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Sublimation

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Severus threw open his door and glared at the woman standing there. She was short, had long black hair flowing over narrow shoulders. She was small boned and slim, reminding Severus of a stick figure. She had small hazel eyes which sent a look of utter distaste in his direction.

“What the blazes are you doing here, Martha?” he asked venomously.

“We need to talk, Severus.”

He shuddered at her high-pitched voice and backed out of the door frame, allowing her entrance. He motioned toward a stiff, high-backed chair and stood with his arms crossed protectively in front of him.

“What, pray tell, could we possibly have to talk about?”

“An heir,” she said pointedly, still glaring at Severus.

“I’ve told you before that will never happen!”

“Severus, I don’t care if you want an heir or not! I don’t even care that my parents are still begging for one either! I want a child! I am getting far too old to continue to wait for you to die so that I may remarry and have children.”

“Then go get laid!” Severus stated sarcastically.

“Don’t you think I would if I could?” Martha growled angrily.

“Why the bloody hell can’t you? I certainly won’t stop you!”

Martha gave him an incredulous look. “You really don’t know, do you?”

Severus sighed impatiently. “Know what?”

“About the ‘infidelity’ charm that was added to our marriage bond.”

Severus blinked at her several times as his mind processed what she had said. He could feel his heart speeding up along with his breathing. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t been told about it or even realized it’s existence.

“What infidelity charm?”

“I’m assuming one of our ‘loving’ parents added it in to keep us faithful to each other,” her sarcasm dripped as much as Severus’. “Haven’t you noticed that you haven’t been attracted to anyone since our marriage?”

“No, actually, I have not. I haven’t had the time to think about a sexual relationship. In case you hadn’t heard, I was fighting a war!”

“You haven’t fought every day for the last twenty years, Severus, and even in wars people find lovers!”

“Well, I just haven’t given it any thought.”

“I have! I want a child, Severus and you are the only person who can give it to me!”

“Martha…”

“We don’t even have to have sex! A simple incantation will do it. Please, Severus? Have I ever asked anything of you in all our 20 years of marriage?”

Severus sighed at her pleading tone. This was obviously extremely important to her for her to have come to Hogwarts. She’d only ever visited him there once before and that was to inform him that his mother had passed away.

“And after the child is born? What will you expect of me? I can not be a full time parent, nor do I want to be! I despise children, as you well know!”

“I don’t expect anything of you, Severus. Nothing will change. I have the estate and more than enough to care for a child. You can be as much or as little a part of the baby’s life as you want. That’s completely up to you.”

Severus gave a long sigh that came out as a weak growl. His mind warred with the idea of fathering a child. They had discussed it years ago and agreed, though reluctantly on Martha’s part, that they would have no children. Neither had expected Severus to survive the war anyhow, so that would free Martha to remarry. It came as a great shock to them both when he did, indeed, survive.

Their parents had arranged the marriage and took care of the bonding. It was a very strong, ancient bond that would last until the death of one of them. It was supposed to have been a marriage to tie the two wealthy, pureblood families together. It hadn’t mattered in the least that Severus and Martha couldn’t stand each other.

Severus wasn’t surprised, really, about the infidelity charm, he was just shocked that he hadn’t thought about it or realized it for himself. It was most likely his own mother who had added it. She knew they weren’t in love, but had hoped they would someday learn to love one another. It never happened. They consummated the bond, then went their separate ways, neither asking the other for anything.

He sighed again and nodded his consent. He was startled by Martha’s enthusiastic hug as she tackled him. She placed a quick kiss to his lips, then one to his cheek.

“Thank you, Severus! I promise you won’t regret this!” Her eyes shone and sparkled in a way Severus had never seen before. He was surprised to find himself returning her smile and was remarkably happy for her.

“No, but you may at having to change dirty nappies at three in the morning!” She just smiled at him again.

“It’ll be worth it!”

“I suppose you have the incantation already prepared?” Severus asked, his arms still lightly around the short woman’s waist.

“Of course! I wouldn’t come to you unprepared! I know you better than that.”

Severus rolled his eyes and told her to begin. They held hands while Martha recited the incantation, their eyes closed in concentration. It was a simple enough spell, though it did tend to drain the man magically and physically more than the woman. Severus could feel a very strong pull on his abdomen and became weak, his knees nearly giving out as he gripped her hands tightly. When she finished speaking, Severus was dizzy and exhausted. He sank to his knees breathing heavy and fighting to stay awake.

Martha sat down in front of Severus, letting go of one hand and feeling his flushed cheeks. “Are you all right?” she asked worriedly.

“Fine,” he said, jerking away from her touch. He felt nauseated and weak and just wanted her to go. “Did it work?”

“Yes,” Martha said excitedly. “I can feel the change already!”

“Good, and goodbye!” Severus growled dismissively.

Martha kissed his cheek again and rose to her feet. “You can’t fool me, you know. You’d make a wonderful parent if you’d just let yourself feel something other than anger! Good day, Mr. Snape,” she said coldly, slamming the door behind her.

Severus started to rise, but felt a wave of dizziness overcome him and fainted.

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Chapter Text

Chapter 2: To Loathe or Not to Loathe

Severus spent the next several months researching the Infidelity Charm and found there to be over a hundred variations. The core of them were all the same, however. When the charm, or curse depending on your point of view, is entered into a marriage bond, it makes both participants virtually incapable of committing adultery. For the man, it makes him unable to get an erection with anyone else, and for the woman it obliterates her sex drive.

Severus banged his head on the table in frustration, uncaring of the students in the library with him. He had found a few additions to what he felt was their own infidelity charm, which caused both his wife and himself to be completely unattracted to anyone else. However, when he delved further into the matter, he found several variations to those additions as well. One variation turned any attraction into revulsion and loathing, another caused the charmed one to become physically ill when in the presence of the one they were attracted to, and another would shut down the charmed one’s mind entirely just for having impure thoughts of someone else.

Since Severus was rarely ill, it couldn’t have been the second variation and his mind had never shut down on him spontaneously. The curse his mother had added to his marriage to Martha could very well have had the first variation added to it. There were numerous people Severus loathed and, more often than not, with very little concrete reasoning behind it. He couldn’t be certain any more if it was his own true feelings or if it was a sublimation of his true feelings towards anyone.

Stalking through the halls, Severus glared and snarled at anyone who passed him by, then wondered briefly if he was actually attracted to them. He thought about Lupin and worried there was an attraction there, until he realized that he didn’t really hate the man at all. They were almost friends even.

He wondered about Trelawney. He really loathed that woman with a passion, so could that really be from another sort of passion? Severus had no idea if he was attracted to men or women or both since he had never been in a relationship before, or after, his marriage to Martha.

As the weeks passed, he became more and more frustrated. He spent hours in the library researching, trying to find a way to break at least that part of the bond, all to no avail. From his discoveries, the only way for the infidelity charm to be broken was for one of them to die and break all aspects of the bond.

Severus thought too about the coming baby and how he would deal with fatherhood. He didn’t believe he would make a good father. He didn’t have the patience for one thing, and didn’t have the slightest idea on how to care for a child. Martha had said he wouldn’t have to participate any more than he wanted to, but he couldn’t see not having any contact with the child at all. He didn’t want any child of his growing up thinking he didn’t want them. He had gone through that feeling himself with his own father and would not do that to his child.

He also became more irritable and irrational the longer he thought about who he could really be attracted to. He snapped and snarled at everyone, including the Headmaster. When Albus tried to talk to him, to find out what was the matter, Severus just growled even more and told him to mind his own business.

When Minerva tried to talk to him, Severus finally broke down in tears. Nearly 7 months of wondering and self doubt came crashing down on him. He told her about his sham of a marriage to a woman he couldn’t stand, the baby she had begged him to give her, and the infidelity curse that he couldn’t break. They had talked and cried for hours as Minerva told Severus about her own unhappy marriage and her inability to carry a child. By the time she left, Severus was once again calm and ready to face the world.

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As Harry entered his last Potions class of his sixth year, he was filled with trepidation. Snape had been extremely moody over the last several months. Harry had watched the man growing more and more frustrated and irritable as the weeks stretched by. He had learned not to take it personally when Snape yelled and belittled him. It was quite obvious to everyone that the man was under a lot of pressure, though from what particularly, Harry couldn’t be sure.

Harry braced himself for the onslaught of insults as he took his seat next to Ron. When it didn’t come, he looked worriedly at Snape and saw the man more relaxed and at ease than Harry had seen since Voldemort was defeated at the start of the year. Harry and Ron looked at each other and shrugged. They certainly wouldn’t complain about having a quiet class for a change.

Snape gave his typical end of year speech, then handed back various papers from throughout the year. Harry felt his own tension leaving as Snape calmly made his way through the classroom. He was glad that whatever had been straining the Potions Master seemed to have been dealt with. Snape had been there for Harry during the final battle, fighting at his side and protecting him as he had done since Harry’s first day at Hogwarts. Over the months following, Harry had come to greatly respect him. He knew there was more to the man besides his snarky, crusty exterior, he just hadn’t been able to see it before.

As the students began filtering out the door at the end of class, Harry heard a gasp from Snape. He turned to see the man standing in front of his desk, his long fingered hands gripping the side of his head as he gasped again, a look of utter pain and fear etched into his pale features.

“Professor!” Harry yelled, dashing to his side just as Snape’s knees gave out. He held Snape tightly and lowered him to the floor. “Ron, get Madame-“ Before Harry could even finish the sentence, Ron was sprinting out the door, leaving his books in a heap on his desk.

Snape screamed as though caught in the Cruciatus curse, which sent shivers through Harry’s body. He held the shaking man to his chest tightly, rubbing soothing circles over his back.

“Professor, what’s wrong? What is it?” Harry asked, his voice cracking from stress and fear.

“My… wife… dying,” Snape managed to gasp out before screaming again and fainting into Harry’s arms.

“Wife?” Harry questioned just as Pomfrey pushed her way through the small crowd of students. When she levitated Snape to take him to the infirmary, Harry followed needing to know the man was going to be okay.

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Severus’ eyes fluttered open briefly. His mind registered a dark haired body curled rather uncomfortably in a chair next to his bed. He opened his eyes again and stared at Harry Potter. He noticed the soft, silky looking, wild black hair, the smooth lightly tanned complexion, the little button nose, and the gentle pink lips.

His face held a look of contentment as he thought about kissing those sweet lips, but it soon turned to a look of dread. Of all the people in his life, Severus was attracted to none other than Harry Bloody Potter!

“Oh, not HIM!” he groaned and thought to himself. “Martha!” he suddenly thought. If his attraction to Harry was there, that meant that his wife had died.

Severus turned onto his side away from Harry and sobbed quietly. He had never loved her, but was still saddened to know she was gone. It also dawned on him that their child was gone, too. It made him cry all the more. He had become excited about the baby and had made plans to spend as many weekends out of the year with his son or daughter, to teach them the art of potions when they were old enough, to read them bedtime stories whenever he was home with them.

He damned Martha for forcing him to give her a child and to raise his hopes for at least a semblance of a normal life. He felt more lonely than he ever had in his life. Before the Dark Lord had been defeated, Severus had never had time to feel lonely. He always had something to do and didn’t give himself time to feel much of anything. He could completely submerse himself in his work, whether brewing important potions or spying on his enemies. He didn’t feel lonely and he certainly didn’t feel like there was an open void in his life as he was feeling right now.

He heard the rustling of fabric behind him and knew Potter was awake. He tried to stifle the sound of his crying, but when he thought of Harry giving him comfort, wrapping his warm arms around him, Severus cried harder. He didn’t want to be attracted to Harry and he didn’t want his wife’s death to be the reason he felt the attraction.

“Professor?” The concern in Potter’s voice and the gentle hand on his shoulder made Severus gasp and pull away.

“Go away,” he said with as much conviction as he could muster, which wasn’t much as all he really wanted to do right at that moment was pull the young man into his arms and rest his throbbing head on the strong shoulder.

“You’re awake. I’ll get Madame Pomfrey.”

Severus listened to the soft retreating steps and took a deep, shuddering breath. He tried to control his sobs, to relax and pull himself together before the medi-witch came in. He felt a gentle hand touch his face and sweep his long black hair out of his eyes and tuck it behind his ear. He opened his eyes slowly, expecting to see Poppy’s brown eyes. He was pleasantly surprised to see instead the pair of yellowy-green eyes that belonged to Minerva.

“Shh… It’s all right, Severus,” she cooed softly to him, gently rubbing his forehead.

