. Neville and Harry looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"I wonder what it is?" Harry wondered out loud while he Transfigured his robes into a burgundy shirt with black buttons and a black pair of jeans. Neville changed his into a dark blue shirt and blue jeans; both of them were still wearing the black dress shoes that had been with their robes.
"Knowing Fred and George, it could be anything."
As they made their way back downstairs, Harry wondered if Severus knew that Bill was also part of Harry's stag night. Harry would have preferred to stay at home with a book and rest for the wedding tomorrow, but the twins would never have let him live it down. What Harry had never understood about stag and hen parties, was that everyone always seemed keen for the prospective bride or groom to let their hair down on their last night of freedom. Harry didn't feel like that at all. Having lived ten years in a cupboard, he knew what being in a cage felt like, and it wasn't marriage to Severus.
Harry wouldn't be losing his freedom at all; they'd both be gaining it.
"You two scrub up rather well," said Ron once Harry and Neville had rejoined the others in the kitchen.
"Better not let Snape hear you say that, though," warned Bill. "He might take it the wrong way."
Harry bristled a bit, but he bit down on the angry retort. None of them knew Severus, not like Harry did and Harry hated it when people disparaged Severus in his hearing. He didn't want to spoil their outing before it even began though so he kept silent. Once everyone was ready and organised, they Apparated to the courtyard of the Leaky Cauldron. As they wound their way through the inn itself they were stopped by people patting Harry on the back and congratulating him on his forthcoming nuptials.
"How did they know?" Harry whispered to Ron once they were outside on the Muggle side of Charing Cross Road.
"Mum put an announcement in the paper. It's traditional."
"As long as we don't get tons of gatecrashers."
"No, that won't happen," said Charlie. "Severus has already been to the Burrow and extended the wards around it. Only those who are invited will be able to get there."
They were walking along as they chatted and in front of them the twins suddenly came to a standstill... outside a theatre.
"We're going to a play?" Harry asked in delight. He'd never been to the theatre before.
"Not exactly." Fred and George grinned at him. George pointed out a poster on the wall. Harry squinted a bit, it was getting dark and things were always more difficult to make out then, even with his new glasses. The poster seemed to consist of a series of pictures of men in various costumes. They were dressed as sailors in one; policemen in another; firemen and like something out of the Arabian nights with floaty; sheer fabrics and smiles. A banner at the bottom of the poster proclaimed, For one night only: The Dream Lads!
"Oh my God!" Harry hissed when he realised what the twins had arranged. "They're strippers, aren't they?"
"Don't worry, Harry. It's all in good fun," said George. "All very tasteful. They don't take everything off."
"Oh, God," Harry moaned, putting his face in his hands. "Severus is going to kill me."
"Nope," said Fred, giving Harry the envelope with the tickets. "Since you made the cake as Severus' wedding present; this is his present to you. He knows all about it."
Harry shook his head, not quite sure what to make of the fact that his future husband had arranged for him to see a strip show. "So he knows?"
"He knows," both twins said at the same time.
"I wonder if Master Snape's stag do is going to be as exciting as this!" exclaimed Neville and Harry couldn't help but laugh at his very straight friend's words.
"I wonder," Harry agreed as they made their way to the theatre.
"More tea, Severus?" Poppy left the teapot hovering over Severus' cup.
"No thank you, Poppy. I ought to be getting back."
"You can't leave yet!" protested Filius. "Pomona's just gone to get the cards; I thought we could all enjoy a game or two of Exploding Snap."
"Yes, Severus," said Minerva. "You know you wouldn't want to miss that, would you?" Minerva was smirking at him over the rim of her teacup. Severus wondered if you could actually die from sheer boredom and not for the first time this evening he wished he hadn't bowed down to convention to spend the night away from Harry. He hoped Harry was having a better time on his own outing. Unfortunately, thinking of Harry brought on another set of problems, for Severus couldn't help but imagine Harry in some of those outfits and dancing for Severus' pleasure alone. Severus coughed and shifted in his chair, hoping his robes were enough to hide his burgeoning erection. He didn't need to add humiliation to boredom this evening.
Severus sipped at his too-sweet tea and tried to think of anything but Harry; which was bloody difficult. Sometimes Severus wondered if the wolf bond affected the mate as well. Severus hid his sigh as Pomona Sprout returned with a pack of magical cards in her hand.
The morning couldn't come soon enough.
Harry woke up half an hour before Ron's alarm clock was due to go off, to find he had a pounding headache and cramps that seemed even worse than the few days before. His sleep had been somewhat restless, both with the nagging ache in his abdomen and trying to get comfortable on the small camp bed in Ron's bedroom. Harry missed sharing the large bed with Severus, but it was only for one night after all. As Harry struggled to push himself upright, the pain intensified and he gasped out loud at the sudden sharpness. He and Ron used to tease Hermione about periods and period pains and now Harry realised how awful both of them had been to do such a thing. It certainly didn't feel like a laughing matter. How did women and girls cope with this every month? All he wanted to do was burrow under the covers and hibernate until it was over.
Harry fumbled about on the floor to find where he'd dropped his glasses last night, before downing the next dose of Severus' pain potion and checking the sheets. It was probably another reason why he hadn't slept so well – he was too worried that he might bleed all over Molly Weasley's sheets. Thankfully, they were clean and it was early enough so that Harry could take his time in the bathroom to get himself sorted out.
Harry stood by the mirror after his shower, angling his face this way and that, but it remained stubbornly smooth with not an inch of stubble anywhere. He guessed that he would never need to shave now due to his condition and wondered if it was as obvious to other people that he was no longer quite a man. The funny thing was that he didn't feel like a woman either, despite having the extra equipment and all that it entailed. He still felt like Harry, so maybe he was just worrying over nothing. It wasn't as if he was going to announce it in the paper!
But what happens if you get pregnant? a niggling voice asked. Everyone would know then.
Harry shrugged; that was true, but Harry decided to cross that bridge if it ever came up. He finished up in the bathroom and when he returned to Ron's room, both Neville and Ron were starting to wake up. All of their dress robes were hanging on the front of Ron's wardrobe so they wouldn't get creased again after Molly had ironed everything last night.
"Merlin's bollocks!" Ron groaned. "My head feels like a Hippogriff's been using it for a nest. Those Muggle drinks are stronger than butterbeer." He squinted up at Harry. "You look far too perky for this early in the morning, Harry."
Harry did feel a bit more himself after his shower and Severus' pain potion had worked wonders for his sore tummy.
"Well, Harry wasn't the one who kept downing all that wine," said Neville with a smile in Ron's direction.
"True," Ron agreed ruefully, scratching his armpit and yawning at the same time. Ron's eyes darted to the bottle of pain potion on the floor. "That's not a hangover cure, is it?"
"No, but it might help if you've got a headache. It's just a painkiller," said Harry.
"Did you want the bathroom first, Ron?"
"Naw, Neville. You go on ahead."
"Thanks." Neville gathered up his soap bag and headed downstairs to the bathroom.
"Did you remember to pick up the rings from the jeweller's?"
"No, but Mum did," said Ron, grinning and showing Harry the two small velvet boxes. "Everything's under control. How about you, are you feeling nervous?"
"A bit," Harry admitted. "But it's more an excited type of nervous. I never really thought we'd get married this soon, but it feels right. It doesn't feel soon after all. I'm ready. We're ready."
"Not quite ready yet," said Ron. "You're still in your pyjamas!"
Harry's wedding robe was a deep emerald green with a silver dragon emblazoned on the back. Harry thought the dragon looked quite serpentine with its long body and tail and he'd wanted something Slytherin in deference to Severus, but thought a snake would be far too obvious. Harry had never tried speaking to dragons, but after seeing the shape of the dragon on his robe, he wondered if their languages were similar to Parseltongue.
As Harry walked up the aisle flanked by Ron and Neville he caught sight of some of his friends from Hogwarts as well as the staff, and he smiled at them in turn as he made his way to Severus. All the Weasleys were already here and he noticed Remus was in one of the rows near the front as well. The sun was shining and everyone looked pleased and happy to be at his and Severus' wedding. As Harry caught sight of his husband-to-be's back, he felt his heart soar to somewhere near his throat. Severus' wedding robe was silver today, there wasn't a scrap of black in sight. On the back of Severus' robe was a phoenix with its wings outspread and reaching over Severus' shoulders. It shimmered as the light caught different angles, making it seem as if the magical bird was flying.
Severus turned, smiling softly as he caught sight of Harry, he held his hands out. Harry nearly ran the rest of the way to place his hands in Severus'. At the rose trellis stood the celebrant, a young Minister of Records who gave a warm smile and waved for the guests to sit back down.
"Dearest friends, we are gathered here to join Severus and Harry in the bonds of magical matrimony. Like all rituals, it is not one to be taken lightly, but rather with forethought and not as something rushed into."
Harry tried not to blush. It was true it might seem they'd rushed into it, but with the wolf-bond they really didn't have much choice in the matter. For if they weren't married and then they broke Harry's virgin apprentice contract, that would have been worse.
"If there is anyone here present who wishes to make an objection to this match, please speak now or be forever silent on the matter."
The Minister paused and Harry's heart trembled, wondering if Ginny was going to make trouble for them now that she had an audience in order to do so. Harry remembered all too well his sixth year at Hogwarts, when Ginny would get extra cuddly and lovey-dovey with him whenever there were other people around. Harry had hated it; he'd wanted their relationship to remain private but whenever Ginny got him alone she'd wanted to go further than Harry had at the time. Had he always been attracted to men? Harry wasn't sure, but he knew he was in love with Severus and wanted to marry him. But Ginny remained seated; her eyes were red-rimmed as if she was trying not to cry.
"Very well. Who gives Severus to be married to Harry?"
"I do," said Remus, standing up and placing an arm on Severus' shoulder.
"And who gives Harry to be married to Severus?"
"I do," said Neville as he touched Harry on the arm.
"Severus, you may speak your vows to Harry now."
"I, Severus, do take you, Harry, to be my partner, loving what I know of you and trusting what I do not yet know. I fall in love with you a bit more each day and I welcome the chance to grow old with you. I will laugh with you, I will cry with you and I will cherish you forever. I will protect you, I will care for you and I will be faithful to you. I give you my hand, my heart, my magic and my soul. Till death and beyond, I will be yours and only yours."
Harry's whole body was trembling as he heard Severus speak the vows. There was magic in this; these weren't empty promises. This was a wizarding ritual and Harry knew the power of wizarding words. His throat felt sore as he struggled not to cry with emotion when he spoke his own vows to Severus. Their eyes and hands never left each other as they spoke.
"I, Harry, do take you, Severus, to be my partner, loving what I know of you and trusting what I do not yet know. I fall in love with you a bit more each day and I welcome the chance to grow old with you. I will laugh with you, I will cry with you and I will cherish you forever. I will protect you, I will care for you and I will be faithful to you. I give you my hand, my heart, my magic and my soul. Till death and beyond, I will be yours and only yours."
"The rings?" the Minister asked, his eyes roving the crowd. Ron stepped forward and handed over the velvet boxes.
Severus removed the first ring: it was silver, etched with Celtic runes for health and happiness on the outside and the inside, on the part next to their bodies were their entwined initials. Both rings were exactly the same, as they both knew that once they were married they became one entity, no longer two.
Severus slipped the ring onto Harry's finger. "The ring is round and eternal, just like our love."
Harry lifted out the second ring and, as he pressed the ring onto Severus' finger, the tears he'd been trying to hold back fell onto his new husband's skin. "The - the - the ring is - r - round and eternal, just like our l -love," Harry sobbed out as he tried to get control of himself again.
"Congratulations, Severus and Harry! You are now bound according to our laws and customs. You may kiss each other."
Severus tilted Harry's chin up with his right forefinger and with his left hand he wiped the tears that had fallen onto Harry's cheeks. "I love you," Severus mouthed silently as he bent his head and kissed Harry firmly on the mouth. There were whistles and cat-calls from some of the assembled guests as well as a round of applause as they kissed a bit more. Harry didn't want it to end, but knew it must. He started to grin like an idiot when Severus' mouth finally left his. His whole body felt as if it was floating.
Ron slapped both of them on the back, but Neville settled for shaking their hands. Despite knowing Severus a bit better now, Harry didn't think Neville had quite forgotten the snarky Potions master of their school careers and was not up to slapping him on the back. After many more congratulations from the other guests and poses for photographs, everyone went into the marquee ready for the reception meal. Harry's jaw was beginning to ache as he was smiling so much. Everything had a dreamlike quality to it, nothing felt quite real... nothing except for Severus' arm on his as he led Harry to the top table and then released him to pull out his chair.
Harry's cake was on a small table off to the side and Harry was gratified to hear some people compliment it on their way to the other tables dotted around the marquee. Molly Weasley had done a wonderful job of organising everything; the decorations were elegant and understated, just a few flowers entwined with ivy leaves to match the cake. The plates, cutlery and glassware were all sparkling under the candlelight chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
The green-robed wizards who had been unpacking things yesterday were now wearing short white robes, black trousers and bow ties and acting as waiters. They served the bridal party first with their starters: a selection of different types of melon with all of the different colours arranged artfully on the plates. It was light and refreshing and Severus and Harry had both thought it would be better for a summer wedding than soup. The main course was roast turkey with all the trimmings and by the time the profiteroles and ice-cream arrived for dessert, Harry wondered if he'd ever find room for it. He made a valiant effort, but only managed about half before Arthur Weasley announced it was time to cut the cake.
Severus stood and held out his hand to Harry. Holding hands and smiling at each other, they both made their way over to the cake and lifted up the silver knife. Harry saw their names and the date were engraved on the blade; he wondered if Severus had arranged that so they would have a keepsake of the day. They both drew the knife down to the bottom tier and it slid in easily, much to the amusement of the other guests, who giggled and whistled at intervals.
"Give him a kiss, Severus!" Someone from the crowd shouted, but Harry didn't recognise the voice.
Severus waggled his eyebrows and pulled Harry towards him. He kissed Harry, hard and deep before dipping him down and continuing to kiss Harry breathless. Harry could do little else but cling to his new husband and hope he wouldn't fall flat on the floor.
He needn't have worried. Severus would always be there to catch him.
Harry held on tight to his husband as Severus Apparated them away from the Weasleys' orchard to their honeymoon destination. Since Harry didn't know where it was; they had to do a Side-Along Apparition. Not that Harry minded; it was yet another excuse to cuddle close to Severus without Severus realising they were in fact cuddling, for Severus was adamant that he didn't do such soppy things as cuddle. Harry gasped for breath as they arrived in the middle of a garden.
From the angle of the sun, Harry guessed it to be early morning. A pagoda was sitting amongst lush plants, most of which Harry didn't recognise at all. Underneath the pagoda was a stone-edged pool with steam rising from the water. To the side of the pool was a small stool, a wooden bucket, wash-cloths, towels and scrubbing brushes. Paper lanterns hung from the roof of the pagoda and there were a few glass ones dotted around the garden as well.
