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Into My Hands

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Into My Hands

It’s never as good as I hoped
Or as bad as I feared
Some seek sleek and slithering charms
Out of reach their grasping arms

Into My Hands by The Church

Part 1

"What did you tell them, boy?" hissed Uncle Vernon as he gripped Harry's upper arm and dragged him towards the exit. The trolley swerved and Hedwig's cage toppled off onto the concourse, his beloved owl hooting madly.

"Nothing, Uncle Vernon. I didn't tell them anything!" protested Harry, as all too aware of his uncle's vicious grip, he tried to struggle to rescue Hedwig's cage. How could he tell them? Who would have believed him?

"You're lying! And leave that bloody owl alone! What was all that about then, eh? Those freaks think they can threaten me and my family, do they? You told them, didn't you? Didn't you?"

"No Uncle, I swear I didn't!" The tears that Harry hadn't been able to shed in Dumbledore’s office for Sirius fell now, dripping down his cheeks and Harry just knew he'd made things worse. If there was anything worse than a freak, it was a boy who cried.

"You fucking ponce!" shrieked Vernon. "Shut up! Shut up! Do you think I want people staring at us?" Vernon shook him, but seeing that a small crowd had started paying an interest in what was going on, he released Harry so that he could pick up Hedwig’s cage.

"Dudley! Wheel the trolley out to your mother!"

"Aw, Dad," protested Dudley as he scuffed his shoes along the ground. "Make Harry do it."

"Bring that owl with you, boy," snarled Vernon and dragged Harry off to an empty table outside one of the coffee shops."They want letters every three days, do they? You're going to write one now and tell them how well you're being treated and you're also going to tell them you lied about what you told them."

"But I didn't tell them anything!" protested Harry. Vernon searched his pockets for a piece of paper; he thrust an old envelope into Harry's hands and gave him a plastic biro.

"Well, get on with it then! I don't have all day!" snapped Vernon.

"You want me to write something now?" queried Harry; he'd only just left; surely the Order wasn't expecting any news from him yet anyway.

"Yes, you bloody fool! Don't they teach you anything useful at that stupid school? I don't want those freaks banging down our doors because they think you're aren't being treated properly!"

The anger that had flared in Dumbledore's office surged through Harry once more and he opened his mouth to speak, to rant and rave about how he had been mistreated for years and years, but before he could utter a word, Vernon slapped him hard across the cheek. "Don't you dare think you can talk back to me, boy! Write!" Harry should never have forgotten how volatile his uncle's temper was on Harry's first night back from school. He would be in for a hiding later if he was lucky and if he wasn't ... he didn't want to think about that. He tried never to think of that.

He should have run away, he should have refused to go back to Privet Drive, blood protection or not. The pen in his hand shook as Harry scribbled a note, not even sure what he'd written. He had no idea who he was supposed to write to, Moody had never said. Harry decided to address it to Ron; Ron could show his parents and then they could show it to the Order. Harry knew that his uncle would be reading what he'd written so he made it deliberately vague and then added a P.S., hoping Ron could guess between the lines.

Ron, remember the Ford Anglia? I need your help with that project again.

Vernon scanned the note and nodded; he didn't seem to think anything was amiss. "Get to the car," said Vernon as he hoisted Hedwig's cage with one hand and propelled Harry towards the exit with the other. Hedwig was squawking now; she had no love for Uncle Vernon and knew her master was being manhandled.

Once they'd reached the car park and Vernon had ascertained that no one was in the vicinity, he allowed Harry to release Hedwig from her cage so that she could take the note to Ron. Harry watched her fly away; it felt like a ball of lead sat in his stomach. With Hedwig now gone; he had no friends at Privet Drive.

Vernon threw the owl cage roughly into the boot of the car; it landed on top of Harry's school trunk with a metallic clang. "In," groused Vernon, yanking hard on Harry's shoulder. Harry was stuffed into the back seat between the bulk of his cousin and the door; the door handle was digging into his side, but there wasn't enough room to move to a more comfortable position. Dudley was now taller and wider than his father and during the trip back to Surrey, he delighted in thumping Harry's arms and legs when his parents weren't looking; Harry was sure they wouldn't have minded even if they had seen, Dudley was learning by example.

There was no escape while he was in the car; there was nowhere to run to. Harry gritted his teeth as he took the punches; he even started reciting Potions lessons in his head to distract himself from the pain. He wasn't going to give his cousin the satisfaction of crying out, of knowing how much he'd hurt Harry.

The nearer to Surrey they got, the chirpier Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia became, discussing a villa holiday in Florida and Vernon even started whistling at one stage. In contrast, the nearer they got to Privet Drive, the more Harry felt like his blood has been replaced with sand. Vernon whistling was never a good sign; not for Harry anyway. He should have run away, he should never have come back no matter how much Dumbledore had tried to find excuses for leaving Harry to his fate with these people.

Harry's mind faded in an out; thoughts of Sirius and Voldemort uppermost in his mind; so he wasn't aware at first that Dudley was talking to him.

"You're not going," said Dudley with a triumphant smirk.

"What?"

"The villa. Aunt Marge rented it, but it's just for her, Mum and me, you aren't going. You're not going to get to see Disneyworld," replied Dudley, giving Harry's arm another thump for good measure. Harry would have doubled up if there'd been any room to move. A burst of hope flared to life in Harry's chest.

If the Dursleys were going on holiday, then they might leave him with Mrs. Figg. Arabella Figg was a member of the Order so Harry might not be left in the dark so much this year as he had been last year. He tried not to appear too happy about it; they had to think she was horrible to him otherwise they wouldn't allow him to stay with her.

"Of course, I can only take a week off from Grunnings; busy time this year," said Vernon, smiling maliciously at Harry in the rear-view mirror. "It's just you and me this year, boy. Just you and me."

Harry couldn't breathe; the world turned an alarming shade of grey just before he passed out.

***

Harry came to a little later, with Dudley staring at him as if Harry was some sort of bug under a microscope.

"Are you sick?" demanded Dudley. "Do you have some weird freaky disease? You'd better not give it to me!"

Harry didn't reply; he couldn't, how could he ever voice the reason as to why he'd fainted? He imagined the horror on Dudley's face as Harry told him what Vernon liked to do to him when they were alone; when Aunt Petunia and Dudley were asleep. It had started almost as soon as they'd moved Harry out of his cupboard and gave him Dudley's second bedroom. Harry closed his eyes and tried to will the memories away, but it didn't work. There were going to be some more memories; this summer it would happen again and again and there was nothing Harry could do to stop it. He didn't want to get expelled, Hogwarts was his only haven and Harry didn't dare use underage magic again.

Of course; he was expecting Dudley to be horrified by what he said, but Harry realised that if he told Dudley or Aunt Petunia, they likely wouldn't believe him anyway and think he was just making it up. If Sirius had still been alive maybe Harry would have been allowed to live with him, but his godfather was dead and there would be no escape from the Dursleys. Ever.

Harry blinked back the tears as the car pulled up onto the driveway of number four, Privet Drive; Harry's prison.

Once they were inside the house; Vernon smashed the padlock on Harry's trunk and Harry felt as if all the breath in his body had been knocked out of him. He'd taken to locking his trunk the Muggle way, knowing that he wouldn't be able to open it if it had been locked magically before he left school. Petunia went to the kitchen and Harry heard pots and pans rattling as she prepared supper. Vernon's pudgy hands crawled over all of Harry's things and it was as if he felt them on his body too. Harry shuddered.

"Those are private!" snapped Harry. "You've no right to go through my things!"

"Your things?" snorted Vernon. "Who paid for those clothes on your back, eh? Who feeds you? Who pays the fees for that bloody school? You have nothing! Your stupid parents died and left you penniless just like the lazy louts they were!"

"They weren't lazy!" protested Harry hotly. They hadn't left him penniless either, but Harry wasn't about to tell Uncle Vernon that. He knew his gold wouldn't last long if the Dursleys had ever known about it. "And you've never bought me a thing!"

"No? We clothed you, we fed you, and we took you in when none of your freaky friends wanted you!"

"You've never fed me except on scraps!" ranted Harry, too late he realised his mistake. He ducked when he saw the punch coming so that Vernon's fist caught the top of his head. It felt like he'd been clubbed by a troll and his ears rang, the pain making his eyes water. Harry lay curled up, hugging his knees tight against his chest, trying to protect the most vulnerable parts of his body.

"DON'T YOU EVER, EVER TALK BACK TO ME BOY!!!" bellowed Vernon as he punched and kicked Harry around the back and legs. "You think just because you're a freak that I'm scared of you? You can do nothing to me, nothing and don't you forget it!" Vernon left him alone for a few moments and Harry risked looking up out of the corner of his eyes. Vernon was kneeling down by Harry's open trunk and still rummaging through it. He threw Sirius' mirror and the photo album of Harry's parents onto the floor as if they were worth nothing; to him they probably weren't.

"Aha!" Vernon cried triumphantly as he held Harry's wand aloft. "You won't be doing any more of your unnaturalness in this house, boy." Vernon glared hard at Harry, his eyes almost hidden beneath the fleshy folds of his face. His uncle seemed to swell to twice his normal size, as if Harry had mistakenly cast an engorgement charm on him, but Harry knew he hadn't. His uncle was swelling with pride, with triumph. He made sure that Harry was looking as he took Harry's phoenix-feather wand and broke it in two across his knee.

Harry screamed and screamed; he had never felt such pain in all his life and he was dimly aware of his uncle's smug smile as Harry drifted off into blessed oblivion once more.

***

Part 2

It wasn't the first time Severus Snape had been to a Muggle hospital, but he certainly hoped it would be the last. The doctor had contacted Dumbledore by ringing the emergency payphone situated just outside the gates of Hogwarts. The Muggle telephone box had been charmed to work within the strong magical field as a point of emergency contact for those students who were Muggle-born or raised, and where owls were perhaps not available. They'd tried having the telephone in the school itself, but they couldn't dampen the school's magical field enough.

When Dumbledore had taken the phone call; Severus had been in the man's office, (all the calls were routed magically to the headmaster's office) and Dumbledore had nodded gravely before turning to Severus and giving him the news. It was a doctor from Guildford hospital in Surrey; Tobias Snape, Severus' father, was dead, killed in a road accident. He still had the emergency number of Hogwarts in his pocket. They needed Severus to come and identify the body.

So here he was, dressed like a Muggle and making his way towards the glass doors of the hospital. Tobias Snape was run down by a Muggle car and his injuries were too severe for him to survive. Severus briefly wondered if any magical cures could have helped, but realised his father would never have consented to them anyway. Severus felt little remorse at the death of the man who had sired him, for that was about all Tobias ever did. He was a vicious drunkard who hated his wife and child as much as he hated himself and turned that hatred on his family with fists and boots.

Tobias had been in Muggle prison for years after he hit his wife so hard she went into a coma for three months. Eileen had never quite recovered even when she regained consciousness and spent the rest of her short life locked up in St. Mungo's, dying two weeks before Severus turned seventeen. Two weeks before he accepted Lucius Malfoy's invitation to join the Dark Lord.

Severus had no grudge against Muggles in general; he joined for one reason only: revenge. There was just one Muggle he wanted to kill. He wanted revenge for his mother and for himself; he wanted to see Tobias Snape cower in fear as once the child Severus had. He wanted to see the look on his father's face when he revealed the Dark Mark on his arm and realised what his son had become: a Death Eater; a powerful wizard; a murderer – his murderer.

But Severus' revenge had never come to fruition; once he left prison, Tobias went underground and that phone call was the first time Severus had heard anything about him for years. The bastard was dead now, but Severus felt cheated in some indefinable way. He'd wanted Tobias to pay for what he'd done to Severus’ mother; Severus could only hope the accident had been painful.

Severus made his way over to the reception desk and had to wait in line while the receptionist dealt with two other patients. One of them had a bandage wrapped around his head, a rose of crimson blooming on it, and the other was shaking as if with some form of palsy. The receptionist took their details and as they both sat down, Severus cast a silent blood-clotting spell on the man with the head wound; he didn't look like he would survive a ten minute wait never mind the normal hour or so.

"Next!" the woman shrieked like a banshee, even though Severus was right in front of her.

"I was contacted by Dr. Randall concerning my father. Tobias Snape."

The woman typed something into the computer, he wrists flying so fast over the keys they were blurred.

"Oh. Mr. Snape, I am terribly sorry for your loss. I'll just get someone to escort you to the Family Room. Dr. Randall is with a patient at the moment, but I'll let him know you're here. He'll come and see you as soon as he can." The woman scanned the crowd of patients and staff hovering to and fro around the lobby. "Angela," she intercepted a nurse holding a stack of files in her arms. "Can you show Mr. Snape to the Family Room, please?"

The nurse hefted the files to a more comfortable position and started walking back the way she'd come from. "This way, Mr. Snape," she ordered in a brisk no-nonsense tone that reminded him of Madam Pomfrey. Severus had little choice but to follow her lead. She stopped at a grey door with a small glass window at eye level and the words Family Room etched on it in black. Below it was a slider, at the moment it was reading Unoccupied. The nurse slid the wood across and now it read Occupied.

"Please go in, Mr. Snape; no one will disturb you now. There's a vending machine inside with tea, coffee and soft drinks. Dr. Randall should be here soon."

"Thank you," said Severus as he pushed the door open and went inside. He didn't quite know what a ‘vending machine’ was – something Muggle no doubt – but he had to admit that a cold drink would be very welcome. There were three rather worn-looking sofas in the room, along with a carpet that had seen better days. A toy box in one corner held colourful toys and there was a stack of Muggle magazines on the coffee table in the middle of the room. The opposite corner held the vending machine, a brightly-coloured effort which glowed and was cool to the touch.

There were buttons for Muggle drinks called Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite as well as another machine that indicated it had tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Severus hated anything too sweet, so he decided to try one of the Diet Cokes, the only option that was available in a sugar-free version. Thank Merlin Albus insisted each Order member take a crash course in Muggle money in case of emergency, he thought as he put in his pound coin to get his drink.

The taste was strange, but it was cold and he'd downed it all in two large gulps when someone knocked on the door. Dr. Randall came in and started going into his I'm very sorry speech. The man was around fifty, with greying hair and he was wearing a shirt beneath his white coat, both so crumpled it looked as though he'd slept in his clothes.

"Please, I would just like to identify the body and go," said Severus, forestalling any more imminent sympathy. He didn't need it and he certainly didn't want it. "Can I arrange funeral services through the hospital or do I need to arrange that elsewhere?"

"The body has been released for burial after the autopsy," said Dr. Randall. "But the hospital doesn't deal with funerals."

Dr. Randall gave him a strange look, as if surprised that Severus didn't know how Muggle funerals were arranged. "Can you recommend someone? I was very young when my mother died, I don't quite know the procedure."

"Oh, of course," said the doctor. "I'll get you a list once we've been to the morgue."

"Thank you."

***

Severus was once again in the Family Room after having viewed the body of his father, reading through the leaflets the doctor had handed him on their way out. He called a couple from the payphone there and arranged for the cheapest funeral that could be had, despite a few of them trying to persuade him that he might something a bit more elaborate for his late father. He didn't and he wouldn't be swayed from his course. The funeral director would collect the earthly remains of Tobias Snape in the morning and the funeral would be in two days time. Severus wasn't sure whether or not he would attend.

He bought another Diet Coke from the vending machine in the corner and sat sipping it for a while, knowing he was only putting off the inevitable. Albus was going to want to see him and talk about things and Severus wasn't so sure he was up to one of the headmaster's talks today. There would be tea and lemon drops and twinkling blue eyes as Albus did his best to try and understand, but that was the problem. No one really did understand. People were supposed to be sad and upset when their last remaining relative died, but Severus just felt as if a burden had been lifted from him. How could he be upset when such a terrible man was dead? Tobias may not have been a Dark Lord, but he did have an evil, violent streak and Severus, while not exactly happy that he was dead, was grateful that he would never have to face the man again.

Finishing the last dregs of his cola, he threw the can in the bin and pushed the door open, hearing someone screaming in the corridor outside.

"Help! Someone help, please!" begged a distraught woman with blood on her hands. "Oh, God! He's dying!" she shrieked again as a Dr. Randall and a couple of nurses rushed over to her.

"What's happened?" asked the doctor. "Are you the patient?" Even as Severus watched, he could see the doctor quickly scanning the woman for injuries, but it was apparent that she had none, at least not visible.

"No, not me; there's a boy in the car park. Someone just threw him from a car and drove off! There's blood all over him!" The woman wailed hysterically and a nurse led her over to a chair in the waiting room as Dr. Randall and another nurse wheeled a trolley out to the car park. Severus wasn't quite sure why he stayed, he really ought to be getting back, but he was curious. What sort of person would dump someone so terribly injured outside a hospital rather than bring them inside it?

As the trolley came back in, a few more doctors and nurses rushed to Dr. Randall's aid.

The trolley speeded down the corridor past Severus towards a trauma room, but he still heard their voices as they did their best for the poor unfortunate wretch who had to suffer the indignities of a Muggle hospital.

"We found him unconscious outside, no ID; a silver car was speeding off. Pupils fixed and dilated, pulse weak, lacerations to head, chest, face and torso. Head wound. Bruising. Fractures to the left tibia and femur, suspected lung puncture," Dr. Randall tallied off as he placed an oxygen mask over the boy's mouth.

"What's this mark?" asked a nurse, wiping blood from the boy's forehead.

"An older scar; it's like a lightning bolt, isn't it?"

Severus ran back and placed himself in the way of the swing doors as they wheeled the trolley into a trauma room.

"Mr. Snape, you'll have to wait outside. As you can see this young man is in quite a state."

Blood covered the patent's face, chest and arms, but Severus would have recognised that wild shock of hair anywhere, even without the lightning bolt scar. What on earth had happened to the brat now?

"I know him," said Severus. "He's one of my students. Harry Potter."

***

Part 3

Severus was chased back to the Family Room, but Dr. Randall wanted to talk to him after they'd dealt with Harry's injuries. What on Earth had happened? Had Harry left the house at Privet Drive? Had Death Eaters managed to attack him while he was outside the wards? It wouldn't have been too difficult: just post a couple of lookouts around the perimeter of the property and wait until Harry slipped away. Teenage boys were not known for staying in one place, Harry would probably have wanted to meet up with his Muggle friends now that he was away from school and had sneaked out despite warnings to the contrary.

Severus couldn't concentrate on the Muggle magazine he'd picked up; he'd already telephoned Dumbledore to let him know what had happened; he was to wait at the Muggle hospital until Harry was declared stable and then Apparate the boy back to Hogwarts, where Madam Pomfrey would be better able to take care of him.

There was a Muggle telephone directory hanging from a piece of string beneath the payphone. Severus set down his magazine and wandered over to it; he wasn't sure if the Dursleys were in the phone book, but as he'd forgotten to ask Dumbledore their number, it was worth a try. They were probably frantic with worry by now, how many hours was it that Harry had been here? It must have been getting on for three hours since Severus had first seen him unconscious on the trolley.

He opened the book and rifled through the pages as quickly as he could. Dursley, Dursley, Dursley… Ah, there it was, Dursley, V. 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. Severus committed the phone number to memory and dialled after he put in a few coins. The phone rang on the other end a couple of times before it was picked up by someone breathing rather heavily.

"Yes?" snapped the male voice.

"Mr. Vernon Dursley?" queried Severus.

"What's it to you? I don't want double glazing or a burglar alarm so you can just sod off right now!"

"I'm one of Harry Potter's teachers," Severus said quickly before the rude man could hang up. "There's been an accident."

"I don't know what you're talking about. There's no Harry Potter here. Never has been. You've got the wrong number."

With that, Vernon Dursley slammed down the phone and Severus was left staring angrily at the ear piece. No Harry Potter there? He'd never been there? When Severus knew for a fact that almost half the Order had gone to that house last year to bring Harry to Grimmauld Place. Vernon Dursley was lying, but why? Wasn't he concerned that the boy had been hurt? Just as Severus was about to dial the number again, the door to the Family Room creaked open and Dr. Randall popped his head round the jam.

"How is he?" asked Severus at once. They needed to get back to Hogwarts and soon; Severus didn't have much faith in the Muggle medical profession.

"Mr. Snape, please sit down."

Dear Merlin, had Harry died? Severus sank onto one of the sofas, feeling a little faint. It wasn't possible; how could the saviour of the Wizarding world be dead? Who was going to save them now?

"Was it painful?" Severus asked in a whisper.

"Oh, no, I'm sorry if you’ve misunderstood; Harry isn't dead, but it is bad news, I'm afraid. It's the head injury that's worrying, he's in a coma and we have no way of knowing if he will ever wake up. Even if he does, there is some risk of permanent brain damage; the blow to his head was very severe. We don't know how it may have affected him until he wakes up. There is a possibility that he will be paralysed for the rest of his life."

"Paralysed?" squawked Severus, unable to believe that the vibrant young man could suddenly become disabled.

"He has had no response to pain in his legs," said the doctor, "so yes, it's very likely he is paralysed there. We won't really know for sure until he regains consciousness – if he regains consciousness. You say you're his teacher, do you know anything about his home life at all?"

His home life? What had that got to do with anything?

"Not a lot, just that he lives with his aunt and uncle because his parents died when he was a baby. He's at school most of the year; he doesn't see much of them except during the summer holidays."

"Boarding school, is it?"

"Yes."

"And does he like school; does he look forward to going back there each year?"

"As a matter of fact he does like school," said Severus; but then so did most of the students, it was the only place they could do magic until they came of age. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but what has all this got to do with Harry's accident?"

"That's the thing, Professor Snape. I don't think it was an accident at all. What age is Harry? Thirteen? Fourteen?"

"He's sixteen; his birthday was at the end of July."

The doctor nodded, as if that confirmed some suspicion he had, but he wasn't revealing those suspicions to Severus.

"What's wrong with him?" demanded Severus. "I need to see him."

"Some of Harry's injuries were self-inflicted," said Dr. Randall. "He has a lot of older scarring on his arms and legs so it seems pretty obvious that he has been cutting himself before this. He is also suffering from severe malnutrition, including rickets and scurvy. Do you know how difficult it is to get those in this day and age in this country? He has been denied sustenance over a long period of time and his body is shutting down. Not to mention the broken bones and bruises he was brought in with. In my medical opinion, the boy has been abused over a long period of time and there is no doubt in my mind that someone deliberately hurt him tonight. My guess is his guardians, or at least one of them."

Had they been wrong all these years? Thinking that by sending Harry to that house, they were saving him? Severus didn't think the doctor was lying; he'd probably seen abuse victims before and Severus could not forget the phone call to the man who proclaimed to have no knowledge of Harry Potter at all.

"May I see him?" Severus was determined to get Harry out of this Muggle hospital as soon as possible and into the infirmary at Hogwarts. He'd have to do a side-along Apparation, not to mention Obliviate the doctor so that they had no knowledge or memory of Harry Potter. He knew what would happen if Harry stayed here. First it would be the social workers and then foster homes if he was lucky, an orphanage if he was not and Severus was determined not to let that happen. Harry had recently turned sixteen and it was only a matter of time before his true heritage manifested itself. Hogwarts was the only safe place to let that happen now.

The doctor glanced at his watch. "Just for a moment, the psychiatrist and social worker are due any minute. Don't worry, Mr. Snape. He is not going back to that house."

Severus nodded as he followed the doctor down the corridor; Severus agreed - there was no way Harry was going back to Privet Drive. Not as long as he had breath left in his body to prevent it. Why hadn't he seen it? Why hadn't he picked up on it? Severus himself came from an abusive childhood, how could he have missed it in Harry Potter?

Little things that seemed out of place at the time now started making a bit more sense. The way Harry would hoard food; Severus had seen him hiding food in napkins and taking it out of the Great Hall. At first he thought he was saving treats for his owl, but now it seemed that Harry was afraid that he might be starved again and wanted to make sure he kept some just in case. How Harry never went home at Christmas, much preferring to stay at school. Of course he would, how could anyone want to go back to be abused time and time again?

Why hadn't the wretched boy told anyone what was happening to him? Surely he realised that if someone knew, he would never have to go back there? Dumbledore wouldn't have stood for this if he knew, Severus was sure of that.

Dr. Randall pushed open a door, lifting Severus out of his reverie. There were two beds in the room, but only one of them was occupied. Harry lay with his eyes taped shut, a ventilator helping him breathe, his chest rising and falling with the rhythm of the machine. All the blood had been washed away now, but that just made the bruising on his face and bare arms more visible. A bloodied bandage was wrapped around his head and just beneath his famous scar stood out in livid red against his pale forehead. His left arm was in a cast, as was his leg, which was propped up on a pillow under his ankle.

Severus removed his wand and cast an Obliviate and Confundus charm on the doctor. He glanced around in a daze.

"I'm here to take Harry to the specialist unit," said Severus.

"Yes, yes of course," said Dr. Randall staring at a blank spot on the wall. Severus removed the electrodes monitoring Harry, as well as the drip line and the ventilation tube before scooping the boy up in his arms and Disapparating them both to the gates of Hogwarts.

Dusk was falling and Poppy was already there with a lantern in her hand and a stretcher hovering in the air behind her. Severus was barely aware of the weight of the boy in his arms, Harry was skin and bone.

"Put him on the stretcher for me, Severus," ordered Poppy and Severus felt himself obey very reluctantly. It was as if he didn't want to let the boy go. Harry hadn't stirred since he took him from the hospital and he made no noise or movement of his own when Severus finally set him down on the stretcher and followed Poppy and her patient to the hospital wing.

"Thank Goodness you were at the hospital, Severus! I dread to think what might have happened to Harry if you hadn't been there!"

"They probably would have placed him in foster care," said Severus.

As they reached the hospital wing, Poppy levitated Harry from the stretcher to one of the beds and she gasped when she saw Harry's bruised and scarred legs in the better light.

"Will he be all right, Poppy?"

"I'll do my best, Severus, but I can't guarantee anything, you know that."

"Thank you," said Severus and meant it. He would rather she told him straight, rather than placate him with false hope and then have the hope ripped away from him again.

"It must have been hard, Severus. Pretending to hate him all these years," said Poppy as she tipped half a glass of Skele-Gro down the boy's throat and had to use magic to help him swallow it. Poppy and Dumbledore were the only ones besides Severus who knew who Harry truly was. She waved her wand and removed the casts; as soon as the Skele-Gro started working, they would no longer be needed.

"It was Dumbledore's idea," said Severus. "He didn't want Harry told until he was older and better able to accept it, but now I don't think he will ever be able to accept it. To accept me. I've played my role as the villain too well."

"Maybe Harry will surprise you," said Poppy as she tended to the boy's bruises with a salve. "Has he no inkling of what he is? Of what you are?"

"No," sighed Severus. "He still thinks he's just a wizard, the son of James and Lily Potter."

And wouldn't life be much simpler if that had been the case?

Poppy sent Harry into a healing sleep; she seemed confident that the coma would not be permanent, but she had no idea if Harry was going to be paralysed as the Muggle doctor feared. They would have to wait and see. There were no healing spells, charms or potions that could help with spinal injuries, it was too delicate and there was always a risk of further damage.

Severus remembered random moments as he watched over Harry's bed in the infirmary. That first, awful, terrible class when he had to pretend that he hated the boy – that he revelled in Harry’s humiliation. Lily's eyes had looked up at him from James Potter's face and he'd felt as if all the bones in his body had been removed. It should never have been James' face and even though he had expected it, for he knew what spells had been used to keep the boy's identity hidden all those years, it had still been a shock. “Well, well, Mr. Potter, our new celebrity," he'd spat the name at the boy as if it was an insult and it was. To think that this child had been told for the past eleven years that he was a Potter, that he belonged to James Potter was almost more than Severus could bear and he found himself almost believing it, that it was James Potter's son there in front of him and not the child he'd been Oath-Sworn by his people to protect.

Severus remembered his fear in Harry's third year when the werewolf had come back to teach and Severus had worried that despite the charms and spells hiding Harry's true appearance, Lupin would somehow scent the deception. He hadn't, but the werewolf was still a danger to have around and Severus felt no qualms in forcing him to resign. His mission was to protect Harry Potter and he had been a fool to listen to Dumbledore's plan, that the boy would be safe at the Dursleys'.

Severus glanced again at the prone form of his charge lying sill on the bed. He had failed in his duty and no repentance would ever be enough.

Harry would never forgive any of them for what had been hidden from him for the past sixteen years.

***

Part 4

"Harry dear, can you hear me?" Someone was calling him… calling him back from the darkness and the emptiness but he couldn't wake. He didn't want to wake. Being awake meant Vernon and more punishments. Harry wasn't sure how much more he could endure and he willed the soft voice away, sinking back down into darkness. He was safe in the dark.

In the dark he was alone.

***

"Well," said Poppy briskly. "You'll be pleased to know that the Muggle doctor was wrong, Harry has perfect use of all his limbs, but I'm worried that he's not waking by himself yet."

"Is he still in a coma?" asked Severus as he hovered by Harry's bedside. He had barely left the infirmary since Harry had come back, four days ago now. Poppy didn’t even bother trying to get him to leave anymore, he wouldn't budge. He wasn't going to fail Harry again.

"No, it just seems as if he doesn't want to wake up. I think he's scared of what he might find when he does and is forcing himself to stay asleep. Oh hello, Headmaster," said Poppy. Severus turned around to see Dumbledore wearing long flowing robes of purple embroidered with silver stars.

"How is he, Poppy?" asked Albus, popping a lemon drop into his mouth.

"No change, but he isn't getting any worse," said Poppy with a strained smile. "He just needs to feel safe again."

Albus nodded. "It was a mistake to send him to the Dursleys'," said Severus.

"And yet, they did keep the Death Eaters out," mused Albus. "I wonder why? Maybe the magic that was protecting Harry at that house was not to do with blood, but more to do with sacrifice after all. I'm in a quandary, Severus. The safest place for Harry is Privet Drive, but I am loath to let Harry suffer there any longer."

"You're not sending Harry back to those people," snarled Severus. "I won't allow it."

Albus raised an eyebrow at him. "I have no intention of sending him back there, Severus, but what are we to do in the meantime?"

"We have to tell him the truth! Tell him why he is the only one able to defeat Voldemort; we have to tell him who he is! How long were you thinking of keeping his heritage secret from him? It's only a matter of time before he starts to change."

"You think he should be told?"

"I thought he should have been told years ago!" exclaimed Severus.

Albus hummed around the sweet in his mouth. "Hmm, yes, perhaps he should. Maybe it had best come from you, Severus? After all, you're the only one who knows what Harry will be going through."

"I'm only half-blood, Albus! No one really knows what Harry will be going through." Severus sank down in the chair by Harry's bed and hung his head in his hands, feeling a terrible throbbing at his temples. How were they supposed to tell Harry now? And how were they going to excuse all the deceptions of the past sixteen years?

A sharp scream rent the silence of the hospital wing as Harry tossed and turned on the bed. "Please! I'll be good! Please, Uncle Vernon! No! No! Please! Please!" shouted Harry, tangling himself in the bedclothes.

Poppy rushed over to him and laid a hand across his brow, soothing him. "Ssh, Harry, dear. You're all right. You're safe now; you're at Hogwarts."

Slowly, ever so slowly, green eyes fluttered opened and Harry gazed around in confusion. "Madam Pomfrey? Am I dreaming?"

"No dear, you're at Hogwarts; it's not a dream. Do you think you can eat something for me? The nutrient potions can only do so much." Poppy adjusted the magical drip which was feeding those nutrients to the boy. He was still so thin. His face had a gaunt, haunted look, but at least the bruises had faded.

"Um, I'll try," said Harry, glancing around at the headmaster and Severus. "Please don't send me back!" Harry gabbled in a panicked voice and clawed at the bedclothes with white-knuckled hands.

"Harry, you are never setting foot in that house again," said the headmaster. "We are so sorry my boy that you had to endure that."

"Why didn't you tell anyone what was happening to you?" asked Severus and he saw the boy flinch away from his brusque tone. He lowered his voice. "Why didn't you tell the Order in your letters?"