“She’s gone,” he whispered, fresh tears starting. “The baby, too.”

“No, Severus,” she said, smiling sadly as she pulled a chair to the side of his bed. “The baby is fine. You have a daughter.”

“What?” he asked, uncertain if he’d heard right.

“It’s true.” Severus rolled over enough to see Poppy standing on the other side of his bed, Potter next to her. I just talked with the medi’s at St. Mungo’s this morning. Your daughter is doing just fine.”

“But… Martha… It’s too soon.” Severus was confused and light-headed as he struggled to sit up. Minerva tried to slow his movement and restrain him, but Potter came to his side and helped him into a sitting position with pillows behind his back to prop him up.

“Severus,” Poppy started in his calm, firm voice, leaving no room for question as to the validity of her words. “Martha went into premature labor. She was able to deliver the baby, but there were complications. She died shortly after giving birth. The baby, your daughter, is doing just fine, however, even for being two months early.”

Severus looked to Minerva, who smiled and nodded in conformation. He nodded back and sighed heavily. He sniffled a few times and wiped his eyes. He suddenly felt foolish with Potter standing next to his bed. He didn’t want the young man to see him so weak. He was about to ask Potter to leave when the door to his room swung open and a plump blond woman stormed in.

She wore a lavender dress and a tall witches hat. Severus would have recognized his mother-in-law anywhere. Her scowl was deeper than usual and she was glaring daggers at him. He barely registered the bundle of blankets in her arms before it was literally dropped in his lap.

“I lost my daughter because of yours!” she spit venomously at him. “I will have nothing to do with her.” Megan Malone then stormed out of the room, leaving four very shocked people in her wake.

Everyone was silent for several moments while Severus just stared at the barely moving package laying nestled between his stretched out legs. It was Potter who made the first move and broke the silence.

“Can I see her?” he asked, excitement in his eyes. Severus looked at him with large, frightened eyes and merely nodded his head unable to form any words. Potter smiled and reached for the blankets where he assumed the baby’s head to be. When the tiny girl’s face was uncovered, they both gasped. Potter out of joy and excitement and Severus out of fear and disgust.

“She’s gorgeous!” Potter said happily, gently touching the baby’s face.

“She’s grotesque!” Severus nearly shouted.

“Severus!” Minerva admonished, slapping his shoulder.

“Look at her, Minerva! Her head’s misshapen, she looks like she’s got a terrible rash, her skin’s all blotchy, she’s no bigger than a kitten, and worst of all… She’s got MY nose!”

Everyone laughed as Severus stared at his daughter. “It’s not funny! She’s going to go through life looking like a… like a troll! I thought all babies were supposed to be cute and beautiful.”

“Oh, Severus,” Minerva said, rolling her eyes and shaking her head in amusement. “She’s barely 24hrs old. Her head will fill out properly and her skin with reach a normal complexion before long, too. As for her nose… Well, we can only hope she’ll grow into it.”

“She’s beautiful, Professor,” Potter said, still smiling happily at the babe.

Severus stared at him for a moment, then had to force his eyes away before his mind could start wandering into inappropriate areas. Just then, Severus yawned loudly and the baby started fussing. He looked at her in utter fear, not having the slightest idea of what to do. Poppy saw his terror and stepped in.

“How about I take her for now, while you get some rest, Severus,” she said sternly, not leaving any room for argument. Severus simply nodded and watched as the medi-witch carefully picked up his little girl, cooing softly to her.

“Get some sleep, Severus,” Minerva said softly as she kissed his cheek and brushed some stray hairs off his face.

“See you later, Professor.” Severus nodded numbly at Potter as he waved and left, giving the baby one last smile.

Severus sighed and sunk back down on the bed. Within moments his mind went blank and he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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Chapter Text

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The next time Severus awoke, it was to the sounds of a crying infant. His eyes popped open instantly and he saw a flustered looking Poppy rush into his room with a bundle of blankets in her arms.

“Oh, good! You’re awake,” Poppy said upon seeing his eyes watching her. “You have to take her for a while. I have a lot of work to do.”

“What?!” Severus yelled as he struggled to sit up. “I can’t take her!”

“You can and you will,” Poppy said sternly over the baby’s insistent wails. “She’s been changed, but she needs to be fed again.”

Severus looked down at his flat chest, then gave Poppy a confused look. “How the hell am I supposed to feed her?!”

Poppy’s jaw dropped as she stared at him in disbelief. “You’re joking, right? You can’t seriously think breast feeding is the only way to feed a child!” If Severus hadn’t looked so panicked, she would have burst out laughing at his naivety. She sighed heavily. “I’ll get her bottle,” she said as she gently placed the baby in Severus’ shaking arms.

Severus held his breath as he took the baby. The moment Poppy let go and withdrew her hands, the baby settled down and stopped crying. He uncovered her face and looked down into her trusting, deep blue eyes. He looked up as he heard the door open again. Minerva came in and just smiled at him.

“Wonderful!” Poppy exclaimed. “I’m going to get her bottle, then Minerva, would you please explain to Severus how to feed an infant?”

“Certainly, Poppy. I’d be happy to,” Minerva said happily as she came to Severus’ side and gazed down at the baby. “Have you thought of a name for her yet?”

“A name?” Severus asked, panicked. “You mean she didn’t come with one?” Minerva started snickering. “I mean, Martha didn’t give her a name?” he added.

Minerva sobered up quickly and gave Severus a sad smile. “No, Severus, Martha didn’t have a chance to name her.”

Severus sighed and looked down at his daughter sadly. This was Martha’s dream, she should be the one holding this tiny little being, not him. He felt Minerva place a gentle hand on his shoulder and looked up at her with shiny eyes.

“It will be okay, Severus. You won’t be raising her alone.”

He nodded and looked back to his little girl, running a finger tenderly down her tiny, warm cheek. He could feel her trust in him as their eyes locked and prayed to every deity he had ever heard of that he wouldn’t let her down.

Poppy returned with the bottle and handed it to Minerva. Severus held the baby up as if to give it to the older witch. She shook her head at him and held out the bottle. He sighed and nervously took the bottle from her. She explained how to hold the baby while feeding her and when and how to burp her, placing a thick towel over his shoulder.

“With most babies, you can feed them once every two hours, but with her size, she’ll need to eat about every hour,” Minerva explained, helping Severus position her correctly to burp her.

“Every hour?” he asked incredulously. “Except at night you mean, right?”

“No, Severus, every hour! She could starve over night.”

“When do I sleep??”

“You don’t,” she teased. She couldn’t help laughing at his look of horror when the girl spit up some of the milk. “That’s normal. That’s why I gave you the towel. And don’t worry about sleep. I’ll be here to help.”

“So will I,” Harry said, smiling as he entered the room. He couldn’t get over how natural Snape looked with the baby in his arms. “I offer you my babysitting services for the duration of the summer, Professor.”

Severus looked briefly at the young man and had to swallow a sudden lump in his throat and look away. In that brief instant, Severus felt his heart race and his breath caught at the sight of Harry’s sparkling emerald eyes. He had never wanted to wrap his arms around anyone so much in his entire life.

Harry noticed Snape tense up when he entered the room. “That is… if you want me to help?” he asked nervously. He wanted very much to help, to take care of the baby and Snape. He respected the man and knew he was having a very difficult time with his wife’s death. Harry wanted to be able to help in any way.

Severus gave a curt nod, avoiding eye contact with Harry. Severus yawned suddenly and felt his whole body relax as he leaned back into the pillows Minerva had placed behind him while he fed his daughter. He watched her tiny face, her little pink lips around the nipple of the bottle, her deep blue eyes staring into his. He sighed contentedly as his eyelids became heavy and slowly lowered.

“I believe you can start right now, Mr. Potter,” Minerva said softly. She very gently began picking up the baby, but before she got her out of Severus’ arms, he jerked awake and tightened his hold on her protectively.

“It’s all right, Severus. I’m just going to give her to Harry for a while so you can sleep,” she whispered. He nodded and allowed Minerva to take the child and place it gently in Harry’s arms. He smiled softly at the sight before drifting into a deep sleep.

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“So, have you decided on a name yet?” Harry asked several hours later as he laid the baby back in Severus’ arms.

“Ah… Well, I was thinking of Erica… or maybe Alexandra.”

“Why not both? Erica Alexandra Snape. It sounds lovely,” Harry said with a grin. Severus cocked his head to the side thinking. He smiled slightly as he looked into her warm eyes and nodded. It was a good name.

Harry handed Severus a bottle of warm milk, then left the room. When he returned just a moment later, it was with a tray of tea, sandwiches, and scones. He poured Severus a cup of tea and added a half teaspoon of sugar, just the way Severus liked it. Severus tried to hide a happy little smile, but couldn’t. He was impressed that Harry knew how he liked his tea and felt warmed by the attention.

He arranged little Erica in his lap so that he could hold her bottle with one hand and have the other free to pick up his tea.

“Thank you, Harry,” he said, not even realizing he had addressed Harry by his first name. When he looked up from his tea, he saw Harry smiling very happily at him and blushed. It was going to be very difficult for him to keep his feelings for Harry hidden. He really didn’t know how to deal with such feelings and was certain they were not returned, no matter how much the young wizard smiled at him.

Severus looked quizzically at his daughter as she started squirming, spitting out the bottle. He lifted her to his shoulder to burp her and caught the smell of a dirty diaper. He grimaced and groaned turning his head away from her. He caught Harry snickering and glared at him.

Harry pulled out a change table and started telling Severus where everything was. “The cloths are here, clean nappies, baby powder, cream is here. She has a diaper rash already, so you’ll have to use the cream.”

Severus looked overwhelmed at all the things needed for a simple diaper change. “You’re standing, you do it!” he said, holding Erica out to Harry.

“No,” Harry said, shaking his head. “I’m not going to rush to your side every time she needs a nappy changed. You’re going to have to learn to do it sooner or later and now is as good a time as any.”

“Fine,” Severus growled. He moved the tray of tea and kicked off his blankets holding Erica tight to his chest so as not to disturb her too much as he moved. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. He gasped and swayed as he felt a wave of dizziness crash over him. He clutched the baby tightly as he felt Harry’s hands grip his arms holding him upright.

“Don’t move so fast,” Harry admonished. He held Severus’ arms tightly until the man was steady again. He then helped Severus to the table.

Severus carefully laid the baby on the table and unwrapped her from the blankets. She was fussing and crying which had Severus feeling upset, too. He didn’t like hearing her cry and felt like he was doing something wrong. He looked nervously over to Harry.

“It’s okay, Severus. You’re doing just fine,” Harry said gently, seeing the nervousness and fear in the man’s black eyes.

Severus peeled away the layers of clothes slowly and carefully, then opened the pins holding the cloth nappy in place. He had to fight with his gag reflex to keep from vomiting the tea he had just drank as the smell assaulted him, tickling his nose unpleasantly and making his eyes water.

“Do they always smell this bad?” he asked, looking away as the diaper was opened.

“No, not all. Sometimes they’re much worse!” Harry said snickering.

“Oh, my God!! How can so much come from something so small?!” Severus gasped as he finally looked down. He ignored Harry’s chuckling as he tried to figure out what to do with the mess. Finally he decided on just using his wand to banish the mess, but just when he got it out to do so, Harry grabbed his wrist tightly.

“NO!” Harry cried. “No magic on babies!”

“I was only going to clean her up!” Severus said, exasperated as Erica started wailing louder than before.

“Not like that, you aren’t! You can’t use magic on or near babies. It can harm them or inadvertently drain any magic they may have. You could cause her to be a squib!” Harry took a calming breath and felt bad for yelling at the man. The look of utter horror on Severus’ face as he looked down at his daughter made Harry feel even worse.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.” Harry stepped in closer and changed Erica’s nappy with Severus standing close, shivering with dread over what might have happened if Harry hadn’t stopped him. Harry finished with Erica and got her bundled back up in her soft pink blanket and tried to hand her back to Severus. He shook his head violently as tears started flowing down his pale cheeks.

“I can’t… I can’t do this, Harry,” he said, backing away. His legs bumped the bed and he fell to his knees in a heap of weak limbs and tears.

Harry sighed sadly and knelt down in front of him. He set the now quiet baby on the floor and reached a comforting hand out to Severus’ cheek. He gently raised Severus’ head so that their eyes met.

“You’ll learn and I promise you, you won’t do it alone. I’m here for you, Severus,” he said softly as he brushed the tears from the man’s cool cheek.

