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The Man Who Loved

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Several Aurors grouped around the piece of parchment hung on the wall in the briefing room, talking and laughing as they jostled to get a better look. Watching the way Ron Weasley elbowed his way through the group to get to the front might have been funny three years ago; today it just stood out as childish impatience to Harry Potter as he watched from the doorway.

"Oi, Harry! The rotation list has been posted!" Ron looked back over his shoulder. "Don't you want to see where you've been assigned for the year?"

"Not really," Harry responded as he stepped into the room and started towards the row of small tables.

Ron gaped at him. "Why not?"

Every Auror in the room stopped, unashamedly listening in as Harry sat down.

"I'm more interested in the promotions list that's due out this afternoon," Harry told him.

Ron's jaw dropped. "You think you're being promoted?"

Harry bit off a sigh. They'd both tested for supervisor a month ago and Harry knew he'd placed number one on the list. He'd been told Ron hadn't fared as well, so while Harry was confident he would be promoted, he was sure Ron wouldn't. Flashing back on the Triwizard Tournament, and the angry, sullen Ron his involuntary selection had produced, Harry tried to soften the blow.

"I'd rather know who I'm working for than where I'm assigned," Harry said in an even tone. "I can work anywhere as long as the boss is supportive."

The other Aurors muttered in agreement, but Ron didn't seem appeased. Harry wondered if he'd already figured out he'd not be on the list. Ron should have gotten the same memo Harry had regarding his placement by the promotions panel. He would know better than Harry what his chances were. Clamping down on his tongue when Ron snorted derisively, Harry sat in silence as the Aurors working the afternoon shift began to filter in.

"Potter!" Head Auror Gawain Robards stood in the doorway. "My office, now!"

Harry pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the smirk that appeared on Ron's face as he followed Robards down the hallway. He automatically checked the hidden pocket in his robes for the Elder Wand before sitting down in the straight-backed wooden chair in front of Robards' massive desk. Always piled high with scrolls, parchment, and vibrating Dark detectors, the desk never failed to remind Harry of Albus Dumbledore, for some reason.

Robards dropped into his large leather chair and stared at Harry with a pensive look on his face. "Henderson is in briefing, posting the promotions list, along with the supervisor assignments." He retrieved a piece of parchment from the bottom of the pile of scrolls and handed it to Harry. "Your assignment."

Scanning the writing, Harry tapped down the surprise that he felt. "You've promoted me to sergeant, but are putting me into an inspector's position."

"Yes," Robards said, leaning forward. "The Professional Standards Division needs someone with integrity and strong ethics, especially when dealing with those who have looser scruples."

Harry looked up, keeping his face impassive. "I've never dealt with the PSD, is there really a need?"

Robards gave him a sharp look. "You've been investigated several times, Potter, but always exonerated. I can't say the same for others, like Samson and Eckert."

Eyes narrowing, Harry remembered the two Aurors mentioned had been on assignment with a third Auror who had been hit by a Dark curse. "Peterson spent a month in St. Mungo's."

"Yes, all because two of his colleagues were actually taking money to protect an illegal potions brewer instead of protecting the fellow officer."

Anger flared inside Harry, but he made sure his expression didn't change. "In a world where truth potions and mind reading exists, why would anyone do something as stupid as breaking the laws they made an Unbreakable Vow to protect?"

Robards laughed, sharp and ugly. "They deluded themselves into believing they were just protecting a harassed business man on their off-duty hours." He shook his head. "Or they claim they were under the Imperius Curse. Either way, their ability to deceive themselves seems to circumvent the Oath. Plus, we can't force Legilimency under the statute governing self-incrimination, only ask them to submit."

Harry frowned. "Isn't all off-duty employment supposed to be approved by the department?"

"Yes," Robards said, giving him a sly smile. "That's one of the reason's this position is open."

"Ahh," Harry murmured as awareness dawned. "I take it former Inspector Hawthorne is walking a beat in Hogsmeade?"

"It seemed in his best interest to retire." Robards rummaged through a stack of parchment, pulling out several pieces which he handed to Harry. "You will have an assistant, two full time investigators, three retired Aurors who work part-time, and three undercover officers who will report anonymously once a month. All of them report only to you and, in turn, you report directly to me."

Harry took the paperwork. "Yes, sir."

"In my absence, anything urgent can be taken to Minister Shacklebolt."

Blinking at this, Harry couldn't keep the surprise off his face. "The Minister?"

Harry almost fell off his chair when Robards winked at him. "Who do you think recommended you for this position, especially the fact that you will also be in charge of advanced officer training. Kingsley said you have a talent for instructing."

Nodding slowly, Harry just listened as Robards outlined the current training issues and what he wanted Harry to concentrate on. There was a cadre of instructors Harry could use already among the Auror Corps, as well as former and retired Aurors. Kingsley Shacklebolt had still been teaching at the academy when Harry went through and Harry wondered if he'd still be interested in giving a class or two.

"How will I receive the reports from the anonymous Aurors?"

Robards smiled. "The reports will find you, Potter, spelled to your eyes only."

"And if I need more information than is in the report?" Harry wasn't a fan of absolute secrecy; he found it could lead to issues with undercover officers.

"Put one of your investigators on it."

"Do we have any leads on the illegal brewer?" Harry asked, having not heard of any arrests being made after the Public Standards Division had been ripped apart due to the impropriety scandal.

Robards fished out another report from a stack on his desk. "No, and there are rumors that Hawthorne was setup by someone within this unit to take the fall. Ironic that the head of the PSD would be found breaking his code of ethics." He handed Harry the bundle of parchment. "Be careful, Potter, it is still possible that one of your anonymous Aurors could be involved."

Harry's eyes scanned the short list of names, sneering as he saw a familiar name: Severus Snape. "What is the source of this information?"

"Potter," Robards said, leaning closer. "We're not talking about brewing some illicit party favors here! This brewer is recreating ancient Dark magic potions for hundreds of Galleons. Rumor has it, they have perfected an enslavement potion that completely bonds the victim to the perpetrator, with no known antidote."

Harry couldn't help the skeptical look. "I'm afraid I don't understand the appeal—"

"You would if you were attempting to build ranks of followers who were willing to do anything you directed them to." Robards told him. "We also believe it that they may be experimenting on Muggles."

Stunned, Harry sat back and took another look at the list. "So this is an ongoing investigation."

"Yes, very active," Robards answered, "but it's not your investigation. Leave it to the detectives, Potter. You're going to have your hands full with your own matters."

Harry handed the report back. "Yes, sir. To whom do you want me to pass on any information I might receive that may pertain to this investigation?"

"I believe with the connotations of your new position, it would be best to pass it on to me," Robards told him thoughtfully. "I can then, in turn, pass it to the inspector leading up the team."

Harry nodded his understanding. Anything coming directly from PSD would spark rumors of some type of probe into the investigators themselves. Changing the subject, Harry had Robards give him the background on his retired Aurors and his assistant, before taking his leave. He headed back towards briefing, but turned into the locker room instead. Ignoring the rumble of voices from the adjacent room, Harry gathered his odds and ends, only a spare set of robes remained.

Leaving the inevitable encounter with Ron for another time, Harry set off to find his new office and review the files that Robards said were waiting for him.