"V- Vernon read them, if I'd said anything about what he did; he would just hurt me more. I - I tried to tell Ron, but no one came. No one came for me," said Harry in a small voice. There were no tears, but he sounded so defeated, so despairing. As if he really thought no one had cared enough to save him.

"Harry, I'm so sorry," said the headmaster again. "If I'd known the abuse was this severe, I would never have sent you back there this summer."

"Headmaster, may I have a word with you in private?" asked Severus and started to walk towards the matron's office. Once they were both inside it, Severus warded the entire room. "What do you mean if you'd known the abuse was this severe? Do you mean to tell me you knew he was being abused year after year and still sent him back to that house?"

"I didn't know it was this bad, Severus. You have to understand, the wards on that house worked because of Lily's sacrifice. She sacrificed her life for the child's and it was the safest place for Harry when he was away from Hogwarts."

"How bad did it have to be before you considered removing him from their so-called care? He almost died! I can't believe I agreed to this in the first place, I should have put my foot down and cared for him myself from the beginning."

"But your missions for the Order-" began Albus.

"What you all seem to have forgotten is that my first mission was to protect that boy out there and because of human stupidity, we almost lost him! He will be in my care from now on, Albus, make no mistake about that."

"The Ministry will never allow that, Severus. Your past as a Death Eater will be dragged up again."

"I don't care what the Ministry allows, Albus. That boy is not setting foot outside of Hogwarts unless I am with him or until the Dark Lord is defeated. He can stay in the dorms once school starts again, but until then he will be in my chambers."

"Severus, I can't allow that! You're his teacher; surely you can see how inappropriate it is for a student to share your rooms?"

"Have you forgotten who I am, Albus? Who gave me this mission in the first place? The boy stays with me and that is final!" Severus voice sounded loud even to his own ears and he was gratified to see the headmaster quailing a little before him. He'd been among them so long that sometimes they forgot what he was, and that he wasn't really one of them.

"As you wish," said Albus. "Please, send my regards to your mistress."

***

Madam Pomfrey set a tray on the table over Harry's bed. There was a steaming bowl of porridge, two slices of toast, an orange already peeled and cut into segments, a glass of pumpkin juice, a small jug of milk and a sugar bowl. To Harry, it looked like a feast and he wasn't sure he was going to be able to manage all of it.

"Just eat what you can, Harry. Your body will take time to adjust to normal portions again, but we'll get there, won't we?" she ruffled his hair and Harry fought the waves of panic as she touched him. Vernon always ruffled his hair like that... afterwards. His hands gripped the edges of the table as he tried to breathe through the panic. The room around him seemed to be swaying; or was it Harry who was moving? He closed his eyes, but that only made the dizziness worse.

"Harry? What is it?"

"Just a little dizzy," he admitted.

"Well, maybe you just need some breakfast?" she suggested, pouring a dollop of milk over his porridge so that the contents of his bowl looked like a lake of white dotted with grey mountains. Harry sprinkled some sugar on top and raised the spoon to his mouth. But then the memories started crowding in.

Take it! Take it in your mouth, boy!

That's all you're good for! Fucking whore!

Swallow it! Swallow it you fucking freak!

It's all you're good for, isn't it?

The spoon dropped from Harry's nerveless fingers and fell with a clatter on the tray. Nausea roiled in Harry's stomach; he turned his head away and retched, dry-heaving over the side of the bed. Poppy conjured a silver basin at once, but it had been so long since Harry had eaten anything solid that there was nothing to come back up except for sour spittle and bile. It didn't make things any easier as he seemed to retch for a good few minutes.

"I'm sorry!" he sobbed as Madam Pomfrey stroked his back with her other hand.

"It's okay, Harry. Maybe it was just a bit soon to have you on solids. Can you drink some juice for me?"

Harry sat back up and took a sip of the pumpkin juice. It was deliciously cold and got rid of the horrible taste in his mouth somewhat. As soon as it hit his stomach, his guts clenched again and he was afraid he was going to bring it back up but he managed to control the urge and then drank some more.

Harry continued to drink until the glass was empty, but he still felt a bit thirsty. "Would you like some more juice, dear?"

"Yes, thanks," said Harry. Madam Pomfrey waved her wand and conjured a large jug of iced juice.

"Don't drink it too fast or you'll give yourself cramps," she advised.

Harry drank two more glasses of pumpkin juice slowly as she suggested; he felt a bit more human after that.

"Madam Pomfrey, how did I get here? I don't remember."

"Well, what is the last thing you do remember?" asked the matron gently, but Harry wasn't so sure he could talk about it.

"Being at the Dursleys'," said Harry and technically it wasn't even a lie. He was at the Dursleys', but he didn't tell her where at the house he was or what Vernon had been doing.

"You don't remember the hospital?"

"I was in St. Mungo's?" he asked in surprise.

"No, it was a Muggle hospital. Professor Snape was there identifying his father's body when you were brought in. He saw you and brought you back here."

Snape? Snape was the one who had saved him? Oh God, Harry was never going to live this down. He could hear it now, Snape belittling him in class, telling all the Slytherins what had happened to him and making fun of him for it. How Harry was such a piss-poor wizard that he couldn't even save himself from Vernon. How was Harry supposed to save the Wizarding world when he couldn't even save himself? He'd let everyone down, just like he'd let Sirius down at the Ministry; the grief welled up in him and spilled out through his eyes.

The despair that had been his constant companion in Privet Drive washed over him again and he just wanted to curl up in a corner somewhere and let it be finished. He wanted to die. He didn't want to feel this pain any more.

The doors to the infirmary swung open and Professor Dumbledore came gliding in. He looked older than Harry remembered, there was more of a stoop to his shoulders and his hair and beard seemed even paler these days. Blue eyes, their twinkling dimmed, glanced down at Harry's tray and back to Madam Pomfrey.

"How soon will Harry be well enough to leave the infirmary, Poppy?"

"Well, if he can manage some breakfast and a bite of lunch today, Harry can leave this afternoon."

Harry smiled at her, it was the best news he'd heard.

"Good, good. Harry, for the rest of the holidays you will be staying with Professor Snape."

Harry gaped at the headmaster. He must have misheard him. He didn't really mean that he would have to stay with Snape, did he?

"Please sir, couldn't I just stay in the dorms?"

"I'm afraid not, Harry. You really need someone to look after you even if you aren't in the infirmary. You've been very ill. Believe me, this is for the best. Professor Snape will be able to explain everything to you later."

"Explain what, sir?" asked Harry.

"I'll leave that for Professor Snape, Harry. You just try and get better."

Knowing that as soon he was well enough he would be going straight to the dungeons made Harry feel that somehow being ill in the infirmary didn't seem that bad after all.

***

Part 5

Severus Apparated into an alleyway between Privet Drive and Magnolia Crescent; it was in fact the same alleyway where Harry had fought off two Dementors last year. He glanced around as if expecting to find the creatures gliding towards him, but the alleyway was empty of inhabitants besides himself an a mangy-looking dog rooting through a black plastic sack – banana peel and coffee granules littered the ground around it. Children's voices could be heard laughing and shouting in the distance and Severus briefly wondered if some of them were Harry's Muggle friends. Why hadn't his friends helped him get away from the Dursleys?

Severus cast a Notice-Me-Not spell and wandered the short distance to number four. Every house in the road was a squat, square box with small patches of brown grass serving as a garden. Some driveways held cars that squat, square owners were washing with buckets and sponges. Ah, yes, there was a hosepipe ban in Muggle circles due to the drought, but with their own underground system of lakes and rivers, lack of water had never been a problem at Hogwarts.

There was a silver car sitting outside number four and as Severus glanced in the window on his way to the front door, he saw blood stains on the back seat. Quickly scanning it, the scan confirmed what he'd already suspected - the blood belonged to Harry Potter. Vernon Dursley was the man who'd thrown Harry from the car at the hospital and driven away. Severus didn't bother knocking on the front door; he knew Vernon Dursley would not allow him into the house, but Severus didn't need doors to be opened. With Harry no longer resident there, the wards had lapsed and Severus could Apparate inside.

It was easier if you knew your exact destination, but Severus needed to get inside and make Vernon Dursley pay for what he'd done to Harry Potter. He held an image in his mind of a sitting room, feeling he was less likely to splinch himself with a simple destination. Severus cast the spell, feeling his body forced through a tunnel just a little too small for him and when he opened his eyes he was in the Muggle's sitting room.

The room was in various combinations of brown and beige, and was bland to the point of nauseating. Two brown velvet sofas with bald patches on the seat cushions, sat on either side of a non-working fireplace. Beige wallpaper with large brown flowers was hidden beneath photographs of a rather large boy, showing him ranging in age from a baby to a teenager. He looked like a beached whale. This boy certainly hadn't been starved.

Severus removed his wand. "Accio Harry's things," he said and a few moments later Harry's trunk and the cage for his owl came crashing through the sitting room door. The first thing he noticed was that the lock on the trunk had been broken. Severus yanked the lid up and stared aghast at the contents inside. On top of Harry's school robes lay a broken wand. The bastard had broken Harry's wand! Once a wand had chosen its wizard, the wand and the wizard became one.

To break a wizard's wand was a very serious matter. Harry must have been in so much pain. It would have felt like having part of your soul ripped from your body and Vernon Dursley was going to pay. Severus reverently removed the pieces of holly and placed them in his robe pocket. He searched through the rest of Harry's things, hoping to bring the boy back some clothes to wear, because he'd only been dressed in the Muggle hospital gown.

There were clothes in the trunk all right: tatty, torn and far too large for the frail boy Severus had left in the infirmary. Even the underwear and pyjamas were in a terrible state. The only decent clothes Harry had were his school uniform, school robe and a set of emerald green dress robes. No wonder he'd never seen Harry wearing casual clothes at school like his friends, he was probably too embarrassed by the awful hand-me-downs.

"What the Hell are you doing in my house?" bellowed a large, fat man from the doorway. His moustache wobbled as he talked and Severus was reminded of a walrus.

"Vernon Dursley?" asked Severus calmly, but really he had no need to ask. He'd seen this man in Harry's mind very briefly during their Occlumency lessons and knew exactly who he was. "I'm here about what you've done to Harry Potter."

Vernon's face turned purple with rage. "You're one of those freaks! I won't stand for it! Get out! Get out! I won't have it in my house!"

It was very dangerous to perform Legilimency on a Muggle, their minds weren't equipped to cope, but Severus didn't really care at that moment in time. Veritaserum may have done just as well to find out what had happened to Harry, but Severus wanted to break this man's mind before he killed him. He deserved no less after all he'd put the boy through.

Severus raised his wand and cast the spell on him. Now all he had to do was find the man's memories of Harry.

***

Merlin, the man's mind was like a disorganised office. Grey metal filing cabinets were overflowing with manila folders, some of them scattered on the floor. A desk was piled high with files as well. Severus lifted one from the top of the pile and was immediately drawn into the memory it contained.

A younger Vernon was towering over a small, dark-haired child who was gazing up at the man with terrified green eyes. Severus guessed the boy would have been about three or four in this memory and even as a child he was wearing the awful clothes. A pair of ragged shorts that almost reached his ankles and a t-shirt that skimmed his knees and fell to his wrists. He looked like someone playing dress-up, but Severus knew this was no game.

"What have we told you? You don't go out the front! Do you think we want the neighbours to know what a freak you are?" Vernon glared at the little boy, who seemed to curl in on himself even though he was standing up. Vernon removed a belt from his trousers and proceeded to whip Harry round the legs with it.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" sobbed Harry, tears falling down his cheeks in a steady stream.

"Stop your snivelling!" roared Vernon as he yanked hard on Harry's arm and dragged him out into the hallway. Severus followed them and saw Vernon shove Harry into the cupboard under the stairs, locking a padlock on the outside, but not before Severus had seen the mattress and thin blanket inside. No, he must have been wrong. They weren't using that cupboard as Harry's bedroom, surely? It was just another form of punishment, wasn't it?

The memory faded and Severus lifted up another file, another day, another memory. This time Harry seemed to be about eight or nine and Vernon was haranguing him in the kitchen, a letter fluttering in his rapidly moving fists.

"So the school nurse thinks you need glasses, does she? What does she think we are, made of money? Been telling tales about being locked in the dark, have you, boy?"

"No, sir," said Harry, his lower lip trembling as if he was trying not to cry.

Vernon rummaged in one of the kitchen drawers and brought out a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles. "Here, you can wear these. They were my grandfather's so make sure you look after them."

"But, sir, it's a different prescription," said Harry and then his face seemed to pale. Vernon slapped him across the cheek.

"You'll wear these and be grateful, you bloody useless freak!" Vernon didn't stop with just the slap. He began to really lay into Harry, punching him around the head and chest. Harry's nose was bleeding, he had a split lip and he made a dash for the doorway, but despite his bulk Vernon was fast on his feet and he yanked Harry down on the floor. By the time he'd finished, Harry was barely conscious and Vernon threw him into the cupboard again. This time Severus could see a few broken toys and school books, as well as a pile of hand-me-down clothes. It was his bedroom.

Severus went through file after file, seeing all the incidences of physical abuse that Harry had suffered at this man's hands. Vernon was a vicious, violent bully and Severus wouldn't feel guilty about ridding the world of one such as him. One of the memories was different; for a start it was at night, all the others had been during the day and Harry was no longer in a cupboard. Vernon stopped by a locked bedroom door and Severus knew that Harry was on the other side of that door. There was a cat-flap in the door and Severus couldn't stop staring at it. What were they doing? Feeding him through it?

Vernon pushed open the door and from the sliver of light from the street-lamps outside, Severus could see Harry sitting on top of the bed, hugging his knees to his chest. His eyes were wide and terrified and Severus guessed that Vernon coming into his room like this was not a new occurrence. He had the look of a prisoner who'd been tortured before and knew his torturer had come back for more.

Severus wanted to intervene, he wanted to prevent what he suspected was about to happen, but this was a memory and he could do nothing but witness the events.

"You had a bath," Vernon accused the boy on the bed. "You somehow sneaked out and sullied our bathroom! You're nothing but filth and I should have left you on that bloody doorstep!"

"I wish you had!" shrieked Harry. "I hate you! I hate you!"

"Oh, the feeling's entirely mutual, boy! On your knees!"

"No! I won't do it! You can't make me do that anymore!" protested Harry hotly.

Vernon smirked at him. "No?" He wandered over to the desk, where Hedwig was nesting in her cage. "You do it or I'll kill your bloody bird!"

"Leave her alone! I'll tell! I'll tell Aunt Petunia!"

Vernon laughed. "And you think she'd believe a freak like you? She's in Florida for the rest of the summer; it's just you and me. Best get used to it."

"I'd rather die than let you touch me again!" spat Harry. He jumped up from the bed and tried to run for the door, but Vernon was quicker and soon had Harry pinned beneath him on the bed.

"Get off me! Get off me!" screamed Harry and Severus' heart felt as if it had split somewhere down the middle. Vernon had come prepared and tied Harry's wrists to the headboard. Severus would never forget Harry's screams for as long as he lived. He was shrieking and sobbing as Vernon Dursley raped him. "No! No! Please! Stop!"

His pleas were ignored for a few moments as Vernon thrust again and again. He shuddered through a climax and stared down at the boy he'd just violated. "Are you going to be good?"

"I'll be good, I promise," sobbed Harry, his breath hitching. "Please, please. Don't! Don't!"

"If you behave, I might not."

The memory faded and was replaced by more, Vernon raping him time and time again, forcing Harry to fellate him and then he came to one of Vernon Dursley's last memories of Harry. Despite his best efforts at not being bad Vernon had continued to sexually abuse the boy and Harry had had enough. One night, as soon as Vernon opened his bedroom door, Harry ran for the attic stairs and tried to escape his uncle's rage. The access hatch was too small for Vernon, but Vernon was not pleased that his prey had got away.

He found a broom handle and used it to poke holes in the ceiling. He could hear Harry wandering about trying to avoid the broom. Vernon pushed the broom through where he guessed Harry was and in the next instant, the whole roof collapsed and Harry hurtled down, hitting his left arm and leg on the banister as he continued falling down to the ground floor and lay still at the foot of the stairs, blood dripping from his head.

Vernon had panicked, thinking he'd killed him and so he drove off to the hospital.

So, now Severus knew all. Vernon Dursley had just had his trial and been found guilty. Severus was judge, jury and executioner.

***

None of the fire investigators could discover the cause of the fire that had claimed the life of one Vernon Dursley. The house was a burnt-out shell, and unusually the fire hadn't spread to any of the neighbouring dwellings. It was just one of those freak accidents and now they just had to put that in their report.

None of them saw the man in black watching from a garden down the road, nor saw his smile of triumph as he saw Vernon Dursley's body removed from the house and taken away to the morgue.

***

Part 6

Harry did manage to keep down a light lunch of chicken soup and a slice of bread but his stomach still felt as if it was tied in knots. He knew it was nerves, what on Earth was going to happen with him locked up alone with Snape for the rest of the holidays? Snape would have Harry at his mercy and he had no doubt that the man would use that time to really humiliate him. Snape hated him and Harry couldn't imagine why the professor had agreed to allow Harry to stay there in the first place. Dumbledore must have made him, that was the only explanation.

Harry did not want to go back to the Dursleys' but he wasn't sure that exchanging one set of people who hated him for another was something he ought to be looking forward to. His ears were itching again; they'd been doing that a lot over the holidays and Harry scratched the left one with one hand while he finished his soup. The more he scratched, the more they seemed to itch and he dropped the spoon in the bowl and grunted with frustration. The very tops of his ears felt as if he'd just been stung by nettles and no matter how much he rubbed, the itch wasn't going away.

Harry clawed his nails over his skin, he knew he was drawing blood but still the irritation wouldn't diminish.

Almost as soon as it had started, the itch disappeared as if someone had suddenly flicked a switch. Just glad of the relief, Harry didn't think too much about why the itch had suddenly stopped, he was just grateful it had.

Once he'd finished with his soup, Madam Pomfrey wandered over to him and smiled. "Well done, dear. I've transfigured you some clothes until Professor Snape can take you shopping." Almost as if her words had conjured the man, there he stood in all his bat-like glory, wide robes billowing around him and Harry couldn't help a shiver of fear. He didn't want to be alone with the man, or with any man for that matter. What if Snape was like Vernon? What if that's why he wanted Harry alone in his dungeons? Harry was close to full-blown panic just at the thought.

Madam Pomfrey set a pair of black trousers, a white shirt and a pair of white y-fronts and socks on the bed and then pulled the privacy curtain around it. Harry stared at the clothes for as long as he could; he was in no hurry to get to the dungeons but he didn't know how he was going to get out of it. Dumbledore had ordered it and what Dumbledore wanted, Dumbledore got. Knowing he was only putting off the inevitable, Harry removed the hospital gown and started dressing. The clothes fitted him, even though he knew he'd lost weight over the summer. Being starved for days at a time would do that.

Once dressed, Harry pulled the curtain aside with a swish and stood, staring at his feet. He had no shoes; just the socks and Madam Pomfrey clasped a hand over her mouth. "Sorry, Harry. I'll just get you some shoes." She lifted a lantern from one of the bedside cabinets and transfigured it into a pair of white trainers. "Size six, aren't you?"

Harry nodded as she handed him the shoes. They looked new and even though he knew they were just a temporary spell, Harry felt tears prickle behind his eyes. He'd never had any shoes that hadn't belonged to Dudley first. For years, Harry had suffered bloodied and blistered feet wearing shoes that were always too large for him and he couldn't help the sigh of bliss as he tried the trainers on. They were so comfortable; he hoped he'd be able to find shoes like this when he finally managed to go shopping for himself.

"Do you have all the potions he needs, Severus?" asked Madam Pomfrey and the man arched an eyebrow at her, a smirk on his face. It surprised Harry, the smirk didn't seem malicious, more one of amusement. The Potions master had a sense of humour?

"Of course I have, Poppy. Don't worry, he will be well looked after. Come along, Potter. Let's get you settled in."

"Yes, sir," said Harry as he followed his professor to the door. He paused and then ran back to give Madam Pomfrey a brief hug. "Thank you," he whispered then hurried out to catch up with Snape.

Once they reached the office Snape opened the door with a wave of his wand and ushered Harry inside. There was one door which led to the Potions classroom and another which Harry guessed led to the man's private chambers. Snape stopped beside the closed door and beckoned Harry forward with a finger. "Press both hands against the door, the wards need to recognise your magic."

Harry did as he was told and felt a warm tingle flow from his hands into the wood and then back again. It felt a little like when he'd first held his wand and the tears threatened to fall once more. His wand was gone, Vernon had seen to that. He'd have to get a new one before school started again but it wouldn't be the same. That wand had saved him from Voldemort; it had allowed him to see his parents again if only briefly and no other would be able to do that, Harry was sure. His shoulders slumped as the weight of the prophecy; everything he'd endured at the Dursleys'; Sirius’ and Cedric's deaths fell heavily on his shoulders once more.

The door beneath his hands swung open; glancing back at his professor, he saw Snape give a nod to indicate that Harry should go in. It was a warm room, the decor in various hues of green with a hint of silver, which showed in the picture frames and candlesticks on the mantel over a fireplace that was big enough to Floo from. One wall was entirely taken up with bookcases and there was a small desk and chair in front of one of them. A large, green, leather sofa sat in front of the fire and there were two small tables at each end of it. A cream sheepskin rug in front of the fire was the only soft flooring in the room, the rest was slate.

"This is your bedroom," said Snape, striding purposefully towards one of the doors leading away from the living room. "You may change the decor if you wish."

Harry peeked his head round the doorway and gasped. It was beautiful! He'd never seen such a gorgeous room in all his life. There was a large double bed with a white iron bedstead; a blue quilt with white, embroidered flowers on the bed; white bedside cabinets and wardrobes with blue trim. It seemed so fresh, so clean, so unlike Harry's room at the Dursleys. He'd been left with the raggedy sheets and Dudley's old bed that still smelled of stale sweat and urine. Harry didn't know what to say. He hadn't even expected a bedroom. He'd expected to be given the floor or maybe the sofa, if he was good.

"Thank you, sir. It's lovely."

Snape made a strange noise in his throat. "Are you hungry?"

"No, sir. I just had lunch."

"Very well. We have a small kitchen here, feel free to make yourself a snack if you wish or you can call upon the house elves. I daresay they'd be quite pleased for the work during the holidays."

Harry gaped at him, not quite believing what he'd just heard. He was allowed to eat when he wanted? "I - I can eat when I like?"

Snape nodded, his dark eyes raking over Harry from head to toe. "You are far too thin, I intend to see that remedied somewhat before school starts again. The bathroom is through here," Snape opened another door and Harry caught a glimpse of a giant tub with a shower over it, along with the basin and toilet. "Oh, and here is your key."

Snape handed Harry a small gold key, similar to the key to his Gringotts vault, "Key, sir?"

"For your room. So you may have some privacy if you wish it."

Harry's knees buckled beneath him, but Snape had seen and steadied him with an arm around his waist. He didn't linger too long, but made sure that Harry seemed stable before he moved away. "I am sorry, I shouldn't have touched you without permission," said Snape and Harry felt he might faint again.

He made his way over to the sofa and sat down, hanging his head in his hands. The knowledge shot through him almost as soon as he sat down. "You know, don't you?" asked Harry softly. "You know what Vernon did to me?"

"Yes, Harry. I do."

"Oh God! Everyone will hate me! That I let him do that to me!"

"Harry, no. You didn't let him do anything to you. That's what rape means, he violated you against your will. You are not to blame for this. You are not to blame for what he did to you."

"But I am! I am! I wasn't good! I was bad and he punished me, it was my fault!" Harry knew he must have done something, given some provocation, why else would Vernon had done it? It was Harry's fault, it must be. He was so bad; he was dirty. Vernon had seen how dirty he was, that's why he did it.

Snape knelt down in front of Harry; he was close but not touching. "Harry, I promise you, he will never hurt you again. You were not at fault. You were a child in his care and he abused that trust time and time again, but no more. He will never be able to hurt you ever again."

Harry looked into those dark eyes and felt something like electricity jolt through his whole body. He believed him – Harry believed Snape when he said that. Harry started bawling, and then he slid from the sofa and onto Snape's lap, weeping his distress and his relief onto the man's robes, clutching the fabric with white-knuckled hands.

"Ssh, Harry. It's going to be okay," Snape wrapped an arm around him and rocked him against his body, but didn't touch him in any other way. His hands didn't suddenly start wandering like Vernon's used to; he didn't force Harry's hands onto his groin or try and pin him beneath him. For the first time in a long time Harry felt comfortable in the company of a man.

He didn't quite understand why Snape was being so nice to him; he thought for sure that once he'd started crying the man would humiliate him; the comfort was a surprise, but welcome for all that. Harry didn't know how long he cried there in the man's arms, but soon his tears had dried to a trickle and his heart felt a whole lot lighter.

"I - I thought you hated me," said Harry once he could find words again.

"I've never hated you, Harry. I was playing a role, but I fear I may have played it too well."

"You're a spy, aren't you?" Harry had suspected it, but no one had ever told him outright, like a lot of things they had never told him.

"Sit back up on the sofa, Harry. There are a lot of things I need to tell you and my knees are not what they were."

"Oh, sorry," said Harry, scrambling from his professor's lap and settling back down on the sofa. Snape brought over the wooden chair that was sitting by the desk and he sat down on it backwards, resting his elbows on the back of the chair.

"First of all, even though you carry the name of Potter, James and Lily Potter were not your biological parents," said Snape without preamble.

"What? But I look so like them! Everyone says so!"

"It’s just charms and spells to hide your true appearance, placed there by your real parents, but they will wear off soon now that you've reached sixteen and you are entering your transition."

"I was adopted?" asked Harry.

"In a manner of speaking. Do you know how wizards first came into being, Harry? If you're like most students you probably missed the small lecture in your first History of Magic lessons."

"No, I remember that one," said Harry with a small smile. "Thousands of years ago some of the Fae fell in love with humans and their children were the first human children to have magic; there's been a vein of magic running through humans ever since. That pure-blood thing is all rubbish, because you had to have mixed-blood in order to have magic."

"Very good. It's true that being a pure-blood wizard is a myth, if none of us had any Fae blood, we wouldn't be magical at all. What else do you know of the Fae, Harry?"

"That they’re a very long-lived race, but not immortal. They have magic, but don't need wands. Because they live so long, they aren't very fertile and their children are very precious to them when they have some. They live in another realm, Tir Na Nog, the Land of Youth and time passes differently there." Harry saw Snape's surprised look and grinned. "Hermione made us look it up for our essays."

"Yes, as you say Harry, children are very precious to them but Voldemort's darkness even threatens Tir Na Nog. No human will be able to defeat the Dark Lord, they knew this and so they sacrificed one of their children, hoping he could do what no mortal could. The Potters were chosen because they had defied the Dark Lord and if they had a child it would fit with the prophecy. The Queen of the Fae came to Dumbledore and told him of the plan; he in turn told the Potters who agreed to look after the child. Lily was never pregnant, but she pretended to be so that everyone would think you were really their child. No one could know that you weren't."

"No!" said Harry. "I'm just me, just Harry!"

"Harry, you must know there is something different about you. The only reason the Killing Curse rebounded was because you weren't human and had your own inherent magic, as well as the protection Lily Potter gave you by sacrificing herself for you. You're a pure-blood Fae, Harry."

Snape stood up from the chair and then knelt before him, his eyes never once leaving Harry's.

"I am your servant, my prince."

***

Part 7

Harry jumped up from the sofa and ran into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Severus got up from the floor and sighed. He should have expected it really. The boy had been lied to for sixteen years, how did he expect him to react? Suddenly all happy and accepting? It would take a while for Harry to come to terms with what he was.

"Harry," Severus knocked on the closed bedroom door. He knew it wasn't locked but he wouldn't betray Harry's privacy by barging into the room. "Please come out. I need to talk to you about your transition."

"Go away!" screamed Harry and Severus retreated once again to the sofa.

He'd let Harry have some time to himself to think, but they really needed to talk about the changes Harry's body would soon be going through. There had been no one there to help Severus through it; it was only afterwards that Severus had discovered what he was. At the time the pain had been so bad he’d thought he was dying.

Severus read a book for an hour, then went to his lab and brewed some calming draught for Poppy. When he returned to his quarters he found Harry sitting on the sofa, nervously twisting his hands.

"I don't understand any of this," said Harry in a forlorn tone. "How can I be a prince? How can I be Fae? Why did no one tell me this before? Why did you all lie to me? Why are you being nice to me? And what's transition?"

"When the Fae are born, they look exactly like humans," said Severus. "Transition occurs when they reach puberty, for want of a better word, and their bodies start to change to become adult Fae. Adult Fae, while their bodies still resemble humans’, are quite different. Their ears become pointed and their hearing will become more acute. Eyesight will improve, all Fae children are short-sighted to some degree but this will clear once they become adult, so you'll have to pretend you still need glasses. Fae mature sexually like humans and - and they grow wings."

"Wings?" gasped Harry, glancing round as if he expected to see them suddenly sprouting from his shoulders.

"As for being a prince, you are the Prince of the Fae, the only child born to the King and Queen. They have waited hundreds of years to have a child; that child was you."

"And they just gave me up? Just sent me away?" asked Harry bitterly.

Merlin knew the boy had a right to be bitter. Harry had never asked for this destiny, but it had been thrust upon him just the same. "Why did you say I was your prince?" he asked.

"I'm half-Fae, Harry. My mother was a pureblood Fae who fell in love with a human man and chose to stay with him in this realm, much good it did her. He wasn't a nice man; he was in much the same vein as your uncle. When he discovered her wings, he lost his head and for years he assaulted her until one day he hurt her so much she went into a coma and died a few weeks after she came out of it. I didn't know I was half-Fae at the time, if I had, I may not have considered joining Voldemort."

"So - so you joined him of your own free will?"

Severus snorted. "Yes, I did. I was not coerced in any way; seduced maybe, but not coerced. I wanted to get back at my father and I joined with the intent of murdering him, but by that time he was in a Muggle prison and I never saw him again until the hospital called me after his death. I realised my mistake almost at once; Voldemort promised his followers untold wealth, power and knowledge. It was knowledge I was after. Shortly after my eighteenth birthday, my ears changed and I sprouted wings but I had no idea why. I never told the Dark Lord; he had a pureblood mania and if he found out that any of his Inner Circle had some sort of creature inheritance, then it wouldn't be good."

"But he's not a pureblood, not even by the Death Eaters' definition!"

"He kept his true status hidden from them for that very reason. I only found out when I returned to Dumbledore and sought sanctuary at Hogwarts. I'd seen too much death and torture; after a while I had little stomach for it and Voldemort kept any knowledge for himself. I learned nothing from him in all the time I was with him as a follower. The Dark Lord was getting stronger and about a year after I returned to Hogwarts, the Queen of the Fae came to Dumbledore and told him that their portals were being attacked. Voldemort was growing bold and he wanted to get the magical artefacts of the Fae to make himself as strong as possible. She knew as soon as she saw me that I was a half-blood of her race and she charged me with the protection of her child. I was, and am to all intents and purposes, your bodyguard."

"Then why did you let them send me to the Dursleys?" yelled Harry. "You never protected me there, did you? No one did! You made me put up with years of abuse just because you couldn't be bothered to look after me! I hate you! I hate all of you!" Harry ran from the sofa again.

"Harry, it's not like that," said Severus calmly, hoping the magic of his voice still worked. Harry paused and turned to look at him.

"What do you mean?"

"I wanted to look after you, I was prepared to take you in, but the headmaster overruled me. He swore that because Lily had died to save you, the sacrifice would enable you to be safe in the Dursleys' care. And you were safe there, safe from the Death Eaters, at least."

"But not from the Dursleys," said Harry quietly.