Severus sniffled loudly and hiccupped, then suddenly reached out and pulled Harry into a tight hug. He let his tears flow freely as he felt Harry’s comforting arms around him, gentle circles soothing his back. It was several minutes before Severus’ breath calmed down and the tears dried up, the whole time Harry whispered softly, telling him everything would be ok, and that Severus wouldn’t have to do anything alone.

Severus pulled back and wiped the last of the tears from his eyes and face. “I’m sorry-“

“Don’t!” Harry cut him off before Severus could finish his apology. “You’ve been through a hell of a lot in the last three days! You’re entitled to a minor break-down.” He smiled as he caressed Severus’ cheek. Erica chose that moment to distract them by gurgling and twisting in her blankets. They both looked at her and smiled.

Severus took a deep breath and let it out slowly before reaching for her. He hugged her to his chest and allowed Harry to help him to his feet. He looked around the room for the first time since Martha’s death had broken their bond.

“Does she have a cradle?” he asked, not seeing one in the room.

“Yes, it’s just outside the door. I’ll get it,” Harry said. He brought in a small, elegantly carved oak cradle and set it beside Severus’ bed.

“It’s lovely,” Severus said, noting the detail on the animals that adorned the sides of it. There was a snake, lion, raven and badger, as well as a phoenix and a three-headed dog.

“Yes, it is. You’ll have to thank Hagrid for it,” Harry said, giving Severus a large grin. When Severus raised a questioning brow, Harry explained, “He made it for you last night.”

Severus was touched by the half-giant’s thoughtfulness and nearly cried again. He had never realized before just how many true friends he had. He gently laid Erica down, tucking another blanket around her. This one was green and pink and looked to be hand-knitted. It had the Slytherin crest in the corner.

“That blanket is from Professor Trelawney. She brought it in less than an hour after Erica arrived and said she ‘knew’ you’d need it.” Harry snickered quietly as Severus snorted and rolled his eyes.

Severus yawned as he crawled back into his bed. He felt emotionally as well as physically drained. He didn’t even have enough strength to pull the blanket up over himself. He moaned appreciatively as Harry tucked the warm woolen blanket around him and fell quickly into an exhausted sleep, not noticing the light kiss Harry placed on his forehead.

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Chapter Text

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It was a few more days before Poppy agreed to allow Severus to return to his rooms in the dungeons. He was still weak and tired as Harry helped him through the long halls and staircases with Erica. Severus felt an electric charge every time Harry touched him to steady him or help him down the stairs. He didn’t know if he wanted to cringe and pull away, or stumble just a little more to have Harry’s hands on him again.

Harry had told him that morning that a nursery had been set up in his suites and that he could change it if he didn’t like it. Apparently all the teachers that were still in Hogwarts after the start of summer vacation had helped to decorate the baby’s room. It made him leery as to what the room would look like from so many different people putting their hands in. Oddly enough, he wasn’t the least bit bothered by the fact that people were in his private space. It was comforting to know everyone was willing to help him when he needed it most.

When they reached the door to his chambers, Severus turned to Harry. “Thank you, Mr. Potter. I appreciate all your help.”

Severus inwardly cringed at Harry’s crestfallen look from the obvious dismissal. He didn’t want to send the young man away, but he didn’t know how much longer he could look into those beautiful, sparkling emerald eyes without daring to kiss him. He needed some time to consider his feelings and to learn to care for his daughter.

“You don’t want me to come in and help? I could look after Erica while you take a nap?” Harry almost pleaded. He didn’t want to leave Severus alone with the baby while he was still so weak.

“Thank you, but no. I need some time alone with her. I need to learn to do this on my own, Harry.”

“Right. Okay. Well… um… If you need me…”

Severus rolled his eyes and tried not to smile. “Go, Harry! Do whatever teenagers do!” Harry nodded sadly and started down the hall. “Oh, Harry? The new password will be Acire.”

“Acire?” Harry repeated, looking slightly confused. Slowly a smile came over him as he realized Severus was giving him access to his rooms. “All right. See you later, Severus.”

Severus smiled shyly as Harry waved goodbye. He entered his room with Erica snuggled in his arms. He looked down at her after changing the password to Acire and grinned. “I wonder if he figure it out,” he said softly to her. She looked up at him and blinked several times before giving a big yawn. He smiled and kissed her forehead gently, then looked around his suite.

“Well, this is home. I know it’s not much, but its comfortable. At least, it is for me.” He looked worriedly at Erica, not sure the dungeons were the best place for an infant. It was warm and dry though, and there were several small windows at the top of the high walls that let in some sunshine in the early afternoons.

He decided it was time to check out her nursery and headed for what had been his office. He took a deep breath and stepped in, expecting an ungodly mess that he would have to change immediately.

“Oh, wow!” he exclaimed as he took in the sight. On the walls were painted scenes of forestry, a lake, the sky and a library. In each scene were animals, even in the library. He spotted a badger by the lake and a raven in the sky but didn’t see a snake or a lion. There were other birds, a unicorn, Billywigs, and all sorts of magical and non-magical creatures. In the library was a cat and a dog, cuddled together near a hearth.

Severus looked up and gasped again as he saw the incredible mural painted there, as well. There was a large orange and gold lion with a big bushy mane staring contentedly down on Erica’s crib. Entwined around it was a python in vibrant greens and gold, also looking down on the crib from over the lion’s shoulder.

Before he could look any closer, Erica began to squirm in his arms. He looked at her and smiled. “I think you’ve got a lovely room. I won’t be changing anything.” He scanned the room again. “Where’s your cradle? I know it was brought down.” He left the room and looked in the living area and still couldn’t find it. He glanced into his own bedroom and sighed. “I guess you’ll be sleeping with me until your big enough for the crib.”

The hand carved wooden cradle Hagrid had made for Erica was set next to his own bed. He glared at it a moment, though he really didn’t mind having her so close should she need him. He yawned at the same time she did and gently laid her down. When she was in securely, he laid on the bed next to her and reached out a hand to rock the cradle just a little. They both drifted off into a contented sleep.

~*~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~

Harry knocked tentatively on the door. He was nervous about interrupting Severus and his daughter, but after just 3 days, he became concerned and missed the infant. When he received no answer, he worried even more. He gave the password to the painting protecting Severus’ door and stepped into chaos.

What was once, no doubt, an immaculate living room had been turned into one giant disaster. Baby clothes, toys, bottles, and diapers were tossed carelessly about the room. Everywhere Harry glanced, something was out of place or tipped over.

Harry was shaken out of his thoughts by a loud wail coming from the nursery. He almost snickered, thinking the sound could have come from either father or daughter. He stepped up to the door and found Severus in the rocking chair, holding the baby and gently rocking, trying to sooth her. He rapped lightly on the open door to alert Severus to his presence, but realized it was probably not heard over Erica’s crying.

“Professor?” he called softly.

“What?!” Severus yelled back, slightly startled by the voice. He looked up sharply and Harry was taken aback by the prominent black circles under the man’s tired eyes.

“Are you all right?” he asked, suddenly quite worried about him.

“Fine,” he growled before turning his attention back to the screaming child in his arms. He tried to give her a bottle, but she refused and continued to cry.

“Would you like me to take her for a bit? So you can rest?” Harry asked, hoping and praying the exhausted man would say yes. He could easily see that Severus was in desperate need of sleep.

Severus seemed to mull over the question for a moment before giving a tired nod. He held the infant out to Harry, who immediately took her and tucked her securely in his arms. It took her several moments to quiet down, but finally she did, hiccupping slightly before yawning.

Severus shook his head sadly at her. He told Harry were the spare bottles of formula and clean diapers were, then left the room, closing the door softly behind him. He sighed at the state of his home and shook his head again. He yawned loudly and went for a nap. He could do the cleaning later or have the elves do it.

~*~

Harry carried Erica around for a while as she ate, then drifted off to sleep. He carried her into the living room and looked around.

“I think your daddy could use a hand,” he told her quietly. The door to Severus’ bedroom was closed and he didn’t want to disturb the man, so Harry laid out some blankets on the floor with cushions from the sofa around it to make a little bed for the baby. He laid her down on her tummy, as Hermione had said to do with infants, and looked warily around the room. He gave a heavy sigh and began cleaning up.

He transfigured a coffee table into a large toy box and started putting the toys away. He laughed at the thought of Severus trying to play with an infant. She wasn’t anywhere close to being able to play like that yet. He picked up all the clothes that were scattered about, many of them far too big for the tiny child, and returned them to the dressers in the nursery. He organized those as well so the clothes that fit were all together and the drawers of the dressers were in order of size, the smallest being in the top and the largest at the bottom.

Harry gathered all the dirty bottles together and summoned a house-elf to take them to be washed and sanitized. He also requested a light lunch to be sent up for Severus. When he was finished, he looked around with satisfaction. The room was once again in order except for the sofa cushions that lay protectively around Erica.

~*~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~

Severus woke with a start, his heart pounding and lungs gasping for air from a dream that faded fast from his mind. His first thought was of his daughter and he called out the spell to light the wall sconces. He started to panic as he leaned over his bed to peer into her empty cradle.

Severus dropped his head into his hands as he recalled Harry taking Erica from him. He sighed heavily and forced his breathing and heart to calm down, knowing his daughter was perfectly safe with the young wizard.

Kicking the blankets which had tangled around his legs in his sleep, Severus got tiredly out of bed. He stretched carefully, avoiding pulling tired muscles too far. He took a deep breath as he faced the door, preparing to deal with the chaos his home had become.

Throwing open the door, Severus stopped in mid step. He blinked repeatedly as he looked around in amazement. Toys and clothes no longer littered the floor, books were returned to their places on the many shelves, and in the middle of the sitting room, stretched out on a soft mink blanket surrounded by sofa cushions, Harry Potter slept peacefully next to a tiny bundled baby.

Severus relaxed right down into his soul as he looked down on them, his face softening and a smile curling his lips ever so slightly. He folded his legs under him on a chair near their makeshift bed and observed the young wizard, trying to decipher what it was exactly that he felt for him.

Long dark lashes set upon smooth, creamy skin, hiding the brightest eyes Severus had ever seen before his daughter had come to him. A small, pert little nose that held his black rimmed glasses had two little indents from said glasses which currently sat beside him on the floor. Lips a delicate shade of red were opened slightly as he breathed deeply in sleep. A strong jaw led down to what Severus was sure must be a long, elegant neck, but was currently covered by the young man’s school robe.

Trailing his eyes down the soft fabric, he stopped to study Harry’s hands. They were larger than his own, though the fingers were shorter and thicker, but spoke of strength. They looked roughened from hard work and wielding a broom handle, unlike his own which were softened due to his work with potions.

Severus’ eyes roved back to Harry’s lightly heaving chest, over a narrow waist and down Quidditch strengthened legs. He couldn’t remember ever being attracted to another body, be it male or female, but the longer he stared, the more he longed to reach out and touch the young man. He wondered what it would be like to touch and be touched by another being, his only experience being his wedding night.

Severus’ eyes returned to Harry’s face and focused on the parted lips. His heart sped up as he imagined leaning in and kissing those lips. What would it taste like? Would Harry be sweet like honey, or musky like heather? Would they be soft and moist as they appeared, or would they be rough and dry like his grandmother’s had been on the rare occasions she had kissed his cheek? Would he feel the kiss right down to his toes the way he had heard others describe being kissed, or would it feel empty?

He gasped and blushed lightly when he realized that the eyes he loved so much were staring back at him. He turned away in embarrassment, but couldn’t help watch out of the corner of his eye as Harry yawned and stretched out like a cat. He shivered slightly as he imagined seeing the rippling of supple muscles under soft skin.

He was never more grateful to hear a baby begin to fuss as he was at that moment. Erica gurgled softly as she too began to wake from her nap. He sighed softly as he unfolded from the chair and reached for her. He carried her into the nursery to retrieve a bottle. When he returned, Harry had set the cushions and blanket where they belonged.

“Thank you, Harry. I appreciate your assistance,” Severus said kindly but with an air of dismissal that caused Harry to frown ever so slightly.

“You're welcome, Severus. I had lunch brought up for you. Do you… want me to take her while you eat?” Harry asked hopefully.

“No, thank you. I’ll eat when she’s finished.”

“Oh… Ok, then. Well… good day, sir,” he said softly as he made for the door.

“Perhaps you could come back tomorrow?” Severus asked softly, careful to keep his voice neutral.