~~*/*~~

The next few weeks flew by as Harry settled into his new position. Ron came around quickly and was more sympathetic than impressed by his assignment. He shrugged off his lack of promotion, which was a relief to Harry. Concentrating on evaluating the training schedule and adding several subjects that he felt the field Aurors would benefit from. He'd even spoken to Kingsley Shacklebolt about coming in and instructing the officers on a particular type of shield that he'd invented during his Auror years. Others included refreshers on Muggle terrorists and their methodology, wandless magic, and physical defense.

One such topic in particular, a potions recognition class, might help those who hadn't had the opportunity to attend Hogwarts as Harry had. It would also be a reminder to the Aurors of what they needed to look for when contacting a suspect who was in possession of unlabeled potions. Snape automatically came to mind as the person who would be best to give the demonstration, but Harry wondered if that would go over well, with Snape being on the list of suspects in an active case.

Harry snorted at the thought of Snape being involved in a plot to brew a Dark potion, especially one that might be used on unsuspecting Muggles. Although Harry didn't know what Snape's finances had been before the war, afterwards he'd been exonerated by the Wizengamot, and given the balance of the estate that Albus Dumbledore had left him. Shortly thereafter, Snape had bought a large building a short distance from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and turned it into a high-end potions brewery. With his up-scale clientele, Harry couldn't believe that Snape would stoop to taking money to create Dark potions. There was nothing that even gave a hint of impropriety in Snape's business.

Snape had been Harry's obsession, as Hermione never failed to point out, since his sixth year at Hogwarts. His flat, bought on his Auror salary, was a block away from Snape's building and Harry walked by the place every day. Not that he'd spoken to Snape or anything. Harry hadn't even attempted to the day he gave testimony in front of the Wizengamot in Snape's favor. There was no need. Harry knew what Snape thought of him and there was no use in even trying. Harry had simply compartmentalized his feelings and tucked them away in his mind.

Shaking his head, Harry redirected his thoughts to the paperwork on his desk. There were three active investigations going on, one for a supervisor suspected of falsifying how much overtime he was working, a rookie Auror with several questionable friends, and an experienced Auror who was accused of using his authority to get into a Wizarding club. Two of the claims appeared to be false, however, the third, the rookie, did seem to have a number of unsavory connections.

A sharp bang resounded through the office, making a startled Harry jump, and he swore. A folded parchment appeared over his desk and floated gently down. Taking a deep breath, Harry reached for the note, remembering the first time he'd been there when a report had come in from the anonymous Aurors; it had scared him so badly he'd thought he was having a heart attack. He would certainly never admit to anyone that he'd tried to hex the thing. Harry gingerly picked this one up and unfolded it.

Ian Backus and Theodore Nott both seen coming out of Snape's Custom Potions this morning.

Harry almost crumpled the note and threw it away. The Aurors had all been instructed to forward any information directly to the task force investigating the Dark potions source. While there had been no progress made in the case, Harry knew that Snape wasn't responsible and wondered why this particular Auror seemed to continue to watch Snape. He studied the message for a moment. He knew Nott, of course, but was not familiar with Backus.

Folding the parchment back up, Harry slipped it into his pocket. Perhaps he would gather just a little more information before he passed it on to the task force. Snape's place was on his way home, after all, and Harry could pick up some takeaway from the pub around the corner. He carried his Invisibility Cloak with him all the time, as he never knew when it would come in handy. Harry certainly didn't want to be spotted hanging around Snape's, especially with an anonymous Auror keeping tabs on the place. It wouldn't do to be caught near the place.

His mind made up, Harry Banished the completed and signed reports to the file room. Standing, Harry arched his back to stretch it before Summoning his outer robes. It was late enough that most of the administrative employees were gone and the on-duty shift was already on the street. Harry preferred walking to the lift and moved up the stairs to the bank of Floos without having to make conversation with anyone. A vaguely familiar witch nodded at him as they passed and Ernie at the security desk waved, which Harry acknowledged with a raised hand.

It was a relief to Floo to the Leaky Cauldron, and a hastily cast Notice-Me-Not spell allowed Harry to slip out undetected. Ducking into an alcove, Harry slipped his Cloak on before tapping the bricks at the entrance to Diagon Alley. There were a few people strolling the street, several of the shops already closed and dark. Quality Quidditch Supplies still had several people inside, while Flourish & Blotts had a lone customer visible, and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes was packed with people. Harry grinned, proud of the success the business had enjoyed and glad it had pulled George out of his depression after Fred's death.

Slipping into the alley just past the store, Harry removed his Invisibility Cloak from his pocket and slipped it over his head. He stepped back onto the street, surprised at the number of people still strolling along. It was an unusually warm for a spring evening, which could explain why people were out. Harry kept close to the edge of the buildings to avoid bumping into anyone, glad as he went further from up the alley there were few people out.

The Cloak fluttered in the breeze and Harry slowed his steps to keep it from blowing up. Snape's small shop front was dark and curtained as Harry stopped at the corner of the building. It wasn't unusual for the curtains to be drawn all the time, but the light above the door was generally kept on while the shop was open. Harry had often wondered if one could truly just browse in Snape's place, feeling it was more likely that you'd have to have an appointment in order to gain access. It didn't sound like the type of establishment that was dealing in mass marketing of any type of illicit potions, but it was in line with the belief that Snape might be involved in making exclusive, possibly legally ambiguous, potions for high-paying clients.

A movement from the alley caught Harry's eyes and he watched a Cloaked figure step briskly from the shadow. The face looked strange, almost as if it had been blurred, yet Harry was able to see through the blur to the distinct profile underneath. It was Snape.

Casting a non-verbal silencing spell in his boots, Harry followed Snape back down towards the Leaky Cauldron, staying on the opposite side of the walkway. He almost lost Snape when Snape turned abruptly down a side alley, towards a shadier portion of Diagon Alley. Harry frowned as he quickened his pace to catch up. There was nothing down there except several shady healers and an equally shady pub. Snape strode past the darkened offices and straight into the pub, Harry slipping inside behind him before the door could close.

Snape paused just inside and Harry had to step to one side to avoid running into him. A scowl creased Snape's forehead as he looked sharply around and Harry held his breath. He was sure that after years of teaching at Hogwarts, Snape had developed a sixth sense about being followed, but Snape continued on to the bar. Harry hung back, watching as Snape leaned over the wooden top to speak with the bartender. The man slid a glass in front of Snape and poured two fingers from a bottle he retrieved from under the counter, before disappearing behind the bar. Snape wrapped his left hand around the glass, keeping his wand hand free, Harry noticed.

Lifting the glass to his lips, Harry could see Snape scanning the few patrons who were seated at the few tables in the middle of the room. Snape set the glass down and turned slightly, leaning against the bar so that he faced the door. Harry was amused that Snape was still a paranoid bastard, despite the end of the war six years earlier. Even more amusing was the fact that Harry himself was every bit as cautious but he was an Auror, after all.

The bar door slammed open and Harry dropped to a crouch, his wand in his hand as he swung around to face the new threat. He could almost feel Snape tensing, but neither did anything as the newcomer searched the bar with a ferocious scowl. All eyes had turned towards him, a tall man clad in an expensive black traveling Cloak, before dismissing him with a glance.

"I'd thank you to close the door, mate," the bartender said, having returned with a bag for Snape. "Is there something I can help you with?"

Giving the bartender a sneer, the man slammed out of the bar. Harry slowly stood as Snape engaged the bartender in quiet conversation. Leaving his glass untouched, Snape dug into his pocket and laid several coins on the bar, picking up the bag with his left hand, and walked towards the door. Harry fell in behind him, hoping to squeeze out the door without being detected.