"No," agreed Severus. "Harry, I am so sorry for what you had to suffer there. I know this all seems like some weird dream at the moment, but in time you'll come to accept who you are and the destiny you've been given. You're the only one who can defeat Voldemort, the only pureblood Fae left in this realm. Your heritage was hidden because it was imperative that Voldemort shouldn't know your weakness, or know how to harm you. Oh, he's hurt you with curses, but none of them will kill you, not even Avada Kedavra. The Fae are long-lived because even though they may suffer diseases and wounds like humans, none of them are enough to kill them. There are only two ways a Fae can die. To give up completely – a broken heart if you will – or to be injured by something made of iron. They can be hurt, can get ill, but they will not die unless it's by one of those two methods."

"Isn't the bedstead iron?" asked Harry.

"No, it's brass painted white. It's only pure iron that would harm you, not iron that's been painted, nor any alloy."

"Are you and the headmaster the only ones who know what I am?"

"And Madam Pomfrey; she needed to know to be able to take care of you properly but no one else knows and no one else can know, Harry. It's very important that you keep your true identity secret."

"It just seems so strange," said Harry. "I've read about the Fae, but it just seemed like reading a Muggle fairy tale or something."

"Where do you think those came from?" laughed Severus. "Harry, you are Fae."

"What was she like?" asked Harry.

"Who?"

"My mother."

"She is beautiful woman, Harry. Long black hair down to her feet, eyes as green as yours and the palest complexion I've ever seen. When you look at her, it's hard to see her, there's such a glow around her that everything else dims in comparison. If she's in the room, she's the only thing you can see. She had a crown of hawthorn on her head and was wearing a robe of silver brocade, or whatever the Fae equivalent is."

"How - how could she give me up and not even see me for sixteen years?" asked Harry, his voice breaking.

"She has seen you, Harry, but she could never stay for more than a few minutes. It's very difficult travelling from their realm to this one, but every year on your birthday she's come to you while you were asleep."

"So - so she loves me? Even though she had to send me away?"

"Oh Harry, yes, she loves you very much and if there was any other way to defeat the Darkness, then you would never have been sent here."

***

Harry sat silently on the sofa for a while; it was all so much to take in. He had a mother and father who he'd never even seen, never even heard of before. He was going to get pointed ears and wings. He was a freak, just like the Dursleys had always said and he didn't know how much more he was expected to cope with. Fae. Hermione had mentioned once she thought he had a fey look about him; how right had she been?

Harry had a tight feeling in his chest as he thought of how he'd been betrayed. He'd been lied to for sixteen years; his whole life had been one lie after another.

Oh, you look so like your father!

James was a Quidditch player too, you fly like him.

Your parents died to save you.

Only they hadn't, had they? James and Lily Potter had died but they were no blood relation to Harry at all. Neither were the Dursleys. God, they'd sent him to live with people who hated him and weren't even his family after all. Harry couldn't believe the headmaster had done that, nor why he kept sending Harry back to those awful people year after year. The headmaster had known that Harry's first bedroom was a cupboard, his Hogwarts letter had been addressed to the cupboard under the stairs. Dumbledore had lied outright to Harry's face, going on and on about how he was safe at Privet Drive because of the blood that Petunia and Lily shared. They may have shared blood, but none of that blood had been Harry’s.

"Why did you pretend to hate me?" Harry asked at last, for if it had all been an act Harry had been completely taken in.

"I'm a spy, Harry, but do you think I'm the only spy at Hogwarts? Do you think the children don't report back to their parents what they see? Think of whom some of your classmates are. I had to pretend to loathe you; I couldn't be nice to you in class where they could see."

"You weren't nice to me in detention or those Occlumency lessons either," said Harry and then wished he hadn't mentioned them when he was reminded of what he'd done during that last lesson. There had been no excuse for what Harry had done; he'd violated the man's privacy and Harry didn't know if he was ever to be forgiven.

"Harry, last year we were both under a tremendous amount of stress and we probably said and did things that we might not have done if we could have been honest with each other. I wanted to tell you of your true heritage, but the headmaster felt you were too young to know; I was taking out my frustrations on you. We will need to start Occlumency again, it is important that you learn to block the Dark Lord out of your mind. Now that you know the truth of who you are, he must not be able to discover it."

"It's going to be pretty obvious once I sprout wings!" exclaimed Harry.

Snape smiled. "Your wings won't be visible all the time. The wings first start appearing during puberty, Harry; what does that tell you?"

"Um, that it's something to do with sex?" Harry couldn't help the blush. He didn't think he would be interested in sex at all, not after what Vernon had done to him. It was horrible and disgusting, filthy and messy.

"Yes, your wings will normally only appear when you are aroused or actively seeking a mate. We will need to get you some clothes that can accommodate them and hide them when necessary, as transition means you will be aroused quite often and it will take some time before you can learn to control when they appear. Even the Fae can't control hormones."

"Oh," said Harry, blushing again. He'd been about to ask if he could see the professor's wings, but now realised that would be as rude as if he asked to see his genitals. "I hated Occlumency," he turned the conversation away from wings.

"I know. Last year was difficult, but it will also be different this year, Harry. We have to learn to trust each other, that's the only way it will work. Do you think you'll ever be able to trust me enough for this?"

"I don't know," admitted Harry, "but I can try."

***

Part 8

Harry didn't sleep that first night in Snape's quarters, despite the comfortable bed. His mind was just too full and he couldn't quite reconcile himself to the fact that not only wasn't he a Potter, he wasn't even human. He'd always felt human, but maybe what he'd been feeling all along was Fae.

In the bathroom the next morning, he twisted his body round trying to see if he'd suddenly sprouted wings in the night, although he was sure if he did get wings, he would probably feel it. He wasn't entirely convinced that Snape hadn't been lying to him for some reason, or that Harry himself had dreamed it all.

Pushing his hair back from his forehead and around his ears, he realised it was all true. The reason for his itching ears had become abundantly clear; the tips of his ears were pointed and Harry stared at his new reflection in some shock for a few minutes. He had pointed ears! Harry touched the pointed tips of his ears and shuddered as a wave of arousal shot through him. Snape hadn't mentioned that last night – was he still trying to hide things from him? Harry couldn't get over the fact that they'd been lying to him for sixteen years.

There was no one else Harry could talk to about this; Severus Snape was the only other Fae he knew, the only one who had gone through this transition. It was more than embarrassing, it was mortifying. Harry didn't want to talk to anyone about things of a sexual nature, never mind Snape, but who else was there?

Harry dried himself off and got dressed in the same transfigured clothes he'd had on yesterday before emerging from the bathroom. Snape was already dressed too and was standing by a small dining table which hadn't been there last night and which was set with breakfast for two. There were three potions bottles on the side of the table opposite Snape.

"I thought we could go shopping today for clothes and your school things," said Snape. "If you wish."

Snape was standing by his chair, but made no move to sit in it yet.

"Oh. Okay, sir," said Harry as he sat down on the chair opposite Snape. He couldn't keep wearing transfigured clothes; the spells would only last a few days, if that. Once Harry was seated, Snape took his place.

"Um, were you waiting for me, sir?"

"It is considered good manners to wait for the prince to be seated before anyone else sits down, your highness."

Harry bristled. "Don't call me that. You were calling me Harry yesterday."

"You wish that to continue? I thought once you knew your true identity you would prefer a more formal approach."

"No. I don't feel like a prince, I never have. I'm Harry, just Harry."

"Very well, Harry. You may call me Severus when we are in private as well. Remember that trust we talked about last night?"

Harry sat down and glanced at the potions bottles. "What are these for, sir - S- Severus?" Harry stumbled over the name.

"One is a nutrient potion, vitamins and minerals that you haven't been getting while you were at that house. Even though you are eating again, it will take time for your body to get all the nutrients it needs from food. The blue bottle is an analgesic potion to help with any residual pain from your injuries and the third is an energy potion, a little bit stronger than Pepper Up. You've been in a coma for a few days and it will take some time before you are back to your natural, exuberant self. These will help."

"I - I don't think I've ever been exuberant," said Harry softly as he reached for the first potion bottle. He downed them all before he started on his breakfast and even then he could only manage about half a bowl of porridge before he felt sick to his stomach.

"Harry? Are you feeling okay? You look a bit pale."

"I - I'm not used to so much food. I feel a bit sick," he admitted, taking a sip of his juice.

"It'll take time for your stomach to get used to regular portions again, but we'll get there."

Harry didn't know what to say, so he said nothing and just sat patiently at the table while the professor finished his own breakfast. The man was tall and lean, but he put away as much food as Ron usually did and Harry couldn't help the small smile of amusement at the thought of telling Ron that Snape had reminded him of his friend.

"All set, Harry?"

Harry nodded and stood up as Severus banished the breakfast dishes with a wave of his wand.

They Floo'd to the Leaky Cauldron and spent the morning touring Diagon Alley to purchase Harry some new clothes; they bought everything from underwear to shirts, along with shorts, t-shirts, dress robes, school robes, and three new sets of his school uniform; everything fitted him perfectly.

"We also need to get you new glasses," said Severus as they waited for their lunch order to arrive in a small restaurant next door to the Leaky Cauldron. Harry wasn't really feeling all that hungry, but he supposed he ought to eat something even if it was just a few bites of a cheese sandwich. "Having the wrong prescription might have ruined your eyes permanently. The Oculist is just a few doors down from here."

Severus glanced at his watch, just as the waiter hurried over to their table and was treated to one of the Potions master's fearsome glares.

"Are you sure that's all you want?" asked Severus as the waiter set down a plain cheese sandwich and a glass of lemonade in front of Harry. Severus was served a chicken salad and a bottle of sparkling water. "We can go for some ice-cream later."

"Okay," said Harry, remembering the lessons learned at his uncle's fists. If he agreed to things, he would be less likely to be hurt.

"After our shopping, is there anything you'd like to do, Harry?"

Harry swallowed a bite of bread and gulped down some lemonade. No one had ever asked him that before, no one had seemed to care what he would like. "Um, can we go and visit Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes?"

"Ah, I was thinking of visiting the Weasley twins myself," said Severus with a small grin.

***

Harry didn't eat much of his lunch, but then Severus hadn't really expected him to. He did wait until Harry had finished all of his lemonade though, glad that he was getting some form of energy, even if it was from sugar. The Fae had a very high metabolism, so no matter what he ate, he knew Harry would never become overweight. He just hoped that Harry would get up to a normal weight sometime soon. It wasn't lost on Severus how disappointed Harry had been when they had to shop in the children's department in Madam Malkin’s rather than the adult one, but both of them knew that none of the adult clothes would have fitted him.

Severus paid the bill and then led Harry down to the Oculist’s office and watched while Harry was fussed over by the glasses-maker.

"How long since your last eye test?" asked Deakins as he settled Harry into a chair in front of a charmed mirror. He was a tall man with long, silver hair and robes of the palest blue they looked white from a distance.

"Um, when I was eight," said Harry.

"Eight?" The man threw his arms up in despair, while turning an accusatory look on Severus. "You waited eight years before bringing him for another check-up?"

"The boy has only recently come into my guardianship," said Severus, not willing to explain further. Harry didn't need the whole world knowing what had happened at the Dursleys'.

"Ah," said Deakins, turning back to Harry. "Now then, young man. Wearing your old glasses, tell me what you see in the mirror." Deakins waved his wand so that figures, symbols, letters, numbers and runes appeared on the glass, getting progressively smaller. Harry got very few of them right and Severus could see the boy squinting into the mirror. Severus belatedly realised why Harry's attempts at potion making had been so disastrous; he'd never been able to read the instructions properly and was either guessing at the ingredients or watching the others.

"No, no, those won't do at all," said Deakins as he proceeded to hold up different lenses in front of Harry's eyes.

"Oh!" exclaimed Harry and Severus wondered if Deakins had hurt him somehow. "It's so clear! I can see! I can see!"

"What did you see before?" asked Severus, standing up and placing his hand on the back of Harry's chair.

"Just blurs really, blobs and colours. I thought that's what things were supposed to look like." He grinned at Severus in the mirror as Deakins was about to replace the glass in Harry's old spectacles with the new lenses. "I can see you."

"No, he'll want new frames as well," said Severus, not wanting Harry to have any reminders of those awful people. "What do you think would best suit his face?"

Deakins Accio'd a couple of frames and Harry tried on a couple without glass to see what suited him.

"These," Severus said after Deakins had placed a pair of silver square frames on Harry's face. "They suit the shape of your face better. Unless you'd prefer something different?"

"No, Severus. I like those ones as well." Harry nodded to Deakins as he removed the frames and the Oculist hurried off to his workroom to get Harry's glasses sorted out. Harry jumped down from the chair and sat beside Severus on one of the benches that lined the walls.

"Thank you, Severus. No one's ever cared enough about me to get my eyes tested before. I only got tested once by the nurse who used to visit our primary school, but every year after that the Dursleys kept me at home when they knew she was visiting. They didn't want anyone to find out that I had the wrong glasses." Harry twisted his hands in his lap and Severus' heart ached for all the abuse the boy had suffered during his childhood. "I'm sorry. You probably don't want me talking about this."

"Harry, I am not a counsellor, but if you feel you do need to talk about this, or anything that is worrying you, please feel free to tell me. Sometimes it helps to talk about things; but if you don't feel like talking, that's fine too. I am not going to force you to talk about things you would rather keep private."

"This is weird," said Harry. "I can't believe how different you are. I keep thinking this is a dream or that you're going to give me detention for something."

"As I said, Harry, I am playing a role, one I will have to continue playing once school starts again."

"I'm not looking forward to that," said Harry. "I hate how you treated me in class, you were awful to me."

Severus didn't deny it, it was true, and he just hoped that one day Harry might come to terms with why he had to behave like that around the students, particularly the Slytherins.

Deakins came back out with Harry's new glasses in his hands along with a velvet pouch to keep them in when Harry wasn't wearing them. Severus paid for the glasses out of Harry's Gringotts account; they'd already made quite a dent in it that morning, but that was just the Potter vault. Once Harry turned seventeen, he would come into his full, Fae inheritance, not to mention the Black inheritance as well. Harry Potter was a very rich young man, but unlike the young Lord Malfoy, Harry did not take it for granted and was frugal with his purchases, buying only what was necessary. He had to be pushed into buying more for himself.

Draco Malfoy was a spoiled, rich brat and he thought himself every inch the young aristocrat, expecting people to fawn over him just because of who he was. When in fact, it was Harry who was a prince and even after he had found out, Harry hadn't suddenly changed and turned into another version of Malfoy.

As they walked out into the sunshine Severus felt the burning flare on his arm. He'd been Called, right in the middle of Diagon Alley accompanying Harry Potter! Voldemort's timing couldn't have been worse. Harry groaned and rubbed at his forehead, the scar a livid red against his face. Severus marched him quickly down the street to the Weasleys' shop and hurried Harry inside. He had a few minutes, if that; before Voldemort would become concerned that Severus hadn't arrived yet.

"Fred, George, I've been Called," said Severus once he ascertained that no customers were in the shop. "Make sure Harry stays right here until I get back!"

With that, Severus hurried to an uncrowded alleyway and Apparated to the feet of his so-called master.

***

Part 9

The twins gaped at Harry as Severus hurried out. Harry's scar felt as if it was being prodded with a red-hot poker and he kept rubbing it, hoping to find some relief. Once Severus had gone, Fred turned the sign over to indicate the shop was closed and George wrapped Harry in a hug.

"Harry! You're okay!"

Harry squirmed out of the embrace and thankfully George was quick to release him.

"Harry? What is it? What's wrong?" asked Fred as he came back to where the two of them were standing. "Why didn't you write to Ron? He's been frantic with worry over you."

"I did. I wrote to Ron loads of times," said Harry, scowling. Ron hadn't mentioned his letters; he hadn't even been worried about what Harry had tried to tell him or even told his family that Harry had written.

"Harry, Ron hasn't heard from you all summer," said Fred. "He thought for sure he would at least get a thank-you note after he sent his birthday present to you."

"I - I didn't get any presents or letters," said Harry. Had Vernon somehow intercepted Hedwig or the other owls and kept the letters and presents?

"Well, we knew you were okay after the Order meetings," said George. "Dumbledore said you'd been writing to him to let him know you were all right in Surrey."

"He said that?" Harry felt sick; Dumbledore had said he was okay? Harry had put up with Vernon's abuse for weeks because Dumbledore had said he was all right? How could he lie about that? Harry really shouldn't have been surprised; after all it was hardly the first time Harry had been lied to by the headmaster. "So - so Ron didn't get my letter about the Ford Anglia?"

"The Ford Anglia?" queried Fred, his face turning an alarming shade of red. "Those Muggle bastards! They locked you in again, didn't they?"

"And you've lost weight again; they starved you too," said George; it wasn't a question.

Harry nodded, trying his best to hold back the tears but his distress, his relief, and his grief all came spilling out of his eyes. He removed his new glasses, rubbing frantically to dry his eyes. He felt so ashamed that he couldn't even protect himself from Vernon; how was he going to be able to defeat Voldemort when he couldn't even handle a Muggle?

Fred levitated a stool so that Harry could sit down. "He - he nearly killed me," said Harry through his sobs. Two sets of blue eyes scanned him as if ascertaining if he had any visible injuries, but Madam Pomfrey had healed the worst of them. Some of Harry's scars weren't visible.

"Harry, what happened?" the twins asked in unison and almost before he knew it the tale was pouring out of him like the tears that were still falling. The locked bedroom; the lack of meals; the chores he was made to do even though he was exhausted and weak from hunger; Vernon's fists and boots and that last terrible tumble down the stairs.

Harry didn't feel comfortable enough to tell them about the rapes and sexual abuse; somewhere deep down inside Harry still thought that it was his fault and he didn't want them to agree with that thought. As he was talking, he noticed them sharing significant looks with each other in that strange non-verbal communication they had.

Eventually Harry's tears and his words dried up and he was left hiccupping softly, his chest and throat sore from all his crying.

"Harry, that's not all, is it?" asked Fred softly. "Vernon - he molested you, didn't he?"

"NO!" the denial was on his lips before he'd even thought of it. He didn't want them to think any less of him and he couldn't imagine them accepting him if they knew what Vernon had done. "He didn't! He wouldn't!"

"Harry, it's okay, you can tell us," said George. "We won't tell anyone."

"Oh God! He did! He did!" wailed Harry. "He - he - he raped me!" It was the first time Harry had ever said the words out loud and he felt his stomach lurch as the words left his mouth. "B- bathroom?"

"Upstairs, first on the right," said Fred.

Harry dashed up the narrow staircase, his hand clasped over his mouth on the way. He fell to his knees in front of the toilet and vomited what little he'd eaten that day. It felt as if his stomach lining was trying to crawl its way out through his throat and he knelt there, heaving wretchedly for a couple of minutes, not feeling any better. He threw up once more and flushed the toilet, but made no move to get up quite yet.

Harry still had to face Fred and George after what he'd revealed. Would they hate him now? Would they think of him like Harry thought of himself - as filthy? Dirty? Soiled? Harry rinsed out his mouth, gargling and then spitting into the sink before he took up a bar of soap and began scrubbing at his hands. There was no brush and no wash cloth in the twins' bathroom, so Harry used his nails – he used his nails to scrub at his skin until the flesh was raw and the water ran red.

"Harry? What are you doing?" asked Fred from the doorway.

Harry dropped the soap as if it had burned him and felt the guilt welling up in him again. He tried to hide his hands behind his back, but Fred pulled them out in front of Harry's body.

"Oh, Harry, what have you done to yourself?" asked Fred as he took Harry's bloodied hands in his. Harry glanced down at his damaged hands; he looked like he'd gone a round with one of the Blast-Ended Skrewts. Flaps of skin were hanging off; the hot water had given him blisters and lots of scratches were still bleeding, but Harry barely felt the pain.

"I - I can't get him out! I can't get him out!" sobbed Harry and he sank down on the floor, resting his back against the bath. "I'm so dirty!"

"Harry, no. You're not dirty," said Fred patiently. "It wasn't your fault. He was wrong to do that to you, but you did nothing wrong. It wasn't your fault."

"It must be! Why else do all these awful things keep happening to me?" Harry hung his head against his knees and just wept and wept. Fred made no move to touch him and even though Harry wasn't sure he wanted to be touched, the fact that Fred wasn't even willing to offer him a hug made him feel even dirtier than ever.

Harry screamed as pain shot through his whole body, emanating from his scar. His body arched as he convulsed, no longer feeling or knowing anything but pain. The world dimmed and greyed as he fought against the Cruciatus curse.

***

Voldemort was angry, but then that was nothing new. What was different this time was that he was angry with Severus; normally Severus' quick thinking and sharp tongue were enough to get him out of the worst of Voldemort's wrath, but not this time.

Voldemort smiled that inhuman smile at him and pressed his foot onto Severus' back, pinning him in place on the dusty floor of the Riddle mansion.

"Did you think I wouldn't know, Severus? That I wouldn't find out?"

Severus didn't bother answering, without knowing exactly what Voldemort was talking about, anything he said might just incriminate him more. What was Voldemort on about now? The fact that Severus was half-Fae? That Harry had left the Dursleys'? That Vernon Dursley was dead?

"You were seen, Severus. Seen in Madam Malkin's shopping with Harry Potter. Now tell me, Severus, if the boy was in your custody today, why didn't you bring him to me?" Voldemort leaned heavily on his back so that Severus had to fight for breath. "What were you doing with the boy anyway? Why wasn't he with his relatives?"

"My Lord," said Nott, grovelling on the floor next to Severus. "The house in Surrey has been damaged by fire, the uncle is dead."

"Dead? And what of the aunt and cousin? Without them, the boy has no protection."

"No one knows; they have not been seen for weeks."

"Hmm," said Voldemort, the pressure on Severus' back lessening enough so that he could finally get a decent breath.

"So Dumbledore has assigned you as the boy's protector, Severus, has he? You will bring him to me at once! Crucio!"

Severus screamed and writhed with pain until the curse left him. His nose was bleeding and he could taste the coppery tang of it as it slid down towards his mouth. "I cannot, master. The boy is under enchantments for his protection even while away from Hogwarts. He cannot be Apparated or Portkeyed anywhere unless the headmaster is with him. It is the same with the Floo."

"I do not like the news you have for me today, Severus! Crucio! You will find a way to break these enchantments and then you will bring the boy to me!"

"As you wish, my lord," said Severus, feeling the aches in his body return as the curse was lifted once more. "But it may take some time." Severus Occluded his mind, knowing that he had to get out of here with Voldemort still thinking Severus was his loyal servant. He was stalling for time, but Voldemort could not know that.

He endured another three rounds of the Cruciatus curse before Voldemort dismissed him. Severus left with Nott's screams ringing in his ears; he too had disappointed his master today by not telling him sooner about Vernon Dursley's demise.

Severus Apparated into the shop when he returned and saw the Closed sign. The shop and storeroom were empty, but he heard noises from upstairs. He heard Harry screaming loud enough to wake the dead. Severus bounded up the narrow staircase two steps at a time and stopped dead when he saw all three of them through the open bathroom door.

Harry was lying on the floor between the two Weasley twins, one of them trying to hold his upper body down, the other trying to hold his legs. Harry was kicking and flailing, screaming all the while.

"Hold him, George! I have to get my belt off!"

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" demanded Severus, his wand drawn at the two young men whom he thought were molesting Harry. "Get away from him at once!"

"Severus, thank God!" said Fred. "Quick, hand me your belt! George, hold his jaw! Don’t let him bite his tongue!"

Severus looked again and saw that Harry's nose was bleeding, just like his own had earlier and he realised that Harry was somehow suffering the Cruciatus curse. He unbuckled his belt and knelt down on the floor beside Harry; he folded the leather in half and placed it between Harry's teeth to protect the boy's tongue during the convulsions.

"How long has he been like this?" asked Severus.

"On and off for a couple of hours," said George, wiping Harry's hair away from his sweaty forehead.

"How? I take it neither of you cast an Unforgivable on him."

"Of course we didn't! You mean you don't know? Harry's scar connects him to Voldemort; he nearly always feels it when Voldemort curses someone. He feels the effects of the curse."

Severus was suddenly very glad that Voldemort hardly ever killed anyone himself these days, leaving it up to his minions.

Fred and George were still doing their best to hold Harry down through his body's tremors but it was another half an hour before Harry's screams stopped and he became completely still, with his eyes closed and his breath coming in ragged gasps. Voldemort must have been very displeased with Nott.

"I need to get him back to Hogwarts," said Severus. It was now more important than ever that Harry mastered Occlumency; the sooner he did, the sooner he wouldn't have to suffer due to the connection to the Dark Lord. "What happened to his hands?"

"He did that himself, Severus. After - after he told us about his uncle. I could kill that bastard for what he did to Harry!"

"There's no need," said Severus softly. "He's already dead."

"You - you know what he did?"

"All of it," said Severus. The twins stared at him, but there was no censure in their expressions.

"Harry is like a brother, Severus," said George. "Tell us that Muggle heap of shit suffered."

"Oh yes, he suffered," said Severus. "Right to the end."

***

Part 10

It was pitch black, Harry couldn't see a thing, but he could hear voices just out of reach. He wandered towards them, one voice becoming clearer than all the others.

"Sirius!" he gasped, running towards his godfather in the darkness. Eerie green light flared to life and he saw his godfather's ragged face in front of him. The man looked as gaunt as when he'd first escaped from Azkaban, his hair matted with blood and filth. Harry stumbled and fell into the man's outstretched arms and Sirius began peppering Harry's hair with tiny kisses, his hands tightening around Harry's waist.

He could barely breathe. "Sirius! Stop! You're hurting me!"

"And what about you, Harry? You killed me. You lied to me. You let me believe you were James and Lily's son. You're nothing but a liar and a Fae whore."

Sirius roughly pushed Harry away from him; Harry fell flat on his face, scraping his cheek against gravel and as he tried to push himself back up, he stared at his godfather in shocked surprise. "Sirius? Don't you love me anymore?"

Sirius kicked him in the ribs and Harry whimpered in pain. "Love you? How could anyone love you? You're a filthy freak!"

"You - you said you'd always be there for me!" sobbed Harry, his heart feeling as if it was cracking in two right inside his chest. Sirius had always loved him, hadn't he?

"Oh, yes, we'll always be there for you, won't we, Remus?" said Sirius, baring his teeth as Lupin appeared beside him in his werewolf form, growling as he pinned Harry to the floor. Saliva was dripping from Lupin's teeth as he lowered his head to Harry's neck. Harry bucked and screamed, but he couldn't dislodge the werewolf from his body. As Lupin bit down on Harry's neck, he felt his legs being pulled apart and his trousers pulled down towards his ankles.

"Let's see how good a whore you really are," snarled Sirius as, without any sort of preparation, he thrust inside Harry.

"NO!! Let me go! Let me go!" screamed Harry, shaking his head from side and bucking his whole body.

"Harry! You're dreaming!" came a worried voice. A voice he knew, but one that wasn't in his dream. Harry slowly peeled his eyes open and saw Professor Snape standing over him with a vial of potion in his hands.

Harry's heart was pounding like a hammer against his chest and the bedclothes were a sweaty tangle around him. He was gasping for breath as if he'd just run a race and he struggled to push himself upright; his limbs felt heavy, as if they were filled with water.

"That's the third nightmare this week," said Severus. "Is the Dreamless Sleep not working any longer?"

"No, sir. I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault. I'll just try and re-work the formulation. Madam Pomfrey also needs some of the infirmary potions re-stocked, would you care to help me?"

Harry fumbled for his glasses on the bedside table, but Severus had already lifted them up and handed them to him.

"Um, you know I'm not very good at Potions, Severus."

"That was before you got your new glasses. You'll be able to read the instructions now. I expect you to improve dramatically this year."

"I don't think I'll be able to do Potions, I don't think I did very well on my OWL."

"Well, we'll soon find out, won't we? Your results arrived this morning."

"Oh, God," moaned Harry. He dreaded to think how he'd done; what with worry over Hagrid and Sirius during those last few exams and he felt his heart shatter anew as he remembered the dreams. He could still feel Sirius inside him, feel Lupin's breath on his shoulder and he reached up as he'd done every morning, to make sure he didn't really have a bite there.

"I'll leave you to get washed and dressed," said Severus, hovering by the bedroom door. The first night that Harry had that awful nightmare about Sirius and Remus, Severus had knocked on his door to wake him up, seemingly not wanting to intrude on Harry's privacy. Harry left the door open a little now; he'd rather the man came in and woke him up rather than stay asleep with those awful dreams.

Harry put on his dressing gown over his pyjamas and lifted out the clothes he would be wearing after his shower. A pair of navy shorts and a paler blue long-sleeved t-shirt along with underwear. He didn't bother with socks, just took the new pair of leather sandals they'd bought that day in Diagon Alley.

It had been over a week since the shopping trip, a week in which Harry alternately suffered nightmares and visions from the Dark Lord and felt that his destiny was rushing up to meet him way too fast. He was nowhere near ready to face Voldemort and he wondered if he ever would be.

Harry locked the bathroom door and stared at his reflection in the mirror, checking once more to make sure he didn't have any teeth marks. He couldn't understand why he was having such horrible dreams about Sirius and Remus; nightmares of Voldemort and his uncle he could well understand, but these just seemed so strange and made him feel terribly guilty. He had killed Sirius, it was Harry's fault and nothing Harry did would ever bring his godfather back. And if Sirius was still alive, would he even love Harry any more knowing that he wasn't James and Lily's son?

Harry felt the tears drip silently into the basin, soft plops that just seemed to make his chest feel tighter, rather than make him feel any better. He hated himself. He hated who he was and what he'd done. Getting the Potters killed; Cedric; Sirius and all those people the Death Eaters had attacked since Voldemort was resurrected. That was his fault too; the creature had used Harry's blood to come back. Fae blood. His blood. The blood of betrayal and Harry wanted it out of him, he wanted everything out.

He searched the bathroom, but he couldn't find any razors, so he guessed Severus might use spells for shaving.

Would a spell work? Harry had never tried it that way before but he was getting desperate now. Wracking his brain for the spell they'd used in Herbology to prune some of the plants, with trembling hands Harry pressed his wand against his left arm.

"Sectum!!" he chanted and watched the blood bloom in a thin thread along his forearm. He did it again and again until his arm looked red and he felt the relief pour through him as much as the pain did. It hurt, but he deserved it. He deserved to be in pain for all the bad things he'd done.

***

Feeling a bit more – well, not human, but certainly a bit more refreshed after his shower – Harry banished his dirty clothes to the hamper and wandered out to the living room. Severus, as usual, was standing by the table until Harry sat down. He always found this rather disconcerting and he made sure to sit down very quickly. Harry plucked at the cuffs of his t-shirt and had to consciously stop himself from fiddling with his arms and drawing attention to them.

Propped up against the milk jug was the official-looking envelope with the Ministry seal dangling from it. Harry stared at it for a few minutes before sighing and opening it. Might as well get it over with.

OWL RESULTS: Potter, H. J.

Astronomy: E
Care of Magical Creatures: E
Charms: O
Defence Against the Dark Arts: O
Divination: P
Herbology: A
History of Magic: P
Potions: A
Transfiguration: E

Passing Grades are O - Outstanding, E - Exceeds Expectations, A - Acceptable. Failing Grades are P - Poor,
D- Dreadful, T- Troll. If you receive a T in any subject, please consider a non-academic career.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Tofty
Minister for Magical Education.

"Well," said Harry, setting the parchment down. "It looks I won't be in your class after all. I only got an A in Potions."

Severus smirked. "And of the course the headmaster will force you into my class anyway, quite a good excuse for me to be mean to you, don't you think?"

"But I'm hopeless at Potions!" protested Harry. "I'll never be able to catch up to everyone else."

"Harry, I don't think you were ever as bad at Potions as your scores in class indicated. Your theory essays were always fairly sound; it was only the practical aspects that let you down. I don't think you were ever able to read the instructions properly with your old glasses. You should be fine now."

"So you'd be happy to let me near a cauldron again?"

"Why don't we try you on a few simple potions and see how you do?"

"Okay, but I'm not saying I'll choose Potions yet as one of my classes."

"Fair enough." Severus poured out a cup of coffee and stirred in two spoonfuls of sugar.