Harry smiled happily and nodded enthusiastically before closing the door behind him. Severus sighed and smiled at his daughter, nuzzling her face lovingly and sat down to feed her.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

This chapter is angsty. You've been warned. :)

 

~*~*~

Severus tried everything to sooth the crying baby in his arms. He couldn’t figure out what was the matter with Erica. She’d been crying almost constantly for the last week, and nothing he did seemed to help.

The summer had gone fairly well. Erica was growing fast and was healthy and happy. Minerva had checked in on them frequently and offered assistance and advice when Severus was at his wits end. Poppy had been a constant in their lives as well, fussing over Severus almost as much as Erica. He was grateful to both women and gracefully accepted any help offered. He was most grateful, however, to Harry Potter, who had been there lending a hand almost daily. The young man was obviously taken with the little girl and Severus didn’t mind his company in the least.

Over the last 6 weeks, Severus had learned much about the young hero. He had learned a lot about Harry’s home life with the Dursleys through the Occlemancy lessons, but now he was learning more about the man personally. They talked endlessly about anything and everything. Severus was surprised to discover just how much they had in common. Harry enjoyed the same kinds of books, the same music (which came as a shock to Harry since he enjoyed Muggle Pop and Severus blushed when he admitted to liking it as well), and many of the same foods. Severus also discovered Harry was developing an appreciation for potions.

Severus was highly embarrassed when the subject turned towards Muggle cinema. He was forced, through threat of exposure of his wide collection of CDs, to admit that he greatly enjoyed the cinema when he was younger. He had loved the James Bond movies, but hadn’t seen any movies in the last ten or so years. He was about to ask Harry to accompany him to the theatre when Erica began to cry, thus saving him from further embarrassment when Harry turned him down, as he was certain would happen.

Severus cringed as Erica gave a particularly high pitched screech. It grated on his nerves and made him shiver. He growled at her in frustration, but she only screamed louder. He could feel his anger building and had to squeeze his eyes shut to try to control his waxing temper.

In the week of Harry’s absence, having gone to stay with the Weasley’s at the Burrow for the remaining two weeks of summer, Severus had received very little sleep as his daughter demanded all of his attention. Minerva had also left for a week to visit her sister, and Poppy was busy preparing the hospital ward for the coming year, leaving Severus alone to deal with the baby girl.

He tried talking to the baby, using his voice to sooth, which had worked so well for the first couple of months, but it did nothing to quiet her now. He rocked her in the chair, hoping the gentle movements would lull her to sleep, to no avail. He sang as he carried her around, he took her out to Hagrid’s hut, but she only screamed more when the half-giant’s booming voice greeted them.

Severus returned to his bedroom and nearly dropped the infant into her cradle. His eyes widened in shock as he stared down at his precious little girl and burst into tears at what he had almost done. He knelt at her side, rocking the cradle gently and whispering apologies as tears streaked down his face.

Finally, not knowing what else to do, Severus picked up the little bundle and moved to the fireplace. Grabbing a handful of floo powder, he clutched her to his chest and as clearly as he could, he called out, “The Burrow”.

Severus stepped out the fireplace into Molly Weasley’s kitchen. She took one look at his tear-stained face and called for Harry. She directed the distressed man to a chair and went about making a calming tea.

“Severus?” Harry called as he entered the kitchen, looking at him in shock. “What’s wrong?” He knelt in front of Severus, concern clear in his eyes.

“I… I almost dropped her. I didn’t know what to do,” Severus said, sobbing harder and holding his crying daughter tighter.

“It’s ok, Sev. Let Molly take her for a bit, okay?”

Severus looked up as Molly came over, ringing her hands as she looked at him in sympathy. She’d been through it herself with seven children, she understood. Severus forced his arms to relax as she reached for his baby girl. As soon as Erica was away from him, he dropped his head into his hands and sobbed with a mixture of relief and fear.

Harry wrapped his arms around Severus’ shaking shoulders and whispered soothingly. He rubbed gentle circles over his back, trying to calm the distraught Potions Master. He felt a warm hand settle on his shoulder and turned to see Ron looking at Severus with care and concern.

“Take him up to Percy’s room to rest,” Ron said softly. Harry nodded and encouraged Severus to stand. Harry took his hand and guided him to a set of stairs.

Severus followed meekly, his head hung down in shame, not daring to look at anyone. He took a last fleeting glance at his daughter, who was still crying, but nestled safely in the Weasley matriarch’s arms. He sniffled loudly as he let Harry lead him out of the room and up the stairs.

Harry opened the door to Percy’s room and brought Severus inside. As soon as he let go of the cold, trembling hand, Severus dropped himself onto the bed, burying his face in the pillow.

“Shh. It’s all right, Severus. Erica’s fine,” he whispered softly as he knelt beside the bed, again rubbing the man’s heaving back.

“I- I almost- dropped her! I’m- a terrible- father!” Severus said haltingly between sobs.

“No, Severus, you’re not a terrible father at all! Every parent gets frustrated. You should hear some of Molly’s stories. You didn’t drop her, you didn’t hurt her, and you sought help when it became too much for you. You did nothing wrong, Severus.”

Harry continued to talk soothingly until Severus’ breathing evened out and it became obvious that the man had cried himself into a deep sleep. He sighed sadly and kissed Severus’ head softly as he rose to leave. He pulled up a blanket and settled it lightly over the quiet form and silently slipped out of the room.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~

“How is he?” Molly asked with concern when Harry returned to the kitchen. He noticed immediately that Erica was still fussing, though quieter now.

“He’s sleeping. He’s absolutely exhausted, though. I knew I shouldn’t have left him alone.” Harry sighed sadly as he reached to take the babe from Molly. As soon as she was settled in his arms, she stopped fussing and looked straight into his eyes. He smiled happily at her, having missed her after only a week not seeing her.

“Well,” Molly said, smiling at the happy look on both their faces. “It looks like she’s missed you, too, Harry.”

Molly watched Harry closely as he snuggled the baby in his arms, smiling and cooing at her. It was obvious how attached Harry had already become to the little girl. She began to wonder if Harry knew exactly what he was doing. She knew he was lonely and that he wanted, needed, a family, but the child wasn’t his and she wasn’t sure Harry realized that Severus was also a part of that family. Harry had shown deep concern for Severus, but there was much more to being a family than that.

She was also worried about Severus. He had been completely unprepared for this turn of events and everything he had been through was slowly breaking him down. For all the strength he had shown throughout the war and after, she knew he was still only human and had his breaking point, just as he had shown today. He hadn’t been ready for a daughter, much less an entire family with Harry Potter.

“Harry, dear, I think we should have a little talk.” Molly set a teapot and cups on the table, then set out an array of cookies and scones. Just as she was taking a warmed bottle out for Erica, the twins burst into the kitchen.

“Ack!! Harry!” one of them yelled, she thought it might have been Fred.

“Blimey mate! We didn’t even know you were pregnant!” the other laughed.

“So this is what you were up to over the summer!” The twins laughed in unison as they reached for the tiny bundle in Harry’s arms.

“We didn’t even know you were seeing anyone,” Fred teased.

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

Harry gave an exasperated sigh, though he couldn’t hide his smile. “She’s not mine,” he said softly as he reluctantly handed the baby over to the mischievous twin brothers. “She’s Severus’.”

“Severus’??” they chorused together with knowing smirks and raised eyebrows.

“Professor Snape,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.

“Uh, huh… right…” George teased, winking at his mirror image.

The twins huddled together and looked down at the baby, cooing softly.

“Blimey!” Fred called out. “She looks just like him!”

“Like Snape, or like Harry?” George asked, laughing loudly.

“Both!”

“You know, dear brother, I always thought those two would make a lovely couple.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. “What?!”

“Oh, yes, brother dear! They have the ‘married couple act’ down pat! They argue so well. I’m most surprised it took them this long to see it for themselves!”

Harry’s eyes darted from one to the other, having lost track of which was which. “Me? And Sev… Snape?! Are you nuts?!”

“Me thinks he doth protest too much.”

“Indubitably!”

“Have you seen the way Harry looks at him?”

“You mean with lust and desire?”

“Yes, precisely!”

“What about the way Snape looks at Harry?”

The twins both turned to look at Harry, a gleam in their eyes that made Harry curious.

“With love and understanding.”

Harry’s jaw dropped again. “What?” he asked softly, not sure he should trust anything they say and yet, not completely disbelieving. “I…”

One of the twins gave him a wink while the other gave an encouraging smile.

“I think we could use some fresh air, George,” Fred said.

“I think you’re right, Fred.” George took the bottle out of Molly’s hand and the three of them headed for the door.

“Oh, what’s her name?” Fred asked as George opened the door for them.

“Erica,” Harry said quietly, still shocked by what they had said.

“Erica! Lovely name for a lovely child… even if she does have her dad’s nose!” They laughed as the door banged shut behind them.

Harry sat down at the table, stunned by all the twins had said. He knew they were only teasing and yet… Harry’s face scrunched up in thought.

Molly swallowed her laughter as she watched Harry. The twins had put the very thought into Harry’s head that she had wanted to discuss with him and he obviously wasn’t totally apposed to the idea of being with Severus. His reactions were exactly what she had hoped for. More than that, as she thought about what they had said, she realized just how right they were. Harry did sometimes look at Severus with longing, whether he knew it or not. And, Severus did show understanding to Harry and all he had been through. Severus probably understood Harry better than anyone.

“They are right, you know,” she said as she sat next to Harry. “You would make a lovely couple.”

“What?!” Harry asked incredulously. “You can’t be serious. He’s the same age as my parents!”

Molly noticed Harry said nothing about Severus being a man. Obviously that wasn’t an issue for Harry.

“And besides that, he’s mean, sarcastic and moody! He’s got worse PMS than any girl I’ve ever known!” Harry stood up and started pacing around the small kitchen. “He’s rude, snobbish, hot tempered and yells entirely too much! He’s cold and cruel and manipulative. … Okay, not really manipulative, that’s Dumbledore. But still! He can make a person feel like dirt with just a look! I mean, so what that his voice is like sex on silk at times and his eyes can melt you into a puddle of tingles! And it doesn’t matter that he can make you feel safe, like the world can go right ahead and crumble, as long as he’s close to you, you have an island of peace! He’s still a selfish bastard who doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself… and Erica, he’s great with her. And Dumbledore… He’d give his life for that old bastard.”

Harry ran out of steam and sat at the table again, banging his forehead against its hard surface with a groan.

“Oh, Gods! I really do love him, don’t I?” he mumbled miserably. He lifted his teary, hopeless eyes to Molly. “What am I going to do?”

Molly gave her adopted son a kind smile. “The twins were right about how he looks at you, too, Harry.”

“Do you really think he could love me?” he asked softly, not daring to hope.

“I think he already does. He came here looking for you, didn’t he?”

“Well, yes, but that was for Erica.”

“I think she wasn’t the only one missing you, Harry.” Molly patted his arm affectionately before standing up. “Why don’t you go check on him while I get some lunch ready, hum?”

Harry nodded and slowly left the room. His mind was lost in thoughts of Severus and how their relationship had changed so drastically from that of teacher and student, to friends and now… perhaps to something more.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~

 

Severus moaned and ground his hips into the mattress below him. With a startled gasp he awoke, sweaty and disoriented. Without sound or movement, he took in his surroundings. He was in a small dim room, hardly more than a closet. With his keen, spy-skilled eyes, he could make out a small, poorly crafted desk that was cleared of any clutter or personal effects. On the wall next to the desk was a small calendar that hadn't been changed to the current year. Along the other walls were bookcases with a light sprinkling of dust. He could tell the bed he was on was very small. If he stretched out, his feet would hang over the edge.

Feeling a cool wetness under his belly, Severus raised himself up on his arms and looked down. He couldn't really see anything, but flashes of a dream returned and cause him to gasp with horror as he dropped himself heavily back to the firm bed.

"Bloody hell!" he muttered to himself. "Thirty-eight years old and I'm having wet dreams! About Harry Bloody Potter!! Damn you mother and your sublimation spell!!"

Severus grumbled and growled, muttering a cleaning spell as he dragged himself out of bed. He stumbled to the bathroom to freshen up before beginning to search for his daughter.

He emerged into the hallway, both surprised and relieved at not finding anyone in a house he suspected was usually bustling with redheads. At this point he was not only ashamed of his earlier behavior towards his daughter, but his emotional breakdown in front of not only Harry, but the Weasleys as well. What had he been thinking, coming to a teenager for assistance?