Opening the door slowly, Snape paused to look back into the bar and then outside before he stepped out. Harry maneuvered around him easily, grinning at his own cleverness. Snape was clearly unsettled, but didn't seem to suspect Harry was there.

A whisper of sound was the only forewarning, before a Stunning Spell flashed from the direction of the alley and caught Snape in the back. The bag flew out of his hand and split open, revealing the containers of takeaway he'd purchased in the bar. The man who'd come into the bar stepped out, his wand aimed at Snape, who was stirring.

"You thought that glamour would fool me, Snape!" The man spat as Snape got carefully to his feet.

Harry noticed Snape had somehow lost his wand and edged closer as he continued to watch. Although he looked shaky, Snape stood his ground.

"I've no idea what you want." Snape's voice was cutting.

"Fucking liar!" The snarl was menacing. "I want that potion! Either hand it over or I will take it from your dead body!"

"You are an idiot if you believe I would carry potions I am researching on my person, Backus!"

Harry's heart sank. It sounded like Snape was involved with the illegal potions trafficking after all. Snape's words confirmed the identity of his assailant as well and Harry knew the task force was looking for Backus. He moved to a position behind Backus and was just sliding off his Cloak when Backus cast another stunner, the purple spell light telling Harry that it was designed to do damage. Snape dropped like a rock.

Harry stuffed the Cloak in his robe pocket. "Department of Magical Law enforcement, Backus, hands up!"

Harry dodged the stunner that Backus cast, hitting him with an Expelliarmus and casting an anti-Apparation shield, before he petrified the bastard. Casting his Patronus, Harry sent a message to Auror communications with the request for back-up. Ropes flew from Harry's wand to wrap securely around Backus as Harry turned his attention to Snape, who still lay unmoving where he'd crumpled to the ground.

"Bastard!"

Harry recognized the spell instantly as a variation of the one cast on Hermione during the Battle in the Department of Mysteries. Snape's breathing seemed compromised already and Harry quickly slid the Elder Wand from its special pocket. He began casting healing spells, several of which he'd made a point to learn when he'd started his Auror training. It seemed like an eternity before Snape took a deep breath and began to cough.

"Ennervate!"

Snape's eyes blinked open, dazed looking, before they stated to close again.

"Look at me!" Harry ground out, giving Snape's shoulder a shake.

Snape's eyes snapped open and met Harry's, wide and vulnerable. Something in their depths grabbed Harry and drew him in. A jolt of awareness surged through Harry's mind and along his nerve endings. Images flew by as an unknown connection opened fully.

"Harry!"

Ron's voice was loud in his ear as Harry broke eye contact with Snape, letting the man slump back down on the ground. His chest was tight, his head pounded like he'd been subjected to one of Snape's old Legilimency spells, and he was afraid he was going to vomit. A hand grabbed his arm tightly and steadied him.

"What happened?"

Harry swallowed hard, looking at Ron. "Backus attacked Snape, demanding he turn over a potion he was researching. I stepped in after he hit Snape with a Stunning Spell tinged with Dark magic. Snape needs to be checked out at St. Mungo's and then, I think, the task force wants to talk to both of them."

"You look like shite, mate," Ron asked, his voice pitched low. "You all right?"

Shaking his head, Harry pulled back. "No. I need to get out of here." He looked around, feeling a tendril of panic as he watched Lee Jordan help Snape to his feet. "I'll owl you the report."

Taking a step and spinning, Harry Apparated home, not to his flat, but to a Potter family property on the coast near Cornwall. A large cottage that Harry had come to think of as home, the place he came to when he wanted to be 'just Harry'. It was one of the several properties Harry had inherited from his father's family, complete with a family of house-elves and furnishings that befitting a Potter. It was here that Harry could completely relax within the ancient protective spells and enchantments put on the property.

Arriving in the sitting room, Harry tore off his work robes and tossed them towards a chair, his fingers moving automatically to the buttons on his shirt. Throwing that behind him as well, Harry toed off his boots before his knees buckled and he half fell into his chair in his vest and trousers. The house-elves wouldn't bother him until he called and Harry was grateful for that as he buried his face in his hands. Snape's ashen face and unfocused eyes rose unbidden in his thoughts.

His mind opened up and Harry felt himself fall into it, as he'd done when Snape's eyes had met his and locked on. Something had crumbled in his mind; Harry had physically felt it dissolve as a connection between them was energized. Harry had felt himself falling, through the layers of memories of his school years, his treatment at the hands of his relatives, and the devastating guilt he felt over Cedric. Just as suddenly the images had changed; Harry was instead pushing through Snape's memories, beyond the horror of Death Eaters to a malcontent teenager, and a child watching a little redhead girl soar off a swing. Until there was just a small, dark-hair boy with tear stains and a bruise on his cheek, trembling with fear in a corner.

Harry knew the posture well, knew exactly the fear and helplessness the child was feeling, and reached toward him. The child had opened his arms and they had connected, clinging together for a moment of shared comradery, until Harry had been forcibly ejected from Snape's mind. When he'd become aware again, Harry had been on the floor of Snape's office, with vague memories of what he'd seen and no recollection of the little boy he'd embraced. Nor had he had any idea that the incident had formed a connection between him and Snape.

Or that the connection between them had tied them together at such a deep, fundamental level.

Was his vast improvement in his potion skills sixth year a result of the link between them, in addition to his secondhand textbook? Was he finally able to Occlude his mind because of it? Had he become more analytical, more cautious due to Snape's unknown influence? Was his cunning and decisiveness that he'd put to such successful use as an Auror something the link had brought out? Yet, on the other hand, Harry knew that he'd been obsessed with Snape even before that particular Occlumency lesson, something he recognized when he thought of his feelings for his Half-Blood Prince. Thinking back to the Shrieking Shack, Harry suddenly knew this was how Snape had been able to share his memories with Harry, utilizing the connection to release them. Was this why the fumbling healing spell he had cast that day actually helped to save Snape?

Harry had no idea how long he sat there, questions, memories, and emotions swirling in his mind. It was still dark when he lifted his head and rolled his shoulders, the pain he felt in his heart was more than just a physical ache. And it was still there, the link he felt with Snape, pulsing and alive. Through it, he knew that Snape had been all right after Harry had healed him with the Elder Wand. Harry slid his fingers up under his glasses, rubbing his eyes hard enough to see flashes of light.

What the fuck was he going to do now?

On one hand, Harry was glad that he knew why he had no compulsion to date and less to have sex. Ginny had been beautiful and vivacious, but Harry had just not been interested, physically, no matter how hard he'd tried. It was remarkable that Ginny hadn't hated him when they had split and he was thankful that she had remained like a sister to him. It also validated his feeling that the crush he'd had on Snape since his fifth year was deeper than mere attraction. Harry had studied various types of bonds, along with their effects, during training and recognized the link with Snape for what it was. He was linked, bound really, to a man who hated him.

On the other hand, Harry just didn't see Snape ever accepting him as a partner let alone a lover. Snape had escaped death through his own cleverness, and while Harry had testified in his defense, Albus Dumbledore had exonerated him in Pensieve evidence sent to the Wizengamot by Gringotts goblins in accordance to Dumbledore's will. He owed Harry nothing, whereas Harry seemed to owe Snape several life debts. He wondered idly if dying himself at Voldemort's wand absolved him from any previous life debts.