"Um, Severus," Harry began, feeling his face heat. "Are - are Fae ears supposed to be very sensitive?"

"Your hearing will improve once your ears change," said Severus, taking a sip of his coffee.

"That's the thing, they have changed and um - um when I touched them, they made me feel funny."

"Funny, how?"

"I - er - funny down there," said Harry, waving his hand to point under the table.

"Oh. Oh, yes, they are quite an erogenous zone for the Fae. I'm sorry; I thought I'd told you that already. Well, now that your ears have changed it's only a matter of time before you get your wings."

Harry wasn't so sure how he felt about that. Wings would mark him as something different, as something freakish and that was the last thing Harry wanted to be. He wanted to be normal. He wanted to be ‘just Harry’, but that was never going to happen now and he swallowed his pumpkin juice so fast that he had a coughing fit and Severus had to pat him on the back until it passed.

"You might want a different shirt if we're brewing potions today, one with short sleeves," said Severus. "Those sleeves look a bit tight to be rolled up."

That was one of the main reasons Harry had bought it; it was an excuse not to have bare arms. A glamour took a lot of effort to keep in place all the time and he'd rather not have to. Today, though, it looked like he had no choice.

"Okay," said Harry, hoping his glamour spell would still work.

Severus nodded. "Finish your breakfast then we can start."

***

Part 11

Severus was surprised when Harry went to change his shirt without too much fuss; he was sure that Harry had worn the long-sleeved shirt to hide the evidence of cuts on his arms. He hadn't forgotten that day in the twins' shop when he'd seen Harry's mangled hands – hands that he'd wounded himself. The twins had been very worried about Harry, and so was Severus. Harry was not in a good place emotionally if he felt he needed to harm himself for some reason. There were enough Death Eaters out there who were keen to harm him already.

Harry stood waiting by the cauldron; Severus glanced briefly at his arms, they seemed fine – too fine in fact. There were no scars visible at all and hadn't the Muggle doctor told him Harry's arms and legs both had old scarring on them? Harry was using a glamour to hide them; how long had he been doing that?

"The instructions and ingredients are on the desk, Harry. It's Calming Draught. I'll be making some Wolfsbane, but feel free to ask if you have any questions."

"Do you still make the Wolfsbane for Professor Lupin?" asked Harry as he started chopping up the dandelion root. "Even though he's not at school anymore?"

Ah, now here was an opportunity to make Harry feel better; Severus was just surprised that Dumbledore hadn't told him already.

"Didn't you know, Harry? Lupin is returning this year as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. No one else could be found who wanted the job."

"He - he's coming back?" asked Harry, his voice breaking. "No, he can't! He can't!" The boy's eyes rolled back in his head and only Severus’ quickly cast levitation spell prevented him from breaking his head open on the flagstones.

Severus rushed over to his side and gently lowered Harry to the ground. Conjuring a cold flannel, Severus wiped Harry's brow with the cloth. Now that Harry was unconscious, his glamour had failed and Severus was able to see the scars that Harry had been trying to hide. Some were old and faded, but there were a few on his left arm that looked fairly recent.

Why was Harry so upset about Lupin returning? Severus thought the two of them had got along fairly well from what he remembered of Harry's third year. Hadn't Lupin taught Harry the Patronus Charm? That was sixth-year magic, not third and Harry had seemed sad that Lupin had resigned. Severus had been watching Harry for years and he felt as if he knew the boy's mind as well as his own. Or at least he thought he had until he discovered what Harry had been suffering over the years: starvation; abuse; visions from the Dark Lord. It was a wonder Harry hadn't already been put in a padded room at St. Mungo's and if many more people found out about the self-inflicted wounds, that's where he might still end up. Severus couldn't allow that to happen; he couldn't protect Harry if he wasn't nearby and Severus had little trust in the St. Mungo's protective wards.

Harry's eyes flickered open and Severus gasped at seeing how green they really were. They almost glowed with their own inner light and Severus knew it was part of the Fae in him. Recognising a kindred spirit, the Fae in Severus responded and he felt his wings emerge from their sheath, ripping his shirt and fluttering around him, as well as the accompanying arousal. He had no teaching robes on today, there was nothing to hide them behind and Harry gazed wide-eyed at them.

"Severus," he panted. "Your wings are beautiful." Harry reached out a hand and paused, but in that moment, Severus wanted nothing more than for Harry to touch his wings.

"You may touch them if you wish," said Severus, lowering his head and feeling blood pound in his ears. It was the first time his wings had emerged in Harry's presence, but not the first time he'd thought of Harry touching them and not the first time he'd thought of Harry as someone other than his student or his prince. He'd known for years that he was Harry's mate, but until the boy was older he hadn't really allowed himself to dwell on what that meant.

Harry's hand reached out and he stroked along Severus' left wing. Severus moaned in pleasure and had to will himself from falling onto the boy and ravishing him right there on the dungeon floor. "Harry," he groaned and closed his eyes.

"They're so soft," said Harry and continued stroking them, each caress sending sparks of sensation along Severus' nerve-endings. Harry was tentative with his touches, as if he was afraid of hurting him, but Severus was far from being hurt, even if Harry decided to become a bit rougher. Severus wanted to wrap Harry in his wings and carry him far away from the danger that was Voldemort. Severus didn't want the touches to stop, but he knew he had to before he lost his mind to the pleasure; he was afraid of what he might do if that happened.

"Harry, stop… please," he managed to gasp out.

Harry dropped his hand immediately and looked stricken. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."

"You didn't hurt me, far from it," said Severus, hoping his erection would go down soon. Harry was in no state yet to accept a mate, any mate; Vernon had seen to that. He had no moral compunctions about Harry being his mate. Fae weren't human, human morality or even wizard morality didn't count at all and Harry's age was not an issue. It was Harry's emotional state that was the problem and even as he thought it, Severus caught a glimpse of Harry's scarred arms again.

Harry pushed himself to his feet, closely followed by Severus, returning his wings to their sheath beneath his shoulder blades and taking a few deep breaths. Severus urged Harry to sit down, and then sat down opposite him.

"Harry, do you want to tell me why you were so upset about Professor Lupin returning? I thought you liked him?" He felt his heart falter for a moment at the jealousy that flared in his breast at the thought. Severus felt the strongest urge to stake a claim on Harry and damped it down. Harry would run a mile if he tried anything like that.

"I do - I - I'm just a bit worried about him coming back."

"Why?"

"Because - because he'll hate me," Harry said so softly that it was only because of his sensitive hearing that Severus was able to hear the words at all.

"Harry, of course Lupin doesn't hate you. Whatever gave you that impression?"

"He hasn't written to me once since - since Sirius died. He blames me and he's right. It was my fault Sirius died; I was stupid."

"Harry, you weren't stupid. You were tricked by the Dark Lord and it was only because of your actions that no one else was killed that day. Is that what this is about?" Severus waved his hands at Harry's arms.

Harry glanced down, his eyes widening even further when he saw his glamour had failed. "You weren't supposed to see those! No one was supposed to see!" Harry wrung his hands; it was an unconscious reaction to the stress.

"Tell me how you feel when you hurt yourself," suggested Severus.

"What?" Harry gaped at him, goggle-eyed. "You don't want to tell me what a freak I am? That I'm going to burn in hell for what I did?" Harry traced a thinner scar along his wrist and Severus felt his heart shatter. Did that mean what he thought it meant?

"You tried to kill yourself?"

"Every summer after first year, but it never worked. I tried knives, razors, pills but none of them worked. The knife didn't kill me, but when I cut I felt better so I started cutting myself instead. The Dursleys didn't care about what I was doing as long as I didn't get blood on the sheets."

"They didn't care that you were mutilating yourself?"

Harry shook his head. "No, sometimes Vernon would cut me too, but that never made me feel any better, only if I was doing it myself. I had to be in control of it otherwise it didn't work. Anytime I felt - I felt dirty or ashamed, I would cut myself and it made me feel clean again, at least for a while. But the feeling never lasts."

"I think I understand," said Severus. "But, Harry, you know you can't continue doing this once you're back in your dorm. How soon before your friends find out and want to save you from yourself? They might send you to St. Mungo's and the Fae do not respond well to being incarcerated in any form."

"I want to stop, Severus, but I don't know how. Can you help me, please?" Harry begged with tears in his eyes.

"I can certainly try."

***

Over the next few days, Harry opened up more and more and Severus was surprised at the young man's resilience. He learned about Harry's cousin and his friends’ Harry Hunting; the way Dudley bullied the other children at school so that none of them wanted to be friends with Harry; how Petunia treated Harry as little more than a house elf, with even less rights than those. A thousand little hurts: no birthday presents; being shoved in his cupboard instead of joining in the Christmas celebrations; Marge setting her dog on him so that Harry spent hours terrified up a tree; the humiliations of never being allowed to the bathroom when he needed it; the lack of love that Harry felt even more keenly than the lack of food.

Severus knew that Fae were usually tall, but Harry's treatment meant that he would never gain his full height, not even if he was eating properly and getting all the right nutrients now, the damage had been done and over such a long period of time that there was no way to reverse it. Magic couldn't cure everything, despite Madam Pomfrey's best intentions.

The night before the rest of the students were due to arrive, Harry's wings came in and he spent most of the night in pain as his body adjusted to his new form. Severus dosed him with pain-killers and sedatives until the worst of it had passed.

Shortly before dawn, Harry's wings had fully emerged and he sat on the bed, just watching them unfurl. They were black like Severus', but with a dark green sheen if looked at from a certain angle. The wings sprouted from his shoulder blades and had a span of about six feet in total. They would never grow much longer than that unless Harry did have an unusual growth spurt and grew taller.

"I - I don't feel aroused," said Harry, gaping at his wings.

"No?" That was unusual, normally as the wings appeared, so did arousal. The two were never very far apart when it came to the Fae. Glancing down at the small form of his mate, Severus realised that the Dursleys' enforced starvation had perhaps caused other problems, like a delay in the onset of Harry's transition, so that perhaps even though Harry's wings had appeared; he hadn't actually started transition yet. "Harry, forgive me, but have you ever had a wet dream?"

Harry blushed and hid his face beneath his wings, so that only his fringe and the tops of his glasses were showing. His wings rustled as he shook his head. "Not yet," he said, his voice muffled by his feathers. "There's something wrong, isn't there?" Harry's head popped back up.

"I'm not sure; I think we ought to get you checked over by Madam Pomfrey just as a precaution. We can go today before the other students arrive."

"Okay," replied Harry. "Severus, can I ask you something?"

"Of course you can, Harry. I'll do my best to answer."

"I was reading a bit more about the Fae and one of the books said that they have a mate and they bond for life if they can find their mate. Sometimes they never do. When I first saw you, back when I was eleven, you were sitting with Professor Quirrell and my scar hurt, because Voldemort was also there. But I felt something else too; something that I only felt when I looked at you. It was a strange jolt in my chest and my tummy and now I know what it was. You're my mate, aren't you?"

"Does the prospect frighten you?"

"No, not now. It might have done if I'd known when I was eleven. I know we're supposed to be together and everything, but I'm just not ready for anything like that yet."

"No you aren't," agreed Severus. "Harry, you may be my mate, but because of that, I cannot harm you in any way nor do anything you do not wish. You'll know when you are ready and when that day comes, I will be waiting."

"Does that mean you won't be able to give me detention?" asked Harry with a grin.

"Cheeky brat!" laughed Severus. "No, I will still be able to give you detentions and lines and any other punishment while you are my student."

Harry's wings rippled as if wind was blowing along them, but Severus realised it was because Harry's body was shaking so much with the force of his giggles. It was a wondrous sight, to see Harry laughing again. A few moments later, Harry got up from the bed and stood facing Severus, standing on tiptoes to look into his eyes.

"Severus - may I see your wings again?"

"You may," said Severus as he let his wings unfurl and wrapped them around Harry's smaller form, protecting them both from the world that would like nothing better to destroy them. Severus would never allow it to happen.

His mate was his only priority now.

***

Part 12

"You can get dressed now, Harry," said Madam Pomfrey as she pulled the screen across so that he could do just that. Harry had been poked; he'd been prodded; been asked so many personal questions that he'd been blushing the whole time; been jabbed with so many needles that he felt like a pincushion and as yet Madam Pomfrey hadn't told him what she thought might be wrong with him.

Harry stood up and settled his wings back inside their sheaths; it was easy to do if he concentrated and no one looking at him would notice anything different unless they were staring rather closely at his shoulder blades. Severus had changed all Harry's robes so that if his wings did suddenly appear while he was in class or something; there was an inner pocket designed to keep his wings hidden from view. Now Harry knew why the man had always worn such billowing robes; his new ones were of a similar design.

Harry felt the weight of his new wand in his trouser pocket; they'd bought it that day in Diagon Alley; suffering through Ollivander's tutting as he saw the broken one. Wands couldn't be repaired so Harry had to choose a new one from the ones in the shop; or rather, the wand chose him. His new wand was ash with a core of unicorn hair and it had felt just as warm in his palm as his first one had. "Very surprising," said Ollivander, but didn't bother to elaborate on why it was interesting and Harry was scared to ask; he wasn’t sure he would like the answer.

Once dressed again, Harry pulled the curtain aside and Madam Pomfrey waved him into a chair.

"I'm not an expert of Fae physiology, Harry, I really only know what I've read and what Severus has told me. According to all the literature, Fae wings are a secondary sexual characteristic when the Fae in question is ready to find a mate. It's similar to what happens with human adolescents going through puberty. Your test results show normal hormone levels for an adolescent male, you have some body hair and your genitals are of an expected size according to your height. Medically, I can see no reason why you haven't had wet dreams or had any ejaculations yet. You say you have been able to get aroused and get erections, is that right?"

Harry nodded, blushing again and wishing this was just over with.

"Have you tried masturbating until you reach orgasm, Harry?"

"No. I don't do that. I - I can't do that." Harry well remembered the first and only time he'd tried touching himself: he was twelve and Uncle Vernon had come into his room and caught him; it was the first time he'd raped Harry. Harry could never bring himself to try after that; the memories it engendered were just too awful. He heard the other boys in his dorm doing it before they'd discovered Silencing Charms, but Harry had never even been able to attempt it.

"Harry, I'd like you to try. I don't think the problem is physical or medical. I think you have some form of mental block that is preventing you from experiencing sexual pleasure. You are afraid to enjoy your own body and the pleasures it can give you. If you want to form a normal relationship in the future, you need to start experimenting a bit with your own responses, to see what you like. It's normal and you are allowed to enjoy it."

Harry's face felt as if it was burning; he just wanted to get out of there.

"May I go?"

"Yes, Harry, but I want to see you back here next week to see if you've made any progress with this."

She wanted him to tell her if he had been able to masturbate or have an orgasm?

Harry nodded and almost ran out of the infirmary; taking a deep breath once he was outside the doors, leaning his hands on his bent knees. He didn't know if he was going to be able to do what the matron had asked of him.

***

The noise of hundreds of students chattering in the Great Hall seemed even louder to Harry now with his new sensitive ears and he could hear conversations from as far away as the Slytherin table. The Sorting seemed to take forever; Harry was getting rather hungry and he hoped Dumbledore’s speeches wouldn't take too long either. He'd tried to catch Remus' eye a couple of times, but the werewolf didn't seem to notice, instead spending his time in conversation with Professor Sinistra and barely looking at the student tables.

At last the Sorting Hat sorted the last newcomer: Rowan, Edward into Gryffindor and Professor McGonagall removed the stool and hat to one side of the Hall with a levitation spell before taking her seat next to Dumbledore. She tapped a spoon against her glass for attention and the noise level gradually decreased in volume until everyone was quiet and looking expectantly at the top table.

Dumbledore stood up and made his way to the podium in front of the table. His robes were silver today, with a pattern of golden snitches that fluttered and buzzed as he moved. Harry felt his stomach drop; as far as he knew he was still banned from playing Quidditch. Dumbledore was smiling benignly at his audience and Harry wondered how the man could do it. How he could stand up there and look every bit the image of a caring, grandfatherly figure when all along he'd known that Harry had been abused by his relatives and every year he’d sent Harry back to that house, knowing what would happen to him? Why would Dumbledore do such a thing? And why lie to the Order about it, saying that Harry was fine and safe and all the rest of it?

"Welcome everyone to Hogwarts, both to our old hands and our new faces. Just a reminder that the Forbidden Forest, as its name suggests, is out of bounds to all students unless accompanied by a teacher for a lesson. Mr. Filch, our caretaker, would like to remind you that any items from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes are banned, as are Fanged Frisbees; Self-Filling Water Balloons and all the other items on the list which is posted outside his office door."

Ron glanced darkly at Harry and whispered under his breath, "Filch just hates Fred and George, that's why he banned their stuff."

"This year we are glad to welcome back Professor Remus Lupin as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher; let's have a round of applause, please."

Most of the student body erupted into whoops and cheers as well, none louder than the Gryffindors but the Slytherins just looked as if they'd just had something rotten shoved under their noses. Malfoy glared daggers at Harry across the room mouthing something that he couldn't quite catch despite his refined hearing.

At long last the plates filled with food and drink and the whole school got down to the business of eating. Ron spent the first half hour of the Feast apologising profusely to Harry for not picking up on his clues that he'd been locked up in his room again and Hermione spent the same time weeping and hugging them both at intervals.

If either of them noticed Harry's flinch at such close contact, neither of them mentioned it. Harry felt so different to them now; he wasn't one of them, he'd never been one of them, but at the same time he couldn't imagine his life without them in it. He hoped that when he did finally tell them what he was that they would accept him.

It couldn't happen until Voldemort was gone; it was too dangerous otherwise. Harry still remembered Severus' conversation of a few nights ago when he had been worried about revealing what he was to his friends.

Can you trust them with your life, Harry? Harry was forced to realise that although they meant well and would never deliberately cause him harm; he couldn't actually trust them with his life. It hurt to realise that, but it couldn't be helped.

Dessert finished, Ron and Hermione headed off to show the first years to the Gryffindor dormitory. They all seemed so small to Harry; had he ever been that tiny? He realised he had probably been even smaller; he'd been one of the shortest in his year and still was. The longed-for growth spurt hadn’t happened and Harry supposed it was a bit late for it now. He'd just have to get used to the fact that he was – and always would be – short.

Harry hid a sigh and made his way out of the hall and up to his dorms. Until the school had been filled with pupils again, he hadn't realised how quiet it had been over the summer. Harry missed that, he missed the solitude and wished that he was going back to the dungeons and his own room in Severus' quarters rather than up to his old dorm. He felt beyond his classmates somehow and was sure they would pick up on how different he was this year.

The common room was filled with people catching up: renewing friendships; exchanging news of holidays and holiday romances. Harry realised he couldn't do that. He couldn't tell anyone what had happened during his holidays and he felt more alone than ever, even though the room was full of people.

Ron saw him and waved Harry over to the two comfy armchairs by the fireplace. Harry sat down and Ron Accio'd his chessboard and pieces. "Want a game, Harry?" he asked hopefully.

"Yeah, sure," said Harry, settling in to get roundly trounced by Ron. There was one thing that hadn't changed – Ron would always beat him at chess and it was something that made Harry feel normal again.

***

Part 12

"God, Harry, you look awful!" exclaimed Hermione as Harry slid onto the bench next to her for breakfast the next morning. Harry wasn't at all surprised; his sleep had been restless, full of nightmares again and he had spent most of the night awake trying to fight the urge to cut himself again. He'd promised Severus that he would try his best not to give in to it anymore, but it was so difficult. He'd had his wand out and had pointed it at his arm, but he hadn't cast the spell.

"Gee, thanks," said Harry, stifling a yawn with his hand and absently buttering a slice of toast as the rest of the House talked around him. Harry took a bite of toast and then had to spit it out again. "Ugh! I think the butter's gone off."

Hermione sniffed it, and then took a bite of her own toast. "It tastes fine to me," said Hermione. "Are you sure you're not coming down with something? You look a bit pale."

"I just didn't get much sleep last night."

Much to Harry's confusion, Hermione blushed and suddenly found her bowl of muesli rather fascinating, if the way she was attacking it with her spoon was any indication. "Oh," she said and swirled the spoon around the milk. As they finished breakfast and made their way to their first class – Defence – Harry cornered Ron in the corridor.

"Ron? What was that about with Hermione? Why was she blushing?"

Ron giggled. "You mean you don't know? Harry, that's what boys say when they've been having wet dreams, that they didn't get much sleep."

"Is it? So that's why you were all laughing last term when Neville said that?" Harry could feel the blush creeping up over his neck; was he that much of a late developer? How did you get wet dreams though? Did you have to do something; some form of exercise or meditation to make them happen? Or did they just occur like breathing? Harry was finding himself getting more and more curious about it; if Severus was his mate, knowing that he could actually come could only help, right?

"I noticed you didn't laugh, Harry. Did you really not know what we were talking about?" Ron didn't sound as though he was teasing, rather that he was curious, so Harry didn't feel uncomfortable talking about his lack of knowledge.

"No, my relatives never told me anything. You know what they're like. I guess I'm just a late developer."

"Yeah, Charlie didn't even start puberty until he was seventeen. I remember Mum and Dad took him to a Healer at St. Mungo's because they thought there was something wrong. The Healer just told them not to be stupid – that it affected everybody differently and they should just let nature take its course; he said that age really had very little to do with it."

"Really?" asked Harry, beginning to feel hopeful that he wasn't a total freak because of his late development.

"Yeah; come on we're going to be late," said Ron as he started running up the staircase to the third floor. The final bell rang just as they opened the door and Lupin looked coldly at them.

"Five points each from Gryffindor for being late," said Lupin and he turned to face the blackboard. Harry slid into a seat beside Neville, feeling sick to his stomach. Remus had looked at him but it was as if he hadn't seen him, hadn't seen Harry, just a student who was late who he punished accordingly. Harry had never been punished in Lupin's class before and he felt awful about it. He would try and do better in future; he didn't want Remus to be disappointed in him.

Remus turned back round and surveyed the room. "Now that we are all here," he glared pointedly at Ron and then at Harry. "This year we are going to be learning the Patronus Charm."

There were oohs from the girls. "Mr. Potter, perhaps you would care to demonstrate for us?" suggested Remus, looking straight at him and Harry felt his stomach lurch as if he'd fallen down one of the trick steps. And since when had Remus ever called him Mr. Potter in such a condescending tone? It was almost like Harry was back in his first Potions lesson and Remus was channelling Severus.

He stood up and made his way to the front of the class, feeling every eye boring into his back; he just hoped his wings would stay hidden. "The Patronus Charm is the only means of defence against a Dementor," explained Remus. "It acts as a shield between the wizard and the Dementor, so that the Dementor will feed on the shield rather than the wizard's emotions. The incantation is Expecto Patronum. Well, Potter, the class is waiting. Cast the charm."

Harry removed his new wand from his robe pocket and Remus snatched it out of his hand. "What is this? Is this some sort of joke? How dare you! You had no right, no right to touch it!"

Harry was getting more and more confused. "Professor - I - "

"Be quiet, do you really think I want to hear your excuses? Detention tonight at eight with Mr. Filch. Maybe it'll help keep you out of trouble! Now sit back down!" Remus barked at him and slammed Harry's wand in his desk drawer.

"But sir, my wand," began Harry in a tentative voice. He had never seen Remus so angry before.

"Sit down!"

Harry sat and watched the rest of the lesson unfold. He could cast the charm without his wand, but he wasn't supposed to let that become common knowledge. Most of the previous members of the DA had already cast the Patronus Charm but sensing some of the strange undercurrents between Harry and the professor, they fumbled their first few attempts as though it was really their first time learning it.

Getting Gryffindor into negative points and detention during his first lesson didn't bode well for the rest of the day and Harry spent most of the class wishing it was over already, and he had never thought that about any of Lupin's classes before.

"Right, for homework I want a twelve inch essay on the origins of the Patronus Charm and how it can be used effectively in a defensive situation, due on Thursday."

When the bell rang, Harry was one of the first out the door and almost ran all the way out to the greenhouses.

Neville caught up with him. "Are you okay, Harry? Professor Lupin seemed in a strange mood today, didn't he? Is the full moon soon?"

"I don't know," said Harry. He hadn't been keeping track of the moon's phases since Lupin had left Hogwarts.

"Are you sure you're all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, Neville, thanks." Harry was touched that Neville cared enough to ask. To some people, Neville was a bumbling, forgetful boy and not someone to be friends with. But Harry had never forgotten Neville's bravery that day in the Ministry and he could no more imagine Neville as a bumbler these days than he could imagine Malfoy suddenly becoming bosom pals with him. Almost as if the thoughts of the Slytherin had conjured him, there he was, flanked as always by his two cronies, Crabbe and Goyle.

Harry wondered if Malfoy even went to the bathroom by himself or did he need those two to hold his hand, or perhaps other parts of him?

"You've got some nerve coming back here," snarled Malfoy, "after what you did to my father."

"And what was that Malfoy? Expose him for the Death Eater he is?"

"You got him arrested for something he didn't do!" proclaimed Malfoy.

"Oh? It was his doppelganger at the Ministry of Magic, was it? I was there, Malfoy; I saw him. Him and all his Death Eater mates."

"Shut up! Shut up! I'll kill you! I'll fucking kill you!" roared Malfoy as he launched himself forward towards Harry and then suddenly he bounced back again; as if he'd hit some sort of invisible wall. Harry didn't know what he'd done, he didn't remember consciously doing any magic, but perhaps it was like that day he'd blown up Aunt Marge – he hadn't meant to do that either.

Malfoy fell flat on his arse among the flower beds and haughtily pushed himself up.

"You'd better watch your back, Potter," he sneered and tugged on Crabbe’s and Goyle's arms and steered them into Greenhouse Three.

"Oh, I'm quaking in my boots, Malfoy, can't you tell?" Harry retorted as he followed them in. The rest of the class wasn't long in arriving and Harry found himself partnered with Neville once again as Ron and Hermione seemed to be veering towards the same table these days. Not that Harry minded, Neville was top of their year in Herbology and since Harry seemed to have a bit of a black thumb rather than a green one when it came to plant life, he could only improve with Neville as a partner.

"Settle down, settle down," commanded Madam Sprout. "We have quite a few specimens to get through before you take your NEWTs. This term we are going to be concentrating on making a medicinal herb garden. In this case it will be window boxes, but I want you all to grow and nurture your plants from seed until it's time for harvesting. Those plants that are the healthiest will be used by Madam Pomfrey for her stores so I want you all to do your best. So, everyone come and collect your boxes and your seeds. The instructions on how best to look after each plant are on pages 43 to 75 of your textbook. Yes, Mr. Longbottom?" she asked as Neville raised his hand.

"I was just wondering if we needed access to the Greenhouse at night sometimes, ma'am, as some of them need to be watered in the dark."

"Indeed, Longbottom. Ten points to Gryffindor for an excellent question. Yes, please see me after dinner for the key on any days you need to tend your plants."

The class filed up to Madam Sprout's desk and collected everything they needed. Each of them gathered several small packets rattling with seeds which had the name of each plant on the front; a rectangular box waiting to be filled with soil and fertiliser and a small watering can.

"Harry, you're so brave," said Neville once they'd returned to their tables again and the buzz of other conversations effectively prevented them from being overheard.

"Brave?" echoed Harry.

"Yes, standing up to Malfoy like that."

Harry blushed and began shovelling soil into his box. Was it bravery or just bluster? If he was really brave, shouldn't he have been able to stand up to Vernon? Harry was terrified of facing Voldemort again, but he knew it was something he had to do. Harry couldn't just stand by and let the creature destroy the Wizarding world no matter how scared he was. Because if Harry didn't do it, who would? It was his destiny: a destiny that he had never asked for, that he had never chosen, but one he would fulfil all the same – or die trying.

***

Part 14

Lunch tasted even weirder than breakfast had; everything tasted bitter and the only way Harry could manage to eat any of it was to sprinkle sugar over everything.

"Ugh!" grimaced Ron; still with a mouthful of carrots and roast beef, but at least he swallowed the rest before he continued. "Harry, you put sugar on your spuds!"

"They taste funny," said Harry, belatedly realising how odd it was for him to add sugar to savoury food like potatoes. At least now they were palatable and he could eat them and the rest of his meal.

"Harry, I really think you need to go and see Madam Pomfrey," said Hermione. "If you feel food has a weird flavour there's something wrong."

"I'm fine!" said Harry. "I wish people would just leave me alone!" Harry climbed over the bench and stalked out of the Great Hall. He didn't need to see Madam Pomfrey; more than that he didn't want to see Madam Pomfrey. She'd probably start in on him again about masturbating and wet dreams and Harry didn't feel that he could bring himself to do it. He just couldn't do it.

He had less than fifteen minutes left before lunch was over and he had to get to Potions. It was the first Potions class of the year, the first class knowing that Severus was his mate and they had to pretend to loathe each other. Harry didn't know how he was going to cope for a year in that class.

Despite his promise, Harry's feet headed towards the boys' bathroom at the end of the corridor. He could have a few moments to himself; a few moments in which to cut and let the guilt and the fear bleed away from him. Unfortunately Ron and Hermione caught up with him just as he reached the bathroom door. They were bearing down on him like two people on a mission and at that moment he hated them for thwarting what he really wanted to do.

"There you are," said Hermione, as if Harry had been missing from lunch for hours rather than a few minutes. "Have you gone to see Professor Lupin yet?"

"What for?" Harry had no intention of seeking Remus out if they weren't in class.

"To get your wand back. He should really have given it back to you at the end of the lesson. He knows you need it for your other classes."

"There's no point, Hermione. He won't give it back to me."

"What are you three doing lurking in the corridor? Shouldn't you be on your way to my class?" came an imperious voice from behind Harry. He turned round and felt his heart lift as he saw Severus there.

"Yes, sir," said Hermione. "But sir, Harry doesn't have his wand. Professor Lupin confiscated it this morning and didn't give it back."

"Hermione!" hissed Harry in despair. The last thing he needed was for Severus and Remus to be at each other's throats again.

"What mischief were you perpetrating that your wand was confiscated, Potter?" Severus sneered at him.

"Nothing, sir."

"I highly doubt that; you're always up to something. There must have been a reason, why did he take your wand?"

"I don't know, sir," replied Harry, his voice hoarse. He'd forgotten how awful it felt to be berated so publicly and the fact that it was only an act didn't help one bit.

"He didn't do anything!" protested Ron, jumping to Harry's defence. "Lupin just grabbed it out of his hand and gave Harry detention for no reason!"

"Ten points from Gryffindor, Weasley, for disrespecting a member of staff; it's Professor Lupin; maybe the loss of points will help you remember."

Ron's ears turned red but he bit his tongue and didn't retort with anything. "Miss Granger, keep an eye on the class until I return. Potter, come with me." Hermione and Ron gave Harry worried glances but they headed off towards the dungeon stairs.

Severus led Harry to one of the empty classrooms on this corridor and locked and warded the doors. "Harry, is it true? Did Lupin take your wand this morning?"

Harry nodded, ashamed and appalled to find his eyes overflowing with tears as he fought valiantly to hold them back. It was no use, they just kept on coming and soon he was sobbing as if his heart was breaking. Severus was over to him in two strides, wrapping Harry up in his arms and letting Harry cry against his chest. Harry's whole body was shaking with the force of his sobs and if Severus hadn't been holding him he was sure he would have fallen to the floor.

"Ssh, Harry. It's all right, I've got you," said Severus as he rubbed Harry's back in soothing motions, but didn't let his hands wander anywhere other than that.

Harry's throat was aching, his nose was running and still he just couldn't seem to stop crying. He didn't want Severus to stop holding him, to stop comforting him and he clung on with clawed fingers to Severus' back. Soon his crying eased, but he didn't let go and Severus seemed only too happy to let Harry stay there in his embrace.

Both of them were breathing rather heavily. "I - I don't want to let go," admitted Harry. He felt safe here; nothing could harm him if he was in Severus' arms.

"Nor I, Harry, but I'm afraid we must. You need to get your wand back and I have classes to teach. We can't spend all day like this, tempting though that thought is."