Severus stopped at a turn in the stairs. He could hear Molly and Harry softly conversing at the table, but couldn't hear what they were saying to one another. His eyes locked on the profile of the teenager in question, and his self-recriminations melted away as all he could focus on was the beautiful young man before him. The truth was he knew exactly what he had been thinking; he had come to find Harry as much for himself as he had for Erica. He had been so overwhelmed with Erica that he hadn't realized just how much he had missed Harry, not just for his help, but for the role he had so quickly assumed in Severus' life.

Harry's soft voice carried up to his ears and made him freeze in place. "Do you really think he could love me?" he heard Harry ask. He nearly turned around and ran back up the stairs. The thought of Harry being in love with someone else scared him, terrified him. He missed the rest of the conversation in his near panic. He shook his head, trying to clear it when he heard movement from below.

Severus stepped down the next step as Harry turned to go looking for him. He avoided Harry's eyes, knowing already his reaction to Harry's presence. He suddenly realized that Erica wasn't in Harry's arms.

"Where's Erica?" he asked tersely.

Harry ignored Severus’ sharp tone, attributing it to the fact that the man was obviously still exhausted from having sole responsibility for Erica through the past week. He smiled at Severus softly, reaching out a hand to the Potions Master’s arm. “I was just coming upstairs to check on you. She’s just fine. The twins took her outside for a breath of fresh air.”

Severus' jaw dropped as he stared incredulously at Harry. "The twins?" he questioned softly. "You left my infant daughter with the TWINS??"

Severus thought he was going to faint at the idea of his child in the hands of the twin pranksters. He didn't want to think about what they could possibly be doing to her.

“Hey,” Harry soothed, grasping both of Severus’ hands in his own, and urging the Potions Master the rest of the way down the stairs and into the kitchen. “You don’t honestly think I’d let her go with them if I didn’t trust them, do you? Do you think that Molly would have? They only stepped outside with her a few minutes ago.”

“Harry’s right, Severus. Those two may act like idiots, but they are wonderful with children. I assure you that your daughter is in capable hands.” Molly smiled at Severus reassuringly, even as she bustled around the kitchen, setting a tea tray on the table. “Why don’t you sit down with Harry and relax for a moment. I’ll go fetch your daughter from the boys.”

She got as far as the kitchen door before turning back, an understanding smile on her face. “By the end of the first day that Arthur returned to work after Bill was born, I was at my wits’ end. He wouldn’t stop crying, and I absolutely refused to go to my mother-in-law for help. I didn’t want her to think me weak. Thankfully, she came to me. We will be here for you as much, or as little, as you want, but always know that you have a family here when you need them.” Without another word she swept out of the door.

Severus sighed, his shoulders relaxing visibly. "Thank you, Molly," he said sincerely.

He took the cup of tea Harry offered, his fingers brushing over Harry's. He shivered at the contact and pulled away, slopping some of the hot liquid on his hand. He stared into the cup, avoiding looking at Harry, not knowing what to say.

"She… Erica, hasn't been sleeping very well," he said nervously, thinking Harry deserved some sort of explanation to the intrusion on his vacation. She hasn't stopped crying for days."

“You should have firecalled me. Molly told me that it’s typical of children her age to start developing symptoms of colic. You must be utterly worn out.” Harry quickly reached for Severus’ hand, wincing at the angry, reddened burn on the Potions Master’s hand. He lifted Severus’ hand into his lap, even as he retrieved his wand from his pocket. He whispered an all-purpose healing spell that he knew, and was pleased to see the color receding.

Gently he rubbed a calloused thumb over the soft, pale skin of Severus’ hand. “I’ve been thinking about the two of you all week.”

Severus held his breath and didn't dare move as Harry held his hand. He started to blush, his face and body heating up. He wanted nothing more than to melt into Harry's touch, but didn't dare to even hope that it was a possibility. After all, the young man had just been discussing with Molly about being in love and couldn't have been talking about him. He nervously cleared his throat and pulled his hand away.

"Thank you," he said shyly. He softly touched the spot Harry had just rubbed, still not daring to look directly at the young man he was seriously beginning to lust after.

Harry had been watching Severus’ behavior closely, looking for any telltale signs that Molly and the twins might have been on the right track with their observations that Severus was attracted to him as well. Severus’ blush was all the encouragement he needed to admit his newly discovered feelings. “You do understand that Erica is not the only reason I’m visiting you, right? I’ve grown quite fond of you. I don’t think I realized exactly how fond until I spent this week away from you.”

Severus’ eyes darted to meet Harry’s, shocked at the Gryffindor’s revelation. Now that he was looking for it, Harry could clearly see the flash of desire that passed through Severus’ gaze before he could school it away. Marshalling his courage, Harry cupped Severus’ face in his hands, and leaned forward, covering Severus’ lips in a tender kiss.

Severus gasped and pulled away before he could really realize what he was doing. He stared into Harry's gleaming eyes, heart pounding and chest heaving.

"Harry?" he questioned softly, not sure if the kiss had really happened. "I…" Just as he started to lean towards Harry's soft lips, the kitchen door swung open, startling them both and forcing them apart.

"Ach! Snape! How are you, Daddy-O?" One of the twins said, sweeping into the room with a bundle of blankets in his arms. His twin was right behind him, waving happily.

"Fine," he said, blushing from nearly being caught kissing Harry in the Weasley's kitchen. He stood quickly, nearly dropping his chair in his hurry. He reached for the bundle in the red-head's arms, but picking it up, he discovered a serious lack of weight to it.

"That's not-" one of them started to say, but was too late.

"Where is she?!" he asked fearfully as the blanket unfolded into empty air.

“Right here, Severus,” Molly answered, striding through the door, a sleeping Erica tucked securely in the crook of her arm. She elbowed past the twins and gently placed the child into her father’s arms. “She finished the entire bottle that the boys gave her, so she should sleep for quite a while now. It was doctored with a Muggle medication that my mother-in-law brought me. My milk didn’t come in well for Bill so he had to be bottle fed, and that formula can cause such horrible cramps for the little ones.”

Severus nuzzled his nose against his sleeping daughter's face. "It wasn't me, then," he whispered against her soft skin. He nearly wept with relief at knowing that she wasn't harmed by something he had done.

"Thank you, Molly," he said, looking at her with the slightest bit of a smile.

 

~*~*~

Chapter Text

Severus nuzzled his nose against his sleeping daughter’s face. “It wasn’t me, then,” he whispered against her soft skin. He nearly wept with relief at knowing that she wasn’t harmed by something he had done.

“Thank you, Molly,” he said, looking at her with the slightest bit of a smile.

“You’re very welcome, my dear,” Molly said with a smile. “Now, sit! I’ll have lunch ready in a jiffy.”

“Molly, I should be going,“ Severus said, but she kept about her work, ignoring him.

“You need to eat something, Severus,” Harry replied.

“I’m not hungry.” Severus gave Harry a hard look, not appreciating being told what to do. He knew Harry was only looking out for him, but he felt he had already over stayed his welcome in the Weasley’s home.

“You still have to eat, and she’s not going to let you go until you do. Besides, you still look exhausted.”

They began arguing in soft, but firm tones, always careful of waking Erica from her much needed nap.

“Ah,” Fred said to his brother, watching them with fondness and a dreamy expression. “Seems like only yesterday Mum and Dad were arguing like that about us.”

“Um, it was just yesterday, Fred,” George reminded him.

“Oh, yes! That’s right!” They smiled at each other and nodded in unison. They stepped around Harry and Severus and began setting the table.

“Sit!” Harry ordered.

“Fine!” Severus growled back. He sat down and gently laid Erica in his lap. His eyes still shone with anger towards Harry, but he said nothing.

When the meal was ready, Harry sat next to him. He kept his eyes on his plate and on Erica, not daring to look at Harry. His anger had evaporated, leaving him with an undercurrent of attraction that he still didn’t know how to deal with. He was certain he had blushed when Harry passed him the salt shaker before he could ask for it, and again when Harry’s leg brushed his own.

After everyone had eaten, Severus tucked Erica into his arm and rose to start clearing the table. Molly gasped and told him that as a guest, he was not to be doing that, that it was the twins’ chore. He tried to argue that he could help, but she wouldn’t have it. She sent him out with Harry into the sitting room. Before Severus had a chance to think, Harry was standing in front of him.

“Shall we try this again?” Harry asked with a smile. He leaned in and pressed his warm lips to Severus’. This time, Severus didn’t pull away, but he gasped, opening his mouth, which gave Harry the opportunity to dip his tongue into Severus’ mouth. Severus shivered at the intimate contact, his mind racing along with his heart. He could taste the sugar cookies Harry’d had after lunch, as well as the strong tea. He could smell the crisp clean scent of Harry’s shampoo, as well as the sweetness of Harry himself.

His toes curled as the kiss lingered, and brought the hand not holding Erica up to lightly touch Harry’s cheek, as though needing to feel the young man to know he wasn’t dreaming this time. He felt his entire body heating up and wanted nothing more than to melt into the warmth of Harry’s mouth.

“It’s about time!”

They broke contact and watched Ginny cross through the room and out. Severus stole a glance at Harry and saw that he was blushing and looking shyly at the floor. It was a very endearing look and it made Severus smile. When Harry lifted his head and saw Severus smiling at him, he could help but smile as well.

“Harry, I…” Severus stopped, not knowing just what to say. He wanted to tell Harry he loved him, but it was too soon, wasn’t it? Did he really love Harry, or was it only lust? Did it only feel like love because of the sublimation spell being broken so suddenly? Did he even really know what love was? He only knew for certain that he had never felt like this about anyone before.

“It’s okay, Severus. You don’t have to say anything, yet,” Harry said as though he had read Severus’ confused mind. Severus sighed and relaxed visibly.

He let Harry lead him over to an old worn sofa, where they could sit and talk. At some point, Erica woke up and Molly came to fetch her, telling the men to just sit and relax, she would take care of the baby for a while. Severus was so relaxed talking with Harry, that he didn’t question it. He kissed his daughter’s forehead and handed her over to the Weasley family’s matriarch.

Severus and Harry sat for hours talking and laughing. Harry had started touching Severus, lightly at first. Brushing his leg against Severus’, laying a hand gently on Severus’ arm. The first couple of times, Severus barely noticed, then he became nervous, not sure if he should reciprocate or ignore it. After a while, he became comfortable again and enjoyed the light, teasing touches. By the time Molly called them for supper, he was carelessly holding Harry’s hand and staring lovingly into the bright emerald eyes that smiled back at him.

Severus sat, rather uncomfortably, next to Harry. He felt nervous and out of place among the sea of redheads. The entire family was there, including Arthur, Percy, Charlie, and the recently divorced Bill. Erica was behind him in a bassinet gurgling happily and playing with a toy crup.

He sighed quietly and relaxed a little when Harry placed a hand on his thigh and gave a reassuring squeeze. He rested his hand over Harry’s and smiled at him. He nodded a silent thanks, then turned back to look at the various foods on the table.

Molly had created a feast that looked like it could have fed nearly all of Slytherin House back at Hogwarts. There was a whole roasted pig with potatoes and carrots, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, biscuits, jelly salad, fried cabbage, candied yams and he could smell fresh apple pie.

Arthur began carving the pig while the rest of the family tucked into everything else. Platters were passed around in a clockwise direction and Severus found himself with a very full plate before the meat even began making its round. He really wasn’t hungry since lunch, but thought it would be rude not to try a little of everything. He began eating slowly, savoring each individual dish until his plate was empty and his tummy was full, enjoying the relaxed, homey atmosphere and easy chatter among the Weasley clan.

After the meal, Severus was once again ushered into the sitting room, this time with Charlie, Bill, and Arthur. Harry laid a blanket on the floor for Erica before going out to play a quick game of “Snitch” with Ron and Ginny. Severus set Erica on the blanket to play while the adults talked.

“So, Severus,” Bill said, trying to cover a snicker. “What’s up with you and Harry?”

Severus managed to keep his face blank, but his heart immediately began racing. “Nothing,” he said neutrally.

“That’s not what Ginny says,” Charlie chimed in with a wide grin.

Severus felt his cheeks heat up, but still didn’t react outwardly. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well,” Arthur began carefully, not really wanting to embarrass the Potions Master, but still curious. “Ginny mentioned something about… Well, about you and Harry… kissing?”

Severus looked Arthur in the eye, uncertain as to the man’s attitude about his having a relationship with the much younger wizard. “Do you disapprove?” he asked, his voice even and a little forceful, making it sound like a challenge. He hated to admit it, but Arthur’s opinion meant something to him and he really did want the approval of the closest Harry had to a father in this matter.

“No, not at all!”