Further in the distance a red bridge spanned a small brook, and beyond that Harry saw a low-lying building which had a pagoda-style roof. Instead of windows, it seemed the walls were made of a similar paper to the lanterns. There was a wooden veranda all around the building with steps leading up to it and two large trees guarding what Harry guessed to be the doorway.
Everything was so lush and fragrant that Harry couldn't help smiling up at his husband. "It's beautiful, Severus. Where are we?"
"We're in Japan. This is a private onsen – a Japanese hot spring resort. Most have lots of public baths and rooms, but we are on honeymoon and I don't want to share you. It took a while to find. There are only a few wizarding onsens and of those only two were private. Would you like to see our suite?"
"Please." Harry nodded, stifling a yawn.
"It's the time difference," Severus said. "It's the next day here and you haven't been to sleep for hours. We'll rest for a while and then we can explore."
Severus led Harry over to the bungalow. As they neared it, Harry realised there were slippers set out for their feet and a shelf to hold their outdoor shoes. Harry bent down to untie his laces, but Severus batted his hands away.
"Let me, this is the only time I intend to spoil you rotten."
Harry grinned down at his husband, not pointing out that Severus had already spoiled him. Harry had wanted for nothing ever since he became Severus' apprentice, including happiness. Harry stood patiently while Severus divested him of shoes and socks and then put a strange pair of white socks on his feet. The toes of the socks were split into sections, one section for the big toe and another for the rest.
"They are called tabi socks," explained Severus. "They are traditional and usually worn so that you can wear them with thonged footwear."
"Oh, like flip-flops, you mean?"
Severus stifled a shudder and gave Harry a look reminiscent of those long-ago potions lessons when Harry had failed in his brewing yet again. "Flip-flops are a poor imitation of the real thing. Originally they were wooden or made from leather or plant fibres."
"Oh, right," said Harry. "How do you know all this stuff?"
"I read and I have also travelled quite extensively."
"You have? I've never been out of Britain before. So you've been to Japan before? Are you going to show me all the sights?"
"Yes, I will show you some sights, but first you need to sleep," Severus said just as Harry yawned again. Severus placed Harry's feet gently into the backless and flat-soled slippers before sorting out his own footwear. Once everything was done, Severus slid aside the wall to make a doorway.
"What are these called?" Harry asked, indicating the paper screens in their wooden-latticed framework.
"Shoji," said Severus as he placed his hand on the small of Harry's back and ushered him inside.
Harry had always admired Severus' intelligence, even when he had disliked him as a teacher. He wondered if there was anything about the world that Severus didn't know. Harry sometimes felt adrift in the Muggle or wizarding world; there was so much he didn't know and he hoped Severus didn't think he was stupid for not knowing lots of different customs.
As if Severus sensed what he was thinking, he wrapped Harry in his arms and reassured him. "Harry, I am a lot older than you, it's only natural that my experience of the world is going to be different to yours. You're young, you're also my apprentice as well as my husband, and I get to share these things with you."
"So you don't mind me asking all these silly questions?"
Severus kissed his hair. "Of course not, and they aren't silly. You can ask me whatever you want."
Harry blushed, and then shook his head.
"What is it?"
"Nothing, it is silly," Harry said.
Severus slid open another door. This room housed the bed, low-lying on the floor with a black quilt decorated with a golden floral pattern. Two low bedside cabinets sat at either side and on top of those were two paper lanterns, the shades in matching gold. Severus sat down on the edge of the bed, his legs almost at his shoulders as the bed was so low. Beckoning Harry forward with his fingers, Harry edged in between his husband's legs and grinned when Severus began undressing him.
"I thought we were going to sleep?" Harry asked.
"We are, unless you wanted to sleep in your wedding robe?"
Harry shook his head.
"So what did you want to ask me?" Severus wasn't letting up and Harry wished he hadn't mentioned anything.
"I love your voice."
"That isn't a question."
"No, I know. So – um – I was wondering if maybe – if you don't mind, could you tell me a story before I fall asleep?" Harry blushed again, wishing he'd never requested it. It was childish, wasn't it, to want a story before bedtime?
"No one's ever told you a bedtime story before, have they, Harry?" Severus reached up and kissed Harry softly on the mouth. "I'd be honoured to be the first to do so."
"Thank you," Harry sniffled a little and turned his head so that Severus wouldn't see. God, he was all over the place these days. Severus removed all of Harry's clothes except for his underwear and pulled down the quilt. Once Severus had completed his own disrobing, he climbed in beside Harry and opened his arms. Harry scooted across the bed to lay his head on Severus' chest, loving the security of hearing the strong heartbeat next to his ear.
"So what sort of story would you like, hmm?"
"I don't know. You decide."
"Very well. Once upon a time..."
Harry fell asleep long before Severus got to the happily ever after.
Harry was woken by gentle kisses along his neck and down his spine, but despite knowing that it was Severus who was doing these things to him, Harry froze in place, his breath coming in panicked gasps.
"Harry?" Severus' mouth stilled on Harry's skin. He turned Harry to face him, concern etched onto his features. "What's wrong?"
Harry didn't want to say, he didn't want to talk about this yet, if ever. But maybe that's why he kept getting the nightmares? Maybe if he faced up to it, really faced up to it, the nightmares would cease to be a problem. "I had a nightmare. About him. Malfoy."
"Ah," said Severus. "So I take it you are not in an amorous mood at the moment?"
"You could say that."
God, that was an understatement if ever there was one! Harry felt like a wet dishrag that had just been thrust through a mangle; the dreams always left him feeling as if it had just happened, not something that had happened in the past. "I'm sorry."
"Harry," Severus gently traced his fingers along Harry's face. "There is no need to apologise for how you are feeling. Didn't I say that we would go as slowly as you wish? There is no rush. You just need time."
"But what if I'm never ready for full sex? Would you still want to be with me?"
Severus chuckled and kissed Harry's nose. "Just forget anything about what constitutes full sex. What we've already done is sex too, Harry. There are many more aspects to it than just intercourse. We will only ever do what you are comfortable with, I promise. No means no, and I will never do anything to hurt you."
"I know that, Severus. I'm sorry for being such a pain in the arse."
"You're not. Would it help if you talked about it? You felt better when you talked to me about your aunt."
"Maybe, but it's so difficult to talk about. Even before he – he – I've never really been comfortable talking about sex. The Dursleys were very prudish. I didn't often watch television in their house, but sometimes it was on when I was cleaning the living room. If something came on and two people were kissing, they would make a big fuss and change the channel so that their little Duddykins wouldn't get corrupted. They already thought I was going to hell for being a wizard, so they weren't that bothered about me. Our primary school had a sex education class in our last year, but Petunia sent the school a note to have Dudley and me excused from it on religious grounds. I was very naive about all of it, Severus. I had no idea what was going on when I started getting hair on my groin and under my arms. When my – when I got hard, I thought I was dying from some strange disease."
"They never told you anything?" Severus asked, sounding appalled on Harry's behalf.
"Nothing, why would they? They didn't care about me at all. The first time I tried touching myself just to get some relief, Petunia caught me and – and – punished me." Tears dripped down Harry's cheeks and in the next instant Harry felt arms around him, tugging him close. "Sorry, sorry," he whispered to Severus' chest. There was no reply, but Severus rocked Harry against him until he'd calmed down somewhat. "I was thirteen that time; I didn't even know what I was doing, that it even had a name. She just kept calling me a filthy, dirty freak and scrubbed me raw in scalding hot water."
Harry's words dried up. He didn't know how to say what Malfoy had done to him; he didn't want Severus to see him as filthy and corrupted, even if that was how Harry felt a lot of the time. He felt soiled in some indefinable way that no amount of showers or baths ever helped. He wanted to be able to talk to Severus about anything, but this was just too awful that the words wouldn't come out. His heart was beating erratically and Harry just wished it had never happened.
"I can't – I can't talk anymore about this," Harry said at last, hiding his head even more against Severus' chest.
"Would it help if you wrote it down?"
"What, like in a diary or something?" Harry shuddered, remembering another diary from his Hogwarts years.
"Not necessarily. Any parchment would do. Perhaps by doing that you could exorcise some of the ghosts of the past."
"That might work, I suppose. Um, would you want to read it?"
"Only if you want me to read it, Harry. Whatever you wish."
"I might do that, Severus. Thank you."
Severus kissed him softly, not to arouse, only to comfort this time and Harry sighed into his husband's mouth.
"I love you," Harry whispered as they pulled apart.
"I love you too."
It was three days later before Harry handed Severus what he'd written. Severus hadn't seen Harry writing anything, so he guessed that Harry must have put down his thoughts while Severus was sleeping. Surprised, Severus took the parchment from Harry's hand; he didn't think Harry would want anyone else to read it. Severus knew how much Harry valued his privacy and he also knew how uncomfortable Harry was talking about things that were so personal.
"Are you sure, Harry?" Severus asked, for he didn't want to make things worse between them.
"Yes, but I can't be here while you read it. I'll just go outside and read for a bit, okay?"
"Of course, that's fine." Severus smiled when he saw the book Harry had chosen: one of the yaoi novels they'd picked up on their trip to Tokyo. Thankfully, it was one of the less explicit ones. Maybe reading about a love story between men might make Harry realise that sex did not have to be about abuse or having power over someone. Sometimes Severus forgot that Harry was still so young, for after everything Harry had seen and done he seemed much older. There was still a core of innocence and naivety about Harry despite everything he'd been through.
Shaking his head, Severus gripped Harry's parchment tighter in his fist and sat down cross-legged on the floor in order to read it, nervous as to what the contents might reveal.
I thought I'd write this to you as I certainly don't intend anyone else to read this, ever. I'm not sure where to start, really, so forgive me if this gets a bit rambling.
You already know the Dursleys didn't like me, hated me in fact, me and my freaky ways. When I was growing up, no one ever touched me unless it was to punish me for something. I never even had a hug for years, didn't even quite know what they were. When Mrs. Weasley hugged me after Cedric died, I just stood there like a block of wood; I couldn't hug her back because I didn't know how. Imagine it, Severus, I was fourteen years old and I didn't know how to hug! I felt even more of a freak than I did before. It helped though, helped that she touched me and didn't seem scared or afraid of me. It made me realise that perhaps I wasn't as dirty or as freaky as the Dursleys had made me out to be.
Ron and Hermione sometimes ask me why I hadn't told anyone sooner what the Dursleys had done to me, but how do you tell people something like that? You can't just blurt it out in the middle of a conversation: "Oh, by the way, my relatives used to starve me, beat me senseless and made me live in a cupboard", now can you?
Severus closed his eyes, seeing again that memory of a young Harry so hungry that he'd gobbled down scrambled egg from the floor, shards of plate and all. Instead of being looked after, he'd been hurt time and time again by the people who were supposed to care for him. They locked him in a cupboard, starved him and beat him senseless. This wasn't just a clip round the ear for some childish mischief. No wonder Harry had problems with touch and trust! It was the people Harry had trusted who let him down repeatedly and Severus knew they could include the headmaster in that too. He was the one who'd sent Harry to Privet Drive year after year. Severus sighed and let his eyes return to the parchment once more.
When Malfoy pointed his wand at me that day, I thought he was going to kill me. It bothered me a lot less than I thought it would have. I think part of me almost welcomed it, although I wouldn't have said I was feeling suicidal. I don't, by the way, so you needn't worry about that. As you know, he captured me instead. As soon as I landed in the Malfoy dungeons, my clothes disintegrated and disappeared completely. There were manacles and chains on the walls – I suppose you've seen them? It shouldn't have surprised me, but I was shocked when they moved by themselves and clamped around my wrists. I was always thin as you know, and the manacles seemed large enough that I would be able to slip out of them once they'd gone on, but I should have remembered they were magical.
They tightened to fit my wrist once they were on – no, that's not right. They tightened so much that they cut into my flesh and made my wrists bleed. It was so cold in there, Severus. There was nothing comfortable in that dungeon. No bed, not even a blanket like I'd had in my cupboard, certainly no pillows. The chains weren't loose enough to enable me to lie down anyway. If I slept, I hung suspended from the wall. I don't even remember if I slept at all. Muggles use that as a torture, you know – sleep deprivation. I was cold, I was hungry and I was thirsty, but I knew none of that would matter to Malfoy.
He didn't care about my comfort. I didn't know what he wanted from me, except to make me hurt. It won't surprise you that he used the Cruciatus curse on me, will it? Malfoy was an expert; he knew how long to make it last so that I was in agony, but not long enough to allow me to lose my mind from it. He wanted me to know what was happening to me, but he didn't want me mindless.
Do you know why I survived the Malfoy dungeons, Severus? It was because I was used to being starved and tortured, my body was used to it. Malfoy starved me. I don't know whether he was actively trying to kill me that way or if it was just another way of making me weak. Anyway, he seemed surprised that I was still alive after a fortnight without food. I did have water, one of the house-elves sneaked in every couple of days; maybe he'd been a friend of Dobby's.
Anyway, I survived and Malfoy decided he could make use out of me. Before he even touched me, I saw it in his eyes. The way he looked at me after he'd hit me with Cruciatus over and over again. Even just the way he was looking at me made me want to recoil, but I had nowhere to go. After the Cruciatus, it helps if you can curl up in the foetal position; it helps to ease the nerve endings. I couldn't do that, the chains wouldn't allow it. I thought I was going to die in there and at times I hoped I would. Then it would be over.
He never raped me. No, I should re-phrase that. He didn't force intercourse on me, but what he did was still rape as I never agreed to it and didn't want it. He left me a virgin, but what he did to me was rape just as much as if he'd fucked me through the dungeon floor!
There were a few watermarks on the parchment and Severus was awed anew at his husband's courage in telling him this. Oh, Harry.
I'm sure you know the Malfoy dungeons, Severus, and how they are not exactly blessed with facilities. I didn't even have buckets like the Dursleys sometimes let me use. No, there was a grating below where I hung on the wall that I had to squat over. The manacles were just loose enough to reach. It wasn't very dignified and let's not forget I was naked the whole time I was there. So I couldn't even use a bit of torn-off shirt to clean myself. I was disgusting and filthy, more like a wild animal than anything else and Lucius Malfoy loved seeing me like that. I think... I think I lost myself for a while, for how else to explain what I did?
I can't quite remember the first time he touched me, but all the ones after I do remember. He - he made me suck him off at first and then he would do things to me. Some days he would press against my stomach or between my thighs until he came, all the time whispering how I was his disgusting, filthy, little whore.
One day he gave me a potion and began sucking me. I think now it might have been some sort of aphrodisiac, because I didn't want what he was doing to me, but in the end I was begging him to let me come. I was so hard that it hurt but there was no relief to be had. None. After Moody rescued me, it was ages before I could even feel arousal again. I think Malfoy might have damaged me with what he'd done.