"I- I'm sorry," said Harry, moving away and hanging his head.

"You have nothing to apologise for, Harry. Did Lupin really give you detention?"

"Yeah. It was awful, Severus. It was like - it was like how you used to treat me in class, as if he really hated me."

"That doesn't sound like Lupin."

"I'm not lying," protested Harry.

"No, I didn't think you were. Come on, let's go and get your wand back."

"I - I don't want to face him," said Harry, he could almost feel his face pale.

"You can wait outside the door, but one way or another, Harry, I am getting your wand back."

***

"Lupin, I want a word," said Severus as he strode down the aisle towards Lupin's desk. That Lupin had not only dared to touch Severus' mate without permission, never mind remove his wand from him, had the anger simmering to boil in his blood. The werewolf no longer frightened Severus, but he was scared for his mate and Lupin had no right to remove Harry's wand from him.

"Potter's wand," said Severus, holding out his hand. Lupin ignored him and shuffled some papers about on his desk. "Lupin! Didn't you hear me?"

"I heard you, Severus, but you're wasting your breath. Harry will never get his hands on this wand again. Was it your idea? Some twisted form of revenge for all the pranks we played on you? Was it you who got him to steal it?"

"What the blazes are you talking about? Have you taken too much Wolfsbane?"

"This!" snapped Lupin, removing Harry's wand and holding it in his hand.

"Potter's wand."

"No, it isn't! He stole it from Grimmauld Place! This wand belonged to Sirius!"

"You should bloody well hear yourself, Lupin! Have you completely lost it? You were there; you saw Sirius fall and he had his bloody wand in his hand as he fell through the veil! It may be similar, but this wand is Potter's, not Black's. I was there they day he got it from Ollivander’s."

"So that's where Harry has been this summer, he was staying with you?"

"He had to stay somewhere. Perhaps you've forgotten there's a certain Dark Lord after his blood?"

"No, I haven't forgotten that. It's the reason Sirius is dead," said Lupin softly and handed the twelve inches of ash wood to Severus. "Albus asked me at the beginning of the summer if Harry could stay with me; said he thought Harry thought of me like another godfather."

"You refused to allow him to stay with you?" Severus head was reeling. Because of that refusal, Harry had to endure weeks of abuse and torture at the hands of Vernon Dursley. "Why in Merlin's name would you refuse such a request?"

"Did you really think I was going to allow the boy responsible for Sirius' death to stay with me? I can't stand the sight of him. Every time I see him I just see that day over and over again."

***

Harry didn't stay to listen to anything more; he'd heard enough.

***

"Bellatrix Lestrange killed Black," said Severus. "And if you want to lay the blame somewhere, lay it on the creature responsible, the Dark Lord, not on a fifteen year old boy who went there on a rescue mission."

"It was Harry's fault," protested Lupin. "Haven't you noticed that he gets people killed? What about that other boy, Diggory, wasn't it? If he hadn't been with Harry, he wouldn't have been killed."

"You really believe that, don't you? It may have escaped your notice, Lupin, but the Dark Lord doesn't care who stands in his way; he doesn't care who he kills and nor do his followers. Harry Potter is the only person who stands in the way of hundreds of years of Darkness."

"Then we haven't got much hope, have we?" spat Lupin and Severus couldn't bear to stay and hear another word spoken against his mate. He had to get out of there before he did something.

When Severus exited the Defence classroom with Harry's wand in tow, the boy was nowhere in sight. It was too much to hope for that Harry hadn't heard every word Lupin said. Severus knew that Harry with his sensitive hearing would have heard everything and he knew there was no way Harry was in a fit state to go anywhere near a classroom.

Severus made his way to the bathroom and found what he expected; Harry curled up in one of the stalls, both arms dripping blood. Harry was keening, a low wail coming from his throat as he rocked backwards and forwards, his arms wrapped around his torso.

"Harry," said Severus softly. His mate looked up, his eyes wild and frightened. There were no knives or razors in any of the school bathrooms.

"I'm - I'm sorry!" sobbed Harry.

"What did you use?" Severus' voice remained soft; getting angry at Harry for something he couldn't control would not help matters.

"S- soap. I transfigured a bar of soap." Harry tried to pull down his sleeves to hide the slashes he'd made on his arms.

"Wait a moment," said Severus as he cast a healing charm over them so that the blood dried and the cuts healed over, leaving just scabs.

"Do you feel well enough to go to class or do you need to go to the infirmary?" asked Severus.

"Class," said Harry at once.

"Very well," said Severus, knowing Harry needed to talk somewhere but now was not the time or the place. "You will have detention with me on Saturday for being late." Severus handed him his wand and then both of them made their way to the Potions classroom.

***

Part 15

Harry was ten minutes early for his Saturday detention, but he just couldn't bear to be in the Great Hall any longer. At least no one batted an eyelid when he put rather a lot of sugar on his cornflakes, but Hermione was still giving him strange looks when she thought Harry wasn't looking. He hated it; he hated that he couldn't tell them what was wrong, what he was.

Lupin had been picking on him all week and even the Slytherins noticed, so not only had Harry to put up with Lupin but with taunts from Malfoy as well regarding his pet werewolf. For Harry's last essay in Defence, Lupin had given him a D, the first fail he'd ever received for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Harry wasn't sure if the essay really deserved a D, or if Lupin was just using it as another bullying tactic. Hermione might have been able to give him an honest opinion on it, but he didn't want to let her know his low mark. He was glad that their NEWTs wouldn't be marked by their teachers, but if he kept getting terrible marks in class, Professor McGonagall might suggest he try something else.

Harry had been bullied enough by his relatives to know that it was exactly what Lupin was doing, but that didn't make it any easier to cope with. If he tried standing up for himself in Lupin's class, he was given detention or had points deducted. Professor McGonagall had already hauled him over the coals for the amount of points lost and detentions he'd been given in only the week since school had started.

Severus had still been at breakfast when Harry left the Great Hall, so he just waited in the corridor until Severus finally rounded the corner. The Potions professor didn't say anything; just waved his wand at his office door and gestured at Harry to go inside. Once both of them entered the room, Severus warded it and cast a couple of silencing charms for good measure.

There were no dirty cauldrons waiting to be scrubbed and the table was free of ingredients that needed chopping.

"Sir? What will I be doing for my detention?" asked Harry.

"You will be talking to me," said Severus, as he opened the door to his private chambers and beckoned Harry forward with a pale hand. Harry stood until Severus waved him to the sofa. Severus summoned a house elf and ordered them some morning tea. "You didn't eat much breakfast," said Severus by way of explanation.

"Everything tastes funny," said Harry.

"Bitter?"

"Yes."

"That's perfectly normal as you go through transition, Harry. It will get better, but if you don't want your friends to be even more suspicious, try casting a sweetening spell over your food rather than add sugar to everything. Less obvious."

"Oh." Harry had never thought of that before. "Is that what you wanted to talk about?"

"Among other things. Why did you not return to see Madam Pomfrey? She was expecting you yesterday afternoon."

"She told you I didn't go? I thought that sort of stuff was private!"

"Normally it is, but she was worried about you and frankly, so am I. You are not coping well with any of this, are you?" Severus glanced at Harry's arms and even though his shirt sleeves hid the scars, Harry felt sure that Severus could see right through the cloth to the secrets beneath.

"Are you still having nightmares, Harry? Do you want to tell me what they're about? You might feel better if you can talk about it."

Harry glanced at him, wondering if that was true. It was bad enough that Severus knew what his uncle had done; how was Harry supposed to explain the dreams with Sirius and Remus?

"You won't tell anyone, will you?" asked Harry, twisting his hands in his lap.

"Not if you don't want me to. I promise," said Severus.

"In - in the dream, Sirius is there and Remus too. They - they find out that I'm not James' son and - and they hate me for lying to them about that. Then - um - Remus is in his werewolf form and he bites me while Sirius - Sirius does to me what my uncle did." Harry hung his head, feeling the dirty, soiled feeling that lingered long after the dreams had finished. He couldn't bear to look Severus in the face, couldn't bear to see the disgust he felt sure he would see etched onto those features.

"Harry, did Sirius ever do anything that might make you dream of him in this way?" Severus asked softly.

Harry's head shot up. "NO! He never did anything like that to me, ever! He wasn't like Vernon!"

"And what about Lupin?"

"No, neither of them did anything to me. I don't know why I would dream of them like that."

"Are you frightened of Lupin, of him being a werewolf? Perhaps subconsciously you're scared of him?"

"He's never given me any reason to be scared of him," said Harry. "He's been picking on me in class, but it doesn't scare me. It's annoying more than anything, because if I say something he just takes points or gives me detention."

"As your teacher, he's got power over you," said Severus. "Maybe that's why you're having these dreams, Harry. You don't want someone else to have power over you and because you feel powerless in class, perhaps it’s manifesting itself in dreams."

"But I had the dreams before school started," said Harry.

"When did they start?"

"After Voldemort Called you that day in Diagon Alley."

"Please do not use that name in my presence," said Severus, clasping a hand over his left forearm.

"Sorry, sir."

"You've been having the same recurring nightmare since then?"

Harry nodded. "Is that significant?"

"Maybe. Was your scar hurting after these dreams?"

"I - I can't remember. You think he sent them, don't you?"

"It is a distinct possibility, yes. But how would the Dark Lord know about your fears? Have you been clearing your mind before you sleep?"

"Um…" mumbled Harry. Clear his mind? That was a task of monumental proportions these days, what with trying to keep his form hidden from his dorm mates; worry over Lupin and the farce Harry's Defence lessons had become; wondering if he was going to have the nightmares again; trying to avoid Madam Pomfrey; going over and over all of that day's events in his mind. It was like Harry's mind was picking up hundreds of radio stations and he had no idea how to switch any of them off.

"I'll take that as a ‘no’, then," said Severus. "Keeping your mind clear is so important for Occlumency, Harry. I thought we'd covered that already. Clearing your mind is the only way you can prepare it to block him."

"But how? How do I clear my mind? No one's ever told me how to do it, just that I have to. My mind just won't shut off, I've tried, Severus, but I can't do it."

"Of course you can do it, Harry. You've just not found the right method yet. Try focusing on just one thing, maybe a thread in the canopy above your bed. Just stare at it and think of nothing else. Just that canopy and if you find your mind wandering, bring it back immediately to the canopy. Eventually you'll find that you won't even need to think of the canopy, you’ll be able to clear your mind at will."

"How long will that take?"

"Probably a couple of weeks if you practice every night."

A couple of weeks? So in the meantime he would have to put up with Voldemort rooting around in his mind and sending him nightmares? Harry shuddered as if he could already feel the Dark Lord inside his mind. His hand went automatically to his scar and rubbed it, as if by sheer force of his will he could remove it and his connection to that horrible creature.

The elf popped back with their tea; Harry was pleased to discover that along with the tea there were plates of dainty cakes and biscuits, nothing savoury at all.

"Thank you," said Severus and the elf Disapparated again. Harry looked at him. "You find it surprising that I am polite to such creatures?"

Harry blushed. "Er, yeah."

"The Elves and Fae are kin, Harry," said Severus as he poured out their tea into two china cups. "The Fae and Elves were the first magical folk in these Isles, but when humans came, the Fae retreated to their realm of Tir Na Nog. They saw too much death and destruction between the humans and knew that they would be hunted because of who they were. The Elves elected to remain behind and hoped to bring peace to the humans and eventually Wizardkind. Instead, over the centuries they became enslaved and the need to serve, to be a slave was bred further and further into them."

"What do you mean, bred into them?" asked Harry, horrified at what he thought it meant.

"Harry, to wizards like Lucius Malfoy and the like, house elves are beneath animals. Those elves that show themselves to be free thinkers, like your friend Dobby, would be sterilised so that those genes could never be passed on. There is no such concept as love and marriage among the elves today. Their masters decide which elves should reproduce and they keep elves on hand for such purposes. To them, it is like arranging a stud for a mare."

"Oh God! That's awful!" said Harry and he vowed never to utter one word of complaint about Hermione’s S.P.E.W. again. "They - they don't do that here, do they?"

"No, all the Hogwarts elves are sterilised; they were turned out by their masters for being too forward-thinking."

"But, but they're still slaves!" protested Harry. "How could they choose one form of slavery for another?"

"That's just it, Harry. They chose to come here. None of them are mistreated; they have a roof over their head; they are fed and get time off, just like the other staff. The only difference is that they are not paid for their work. That was their choice too, Harry. They refused to be paid. It's in their genetic make-up."

"But that doesn't make it right!"

"No, it doesn't, but how can you rescue someone who doesn't want to be saved?"

"Are we talking about elves now, or me?"

"A bit of both I think," said Severus. "Harry, I think it might be best if you told your friends what had happened to you."

"About Vernon, you mean? I don't know if I can, Severus. It's hard to talk about."

"I know it's hard, but your heart might feel better for it. You have a secret from them and it's dragging you down. They know something is wrong, Harry. Wouldn’t it be better if you told them?"

"Is that okay with you? I mean with you being my mate and everything? And - um - I meant to ask you, what does that mean exactly?" Harry could feel the blush over his whole body.

Severus smiled at him and set down his teacup. "My dearest Harry; to all intents and purposes it means I am your husband."

***

Part 16

Harry spent the best part of the next week in a daze. He had a husband; Severus Snape was his husband and no one had bothered telling him anything about it. Fae were different to wizards, he got that. They had mates, but not necessarily to have children, so two males or two females together wasn't that big a concern for them. Harry wondered how his friends would react if they knew he was married to a man. Harry didn't feel married; was he really looking for some sort of ceremony in order to feel connected to Severus? He was already connected; he'd known it that day he first met the Potions professor, but hadn't known what it meant at the time. It was so strange, he was married to someone he hadn't even kissed yet!

Harry had been practicing clearing his mind like Severus had asked him to do; the sooner Voldemort could no longer gain access to his mind the better as far as Harry was concerned. He tried Severus' method, staring up at the red and gold of his canopy until the world dimmed to just that – threads and nothing else. The first time it hadn't really worked; for Harry started thinking of where the threads came from: were they silk or cotton; spun by spiders or silkworms? But each night after that he got further and further into thinking of nothing but the threads; he hadn't had a nightmare for two days now, although he knew that was no guarantee. Harry would just keep practicing and practicing.

It was Friday night; the other boys were fast asleep. Ron was snoring on the bed next to Harry’s; Neville was sniffling due to the cold he'd just had; Dean and Seamus were so quiet as to almost not be there. Harry lay staring at the canopy and he knew that tonight sleep would be a long time coming. He'd had an Occlumency lesson with Severus after dinner and Harry couldn't help but remember the brief scene he'd discovered in his professor's mind. His professor and his husband.

Harry was getting better at blocking attacks to his own mind, but then Severus wanted him to both block him and try and attack his mind at the same time. Surprisingly, Harry had been rather good at that and he found himself inside his teacher's mind once more. His heart beat wildly under his ribs at what he'd seen.

Severus, in the shower; completely naked and his wings expanded to their full span. Harry blushed at the memory of those beautiful wings and he'd felt his own wings flutter in response, as well as a fluttering lower down. It was happening again now; he felt the burgeoning erection against his pyjama bottoms. Harry bit his bottom lip, wondering if he dare try to do it. He pulled the curtains closed around his bed and cast a silencing charm for good measure.

Would Severus be offended that the sight of him in the shower aroused Harry, or would he be pleased that his mate was finally finding some sexual feelings towards him? Severus had never tried to do anything besides hug him and Harry knew that if things were to go any further with them, it would be up to him to make the first move. Severus was leaving everything up to him – giving Harry back the control his uncle took from him.

Harry unbuttoned his pyjama top and slipped it off. He could feel an itch, a tingling by his shoulder blades, and knew it meant his wings wanted to be unfurled. Heat was pooling low down in his belly, but he wasn't completely hard yet. Harry stretched his back and released his wings; flapping them a couple of times for good measure before he tugged down his pyjama bottoms and his underwear. He sat cross-legged on his bed, his wings fanning out behind him; trailing his arms up and down his chest.

The old fear was still there, but Harry did his best to banish it. He was at Hogwarts, everyone else was asleep and no one was going to disturb him. Vernon could not come in and rape him here; no matter how many times Harry might want to touch himself. And it was something the other boys did – at least Ron did, for Harry had heard him doing it a couple of times at The Burrow when he thought Harry was asleep. He remembered both Severus and Madam Pomfrey telling him that there was nothing wrong with allowing himself to feel pleasure. It was his body and he was allowed to seek pleasure in it.

Harry stared down at his prick; he'd never really looked at it before, just had a quick wash in the shower or bath, but he'd never really scrutinised it before. Curly black hair covered his groin, the pink swell of his cock in the middle if it seemed a bit incongruous and he smiled a little as it lay curled up in his lap, for it had softened quite a bit now.

How did you make it get hard if you wanted it to? Harry thought back to the dream-image and felt butterflies flutter in his tummy as he remembered all of Severus' pale flesh underneath the spray of water, as well as the stark contrast of his wings. Had Severus been erect in the shower? Harry couldn't tell from the angle he'd viewed the memory; he just saw the man from the back. Did Severus touch himself like this?

Remembering the sudden arousal he'd felt when he'd first touched his pointed ears; Harry reached up and caressed the tip of his left ear, gasping for breath at the sudden burst of pleasure that shot throughout his whole body. His cock filled with blood and smacked back against his abdomen. Harry used his other hand to reach down and tug and squeeze at his heated flesh, feeling his toes curling beneath him.

He wrapped both hands around his cock, sliding them up and down along his length. Oh, that was good. He tightened his grip and felt fluid leaking out from the tip; had he come yet? No; he still felt as if he was yearning for something. Harry folded his wings so that they could brush along his knees and his inner thighs. Oh, fuck! He liked that: the sensation of softness from his feathers and the firm grip of his hands.

Harry began thrusting his hips faster and faster almost of his own volition as he felt a tightness coiling deep in his belly and at the base of his cock. His balls felt really full and heavy and any moment now he felt as if he was going to go flying headfirst over a cliff. He moaned and suddenly he was there, spurting over his hands as his first-ever orgasm left his body. His wings were fluttering madly; his thighs and belly were quivering as the sensations tore through him. He'd never felt anything like it and he was panting harshly as well. He'd never thought it would take so much out of him physically; Harry just lay there for a few moments until he calmed down and then cast a cleansing charm on himself.

That night, despite not having Occluded, there were no nightmares.

***

"What another wasted effort from you, Potter. Stay behind and you can see if you can salvage some of this mess. Just be lucky you're getting a second chance." Severus dropped the ladle back into Harry's cauldron and turned his nose up at the mess it contained. Harry had deliberately added the ginger root, knowing it would render his Shrinking Solution ineffective, but he needed to talk to Severus privately and they'd both agreed rather than give him detentions all the time – which went on his school record – that if Potions was the last lesson Severus could ask him to remain behind without anyone worrying too much about it.

"Yes, sir," said Harry, looking suitably subdued for Ron and Hermione’s benefit as they were giving him sympathetic looks.

Harry knew he was going to have to talk to them soon, but he wasn't looking forward to it at all. What if they didn't want to be his friends any more once they found out? He stirred his potion for the rest of the lesson, just trying not to think.

It was two weeks until Halloween; since they'd been back at school Voldemort had Called Severus three times. Three times in which Harry had visions of those meetings and suffered the agony of the Cruciatus curses Voldemort had inflicted on his followers, despite Harry Occluding his mind every night. Somehow, Voldemort could still gain access to his subconscious while Harry was asleep. Harry knew everything Severus did from the meetings where Voldemort was torturing someone.

At Halloween, Voldemort wanted Harry brought to him or Severus would be killed; it was as simple as that. Voldemort was accepting no more excuses. To the Dark Lord’s mind, Severus was in that rare position of having access to Harry and Voldemort did not understand why Severus hadn't brought him sooner.

So when the bell rang and the rest of the class filed out, Harry lingered behind. "See you at dinner," said Ron as he passed Harry's desk. Harry nodded and smiled at Ron and Hermione when they left. By the time the last student had departed, Severus was cleaning the blackboard with a wave of his wand.

Severus had been right after all; Harry's potions had improved once he'd finally been able to see the instructions with his new glasses. Sometimes he wondered how he managed to see at all with the old ones. Everything was so much clearer now, but despite being Fae, Harry still needed glasses. Too much damage had been done to his eyesight earlier in his life for it to clear completely now.

Severus turned back round and warded the classroom, then just stared at Harry for a few moments.

Harry left his desk and walked up to him. "I'm scared, Severus," admitted Harry. "I'm not ready to face him, am I?"

"Not at the moment, no," agreed Severus, holding his arms out. Harry was quick to take advantage of the comfort they offered and pressed his head against his husband's chest. "You would be a fool if you weren't scared of him. Even if he doesn't find out you're Fae, he can still hurt you terribly. We need more time to train you, Harry."

"A Time-Turner, you mean?" Harry glanced up at him; Severus' eyes were closed and he was taking deep breaths.

"No, that isn't what I mean. Harry, we need to go to Tir Na Nog. We need to see your parents."

All the blood in Harry's head seemed to settle somewhere around his midriff and if it hadn't been for Severus' support; he would have fallen to the floor. "My parents?" squeaked Harry.

"Yes, Harry. It's about time you met them, don't you think?"

***

Part 17

"Breathe, Harry, breathe," Severus urged the boy in his arms, for it seemed as though Harry was about to hyperventilate or pass out. It probably wasn't the best idea to spring it on Harry out of the blue like that, but surely Harry had realised that he would have to meet his parents sometime? It was a daunting prospect, that was for sure, but he hadn't expected such a shocked reaction. Severus led Harry over to his desk and set him down on top of it. Harry was breathing erratically and his fingers clung to Severus' teaching robe, as if he couldn't quite let go.

"Drink this," said Severus, conjuring a glass of water for him. Harry's hand was shaking so much that most of the water sloshed onto the desk before Harry could get it to his mouth. Severus removed the glass from Harry's hand and tilted the boy's head backwards so that Harry could take a drink. When Harry had drained half the glass, Severus set it aside and caressed Harry's face with the tips of his fingers.

"Does it distress you that much?" asked Severus, staring deep into Harry's eyes.

"I - I never really thought about it before. I didn't think they would want to see me."

"Oh, Harry. Of course they want to see you, but it is very difficult to travel between realms. The only way is to transform into something smaller, such as an insect or a spider. Going to Tir Na Nog is the easy part; it's the getting back that will be difficult. Because we would be so small, it would be very easy for a bird to carry us off, or even for someone to tread on us."

"So I have to learn to be an Animagus before we can go?"

"You don't need to learn, Harry. You're Fae; your whole being is magical. You can do any magic you need to, including transforming yourself at will into any creature you desire. You've just never tried to do it."

"Oh." Harry sounded surprised and Severus knew that deep down Harry was still finding it difficult to come to terms with what he was and all the magical skills he now possessed. He'd always had them; he just didn't know what they meant. "Is that why Malfoy bounced off me that day in Herbology?" asked Harry. "It was like he hit a wall or something."

"Was he trying to attack you?"

"Yeah, he wanted to punch me, but he couldn't."

"Yes, you have a natural shield which can protect you."

"It didn't protect me at Privet Drive," said Harry sadly.

"No, it doesn't work against Muggles, only magical folk," said Severus. "It will give you some protection against the Dark Lord, but not enough. He has your blood in him now, Harry. Fae blood. It is both his strength and his weakness. Harry, you need a Secret-Keeper regarding your identity. The headmaster might be a good choice, or Madam Pomfrey as she knows already. I think you need to let your friends know who you are but you also need to ensure that they are unable to reveal it to anyone else. Only your Secret-Keeper will be able to reveal your identity."

"Couldn't you do it, Severus?"

"I would love to, but it's too risky for me to be your Secret-Keeper. There is always a risk that the Dark Lord will be able to gain access to my mind despite all our precautions. If he discovered the means to kill you through me, I could never forgive myself. I'm sorry, Harry. This is one thing I cannot do for you."

"Okay, Madam Pomfrey then," said Harry. "When should we tell Ron and Hermione?"

"As soon as possible, we need to travel to Tir Na Nog this weekend."

"Three days?" gasped Harry.

"The sooner the better, Harry, for all concerned."

Harry nodded. "Right. Tonight after dinner? I can ask them to go to the infirmary with me. Can you come too?"

"If you wish me to."

"I do, Severus, I do," whispered Harry as he arched his body forwards and gave Severus a small peck on the cheek.

When Harry pulled back, Severus reached a hand up and caressed the skin where Harry's lips had just been. His face felt on fire where Harry's lips had touched and he stared down at his young mate, feeling his wings twitch.

"But first Madam Pomfrey needs to do the Fidelius Charm on both of us so that she can act as Secret-Keeper."

Harry nodded again and jumped down from the desk, wobbling a little as he did so. Severus' arms went out automatically to steady him and Harry grinned up at him, blushing a delightful shade of pink. "I like being in your arms," said Harry.

"I like having you there," said Severus, bending down to place a soft kiss in Harry's hair.

***

Harry could barely eat any of his dinner, he felt far too nervous about what he and Severus were about to reveal to his two best friends. It would be for the best in the long run though, wouldn't it? Harry felt as if he had so many secrets from them that they didn't really know him anymore. He was still Harry though, still a boy who'd grown up in a cupboard for the best part of his life; still a boy who'd been bullied and abused; still the boy Ron had shared that first-ever train ride with. Harry hoped they would understand when they were told everything.

After Madam Pomfrey had placed both of them under the Fidelius Charm Harry felt a bit more protected that his secret wouldn't inadvertently get out. Harry, Severus, or Madam Pomfrey were now the only ones who could reveal what he and Severus were and Harry did not think that Madam Pomfrey would betray them to Voldemort, not even under torture.

"Harry? You've hardly eaten a thing," said Hermione, looking pointedly at Harry's barely-touched dinner plate. The mashed potatoes and gammon steak only had a few nibbles taken out of each. Harry had eaten both his pineapple rings though. "Are you sure you don't need to see Madam Pomfrey?"

"Um... actually, Hermione, can you and Ron come with me to the infirmary after dinner?"

"Oh, God!" Hermione clasped a hand over her mouth. "Harry, what is it? What's wrong? Oh God, it's serious, isn't it?"

"I'm okay, Hermione… sort of, but I do need to tell you both something. Can you come with me? Please?"

"Of course we will!" exclaimed Hermione, nudging Ron in the ribs. He swallowed a mouthful of potato.

"What?" muttered Ron; obviously he hadn't heard any of Harry's and Hermione's conversation.

"We have to go to the infirmary with Harry," said Hermione.

"Okay," said Ron and tucked into his dinner once more. Harry had to smile at that, nothing got between Ron and his food. His best friend was so tall that Harry guessed he probably needed the energy just to keep growing. Harry would never grow as tall as Severus or Ron and that was another thing the Dursleys were entirely to blame for.

Harry couldn't eat much of the dinner, but he demolished the desserts with gusto: sherry trifle; Pavlova; profiteroles; along with his favourite – ice-cream and jelly. He felt a lot better after he'd eaten the desserts, but his stomach gave a jolt when all the plates cleared away and there was a scrape of wood on floor as everyone got ready to leave.

Harry glanced up at the top table to see Madam Pomfrey and Severus give him a helpful nod as they left through the small teacher's door behind the table. When Harry finally stood up, he had to sit straight back down again as a wave of dizziness assailed him.

Hermione thrust a goblet of pumpkin juice under his nose. "Thanks," said Harry as he took a sip. When he next lifted his head, the room still seemed to be spinning around him. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Taking a large gulp of air, Harry set the goblet back on the table, where it vanished immediately, and he stood up on shaky legs.

"You are ill, aren't you?" asked Hermione as all three of them made their way to the infirmary.

"It's just nerves," said Harry as he pushed open the door to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey ushered the three of them into her office. Ron stopped short when he saw Severus standing up beside one of the five chairs.

"What's he doing here?" Ron whispered in Harry's ear.

"Professor Snape is here because I want him to be here, Ron," said Harry, speaking out loud, although with Severus' hearing, he knew his husband had probably heard Ron's whisper anyway.

"Oh God!" moaned Hermione again. "It's about You-Know-Who, isn't it? He's cursed you and now you're dying!"

"Hermione, calm down!" urged Harry, leading his friend to a chair. "I'm not dying."

Severus waited until Harry was seated before taking a chair himself.

"Mr. Potter is in no more imminent danger from the Dark Lord than he was before. The creature is, and always will be, out to murder your friend," said Severus.

"Yeah, Harry told us about the prophecy," said Ron, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"Ron, Hermione, I have to tell you something but it can't go any further, you can't tell anyone what I'm going to tell you, ever. That's why we're both under the Fidelius Charm and Madam Pomfrey is our Secret-Keeper. Once we tell you, you won't be able to tell anyone else."

"What? You didn't trust us enough to tell us without a charm?" demanded Ron.

"It's not a case of not trusting you, Ron. It's not trusting Voldemort. He knows you're both my friends. What happens if he kidnaps you and reads your minds? With the charm, he won't be able to see the information no matter how good a Legilimens he is."

"That makes sense," said Hermione. "Go on, Harry."

"There was a reason Voldemort wasn't able to kill me when I was a baby," Harry noticed Severus wincing at his use of the name, but Harry ploughed on before he lost his nerve altogether. "The thing is - I'm not exactly human. That's why he couldn't kill me."

"Are you part Veela or something?" asked Ron curiously.

"No, not Veela," said Harry.

"Fae!" exclaimed Hermione suddenly. "That's why you needed so much sugar, you're going through transition! I knew I'd read something about that somewhere! You need the energy!"

"Yes, I'm Fae."

Ron looked goggle-eyed. "Fae? But they're the origins of magic! Which side do you have it on, Harry? Mum or Dad?"

"Both," said Severus. "Harry Potter was raised as the son of Lily and James Potter, but he was never their biological child. Both Harry's parents were pureblood Fae and as such, so is Harry."

"Pureblood Fae? Wow!" exclaimed Ron. "Why did you never tell us, you prat?" he asked, smiling and playfully thumping Harry on the arm.

"Until recently, he did not know. And I would appreciate it if you would not address the Prince of the Fae in such a familiar manner," said Severus and Harry could almost imagine the man's wings bristling.

"It's okay, Severus," said Harry and this time both Hermione and Ron's eyes seemed in danger of popping out of their heads altogether.

"You call him Severus?"

"You're a prince?"

"Um, yeah. About that. There's something else I need to tell you." Harry took a deep breath and began. "The Fae have mates... and .... um ... Severus is mine. He's my husband."

Almost as soon as the words left Harry's mouth, Ron slumped from his chair in a dead faint.

***

Part 18

Madam Pomfrey roused Ron in a matter of moments and he stared around him, as if not quite believing that he had actually fainted. Hermione looked as if she was trying desperately not to giggle behind her hands. Severus' lips quirked up at the corners and Harry knew the man was also trying his best not to admit to the humour of the situation.

"We'll leave you all to talk," said Madam Pomfrey, ushering Severus out the door. "The room is well warded so you can speak freely in here."

"Thank you," said Harry as he watched the matron and his husband leave.

"Harry! You can't be married to that greasy git!" began Ron as soon as the door had closed behind them.

"Well, I am," said Harry.

"But Harry, he's a teacher!" protested Hermione. "You can't be married to a teacher, that can't be allowed!"

"He's my husband. That's all there is to it."

"Harry, if he's abusing you, you've got to tell Professor Dumbledore or McGonagall," said Hermione with a pout.

"He's not abusing me! He's never hurt me." said Harry and he knew that the time had come for him to tell them about his uncle and what had happened at Privet Drive.

***

By the time he had finished, Harry was almost in tears; Hermione had already broken down in sobs and Ron looked so pale that his freckles had disappeared.

"You never told us about the cupboard," said Ron softly. "I mean - we saw the bars on the window that time, but we didn't know they'd locked you in a cupboard. Why didn't you tell us before?"

"I was ashamed," said Harry. "Afraid of how people would feel about me if they knew. It always felt as if I deserved it. That it was my fault. Everything was my fault."