A low tone reverberated around him and Harry gave a bark of laughter. Someone had just managed to get through his protective fields and there was only one person who had the expertise and the bollocks to accomplish it. Harry laughed again, harsh sounding even to his own ears. Why would Snape care that Harry had finally unburied the link now, when Snape had known it was there for almost ten years?

The sound of knuckles on wood was startling and echoed through the house, making Harry's head throb once again. Harry waited for the knocking on the cottage door to become a pounding before a wave of his hand flung it open. He didn't even bother to Summon his wand and stared at the hands he had clasped between his knees. Harry didn't really care what Snape did at this point.

The sound of boot heels against the floor was the only sound as Snape made his way into the sitting room. Harry could feel the weight of his eyes boring into the top of head as he continued to stare at his hands. Bitterness welled up inside him, towards Snape, Dumbledore, and towards himself. He'd been truly naïve to think his adult life would be any different than the manipulations which governed his childhood.

"I can only imagine the turbulent thoughts circling inside that brain of yours, Potter, especially given your masochistic nature."

Snape's voice was different: deeper, quieter, than Harry remembered, or maybe it was the surprising absence of malice that made it sound that way.

"Having just discovered a long-hidden link between us, that it seems I initiated, would cause anyone to have a bit of an anxiety attack." Harry raised his eyes to look at the black robes standing in front of him. "Especially when I know how much you loathe me, it seemed a bit of isolation would keep us from doing the other damage."

"Sounds more like the self-pity I would expect from you, Potter—"

Harry surged to his feet and found himself nose to nose with Snape. "I don't think we could have achieved a bond, even an accidental one, without both of us being willing! However, I am feeling cheated and manipulated, again, for never having been given a chance to make a decision about it." Harry stabbed a finger into Snape's chest. "Just like everything in my life, no one ever asked me what I want!"

Snape met his eyes without flinching, a scowl furrowing his forehead. "You were a willful child who needed guidance, Potter, and instead you were coddled and indulged by Albus because of the role he knew you had to play. Do you think he would have allowed us to act on the bond we'd created?"

"Never bothered to ask me—"

"You," Snape snarled, crowding against him. "Had no concept of the sacrifices that were made or the decisions that were forced on to him! Or me! Your childhood was abysmal, but you were protected there!"

"They hate me almost as much as you do!" Harry wasn't backing down, Snape didn't intimidate him anymore.

"Use your brain, Potter!" Snape snapped, nose to nose with Harry. "You obviously can feel the link between us! Open it! The way you used to open the connection you had into the Dark Lord's mind." Snape's hands closed on Harry's shoulders.

The twelve-year-old inside Harry wanted to roll his eyes, but something in Snape's touch actually calmed him. Holding Snape's eyes for a moment, Harry answered the challenge in them by closing his as he turned his attention inward. He allowed himself to sink into his mind, going immediately into the link between them.

Then, suddenly, Harry was Severus Snape, with all his memories, emotions, and knowledge. It was all there, his life laid out in front of him. He still felt the deep and abiding love for Lily, the sister of his heart, as well as taste the bitterness of their estrangement, and the guilt of his role in her death. The vow he had made to protect Lily's son while grief twisted in his gut. The deep-seated hatred for his father was palpable, along with the twisted love he felt for the mother that couldn't protect herself or Severus from a drunken Muggle. His school days, his foray into the Dark Lord's service, as well as his time at Hogwarts were all there, in all their dubious glory.

Wading through the baggage of years of hard living, Harry gaped at some of the images, the things Severus had endured while spying for the Order. Then, like the page of a book being turned, all of the memories of Harry himself opened in front of him. From loathing the child purely due to who sired him and the pampered upbringing he was sure the boy had enjoyed, he could justify his vile treatment of the boy. However, despite his soul-deep hatred, a grudging respect had begun to grow as Severus watched Harry handle everything thrown at him. There was an underlying guilt as the respect became admiration and then, during their Occlumency lessons, an inappropriate attraction.

Surprisingly, Harry felt the self-loathing Severus had inflicted on himself and his determination to do everything he could to help Harry defeat the Dark Lord. Harry saw how the cruel role Severus played as headmaster was a front for protecting the students and the ways Severus diverted the Carrows' more violent tendencies. How Snape tracked their hunt for the Horcruxes, including lingering in the Forest of Dean after delivering Gryffindor's sword, where he watched Harry nervously until Ron pulled him out of the lake. Severus' supplying Aberforth Dumbledore with information and supplies for the students hiding in the Room of Requirement despite the danger it put him in.

Coming through each memory was an underlying feeling that made Harry realize Severus cared, not just about what happened to him, but for him. The sensation both comforted and aroused Harry, who became aware of his body hardening in response. Embarrassment filtered into his consciousness and Harry groaned when he realized it wasn't his emotions being redirected, but Severus' coming through. A series of sexual fantasies swirled around him and it took a moment to realize that these were Severus' memories, not his.

With conscious effort, Harry pushed through the images to refocus on the world outside. He could feel his cheeks flaming as he found himself pressed against Severus, his face buried in Severus' throat. Reluctantly, Harry lifted his head and stepped away, feeling Severus' arms fall from his waist as he did. Refusing to look down at either his own erection or the one he knew Severus also sported, Harry met Severus' eyes and took a deep breath.

"So, what now?" Harry asked in a rough voice. "You need to fuck me to consummate the bond?"

Severus winced at Harry's rough language, but didn't back away. "I hardly have designs on your virginal flesh—"

Harry tried, but he couldn't stop the look of embarrassment he knew flashed across his face and was surprised when Severus' mouth snapped shut before he could complete the sneering comment.

"My apologies," Severus said quietly. "Old habits are harder to break that one would realize." Taking a breath, Severus slowly reached out a hand and rested it on Harry's arm. "The connection we established then was deep enough that we won't need to consummate it – yet."

Harry looked at Severus and gave him a slow nod as he tried to get himself under control. "Yes, but we have other, more pressing issues to address." He gathered himself, slipping back into Auror mode without dislodging Severus' hand. "Why do they think you are the man brewing the enslavement potion?"

Severus' eyebrow arched upward.

Harry laughed. "I mean besides the ex-Death Eater shite."

"Probably because I don't advertise my services and the clients I do have demand absolute secrecy about their concerns."

"Including Kingsley?" Harry remembered a memory from Severus' mind.

Fingers tightened on his arm fractionally before Severus nodded. "Yes, and others in the Department of Mysteries, all of which are secret. I also have some high paying clients that want potions that will enhance their sexual prowess or keep them looking younger, who pay me handsomely not to talk about the potions I make for them."

"I understand that," Harry said thoughtfully. "What I fail to understand is why one of my anonymous Aurors keeps insisting you are involved and one of the retired annuitants seems to be going out of his way to prove it.

"Retired annuitant?"

"Yes, Archibald Ackerman, he retired about a year ago, but came back to help in the Professional Standards Division," Harry explained.

Severus scowled at the name. "Ackerman was one of Moody's protégés, I can't believe he retired."

Harry cocked his head. "Early retirement, actually, left quietly to help his daughter, Eleanor, as she was running for the House of Commons."

"That seems rather convenient, investigating an illegal enslavement potion, when your daughter is trying to get herself elected to the Parliament."

Something clicked in Harry's mind and his eyes widened as he looked at Severus. "He also has a son on the Illegal Potions Task Force!"

"Why would that be a factor?" Severus asked Harry, Severus' hand still held on to his arm.