He never did let me come, of course, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that I asked for it. I wanted it. He was right – I was his filthy little whore, wasn't I?
Severus' hands were shaking as he finished reading; shaking with rage. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself down before he sought out his husband. As Severus slid the screen door aside, Harry glanced up from his book with silvery tears dripping down from beneath his glasses.
"Oh, God, you hate me now, don't you?" Harry scrambled up from the veranda, his book falling down onto the wood with a loud thud. Severus was quicker though and grabbed Harry in a bone-crushing hug. "Harry, there is nothing to forgive. Nothing. It wasn't your fault. None of it. None of it. My brave, brave, Harry."
"I don't feel very brave," Harry said, sniffling a bit. Harry sobbed against his midriff for a little while more. Severus sat down on the veranda, his legs hanging over the edge and cradled Harry in his arms. Severus would never have done such a thing in public, but there was no one here to see him comfort Harry so he did his best. Harry's sniffling dried up and they both sat in silence for a while. Severus wasn't sure what to say so he said nothing, waiting until Harry felt comfortable enough to talk.
"He – he didn't touch me after the potion changed me," Harry said at last, his face still hidden against Severus' shirt so that his voice came out muffled. "As if touching me when I was like that would even disgust him."
"I don't think that was the reason, Harry," Severus said softly. "If the reason he gave you the potion was to enable you to become pregnant by Greyback, then Lucius Malfoy could no longer touch you. Greyback would have wanted someone untouched and if Greyback had smelled Malfoy all over you, then Malfoy wouldn't have lived very long."
"You're disappointed in me, aren't you?" Harry asked as he lifted his head and stared at Severus with bright green eyes. "That I got aroused by what he did to me."
"No, Harry, I am not. I am proud of you for what you've endured and yet you've survived when lesser men might not have. I am not trying to belittle what happened to you, but the truth is that you survived what he did to you and he can't hurt you ever again. You have no reason to be afraid any more, Harry. He can't hurt you anymore."
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"
"Ssh," Severus said trying to soothe him. "You have nothing to be sorry about."
Severus lay on top of the covers, one hand resting behind his head as he watched Harry. Severus' skin was moon-pale except for the pale brown nubs of his nipples, a contrast to the pink of Harry's own. Harry was standing at the foot of the bed dressed in nothing but a silk kimono-style dressing gown that Severus had bought him as a present, but Severus was entirely naked. Harry took his time staring at the naked form of his husband; scanning his gaze from the softly furred chest and the light dusting of hairs on his limbs. But always his eyes returned to the cock. Severus' cock was slightly longer than Harry's, but it was thicker too and at the moment it sat straight up from Severus' groin with precome already leaking from the tip.
Harry licked his lips and swallowed as he followed the fingers of Severus' hand as he teased himself, his glittering eyes locked on Harry's. Harry took a deep breath and let his mind go, he let everything go. This was his husband, it was their honeymoon and he was not going to let what Malfoy did to him spoil it for a moment longer. He needed Severus, he wanted Severus in every way possible and tonight he was going to get him.
They hadn't discussed the letter since the day Harry had given it to Severus, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence. No, it was deeper and better than that. They didn't discuss it because they didn't need to. They both knew. It was a shared experience now so Harry didn't need to tell Severus why a certain kind of touch made him uncomfortable, Severus already knew and reacted accordingly. They'd kissed and fondled for the past few days, both of them fully dressed, as if Severus knew Harry needed to take things slowly for a little while. It had been good, it had been more than good, for the heated kisses and touches were a tease and Harry didn't want to be teased anymore. He wanted everything his husband could give him and he wanted to give in return.
Severus seemed to know Harry's thoughts and he was aware when he could push things further and when he should back off, without Harry having to explain. That in turn brought with it a sense of freedom and lightness of being that Harry hadn't expected. In the days since the letter, Harry hadn't suffered from any nightmares at all. Nothing about Cedric or Sirius, nothing about Malfoy or Voldemort, and nothing about the Dursleys either. It seemed sharing what had happened had helped after all.
Severus gasped on the bed as his thumb stroked over the head of his cock. Harry could see precome glistening on his husband's skin and he ached to lick it off. He shifted his hips, the silk of his kimono glided against his skin and spikes of arousal shot through him at every touch.
"Feels good against the skin, doesn't it?" Severus asked him huskily.
"Yeah." Harry swallowed around the fluttering snitch that seemed to have lodged in his throat. In truth it was more than good. It made Harry want other things. Things like Severus' hands stroking him, Severus kissing him as if Harry was the very air he needed to live. Severus' eyes flicked to Harry's groin and the way Harry's erect cock was tenting the silk.
"Let me see you," Severus hissed, arching up into his hand.
Harry knelt down on the bed with his legs either side of Severus' waist and stilled Severus' hand. "No stroking. You're too close and tonight I have other plans for your cock."
Severus' eyes widened. "Harry, we don't have to, not if you're not ready."
"Oh, but I am ready, Severus. I love you and I want you to make love to me. Properly," Harry added on seeing that Severus was about to protest that what they normally did was making love too. "As in, I want your cock inside me. No, I crave it," Harry said at last. That's what it was, he realised, this empty feeling inside of him. He knelt up and untied his sash as slowly as he dared, loving the hitch of Severus' breath as he did so.
Harry didn't know whether it was the fact that he was still dressed or perhaps it was the position he found himself in – that of straddling Severus – but he felt in control of things. He knew that whatever happened tonight, it was going to be his choice. How could he have doubted what he and Severus had between them? It was as different to what had happened with Malfoy as day was to night.
Harry dropped the sash on the floor by the side of the bed and slid the kimono off both shoulders, revealing himself a bit at a time, teasing his husband. The silk bunched up around his thighs and groin, hiding the fact that he was hard, but neither of them needed to see his cock to know it. Harry slid the material down a bit further, but it seemed Severus was no longer in the mood for teasing. He yanked the rest of the garment down and pulled Harry's head towards him for a heated kiss.
Harry had always loved kissing Severus and tonight was no exception. The motion of Severus' lips against his own made him writhe and wriggle, his hips just couldn't keep still. There was a tug, a tussle and suddenly Harry found himself lying on his back with Severus pinning his arms high above his head. Harry gasped and bucked against his husband.
Severus pulled his mouth away from their kiss and noticed what he'd been doing with his hands.
"Too much?" he asked, about to release Harry's arms.
"No," Harry replied, almost breathless. "Not from you. I like it. I love it when you're forceful like that." Being bound by Severus, being held by Severus felt nothing like being manacled to a dungeon wall. He was safe here; he would always be safe with Severus.
Severus' eyes seemed to darken at that – although how eyes already black could darken Harry didn't know – just before he pressed his mouth against Harry's once more and kissed him desperately, passionately, still pinning Harry to the bed. Harry felt so wild, so abandoned tonight as if he would die if they didn't do something and do it now. Severus knew him so well, knew enough to tease and make him ache with want before he would even think of letting Harry come.
"Please!" Harry gasped out, pulling his mouth away from the kiss and arching his body like a cat.
Severus was flush against him, a welcome pressure on his cock. But it wasn't enough, not nearly enough. "Touch me, please!" Harry begged shamelessly.
Severus grinned down at him before letting go of Harry's hands and scattering kisses along Harry's shoulder and chest. He spent a bit of time nibbling and sucking on Harry's nipples, making them stand out like pebbles as Harry babbled a string of incoherent nonsense. Things like more and please and fuck and even before Severus got anywhere near Harry's cock, Harry felt his whole body shatter like crystal and he came, cock fountaining over his belly and chest, each pulse a counterpoint to the sucks Severus was giving his nipple.
"Merlin, Harry, you're so responsive," Severus observed wonderingly, lifting his head to stare deep into Harry's eyes.
Harry felt that ache again, that deeper ache that wasn't fulfilled yet, and he took hold of one of Severus' fingers and sucked it into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it. Severus groaned and closed his eyes, his cock pressing hard against Harry's leg.
"I need more, Severus. I need you inside me."
Severus' eyes fluttered open. "Which way?" Severus asked and Harry blushed under the scrutiny. They could do it both ways, he realised, but at the moment he knew which need was greater. Harry pushed Severus' hands down between his thighs and let Severus feel that secret place that no one else had ever known, would ever know.
Severus' fingers dipped inside, making both of them groan. "Gods, Harry! You're so wet, so open."
Harry widened his legs, noticing that as Severus stroked him inside, his cock was twitching once more too, making him feel double the pleasure. "Severus! In me! In me!" Harry pleaded, widening his legs so Severus was in no doubt as to what Harry needed right now.
Severus sat up on his knees, then lifted Harry's thighs and pushed them back towards Harry's shoulders, making Harry feel so exposed, so wanton. Part of him wanted to hide way, to snap his legs closed, but Severus was looking at him with such wonder, such awe in his expression that Harry felt a million miles away from being a freak. Severus made him feel so special.
Severus slid forward, aiming unerringly where Harry needed him to go. Harry had expected a bit of pain, and there was at first, but not as much as he had been expecting. Severus eased in slowly, trying to get Harry used to it, but Harry was feeling too excited for slow. "Harder!" he moaned, wrapping his legs around Severus' waist and pulling Severus towards him. "I won't break, Severus."
Severus looked deep into his eyes and nodded, before taking Harry at his word, pumping his hips faster and faster. Harry was flying; he had never felt anything like this before. His own fingers were no match for the length and thickness of Severus' cock that brushed against his inner walls with every thrust. Harry's cock was squashed between them, spurting precome onto both their bellies and chests as Severus' thrusts intensified.
"Harry! I can't! I can't hold on any longer!" Severus wailed, sweat dripping down his face.
"Then don't," Harry whispered. "Come for me. Come inside me like you want to."
Severus howled as his hips snapped, once, twice, three times as he emptied himself inside Harry. Harry was a little disappointed that he hadn't been able to come again; just a little bit longer and he was sure he would have been coming too. He didn't feel sated, but he'd already come once tonight, so he should be satisfied with that. As Severus let his cock slip out, Harry sat up, ready to go to the bathroom.
"Harry, what are you doing?"
"I was going to get a cloth from the bathroom to clean us up."
"Why? We're not finished yet. You're not finished yet," Severus said, his head nodding in the direction of Harry's swollen cock.
"But you've come already," Harry said, not really understanding. They'd made love already.
Severus pushed Harry back down on the bed. "Harry, did you honestly believe we were finished making love because I'd come?"
"We're lovers, Harry. It is a mutual thing and did you forget I'm supposed to be spoiling you? Relax and let me take care of you."
Severus kissed his way down Harry's chest, his head dipping between Harry's thighs and his hand wrapped around Harry's cock.
Harry gasped at his husband's ministrations, the delightful tease of tongue and hand and let him do just that.
Six Months Later
Harry sat back on his haunches and smiled at the Christmas tree taking pride of place in their very small living space. It was a little tree, not much taller than a foot, but for Harry it didn't matter what size the tree was. The tree was theirs in a way that the Christmas trees at Hogwarts or at the Dursleys' had never been. Harry had draped it in garlands of silver tinsel and small gold bells, for there wasn't much room for anything else on the tree. He had charmed some tiny lanterns in lieu of fairy lights and Harry had to admit even to himself that it looked good.
Severus was still downstairs in the lab brewing some last minute orders of hangover potions; it seemed the Yuletide holidays were quite busy for those and for potions for stomach-aches. Just as Harry was about to go in search of Severus to see if he was nearly ready for dinner; Severus emerged from the lab, wiping his hands on a towel and smiling at Harry.
"Is that you finished for the night? Shall I start dinner now?" Harry asked, just as his stomach growled with hunger. He'd already eaten an apple while he waited for Severus to finish up.
"That's all the orders done and sent," Severus said as he moved in to wrap Harry in his arms. He nuzzled Harry's neck and Harry relished the attention. "And no, you won't need to start dinner, we're eating out tonight. I've booked us a table at the Golden Grouse. You thought I'd forgotten, hadn't you, that six months ago you made me the happiest man alive."
The Golden Grouse! That was one of the more upscale restaurants in Diagon Alley. Harry remembered the envious glances he, Ron and Hermione had cast in that direction, watching all the well-dressed wizards and witches coming and going. That sort of place was for the likes of the Malfoys, not them. And here Severus was telling him they were eating there as casually as if he'd said they were going to the Three Broomsticks.
"I've nothing to wear to a place like that!" Harry protested. "And won't I have to wear my apprentice robes anyway?"
"Not tonight, Harry. We may be in public, but we are going out as a married couple, not as master and apprentice today. Wear your ruby dress robes, they would look great."
"Are they dressy enough?" Harry didn't want to show Severus up; he'd never really quite got the hang of wizarding fashion.
"Of course they are. The table's booked for seven-thirty so we'll need to get a move on."
Harry perked up at that. "That means we won't have time for separate showers," he said with a grin.
"Indeed," Severus leaned in to kiss him and Apparated them both to the bathroom.
It still amazed Severus how quickly Harry could become aroused. In the six months of their marriage it had been a discovery of sensual delights for both of them. Despite what had happened to Harry in the past, now he welcomed their lovemaking with fervour. Even before they'd quite got their feet back after the Apparition, Harry was kissing Severus while whimpering with desire, at the same time as trying to climb Severus' body like some sort of clinging vine. Harry's rapid arousal spurred on his own and it wasn't long before both of them were gasping and clawing at each other.
Buttons went flying, fabric tore but neither of them were that bothered about clothes at the moment. The need was too urgent, too fierce to be hindered by clothing. They'd managed to get the clothes off each other, only breaking the kiss briefly as shirts were pulled over heads, or shoes and socks had to be removed. Once they were naked, Severus sank to his knees and kissed the skin around Harry's belly button, thrusting his tongue in and out. He caressed Harry's buttocks; loving the silkiness of his skin as Harry bucked.
"Severus!" Harry moaned and grabbed hold of Severus' hair, almost as if he was afraid of falling.
"I've got you," Severus whispered in reassurance before licking along the trail of hair leading to Harry's groin and taking Harry's cock in his mouth. Harry's hands tightened in his hair, making Severus' eyes water, but he refused to let go of his treat. And what a treat it was: Harry tasted spicy and salty with a musk that was uniquely his. Severus looked up; his eyes sought out those of his husband; jade pools wide behind his glasses. Harry's pupils were dilated with lust, his lids at half-mast as he stared at Severus sucking his cock. Severus opened his jaw wide and swallowed Harry's cock down to the root and sucked hard.
"Sev'rus! Oh fuck! Ahh! Ahh!" Harry shuddered and came, gifting Severus with his delicious seed, pulse after pulse of it going down Severus' throat. Severus swallowed most of it, but a few drops dribbled out and down his chin. Harry's cock stayed hard, Severus didn't stop sucking until Harry was writhing again and gabbling, almost incoherently. "In me! Oh fuck, in me!"