"Oh, Harry! No! No!" said Hermione. "None of it was your fault. He beat you and - and raped you, but it wasn't your fault. That's what rape means."

"So - so you don't think any less of me? You still want to be my friends?"

"Harry, of course we do," said Ron and made to hug Harry. He paused a few feet away. "Is this all right?"

The tears that Harry had been trying his best to hold back flowed freely now at the concern Ron had about touching him. "Yeah," croaked Harry. "A hug would be good right about now." Two sets of arms came around him; all three of them were crying and sniffling, but Harry didn't feel at all embarrassed. It was an emotional release and there was no Vernon here to berate him for his weakness.

When they'd all calmed down somewhat; they settled back into the chairs and resumed talking.

"So Professor Snape has never… you know? The marriage hasn't been consummated?" asked Hermione.

"No, we haven't done anything like that. I think he's leaving it up to me. After what happened with my uncle I don't think he's going to make me feel that I have no choice."

"That's good, I suppose," said Hermione. "And maybe he's waiting until you've left school before taking things further."

"Maybe," said Harry, but Severus had never given any indication of that. Harry had the impression that if he was to seek out Severus tonight he wouldn't be turned away. Not that Harry felt ready for that yet.

"But Harry, it's Snape! You hate Snape, don't you? He's always so awful to you in class."

"And who else is in that class, Ron?" Harry reminded him.

"Malfoy? You think Malfoy is telling tales of how Snape treats you in class?"

"It's not just Malfoy, Ron," said Hermione. "There are lots of students in Slytherin whose parents are Death Eaters. Any one of them could report back if Snape was being nice to Harry."

"I always thought he really hated you because of your dad and everything," said Ron.

"Only he wasn't my real dad and Severus has never hated me, not really. It was all an act."

"He's a good actor then!"

"He has to be, Ron. How else do you think he survived this long spying on Voldemort?"

"So - so he is on our side then?" Ron sounded a lot more subdued now, as if considering the risks Severus had to take every time he was in close proximity to Voldemort.

"He is." Harry was no stranger to the doubts plaguing Ron; he'd doubted Severus himself so many times over the years, but looking back, everything Severus had done, he had done to save Harry, not harm him. If Severus truly was Voldemort's man. Then Harry would have been served to the Dark Lord on a platter years ago. "There's something else," said Harry and he told them about being away for the weekend in order to train to defeat Voldemort. Harry didn't mention where they were going; he wasn't quite sure how they'd take that news.

***

Saturday morning dawned bright and cold; frost covered the lawns, crunching beneath their feet as Harry and Severus made their way towards the anti-Apparition wards hidden beneath his invisibility cloak. The headmaster had only been told that they would be away from the castle for the weekend, not where they were going. Severus hadn't wanted to risk anyone knowing where they were going and Harry trusted his judgement.

Instead of heading towards the gates of the school, Severus steered them towards the Forbidden Forest. Fang was tied up outside Hagrid's hut and he growled as they passed, sensing someone there even though he couldn't see them. There was a small plume of smoke rising from Hagrid's chimney and Harry thought fondly of the warm fire within and a mug of hot tea. He was tired, he was cold and he was hungry. Did all adventurers feel like this?

They'd left without any breakfast; Severus had explained to him that in order to pass from Earth to the Faerie realm, they couldn't have any human food for a day beforehand. The same would happen on their return from Tir Na Nog – no Faerie food for a day or they wouldn't be able to return. Harry remembered reading something about food in Muggle fairy tales, but he had thought that if you ate any Faerie food at all you would have to remain in that realm forever, but Severus was quick to point out the mistake.

Harry shivered despite the warmth of his winter cloak and was pleased when Severus put his arm around him for some extra heat. They ventured deep into the Forest, deeper than Harry had ever gone before. There were weird rustlings and strange calls from creatures that he couldn't see and wasn't sure he wanted to. Despite dawn being over an hour old, inside the trees it was as dark as twilight and they didn't dare risk a Lumos in case it drew something to them.

Suddenly it got brighter; they'd reached a clearing and there was a gap in the trees overhead so that the blue of the sky was visible. A bleached tree trunk lay on its side to the left of them; grass had grown here and in the centre was a ring of pale brown mushrooms.

"This is it," said Severus and Harry removed the invisibility cloak from both of them. Startled birds flew out of the trees at seeing them appear out of thin air.

"What is it?"

"It's a portal to Tir Na Nog. A Faerie Fort."

"A what?"

"The ring of mushrooms; that's called a Faerie Fort. They're markers to let you know there is a portal here, for those with eyes to see."

"So only if you're Fae you know what it is?"

"Usually, yes; but some mortals have discovered them by chance or the Fae drew them in. Mortals have been known to fall asleep within the Forts and never be seen again. They stayed in Tir Na Nog, or were forced to."

"Forced to? You mean they were kidnapped?"

"Harry, the Fae are not the fluffy little creatures you find in picture books. They are warriors and they are ruthless when they are threatened. Yes, a few have been known to take mortals against their will, but it is not common and the Queen is doing her best to stamp out the practice of The Wild Hunt altogether."

"The Wild Hunt?"

"There is one day in each mortal year when the Fae can cross easily between realms; on that day some of them hunt mortals for sport. Not to kill, but to keep either as a pet or a lover. With no magic of their own, Muggle mortals have very little chance against them."

Harry felt his heart speed up in his chest. Warriors. Ruthless. Not fluffy little creatures. And Severus wanted them to go willingly to this place? Harry suddenly wished with all his heart that he was indeed James and Lily Potter's only child and not a Fae prince.

"I don't want to go," Harry blurted at last. Would Severus force him? Take him against his will to a realm that Harry had only read about in stories? It felt so unreal standing here talking about it as if was real.

"I cannot make you go, Harry. As your mate, I cannot do anything that would harm you and taking you there against your will might break your mind. I can only hope you see that it is something we have to do. You are the only hope the world has against the Dark Lord and there is only one way he can be killed. I can't reveal it to you here, only there."

Harry felt the pressure on his shoulders; he knew the prophecy backwards and forwards by now, he'd been thinking of it so often these past few months. Sirius had died because of it, his friends had been hurt because of it and was Harry now thinking of giving up, making those sacrifices seem like nothing?

He thought of all the people who could be hurt: Severus; his friends; the Weasleys; all the children who might grow up orphaned or killed by the Death Eaters. It was Harry's duty, his destiny, but in that moment he didn't want to have a duty or a destiny. He wanted to be Harry, a boy concerned with nothing more taxing than exam results, pranks and fun, but he knew that was not for him. His parents had given him up; they had sent him to this realm to be a weapon. He'd been forged, but would he ever be ready for battle?

"I have to do it, don't I, Severus? I can't let Voldemort win."

"No, Harry, you can't."

"What form should I take?"

"Your mother was usually a spider when she came to visit you."

"So that's why I never knew she was there, she was so small," mused Harry.

"Stand inside the circle before we transform," said Severus and moved to do just that. Harry joined him and reached out his hand. Severus gave it a comforting squeeze and smiled down at him.

"It'll be okay, Harry. You'll see."

Harry nodded, although he was far from confident. He closed his eyes and concentrated on becoming a spider, imagining eight legs and a hairy body, feeling himself shrink. When he opened his eyes, the mushrooms looked like trees and there was another spider standing next to him. Spider-Severus blinked and then Harry felt himself fall through space, tumbling over and over, buffeted by the rush of wind going past him.

He stopped and automatically returned to his normal form. Harry was afraid to open his eyes; afraid of what he might see.

"Welcome to Faerie, Harry," Severus whispered, close to his ear.

***

Part 19

"Open your eyes," said Severus as he gently caressed Harry's cheek. Harry took a deep breath before allowing himself to look; he was frightened of what he might see. His worry was for nothing, for it seemed as if they were still in the same spot in the Forbidden Forest. They were even standing in the same circle of mushrooms; but as Harry took a closer look, he realised things were just a little off.

The mushrooms were all exactly the same shade and height as each other. They were perfect mushrooms in fact – too perfect. There were always some sort of imperfections in the natural world he'd been used to. He glanced around at the trees; all of them were matched in girth, height and colour. Harry guessed each would have the same number of evenly-spaced leaves as well. The bark and leaves were so vivid and glossy that they looked like plastic rather than a real plant. No loose leaves littered the ground and there didn't seem to be any insects or birds either.

The grass they stood on was a deep jade and there was no hint of the frost they’d left at Hogwarts; there were no brown patches and no dead or dying blades of grass. Each blade was exactly the same height. Something else was odd, too; despite being in the midst of a forest, there was no earthy scent of plant or animal life and no animal spoors either. Indeed, there was no smell of anything at all. Harry could smell himself and the soap he'd used that morning, but nothing of their surroundings. It was almost as though they'd fallen into the middle of a painting of a forest scene and the contents of the painting were static.

Not a breath of wind spoiled the perfection and when Harry looked up he couldn't see the sky or the sun, despite it seeming like daylight. It wasn't that the sky was black; it just wasn't there. There was a void where the sky should have been.

"Harry, are you all right?"

Harry started at the sound of the voice; he'd been so engrossed in the surroundings he'd almost forgotten Severus was there.

"It's so strange," said Harry. "Why doesn't it smell like anything?"

"Nothing smells here. The food has no flavour either, but it will sustain us until it's time to go back. You may find the people here wary of us at first. Because we have spent so long among human wizards; we smell. Basically, to the other Fae we will stink."

Harry gaped at him; things just kept weirder, didn't they? He wondered what Ron and Hermione would think about this realm if they could see it.

"Harry, before we go to the Faerie Court, I must warn you that you might find some things disturbing. Fae morals are not like Wizard or even Human morals. Above all they seek pleasure, whether that is in coupling or in fighting. You're pure-blooded so their magic won't affect you at all; but you may see some mortals who are kept as pets. You cannot help them. They have been bewitched by the Fae and would not thank you for trying to part them from their masters. If you weren't Fae yourself, I would be worried for you."

"Why?"

Severus gazed at him, raking his eyes from Harry's head to toes and everywhere in between. Harry flushed under the scrutiny. "You're a very handsome young man, Harry. Any of them would be glad to have you as a pet or consort."

"I thought you were my husband?"

"I am, but as I said, Fae morals are different. It wouldn't have mattered that you were married if you were mortal and one of them wanted you for themselves. They would bewitch you; make you on fire for them and only them."

"Like a love spell?"

"No, Harry. Where do you think the Unforgivable Curses came from? It's a type of Imperius."

"The Unforgivables came from the Fae?"

"I told you they were ruthless."

Harry shuddered. If those people were only staying with the Fae because of a curse, then really wasn't it just as much rape as what his uncle had done? Ruthless. Harry was one of them, but would he be ruthless enough to kill Voldemort when the time came? That's what they were here for, wasn't it? To train him to that end.

Harry wondered if Severus had as many doubts as Harry.

***

"This way, Harry," said Severus holding out his hand. He was relieved when Harry took it automatically. He could get used to this, holding hands with Harry. Harry was struggling a little to keep up with Severus' long strides, so he slowed his pace and waited for his husband to catch up.

Harry paused and stared around him. "I hear music," said Harry.

"Yes, we're almost there," said Severus, staring at his mate. Harry's face was flushed; his eyes so dilated that only a small rim of emerald was visible around the iris. He was breathing heavily too and Severus knew his body was reacting to the Fae music in a similar way to his own. It stirred the blood; made them want to either fight or fuck. Severus felt heat pooling in his groin and his wings were twitching within their sheath.

He roughly pulled Harry to him and crushed their bodies together; one of them moaned - he wasn't sure who - and did it really matter when he had what he'd been dreaming of for these past few months? Harry, aroused and in his arms.

Severus gazed down at his mate; Harry's eyes were closed, dimming that green glow and he was licking his lips expectantly, his head angled up towards Severus'. It was as much an invitation as anything. Severus could feel Harry's erection digging into his leg; his own pressed against Harry's abdomen. He lowered his head to capture Harry's mouth with his own. There was no hesitation from either of them; lips pressed fiercely against one another and their lower bodies thrust as if they had no control over them, which was likely the case due to the magic in the air.

Harry's arms wrapped themselves around Severus' neck, caressing the base of it and making Severus' toes curl in his shoes. He had to release his wings before he went mad with desire; Harry was moaning and rocking against him as if he couldn't get enough of him. Severus thrust his tongue into Harry's mouth and was rewarded with a moan from the young man in his arms as he writhed against him.

When Severus pulled away from the kiss to pause for breath; Harry wailed. "Don't stop! Please don't stop!" begged Harry.

"Harry, it isn't real. It's the music, it's an enchantment. You're not ready for this."

Severus wanted so much to take what Harry was offering, but he knew it was too soon; he didn't want to do anything that might make Harry balk. His blood was pounding like surf in his ears and his heart felt as if it wanted to fly out of his chest.

"It’s not just the music, Severus. I've been thinking about us like this for a while. I want this. Please. Not everything," Harry said softly. "But I want you to touch me and I want to touch you. I want us both to c - come. I - I've tried it now, I can come, Severus. I was thinking of you and I came."

"Merlin!" Severus moaned and gripped Harry's jaw with both hands and kissed him soundly on the lips. "Let me see your wings. Please."

Harry nodded shyly and they parted from one another. As Harry removed his cloak and began unbuttoning his shirt; Severus did the same; but he stripped down to his underwear, while Harry stopped short of removing his trousers. Harry looked at him, their eyes locked and they began to unsheathe their wings at the same time.

Severus couldn't help staring at Harry's pale chest and felt his heart lurch at the sight of so many scars marring his mate's body; glamours in Faerie only worked on humans, not anyone who was Fae or part-Fae. Harry saw him noticing and used his wings to cover himself again; just a shock of dark hair peeping out from the top.

Severus wrapped his own wings around Harry and kissed his head.

"I'm ugly," Harry whispered hoarsely from beneath his wings.

"Oh, Harry. You aren't ugly. You're beautiful, the most beautiful boy I've ever seen." Severus waited one heartbeat; then two before Harry's head came up again to gaze at him. There were a few tears on his cheeks.

"Do you really think I'm beautiful?"

Was Harry really that unaware of his charms? Harry didn't seem the type to go fishing for compliments; it wasn't compliments he was after; it was reassurance. He’d been brought up in a house where he was constantly told he were a freak, that he was ugly – was it any wonder that he’d come to believe it?

"I do, Harry."

Harry reached up on tiptoes and kissed Severus deeply. "The music's stopped," said Harry against his lips.

Severus nodded. The fire in his blood had dimmed and this time as Harry was pressed against him; he couldn't feel an erection. It wasn't lust that kept them kissing, wrapped up in both arms and wings. Severus knew that if they kept kissing long enough it would probably rekindle the flame between them; but he didn't want the first time he touched Harry intimately to be out here in the woods. Harry deserved it to be in a proper bed; with candles and silk sheets; he deserved to be pampered, wooed and courted, not taken on a forest floor.

"Lucien, I have found our wanderers," said a female voice sounding right beside him. Severus pulled his mouth from Harry's and stared at the Fae woman next to him, stifling a groan. It would have to be Celeste, wouldn't it?

"Lady Celeste, how wonderful to see you again," he said sarcastically, before turning to her companion. "And Lord Lucien, greetings."

Lucien smiled at both of them.

"The Queen is expecting you and you know she does not desire to be kept waiting." Celeste was tall, pale and blonde and her eyes raked over Harry as if she was contemplating taking him for a pet. Severus' arms tightened around Harry. Her brother Lucien was as dark as his sister was fair; with long black hair braided down his back. They were both wearing the white tunics of the Court; embroidered with gold vines on the neckline and cuffs of the wide sleeves.

"Too busy dallying with another half-blood?" she demanded.

"Celeste," began her brother warningly, and Severus could almost imagine the cogs going round inside the man's head. Nearly the entire Court knew that Severus had been made the Prince Consort; the fact that they hadn't actually consorted yet was irrelevant. He knew Celeste would be in trouble with the Queen for her mistake; Severus tried not to smirk. Anything that caused Celeste trouble was good in his opinion.

"What, Lucien? Are you now going to defend another half-blood trying to gain favour with the Queen?"

"He isn't a half-blood, Celeste. He's the Prince."

Celeste snorted and stared at Harry. "This? This scrawny creature is our prince? What proof do you have?"

"All the proof we need," said Severus; lifting Harry's fringe and revealing the infamous lightning bolt scar.

Celeste looked as if she'd just been struck by lightning herself as she sank to one knee and bowed her head. Her brother had already been kneeling long before the scar had been revealed.

"Forgive me, your highness," gabbled Celeste. "I did not know."

"That's all right," said Harry, squirming a little in Severus' arms. Severus knew how difficult it must be for Harry to deal with all the intrigue of Court life when he hadn't been raised to it.

"You may take a message to the Queen," said Severus. "Her son and his Consort will attend to her presently."

Celeste didn't look up but Severus knew if she had she would have been glowering at him. The woman had never got over the fact that the Queen had chosen Severus, a half-blood, to be her son's Consort. Nor had she ever recovered from the shame that Severus had refused her advances. Repeatedly and in full view of the Court. Or she might well still bear a grudge from the time she found Severus and Lucien in bed together. Severus' tastes had never run to women, whether Fae, witch or Muggle.

"It will be done," said Lucien as he and Celeste Apparated away.

He and Harry got dressed again and stood staring at each other in the clearing. "We can Apparate or we can walk, it isn't far now," said Severus. "Which do you prefer?"

"Walking," said Harry. "It'll give me time to clear my head."

"Do you feel ready to meet your family?"

"No, but then I don't think I ever will be," said Harry with a resigned sigh.

***

Part 20

Harry took a deep breath as he followed Severus out of the forest. The paths they trod seemed awfully familiar, it was almost as if they were in the Forbidden Forest and yet at the same time they were not. He sensed an undercurrent of something between Severus and the two Fae, Celeste and Lucien. Harry didn't feel comfortable with either of them and he reached out to grasp Severus' hand again.

Severus smiled down at him and held Harry's hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. Harry's knees still felt a little wobbly from the after effects of the musical enchantment. He had never felt anything like that before and the intensity of it scared him a little.

"Thank you," Harry whispered.

"What for?"

"For - for staying in control. For stopping."

"I'm more used to the magic than you," said Severus.

"You lived here?" asked Harry in surprise.

"For a while," replied Severus, but he didn't speak any further of it.

Soon they had left the forest completely and Harry couldn't help gasping at the scene revealed. The castle visible in the distance could have been Hogwarts – the same shape of towers and turrets; the high windows; but while the Hogwarts Harry knew was made from grey stone, the castle in front of them was built entirely of white marble with terracotta tiling on the roof. Multi-coloured pennants fluttered from the battlements even though there wasn't a breath of wind. There was a lake too, with sparkling blue water so smooth it looked like a pane of glass.

"Is that Hogwarts?"

"No, it's the Faerie Palace," said Severus. "It looks different to everyone who sees it."

As they made their way across lawns so like those of the school, Harry could see that the stout doors were wide open and a male Fae was waiting for them on the steps. Was this his father? Harry's heart hammered against his ribs and if Severus hadn't been holding his hand, he was sure he would have stumbled in his nervousness.

As they reached the steps the man bowed low, the sleeves of his white tunic trailing on the ground.

"Welcome home, my Prince," he said. "The Queen wishes for you and your Consort to rest and bathe before you are presented."

Harry felt a flash of disappointment that his parents weren't there to greet them; he hadn't seen them for sixteen years, surely seeing him was more important than having a bath? "I will show you to the Royal Chambers, your highness."

"Thank you, Lord Jasper," said Severus as the man stood up from his bow. "The prince is grateful."

Jasper had a long curtain of dark hair and eyes as blue as the lake water. He smiled at Harry and led the way inside the Palace that to Harry's mind was another Hogwarts. There was the grand sweeping staircase he'd first seen when he was eleven; there on the right as you entered was the doorway to the Great Hall; on the left there was a staircase leading downwards. At Hogwarts it led to the dungeons and the Potions classroom. Were there dungeons here, real ones perhaps? Harry stifled a shudder as they followed Lord Jasper up the stairs towards what would have been Gryffindor Tower.

There was no portrait guarding the entrance and no portrait hole either, just a white wooden door with a golden lock. Lord Jasper removed a golden key from somewhere, – or maybe he'd conjured it, Harry wasn't sure – and opened the door for them. Rather than going away and allowing Severus and Harry to explore the chambers by themselves, Jasper went in with them to show them round.

What would have been the Gryffindor common room was now a cosy sitting room with the same large fireplace, but the stone was white marble again and instead of the Gryffindor crest rendered above it this one had a different device: a unicorn and a raven on opposite sides of a sword.

There was only one set of stairs leading from the sitting room; up them was a large bedroom and the largest four-poster bed Harry had ever seen. It could have slept ten people quite comfortably and it was festooned with white lace hangings to match the bedspread. Chests and wardrobes abounded and if they'd actually had any luggage there would have been plenty of room. Harry and Severus had no clothes other than the ones they stood up in.

Jasper opened a door from the bedroom and it held a luxuriously appointed bathroom. It wasn't as large as the Prefects' bathroom back at Hogwarts, but it was certainly a smaller brother to it. The bath was big enough for two if they so desired; there were gilt taps, beautiful hangings on the walls and shelves holding fluffy towels and enough toiletries to see them through a small siege.

As they returned to the bedroom, Jasper opened one of the wardrobes and removed first a dark blue velvet robe, then one in a shade of dark green and laid them out on the bed. "The Queen requests you wear these," this time Jasper was looking at both of them.

"Thank you, Lord Jasper; the prince does not require your services further today."

Jasper bowed again and left.

"Who was that?"

"Your personal valet," said Severus. "Basically it's his job to ensure you are properly turned out to greet your parents and to attend to your every need." Severus pointed to the bell pull on the wall above the bed. "You can ring for him if you need him."

Harry felt so awkward and lost; he was so glad Severus had come with him. He didn't think he would have been able to cope with all of this on his own. It was daunting and he wished he was back at Hogwarts. He didn't feel like a prince and to have people bowing to him all the time reminded him uncomfortably of Voldemort's followers bowing to the Dark Lord.

"I don't feel tired," said Harry; he knew he was too het-up to get any sleep until he'd finally met his parents.

"We'll just have our bath and then we can go to the Great Hall," said Severus. "Off you go and remember to use their toiletries so that we don't smell too awful for their delicate noses."

Harry giggled. "Is that why Lord Jasper didn't stand very close to us?"

"Probably," agreed Severus with a small smile.

Harry took a quick bath, using the soap and shampoo that had been sitting on one of the shelves. Neither of them smelled of anything, although they lathered up well and glided like silk across his skin. Harry wrapped himself in a towel before returning to the bedroom.

"Which of those is mine?" Harry glanced towards the robes on the bed.

"The dark green," said Severus, trying and failing to avoid looking at Harry's bare chest. Harry wondered if it was a sexual gaze or if he was noticing Harry's scars again. His glamours weren't working in Tir Na Nog and he felt very self-conscious about being laid bare like this. He had nothing to hide behind and at the moment he felt like he wanted to hide somewhere and never come out.

***

When they were both dressed in the velvet robes they found Jasper waiting for them outside the doors to the Great Hall. Harry felt very self-conscious wearing nothing underneath the robe; it was the fashion in this realm apparently, and underwear was a human thing, not Fae.

Jasper bowed, then opened the doors and whispered something to a herald standing just inside. A trumpet sounded, but thankfully it was ordinary music this time, and then the herald's voice rang out clear across the hall.

"His Royal Highness, Prince Harold and his Royal Consort, Severus Tobias."

The doors swung wide open as Jasper ushered them both inside. Harry felt as if he might faint at any moment. There were no tables or chairs in the hall; most of the Fae who were there were standing around in clusters of three or more. A few did indeed have pets who lounged on velvet cushions with collars around their necks. The Fae were dressed in velvets, silks and brocades, while most of the pets were wearing very little and some were completely naked. Harry's heart lurched as he caught sight of a dark-haired, green eyed boy who couldn't have been more than twelve or thirteen. It reminded him too much of his own situation back at Privet Drive for comfort and he knew he would never find this situation acceptable, no matter how Severus tried to warn him there was nothing he could do about it.

There was a dais at the far end of the hall where the teachers' table would have been at Hogwarts. On the dais were two golden thrones and in them sat the King and Queen of the Fae. His parents. Harry's feet seemed glued to the floor; he wouldn't have been able to move another step if Severus hadn't tugged him forward with a slight push to his back.

The King and Queen stood up; both were smiling but did not make any further move to welcome him. Severus paused by the foot of the dais and bent down on one knee. Not knowing what else to do, Harry did the same; hearing titters and giggles from the Fae behind them.

Soft hands tilted his chin up and he was looking into the dark green eyes of his mother. "You do not need to kneel to your mother, my son." She waited until Harry was standing again, before helping him up onto the dais, where another, smaller throne had suddenly appeared between the two larger ones.

His father was slightly taller than his mother, but only just. With a shock of dark hair and green eyes, Harry could see himself in the man before him and wondered if his jaw would ever become as square and rugged as that of his father. Both his parents were dark haired and green eyed and all three of them kept staring at each other as if they couldn't quite believe this was actually happening.

"Take your rightful place," said the King, pointing to the throne next to him. Harry sat down, feeling very odd at looking down at everyone, especially Severus kneeling in front of him. His father saw him looking at Severus and whispered to him. "We will have an official bonding ceremony for you both; then Severus will be of the same rank as you."

The Queen stood at the front of the dais and raised her voice.

"We welcome the safe return of our son today. An insult to him is an insult to us. Let me hear no ill word spoken against him or there will be consequences."

"All hail, Prince Harold!" boomed the herald from the back of the hall. The refrain was taken up by the rest of the Fae, but no voice was louder than Severus'. Severus looked up as the rest of the cheers died down and mouthed to him; "Welcome home, Harry."

***

Part 21

Now that Harry had been officially presented and recognised as the heir by his parents the King and Queen stood up, indicating for Harry and Severus to follow them through the side door at the edge of the dais. Severus knew this led to the family quarters, although he had never been invited to them before. It seemed that now he had brought Harry back to them he was now considered part of the family, even more so than when he'd become the Prince Consort.

He heard some angry muttering behind him, but he ignored it, being well used to it by now. A lot of the Fae had as much prejudice against half-bloods as some of the more backward wizards in his own realm. The sitting room they found themselves in had a roaring fire in the fireplace, sofas, stools and chairs galore along with a table set with tea and cakes.

Harry stood, looking nervously round the room and gifting Severus with a shy smile. The King and Queen each sat down regally in an armchair; the Queen pulling a bell rope by the fireplace. A tall Fae popped into the room, bowed and set about pouring the tea and cutting the cake without a word being spoken. The King waved Harry and Severus onto the sofa; once they were settled, the servant served the Queen first, then the King, Harry and finally Severus with a cup of steaming tea and a plate of dainty cakes and biscuits. They all looked very pretty, but once Severus took a bite he realised they were as tasteless as he remembered.

Harry showed some surprise when he tried the cake; it was obvious he had thought that since the food looked good it would taste good too. In Tir Na Nog, that was not the case and Harry and Severus would have to get used to eating food that didn’t even taste of cardboard for as long as they stayed.

Once the servant was gone the King looked at his son with a fond smile. "Harold, you must have so many questions for us," he began.

"I - people call me Harry," he said softly, not looking at either of his parents.

"You would prefer that?" asked his mother.

Harry nodded. "Very well, Harry. Do you have any questions for us?"

"S- Severus has told me a lot. I can't think of anything right now."

Severus saw that Harry's hand trembled as he held the saucer; he placed his own hand on Harry's wrist to steady it.

"Well, first things first then," said the King with forced jollity. "We'll have to arrange your bonding ceremony to Severus. You'll be much stronger magically once you bond."

"So is that how I'll defeat Voldemort?" asked Harry.

"Do not speak the Dark One's name!" hissed the Queen. "There is magic in names, has no one taught you this?" She glanced askance at Severus. "Obviously you did not tell him everything, then."

"The fault is mine, majesty," said Severus, bowing his head while seated.

The Queen laughed, a sound that reminded him of wind chimes. "Oh, Severus, none of that in here. You are our son's Consort, soon to be his bonded. You are family now."

"Thank you."

"Now, Harry," said the King, standing up and pacing the room. "The Dark One seeks to steal something we have guarded for centuries of Earth time. He doesn't know what it is, only that we are its protectors until the rightful heir returns to claim it. Over many years he has sent his servants to our realm in order to discover what the artefact is. They have been dealt with, but still the tide of darkness does not stop. He must be destroyed and you are the only one able to do it, for you are the only one able to wield the weapon that will kill the Dark One. It has been kept safe for your return."

"So he can be killed?"

"He can, my son, but you will need training, which is why Severus brought you here. In the world above, it will seem to your people that you will have only been gone a few days, but in reality you will be here for as many months as it takes to train you."

Harry took out his wand and stared at it. "Severus will train me in duelling?"

"In a way," said the King. "You won't be needing that." The King pointed at Harry's wand. "You will be trained in sword-fighting."

***

Later that evening, Harry lay in a bath of bubbles while he thought of all that had happened in the space of a few hours. He and Severus had shared their first real kiss; admittedly it was while they were under an enchantment, but it was still their first kiss. Harry had finally met the parents he'd never known but even though he had met them they still felt like strangers to him. Severus knew Harry’s parents better than he did and, although Harry didn't want to think it was true, he suspected he might feel a little jealous that Severus had a closer relationship with his parents than he did himself. Harry had also seen the Fae with their pets and no matter that he was Fae himself and would live under the same set of customs; Harry couldn't condone what they'd done. Stealing mortals who had caught their eye and enslaving them for their own pleasure – no, Harry didn't think he'd ever get used to that.

Harry sighed and ducked his head under the water, trying to still his thoughts. His homecoming hadn't been what he'd expected. Celeste hadn't believed he was a prince at all; then there were the Fae in the hall who'd laughed at him when he'd knelt down with Severus. How was he to know what he was supposed to do? He hadn't been brought up to this life – he'd been starved, beaten, raped and locked in a cupboard. Harry had no idea how to be a prince and he wasn't sure he wanted to.

Harry missed his friends and Hogwarts already and they'd barely been gone a day. How much more homesick was he going to be if they were here for months? Harry felt trapped with no way out and indeed there wasn't, for Harry didn't know how to get back; it was Severus who knew the magic of travelling between the realms, not him. Then there was their bonding ceremony to raise Severus to the status of prince as well. Harry had noticed that neither his parents nor Severus had actually asked him if he wanted a bonding ceremony, there were all assuming he did and he felt a bit irked at that. He loved Severus, he knew the man was his mate and he'd accepted that. It just hurt that no one had actually asked Harry what he wanted, if maybe he would like to wait a little before making their union official.

Harry's mind wandered back to the bedroom on the other side of the bathroom door and the one bed it contained. A bed they were expected to share; it was the Prince Consort's right. Harry hadn't told his parents about the treatment he'd received at the Dursleys' hands and he wasn't sure he wanted to. They were not the sort of people who inspired the sharing of confidences, seeming more aloof and distant the longer Harry spent in their company. He felt regard from them and a sense of duty where he was concerned, but he didn't feel any love. It was not like he received from Severus and his friends; Harry even felt more love coming from Neville than he did from his Fae parents.

There was a knock on the bathroom door. "Harry, are you all right?" Severus called through the wood. "You've been in there a long time."

"I was just thinking," said Harry. "I'll be out in a minute."

Harry heard the footsteps retreating; he rinsed himself off and climbed out of the bath. The towels were soft and dried him a lot quicker than those at Hogwarts ever had and he wondered if there was some sort of Fae magic woven into the cloth. He donned the nightshirt Lord Jasper had left out for him and made his way to the bedroom.

He blinked, and put his glasses back on, sure he was having an episode of double vision. There were now two four-poster beds in the room.

"I thought you'd prefer it this way," said Severus.

"I - I don't mind if we share, Severus," said Harry. "But - um - can we discuss a few things first?" The thought of sleeping alone in this strange place was giving Harry the creeps. If the truth be known, he was terrified and he felt less like a hero and a prince than ever.