"There are three Aurors who report to me anonymously and one of them is as vehement as Ackerman that you are the mastermind behind the enslavement potion."

"That doesn't surprise me," Severus told him. "What does, is the fact that Ackerman even retired. I would have thought that Robards would have talked him out of it, as they were partners and best mates for years."

"I'm not sure I understand what you mean," Harry asked, suddenly wary.

Severus gave him an assessing look. "If you were Hawthorne and your boss's friend had been found in a compromising position, would you have fired him in disgrace or would you have allowed him to retire instead?"

Understanding dawned. "And kept it quiet, so that Ackerman is able to come back as extra help after Hawthorne mysteriously retired himself," Harry responded, incredulous.

"Or he knew about it, but decided Ackerman would be under a tighter watch with you as head."

"But that's—" Harry began explosively.

"Consider," Severus cut across his words, "if this were you and Weasley. You know that he'd done something that bordered on unethical, but you also know he is the sole support for his family." Severus met his eyes. "Would you not be tempted to allow him back into a position where you thought you could monitor him closely?"

Harry opened his mouth to fire back an answer, before snapping it closed again. He had lived by a strict moral and ethical code since he graduated from the Auror Academy, but Severus' scenario stopped him cold. How would he react if something like that happened? "I don't know," Harry told him quietly.

Severus' hand tightened fractionally on his arm as Harry sighed. "How would you like to proceed?"

It didn't require any thought. "Robards told me if he wasn't available, I should go directly to Kingsley Shacklebolt." Harry smiled ruefully. "It would appear that we'll need to do that right away."

Severus' hand moved around until it cupped Harry's elbow, turning him toward the couch. "I think it will wait until morning. In the meantime, I never did eat any of my takeaway and I don't believe you've eaten, so perhaps food first."

Harry nodded, starting to call for a house-elf when a yawn ambushed him. Feeling his cheeks heat with embarrassment, Harry quickly called for Maury, the head house-elf, and quietly asked for dinner for them both. Severus had dropped his hand and stepped back when Maury appeared, leaving Harry feeling inexplicably bereaved. He sat heavily on the couch as Severus retreated behind a neutral mask and continued to stand. The silence felt heavy but not uncomfortable as Harry struggled to separate his memories from the new ones he'd received from Severus.

It only took a few minutes before a tray, loaded with food, appeared on the low table in front of the couch. Severus moved to join Harry as he quietly thanked Maury, who had reappeared with a bottle of wine. Harry shook his head before giving Severus a questioning look. Severus shook his head as well and Harry sent Maury off with a smile. The thick stew was filling and the bread crusty and warm, just the way Harry liked it. For a short while the silence was punctuated by the occasional sound of cutlery against crockery and the delicate sound of teacups being set in their saucers.

Severus stood up gracefully, setting his serviette down beside his bowl before straightening up. "I'll send the Minister a message that we need to meet him first thing in the morning and take my leave."

Harry stood up so fast that he swayed as the room spun. A firm hand grabbed him arm to steady him.

"Perhaps I can help you to your bedroom first." Severus wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders, guiding him towards his room.

Feeling emotionally and mentally exhausted, matched by the utter drained feeling in his body, Harry allowed Severus to walk him to his bedroom, help him through getting ready, and then watch him slide into bed. Just as Severus would have stepped away from the bed, Harry reached out and grabbed his arm. Harry knew he didn't want to be alone anymore.

"Please, stay with me."

Severus turned his head and studied his face for a moment, before nodding, once. He gently pulled his arm out of Harry's grasp and disappeared into the bathroom. In a few minutes, Harry felt the bed beside him dip and a warm body press lightly against his back. An arm slide around his waist and Harry sighed, bringing his hand up to cover Severus', before sliding into a deep sleep.

~~*/*~~

Harry surfaced from sleep slowly, drifting towards consciousness lazily, in a way he hadn't done in years. It was rare that he felt comfortable enough to allow himself to wake up in this manner. The warmth of the body pressed against his back was probably the reason; somehow, Severus made him feel safe. He certainly made Harry's morning erection harder than usual. With a smile, Harry slid out from under the arm that lay across his waist and padded into the bathroom.

The spelled water felt perfect as Harry slid underneath it, his mind still on Severus as he shampooed his hair. He tipped his head back to rinse it as his hand felt around for the fragrant bar of soap Harry indulged in here at the cottage. He began soaping his chest and arms as a flutter in the link let him know Severus was awake. He closed his eyes and, in his mind, Harry could see the image of Severus stretching slowly in his bed, the sheets sliding down his body. Soaping himself quickly, Harry watched as Severus smirked and slid a hand across his abdomen and into the pants he wore to bed. His eyes still closed as he focused on the mental picture, Harry finished washing his legs.

His cock stirred as Harry watched Severus push his pants down and palmed his own erection. Warm water cascaded over his shoulders, washing the soap away as Harry fisted his cock, copying what Severus was doing as he wrapped his hand around his prick and began to stroke it. Harry groaned, able to feel Severus' arousal as it spiraled upward. His hand moved faster, twisting as it came to the tip, and it only took a few pulls before Harry was coming, the echoing of Severus' climax taking him to a height he'd never before experienced. Harry slumped in the corner, the water flowing over him as he panted, washing away the evidence of his pleasure.

"It would have saved time if we'd simply showered together." Severus' amused voice drifted over him as the man stepped in beside him.

Harry smiled and straightened away from the tile. "Somehow, I don't think that would be exactly true." He moved forward and pressed a kiss to the side of Severus' mouth. "You said the Minister was expecting us."

Severus slid a hand up Harry's arm and tugged him against him, tilting his head as he leaned down, kissing Harry hungrily. By the time Severus gently pushed him back, out of the shower, Harry was breathing heavily and his cock was twitching.

"You're right," Severus told him, his eyes dilated with desire. "Go away so that I clean up."

Harry gave him a leering smirk as he grabbed a towel off the rack and started to towel off as he walked back into the bedroom. It felt incredibly intimate, despite their link, to have Severus naked, in his shower. Grinning, Harry shook his head and began to dry himself off briskly as he refocused his mind on the task at hand. Kingsley Shacklebolt would not take well to them being late for their own meeting.

Barely an hour later, Harry followed Severus into the Minister's office, giving Percy Weasley a nod as he closed the door behind them. Percy had never changed. Kingsley stood up to greet them, but silently watched as Harry cast several privacy spells around the door and the Floo. Severus added an additional ward of his own before he sat down in the leather chair in front of the massive desk. Harry took an identical chair next to him as Kingsley reseated himself, looking at them curiously.

"Good morning, Severus," Kingsley said with a slight smile before turning his attention to Harry. "Auror Potter, is this an official meeting then?"

Harry nodded, leaning forward. "Head Auror Robards told me that I was to come directly to you if I had a lead on the Illegal Potions case, Minister, and he wasn't available."

An eyebrow arched. "I would swear I saw the Head Auror in his office not a quarter of an hour ago, Auror, which means this isn't something you want to discuss with him." Kingsley gave him a knowing look.

Taking a deep breath, Harry relayed to Kingsley the information he and Severus had put together the night before regarding the Ackerman family. At one point Kingsley closed his eyes tightly, even as his head nodded in the affirmative. Harry watched as Kingsley's brow furrowed at the implication of someone from the Wizarding world using magical means to influence a Muggle election. The fallout could be devastating for both worlds, but would do more damage to them as it exposed them to Muggle scrutiny.