“Not in the least!”

“I think its great!”

All three men were quick to reassure him. Severus felt some of the tension in his shoulders ease as he sat down on the floor next to his daughter. He let her grasp his finger and wave it around, gurgling happily.

“Honestly, Severus, I think you and Harry would be good for each other,” Arthur said, sitting on a worn chair in front of him.

“’Good for each other’?” Severus asked, suddenly thinking about all the reasons they shouldn’t be together. “In what way? I’m twice his age, he’s barely 17, I have a daughter now, and he’s still got a year of school left! He doesn’t need me or even Erica! He needs a chance to explore life and love! Not be saddled with a family already.” Severus sighed heavily as he watched his baby girl.

Arthur gave a knowing smile. “You, and Erica, are exactly what he needs, Severus. Now more than ever! The war is finally over, but now you and Harry need to learn how to live without it. It’s been your life since you were Harry’s age, and its been Harry’s whole life since he was eleven. Neither of you have ever had a real family life, or any other kind of life for that matter! The end of the war left quite a void in both of you. You can teach each other how to really live now.”

Severus thought about that for a moment. It was true that finishing off Voldemort had left him feeling empty, like he no longer had a purpose, until he found out he was going to be a father. He really didn’t know how to have a ‘normal’ life. And he was certain it wasn’t much different for Harry. Perhaps that was why Harry had spent so much time with him and Erica, he was trying to fill a void and find a purpose again. Was it love, though, or just trying to fill an empty space with a warm, willing body?

“Arthur…” Severus said softly. “I don’t know how.”

“Start with a date, Severus,” Bill suggested with a kind smile.

“The best relationships always start with friendship, Severus,” Charlie said. “You and Harry obviously already have that going. Just build on what’s already there. Take him out to something you both enjoy.”

Severus couldn't hide a smile and light blush as he thought about the time he ‘almost’ asked Harry out to the cinema. He thought about that for a moment, then nodded, making the decision to ask Harry out.

“I could ask him to the cinema,” he said quietly, feeling shy about talking to the three Weasley men, especially Bill and Charlie who were years younger than himself, but had much more experience in dating and love than he.

“That’s perfect! I know Harry’s been wanting to see the latest Bond movie,” Charlie said enthusiastically.

“There you are, Severus,” Arthur encouraged. “Just take it slow. You’ll be fine.”

Severus took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Yes, he would ask Harry to accompany him to a film.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

The men continued to talk, each of the Weasley’s giving advice and telling stories of their own first dates. Severus was becoming more and more nervous as Bill talked about his disastrous first date with his now ex-wife, Fleur. Everything had gone wrong from the start. Fleur had been an hour late getting ready so they had missed their reservations and had to wait nearly an hour for another table at the restaurant. Then they were late getting to the cinema and couldn’t find two seats together, so they sat apart. Bill had been so nervous that he ate his popcorn too fast and was sick on the way home, vomiting all over Fleur’s new dress. He thought she would never speak to him again, let alone go on a second date.

Charlie’s first date hadn’t been much better. He had asked out a Gryffindor housemate, a boy in his year, and had planned a nice walk, a stop at Honeyduke’s and Zonko’s Joke Shop. Everything had gone fine until they reached the candy store. There the young man had expected Charlie to buy him whatever he wanted. Charlie said he had only planned on buying a few chocolates and things they could share, but the boy wanted more and Charlie quickly ran out of his meager funds. He managed to purchase most of what the boy wanted, but the boy still pouted over what he hadn’t gotten. Then they went to Zonko’s and his date expected more. When Charlie said he couldn’t buy anything because he spent all his money at Honeyduke’s, the boy got mad, called him a cheap date, and left with a girl from Ravenclaw, sharing with her the goodies Charlie had paid for.

“What did you do?” Severus asked when Charlie had finished his tale.

“Nothing. I was heartbroken and thought it was my own fault for not having enough money,” Charlie said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Of course, two years later when he asked me out, thinking he could hone in on my sudden popularity, I did the same thing to him!” Charlie chuckled.

“I’d have hexed him into the next week!” Severus growled.

“Yes, but if you did that no one would want to date you for fear of being hexed!” Bill told him.

“Besides,” Charlie explained, “I was only 13 years old at the time. I didn’t know a good enough hex to use!”

“I knew plenty by 13,” Severus said with a glint in his eyes.

Everyone laughed, then Arthur told them about his first date with Molly. Everything had gone well until he tried to kiss her goodnight. Dinner was great, the concert they went to was only mediocre, but they had fun anyhow, and the walk home was lovely. They reached her doorstep without incident or catastrophe, but just as Arthur leaned in to give her a kiss goodnight, he sneezed in her face. He said he was so embarrassed that he didn’t try to kiss her again until their fifth date.

“Merlin!” Severus exclaimed. “And you all expect me to take Harry on a date! It’ll be a disaster!”

“Don’t let them worry you, Severus,” Molly said as she carried a tray of fresh tea into the room. “Arthur and I had several wonderful dates before and after we were married. Of course there’s bound to be some bad ones, but if you truly care about each other, you won’t let a bad date stop you from seeing each other again.”

“It’s true, Severus,” Bill said. “Look at Fleur and I. Our first date was about as bad as it could get, but she still went out with me, and even married me!”

“Yes, and then divorced you, too!” Severus pointed out.

“That wasn’t because of a bad date! We just didn’t belong together.”

“But how do you know if you belong together or not?” Severus asked, really needing to know if it was worth the humiliation of a few bad dates just to find out that you weren’t a good match in the first place.

“Trust me, Severus,” Molly said with a warm smile as she stood next to Arthur, her arm around his shoulders while he sat. “You’ll know when it’s right. You only have to try.”

Severus sighed as he thought. “I’m too old for him,” he said softly.

“Severus, you have no more experience in this than he has. It’s new to both of you, so you’ll learn together.” Arthur gave an encouraging nod.

Severus sighed again and reached for Erica just before she started fussing. He cradled her in his arms as he thought about Harry. He was attracted to Harry, that much he knew, and he genuinely liked the young wizard. It was obvious, too, that Harry was attracted to him, as well, or he wouldn’t have kissed Severus. Even in his limited experience, however, Severus knew it took more than physical attraction to make a lasting relationship.

Severus growled at himself for wanting to sigh again. Harry Potter was making him crazy. He felt awkward and emotional, which was two things he wasn’t accustomed to dealing with and all because he was attracted to Harry Bloody Potter!

The object of all Severus’ desires and fears walked in a short while later, laughing with Ron and Ginny. Severus immediately turned away, blushing. He focused his attention on Erica, trying to ignore Harry and his own impending doom. Even after two wonderful kisses, he still wasn’t sure of Harry’s answer to going out with him and was scared to find out.

“I’m being silly, aren’t I?” he quietly asked his daughter. “I faced the worst Dark Lord in history and Lucius Malfoy, the worst dressed wizard in history, but I can’t ask a young man on a date.” He shook his head, feeling asinine in his inability to communicate with Harry on a mature level. He took a deep breath, then stood up.

“Harry, could I speak with you a moment… in private,” he added as several pairs of eyes turned to him, most of them smiling broadly.

“Of course, Severus,” Harry replied with a smile of his own. He felt his heart start to race and his palms become moist with sweat. He, Ron and Ginny hadn’t really played much, but had talked about Harry and Severus. Harry had finally admitted to himself, and Ron and Ginny, that he truly liked Severus and wanted to ask the older man out on a date. He knew they had a lot in common, including a love for James Bond movies. There was a new one playing at the cinema in Surrey. This would be the perfect time to ask.

Severus handed Erica over to Molly, who grinned with pride and affection, then led Harry into the kitchen where they could talk without a sea of red-heads listening in. They sat at the little table in strained silence until Severus worked up the nerve to speak.

“Harry, I… Well, I was wondering…” he looked down at his hands on the table, unable to look directly at Harry. “Would you like to… That is, if you would want to…”

“He wants to know if you want to go to a film with him!” Charlie’s exasperated voice filter through the door.

“Shut up!” Severus yelled at the door. When he turned back to Harry, Harry was grinning widely.

“I’d love to!”

“Really?” Severus asked, his eyes wide in shock and his jaw practically sitting on the table.

“Yes, Severus. I was going to ask you if you wanted to go to the latest James Bond movie with me,” Harry said excitedly.

“Yes, I’d like that!” Severus smiled and nodded enthusiastically.

A round of cheers and applause echoed through the house, followed by a piercing wail from Erica. Severus rose quickly and returned to the sitting room where Molly was trying to sooth the startled child. Severus took her and she quieted down immediately.

“I should get her home to bed,” he said softly, not really wanting to leave just yet, but knowing it would be best. “Thank you for everything, Molly.”

“You’re very welcome, Severus. You bring her back anytime!” Molly gave the little girl a kiss on the cheek and smiled sadly, not wanting to see her leave already. “When will you need a sitter?” she asked with a smile and a wink.

“Oh!” Severus looked up at Harry standing in the doorway. “Well…”

“How about tomorrow night?” Harry asked. “You can bring Erica here and then we’ll leave from here.”

Severus nodded and looked back at Molly. “Are you sure that’s all right?”

“Of course it is!” Molly squealed with joy. “I’d be happy to take her anytime, Severus!”

Severus thanked her and everyone else, arranged the time with Harry, then made his exit, feeling utterly relieved and excited about his coming date. At home, he tucked Erica into her cradle, then got ready for bed himself. He was more relaxed than he had been since Erica’s untimely arrival into his life three months ago.

~*~

It was a frazzled Potions Master that greeted Albus at the door the next day. Albus assumed it was because of the baby, but she was gurgling happily in her chair in the middle of the living room.

“Albus! Thank Merlin you’re here!” Severus exclaimed. He grabbed the old man’s arm and dragged him into the bedroom where clothes were scattered about in every direction. “I’m supposed to be taking Harry to a film this evening, but I haven’t a clue what to wear!”

Albus’ jaw dropped as he stared disbelievingly at his much younger friend. Before he could question Severus, he held a midnight blue robe against his chest questioningly. Albus just looked at it, then back to Severus’ face.

“I’m assuming this would be a Muggle cinema, yes?” When Severus nodded, he continued. “Then a robe will NOT do!” He couldn’t help laughing at the look of horror on Severus’ face.

“Ye, Gods! I have to wear Muggle clothes!” He threw the robe down and began hunting in his closet. After a moment, he pulled out a long-sleeved black shirt and held it up.

“I think something with some color would be best for a date,” Albus suggested.

“Color?! I don’t think I have anything with color!” He turned back to the closet and began throwing things out that he didn’t think were appropriate.

“Oh!” Albus exclaimed. “What about this one?” He held out a shirt Severus had carelessly tossed aside. It was a swirl of psychedelic colors in orange, yellow, blue and red. “It’s perfect!”

“It’s hideous!” Severus made a face that radiated disgust.

“I believe I gave you this for Christmas,” Albus said with indignity.

“Yes, about twenty years ago!” Severus ignored Albus and returned to his hunt. After throwing out several more items, Albus once again stopped him.

“What about this one?” He held up a dark metallic red silk shirt.

“Ugh! Red? I look awful in red!” Severus made another face, this time less disgusted, though no more accepting than the last.

“Severus, with your complexion and hair, you can wear ANY color!” Albus pointed out. He thrust the shirt into Severus’ hands. “Try it on.”

“Oh, all right!” Severus peeled off the plain white undershirt he was wearing and donned the red silk. He buttoned it all the way up, then turned to look in the mirror. “Ah! My hair!”

“You’re hair is fine, Severus. Just brush it out.”

“It’s so long! I hadn’t noticed before. I’ll have to get it cut!” Severus grabbed a brush and began smoothing out his long hair. It reached half-way down his back, the longest it had ever been.

“Nonsense!” Albus said, taking the brush from Severus’ hand. He gently worked through the thick locks until it was all smooth and shiny. He then took a leather strap from the dressing table and transfigured it into red silk to match the shirt, and tied it around the hair at the nape of Severus’ neck. “There! That’s perfect!”

“A ponytail, Albus?” he asked incredulously. “That’s so… Lucius!”

“It looks great, child!”

Severus sighed loudly. He looked down at himself and gasped. He was still only wearing his black boxers with no trousers.

“Bloody hell! I need trousers!” He went to his dresser and began once again pulling articles of clothes out and scattering them.

“These will do just fine!” Albus said, snatching a pair of black trousers out of the air.

“Blue jeans?” Severus asked as he looked at what Albus held.