Severus, too, was dressed in a nightshirt and he had on a dressing gown over it as well. He sat down on the edge of the chaise-longue at the foot of the bed and patted a space beside him. "You can tell me anything, Harry."

Harry sat down and reached out to hold Severus' hand. It was warm and felt solid, it felt real, unlike most of the things he'd encountered in Faerie. Most of today had felt like a really strange dream and Harry wanted to wake up now.

"It's all a bit daunting, isn't it?" said Severus, at once seeing straight through to the core of the matter.

Harry nodded, turned and buried his face in Severus' chest, crying as silently as he was able. It was too much too soon and he felt wrung out, as if he was a piece of washing that someone had just pushed through a mangle until he was knotted and twisted and had no idea how to get straightened out again. Severus held him and rocked him until Harry's tears had dried and he felt a bit calmer. His glasses were pressed between his nose and Severus' chest and were digging into his face but Harry didn't want to move from the comfort of the embrace quite yet.

"I don't want to be alone here," Harry admitted at last.

"You won't be, Harry. I swear it. The bed - sharing the bed doesn't mean we have to do anything, we can just sleep if that's what you want."

Harry glanced up and he was sure he could almost see the love this man had for him shining in his eyes. "I - I don't mind kissing," said Harry shyly.

"I know what happened with your uncle, but have you ever had a boyfriend or a girlfriend before, Harry? What did you do? What did you like?"

"Well, I suppose I sort of had a girlfriend for a while. She kissed me and we went to Hogsmeade together for Valentine's Day, but it was a bit of a disaster and we sort of never saw each other after that. She was in love with Cedric and wanted to talk about him all the time; I just couldn't deal with it then. It was too soon."

"That was in your fifth year?"

"Yes."

"And no one since?"

"Not until you," said Harry.

"And ours hasn't exactly been a conventional relationship, has it? I know your parents are keen on an official bonding, but if you prefer to wait, we can. I will never force you to do anything you don't want, Harry. I promise."

"If we had an official bonding here, does that mean you'd be higher up than Celeste?"

Severus blinked. "Yes, but what's that got to do with anything?"

"I don't like her and she insulted you. You're my mate and I want them all to know that I accept you, and I'd also like to rub her nose in it."

"Harry, you shouldn't just bond to me because of revenge against Celeste."

"No, but that would be a bonus," said Harry. "I want to bond with you because I love you."

"Oh, Harry. Do you mean that? You love me?"

"I do, Severus. I know I'm not over everything yet and we might have to take things slowly, but one day I know I'm going to want to share everything with you. I want to learn how to enjoy making love and I want you to teach me."

"It would be my pleasure to teach you everything," said Severus as he bent down and claimed Harry's mouth in a heated kiss. This one was better than the first because neither of them were under an enchantment. This one was real.

Severus' love was real and Harry felt a sudden certainty in his heart that things were going to work out.

***

Part 22

There was no concept of time or even day and night in the land of the Fae. On what seemed like two days after they'd first arrived – but only because they'd slept in the bed together twice – they had their bonding ceremony. The Great Hall was crowded with guests; for once the Fae were there without their pets and Harry wondered where they went when the Fae got tired of them.

He and Severus stood in front of his mother and father on the dais at the end of the room. Celeste was there with her brother and Harry was almost sure he could feel the woman's eyes boring into their backs. Both he and Severus were wearing robes of cream brocade with long sweeping sleeves, embroidered with runes picked out in golden thread.

On their heads they were wearing wreaths of wildflowers which had no scent at all. Harry didn't think he'd ever get used to the fact that nothing here had any smell except himself and Severus, but none of the Fae seemed to notice the lack of scent in their surroundings.

His father smiled down at both of them, but the smile never reached his eyes. "Honoured guests, we thank you for your attendance at my son's bonding feast. This day my son will be bonded to Severus Tobias of the Earthen realm. My son has chosen his mate. Let it be so."

"Let it be so!" resounded around the whole hall.

"Congratulations," said his mother, bending down to kiss Harry's cheek and then Severus'.

"We're bonded now?" asked Harry in surprise. His parents nodded. That was it? There had been no vows, no declarations of love. It seemed so simple in comparison to what Harry had been expecting.

"You were bonded in your heart already," said his father. "This ceremony is just so that no one else can lay claim to you or Severus, as they have all witnessed our blessing on your union. You should have no further trouble from certain quarters."

Harry knew his father was speaking of Celeste, but as he turned and saw the woman's angry face, he wasn't so sure that would be the case.

***

The bonding feast lasted for hours; Harry ate his fill of tasteless food and drank liquids which didn't even have as much flavour as a glass of water. Their wildflower wreaths had been replaced with gold circlets on their heads. Severus looked every inch a prince in his robe and circlet; Harry just felt as if he was playing dress-up. He was so much shorter than the rest of the Fae and no matter whom his parents were, Harry knew he was looked down on by most of them. Not to mention the fact that he still had to wear glasses; he'd heard them sometimes calling him the ‘tainted prince’. Harry felt as welcome here as he had at the Dursleys'. He wanted to go home, he hated it here and he was determined that he would train so hard and so well that they could leave as soon as possible.

"Can we go?" Harry whispered to Severus as the latest well-wishers got up off their knees and joined in with the rest of the dancers.

"Of course," said Severus, leaning over and saying something to Harry's parents. The King nodded and at last they were able to escape all the fawning and false flattery and make their way up to their own rooms. Lord Jasper was there; the bed was turned down, the white sheets scattered with pink rose petals but there were no nightshirts laid out for them tonight.

"Many blessings on your union," said Jasper, bowing before leaving them on their own. No nightshirts; Harry wasn't naïve, he knew what that meant. It was their wedding night and they were supposed to consummate their union. Was he ready for that yet? Harry wasn't sure. He didn't feel frightened like he always had with Vernon; this was Severus: his husband, his mate, the man he loved. Didn't that make all the difference? Making love was different to rape, wasn't it?

"Shall we have a bath together?" suggested Severus. "It might help you relax. We don't have to do anything, not if you don't want to, but I would like to give you pleasure, if you would permit it."

"W- will it hurt?" asked Harry. Vernon had always hurt him and Harry had never gained pleasure from any of those violent encounters.

"Not what I had in mind," smiled Severus as he bent down to give him a soft kiss. Harry allowed himself to relax into it. Severus was a wonderful kisser and Harry had grown to like these kisses a lot over the past few days. He opened his mouth when Severus did, matching his lips to his husband's as they stole the breath from each other's bodies. Arms wrapped around torsos; teeth clashed against each other; wings unfurled and spread out from shoulders. When Severus gently eased his tongue into Harry's mouth and pressed it against his, Harry felt his knees buckle beneath him as a shot of intense pleasure shot from his heart to his groin.

He was hard and growing harder the longer they kissed and he never wanted this bliss to end. It had never felt like this with Vernon. That had been all about his uncle's pleasure, not Harry's, and there was nothing his uncle found more pleasurable than hurting and humiliating Harry. This was a lot different; Harry could sense the care and love coming from Severus in waves and he felt bathed in it, it was freeing him of the soiled feeling he had so often felt after his uncle had used his body. Harry felt cleansed by Severus' love and they hadn't even made it to the bath yet.

Severus pulled away and wandlessly divested them of their robes; Harry was getting used to having no underwear and he had never been so glad of the custom until now when he felt his cock rubbing against Severus' naked leg. His body bucked as desire coursed through him. Harry pulled back to stare at his husband; most of Severus' body was as hairless as Harry's own, with just the patch of hair at his groin and under his arms. His chest, legs and arms were smooth as was usual with the Fae and Harry knew now that neither of them would ever need to shave their faces; the Fae never grew beards.

Severus reached out his hands and caressed the tips of Harry's pointed ears. Harry moaned and sagged against Severus' chest, his legs feeling too rubbery to support him much longer. Severus kissed the top of his head, then scooped Harry up in his arms and carried him to the bathroom. The bath was already filled with water and foam – no doubt thanks to Jasper – and with the whole realm being magical Harry knew the water would still be warm for them.

Severus lowered Harry into the water; then climbed in behind him and pressed Harry's back against his chest.

"Comfortable?" Severus whispered in his ear, making Harry shiver with desire.

Harry nodded, not trusting his voice to speak just yet. Severus conjured a sponge from somewhere and began to wash Harry's neck and chest; paying particular attention to his nipples. Harry's cock was bobbing just above the bubbles and precome was already leaking from the tip; there was a throbbing ache between his legs. He arched back and moaned, feeling an answering erection pressing against the small of his back.

"Please - I - I want - I need - " gasped Harry, unable to articulate what he actually needed.

"Would you like me to touch you here?" asked Severus, dropping the sponge with a small splash and trailing his finger lightly along the length of Harry's shaft.

"Please! Yes!" cried Harry, fearing that he might die if something didn't happen soon.

Severus wrapped one arm around Harry's chest, holding him safe, while his other hand wrapped around Harry's cock and began stroking in a regular rhythm. Soon that wasn't enough and Harry had to buck his hips to get the needed friction. His sac was tight, feeling hard and full and there was a delicious ache low down in his belly and the base of his cock. Harry knew he wouldn't last much longer.

"Oh God!" wailed Harry. "I'm gonna come!"

"Yes!" hissed Severus against his neck. "Come, Harry. Let me see you come. Please."

Harry's whole body convulsed as the first pearly ropes left him and splattered back against his belly and Severus' hand, he was screaming wordlessly as pulse after pulse of seed left his cock. Severus stiffened behind him and Harry felt a hot splash against his back; knowing that Severus had come at the same time excited him even more and another small spurt left his still-twitching cock. Once Harry was fully spent, Severus caressed his flaccid cock; removing his hand he licked his fingers clean of Harry's come.

"You taste delicious," said Severus.

Harry's eyes widened in surprise. He'd never even considered tasting his emission before; but right then with the after-shocks still wracking his frame, with a desperation he never thought he'd feel he realised he wanted to taste himself in Severus' mouth. He turned in the water and arranged himself in Severus' lap, tugging Severus' head down so that he could reach to kiss him. Their combined flavour was slightly salty, slightly bitter, but at the moment it was the best thing Harry had ever tasted. They kissed each other as hungrily as if they hadn't just spent themselves in the bath and Harry wasn't at all surprised to find himself quickening again, his cock pressing hard against Severus' belly.

"Sorry," he mumbled against Severus' lips and tried to squirm away, fearing that he'd done something wrong.

"Harry, don't ever be sorry that you can feel pleasure. And if you're still aroused, maybe we can do something about that, hmm?" Severus gripped Harry’s hips and tugged him against his body.

"OH!" Harry gasped in surprise. "God, that feels good!"

"That's the idea," smiled Severus, leaning down to kiss Harry but keeping a firm hold of him all the same. It felt different this time, the pressure against a warm, solid body felt different than a firm grip of fingers, but delightful all the same. Being kissed at the same time felt good too and soon Harry was settled into a rocking rhythm, his arms wrapped around Severus' neck. He was almost bouncing in his pleasure. It took longer for him to reach orgasm this time and it wasn't as copious as the first, but Harry still flew away in bliss when it hit, gripping Severus' neck as the tremors tore through him. Severus kissed him through it; trailing hands down Harry's back that sent shudders of pleasure through him even after the climax had finished.

Harry pulled his mouth away and glanced down at their now come-covered bodies and risked a smile at Severus.

"I think we may need to have another wash!" he laughed, surprising himself that he could laugh at any aspect of sex.

Severus smiled at him and retrieved the sponge. "I'm sure that can be arranged, Harry."

***

Part 23

As the weeks and months passed, Harry found himself getting more and more comfortable with intimacy with Severus. He enjoyed the kissing and the touching, but he still found himself getting upset if Severus tried to take things any further than that. Severus had tried to take Harry's cock in his mouth, but the act had been forced upon Harry so often by his uncle, that he wasn't comfortable with it at all and Severus had never tried it again. It was for the same reason that Harry could not bring himself to give Severus a blow-job and he wondered how long Severus would be content with just adolescent fumblings.

They had more of a routine in Tir Na Nog now, too. In the mornings they would breakfast with his parents in the family sitting room just off the Great Hall. The food was tasteless but plentiful; breads, cheeses, and fruits; and they never went hungry. His parents did their best to engage him in conversation, but Harry's experience was so different to theirs that they had very little common ground. Harry had never been one for idle small talk and even less so with the two strangers who had given him life.

The rest of the mornings were given over to his training with Severus; they covered a lot, not just sword-fighting but archery and hand-to-hand combat as well. The afternoons were taken up with court duties, where Harry watched his parents hear petitions from the Fae and hand out justice where it was warranted. It was also where he saw the enchanted pets and watched Celeste all but molest her two – a twin boy and girl – in front of him, knowing how he felt about the custom. Harry vowed it would have to stop.

***

The training ground was a field on the lawns in front of the Palace and whenever they trained, they were sure to have an audience of curious spectators. Wanting nothing to hinder their movements, rather than wearing Court robes, Harry and Severus wore leather trousers and loose linen shirts with laces open at the neck due to how much they sweated.

Harry had found this sort of physical training easier than he had anticipated and he supposed his years of riding a broomstick helped keep him in shape somewhat. Severus pushed him to the limit and beyond every day and Harry found he enjoyed their fights on a level with their intimate moments. Sometimes after training, both of them were hard and aching and found time to relieve each other before taking lunch in the Great Hall.

This morning they'd already done archery and had moved on to sword-fighting. At first they'd trained with wooden practice blades before moving on to metal swords. Harry wondered about the artefact Voldemort was trying to steal. He'd guessed it was a sword, why else would he need to train to use one? Had Godric Gryffindor left another sword? Or was it Slytherin's sword? Maybe that's how the Death Eaters knew of it.

Another small crowd had gathered to watch them fight; some of the Fae females were giggling behind their hands as they saw both of them in their sweaty outfits; Harry guessed they probably smelled awful to them, but the girls didn't seem to find it disturbing. It reminded him of the way some of the Hogwarts' girls used to giggle and follow Viktor Krum and Cedric Diggory around the school and Harry had to admit that his husband looked awfully good in leather.

Celeste was there this morning as well; Harry could feel the woman's hatred and jealousy as if she'd shouted it from the battlements. Ever since he and Severus had bonded Harry could sense a person's thoughts if their emotions were strong enough without needing to resort to Legilimency. It wasn't just Celeste; he'd had images from a few of the Fae these past months. Lord Jasper was proud to serve his prince and was pleased with his choice of mate; Harry knew that his mother was worried about him going up against the Dark One; Harry knew that his father was pleased at how well he'd taken to the warrior skills. His father had confidence in the son he'd sired; his father was a warrior so Harry knew the man wouldn't really expect anything less of him. There was only one Fae from whom Harry had never sensed anything at all: Lucien, Celeste's brother. Harry wondered if the man was deliberately shielding his mind and if so, what was he trying to hide?

Celeste's grating laugh made him lose concentration and Severus disarmed him in a matter of moments. Harry's knuckles stung like fire where the hilt of Severus' sword had caught them and he couldn't stifle a sharp cry of pain.

Celeste and her entourage snorted with laughter at what they saw as Harry's weakness.

"You lost concentration. Ignore her," advised Severus.

It was easier said than done when Harry's mind was filled with the woman's hatred.

Celeste raised her voice, holding Court as if she was the Queen herself. "This unblooded fool is to fight the Dark One? We may as well open all the portals and send him a gilded invitation!"

Severus' face darkened with anger and he started to move towards the women gathered on the grass, but Harry shook his head at him. Harry may not have been ready for every intimacy yet, but he'd grown up a lot in his time spent here and he was no longer a scared boy shoved in a cupboard. He was a man now, a prince, and it was time Celeste learned that despite his lack of stature, Harry was no coward and no fool.

He marched briskly to Celeste and the women surrounding her and he knew his anger shone from his face. The women surrounding Celeste saw it and sank to one knee, bowing their heads. Celeste stayed standing as Harry expected she would. She had no respect for him and never would, no matter what Harry did. Celeste smirked at him.

"You will apologise," said Harry softly. He heard one of the other women whimpering as if afraid he would hurt her. Harry had seen his father's justice meted out swiftly and knew where their fear came from; but it hurt that they thought him as ruthless as the other Fae.

"I will not! I will never accept a tainted prince! You aren't fit to rule! You stole him from me!"

"Severus was never yours," said Harry. "You have no claim on him." Harry didn't know how to get through to her; if a public bonding ceremony and the fact that he and Severus were hardly ever out of each other's sight hadn't done it, he didn't know what would.

"Forgive my sister," said Lord Lucien, kneeling and trying his best to tug his sister down after him. "She hasn't been well."

"Me?" hissed Celeste, struggling free of his grasp. "I'm not the one who set a spying spell on their chambers!"

Lucien paled and hung his head. Harry felt the floor drop from beneath him, remembering all the intimacies he and Severus had shared there. Lucien had been spying on them? Harry would never have guessed that was what Lucien had been hiding.

"I'm sorry, my prince, but I had to know. I had to know that he was happy." Lucien glanced in Severus' direction and Harry felt the world spin about him even more. Lucien and Severus had been lovers and Severus had never even told him?

"You spied on us without our consent!" roared Harry. As he paced, he caught sight of a couple of pets sitting by the feet of their masters and mistresses, their eyes as vacant as their minds under the enchantments. There were a lot of things done without consent in this realm and Harry was mightily sick of it. Everything may have looked pretty – silks and marbles, gold and silver – but there was a core of rot running right through Faerie and Harry had just about had enough of it. The Fae started muttering amongst themselves.

"ENOUGH!" boomed Harry and they were instantly silent. Harry pointed out a few pets. "This stops now! There will be no more Wild Hunt, no more abducting mortals to bend to your will and for your pleasure! It's nothing more than rape and slavery and it stops NOW!"

"Who are you to give us orders?" demanded one of Celeste's sidekicks.

"He is the Prince of the Realm," said Harry's father striding over the grass and clasping Harry's shoulder in a firm grip. "You will obey him as you would me. He is the heir. Continue, my son," said the King.

"Very well, Father," he bowed his head and turned again to the crowd, which seemed to have grown bigger since he last looked. "You will release every mortal back to their own realm with no memory of what they suffered here. Anyone who disobeys will be banished from Tir Na Nog and sent to the mortal realm."

"No! You can't do that! You wouldn't dare!"

"Try me!" retorted Harry, fed up with this realm and nearly all who inhabited it. How he wished to go home!

"The prince has spoken," said his father. "Lord Jasper, Lord Alden, see to it that all the mortals are taken back safely to their own realm."

"As you wish, Majesty," said Jasper, bowing low. Pulling a blond-haired Fae male with him into the Palace he began to gather up the pets.

***

Back in their private chambers later that night (heavily warded against intrusions of any sort) Harry wondered if he'd done the right thing. Some of the pets refused to leave their masters, even after the enchantments had been lifted and Harry still heard their screams just before Jasper Obliviated them; he wondered if he had made their suffering worse. But how could being free of this strange place be worse?

There were also a few Fae who had refused to hand over their pets and they had been banished; banishment was a death sentence to the Fae, for the longer they stayed in the mortal realm, the more like humans they became and that included acquiring a human lifespan. All portals would magically close against any who were banished and they would never see Tir Na Nog again. Harry wondered how he'd feel if he knew he had to stay here forever, and he shuddered.

He felt sick to his stomach at what he'd done and he clamped his arms around his middle to try and combat the nausea.

"Did I do the right thing, Severus?" Harry asked his husband.

"Why did you do it, Harry?"

"Why? To help the mortals; I just couldn't stand by and watch it happening any longer. They were under a curse and had no free will. They were being raped, even if they didn't know it. I felt sick every time I saw them."

"Then you did the right thing. Not once did you mention that you wanted power over the other Fae."

"I don't, but if I'm a prince, I had to use that to get them to see sense. I don't want to rule here, Severus. I hate it here; I want to go home. This will never be home to me."

Severus caressed his cheek. "Then it's time," said Severus. "Get dressed."

Severus jumped down from the bed and rummaged in the wardrobe; the clothes he threw back were the clothes they'd arrived in. Harry stared at his uniform and Hogwarts cloak. "Severus? What's going on?"

"We'll be going home soon, Harry. It's time for you to get the weapon."

Harry didn't hesitate; he got dressed as quickly as he could and followed Severus downstairs to the entrance hall. His mother and father were already waiting for them; both dressed in silver robes.

"So soon, my son?" asked his mother with tears in her eyes. She bent down and wrapped Harry in a hug, the first he'd ever received from her. "We knew the risks we took when we sent you away; your home is not with us, but we will love you as we have always done."

"Why didn't you tell me before?" Harry was crying now too, great wracking sobs at having found a mother's love, only as he was losing it again. But he couldn't stay here, no matter how much he might want a loving family.

"We had to allow you to make your own decision whether to stay here or to go; we could not influence you in any way and if you'd known how much we loved you, it might have swayed you. You know your span will only be as long as a normal wizard's if you stay above?" she whispered.

Harry nodded; he'd known that and he would be dust long before either of his parents showed any sign of age, if they ever would. All the Fae he'd seen seemed to look around thirty, even though he knew his parents were hundreds of years old.

"I am honoured to call you my son," said his father as he knelt down to embrace Harry too. "Now it is time for you to face your destiny with all the bravery you have. You will succeed in driving back the darkness, Prince Harry."

The King and Queen stood up and led the way to the dungeon stairs. At the wooden door at the bottom they waved their hands in intricate patterns as they removed the wards. Harry could feel the magic sizzling along his skin like static electricity. Whatever this weapon was, it was powerful and Harry wondered if they'd got it all wrong, how did they know he was supposed to wield it?

The door swung open; Harry and Severus followed the Fae down a corridor as cool and dank as the dungeon corridor at Hogwarts. There was a metal portcullis at the far end of the corridor and behind it in the dim light Harry could just make out a large boulder. His mother waved her hands and the room behind the portcullis was illuminated.

"Behold the weapon forged to fight the Darkness," she exclaimed, stepping aside so that Harry could see the boulder and what was embedded within it.

"Excalibur!" said his father, pointing to the sword sticking out of the stone.

***

Part 24

At first Severus thought it was the shock that had Harry swaying on his feet, but then he saw blood dripping onto the flagstones as Harry's hand clutched at his scar. "It's him!" Harry hissed, pushing his fringe aside so that all of them could see the raised and bloody scar. "He's here!"

"Impossible!" said the King, just as footsteps were heard marching down the staircase. Lord Jasper was there, staring wide-eyed and horrified at them.

"My Lords, we are betrayed!" he shrieked just as an unseen spell felled him where he stood and his body tumbled loudly down the steps before rolling to a stop at the base.

"The sword, Harry! Quick!" shouted Severus.

With his left hand gripping his scar; Harry reached out his right and removed the sword easily from the stone. Severus could breathe again; wondering what would have happened if they'd been wrong all along and Harry wasn't the one who could have removed the sword from the stone.

Excalibur shone with its own inner light; the ancient runes once more protecting whoever wielded it. Severus cast an invisibility charm on the weapon and Harry nodded at him to show he understood. Voldemort could not know what Harry held in his hand; they needed the element of surprise.

Hooded and masked Death Eaters streamed into the room; Harry and Severus managed to cast a few spells but there were too many of them and they were soon overpowered and held fast by binding spells. Or at least, that's what they let the Death Eaters think. Both of them had been shielded by their combined magic and the binding spells had only lasted a second, if that. Both of them were free to move whenever they needed to; but they had to be patient. Harry would have only one chance with the sword and they had to make their move at the right time.

"In here, my Lord!" roared one of the Death Eaters. Severus saw Harry scrunch up his face against the pain as the creature appeared at the top of the dungeon steps. He kicked Jasper out of the way once he reached the bottom.

"Well, well, if isn't young Harry and the traitor," drawled Voldemort. "This is a surprise, isn't it? So this is where you've been hiding from me, eh, Harry? The Fae aren't usually so helpful to humans. Or maybe you're a pet, is that it?"

Harry's face darkened and Severus knew the Dark Lord had made a mistake by even bringing that up.

"Shall I kill the Fae?" said one of the Death Eaters who was holding an iron knife to the Queen's throat.

"NO!" snapped Voldemort. "I do not want a geis on us! Bind them only. It's Potter and the traitor I want!"

Voldemort glided closer to Harry and trailed a scaly finger across the boy's bleeding scar. Harry shuddered in revulsion and Severus could feel it through their bond. "It ends tonight, Harry. One of us is going to die."

"It won't be me, Tom," said Harry and Severus could almost see the monster recoil at the name. What had the Queen said? There was magic in names?

"Lovely evening, Tom," said Severus and Voldemort turned to him, hissing his displeasure like his familiar would. Nagini wasn't with him tonight.

"I am Lord Voldemort!" he thundered. "Crucio!"

Severus' world dwindled to one of pain and nothing but pain. Maybe he screamed, he wasn't sure. There was a voice in his head, a voice he struggled to hear. Harry – it was Harry and he needed to concentrate on that voice, not the pain.

"If you say so, Tom," said Harry softly as he wandlessly bound all the Death Eaters and then thrust the invisible sword in under the creature's arm and straight through to his heart. Once Excalibur had tasted Voldemort's blood, it became visible again and Voldemort stared down at it in shock.

The pain left Severus as soon as the Dark One’s concentration broke and Severus struggled back to his feet. His own blood stained the floor, but so did Voldemort's and Severus couldn't help flashing a malicious grin at his former master.

"How?" Voldemort mumbled and blood bubbled from his mouth to stain the floor even more.

Harry waved his hand to indicate the King and Queen. "Meet my parents, Tom. My real parents. They are Fae, as am I. Fae blood runs through my veins, Tom, as it now does in yours. Iron can kill the Fae, as you well know. Meet Excalibur; King Arthur's sword. You are finished!"

"NO!" Voldemort screamed as if his words could deny it; but it was too late – he was dying and everyone in those dungeons knew it. Voldemort slumped to the ground; his last breaths rattling until both his voice and his body were still.

Once Voldemort had died, Severus cast the soul-severing spell on him to ensure that he could never return and then burned the body to ash.

The sword didn't burn; it clattered to the ground in a flash of blinding white light and then disappeared to once more to embed itself within the stone. Harry struggled to his knees; bracing himself on his hands, he threw up what little he'd eaten that day. Severus was by his husband's side at once, rubbing Harry's back and keeping his hair out of his face as Harry continued to retch. Severus banished the vomit with a wave of his hand but could not offer Harry any water. If they were to return soon they couldn't eat or drink anything in the realm of Faerie for the next few hours.

"Shall we kill his followers?" asked the King, raising his hands to do just that.

"No," said Harry softly, struggling to his feet. "Dumbledore is the leader of the Order of the Phoenix. Let them be taken to him and given a fair trial. Please."

"As you wish, Harry," said the King. Raising Harry to his feet he embraced him before magicking the Death Eaters away. "I have sent them to a portal and sent word to your headmaster; they will be dealt with in the mortal fashion."

"Thank you," said Harry, returning his father's embrace.

A groan from the steps had them all turning to see Lord Jasper climb to his feet, rubbing his head and his back. His robes were bloodstained, but he didn't seem to be too badly hurt.

"You're alive!" exclaimed Harry, rushing over to give the man a hug. Severus had never seen Harry so willingly give affection to anyone other than himself before, but it boded well for Harry's recovery. It seemed his uncle's treatment was no longer something he dwelled on all the time.

"I was just stunned, my prince," said Jasper. "There is no need to fret over me. The blood was theirs, not mine."

"Lord Jasper, what did you mean when you said we were betrayed?" asked the Queen just as the door swung open once more and there at the top of the steps stood Lucien with his sister struggling in his arms.

"It was Celeste, my liege," said Lucien "She opened the portal to allow them through, as she has been doing each time we faced the Dark One's followers."

"Is this true?" demanded the Queen, her eyes glinting angrily. Severus was glad he wasn't Celeste in that moment. The King's justice may have been swift, but it was nothing compared to the Queen's. It was the Queen who ruled Tir Na Nog and Celeste was a fool to have allowed herself to forget it. The Queen would never forgive treachery against her realm or her family.

Celeste's eyes darted about the room, settling at last on the pile of ashes on the floor. "No! He can't be dead! He can't be! He promised me we'd rule together side by side! He promised! I'd be Queen!" Celeste gave one last wail and then hung limply in Lucien's arms.

"Has she fainted?" asked Harry.

"No, my prince. She has willed herself to die," said Lucien.

"She should have been killed as a traitor!" spat the Queen. "And what about you, Lucien? Has your sister's sickness infected you, too?"

"No, my Queen," said Lucien, bending down as best as he was able with the body of his dead sister in his arms. "I am and always will be loyal to the throne, whoever sits upon it."

"It was a more honourable end than execution," said the King. "But she is still a traitor. Lucien, her body must rest outside the Palace grounds and there is to be no marker on her grave."

"As you wish, majesty," said Lucien as he turned and took Celeste's lifeless body away with him.

The King and Queen turned to Harry. "You fought well," said the Queen. "The threat to your life is gone, but you have already made up your mind, haven't you?"

Harry nodded. "I'm sorry. I can't stay here. It isn't my home, but I'm glad I got to meet you."

"As are we, Harry. It is a joy to see the young man you've become and you will have our blessings to live where you feel happiest. That's all we can ask for you, that you'll be happy," said the King.

"There is course one more duty you must perform before we can let you go. Since you are no longer going to rule after us, you must choose your successor," said the Queen.

"Isn't that up to you?" asked Harry, sounding surprised.

"No, my dear; it is the Prince's duty to name his successor if he does not wish to take the throne after us."

"But you live a long time, don't you? Do you really need a successor?"

"We do, Harry. It is the way of things here. Do you have anyone in mind?"

Harry nodded and in that instant, Severus knew who Harry would choose to rule Faerie after his parents were gone.

"Then I name Lord Jasper my successor."

***

It was the first time Harry had felt cold in Faerie; Severus wrapped his arms around him and pressed a kiss to his hair. His parents, Lord Jasper and a few of the Court were waiting outside the ring of mushrooms; the Faerie Fort that would take them back to their own realm. He and Severus had attended a feast in celebration of Lord Voldemort's defeat, but hadn't eaten any of it, knowing they would be travelling between the two realms soon. Harry's tummy grumbled and he had visions of shepherd's pie, carrots and gravy all washed down with gallons of pumpkin juice; his mouth started watering at the thought.

Harry was trying his best not to cry knowing that it was unlikely he would ever see his parents again, but he wasn't sad to be leaving this strange realm. Harry was more than ready to go home. Severus had placed Voldemort's ashes in an urn which they'd already sent ahead of them to Dumbledore with a note explaining what had happened and that they would soon be returning themselves.

The Dark Mark on Severus' arm had disappeared completely, but Harry's scar had only just started to fade. There was no pain from it anymore – not even if he prodded it with his fingers – and Harry knew they had dispatched the monster Voldemort for good. He didn't feel any pleasure in the fact that he'd taken a life; it had sickened him. Harry knew that no matter whom his father was, Harry was no warrior prince. He was Harry, just Harry, and that was the way he wanted it.

"Look after each other," said his mother.

"We will," said Harry, horrified to hear his voice cracking. He couldn't look at them any longer and hid his face against Severus' chin.

"It's time," said Severus stepping a little apart from him. Harry nodded and turned to his parents and the courtiers; all of them waved sadly as he felt himself shrink into his spider form.

They were going home.

***

Part 25

Madam Pomfrey kept Severus and Harry in the infirmary for a week, despite Severus' vehement protests.

"I am perfectly fine, woman!" he screamed at her more than once. "I demand you release me!"

"But it isn't up to you, Severus, it's up to me and until I say you are ready, you are staying in that bed."

He'd tried sneaking out, but Poppy knew him too well. His bed had been alarmed and as soon as he stepped down from it; sirens wailed like some terrible Muggle action movie and Poppy was there in all her hair-netted and dressing-robed glory. She only had to tap her slippered foot on the ground for Severus to feel like a child again and get back into bed quick-smart. The woman didn't need magical bindings to keep her patients in place; the thought of her wrath was binding enough.