Severus smirked with pride that he could make his husband so mad with want like that. Harry tugged Severus' head off his cock before falling to the floor and kissing him passionately, desperately. They shared Harry's taste between them until it was all gone. Once they'd stopped kissing Harry turned around and leaned his upper body over the bath, glancing backwards at Severus and grinning impishly.
"Spread your legs," Severus said, feeling his stomach jolt at the easy way Harry obeyed him. "Wider."
As Harry complied, Severus bestowed a necklace of kisses down Harry's spine from neck to tailbone; loving Harry's mewls of pleasure as he did so. Harry's hands were gripping the edge of the bath and he was gasping for breath. "Bend over." Severus eased two fingers inside Harry's slit, finding him wet and open. Ready for more, for Severus knew Harry hadn't come this way yet. He'd have to remedy that.
Severus gripped Harry's hips and lined his cock up; he slid in easily and was gripped by velvet walls. Harry moaned and tried to push backwards, trying to make Severus go faster by actions alone. Severus smirked to himself, knowing that at this angle, Harry didn't really have much control over the pace of their lovemaking. The thought that Harry was at his mercy sent a frisson of sensation shooting through his cock and sac, making Severus jerk forward. Both of them were too aroused for it to last very long, but Severus slowed his thrusting a few times when he neared orgasm, wanting to feel the pleasure for a bit longer if he could.
Soon he couldn't hold back and he fucked Harry hard and deep, wanting to come... needing to come. Harry's grip on the bath tightened and he howled as he came, clamping his muscles down on Severus' cock. Severus was in heaven as his orgasm was milked from him by Harry's body, so tight and hot around him. Severus held on to Harry's hips as the climax washed over him and his breath became little more than a ragged gasp.
"Fuck!" Harry exclaimed. "That was brilliant!"
Severus' cock softened gradually, but he kept it inside Harry for as long as he could, kissing the back of Harry's neck.
"I wasn't so sure you'd want to be taken from behind," Severus said, for it was the first time they'd tried it like that.
"I wanted to try it. I read somewhere that you can get deeper penetration that way. Not that I don't like face to face, but I just fancied trying something different."
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to experiment, Harry. I'm pleased you felt confident enough to ask for this."
"Well, I didn't really ask, did I?" Harry turned around and hugged him.
"Not in words, no, but your body language wasn't difficult to understand."
"Time for that shower now?"
Feeling pleasantly sated after their shared shower, Harry stood as docile as a lamb as he allowed Severus to dress him in his finery. It wasn't something Severus often did, but today Harry relished in the attention as Severus placed each item of clothing on his frame, kissing Harry in between. "Perfect," said Severus as he smoothed Harry's winter cloak over Harry's shoulders before donning his own. "Ready?"
"Ready," Harry replied as he wrapped his arms around his husband's waist, readying himself for the next Apparition. It had been too soon since the last one and Harry felt sick as soon as they landed in the market square at the junction between Diagon and Knockturn Alley.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I hate Apparating."
"The Floos are closed this time of night," Severus reminded him.
"I know. I get sick then too."
Once he was feeling better, Harry took a good look round the street. The whole alley had been decorated for the Yuletide celebrations with ribbons of holly and mistletoe draped around windows and doorways; not to mention the cages of faeries that fluttered above each shop. The snow-blanketed street glistened like spun sugar; their breath frosting in the air. Even at this late juncture shoppers were frantically rushing to and fro trying to find that elusive gift. Harry grinned to himself. He had a gift for Severus but it was one that wouldn't be found in any shop, not even a magical one.
"What are you smiling at?" Severus asked with a smile of his own.
Harry repressed a shudder of desire as he remembered that deep voice barely half an hour previously telling Harry exactly what Severus wanted to do to him and then making good on that promise.
Harry stared around the magical street at all the lights and the snow and he smiled again. "I'm happy," he said simply as he stood on tiptoes to give Severus a soft kiss. The kiss might have lasted longer if Harry's tummy hadn't growled with hunger and if Severus was a bit more amenable to public displays.
"It's time we fed you," said Severus as he held out his arm like some ancient knight escorting a lady to the dancefloor.
Harry gaped for a few seconds, but then he quickly put his arm through Severus' before Severus could change his mind. Severus had always been intensely private and Harry revelled in the fact that he was allowing such a public intimacy tonight. It didn't happen too often, but when it did Harry appreciated the small kisses or brief hand-holds much more than he felt he should. Severus held him tight and Harry rested his head against Severus’ arm as they crunched through the snow to the restaurant.
The windows had been decorated with frosted scenes; little snowmen waved at them as Severus pushed the door open. As they entered the crowded restaurant all conversations ceased and the diners stared rudely. Harry felt himself flushing; couldn't they go anywhere without people ogling them? There had been a few Howlers after their wedding, but since they arrived while Harry and Severus had been on honeymoon they didn't know what they had said. They'd just come home to scraps of red envelopes and ash on their floor. Harry knew that not everyone approved of their marriage, that they'd expected the Boy Who Lived to marry a nice witch, not an ex-Death Eater and someone who'd been his teacher. The disapproval still hurt though, echoing as it did his first years with the Dursleys when they never approved of anything Harry did.
Harry wanted to turn heel and flee away from all those stares, but he stood his ground. He wouldn't let them spoil their evening out. They had as much right to be out in a restaurant as anyone else.
"Mr. Potter!" The Maitre d' waltzed towards them with two menus clutched in his hand.
"It's Mr. Potter-Snape," Harry ground out through gritted teeth, reminding the man of his marriage and his husband.
The Maitre d' glanced towards Snape and coughed, as if to cover up his mistake. "Of course, of course. This way, please. Your table has been reserved."
The round table was draped with a golden damask tablecloth with napkins to match. "Would you like some drinks to start while you look at the menu?"
"Mineral water?" asked Harry.
"The same," said Severus. "We can order wine when we've decided on our meal."
"Very good, sirs."
Harry fiddled with one of the napkins; he hadn't actually anticipated breaking this news tonight. It should have been at home, not in a restaurant full of strangers. "Um, Severus?"
"Yes, Harry?" Severus turned the next page of his menu.
"I don't think I should have wine."
Severus set his menu down and smiled at him. "I was wondering when you were going to tell me."
Harry gaped at him. "You knew?"
"Of course I knew." Severus cast a Muffliato charm so they wouldn't be overheard by the other diners. "Harry, ever since you started getting periods, you've been very regular. Your last one should have been two weeks ago by my reckoning. So I suppose a visit to Madam Pomfrey is in order to make sure, isn't it?"
"I suppose so. A late period could be something else, couldn't it? But I feel pregnant, does that make sense?"
"Well, a few days time and we'll know, won't we?"
Harry nodded and grinned at his husband. "Happy Yule, Severus."
"And to you, Harry. And to you."
"That's fine, Harry. You can get dressed now." Madam Pomfrey pulled the curtain around Harry's bed and left him to his privacy. He could see her deep in conversation with Severus but Harry couldn't hear what was being said. It was just a jumble of noise that he couldn't make sense of. Harry put his apprentice robes back on before opening the curtain and stepping out from behind it. Severus smiled at him while Madam Pomfrey conjured some extra chairs. She waved them both into the chairs as she sat down on the stool that was next to Harry's bed.
"Is there anything wrong?" Harry asked at last, for the medical examination had seemed to take an awfully long time.
"No, dear. Not wrong. Your guess was correct - you are indeed pregnant."
Harry had suspected it for a while, but he hadn't really been prepared for how that news made him feel. It was too alien a concept yet; he couldn't quite get his head around it. Pregnant. With a baby. It was something he both dreaded and hoped for at the same time. How were they going to tell people he was pregnant? The papers would just love to get hold of a story like that, wouldn't they? Harry Potter, the freak.
"He is?" asked Severus, reaching out to take hold of Harry's hand and giving it a soft squeeze. Harry stared down at their entwined hands and wondered how their baby's hands might look.
"Yes." Madam Pomfrey rifled through Harry's medical notes and charts, clucking her tongue at a few of them. "Now, according to this your last period was on the nineteenth of November, so that would mean the baby's due date would be around late August."
"A baby? We're having a baby?" The news still felt unreal. Harry removed his hand from Severus' and cupped his still-flat abdomen. "I have a baby in there?"
"You do indeed, Harry. The shock will wear off shortly, I dare say. Now, I still have some health concerns. Your nutrient levels are still rather low so I'd like to prescribe some nutrient supplements for you, especially for the first few months. If the morning sickness gets bad you will need to take extra care that you and the baby are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need."
"I can brew what's needed if you can give me a list."
"Excellent. I was hoping you'd say that, Severus. Horace does his best, but his best is not up to your standard. Speaking of potions, I'll also make you up a list of potions and ingredients that Harry shouldn't be in direct contact with. Anything not on the list is safe for him to brew and any potions that are already bottled are also fine to handle."
"So I can still work in the shop?"
"You can, just make sure to get plenty of rest, dear. I'll want to see you in another month for a check-up. Would you mind if Neville was here the next time? It's part of his training, but of course only if you agree."
Neville was spending Christmas with his grandmother so that's why he wasn't at Hogwarts. Harry was a little unsure that he wanted his friend to find out about his pregnancy so soon. So many things could go wrong still, but having an extra healer might be good thing.
"That's fine, Madam Pomfrey. I don't mind Neville being here."
"Good, good. Where are you two off to for Christmas?"
"We're having a quiet Christmas at home," said Harry. "Our first one together with just the two of us. On Boxing Day we've been invited to the Burrow."
"Well, have a good one."
"You too, Madam Pomfrey. Thank you," said Harry.
On Boxing Day morning, Harry was woken up by kisses along his neck and down his back. He smiled to himself and stretched, before turning over and grinning at his husband.
"Morning," Harry said, stretching his arms above his head.
Severus brushed his lips against Harry's in a soft peck before climbing out of bed altogether. It was then that Harry noticed that Severus was wearing a pair of dark blue pyjamas when Harry knew they'd both fallen asleep naked after they'd made love the night before.
"Why are you dressed?"
"I would hardly call pyjamas dressed," Severus said with a smile. "I wanted to make you breakfast in bed and I didn't feel right wandering about the kitchen in my birthday suit."
Harry grinned. "I don't know. I might get used to it."
"Your brat," Harry agreed. "Anyway, I don't see any breakfast."
"I think the eggs were off." Severus was looking anywhere but at Harry; a sure sign he was lying.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "They were fresh yesterday. You broke them again?"
Severus flushed. "I did have other things on my mind. Impending fatherhood and Boxing Day at the Weasleys' for example."
Harry tried his best not to laugh, he really did, but just the thought of it had him chuckling so much tears ran down his cheeks. Severus really was a terrible cook; he wasn't at home in the kitchen at all. It was strange how someone so good at making potions couldn't make a decent meal.
"We don't have to go to the Burrow if you don't want to, Severus."
"But you want to," said Severus sitting down sideways on the bed. "They're your family and if you want to see them over Yuletide, then we will see them."
"You don't talk much about your family, Severus," Harry said softly. He knew he was on treacherous ground here. If Severus' family had been half as horrible as the Dursleys then he could well understand Severus' reluctance. Maybe it was because he was pregnant now, but Harry genuinely was curious.
"There aren't that many of them left. A few scattered cousins, that's about it."
"No aunts or uncles?"
"Aunt Agatha, Darius' mother is still alive as far as I know but she was only a Prince by marriage. As for the others, I have no idea. The Princes were a very well-respected old Pureblood wizarding family, but they cut off all ties once my mother married a Muggle. Even if they were still alive I wouldn't want to contact them. If she'd had more support from her family my mother would never have died so young and I can't forgive them for that. They helped put her in the grave. Of course when I came along thingswere even worse for her. My father hated me because I was magical and my mother could never be reconciled with her family again because she'd given birth to a Half-blood."
"Oh, Severus. I'm sorry."
Severus shrugged. "Don't be. I haven't missed them. Anyway, I have a new family now. You and our children are all I need, Harry."
Harry sat up and tugged Severus down for a long, lingering kiss.
"How long until we need to get to the Weasleys'?" Severus asked as their mouths parted briefly for air.
"A while," Harry said with a smile. "We have time."
"Good," said Severus, pushing him back down on the bed.
Severus held close to Harry as he Apparated them both to the edge of the Weasleys' property, worried that Harry's pregnancy might make his husband's magic a bit erratic. Harry seemed only too happy to be wrapped up in Severus' arms and once they'd arrived, Harry rewarded him with a long, lingering kiss, standing on tiptoes. Harry seemed in a good mood. Severus wasn't sure whether it was from the news of the baby or the fact that Severus had agreed to this visit.
Severus had always been antisocial. Even as a child he had been a bit of a loner, although he'd never really thought of himself as lonely. His own company had been enough and he much preferred to read or brew than play boisterous games such as Quidditch. Friends had never been part of his circle before, but he knew how much store Harry set by his friendships and so Severus was glad to support him in this, even though Severus himself would rather be somewhere else. But doing things for the person you loved, Severus could understand that. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for Harry and he tried to show that in the kiss they were still sharing.
Harry pulled away, breathless and flushed. He grinned. "I suppose we ought to stop now or we'll both be in no state for a visit." Severus couldn't help it, he glanced down and saw that indeed Harry had an erection tenting his cloak. Harry had always been so sensitive. They were in the lee of the house so no windows were visible from this angle. Severus grinned back. "Or maybe I should help you take care of that first, hmm?" With those words, Severus sank to his knees and fumbled beneath Harry's cloak and apprentice robes to get to his trousers. Harry gasped in surprise, but he didn't voice any objections.
Severus cast a warming bubble around them, which also kept out the small flurry of snow. He didn't want his poor husband freezing after all; he intended to make sure Harry was very warm indeed. "What if someone sees?" Harry asked, breathless, but he added his fingers to Severus' and they both undid his trousers together.
Severus grinned up at him. "Then they'll get more than they bargained for on their walk, won't they? Isn't it exciting though, Harry? That someone might come along and catch you with your cock down my throat?"
"God, yes!" Harry moaned and arched his back against the wall of the house. Severus knew Harry was too shy to really enjoy it if someone caught them, but the idea of it, oh yes, that excited Harry indeed. His cock was almost fully hard now, which was a bit of a pity as Severus enjoyed the feel as it came to life in his mouth. Severus glanced up at Harry and grinned before he bent his head and took Harry's cock all the way down to the root. Harry gasped and his hands scrabbled against the brickwork behind him as he struggled not to lose control so quickly.