“They’re not blue, they’re black,” Albus informed him.

“They’re still denim! Besides, I don’ think they even fit.” Severus crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the old man.

“Just try them on.”

“Fine,” Severus growled and snatched the pants from Albus’ outstretched hand. He pulled the unyielding fabric over his slim hips and stopped. The waist was about an inch too small. “You see? They don’t fit.”

“Nonsense, my boy. They fit perfectly.” The headmaster stepped up to him and roughly pulled the material together and got the button and fly up while Severus sucked in his stomach. “You see? Perfect!” Albus smiled triumphantly.

“Perfect?! I can barely breathe!”

“Hmm…” Albus looked him over critically. “You need to tuck in the shirt, I think.”

“Tuck it into where?!”

“Here, let me.” Albus stepped up to him again and undid the trousers. He moved Severus around roughly, tucking in the shirt, then unbuttoning the top 4 buttons. “There! You look fantastic, child! If I was just 50 years younger…” Albus leered suggestively.

“50? Try a hundred!” Severus turned to the mirror again and gasped. “I look like a whore!! Where’s Minerva when I need her?!”

Just as he was about to start removing the clothes, his alarm sounded. “Bloody hell! I have to go, I’m going to be late!” He rounded on Albus and glared daggers at him. "I don’t have time to change again! Damn you, Albus!”

Albus simply laughed as Severus dashed from the room, then came running back in. He searched the dresser top as he muttered about a wallet, then ran from the room again, wallet squeezed into the back pocket of his pants. Albus followed him out and picked Erica up from her chair. He held out the diaper bag that was next to the little girl, but Severus ignored him, going straight to the fireplace and picking up the jar of floo powder from the mantle.

“Damn!” he shouted as he remembered his daughter. He took her from Albus and had to go back a second time for the bag, then returned to the floo. Without another word to Albus, he threw the powder onto the flames and called out “The Burrow”. In a flash, Severus and Erica disappeared.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~

Severus stepped out of the floo and into Molly Weasley’s kitchen. He was startled by a couple of whistles coming from the twins.

“Lookin’ good, Snape!”

“Yummy, even!”

“Oh, stop it, you two!” Molly said as she came into the room.

Severus handed the baby to her and began giving instructions, while she smiled patiently. The twins circled him, their eyes grazing over every inch of material and exposed skin, making him more nervous than he already was. He felt another pair of eyes on him and turned to see Harry staring at him in open appreciation from the doorway. He blushed at the hungry look in Harry’s warm green eyes.

“Wow,” Harry said softly. “You look fantastic!”

“Oh, ah, thank you,” Severus muttered. “So do you.” He let his eyes roll quickly over Harry and noted the white t-shirt with a picture of a phoenix rising out of a flame, and his baggy blue jeans held to his waist with a belt-buckle in the shape of the Hogwarts Crest with a large H in the middle. Severus didn’t particularly like the baggy jeans, but certainly wasn’t going to insult his date by saying so.

“Oh, um, I was trying to shrink the jeans to fit a little better,” Harry said, looking down at his trousers and blushing lightly. He hated the loose pants, but couldn’t get them to shrink properly.

“We can fix them, mate!” one of the twins offered. They flicked their wands in perfect unison and watched as the heavy material slowly tightened until it fit Harry like a denim glove.

“That’s too tight!” Harry gasped.

“That’s perfect!” Fred yelled as he slapped his brother’s hand in triumph. Severus couldn’t help snickering as Harry went through the same thing he had just moments ago with Albus.

“Here,” Molly offered. With Erica in one arm, she used the other to raise her wand. In a moment, the jeans loosened enough for Harry to breathe, but left them tighter than they originally were.

“Thank you, Molly,” Harry said with a smile. He ignored the twins’ protest and turned back to Severus. “Shall we go, then?”

Severus nodded and followed Harry out the kitchen door. Out in the yard, Harry turned to him, smiling happily.

“I thought we could apparate from here to forty-ninth street in Surrey. Then it’s just a short walk to the cinema,” Harry suggested. Severus just nodded, his voice caught in Harry’s emerald eyes that were still flashing with desire as he looked at Severus. “All right, how about I apparate us, since I know exactly where to go?”

Again Severus nodded. He shivered when Harry took his warm hands. He closed his eyes and felt the warmth and passion radiating through their sweaty palms and thought he would soon melt. He felt a pull on his abdomen and opened his eyes. Harry was still staring at him, though now he could smell the younger man on a light breeze that ruffled his unruly hair. It was a musky but sweet smell, a mixture of heather and honey, strong but not over powering. He felt himself shudder slightly as Harry reluctantly released his hands.

“Well, um… The theatre is this way,” Harry said, somewhat breathlessly.

“Right,” Severus said with a nod, still unable to tear his gaze from Harry’s. He was suddenly grateful to the tight black jeans as he felt his blood rushing from his face down to his crotch.

Harry took a deep breath, then pulled his eyes away from the dark orbs that were looking into his very soul. He blushed lightly as he turned away, feeling his heart thumping loudly in his chest. He shyly took Severus’ hand again and led him out of the alley they had apparated into.

They walked a couple of blocks in silence, then turned a corner to find a large crowd waiting outside the cinema.

“Looks like we have a bit of a wait,” he said, turning to look at Severus. Severus was glaring distastefully at the group. “Well, it’s a popular film,” he explained. “I’m sure it won’t take too long.”

They got into line, still holding hands and stood in awkward silence for a while. Severus began fidgeting nervously, wanting to break the strained silence, but unsure of what to talk about. Once again, it was Harry who reacted first.

“So… The last film you saw was also a James Bond movie, right?” he asked.

“Yes, but that was several years ago. I think they have a new actor playing Bond now,” Severus managed to say without tripping over his tongue.

“Yes, I think his name is Pierce Brosnan. From the posters I’ve seen, he looks really good!” Harry blushed as he realized what he had said. “I mean, he looks like a good Bond!” he quickly explained.

“Pierce Brosnan…? I think I’ve seen him before in something,” Severus said thoughtfully. He shook his head, unable to place the name. As they slowly approached the doors, he was able to catch a glimpse of the movie poster. He immediately recognized the face, but still couldn’t remember where he’d seen him before.

“Hmm… He does look good,” he said with a slight growl and lusty grin. He turned and winked at Harry, agreeing with his original comment on the man’s appearance. Harry laughed, which made Severus smile even more. He would never tire of Harry’s laughter.

“Now I remember!” Severus said suddenly. “I met him at some party of Lucius’ a few years back. I hated him!” Severus stopped to think about that. “It must have been the bond,” he thought aloud.

“The bond?” Harry asked, not understanding what Severus was talking about.

“Yes. He is very attractive, so the bond must have turned it around on me.” Severus growled, once again cursing his mother for cursing him and his wife.

“What bond?” Harry inquired.

“Oh, I guess I never explained that to you.” Severus began quietly telling Harry about his arranged marriage and the bond that was placed on the unhappy couple. He was careful not to say too much about the magic with all the Muggles around them.

Harry’s eyes lit with understanding. “So that’s why you’ve been so much worse to me this past year! You were attracted to me!” He laughed lightly as Severus blushed deeply.

“Apparently,” was all Severus was able to say under the weight of his embarrassment. Just then a voice from behind caught their attention.

“Hey, sexy! How about you forget the flick and come home with me?”

Severus turned to glare daggers at a man in line. He was as tall as Severus, but broad-shouldered like Harry, had deep blue eyes and short blonde hair.

“He’s with me,” Severus growled, his hand instinctively reaching for the wand tucked up his left sleeve. He didn’t notice Harry’s shocked look in his direction. He felt Harry lean towards him and heard his quiet, amused voice.

“Severus, I believe he was talking to YOU!”

“How much would it take to send your son off with the sitter so we can have some real fun?” the man asked, leering suggestively.

Severus’ anger rose several more notches and Harry had to put a hand on his arm to keep him from removing his wand and hexing the man into a million pieces. He had told Albus that he looked like a whore, and now this man had just proven him right.

“He’s with ME!” Harry said with a dangerous edge to his voice. He took Severus by the arm and entered the cinema. Once inside and away from the man, he laughed softly.

“What are you laughing at? That man just propositioned me!” Severus nearly yelled.

“He didn’t proposition you, Severus!” Harry shook his head in wonderment. “Not exactly. He was just hitting on you.”

“Hitting on me?” Severus questioned with a raised brow.

“Yes, hitting on you! Hasn’t anyone ever hit on you before?” Harry asked incredulously.

“No,” Severus said softly, his anger turning to embarrassment.

“Oh,” Harry stated simply. “Well, in that case, let me be the first to do it right.” Harry’s face brightened with a seductive smile. He gently took Severus’ face in his hands and drew him in for a soft kiss, a simple press of lips that spoke volumes of passion.

Severus’ arms went instinctively around Harry’s waist and held him tightly to his chest. He could feel Harry’s heart through the thin layers of fabric separating them. It beat at the same fast tempo as his own.

“Get a room!” someone called, breaking them apart. They both blushed and looked in opposite directions.

Severus stepped up to the available ticket window and asked for two for the Bond film. Harry started to protest, but Severus already had his wallet out and was handing over the Muggle currency. Severus didn’t argue when Harry then offered to by the sodas and popcorn. He had seen other couples in front of them doing that, so assumed it was the right thing to do on a date.

~*~

As they stood in line to purchase refreshments, Severus found himself staring at the young man in front of them. He gasped and turned away, feeling like a hormone driven teenager.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asked.

“Nothing,” Severus said sharply, his cheeks turning pink.

Harry realized that Severus had been staring at the tight butt in front of them, and tried to hide his snickers.

“It’s okay, Severus. Just because you’re on a date, doesn’t mean you have to stop looking at others,” he said kindly.

“But that seems so rude,” Severus said, looking questioningly at Harry.

“Girls find it rude, but it seems to come naturally to men,” Harry laughed. “Honestly, Severus, you don’t have to stop looking just because you’re with someone. You’re with me, and I know you’re not going to just leave me because you’ve found someone else physically attractive. Besides, you’ve got great taste! He’s gorgeous!”

Severus laughed with Harry, relief allowing him to relax again. He didn’t want to hurt Harry’s feelings, but couldn’t help himself from looking around at the mix of people filling the small cinema. As his gaze began to wander again, he discovered that he was hardly paying attention to the women. It seemed his tastes were for younger men. Perhaps that was one of the reasons he had never been attracted to Martha, he was gay.

Harry nudged him with his arm and nodded his head in the direction of a couple standing by the doors to the theatre that was showing the Bond film.

“He’s cute!” Harry stated.

“Cute?” Severus asked. “Like a puppy?”

Harry laughed. “Cute is the slang term for attractive.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose he’s alright, but he’s a bit young,” Severus said as he looked at the young blonde-haired boy and his blonde girlfriend.

“Young? Severus, he’s got to be at least five years older than I am!” Harry laughed, looking questioningly at Severus.

“Oh, um, yes, I supposed he is,” Severus stammered with embarrassment. Harry was right, of course. The boy did look to be about 25yrs of age. “Well, its different with you.”

Harry just laughed and stepped up to the counter. They got their order and made their way to the theatre. Harry chose two seats near the back that were well shadowed and sat down. Severus sat next to him and began to get nervous again. He remembered hearing couples making out in the darkened areas of the theatre and wondered if that was why Harry had chosen those seats.

They sat quietly, eating popcorn while they waited for the film to start. As the lights dimmed, Severus looked at his date and smiled with excitement. It had been a long time since he had sat in a dark movie theatre and was glad to have Harry here to share it with. Harry smiled back at him, then they turned to watch the film.

The first time their hands brushed in the bucket of popcorn, Severus jumped. Harry’s touch was like an electric prod, sending shivers down his spine and blood rushing to his groin. He didn’t dare look at Harry for fear of giving away his lusty feelings. He sank lower in his chair and handed Harry the bucket. He couldn’t eat anymore as his stomach was beginning to tie itself into knots.

About half way into the film, Harry set the empty bucket on the floor between his feet. He kept stealing shy glances at Severus, not sure if he should try holding the man’s hand or not. He really wanted the physical contact, but didn’t know if Severus would want that. Severus had always been very distant with people, never touching or being touched. After a lengthy debate with himself, Harry gathered up his courage and reached out.

His hand landed softly on Severus’ thigh, which caused the man to jump slightly. Harry was about to withdraw his hand, but before he could, Severus’ own came to rest on top of his. When their fingers instinctively intertwined, Harry turned to look at him and smiled. Severus smiled back, and Harry could see him relaxing once again. Harry relaxed as well, his back slouching comfortably in the chair. He was momentarily startled a short while later when Severus’ head came to rest against his shoulder. He tilted his own head and rested against his date’s.