"It would explain the need for an enslavement potion, but the task force hasn't had any luck tracking down the suspected brewer," Kingsley told them, his eyes accessing Severus. "They've all consented to questioning under Veritaserum, except you, Severus."

"He's not brewing it, Kingsley," Harry answered quietly. "I can vouch for that."

"How, pray tell?"

Harry felt his cheeks flush. "Apparently I bonded us during those Occlumency lessons in my fifth year. I—reactivated it last night and can tell you that Severus has not brewed any illegal potions."

"Zabini is paying you to brew something!" Kingsley narrowed his eyes at Severus. "I'm not sure I trust him at all."

Severus snorted and Harry could feel amusement in him. "He is acting as the agent for a friend, Minister." Severus paused as they both watched the scowl deepen on Kingsley's face. "I'm brewing a male pregnancy potion, Kingsley."

"Male pregnancy potion?" Kingsley looked surprised and then gasped. "For Draco?"

"I'm not at liberty to discuss my clients, Minister."

Harry couldn't stop a grin, as everyone knew that the two men had been together for the past year. He filed the information away as something to ask Severus about later.

"Regardless, your task force is doing an inadequate job in investigating this situation," Severus crossed his arms over his chest.

"Oh?" Kingsley had recovered, leaning back in his chair. "Do tell."

Severus kept a neutral expression on his face, but Harry could feel the smugness he was holding back. "The task force is trying to find the person brewing this illicit potion by harassing Potions masters, when it is a relatively simple potion to brew. An apprentice level Potions practitioner could brew the Compulsion Spell that is most likely going to be used against the Muggles."

"Compulsion Spell?" Kingsley asked. "I was told that is was a magical enslavement potion of some type that was going to be used."

"By virtue of the properties which make the potion work, one needs to be magical in order for the type of enslavement potion being talked about to have any effect." Severus paused, letting the information sink in. "Based on that, I can only assume that in reality it is the Compulsion Potion with magically enhanced Saint John's Wort and skullcap which is being brewed."

"So, in essence, we're running around in circles, chasing after shadows which don't exist?" Kingsley ground out.

"Yes, but from what Harry has shared with me, it sounds like the task force search has been directed by the Ackermans, father and son."

Harry spoke up. "Which means the task force has been concentrating money and resources on who was brewing the potion, effectively keeping them from investigating other angles."

"Such as who is ordering unusual amounts of magically enhance potion ingredients," Severus told him pointedly. "Jiggers senior complained to me yesterday that he's had a large order for a specific variety of skullcap that he was waiting for someone to pick up. Apparently, this particular strain is rare and expensive to harvest."

"So we place a large order for the ingredients?" Kingsley asked as he looked between them.

"Not exactly," Harry answered. "Severus is going to buy the skullcap and see if any of the major apothecaries are holding specially ordered ingredients, such as magically enhanced Saint John's Wort, effectively stealing the primary potion ingredients from whomever is brewing the Compulsion Potion."

"And setting himself up as a target." Kingsley was shaking his head. "I'm not willing to take the chance—"

"But I am, Kingsley," Severus interrupted him. "It's the only way to draw them in, as they would believe me on face value, as my distrust of the Ministry is well known."

"And I will be with him the entire time, Kingsley," Harry said, reaching over to touch Severus' arm lightly. "I have my Invisibility Cloak and will not leave his side."

"You'll need to have more than that, Harry!" Kingsley argued. "You'll need at least a two person team as back-up."

"Then let me pick a team and authorize surveillance on Jiggers', because the last thing we can do is allow anyone from the task force in on this." Harry was already mentally choosing Aurors to assist him.

"What about Robards?" Kingsley asked, his face carefully neutral.

Harry looked at Severus, whose eyes confirmed what Harry was feeling through their link. "I'd rather keep him out of this, as we aren't completely sure of his role in Hawthorne and Ackerman's retirements."

"You don't believe that he's directly involved in this election fraud scheme, though?"

"No," Severus answered. "We just are being cautious."

Kingsley nodded in understanding. "Then let's get it done, I'll sign the appropriate authorizations."

~~*/*~~

Severus paced in front of the desk in Harry's office as he went over the operations plans with Ron. He didn't need the link they shared to sense Severus' frustration.

"I must leave," Severus announced mid-afternoon. "Jiggers expected me hours ago and any advantage I had to get the other ingredients is rapidly diminishing."

Harry shook his head. "Thomas, Conner, and McRay are on their way in and there's a team of Unspeakables being dispatched as the surveillance and technical potions expert. We need to wait—"

"It is crucial for the success of this operation to go now." Severus wasn't backing down.

Harry sighed. "All right, we'll Floo to my flat and use that as a command post." He scribbled a note on a piece of parchment and folded it quickly, spelling it to find Dean Thomas.

"I'd rather Apparate," Severus announced, crossing his arms over his chest.

Harry could see Ron roll his eyes and stopped a similar motion of his own. "Fine. Ron, why don't you Apparate to George's and I'll stay with Severus." Picking up his Invisibility Cloak, Harry threw it over his head. "Let's make this short and sweet, so that we can get back to formulating a more solid plan."

"To the alley on the north side of the apothecary." Severus announced as he stalked towards the Apparation alcove in the Aurors' office.

Harry did roll his eyes that time as he jerked his head towards the Floo for Ron and moved to follow Severus. The sooner they got everything set up, the sooner they could get the operation going. Automatically checking his various pockets, Harry made sure he had both his wands before he stepped up beside Severus and disappeared underneath the Cloak. His fingers brushed against Severus' and he smiled at the spark of arousal that shot through him. Harry definitely had plans that involved Severus and a bed when this was all over.

Waiting until Severus Apparated, Harry envisioned the alleyway and Disapparated. Severus waited impatiently for him, pausing only to run his fingers down the shimmery fabric of the Cloak before striding out of the alley and towards the door. Severus opened to door wide, allowing Harry to slip in to the apothecary in front of him, and then slammed it behind him. The one other customer looked up at the sound, but quickly scurried out of the store when Severus gave his a dark glare.

"Jiggers!" Severus raised his voice only slightly, but is reverberated around the cluttered room as he made his way to the counter.

Harry followed at a discreet distance, taking care not to let his Cloak brush against any of the jars of potions ingredients that lined the aisle and shelves. Stopping just back from the wall, where he had a visual of both Severus and the entrance door to the shop, Harry eased his wand out of its holster. An elderly wizard appeared from a curtained off area behind the counter and Harry tensed until he heard Severus greet the man by name.

"Snape. I thought you were going to be here earlier." Jiggers moved towards the far end of the shelves in the front.

"You indicated that your shipment would not come in until this afternoon." Severus frowned at him. "If you have the particular variant of Saint John's Wort, I'm prepared to pay you double the going rate."

"I'm afraid I have news to the contrary."

A new voice joined the conversation and Harry instantly recognized the newcomer as Auror Angus Ackerman. In the next instant, the red spell light of a stunner was cast and Severus fell to the floor. Harry froze, realizing instantly that any action on his part would save Severus but jeopardize the investigation he was assisting with. Taking a silent, slow breath through his nose, Harry kept his wand at ready as Ackerman spoke with Jiggers.

"Slimy bastard! He's trying to undermine our plans!"

Jiggers shook his head, his voice trembling. "It's Snape, man! He doesn't give a rat's arse what your plans are, he wants this for his own benefit."