Severus set to his task with a will, knowing they hadn't much time, for they'd been expected ten minutes ago. Harry's cock was delicious, as always, but it tasted slightly different than it had before; sweeter, somehow and Severus wondered if the pregnancy hormones had anything to do with that. Harry's hips were thrusting wildly now, urging his cock down Severus' throat and Severus was only too happy to oblige his husband in this. Harry was making the most wonderful noises, little moans and mewls that excited Severus too, but he was too intent on making Harry feel good to worry about his own pleasure for now. They would have plenty of time later at home to play.
As he sucked Harry's cock, Severus moved one hand behind and pressed two fingers into Harry's leaking slit. God, he was so wet! Harry groaned deep in his throat and grabbed hold of Severus' shoulders, as if he needed the extra support to stay upright. Severus licked and sucked for all he was worth. Harry's body clamped down around his fingers and almost at the same time Harry's cock pulsed inside his mouth, gifting him with his husband's sweet essence. Severus swallowed it all and kept fingering Harry until his husband shuddered and screamed as his orgasm finally finished.
Severus let go of his cock and smiled up at his husband. "Feeling better?"
"God, Severus! I feel like I'm floating!"
"That's the idea." Severus kissed Harry's cock, then licked his fingers once he'd removed them from Harry's slit.
Harry moaned anew. "It's so hot when you do that."
"What?" Severus asked innocently, although he knew perfectly well.
"When you lick your fingers after you've - you know. As if you can't get enough of my taste."
"I can't," Severus said simply. "For you taste exquisite."
Harry cast a cleaning charm on his cock before zipping himself back up and smiling contentedly at him. "Do you think anyone will notice anything?"
Severus gave Harry the once-over. Harry's hair was a mussed mess; his lips were sore where he'd been biting them and his face was flushed a deep, shell pink. He looked thoroughly debauched, just how Severus liked him.
"No, Harry. No one will notice anything," Severus said, smiling. "And if they do, well, we haven't even been married a year yet, so we're still like newly-weds. No one will dare say anything."
"At least, not to our face," Harry said, chuckling. He held out his arm. "Shall we, then?"
Severus hooked his arm through Harry's and nodded. "Let's."
Harry's legs still resembled jelly as they made their way to the front door of the Burrow and he was glad of his husband's arm through his to give him some extra support. As they got nearer to the front door, Harry's steps slowed until he stopped altogether. "Severus," he said. "Do you mind if we keep the news that I'm pregnant to ourselves for now? I just want it to be between us. There are still so many things that might go wrong."
"That's fine by me, Harry. I agree that it should be just our little secret for now. No one else needs to know, not unless you want to tell them."
"Thanks," said Harry just as the front door was flung open and Molly Weasley was giving both of them a broad smile.
"Harry! Severus! We were about to send out a search party for you two! Come in, come in. Lunch is just about ready. I'm so glad you both could come."
"The pleasure is all ours," said Severus graciously and Harry almost bit his tongue off trying not to laugh at that. Severus hated get-togethers and Harry knew he was only doing it to please him. The thought sent a tendril of warmth through his chest. "Thank you for inviting us."
"Ach, Severus. You're family now, you don't need an invite!" Molly moved aside to let them inside and they followed her down to the kitchen. The Burrow didn't have a formal dining space; all meals took place around the scrubbed kitchen table. Harry loved it, it was so homely and he'd always felt welcomed here from the very first visit back when he was twelve. Ron and Hermione both ran to hug him, before shaking Severus' hand. Harry had to grin when Severus took hold of Hermione's hand and gave a small kiss to the back of it. "How lovely to see you again, Miss Granger." Hermione giggled and blushed. Ron was glaring daggers behind Severus' back and Harry had to stifle a laugh. He knew there was nothing in it, Severus wasn't interested in Hermione like that, but Ron didn't seem to think that. Harry glanced at his husband in surprise. Severus was on his best behaviour today. Most of the Weasleys were there with the exception of Percy and Bill. Harry knew the fact that Bill wasn't here would please Severus and truth to tell Harry was a bit relieved himself. Things between him and Bill were always quite tense these days, for Harry had never forgotten that day in the orchard and what Bill had tried to do.
"Bill is in France with Fleur's family for the holidays; they'll be with us for the New Year. Percy had to go in to work for a bit today," said Molly.
"He had to work today?" Harry asked in surprise. He didn't think the Ministry was even open during the Yuletide holidays.
"Yes, there's been some to-do about something or other. He didn't give us any details, just ran out after he got the owl. But never mind that, sit down you two and I'll get lunch served. Oh, before I do. Arthur, can you bring in Severus and Harry's presents? They're still under the tree."
"Mrs. Weasley, you didn't need to get us anything," Harry protested. Harry had already sent his and Severus' presents by owl to the Burrow so they'd have them for Christmas, but he hadn't been expecting anything in return. He knew money was a bit tight for the Weasley family.
"I know I don't need to, dear, but I wanted to. Go on, Arthur, they're the only two presents still under there."
"Right you are," said Arthur as he pushed himself up from the chair.
Ginny was deep in conversation with the twins and Charlie, but she gave Harry a warm smile when she saw him. Ginny did realise he was married to Severus now? What would it take for the hope in her eyes whenever she saw Harry to die? If Harry being married and pregnant wouldn't do it, he didn't know what would.
Arthur returned a few moments later with two wrapped parcels which he handed to each of them. Severus' present was wrapped in dark green paper with silver stars on it. Harry's was the more traditional red with green holly boughs, but both parcels were the same size. "Go on then," Molly urged them.
Harry grinned and started unwrapping his gift. It was a hand-knitted scarf in the same grey shade as his apprentice robes with the same edged green piping as well. "Thank you, it's lovely. And it will go with my robes too."
"How's your apprenticeship going, Harry?" asked Arthur. "Severus keeping you busy?"
Harry couldn't quite quell the blush when he remembered what they'd recently been up to. "Yes, very busy." By this time, Severus too had unwrapped his present. Another scarf, but this one was black with some white tassels at either end. Harry felt inordinately pleased that Molly Weasley had taken into account Severus' colour choices, for he hardly ever wore anything besides black and white.
"Thank you, Molly," said Severus softly and Harry could tell from his tone of voice that he meant it. Harry wondered if anyone had ever given Severus a present before now and the thought made him sad. Harry gave Severus' hand a squeeze before sitting down beside Ron. Severus sat at Harry's other side, twirling his new scarf in his fingers as if he couldn't quite believe someone besides Harry had given him a gift. It reminded Harry too much of how he'd felt when he'd been with the Dursleys and Harry vowed then and there that no child of theirs would ever grow up feeling unloved and unwanted. He and Severus may have had miserable childhoods but that just made Harry even more determined that their children wouldn't suffer the same.
Hermione had once given Harry some books on the psychology of child abuse. Harry had read the first three chapters before throwing the book down in disgust. Most of the contributors seemed to think that people who were abused as children were more likely to turn into abusers themselves. Total bollocks, in Harry's opinion. Vernon or Petunia hadn't been abused, neither had Dudley, yet all three of them had abused Harry in one way or another. If anything, Harry was even less likely to abuse a child, because he didn't want any child to have to go through what he had. How could people sit there and write such rubbish?
"Are you all right?" Severus asked him in a whisper.
"Yeah." Harry nodded. "Just thinking too much."
"Help yourselves, everyone," said Molly as she sat down in the empty seat next to Arthur. The table was laden with bowls and plates filled to the brim with food. Mashed potatoes, ham, cold slices of turkey, picked eggs, pickled onions, mayonnaise, Picallili and other types of pickles that Harry didn't even recognise. There were different types of salad leaf as well as tomatoes, radishes and raw carrot sticks.
Harry helped himself to some potatoes and turkey along with a dollop of mayonnaise, but Severus took the plate out of his hand. "You can't have that."
Harry stared at him. "Why? What's wrong with it?"
"Choose something else. I insist," Severus said in a tone that brooked no argument. By this time everyone else had stopped talking and were staring at both of them.
"You can't talk to him like that!" Ginny protested. "He can eat what he likes!"
"It is no concern of yours what my husband eats, Miss Weasley," Severus said sternly.
Harry wished that Ginny hadn't tried to get involved in whatever the hell this was. It was between him and Severus, no one else.
"It's only turkey," Harry said, wondering why Severus was making such a fuss about what he was eating.
"I like mayonnaise," Harry pointed out. It wasn't as if mayonnaise would harm...Oh. Some mayonnaise was made with raw eggs and raw eggs could carry diseases that might harm the baby. Severus wasn't just being a pain in the arse after all. He was looking after both of them. "Sorry," Harry said as he pushed his plate to one side and took some more food, without mayonnaise this time.
Ginny gaped at both of them. "How can you let him treat you like that? Just because he's your apprentice doesn't mean you can treat him like a slave!"
"Leave it, Ginny," Fred said, his arm on his sister's, as if stopping her from flying across the table at Severus. Harry knew who he would bet on in a fight between the two of them and it wouldn't be Ginny. He wished she would just mind her own business.
"Leave it? Did you see how he's treating Harry? Like he has to obey him in every little thing? That's not an apprentice! That's not even a husband! That's a slave! Is that you want to be, Harry? Nothing but his slave?"
"Ginny, that's enough!" said Arthur in a firm tone. "Severus and Harry's relationship is no one else's business. Leave them alone."
"Enough! We don't need to hear any more from you."
Harry was just getting more and more confused as the conversation happened over his head. What did they mean about his and Severus' relationship? Did they know that Harry was pregnant? Was that it?
Conversation started up again and everyone settled down to eat their lunch, leaving Harry more confused than ever. He would have to discuss it with Severus later; maybe he could shed some light on the subject. Everyone settled down to eat their lunch, but the conversation was more subdued now and Harry could almost feel the tension in the room as a physical entity. Harry moved his food around his plate with his fork, no longer feeling hungry. "Harry, you need to eat," Severus said, jabbing his empty fork towards Harry's plate. Harry knew that, if not for his own sake, then for the baby's, but the thought of any food was making him nauseous.
Ginny glared at Severus, no doubt feeling she was vindicated when Severus had ordered him to eat. "How about dessert?" Molly asked brightly when it was clear no one else was going to eat the savoury lunch either. It wasn't only Harry who had lost his appetite. "We've got some Christmas pudding left over or there's strawberry trifle and ice-cream if you fancy something lighter."
"Trifle, please," said Harry, knowing he couldn't face anything as heavy as Christmas pudding today. Severus smiled at him, obviously pleased that he was going to eat something even if it was only dessert.
"Fred, George, can you clear the table for me please?" Molly stood up and headed over to the cold-cupboard while Fred and George used magic to clear all the plates and food from the table. They made a contest out of it to see who could clear the plates and get them into the sink the fastest.
Someone knocked on the door just as Molly was dishing up the ice-cream on top of the dishes of trifle, but before anyone could answer it, Percy walked in accompanied by Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Percy! You made it after all. You're just in time for dessert," she said.
"I'm sorry, Mum. We're here on official business."
"It couldn't wait until after Boxing Day?" asked Arthur, looking askance at his son. "What official business?"
"It's a summons for Harry," said Percy, holding out a pale blue envelope. Harry got up from his chair and went to stand by Percy.
"Why am I being summoned?" Harry asked, his stomach roiling.
"Lucius Malfoy's trial has been set for the fifth of January. You're being summoned as a witness for the defence."
"What?" Harry gaped at him. By this time, Severus too had left his seat and was now standing beside Harry. He squeezed Harry's shoulder in support.
"My husband is not going in front of the Wizengamot to defend the man who abused him for months!" Severus protested vehemently.
"But that's just it, Severus," said Shacklebolt. "Malfoy is claiming that it wasn't abuse. That what happened between him and Harry was consensual."
"He can't do that, can he, Severus?" Harry asked, but it was Kingsley Shacklebolt who replied.
"Malfoy is free to put up whatever defence he sees fit and this is what he's chosen to do. By making out that there are no charges to answer."
"But that's a lie!" protested Harry. "It wasn't consensual!" Harry's voice was rising on every word and he felt like everyone in the room was staring at him. He took a few deep breaths to try and calm himself down. God, this was awful. How was he supposed to stand up in front of the Wizengamot and explain all the vile things Malfoy had done to him? And now to top it all, Malfoy was pretending that Harry had wanted those same things. "I feel sick," Harry mumbled. A few moments later, Molly handed him a glass of water and patted his shoulder.
"Not to worry, Harry," said Shacklebolt. "You'll be given Veritaserum and the truth will come out."
"Harry can't take that," said Severus. "And anyway, even Veritaserum isn't fool proof. Do you really think with his years as a Death Eater that Lucius Malfoy hasn't been taking steps to make sure he's prepared if he ever has to take it?"
"Why can't Harry take it, then?" Percy demanded, puffing out his chest. "It's standard in cases like this."
"Medical grounds," Severus said, but didn't elaborate further. Harry was glad he hadn't mentioned the pregnancy quite yet, but what if the Wizengamot insisted?
Shacklebolt stroked his chin, deep in thought. "If that's the case, then Malfoy wouldn't be required to take it either."
"So it's my word against his?" Harry knew Malfoy would have access to the best lawyers money could buy. They wouldn't stand a chance against him. Malfoy's lawyers would twist everything around and make it out to be all Harry's fault after all. They didn't have enough money to get the best lawyers. In fact Harry wondered if they'd even be able to afford a bad one. The potions shop was just about breaking even and they couldn't afford to finance a long, drawn-out court case. It was as if Malfoy wanted them to give in before they'd even started.
Shacklebolt nodded. "Basically, yes, that's what it boils down to. It would be different if there were witnesses."
Witnesses? As Harry would have wanted anyone to witness all those degrading things!
"There was an elf," Harry said. "A house-elf who used to bring me food and water sometimes when I was locked in the dungeon."
"No good," said Percy. "A house-elf can't be compelled to speak out against their master. We can't summon it."
"Dobby spoke out against the Malfoys," Harry pointed out.
"That was different. He chose to do so, no one compelled him to speak out, it was his own decision." Shacklebolt patted Harry's arm, making Harry shrink back. He didn't know Shacklebolt that well and the invasion of his personal space was just too much on top of everything else today. The Auror raised his eyebrows and stepped back.
"What about Moody?" asked Severus. "He rescued Harry from the dungeons. He'd seen some of what Malfoy had done to Harry."
Too much, in Harry's opinion.
"Again, Malfoy is claiming that Harry being manacled and everything else was consensual."
They were going round in circles and Harry was rapidly feeling sicker by the minute and a headache was forming behind his left eye. He didn't want to talk about this any more. Harry glanced across at his husband, trying to tell him without words that he wanted to go home. The family dinner he'd been looking forward to had been a disaster and Harry just wanted to be wrapped up in Severus' arms and told everything was going to be okay, even if it wasn't.
"Thank you for letting us know, but I think I ought to be getting Harry home now," said Severus.
"So soon?" Molly sounded disappointed, but Harry needed out of there.