Harry had thought Severus had fallen asleep, he was so quiet and still, but during an amusing moment in the film, he felt Severus’ body shake with silent laughter. He smiled more from the joy of having Severus laughing against him, than from the film. He never would have thought he could be so comfortable with anyone, least of all, Severus Snape. He gently pulled his hand away from Severus, but had to move quickly to get his arm around the narrow shoulders, as Severus was beginning to move away from him. Having his arm around Severus felt so natural to Harry, that he wondered why he hadn’t done it sooner.

Severus nearly moaned when Harry took his hand away. He thought for a moment that Harry was uncomfortable with their closeness. He knew that before Martha died, he certainly would have been uncomfortable, but now, being here with Harry, he had never felt so alive, so connected to anyone. He started to lift his head, but then Harry’s arm was around him, holding him in place. He sighed softly and returned his head to Harry’s warm shoulder. He had to fight to stay awake, in spite of the movie. He was more relaxed and at ease than he could ever remember being in his entire life.

After a while, Severus’ back began to protest to the somewhat awkward position. He reluctantly pulled away from Harry, immediately missing the warmth of Harry’s arm. He stretched his back and legs, then reached for Harry’s hand. Groping in the dark, he accidentally brushed against Harry’s groin. He jerked his hand away and muttered an apology, his face bright red in the dimly lit theatre.

“I don’t mind,” Harry whispered seductively into his ear. He placed his hand again on Severus’ thigh, this time giving it a gentle squeeze, then rubbing it softly.

Severus felt his heart speed up and his breathing slow down. He suddenly slapped his hand down on Harry’s and held it in place. When his heart had slowed down, he turned and smiled at Harry, who leaned in a kissed his lips. Severus couldn’t help blushing again and turned back to the screen. They held hands through the rest of the film.

Harry continued to hold his hand as they left the theatre. He said he didn’t want to loose Severus in the crowd. Severus suspected that Harry was just looking for an excuse, but since he rather enjoyed the contact himself, said nothing.

Severus watched the crowd, looking for dating tips. He saw some couples talking excitedly about the film, others walking in what appeared to be comfortable silence, and other couples kissing right there on the street. He knew he wouldn’t be comfortable kissing Harry in public again and since the silences surrounding them didn’t feel very companionable at the moment, he opted for talking. He turned to ask Harry’s opinion of the movie and stopped. Just ahead of them, crossing the street, was a small group of people from the theatre. He watched as they entered a small, grubby looking diner.

“Would you like to get something to eat before we go back to the burrow?” he asked. He wasn’t the least bit hungry after all the popcorn, but thought he should offer. It would also give them some time to talk before he picked up his daughter.

“I’d love to!” Harry said with a bright smile. Severus smiled back and, still holding hands, led him across the street.

If not for Harry’s enthusiasm, Severus would have regretted his decision immediately. The noise of the crowded diner was a stark contrast to the natural quiet of the theatre. Even the sound effects from the film were quiet compared to the chatter of fifty people in the small restaurant.

He followed Harry to the only available booth and reluctantly released his hand to sit across from him. Harry took a menu from a slot in the wall and opened it.

“Are you very hungry?” he asked as he glanced at the stained pages. “I was thinking we could just share something if you’re not.”

Severus nodded mutely, unable to talk as he grew more tense. His eyes darted around the room anxiously. He had never liked crowds and was beginning to panic.

“Severus?” Harry asked, setting the menu down in front of him and laying a comforting hand over Severus’ on the table. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” Severus nearly shouted, having been startled by the gentle touch. Looking into Harry’s concerned eyes, he relaxed again. “I… I don’t like crowds much,” he admitted softly.

“Oh.” Harry smiled understanding Severus’ sudden nervousness. “Do you want to go?” he offered.

“No, it’s all right. Really, I’m fine,” he assured his date with a forced smile. Just then a harassed-looking waitress came over and asked for their order. “Whatever you want, Harry,” he said with a nod to the menu.

Harry smiled and requested a large plate of French fries and two sodas. Severus paused for a moment to think about the French fries. He couldn’t quite remember what they were, but if it was something Harry wanted he wasn’t going to argue.

They began talking about the film as they waited for their order and Severus forgot about his earlier panic over the surrounding people. When their food arrived, Severus gasped and stared at the plate.

“Gods! I haven’t had these in years!” He shouted happily. He saw the relief on Harry’s face as the seventeen year old grinned at him. Without thinking Severus grabbed a fry and popped it into his mouth. He nearly spit it out just as fast, his tongue burning painfully.

“They are hot,” Harry warned with amusement.

“Forgot,” Severus mumbled around the fry, waving his hand in front of his mouth. He took a large swallow of the ice-cold soda. He had never been particularly fond of soda, finding it much too sweet for his liking, but he did enjoy the fizzy bubbles. He looked up at Harry and blushed.

“Sorry,” he muttered, but Harry just continued to smile at him.

They ate slowly and continued to talk about the film. Somewhere along the way, the conversation shifted and they began discussing the attractiveness of the lead actor as well as other men in the film. Severus discovered that, like him, Harry was not particularly attracted to women. Severus found this to be somehow reassuring, like he wasn’t an oddity, even though homosexuality wasn’t uncommon among wizards. It made him feel normal after all the awkwardness of his marriage and finding out about the infidelity charms.

When they had finished eating, Severus once again pulled his wallet from the back pocket of his tight jeans. Harry protested again and offered to at least pay half, but Severus said no.

“It was my idea to get something to eat. Besides, I ate more than you did.” Which was true. Once he had started, he couldn’t stop eating the fries, even when Harry had drenched them with ketchup.

Severus paid the bill and they made their way back to the Burrow in contented silence. As they reached the mostly darkened house, Severus realized just how late it was. Time had soared while he was with Harry. When they reached the door that led into Molly Weasley’s kitchen, Harry stopped and turned to Severus, looking nervous.

“I had a great time,” he said softly, looking at his shoes.

“So did I, Harry,” Severus replied with a smile.

“I’d like to do it again.”

“So would I,” he said softly, smiling more as Harry looked up at him, the moonlight dancing in his emerald eyes.

“Maybe next Saturday?” Harry asked hopefully.

“I’d love to, but I can’t.”

“Oh.” Severus saw the disappointment clearly on Harry’s face.

“I have to prepare for classes, which start next Monday.”

“Oh, right!” Harry brightened up again at the thought of returning to Hogwarts where he would see Severus everyday. “Well, goodnight, then,” he said, ringing his hands anxiously.

“Harry?” Severus questioned with amusement as Harry continued to stand in front of the door. “I need to get my daughter.”

“Oh, right!” Harry blushed and giggled nervously. He opened the door and let Severus walk in first.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” Molly greeted them softly from her chair in front of the small kitchen table. Erica was sleeping nestled in the woman’s arms.

“Hello, Molly,” Severus said just as quietly. “How was she?” he asked as he reached out to run a finger tenderly down the side of his little girl’s face.

“A perfect angel,” Molly assured him with a smile. “You know, I was thinking,” she said as she reluctantly handed the girl to Severus. “You’ll need a full time sitter once school starts up…”

“Oh, Molly, I couldn’t ask you to do that,” Severus said before Molly could finish what he knew was coming.

“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” she said firmly. Before Severus could respond, Arthur came into the room.

“Please, Severus,” Arthur pleaded. “Let her do it.” He stepped up to Severus and whispered, “If she doesn’t baby-sit Erica, she’ll want another of her own!”

Severus and Harry both snickered while Molly glared at her husband. “Well… If you’re sure you don’t mind?” Severus asked Molly. She had already raised seven of her own children and he couldn’t understand why she would want another.

“Of course I’m sure!” she stated happily. “It will give me something to do. It’s really been rather lonely around here with all the children gone.”

“All right then. Thank you, Molly,” Severus said with a warm smile. “I’ll talk to Albus about keeping our floos open during the year.”

“Well, then, goodnight gentlemen,” Arthur said, smiling almost as much as his wife. He took her hand and led her out of the room so Severus and Harry could say goodnight.

“I guess I’ll see you next week,” Harry said, once again nervously ringing his hands.

“Goodnight, Harry.” Severus smiled as he leaned in and kissed Harry. It was only a gentle press of lips, but Severus felt his toes curl and his heart speed up. The moment stretched into eternity until Severus felt dizzy with need and passion. He pulled away before he could faint, his cheeks flushed and his lips tingling.

“Goodnight, Severus,” Harry whispered as Severus stepped into the floo. Their eyes met for a moment before Severus and Erica vanished.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~

Severus stood over Erica’s crib, smiling happily as she slept. He hadn’t stopped smiling from the moment he woke up that morning. It wasn’t every day that he got married, after all.

After nearly seven months of dating, he and Harry had decided to marry and make their little family official. After Harry’s graduation ceremony, they held a relatively small wedding. Harry’s family, consisting of the entire Weasley clan, Hagrid and Remus Lupin were all present. Severus’ own small family, Erica, Albus, Minerva, Poppy, and the rest of the Hogwarts staff, were there as well, cheering and crying joyfully.

It hadn’t been a smooth seven months, not in the least. Not every date had gone as perfectly as the first, and there had been plenty of heated arguments, most of which ended with as much passion in the bedroom as had been fought with, but nothing had felt so right to Severus than saying the words, “I do.”

Now, just a few hours later, he watched his daughter as she rolled over in her sleep. She had just turned a year old two days before. He twisted the ring on his finger as he thought about his new husband and raising their little girl together.

He smiled broadly as he felt Harry step up behind him. He held onto the arms that wrapped around his narrow waist and leaned his head back against Harry’s shoulder.

“Is she asleep?” he whispered, looking over Severus’ shoulder at the child.

“Yes, Severus whispered back, enjoying the feel of his husband’s warm body against his own.

“Good,” Harry said just before biting Severus’ neck.

Severus jumped at the unexpected, though mild, pain. He inadvertently stepped back onto Harry’s toes, which caused him to jerk and lose his balance. The next thing Severus knew, they were sprawled out on the floor, snickering quietly.

“Oops!” Harry giggled in apology. Severus just shook his head with a grin and kissed him.

Severus turned onto his back and gazed up at the ceiling, which was illuminated by a small lamp near the crib. He looked at the lion and snake, which had been painted by Sybil Trelawney a year ago. It reminded him of the rings he and Harry now wore as a symbol of their love and commitment to each other.

Harry had found the rings at a little antique shop in Diagon Alley just a week before their wedding. In the center of each ring was a lion’s head with ruby eyes. The band was a snake, coiled around, and had emerald’s for eyes. The shopkeeper had told Harry that it was believed that the rings had been created for Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor as friendship rings, but that the pair had gone their separate ways before the rings had been completed. Severus was skeptical about the story, but agreed that they were perfect for their wedding rings.

Severus moaned appreciatively as Harry’s fingers lightly stroked across his chest, but continued to stare at the mural on the ceiling. He gasped suddenly, causing Harry’s fingers to stop their exploration.

“What?” Harry inquired, looking down at Severus from where he had propped himself up on one arm.

“Look!” Severus pointed up at the painting.

Harry turned onto his back and searched for whatever had startled Severus. After a few moments of fruitless gazing, he asked softly, “What are we looking at?”

“Look at the left paw of the lion and the snake’s tail!” Severus said with excitement.

Harry shifted his gaze and suddenly gasped, just as Severus had. There on the paw around a toe, and on the very tip of the snake’s tail, which lay next to the paw, were the exact replicas of the rings the two men now wore. Not only had Trelawney hinted at their relationship by painting the lion and snake so close together, but she had also predicted the outcome of it.

Severus turned his love-filled eyes to Harry and said, “I love you, Harry Potter- Oh! Pardon me.” He smiled with amusement. “Harry Snape!”

Harry snickered and rolled against him. “That’s right! No more ‘Potter!’”

Severus laughed at Harry’s impersonation of the way Severus used to snarl the name. Severus was certain that was the only reason Harry had chosen to take his name. It didn’t matter though, they were a family now and a name was only a name. Harry wasn’t just James Potter’s son anymore. He was Severus’ husband and Erica’s father.

There had been nothing added to their marriage bond, nothing was needed. His love for Harry would never be sublimated again. He knew that no matter who he found to be physically attractive, his heart and soul would forever belong to Harry Bloody Potter.

~*~

END!