Ackerman scowled. "I doubt that, old man, Snape's always been an opportunist. He's probably figured out which potion we're using and is trying to drive the price up!"

"I—"

"Just shut up!" Ackerman kept his wand pointed at Severus. "I'm betting he has the skullcap at his lab."

"I have another shipment due in any moment—"

"Notify me immediately when it comes in," Ackerman snapped and then reached down to grab Severus' arm, Apparating away.

Harry's heart missed a beat as they disappeared. In the next instant, Harry threw off his Cloak and had Jiggers in a wrist lock, his wand digging into the underside of the old man's chin.

"Where did he take Snape?" he ground out.

"N-n-no idea!" Jiggers stuttered, trying to pull away. "We always conducted business here!"

Harry eased back enough to slide his left hand into the pocket of his robes and took out his communication mirror. He kept his wand trained on Jiggers as he activated it.

"Ron! Angus Ackerman was here waiting and he's taken Snape."

The door to the apothecary slammed open; Ron and Melony McRay entered at a run, their wands out. Harry pushed Jiggers towards McRay.

"He's in collusion with Ackerman," Harry snapped. "See if a holding cell will make him a bit more cooperative." He turned to Ron. "I think they may have gone to Snape's lab to get the skullcap; get a team over there immediately."

Ron grabbed his sleeve. "And where are you going?"

"I'm going to Apparate directly to Severus," Harry said in a low voice. "The connection should allow—"

"Connection?" Ron frowned. "What connection?"

"I bonded us together during those Occlumency in my fifth year," Harry didn't have time for this. "He hid it from me so Voldemort couldn't find it."

Ron stared at him open-mouthed for a moment, before snapping his mouth closed and shaking his head. "Well, at least that explains your lack of girlfriends. Keep your mirror on, at least."

Harry nodded sharply and put his Cloak back on as Ron started to issue instructions over the mirror to the command post. Perhaps Harry had been wrong about Ron's readiness for promotion, he thought, before clearing his mind and concentrating on the link he shared with Severus, who seemed to still be unconscious. Gripping his wand, Harry closed his eyes and Apparated.

The room Harry arrived in was brightly lit and he had to blink his eyes rapidly to get them adjusted. When he could see, Harry noted that Severus lay in a heap on the floor in front of a fireplace in what appeared to be a Muggle sitting room. A tall woman dressed in a royal blue Muggle suit was arguing fiercely with Angus Ackerman in harsh whispers, as a another man stood nearby, his arms crossed over his chest.

"—Dad will be furious if he finds out that you've brought him here!"

"Until we find that skullcap, I have to keep him alive," Ackerman sneered. "After that, I'll get rid of him."

"You'll get him out of here, now! I can't afford the possibility of any scandal this close to the election!"

"Shut up, Eleanor!" Ackerman leaned menacingly toward her. "You'll do as you're told!"

Harry used the ensuing screaming match between the siblings to move silently towards Severus, exchanging his wand for the Elder Wand. Casting a non-verbal Ennervate, Harry knelt beside Severus, hoping that the spell was powerful enough. He could tell the instant the awareness returned and pushed a warning to stay still through the connection they shared. The argument escalated, drawing a sharp glare from the man in the Muggle suit. Severus' eyes opened slightly, enough to assess the room and their situation.

"I don't care if Dad wants to be Minister of Magic, you dolt! I need to win my election to make our plans work and if you can't figure out that any hint of impropriety would hurt my chances, that you are an idiot!"

"And if it weren't for me, you won't ever have a chance! I'm the one who found the Compulsion Potion, I'm the one who found the kid to brew it, and I'm the one who orchestrated tomorrow night's nationwide broadcast on the telly!"

"You're also the one who was embezzling from the Ministry and let Dad take the fall for it!"

"He did that on his own! I could have beaten that charge, but he was determined that there would be nothing on my record!"

"You're the biggest—"

Harry had all the information that he needed. Standing up, he petrified all three of the people in the room before he pushed back the hood of his Cloak. He was particularly delighted that Ackerman's sister had fallen on top of him, pressing his face into the rug.

"Incarcerous!"

Thick ropes shot out of the end of his wand, wrapping around the suspects and securing them. Casting an anti-Apparation spell on the three, Harry quickly checked the rest of the room for any additional threats.

"Harry?"

Severus was on his feet when Harry turned around and Harry reached out his hand, needing touch to reassure himself. "Are you all right?"

"Yes," Severus said with a grimace. "Although, I believe Ackerman got in a few kicks, from the feel of my ribs."

Harry gritted his teeth as fought the temptation to throw a Cutting Hex at Ackerman. "I wouldn't be surprised, he's quite the piece of work."

Severus snorted. "Now we need to get to my lab quickly, as your colleagues will never get through my wards in order to catch the others."

Nodding, Harry retrieved his mirror and activated it. "Ron! I've got three in custody here and we need—"

"Bloody hell, Harry!" Ron interrupted him. "Do you have to take all the fun?"

Harry grinned. "We're just fine, Ron, thanks for asking. Now, can you initiate the tracking spell and get a fix on me so someone can get this rubbish to an interrogation room?"

Ron turned away from the mirror and barked orders to someone Harry couldn't see, before turning back. "I've got two Apparating to you now."

"All right, we're going to Apparate into Severus' lab and we'll be able to let you through the wards then."

"Copy that, we haven't seen anyone since we set up the perimeter and no movement from inside. Oh, and the Unspeakable team is at the command post to take possession of the potion when you find it."

"Have them stand by, as we don't know where they are brewing it."

"Okay!"

Severus pulled Harry towards him and wrapped his arms around him, Apparating out just as they heard the quiet pops of the Aurors arriving. Harry soaked up the rightness of being pressed against Severus as he side-along Apparated them into his shop in Diagon Alley. Spinning away at the first possible moment, Harry's stomach dropped when purple spell light flashed beside his head.

It was an ambush.

"Snape and Potter," Archie Ackerman sneered as Harry slid behind a shelf of jars. "You're too stupid to have figured this out by yourself, Potter, and Snape shouldn't care, so I'm wagering that I have a spy in my midst."

Harry flipped the hood of his Cloak over his head and slowly stood up. He could see that Ackerman had his wand aimed at Severus. Moving carefully, Harry made his way towards Ackerman, ready to drop him in his tracks, but Severus' response stopped him.

"You should be more careful about who you use to brew your potions, Ackerman." Severus' statement was casually thrown out, a knowing smirk on his face.

"Quirke?" Ackerman's face screwed up in disgust. "She's not a particularly pleasant sort, but she hates the Ministry, and you in particular, for denying her the Mastery she had earned, I doubt she's the source of your information."

Severus scoffed. "She was brewing for Alecto Carrow in her sixth year, you idiot! Do you think anyone is going to award her a Mastery when she assisted in torturing Muggles while she was still at Hogwarts?"

"Frankly, I don't care if she used infants and unicorns as test subjects, Snape, as long as she does what I want her to!"

"You're a bloody—" Severus started before being cut off.

"I'm going to be the next Minister of Magic, as Shacklebolt is going to have a tragic accident in a few days, poor thing."

Harry brought the Elder Wand up and began to isolate Severus' protective fields. He couldn't use a large amount of magic, as Ackerman would be able to detect that. Ackerman's tone was frenzied and Harry realized they were dealing with someone who had lost touch with reality. He needed to work fast; if Severus could just keep Ackerman occupied they might have a chance.