"I think it's for the best."
Once the goodbyes were said Severus and Harry took their leave and Apparated straight home.
"Severus, what did Shacklebolt mean about the manacles and everything being consensual? Surely he knew no one would want that done to them, would they?"
Both of them were lying in bed; Severus had been trying to read but his mind was elsewhere. He'd been waiting on this conversation for a while and now that the moment had arrived, he wasn't sure how best to broach things with Harry.
"Harry, do you remember when I spanked you? After your dream?"
Harry propped his elbow up and rested his head in his hand. He was blushing before he nodded.
"It's much the same thing," said Severus. "Some people like to be bound, or hurt. For sexual things."
Harry gaped at him. "You mean some people might want to be tied up and hurt? But why?"
"Because it feels good to them, or feeds a need, a desire they have. But what Malfoy did to you and BDSM are totally different things."
"BDSM? What's that?" asked Harry, sitting upright now, his gaze trained on Severus.
"In the broadest terms, it stands for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, domination and submission, but it covers a whole host of things. Some people like to be hurt, others enjoy seeing someone submit to them. But in that world, Harry, the people have consented to this, far different than what Malfoy did to you. That was abuse, pure and simple, since you didn't want it and didn't consent."
Harry nibbled on his bottom lip. "But what about that time Malfoy made me come? He could use that to say that since I had an orgasm, I wanted it. I didn't, Severus! I didn't!" Harry's voice rose on the last word and he was outright sobbing by the end of it. Severus pulled him against his chest and kissed his hair. "I know, Harry. I know. Ssh, it'll be all right. He won't get away with it, I promise."
At breakfast the next morning, they were surprised by someone knocking on the door to their living quarters, rather than the shop. "Are we expecting anyone?" asked Severus.
"Not that I know of. Maybe it's Molly come to see if we're all right," replied Harry. "We did leave rather suddenly."
Severus nodded and headed to the door, wondering who would possibly visit them at such an early hour. It was barely past seven. He stood gaping in shock at the woman on the step. "Aunt Agatha?" Severus hadn't seen the woman in years. She must be about sixty by now, but her face was smooth and unlined and there was only one streak of grey in her dark brown hair. Hazel eyes peered at Severus over the rim of her glasses.
"Good you're up," said Agatha, striding past him into the narrow hallway. "Can't abide laziness. Never could. Now, where's this husband of yours? I couldn't get to the wedding, but I'm here now."
In truth Severus had only sent her an invitation as it was considered the proper thing to do; he never expected her to attend. They'd been estranged for years, ever since his mother died. The last time Severus had seen Agatha it had been at his mother's funeral. He had never been one to keep in touch besides a yuletide greeting once a year.
As Severus pushed open the door, Harry stood up to greet their visitor; Harry had always been the epitome of politeness. "Harry, allow me to introduce my Aunt Agatha."
"How do you do?" said Harry, holding out his hand. Agatha shook it and then clasped both her hands around his.
"Great to meet you at last, Harry. I know of you, of course, who doesn't in these times? It's not the same though, is it? Severus, I've been here five minutes and you've yet to offer me any refreshment."
"Oh, sorry," said Severus, feeling chastised like a naughty schoolboy. "We've got some breakfast left."
"No, thank you, I already ate. Just a cup of tea for me, please."
Severus busied himself filling the kettle and getting down the tea things from the cupboard. Harry had been finding the smell of tea and coffee made him feel sick, so Severus had forgone both beverages lately. He hoped one cup of tea wouldn't induce nausea in Harry.
Once the tea was made, Severus set the cup down on the table in front of Agatha. She nodded in appreciation that Severus had used a china cup and saucer and not a mug like he would normally have done for himself.
Severus settled in the chair next to Harry and across from his aunt. "Aunt Agatha, what are you doing here?" Severus asked without preamble.
"I would have thought that obvious, my dear. I've heard about Lucius Malfoy's court case and I'm here to make sure that you win. That vile man mustn't be allowed to get away with it. Kidnapping and assaulting Harry Potter and then pretending that Harry wanted to be locked away in his dungeons for months? A blind man can see that story doesn't hold water, but money talks and Lucius Malfoy will have the best lawyers on retainer."
"So if he's got the best lawyers, how can we defeat him in court?" asked Harry listlessly. It was almost as if Harry had given up already.
Agatha smiled and tapped her nose. "I should have said second-best lawyers. The Malfoys do have money, this is true, but their assets are nowhere near that of the Princes. My dear Julian passed away three years ago and I am his main beneficiary. I am a very rich woman, Harry, and I want to use that money to help you get even with Lucius Malfoy. We will win, I'm confident of that."
"Why are you helping us?" asked Severus. "We haven't exactly been close over the years."
"No, and whose fault was that? Your Grandfather Prince, that's who. The man disowned his own daughter because she wanted to marry for love rather than settle for an arranged match. What sort of man does that to his own flesh and blood? We may not be related by blood, Severus, but I admired your mother and we were in secret contact until she died. You have also helped my son Darius when he gets into those scrapes of his. It's men like Lucius Malfoy who give Purebloods a bad name and I want to see him pay for his crimes. He shouldn't be able to get away with it. Whatever you need for the court case, whether it's lawyers, expert witnesses, specialists, however much it costs, I am paying for it. I want to do this for you both. Think of it as a late wedding present."
"I don't know what to say," said Severus. "That's very generous of you."
"Nonsense! What's family for? You're looking a bit peaky, Harry. Try some dry toast and crackers. It did wonders for my morning sickness when I was carrying Darius."
Harry's mouth opened and closed but he didn't manage to say anything besides a strange sound from his throat.
"How did you know?" Severus asked. "That Harry was pregnant?"
But Agatha just smiled and tapped her nose again.
Harry knew it had been too much to hope for that it would be a closed trial, and he'd been right not to hope. Courtroom Nine was filled to capacity. Not only was the entire Wizengamot in attendance, filling all the tiered seating, a new public balcony had been added above those seats. The public space too was filled, all seats were taken, so some people were standing along the back, or sitting on the aisle steps. There were even some wizards sitting on the balcony railing itself, their legs dangling down over the people below. But Harry didn't only glimpse strangers.
All his friends were here too. Ron and Hermione gave him a thumbs-up and a hopeful smile as he passed them. All the Weasleys were there, along with Madam Pomfrey, Hagrid and Professor McGonagall. Neville and the twins gave him a nod of encouragement and Harry tried to let himself take heart with all the support he had. But Lucius Malfoy was clever, he could twist things around and make out that it was Harry's own fault that these things happened to him.
Harry felt hundreds of eyes boring into his back as he and Severus made their way to the front. Their lawyer, Maxwell Burns, was already seated at the prosecution table, as was Severus' Aunt Agatha. Severus squeezed Harry's hand as they approached the table and their seats. Harry avoided looking across at Lucius Malfoy seated at the defence table. He was afraid of what he might see in his eyes.
Harry wasn't sure he was ready for this. He wasn't sure he'd ever be ready for this. To tell the whole world the humiliation, the degradation he'd suffered at Malfoy's hands? A flash of lime green caught his eye and he glanced around to see Rita Skeeter, Quick-Quotes Quill in hand. She licked her lips, no doubt at the juicy story she was sure was going to be revealed shortly. It didn't matter that Harry wanted his privacy, that he didn't want everyone and their crup to know what had happened to him. But reporters wouldn't care. Anything to do with Harry Potter would sell copies, there was no doubt about that. Harry's own thoughts on it wouldn't matter.
"I don't know if I can do this," Harry whispered to Severus.
"You'll be fine, Harry," said Severus. "I know how strong you are. You can do this."
At a table in the front sat Madam Bones and Kingsley Shacklebolt and Harry felt relieved. Madam Bones had a reputation of being tough but fair and Kinglsey had been a member of the Order. Although Harry didn't know him very well, surely knew he would know Harry wouldn't make any of this up. Why would he? The things that Malfoy had done to him were so awful that he wouldn't have wanted to make them up.
As the buzz of conversation around them got louder and louder, Madam Bones banged a gavel on the desk in front of her. "Quiet please, or I will have the public removed." Once silence reigned, Madam Bones turned to survey the courtroom. "Case 25B, the Magical Law Enforcement Office Versus Lucius Malfoy is now in session. Mr. Malfoy, you are charged with abduction, false imprisonment, sexual assault and grievous bodily harm. How do you plead?"
"Not guilty on all charges, your honour." Malfoy turned and smirked at Harry, so confident that he would get off. Harry wanted to slap that smirk from his face. The gall of the man! As if what he'd already put Harry through wasn't enough. No, Malfoy had to drag the whole sordid tale through the public court.
"Advocate Burns, you may call your first witness for the prosecution," said Madam Bones.
Burns stood up. "The prosecution calls Alastor Moody."
The entire courtroom erupted with noise at that, no doubt wondering what a madman had to add to the case.
Two ushers opened the courtroom doors at the back and a few moments later, Moody hobbled in. His shaggy hair, normally loose around his shoulders was tied back neatly in a ponytail. Gone was his old leather coat, instead Moody was wearing a dark blue Muggle suit, with a lighter blue shirt and a silver tie. One leg of the suit was pinned to his knee, his wooden leg visible to all assembled. Harry wondered what the rest of the court thought of the grizzled warrior. Harry felt tears prick the corner of his eyes, both at the thought that Moody had gone to such an effort for him, and for his rescue almost a year ago now. Harry had no doubt he might have died in that dungeon if it hadn't been for Alastor Moody.
Moody sat down in the witness chair and nodded briefly to Harry, Severus and their lawyer.
"Mr. Moody," began Madam Bones. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
"I swear, your honour."
"Very well, Advocate Burns, you may begin your questioning."
"Mr. Moody, it is a matter of public record that you rescued Harry Potter from Malfoy Manor last year, is that correct?" Burns paced in front of the chair, hands clasped behind his back.
"Yes, sir, that's right."
"And can you tell me in what condition you found the young man?"
"He was naked, chained to a wall. I think he'd been starved too."
"Objection!" Malfoy's lawyer jumped up from his chair. "The witness can't know that for sure."
Madam Bones turned to Moody. "Mr. Moody, please restrict yourself to the facts that you could see. No conjecture."
"Well then," said Moody. "Harry was naked and he was so thin I could see his bones protruding from the skin. He was covered in filth, his hair matted with blood and dirt. There were bruises covering most of his torso, arms and legs, every hue from purple to yellow. Some were fading, some were more recent."
"And did Mr. Potter tell you that he was there by his own wish?" asked Burns.
"What sort of codswallop is that? No, he didn't want to be there and he was very thankful to be rescued."
"So Mr. Potter was a prisoner at Malfoy Manor?"
"Of course he was!"
"No further questions, your honour." Burns sat down next to Severus and Harry again.
"Advocate Sloane, you may question the witness."
Sloane stood up, navy-blue robes swishing around him like a cloak. They looked very expensive robes, but what else would you expect from Malfoy's lawyer? Harry felt his stomach turn at just the thought of being asked such personal questions from this man.
"Mr. Moody, you were once an Auror, were you not?" Sloane began.
"And isn't it true that you were released from duty due to psychological problems? That you in fact suffered some trauma yourself while on active duty. Even after that, you were abducted and held prisoner in your own trunk for many months. I put it to you that you were projecting your own fears onto Harry Potter and that he was never a prisoner of my client."
"You can't expect people to believe that," retorted Moody. "Why else would he be chained naked to a wall? He was being held against his will!"
"I will show that Harry Potter was there by his own choice, that he and Lucius Malfoy were lovers and when Mr. Malfoy wanted to break it off, Mr. Potter came up with this fanciful tale to drag my client's name through the mud."
"That's a lie!" Harry called out, unable to keep his voice still.
The whole courtroom was in uproar, conversation buzzed like angry bees.
"Mr. Potter, you will get your chance to tell your side of the story, but that time is not now. Please refrain from interrupting the witness examinations or I will be forced to hold you in contempt of court. Advocate Sloane, do you have any more questions for the witness?"
"No, your honour."
"Very well, we will have a recess of thirty minutes. Court is dismissed." Madam Bones banged her gavel again and the courtroom started to empty around them.
"He was lying," Harry told Severus, trying to hold back tears. "I didn't want to be there, Severus. I didn't." What if Severus started believing all these lies? Where would Harry be then?
"I know, Harry, I know. Lucius Malfoy is a master manipulator, but I know you and he weren't lovers. You did nothing wrong, Harry. They are just trying to get to you. Don't let them."
"I don't know if I can do this, Severus. Take the stand, I mean. Everyone will be watching me, hearing me talk about those awful things."
Their lawyer reached over and patted Harry on the back. He tried his best not to squirm away. "You are the only one who knows what really happened, Harry. It's in your best interests to take the stand."
"But we have a few more witnesses before you need to do that. It might not even be today, perhaps in a few days time," said Severus.
Harry wasn't sure he wanted this to drag on longer than one day, but it wasn't up to him. He just had to sit there and hear Malfoy's lawyer spout lies about him, about their so-called relationship. Part of him just wanted to run out of the courtroom entirely and never come back.
* * *
"Advocate Burns, please call your next witness."
Burns stood up and nodded to Madam Bones. "The prosecution calls Narcissa Malfoy."
"Objection!" roared Sloane "A wife cannot be compelled to speak against her husband at trial."
"Indeed, you are correct, Advocate Sloane. "Mrs. Malfoy has not been compelled, she has volunteered. In which instance, her testimony will be allowed."
Harry exchanged glances with Severus, who shrugged his shoulders. So Severus hadn't known Narcissa would be called either. Sloane and Malfoy hissed lowly in urgent conversation with each other. Harry couldn't hear what they were saying. After a while, Sloane stood up and bowed to Madam Bones.
"May I approach the bench, your honour?"
"You may. Advocate Burns, you may approach as well."
The two lawyers walked over to Madam Bones and there was discussion for a few minutes.
"What's happening, Severus?" whispered Harry
"I don't know, Harry. I really don't."
The two lawyers returned to their respective tables, but Burns was smiling at Harry when he sat down. Something good must have happened, but Harry couldn't imagine what it might be.
Madam Bones banged her gavel once more so that all conversation ceased at once.
"Lucius Malfoy has changed his plea. The defendant pleads guilty to all charges. He will be held in remand until his sentencing on Monday next. Aurors, please remove Lucius Malfoy from the courtroom."
Two scarlet-robed Aurors swooped down to the defence table. Each took hold of one of Malfoy's arms and tugged him up from his chair, almost dragging him to the doorway. People booed and hissed as he passed; someone from the upper balcony even threw a shoe at him. It hit him on the side of the head, but Malfoy didn't even seem to notice. An elderly witch with hair pale as snow spat at him. Lucius flinched away from her, but he could do nothing about the saliva slithering down his face. His shoulders were hunched over, his head down. He was the very image of defeat and it made Severus wonder what secrets Narcissa held over him. So much so that he would rather go to prison than have them revealed in a public setting.