"You're insane!

Ackerman laughed, a sound that made the hair stand up on the back of Harry's neck. "Hardly, Snape. In fact, it’s a brilliant plan. Take over the Ministry and the Muggle government, then show the world that wizards are infinitely better than Muggles to run things."

"Your plan will never work," Severus declared. "There are too many failsafes in place to prevent—"

"Avada Kedavra" Ackerman said it almost lazily, as though he couldn't be bothered to continue the discussion and this was the simplest way to end it.

Harry didn't have time to do anything but launch himself at Severus as his wand finished the upward motion needed to allow the Aurors into the buildings. His free hand impacted on Severus' chest and sent him flying backward, just as white hot magic skimmed across his shoulders. The last thing Harry heard as the room went black was the shouts of his fellow Aurors storming the lab.

~~*/*~~

Harry woke up slowly, keeping his eyes closed as he assessed his body and surroundings. He could feel stiffness in his shoulders and his back seemed sore, but otherwise he felt fine. The room around him was silently and the warm body pressing against his indicated that he was in a safe environment. A soft laugh blew warm air across his ear and Harry sighed appreciatively as he rolled towards it. A softly lit room met his eyes as he opened them.

"Severus?"

His voice came out raspy and in the next instant there was a supporting arm around his shoulders and a goblet of cool water brought to his lips. Harry drank deeply, glad to wet his dry throat. Setting down the goblet, Severus put several pillows behind him to prop him up. It appeared that they were both dressed in sleep pants and Harry let his eyes wander down Severus' chest. A patch of black hair decorated the middle of it and Harry's fingers itched to see if it was as soft as it looked.

"What happened?"

 

"Your illustrious hero complex drove you to put yourself in the path of a Killing Curse which, thankfully, only skimmed your shoulder," Severus said in a clipped tone. "Idiot."

Harry grinned and rolled his shoulders. The twinge was noticeable but nothing worse than he'd experienced before. "How long have I been out?"

"About three hours," replied Severus, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I insisted you remain here with me when they tried to ship you off to St. Mungo's. Luckily, Kingsley agreed."

Harry threw back the bedding and slid his legs over the edge of the bed, Severus watching his closely. "Where's the loo?"

"You are to remain in bed for the rest of the day, according to that bint of a healer your department uses."

Laughing, Harry stood up. "Don't let Cassiopeia hear you say that, or she'll hex you with something nasty." He grinned. "Trust me, I know."

Severus led him to the bathroom, where Harry hurried through his business, throwing water on his face and washing out his mouth. He tried to look at his shoulders but a thin layer of orange Burn Paste covered the most of the skin. Hopefully, Severus wouldn't be put off by it. Taking a deep breath, Harry opened the door.

"All right?" Severus was right outside the door, looking him up and down.

"You did say that I was confined to bed for the rest of the day, right?" Harry reached for Severus' hand.

Severus nodded slowly, his eyes examined Harry's face closely.

"Then, I think you need to take me to there."

Without another word, Severus propelled Harry towards the bed, making sure he was comfortable before joining Harry. Cupping his face, Severus kissed him, softly at first as if he were tasting Harry, before it caught fire. Harry was taken by surprise, never having experienced a kiss that could arouse him to hardness by itself. He could feel the brush of Severus' fingers against his skin, sending sparks through his body. He arched upward, grabbing at his hand to try and pull Severus on top of him.

Pushing Harry back flat, Severus knelt and kissed down his body as his hands worked to pull off the sleep pants off. Sensations flooded through Harry that he'd never experienced as Severus cupped his bollocks and licked the length of his hard cock. His body hummed with desire and Severus seemed to be touching him everywhere, all of it driving Harry spare. His hands stretched out, fingers caressing any skin he could reach as Harry tried to focus on something other than what Severus was doing as he settled between Harry's legs.

A slick finger circled his rectum as Severus sucked the tip of Harry's cock into his mouth. Harry groaned, bringing his legs up and opening them wide in invitation. He slid his fingers into Severus' hair, carding through it as he tried not to let himself explode. Another finger was added, and another, as Severus continued to tease his cock, bringing Harry to the edge before backing off. A finger moved inside of him and Harry felt a jolt of something amazing tear through his body.

"Oh, fuck!" Harry panted. "Severus! I don't think I can take much more!"

"Oh, you'll be able to take just enough more," Severus said in a low, throaty voice.

Severus leaned forward to kiss him hard, then slid a pillow under his hips. Getting his first look at Severus' cock, Harry was torn between admiration and slight panic at how Severus would get it into him. Then Severus was pressing into him, pushing Harry's thighs up towards his chest. It felt too big and Harry could feel his breath hitch in his chest at the burning sensation as Severus continued to push. He knew that Severus could feel his discomfort through their link.

"Press back against me," Severus told him, his voice strained.

Moving his hips, Harry did as Severus instructed as his eyes prickled. Then, suddenly, Severus was sliding in and Harry felt stretched and filled. Severus paused, holding his weight off of Harry with his arms. After taking a deep breath, Harry rocked upward, pushing Severus even deeper. With a groan, Severus matched his motion, changing his angle until Harry yelped.

"Fuck!" Harry panted, ignoring the mental smirk Severus was sending him. "Do it again!" he demanded.

Severus did just that as Harry slid a hand between them to fist his cock, squeezing his inner muscles at the same time as he tried to get Severus to go faster. His body felt as if it was coiling tighter and tighter, striving for something just out of reach. Sensing his closeness, Severus pushed his legs higher, almost bending him in half and began to thrust harder, deeper. It only took a few strokes of Severus' cock to push him over the edge. Severus groaned as he pulled back and slammed deep, filling Harry with his release.

Harry felt boneless, thankful that Severus helped him lower his legs and cast a cleaning spell, before slumping beside him in bed. Summoning the bedding from the bottom of the bed, Severus covered them before gathering Harry into his arms, one hand splaying across his abdomen.

"That was amazing," Harry whispered, turning his head to press a kiss to Severus' jaw.

"Undeniably." Severus was silent for several minutes. "Does this apparent sexual compatibility mean you are willing to try and forge a relationship between us?"

Harry smiled, sticking his tongue out to tentatively trace the strong line of Severus' jaw. "You have been in my mind, right? You did see that I've been in love with you since before we bonded with each other in fifth-year. My Half-Blood Prince was my first true crush."

"And does the reality of that schoolboy crush live up to this?"

Severus forgot that Harry could feel the insecurity he was trying to mask.

"Yes, and then some." Harry pressed closer. "What was that you said about a male pregnancy potion?"

Harry was sure that the swift intake of breath was something other than a gasp of disbelief.

"I have perfected it to the point of human trial," Severus said, his tone neutral.

"Oh good, that means we can try it before Draco and Kingsley?" Harry yawned.

"You are saying that you'd want to have a child with me?"

"Um hmm," Harry hid his smile.

Severus' arms tightened around him. "Although, knowing your dumb luck, you would be the first wizard in a century to attain a spontaneous pregnancy without the benefit of a potion," Severus groused.

Harry laughed until he felt a burst of heat in the middle of his belly, spreading out in waves through his entire abdomen. "What the bloody hell was that?"

Severus sighed. "I'll be forever known as the man who knocked up the Boy Who Lived."

Harry's head spun with the implications of what he'd just felt, but suddenly, it seemed fitting for them. "As long as I have you, I'll just be known as the Man Who Loved."

"Indeed."