Harry was in the middle of a scrum of Weasleys and Hermione Granger. Severus could barely see his husband over the crowd who were congratulating him and slapping him on the back. Occasionally Severus caught a glimpse of unruly hair before Harry was lost in the onslaught of congratulations once more. Severus too felt like a weight had lifted from his shoulders for he knew how worried Harry had been about the court case, worrying over what other people might think of him when what Lucius had done was made public. Well, now it was over once and for all. Lucius Malfoy might have appealed later, but not now that he'd admitted his guilt. Harry was out of that man's clutches for good this time.
Fred detached himself from the crowd to shake Severus' hand. "That was a good outcome, wasn't it, sir?"
"Indeed," said Severus. "Harry didn't want to take the stand and if I am being truthful, I didn't want him to either. He's suffered enough under that man's hands."
"There's going to be an impromptu party at our shop, you'll both come, won't you?"
"I'll come, but there is something I need to do first. Look after Harry, won't you?"
Fred nodded. "He'll be safe with us, don't worry. Mrs. Prince, you'll join us?"
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley, I think I will. Severus, don't be too long. We won't be able to hold Harry off for long if he decides to go and look for you."
Severus smiled and nodded, knowing the truth of the words. He would just have to be quick then.
* * *
Narcissa opened the door to him herself, no house-elf in evidence.
"Ah, Severus. I was expecting you. Is Harry with you?"
"No, it's just me."
She nodded and waved him inside. "Come into the parlour, Severus."
Narcissa led him into the parlour and offered him a seat on a dark green leather sofa. Narcissa took the matching armchair, then clicked her fingers at the fireplace. The logs ignited at once, casting shadows over her face.
The long picture windows overlooked the garden, most of the trees and plants still in bloom with some form of magic. Flurries of snow melted against the charmed windows, but the rest of the garden still had its winter coat of white. Even magic couldn't change the weather.
Narcissa waved her hands around the room, lighting lanterns and candles with but a thought. Severus had known Narcissa was powerful, for he couldn't imagine Lucius marrying anyone who wasn't, but he hadn't realised she had perfected wandless and wordless magic. Severus had yet to see her use her wand at all.
Narcissa tugged on a bell-pull beside the mantelpiece and a few moments later a house-elf Apparated into the parlour with a loud crack. "Minky, please bring some refreshment for our guest."
"At once, Mistress." The elf-bowed bowed low at the waist before he disappeared. Severus had never got used to how easily house-elves could Apparate and yet seemed to suffer no ill-effects.
"I don't need tea and cake," said Severus. "This isn't a social call."
"There's always time for tea with old friends, isn't there, Severus?"
"If you insist," said Severus, sensing he would get nothing out of her if he didn't play this little game first. It would help if he knew what game it was, though. He and Narcissa had never been friends. She and Lucius had been a few years ahead of him at Hogwarts and he didn't really connect with their circle until after he'd left school and Lucius had come recruiting for the Death Eaters. And what a mistake that had turned out to be.
"I do." Narcissa smiled and stared into the logs in the fireplace. There was so much Severus wanted to say, wanted to ask, but knew that they would only be able to have a private conversation once Minky had delivered their refreshments.
Thankfully, the house-elf soon reappeared, a large tray hovering in the air above him.
"Thank you, Minky." Narcissa took the tray by hand and set it on the small coffee table. The large silver platter held a glossy white tea-set, four three-tiered cake plates and five plates of dainty sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Merlin forbid a Pureblood would have to do anything so uncouth as chew on a crust.
Narcissa stood up and poured them both a cup of tea, putting milk and sugar into Severus' cup without asking how he might like it. He actually preferred coffee, but he would never have put sugar or milk in his normal tea. Severus didn't know if she was ignorant of how he liked his tea, or if she knew and was giving him something not to his liking deliberately.
Severus took the proffered tea but didn't bother even attempting to drink it. That wasn't what he had come for. "I want to know what had Lucius so worried that you might testify against him."
"Straight to the point. I knew you'd come, or Harry Potter himself. I'm surprised he didn't come with you. I now I would have been out of my mind with curiosity if it had been me."
"Harry doesn't know I'm here. Not yet, anyway. I don't think he needed to come anywhere near this house."
"Thoughtful to a fault, I see. Very well. I'll tell you. Our marriage was arranged by both our parents," said Narcissa. "It was never a love match. We'd been betrothed since infancy and neither of us thought to rebel against it. Our Pureblood upbringing saw to that. I was in love with someone else, but he didn't know. I'm not sure whether or not Lucius was ever in love with anyone. Did you know Lucius was gay, Severus?"
"I thought perhaps bisexual, considering what he'd done to Harry and being married to you." Severus cast his mind back to his schooldays but he couldn't remember a time when Lucius hadn't been involved with some girl or other. Either he was very discreet or the boys he was involved with didn't go to Hogwarts.
"No, he was definitely gay. He told me so himself many times. He found women, women's bodies distasteful. He had to take potions to bed me, he couldn't get a natural erection during sex with me. When Draco was conceived, he left my bed and has never returned to it. I knew he had male lovers, but as long as he didn't bring them here or let Draco know, I accepted it. I had no idea until Alastor Moody came here that Harry Potter was locked up in our dungeons. I, too, thought the boy had died."
"So that's what had Lucius so worried? That he would be outed as gay?" There wasn't such a stigma being gay in the Wizarding world as in the Muggle one, but a lot of Pureblood families disliked it as a gay couple might not beget heirs. It seemed Lucius had found a way around that by using potions. Have the heir and still have as many male lovers as he liked. Severus had to wonder at whether or not those male lovers had consented. If he'd done it to Harry, what was to stop him from doing it to other young men?
"No, it's something else." Narcissa removed a key from the pocket of her robe, an old iron one which looked too heavy in Narcissa Malfoy's dainty hands. "Two weeks ago I discovered a door that had never been in the house until then. Then I had a letter from Gringotts saying they would no longer ward the room as the bill hadn't been paid for months." Narcissa twirled the key in her fingers and stared hard at it, as if all the secrets in the universe were held in that tiny bit of metal.
"What was in the room?" Severus asked, almost dreading the answer.
"It would be better if I show you. I don't really know how I can explain it otherwise. I'll leave it up to you as to whether you wish to tell your husband or not."
Narcissa stood up, Severus joined her and they made their way down the main hallway. Right at the far end was an iron door, looking very out of place among the wood panelled hallway and its wooden doors. Portraits of long dead Malfoys witnessed their passage with curious eyes, muttering to each other as they passed beneath each portrait.
When they reached the end of the hallway, Narcissa inserted the key and opened the heavy looking door. The door slid aside on smooth hinges, not a creak or a squeak.
"Severus, after you," said Narcissa. His heart pounding in his ears, Severus entered the room, having no idea what he would find.
The room was a shrine, that was the first word that sprang to mind. All the walls were covered in photographs of Harry. Harry at all ages. A young Harry gardening at Privet Drive; teenage Harry at Hogwarts. Harry on the Quidditch pitch; Harry eating meals in the Great Hall; Harry in all of his classes. There were hundreds of photos, some Muggle and not moving, some were normal Wizarding photos.
"Where did Lucius get all these photos?" asked Severus.
"Most of the Hogwarts ones were taken by Draco. He didn't know why his father wanted them; he surmised it must have been something to do with the Dark Lord and Draco never questioned his father on anything. The Muggle ones were taken by a Muggle private detective. Horrible, grubby little man. He came to the house too on occasion, but Lucius never told me what it was about. I found out later."
Severus stared at the room, at the story of Harry's life plastered all over the walls. Something was nagging at his memory, something about the decor of the room itself. Severus was sure he'd seen it before somewhere, but Narcissa had already said the room had been warded until a fortnight ago. So Severus couldn't have seen the room before, could he? And then it suddenly clicked. He had seen this room before, or a facsimile of it. The small single bed tucked tight against one corner; the wooden wardrobe with a wonky door; a drawing of a snowy owl attached to one of the doors. A desk littered with parchment, ink-wells, and quills.
"This was Harry's bedroom at Privet Drive," said Severus, visions of this same room in his head from their Occlumency lessons.
"Lucius was obsessed with the boy," Narcissa said behind him. "He took prostitutes here and gave them Polyjuice to turn into Harry Potter. You can imagine the rest, I'm sure."
Severus could, all to well. Obsession hardly covered it. Depraved was more like it.
"How did you find out about the prostitutes? Lucius would probably have Obliviated them, wouldn't he?"
"He did, at first. But once he had Harry in his clutches, he grew lax. The last two were never Obliviated."
Severus could hardly conceive of Lucius' mental state. That while Harry was manacled in the dungeon, Lucius came to this room and did to the prostitutes what he really wanted to do to Harry. Severus wasn't sure he wanted to tell Harry what he'd discovered, but maybe it was best if he did. For too long Harry had been kept in the dark and Severus didn't want to be the person who did that to his husband. There should be no secrets between them.
"These two prostitutes, they contacted you?"
"Yes," agreed Narcissa. "They came to the house, attempted to blackmail me, can you believe it? They didn't succeed of course."
"You Obliviated them?" Severus wouldn't have expected anything less from Narcissa Malfoy.
"Yes, so you and I are the only ones who know about this room now. But Lucius didn't know that I'd Obliviated the prostitutes. He was afraid that they might be called as witnesses too."
"You were bluffing?" Severus was impressed despite himself. "What if it had all gone wrong?
"The outcome was what you wanted, wasn't it, Severus?" Narcissa laid a hand on his arm. "I did it for you, Severus."
"Some champagne, Harry?" Hermione asked as she waved a crystal flute in front of him.
Harry shook his head and lifted up the glass he already had. "Nah, pumpkin juice is fine for me." Even if he hadn't been pregnant, Harry wasn't much of a drinker. He remembered all too well his uncle in drunken rages and alcohol held little attraction for him.
The twins had outdone themselves for the celebration party. Indoor fireworks displays, enough food and drink to see them for the rest of the year, but Harry didn't feel much like celebrating. Not yet, not when Severus hadn't returned. Oh, Harry knew where he'd gone, that was obvious. Harry knew how possessive and protective Severus was of him, especially now that he was pregnant. Severus had gone to see Narcissa Malfoy and find out what she knew. But what was taking him so long?
By midnight Harry was getting really worried, not just curious. Had it been a trap? Was Narcissa Malfoy a Death Eater sympathiser all along?
Just as he was about to give up on the party and go hunting for Severus, he bell above the door jangled, reminding Harry of how he'd first sought out Severus almost a year ago now. Harry glanced around and was relieved to see his husband standing there. Flakes of snow lay scattered in Severus' hair and on the shoulders of his cloak, like salt scattered over a charred steak. The cold had put rosy flushes on Severus' cheeks and he smiled as soon as he spotted Harry in the window seat.
Harry stood up, feeling a bit light-headed and swaying slightly as he tried to control the dizziness. Severus was at his side in an instant, concern furrowing his brow. "Are you all right?" Severus asked.
"Yeah. Just a little tired," replied Harry. "I think it's time we went home."
Severus nodded and made his way over to the Weasleys to let them know they were heading off now. Mrs. Weasley glanced back at Harry. "Do you need to lave so soon, dear?"
"Harry needs his rest," said Aunt Agatha. "Especially in his condition."
Everyone's eyes widened, before skating over Harry's midriff and he felt himself blush under the scrutiny. Not everyone knew about his new physical attributes and most of them seemed shocked, as well they might. Well, it was out in the open now.
"Harry? You're pregnant?" Hermione rushed over to hug him. "Congratulations!"
"Thanks," said Harry. "It's early days yet."
After that it was a barrage of questions.
When are you due?
Have you had any morning sickness?
Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?
Harry just let Severus fend off the questions but finally, finally they escaped and Apparated back home, Severus' arms tight around him. Harry leaned in, pressing his face against Severus' shoulder and feeling both protected and loved by the familiar scent of his husband. Sandalwood, aniseed and other spices he couldn't quite identify.
Severus moved out of Harry's embrace, but only to tug their cloaks off. Then he was back, pressing his whole body flush against Harry's and kissing him breathless. Severus was wild, frantic, kissing Harry as if he thought Harry was a figment of his imagination and would disappear if he didn't keep up the onslaught. And it was an onslaught, there was no doubt about that. Harry could almost feel the possessive desire thrumming through Severus and it awakened and equal desire in him as they kissed and kissed, Harry pressed up against their bedroom door.
"Bed," Severus growled as he pulled back from their kissing and Harry didn't need to be told twice. His cock was hard and aching, and he ached too in that other place, feeling moisture soak through his underwear. Harry's legs were like jelly as he walked the short distance to the bed and sank down upon it, sitting at the foot of the bed, his feet on the floor.
Severus moved so that he was standing between Harry's legs and Harry got an eyeful of Severus' crotch, his trousers taut with his erection. Harry licked his lips. "Can I suck you?" Harry asked, almost breathless.
"Just for a bit. I want to be inside you when I come."
Harry's cock and inner walls throbbed with that knowledge and he moaned a little at the idea of it.
He unbuttoned Severus' trousers and tugged them down his hips, doing the same with the underwear, both of which were damp with Severus' arousal. Severus' cock stood proud from his body, precome dripping in a steady stream from the tip. Harry gave it a couple of strokes with his hand before lowering his head and taking Severus' cock in his mouth. God, he loved this! Loved the taste of his husband. Loved the way Severus' cock shuddered and jerked in his mouth as if it had a life of its own.
Harry couldn't quite fit all of Severus' cock in his mouth, so he used his hands too, trying to bring his husband as much pleasure as he could. Severus tangled his fingers in Harry's hair and groaned and grunted as Harry sucked him off. Severus' eyes were closed, his face redder than Harry had ever seen it. Harry shifted on the bed, his ministrations on Severus' cock were having an effect on him too and he moaned around the cock in his mouth.
"Fuck! You're so good at this, Harry," Severus rasped out, before slipping his cock free.
Harry keened at the loss. His lips felt sore and his jaw ached, but it was a good ache. His whole body was on fire with need. "Need you," Harry mumbled. "Need you inside me."
"My dear Harry, that can be arranged," said Severus with a smirk. Severus knelt down so that he was level with Harry and began to unbutton Harry's shirt, leaning in for a kiss after every button. Harry thought he was going to go mad if Severus didn't hurry up with the disrobing. "Too slow," Harry said. "Use a spell."
"You don't want to savour the moment?" Harry could almost hear the amusement in his husband's voice.
"Not at this moment. I'm going to explode if you don't fuck me into this mattress right now!" Harry wailed.
"Will the baby be all right?" Severus asked and Harry loved that he cared enough to ask.
"Of course," said Harry. "I've already spoken to Madam Pomfrey about it and she said it's fine up until the last month or so. So, please can you pound me into the mattress now?"
"I love it when you're this needy," said Severus, licking Harry's ear and then kissing Harry's neck and shoulder, biting lightly where they joined. "You love my voice, don't you, Harry? Do you think you could come with just my voice, with me not even touching you? Without you touching yourself?"
And much to Harry's disappointment, Severus moved away.
"Lie down on the bed for me, Harry," Severus said, his voice lowered an octave and Harry felt his insides clench at the desire in it. Right at that moment it seemed possible that this experiment was going to work sooner than he had anticipated
Harry scooted up the bed and lay down against the pillows. "Put your hands on the headboard. You're not allowed to move them, do you understand?"
Harry nodded and did as he was bid, his heart hammering against his ribs. Once Harry was settled to his husband's satisfaction, Severus finally used the spell to divest both of them of their clothes. The sudden contrast to clothed and unclothed gave Harry goosebumps and he shivered a bit on the bed.
"Do you know how hot you look like that?" Severus asked, sounding awed. "Stretched out, as if you were waiting just for me? What should I do with you first? I know. I'd start with kissing your lips stroking our tongues together until you moaned in ecstasy. Then I'd kiss all around your neck and collarbone. Then I'd start on your nipples licking and sucking until they stood up in little peaks and you were writhing with want. Can you feel my tongue on you, Harry?"
And Harry could almost feel it, felt his nipples harden into little nubs. Harry arched his body, his fingers clenching on the headboard as he imagined Severus doing those things to him in reality, instead of just talking. Was it a spell or just his imagination? Harry wasn't entirely sure. His body was awash with sensation, every nerve-ending on fire with want.
"I'd push your legs apart, then lie down between them. I'd lick and suck, my tongue teasing you until you could hardly stand it. You'd be so wet, so open for me."
Harry's lower belly clenched. "Fuck! Oh, fuck! I'm gonna come!" Harry moaned.
"That's it, Harry. Come for me, good boy," Severus said and almost as if the words were permission, Harry came, his whole body convulsing with the climax. His cock fountained over his belly and chest, his breathing little more than a ragged gasp. Harry squeezed his legs together, feeling that other orgasm deep inside, but it wasn't enough, not nearly enough.
"In me!" Harry pleaded. "Severus! In me. Oh God!"
Severus was across the room in two strides. He knelt down on the bed and pushed Harry's legs wide apart. Harry felt so exposed like that, but he was too lost in ecstasy to care how he might look.
Severus placed his hands on Harry's thighs and pushed them almost up to his chest, before sliding his cock inside with one long thrust. It didn't hurt at all, Harry had been so wet and open. He groaned at the fullness. Severus cock felt as if it had touched every part of his body, not just where they were joined. They settled into a rhythm, but it was far to slow for Harry's licking.
He was on the edge of climax again, but this slow slide wasn't enough to send him over it. "Harder," Harry urged. "Faster! Please, oh please!"
Severus leaned down and kissed him roughly on the mouth, before doing what Harry needed. Harry scraped his nails down Severus' back, bucking his hips with every thrust of Severus' cock inside him. They were both wild and frantic, hair matted with sweat, their skin glistening in the candle-light as they danced to that ancient rhythm.
All too soon Harry felt that jolt that preceded his orgasm. It felt as if his whole body was coming. He shuddered in bliss, his insides gripping Severus' cock. "Harry!" Severus moaned as he too found his peak and Harry felt his insides bathed in wet warmth. Harry was still pulsing, still throbbing deep inside and knew he could probably come again, but Severus slipped his deflating cock out. Harry tried not to look too disappointed, but he'd forgotten how well his husband knew him.
"You're not finished yet, are you, Harry?"
Harry shook his head. "Sorry."
"There's no need to apologise." Severus scooted down the bed so that his head was between Harry's legs. "Stroke your cock. Let's see if you can come that way too."
Severus placed his hands on Harry's thighs and widened them to his satisfaction. Harry glanced down and saw Severus' dark hair as he began to lick him there. Harry stroked his cock, loving the dual sensation of being filled with his husband's tongue and having pressure on his cock. He wasn't sure he'd be able to come again with his cock, but he rapidly dismissed that. His cock was as hard as stone, his balls full and heavy and Harry knew it was only a matter of time. He was on the verge of it, needing something more, but unsure what.
He arched his hips, angling so that be could get more of Severus' tongue inside him. Severus seemed to sense what he needed, for he added two fingers with his tongue. The full sensation was what Harry needed. He thrust and thrust, his hand fisting his cock as he sought to come again. His cock hardened in his hand and Harry spasmed deep inside.
"Fuck! Sev'rus! Sev'rus!" Harry wailed as he came, seed erupting from his cock in five ecstatic pulses. Severus kept licking at him, kept up his onslaught until Harry was coming again deep inside, his whole body trembling with aftershocks. Severus licked him gently until Harry tugged his head away, he was too sensitive there now.
"I think you can scrape me off the ceiling anytime now," said Harry, his whole body feeling languid and sated. He would sleep well tonight after that bout of lovemaking. "Not that I'm complaining, but what brought that on? You seemed different tonight, less in control. I liked it," Harry admitted shyly, although with the amount of orgasms Severus had wrung from his body, that was pretty obvious.
"I just needed to remind myself that you are mine. That no one else has a hold over us any longer."
Severus cast a cleaning spell over both of them and lay down next to Harry, his face anxious and drawn.
"Is this something do to with what happened with Narcissa Malfoy?" Harry asked, leaning up and propping his head on his hand.
"I suppose it must be. I hadn't realised it had affected me so much. Did – did I hurt you? I was rather rough in some places."
"You didn't hurt me, Severus. I'm fine. I might not be able to walk for a week, but I'm fine. So what did Narcissa say? Was she really going to testify against her husband?"
"She was, but it was her reasons for doing so that threw me. I never knew until today, but she told me she had been in love with me for years."
"Wow, I didn't expect that. Did – did she try and make a pass at you or something?" Harry felt the jealousy flare in his breast. Narcissa Malfoy was beautiful and poised, any man would be flattered, wouldn't he?
"No, nothing like that. She just said that she was happy for us, that we were happy together. I have to admit I'd never imagined any Malfoy saying that to me. She said she loves me and because she loves me, she wants me to be happy and she knows I don't feel the same way about her. I was very clear on that point. I love you, Harry. There will never be anyone else for me but you."
"I love you too, Severus. There's more, isn't there? Something about him?" Harry didn't even want to say his name any more. He felt like that scared prisoner every time he did. He had to keep reminding himself that Lucius Malfoy was in prison and couldn't hurt him any more.
"Yes, and I am in two minds whether to tell you or not," Severus said softly. "Would you rather know and we both deal with it, or would you rather I not tell you?"
Harry was silent for a few moments, deciding. "I think I'd rather know and then we can face it together. I don't want you to have to face this burden on your own, Severus."
"Very well. I'm not even sure where to begin. Lucius Malfoy had been stalking you for years. He had a room covered in your pictures and he had made this room to look like your bedroom in Privet Drive, even down to the wardrobe with the wonky door. And when that wasn't enough, he hired prostitutes and Polyjuiced them to look like you. I think you can fill in the rest from there."
"Merlin, that's creepy! So he did to the prostitutes what he wanted to do to me?"
"Indeed. The man was sick, Harry. Sick in his mind, but he is still responsible for his actions concerning you."
"But how would he have got hold of my hair? I was never that close to Lucius Malfoy and I think I would have noticed if he'd yanked out my hair."
"You shared the Quidditch changing rooms with the Slytherins on many an occasion," said Severus. "It would have been easy for Draco to remove some from a hairbrush or comb."
"But that means that I was still at school, that he was Polyjuicing them to look like me when I was still at school. That's depraved. I hope they lock him up and throw away the key!"
"That's probably what they will do, Harry. Did you want to go to the sentencing on Monday?"
Harry pressed his lips against his husband's. "No, I think Lucius Malfoy has done enough to us, don't you, Severus?"
"I do, Harry. I do."
Chapter 41: Epilogue
Severus smiled as he returned to the bedroom. He watched as Harry smoothed his emerald green dress robes over the swell of his abdomen, sweat already beading on his face. Severus, too, was feeling over-hot in his dress robes, but they could hardly go to Weasley and Granger's wedding in shorts and t-shirts, although a few days before, Severus had already threatened to just that. Just to see the horrified look on his husband's face. It shouldn't be this warm in Scotland. There should be laws of nature about that sort of thing.
Harry stretched and rubbed his back, wincing as he did so. Severus knew how much the heat was exacerbating every little pregnancy niggle that Harry had to contend with. But soon that would end and they would be parents. Sometimes Severus could hardly believe it was real. He had never really given fatherhood much thought before. He always thought his sexual preferences would exclude it. But here they were. It was amazing and terrifying all at once.
"Ravishing, as always," said Severus as he moved to stand behind Harry and kissed him on the back of the neck.
"Don't tease," Harry said, as he turned around to face his husband. "I look like a beach ball."
Severus placed his hands on Harry's shoulders and gazed deep into his eyes. "You'll always be beautiful to me, Harry. Always."
Harry nodded, his eyes glassy. He blinked away the tears and wiped his face. "Don't make me cry now. The best man isn't supposed to cry. At least not until after the wedding."
"Have you got the rings?" Severus asked.
Harry nodded and patted his robe pocket. "First thing I checked. Can you imagine Hermione's face if I'd forgotten the rings?" Harry winced again and rubbed his back.
"Is your back still bothering you?" Severus asked, a frowning in concern. "You were very restless last night."
"It comes and goes. Hopefully we won't have to stand for too long. Oh!" Harry gasped in surprise and bent double, his hands flying to his abdomen.
"Harry, I think those are contractions, not backache," said Severus. "I'll go and Firecall Poppy at once."
"I can't miss Ron and Hermione's wedding, Severus! I'm the best man!"
"Harry, they'll understand. Your health and the health of our child comes first. Sit down and rest while I get Poppy."
Severus marched downstairs to the living room and threw Floo powder into the fireplace. It had been too hot for a real fire this far into the summer, but luckily Floo fires didn't give out much heat. "Hogwarts Infirmary," Severus called and a few moments later Poppy's head appeared in the fire.
"Severus? Is everything all right?"
"I think Harry's in labour," said Severus without preamble. "He had lots of backache last night, but I think some might have been contractions."
"How far apart are they?"
"I don't know, I left to fetch you as soon as he had the first definite one."
"Okay, Severus. Let me gather my things and I'll be through."
"Is Longbottom still there?"
"Yes, shall I fetch him?"
"Please," said Severus. "I'll just be a moment."
Severus returned upstairs and found Harry gripping one of the bedposts for dear life.
"Harry, I thought we could give the rings to Neville and he could stand in for you."
Harry nodded, tears streaming down his face as he reached into his robe pocket and handed over the little velvet box. Severus knew how much it meant to him to be the best man at his best friend's wedding, but he hoped they'd understand. They couldn't predict when the baby arrived, no one could. Even the due date was only an estimate. The baby was going to be born when it wanted to and there was nothing anyone else could do about it.
* * *
Once they'd explained things to Neville Longbottom he would give their apologies for having to miss the wedding and Madam Pomfrey stepped through the Floo, medical bag in hand. They both swept up the spiral staircase and into their bedroom. Harry was still gripping the bedpost and he was looking rather pale too.
"Shouldn't Harry be lying down?" Severus asked.
"It depends what's more comfortable for Harry. Gravity can help a bit now with the first stage and he can lie down for the birth. What would you prefer, Harry?"
"Standing for now," Harry said.
Madam Pomfrey cast sterilising charms all over the room, including the bed.
"And how long do you think you've been in labour?" asked Madam Pomfrey as she removed her wand from one of the voluminous pockets of her apron. She scanned Harry from head to toe and readings appeared in the air in front of her.
"I'm not really sure," Harry said. "I had backache last night and Severus thinks it might have been early labour."
"He could be right. A lot of labour does indeed start with backache rather than contractions. You're almost fully dilated Harry, it won't be long now. Have your waters broken yet?"
Harry shook his head and moaned as pain must have washed over him again. He gripped the bedpost and gritted his teeth until it passed. Severus rubbed his back and kissed the back of his neck, feeling helpless and unable to do anything to help. "Just think of each contraction bringing our baby into our lives that much sooner."
"I think I need to lie down. I feel a bit sick," Harry admitted.
"Undress your bottom half, Harry. I need to check to see if everything is okay."
Harry gaped at Madam Pomfrey. "Is the baby in any danger?"
"Not as yet. But your waters haven't broken yet despite how dilated you are. I may have to break them magically." Madam Pomfrey conjured a privacy screen and a hospital gown.
Severus helped Harry to undress and put on the gown, he was trembling against Severus. They were both scared that something might have been wrong with the baby. It wasn't too early, was it? Harry's due date had been a week away, but hopefully a week wouldn't make that much difference. But what if something was wrong? Something they hadn't anticipated?
"Lie down on the bed for me, Harry," said Madam Pomfrey. "And we can see what's what."
Severus helped him to a comfortable position and then squeezed Harry's hand, trying to reassure him without words.
* * *
Harry stared down at the little bundle in his arms, laughing and crying at the same time. They had a son. A beautiful baby son who was as perfect as could be. Ten tiny fingers. Ten tiny toes and a thick thatch of dark hair. His eyes were a dark blue, almost slate and he was the most perfect being Harry had ever seen. The pain of his nine-hour labour seemed so long ago.
"Severus, isn't he beautiful?" Harry asked, holding the baby up to his husband. The baby gurgled and grabbed hold of one of Severus' fingers.
"He is gorgeous, just like his daddy," said Severus, leaning down and kissing Harry softly.
Madam Pomfrey popped her head around the door. "You have some visitors."
"Already?" asked Harry. "How did they know?"
A few moments later, Ron, Hermione, Neville and all the Weasleys crowded into their small bedroom. There was another man there too, someone Harry didn't recognise.
"I thought you'd be off on your honeymoon already," said Harry.
"Well, about that," began Hermione. "We thought, if you can't come to the wedding, the wedding can come to you. We aren't married yet."
Neville grinned and returned the ring box to Harry. "The best man should keep these."
Harry's emotions felt raw and he didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Can you hold the baby for a bit, Severus?"
"Do you really need to ask?" Severus lifted the baby out of Harry's arms and went to stand by the wall, so that Ron and Hermione could stay near Harry.
"Have you thought of a name yet, Harry?" asked Severus.
Harry nodded. He'd wanted to honour his parents in some way and if they'd had a girl she would have been Lily. But calling the baby James would probably not be Severus' choice, too many reminders of the past he'd rather forget. But Harry thought he'd found a good compromise.
"I thought we could call him Jamie," said Harry.
Severus nodded and smiled down at their baby. "Welcome to the world, Jamie."