But at last their week of enforced convalescence was finished; he and Harry had breakfast in the side-by-side beds, neither of them talking much. Severus was glad to see that Harry's appetite had returned in full force and his husband ate everything on his tray. Merlin, Severus had missed real food; he savoured every bite and every sip of his coffee and juice, moaning ecstatically as he bit into a slice of toast with marmalade. Delicious.

Harry glanced across at him and grinned. "I take it you like that?"

"You have no idea," said Severus, making short work of his breakfast. Harry had already finished his food; but he toyed with the knife and fork on his tray.

"Harry? What is it?"

"What happens now?" asked Harry, setting the cutlery side by side on his plate.

"Things go back to normal. You go back to class and I go back to teaching."

The reporters had descended on the school as soon as the news of Voldemort's demise had leaked out, but they couldn't get past the wards unless the Keeper of the Keys allowed it. Since Hagrid was so protective of Harry, the reporters didn't stand a chance, but if Severus and Harry were to venture anywhere outside the school, he knew they had to be wary of being ambushed by Rita Skeeter and others of her ilk, desperate for a scoop.

"Oh. Oh," said Harry in a small voice and Severus could see Harry blinking rapidly to try and hold back tears and Severus wondered what he'd done now. Isn't that what Harry wanted? He'd defeated the most evil wizard the world had ever known and now he was beholden to no one. Harry could live his own life without having to worry about pleasing other people. "So - so the bonding was only temporary? You were just my mate until I defeated the Dark Lord?" continued Harry and Severus realised his mistake. Sometimes he forgot how fragile Harry still was emotionally.

He climbed down from his bed (thankfully the alarms had been dismantled now) and pushed the wheeled table to the foot of Harry's bed. "Oh, Harry. I thought you understood; we're mated for life. Our bond has nothing to do with Voldemort, it's about us and how we feel about each other. That's why the bonding worked. When I said back to normal, I meant that we go back to school and everything as normal, but our bond is normal too, Harry. It's normal for us and I will never leave you. I love you and nothing is going to part us. I promise."

Harry reached out his arms and pulled Severus down for a tentative kiss. They were interrupted by a cough coming from the doorway. They pulled apart and glanced at the purple-robed headmaster. Harry was trembling and Severus rubbed his husband's arms to try and calm him.

"Yes, Albus?" asked Severus, arching his eyebrow.

"Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley are here to escort Mr. Potter back to his dormitory."

"He won't be staying in the dormitory, he will be staying with me," said Severus, turning back to Harry and seeing his husband's eyes light up with barely concealed delight.

"Severus, that is not possible. You are still his teacher; it is highly inappropriate and I cannot condone it."

"I am not asking for your permission, Albus. We are bonded Fae and need no wizard's permission in order to be together. Get dressed, Harry," said Severus, trailing a hand down Harry's cheek. Harry arched into the touch and Severus knew if the headmaster hadn't been there; they would have been doing a lot more than just kissing and touching. Severus gave Harry a peck on the cheek and then marched over to the headmaster.

Severus steered Albus into Poppy's office before locking and warding the door. "You will not keep him from me. I won’t allow it."

"Severus, I understand that you wish to be with your mate; but he is also a student and you are his teacher. I cannot in good conscience allow this to go on."

"Yet you could allow him to be abused by his relatives?" spat Severus. "You have no idea what that boy has endured over the years and I will not allow anything to keep him from happiness ever again. He is happy with me and everything we do is consensual."

"Severus, please, I do not wish to hear about it! Until Harry has left school, you must agree not to take your affair any further."

"It is not an affair, it's a bond and I cannot agree to your request and nor can Harry. A Fae will pine if they are not in close contact with their mate frequently and I am not risking Harry's health for your sensibilities. You can't stop us from being together."

"No, but the governors can. If they were to hear of this..."

"Are you thinking of telling them?"

"I wasn't intending to; but Severus, you must understand my position. I cannot be seen to condone such intimacies between students and staff, it just isn't done. All I ask is that you both behave discreetly and you have to admit that having Harry share your quarters cannot be seen as being discreet. Can he not stay in the dorms and visit you instead?"

"We will try it, Albus; but if Harry's health becomes endangered, then I don't care who knows about it, we will be together." Severus didn't particularly want Harry to have to sneak around in order to see him; but he didn't want to risk Harry getting expelled either and if the governors did find out, it was a likely possibility. It wouldn't matter to them whether Harry was Fae or not and had a legal creature bond with Severus; they would still see only what they wanted to see – a student having an affair with a teacher.

"Thank you, Severus. I'll leave you to tell Harry, shall I?" The headmaster's blue eyes twinkled; of course they would – Dumbledore had got what he wanted.

***

Harry didn't talk much about their trip to Faerie and his friends stopped asking. Not the Slytherins though, with Draco Malfoy being the loudest of the bunch. With Harry's innate magic protecting him from any sort of magical attack by curses or hexes; Malfoy relied on taunts and name-calling instead. Harry lost count of how many times Malfoy had called him a Fae bastard, it didn't seem to penetrate the Slytherin boy's skull that although he may have been Fae, his parents were in fact bonded to each other.

It felt so strange to be back at school after all this time. To his friends and the rest of Hogwarts he and Severus had only been gone a few days, while in their reality it felt more like months. Harry felt a lot older than his friends these days; he wondered if this was how Muggle soldiers felt coming back from war to people who hadn't been there and could never know what it was like. None of Harry’s friends had faced the Dark Lord.

Harry had killed Voldemort and most nights he dreamed of blood and death and probably would have woken up the entire dorm with his screams if it hadn't been for his silencing charms. The recurring nightmare of Sirius and Remus was back and had been almost as soon as they returned from Tir Na Nog. Harry thought it would have stopped now that he'd defeated Voldemort, but it seemed more intense than ever.

Professor Dumbledore hadn't allowed him to stay with Severus in the dungeons, but a couple of times a week, Harry would sneak down in his invisibility cloak and spend most of the night with Severus, going back to his dorms around six o'clock before anyone else was up. Ron knew where he sneaked off to. Although Ron wasn't that keen on Harry's mate, he knew how much Fae needed to be with their mates and so he promised Harry that if the others woke up he'd just tell them that Harry had taken to wandering around the castle.

Remus hadn't changed; he was still treating Harry like something a hippogriff had dragged in and Harry's marks were slipping further and further each week. The day before the Christmas holidays, Professor McGonagall asked to see Harry in her office during lunchtime and he wondered if he was in trouble.

When he got there, Ron and Hermione were already seated on the wooden chairs in front of the professor's desk. Harry's stomach lurched as if he'd fallen down one of the trick steps. What were his friends doing here?

"Professor?" blurted Harry. McGonagall conjured another chair and waved Harry to sit down. She had a sheaf of papers open on her desk and as he sat down Harry could see that they were his Defence marks. On his last essay, Remus had given Harry a T.

"Is this true?" asked McGonagall, holding up the essay so scrawled with red ink the paper looked like it had been in an accident. "That you are failing Defence? Ever since you started at Hogwarts, you have constantly been top of that class, so what's changed? Have you given up on the work now that the Dark Lord has been defeated?"

"No, ma'am," said Harry. He had done the work and he thought it was of a high standard; Harry didn't think Remus was being fair to him, but he didn't want to get anyone into trouble.

"It's not Harry's work, Professor," said Hermione. "Professor Lupin isn't marking it fairly."

McGonagall's eyebrows shot up. "You're now top of the class, Miss Granger, and you think the professor isn't being fair?"

"He's fair to everyone else," said Hermione. "He's just not fair to Harry."

"What do you mean?"

"Hermione, don't," pleaded Harry, but once Hermione had a cause to support, no one or nothing could stop her and she now saw Harry as a cause; he needed to be saved.

"Harry, someone's got to stop it! Professor Lupin mistreats Harry in class; he's always picking on him, taunting him and even though Harry's work is the best; he always gives Harry low marks."

"Taunting him? What on Earth do you mean, Miss Granger?"

Hermione risked a glance in Harry's direction and shrugged. Harry had given up trying to steer Hermione against any sort of course once she'd set her mind on it. "He makes fun of his work in front of everyone and taunts him about being Fae and - and accuses him of killing Sirius."

Harry dug his nails so far into his palms that little half-moons of blood appeared.

"Is this true, Mr. Potter?"

Harry thought of lying, but that would only have made Hermione out to be lying about it and he didn't want his friend to get into trouble, but nor did he want to make waves either. If Remus found out that they'd complained, wouldn't Defence classes get even worse?

"Yes ma'am," he said at last, feeling as if he was betraying Remus somehow.

"It's true," added Ron. "Ask anyone in our class."

"Thank you for bringing this to my attention," said Professor McGonagall. "Rest assured it will be dealt with."

Oh dear, that's what Harry was afraid of.

***

Part 26

Harry waited for Severus in the entrance hall. His trunk was packed and he'd put the shrunken cube into his robe pocket.

Hermione was going to stay at The Burrow this Christmas; she, Ron and Ginny waited with Harry and as they talked of their plans for the holidays, Harry felt himself wonder what his life would have been like if he'd grown up in a loving family like the Weasleys. He tried not to dwell on the past, but sometimes it was all he thought about.

Christmases at Privet Drive were never fun for Harry and he had to admit he was also a little anxious about spending this one alone with Severus. They hadn't done anything more yet than kiss and touch each other but Harry was afraid that now they would be alone and away from school, Severus might want more; Harry wasn't sure he was ready for that yet.

Harry loved Severus. He didn't doubt that, he was just scared that things might go too far or too fast before he was ready. Ginny laughed at one of Ron's jokes; Harry was so lost in thought that he hadn't heard it, and in the next instant Severus was there with an eager smile when he saw Harry and his friends.

Hermione smiled at both of them. "Have a lovely Christmas," said Hermione, elbowing Ron who said the same.

"Thank you, Miss Granger, I'm sure we will. Are you ready to go, Harry?" Severus held out the Portkey, an old shoe.

"Yes," said Harry, then he hugged and said goodbye to his friends before turning back and clasping hold of the leather.

The sensation was as disconcerting as he remembered and Harry just hoped they arrived at their destination in one piece; he didn't actually know where they were going, Severus had just said he wanted to surprise him. After the whirlwind of colours died down Harry landed flat on his face on a patch of grass.

"Welcome home, Harry," said Severus bending down to help him up. Severus was as suave as ever; Harry couldn't imagine him falling on his face. Except for broomsticks Harry had never had much luck with Wizarding modes of transportation. He was too young to take his Apparation test yet, but Harry had the feeling that if he tried to Apparate anywhere, he would be well and truly splinched.

"Home?" asked Harry, brushing his robes free of loose grass, which at least told him they were nowhere in Faerie.

"This is your house," said Severus, extending his arm to take in four floors of sprawling grey stone. "Or at least it will be once you're seventeen. Your parents made me the trustee until then, but now that Voldemort is gone you can finally get to see it. If the headmaster had allowed me to take charge of you, this is where you would have grown up."

Harry felt the tears fall; he had a house, a home that the headmaster had denied him because he thought Harry was safer at the Dursleys. Harry had never been safe there and he knew he was crying for the childhood he should have had. One where he wasn't starved and beaten then shoved in a cupboard to be forgotten except when Vernon wanted use of his body. Privet Drive had never been home.

The house sat atop a small hill; he and Severus had landed at the foot of it. All of the window frames and the roof ridge were covered in multi-coloured lights, their reflections sparkling in the snow. There was a small wood behind them with lawns leading up to the house; an avenue of evergreen trees guarded the driveway and magical plants bloomed all over the garden. Harry had never seen anything so wonderful; he remembered his awe at first seeing Hogwarts with all the turrets and candlelit windows, but seeing this house was so much better because it belonged to him and Severus. It was theirs.

Harry turned to his husband; the fading light was making Severus' eyes seem even darker and Harry stood up on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "It's lovely. Thank you for bringing me here."

"I know how much having a home of your own means to you," said Severus as he took Harry's hand and led him up to the house. As they approached the front door swung open and at first Harry thought it had done so by itself, but then he heard Dobby's excited welcome.

"Oh, Masters Harry and Severus! Welcome home!" the elf squeaked, bouncing on his feet. "I is so happy you is coming home this year!"

"Dobby?" exclaimed Harry in surprise. The elf was wearing a pair of green-and-yellow checked golfing trousers which he'd rolled up numerous times and one of Ron's Weasley jumpers. His feet were bare, as was his head for a change.

"Yes, Master Harry! I is being your new house-elf!"

"You're being paid and everything, right?" asked Harry, seeing visions of Hermione storming the house and demanding the elf be freed from slavery.

"Oh yes, Master Harry! I is being paid and having time off! Master Severus is being a very generous Master! But now I must go and finish dinner!" The elf beamed and Harry shook his head, wondering if Dobby's volume came in any other option but loud.

"Come on, I'll show you around," said Severus, taking Harry's arm and starting the tour on the ground floor.

***

Two hours and hundreds of footsteps later; Harry was certainly feeling ready for Dobby's dinner. The house was enormous, even bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside. Not only did they have the normal rooms; living rooms, bedrooms; bathrooms and library; they had their own indoor swimming pool in the basement and a Quidditch pitch on an enchanted part of the roof. There was also a fully-equipped potions laboratory and Severus had engaged Arthur Weasley's help in getting Muggle electronics to work so that they now had their own private cinema and games room.

Dobby had made Harry's favourite meal in honour of their first night at the house: shepherd's pie. There were platters of vegetables and jugs of pumpkin juice to wash it all down and Harry had never tasted anything so delicious in all his life.

"Dobby is a great cook," said Harry as he finished his last mouthful. Dessert was a chocolate gateau so light and fluffy that Harry thought it might float to the ceiling.

"Mmm, that's good," said Harry, savouring the chocolate. He'd never actually tasted chocolate until he went to Hogwarts, but he had certainly made up for it since.

Severus smiled at him. "You've got a smear on your chin."

"Where?" asked Harry, lifting up his napkin.

Severus shifted his chair closer to Harry's. "Allow me," said Severus and before Harry knew it Severus was licking the chocolate off Harry's skin, lingering long after the chocolate was gone. "Bed?" suggested Severus, stroking his fingers along Harry's mouth.

"O- okay," said Harry, placing a soft kiss on Severus' cheek, before his husband took his hand and led him to the master bedroom.

***

Severus lay staring at the canopy. It must have been half an hour at least since Harry had first gone to the bathroom. Was he ill? Just as Severus was getting out of bed to knock on the door, Harry emerged dripping wet from his shower and wearing nothing but a towel. Rivulets of water ran down Harry's chest and Severus wanted nothing better than to lick them off.

He knelt up on the bed and attempted to do just that, but Harry backed away from him, clutching the towel tight against his body as if afraid Severus would remove it. Severus sat back on his legs. "Harry? What's wrong?"

Harry had never seemed afraid of him before; nervous certainly, but never afraid. Harry looked like a frightened rabbit caught in a wand light as he backed up against the wall, his eyes darting about the room as though looking for an escape route.

"I - I can't do this," said Harry.

"Do what, pet?"

"This," said Harry, waving his hands to encompass Severus and the bed. "Sex. I can't do it!"

"Harry, no one is asking you to, not until you're ready. I thought you enjoyed what we do together?"

"I - I do, I'm just afraid that one day things will go too far and I won't be able to stop you, like I wasn't able to stop Vernon."

Severus felt as if someone had just splashed him with ice water. Harry really thought that?

"Harry, have I ever done things to do that you don't want? Have I forced you? Have I ever given you reason to believe that I would hurt you in any way?"

"No, nothing like that," said Harry. "And I know the bond won't allow us to hurt each other, but I still feel - I still feel scared, Severus, and I don't want to keep feeling like this, I don't."

"I had no idea you were feeling like this." Severus could remember every delightful night Harry had spent in his bed and his cries of delight when he came. He had no inkling that Harry still felt scared that things might go further than he wanted them to. Severus knew that Harry might take a long time to come to terms with what Vernon had done to him. Severus had seen inside Vernon's mind and knew more than anyone what had happened to Harry: the manipulations; the beatings; the rapes; it was a wonder Harry was still sane.

"I'm being silly, aren't I?"

"No, Harry. It's not silly to talk about how you feel. You're still having nightmares, aren't you?" Severus knew he was, for Severus had been there in the small hours of the night when Harry had been screaming and flailing his limbs about in bed.

"Yeah."

"It's just a suggestion, but when we get back to school, do you think you might need to talk to Madam Pomfrey for counselling?"

"I'm not crazy!" protested Harry.

"Of course you're not, I just think you need to talk to someone and Poppy has dealt with this sort of thing before."

"She has?"

"You aren't the only abused student to ever attend Hogwarts, Harry. She'll be discreet and it might help you to talk about things. It's worth a try to get the nightmares to stop, isn't it?"

Harry nodded. "You must get fed up with me," mumbled Harry, hanging his head.

Severus never quite knew what to do in situations where Harry doubted his own worth. He'd never seen anyone with such a low opinion of themselves and it hurt Severus to know his husband's self-esteem was so low.

"Harry, you are the most wonderful person I know and I will never, ever get fed up with you. Do you believe me?"

"I - I want to," said Harry and Severus knew that was as good as he was going to get tonight.

***

Part 27

Harry woke up with his arm wrapped around Severus' chest and his leg draped over Severus' lower body. No matter what position they fell asleep in, Harry always seemed to gravitate towards his husband. He was glad they'd had that talk last night; his heart did feel lighter somehow after talking things through and Harry thought that seeing Madam Pomfrey for some counselling sessions might not be a bad idea after all.

Harry lifted his head and found two dark eyes staring down at him. "Sleep well?" asked Severus.

"I did actually," said Harry, surprised. He hadn't had any nightmares at all. He hadn't had nightmares in Tir Na Nog either, even though that place was so strange. Why did he only have them at Hogwarts?

"That's good. I brought some Dreamless Sleep along just in case you needed it."

"Thanks, I think I'll be okay. They only seem to happen at Hogwarts for some reason."

"You didn't have any nightmares in Faerie either?"

"Nope."

"That is strange; I've never heard of bad dreams being related to a place before. I thought you liked Hogwarts?"

"I do, but it's the only place I have the nightmares." Harry yawned and stretched. "Did you want the bathroom first?"

"No, you go ahead. I want to make sure you haven't sneaked a peek at your Christmas presents yet!" laughed Severus.

"I wouldn't dare, you've probably jinxed them," giggled Harry.

"You know me so well," said Severus leaning down to give Harry a soft kiss. "Don't be long."

Harry made his way to the bathroom and once the necessities were taken care of, followed the scent of bacon coming from the dining room. Dobby was nowhere in sight this morning, but the table bore the fruits of his labours. Platters of cooked meats and cheeses; fresh fruit arranged decoratively on plates; baskets of bread, croissants and muffins; a variety of jams and marmalades; silver salvers of sausages, bacon, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs (scrambled or poached), bowls of cereal and a large tureen of porridge along with jugs of juice, pots of coffee, tea and hot chocolate. In honour of the occasion, the room had been bedecked with holly and red berries.

"He does know it's just the two of us, right?" questioned Harry as he slid into the chair next to Severus.

"He does," said Severus. "Obviously our house elf feels we need fattening up."

"I'll never be able to eat all of this!" protested Harry.

"Just eat what you can," said Severus as he spooned himself out a portion of scrambled eggs, bacon and baked beans.

Harry was too nervous to eat much; he was worried that Severus wouldn't like his Christmas presents, as Harry had never shopped for a husband before. Once he started eating though, the butterflies in his tummy stopped fluttering and he managed some toast and muffins after the porridge.

"Why does nothing have any taste in Faerie?" asked Harry as he finished his breakfast.

"It's because of the way time flows differently there; the food occupies a different time zone to us, that's why we couldn't taste it. If we had stayed long enough, we would probably have been able to taste it eventually." Severus had finished his breakfast and his coffee and Harry was almost squirming in his chair.

"Presents?" he blurted out, unable to keep his excitement in check any longer.

Severus smiled at him. "Come on, then."

Severus led the way to the main living room. Harry had seen it briefly last night during their tour, but he still couldn't help the gasp of admiration when he saw the large Christmas tree bedecked with glass and silver baubles. It reached the ceiling and below it a mountain of presents cascaded all around it and across most of the floor. Harry didn't remember there being this many gifts the night before. Even from here he could see that most of them were addressed to My wonderful Harry.

"Severus, you can't give me all of those!"

"I can and I will. I'm making up for all the Christmases you lost out on. Go on, open them," said Severus.

"We'll be here all day!" giggled Harry as he knelt on the floor and dived in, not really knowing which to open first. Harry had never had so many presents at once before and he spent time shaking the wrapped packages trying to guess what was inside them before he opened them, much to Severus' amusement.

"Harry, they're magically wrapped; doing that won't give away what's inside." Severus was sitting down on the floor cross-legged and waiting patiently for the unveiling of Harry's gifts.

"Oh," said Harry, feeling a bit foolish. He'd seen Hermione do that with her presents but he gave up on that idea and started unwrapping. There were books; jigsaw puzzles; cuddly toys; board games; all those things that Harry had missed out on and saw Dudley get year after year and Harry felt the tears flowing long before he opened the final parcel. It was a smaller one and as Harry opened it he saw a beautiful silver bracelet in the shape of a snake with one red eye and one green.

"Oh, Severus, it's beautiful!" said Harry, throwing himself into Severus' arms and kissing him soundly. "Thank you!"

"You're very welcome. It's a bonding bracelet; I know we're not to supposed to be official before you've left school, but I wanted to give you something to show you that I am your mate and you will always be mine."

Harry slipped the bracelet on his left hand; it resized to fit his narrow wrist and the snake's forked tongue shot out and licked his skin, before becoming inanimate once again. It was a beautiful piece of jewellery and no matter the headmaster's opinion on their relationship; Harry was going to wear it all the time.

"I didn't get you as many presents as you got me," said Harry.

"That's okay, Harry. Just you being here with me is enough."

Harry blushed and shuffled off Severus' lap and brought over the small pile of gifts. Severus unwrapped the first one; a set of navy blue dress robes from Madam Malkin's that Harry had adjusted so they had room for the wings. There were two embroidered silver snakes on the collar and Harry thought they looked distinguished. He waited anxiously for Severus’ verdict.

"Thank you, Harry. I don't normally wear any other colour besides black; but you might just have me starting to change that."

Harry had also bought him gift boxes of Honeydukes’ chocolate and a miniature herb garden. "I know you get most of your ingredients for the potions from the Forbidden Forest or the greenhouses, but I just thought it was pretty." The window box had a selection of herbs – parsley, sage and rosemary which had only started sprouting.

"It is pretty," said Severus. "Just like you."

This time when Severus leaned over to kiss him; Harry was expecting it and opened his mouth in anticipation. He wondered if Dobby would walk in on them snogging on the floor and almost as if Severus could hear the thought he waved his wand and cast silencing charms and wards on the doors, turning back and cupping Harry's face in his hands.

They shared deep-open mouthed kisses for minutes or hours. Harry couldn't tell and he wasn't really bothered how long they took, just so long as they could keep doing it. He found himself back in Severus' lap with Severus cradling his head as they kissed and kissed. Harry moaned low in his throat, hearing the echo of Severus' moan throughout his whole body. His wings were itching in their sheath and his jeans were getting tighter by the minute as all the blood in his body rushed downwards.

Severus pulled away, gasping for breath; Harry knew his own breathing was as erratic as his husband's.

"Harry, is this okay? Do you want to stop?"

"No, I'm okay. I want this; I want you." Harry pushed the old fear to the back of his mind. This was Severus, his husband, the man he loved. This was as different to what had happened with his uncle as day was to night.

"I have an idea," Severus levitated some cushions from the sofa and settled them on the rug in front of the fireplace, then conjured some ropes and bound his own hands to the rail going across the hearth.

"Severus, what are you doing?"

"I'm giving you control, Harry. My hands are tied, I can't do anything to you, but you can do to me whatever you wish."

Oh Merlin! Harry went light-headed at just the thought. He stared down at Severus' body robed in his dressing gown and he desperately wanted to see him naked. "Can I undress you?"

"You can do whatever you want, Harry. You don't need to ask. I know you won't hurt me."

"I won't," Harry promised then cast a spell to remove the dressing gown, knowing he wouldn't be able to get it off normally with the ropes binding Severus’ hands. Severus' body was stretched out taut, the muscles on his shoulders straining against the ropes. Harry was awed anew at seeing his husband's wiry strength; Severus was tall and lean with not an ounce of spare flesh on him. Severus was panting for breath; his wings fluttered and spread out behind him and Harry knew it was well past time he released his own wings.

Harry undressed himself as quickly as he could and sighed in bliss when his wings and his throbbing erection were finally free. "You're beautiful," said Harry as he trailed his fingers down Severus' sternum and stopped at his groin. Severus arched his hips, as if to indicate where Harry should go next. Harry stifled a giggle and combed his fingers through the thatch of hair at Severus' groin, but avoided his prick altogether.

"Harry!" he whined in frustration. The sound went straight to Harry's cock and he licked his lips.

"Oh, no, not yet," said Harry. "You've put yourself at my mercy and I am going to enjoy it."

With that, Harry removed his hand and scooted down to Severus’ feet. He licked and kissed each one, loving the sounds of Severus' moans when he did so, before kissing his way up each leg with licks and sucks on the knees, the calves, behind the knees and soft fluttering kisses to the inner thighs. Harry could feel Severus' muscles quiver with desire; he was in control and he wasn't scared at all.

Severus' cock was a firm mast sticking straight up from his groin and leaking precome down the shaft and onto his abdomen. Harry's teasing of his husband was making him aroused too and when Severus let out an anguished moan when Harry removed his mouth from Severus' thigh, Harry knew the time had come for the teasing to stop. He was so hard he was aching with need.

He moved so that he was sitting astride Severus, his cock sliding against that of his husband and they both moaned in tandem at the contact.

"Merlin, Harry! You feel so good!"

Harry bent down and kissed him, his hips thrusting of their own volition. They'd both been on the edge for a while and Harry knew it wasn't going to last long. He braced himself with his hands either side of Severus' face so that he could thrust harder and faster; wanting to find that sweet oblivion with Severus. Sweat and precome helped their bodies slide against one another and suddenly Harry felt it, that delicious coiling in his balls and belly. He screamed into Severus' mouth as he spilled himself between their bodies and a few seconds later he felt Severus' completion joining his own as they moaned and shuddered against each other with the force of their climax.

Severus wrapped his wings around Harry and used them to squeeze Harry to his chest. They were sticky, they were sweaty, but Harry could never remember any Christmas as good as this.

"Wow!" said Harry, pulling away from their kissing for a moment to stare down at his husband. Afterglow really suited him; he had a bit of colour in his cheeks and if Harry didn't know better he could swear that those dark eyes were twinkling.

"Wow indeed." Severus cast a spell to release his bindings and then both arms and wings were wrapped around Harry, making him feel much loved and very safe.

"I love you, Severus. Thank you, it really helped."

"Well, just let me know the next time you want to tie me up and have me at your mercy, I'll be glad to oblige."

"Okay," said Harry, but he knew in his heart now that he didn't need Severus to be tied up in order for him to feel safe.

He would always be safe here in his husband's arms.

***

Part 28

"Oh Harry, it's gorgeous!" squealed Hermione as soon as she saw Harry's new bracelet, lifting up Harry's wrist so she could see it better. "A Christmas present?"

"Yes," said Harry, trying and failing to quell the blush. It seemed that even Fae magic could do nothing for those awkward blushes when you had a fair complexion. He risked a glance up at the head table and caught Severus' eye. When their gazes locked Harry felt as if all the breath had been knocked out of his body. To be the focus of such intensity was mind-blowing and he'd had two weeks of that focused attention just on him. He was determined to get used to that.

They looked away from each other quickly when Dumbledore made a disapproving face; gazing longingly at each other like moonstruck calves was hardly being discreet but Harry felt disappointed all the same when Severus turned his attention back to his dinner and away from Harry. Harry didn't want Severus to get fired but now with the threat of Voldemort well and truly gone, that wouldn't be as disastrous as it could have been. Severus was an excellent Potions Master; Harry didn't think he'd have trouble getting a job anywhere else.

"Professor Lupin isn't here," said Ron, round a mouthful of roast beef.

"Ron!" Hermione scolded him for what must have been the tenth time that evening. "Can't you at least finish eating first?"

Ron swallowed, and then waved a potato laden fork towards the staff table. "He's not there; is it a full moon tonight?"

"No," said Harry, his gaze returning to the head table as well. Sure enough there was a space between Severus and Professor McGonagall where the Defence professor usually sat. Harry hadn't noticed Remus wasn't there; he had been too intent on staring at his husband. Had Remus been sacked because of what they'd told Professor McGonagall? Is that why he wasn't there?

Dumbledore stood up and tapped a spoon against his goblet for order. The noise dimmed to something less resembling a dull roar and more like a subdued mutter. "Thank you everyone. I hope everyone had a lovely break and has returned fresh for their upcoming exams. I have a few school notices to impart. First of all Mr. Filch would like me to remind you that any items from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes are still banned; the restrictions haven't been lifted just because you may have received some for gifts over the holidays." There were a few groans and a few hastily muttered spells as those students who did in fact have some of Fred and George's products on their person or in their bags hastily disguised them in case Filch decided to search them.

"On another note, Professor Lupin was taken ill over the holidays and while he recovers in St. Mungo's, we will have a substitute teacher to take his classes."

As Dumbledore was speaking, Professor McGonagall walked down the aisle between the House tables and stopped where Harry was sitting. "Mr. Potter, can you come with me please?"

Harry glanced worriedly at his friends before following his Head of House out of the Great Hall. She led him to a small alcove near the front doors. "I didn't want you hearing this from anyone else, Harry, it's about Professor Lupin."

"He is okay, isn't he?" asked Harry.

"Not really, no. It's his condition, Harry. Remus has been living with it for a long time, longer than any werewolf alive in fact. He has already passed his life expectancy; most werewolves don't live long past twenty. Even with the advances Professor Snape has made with the Wolfsbane Potion; the transformations every month take a physical and mental toll. Harry, Professor Lupin suffered a complete mental breakdown and has been admitted to the closed ward. His mind is gone and they don't think he'll ever recover his sanity. The healers don't give him much time; he's dying, Harry, I'm sorry."

Harry just stood there, unable to take it in. Remus couldn't die. He was Remus. Remus who taught him the Patronus Charm. Remus who regaled him with stories of the Marauders. He couldn't just die!

"Is - is that why Remus was acting so weird around me?"

"I'm afraid so, dear. Losing Sirius caused the mental problems to become more acute but nothing could have stopped the decline. This was always going to happen." McGonagall gave him a pat on the shoulder, Harry barely felt it, he was numb. "Why don't you go back in to your friends, dear?"

"Oh. Okay." Harry walked back to the hall, feeling as if his feet had turned to lead. Dumbledore was just finishing his welcome speech for the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor. "So I'm sure you'll join me in welcoming our new Defence teacher, Professor Lucien Grey."

Harry's head jerked up as he heard the name and yes indeed; the man who sat down was indeed Severus' ex-lover. Lucien sat down next to Severus to lean across and whisper something in Severus' ear. Blood pounded in Harry's ears and he was hardly aware that he was walking towards the staff table or even heard the curious mutterings that followed in his wake. Lucien continued whispering in Severus' ear and then he reached a hand out to touch Severus' arm.

"NO!!!" screamed Harry, never feeling so out of control in his life. "He's mine!"

***

"You call that display discreet, Severus?" ranted the headmaster as he paced the office. "The whole school knows now! Do you know how many Howlers I've had already demanding Harry be expelled?"

"I did warn you, Albus. A Fae needs to be with their mate; this would never have happened if you'd allowed us to be together from the start. The bond hasn't settled, we haven't spent enough time together."

"So this is my fault now?"

"Well it certainly isn't Harry's!" interjected Minerva McGonagall. "The boy was distraught over the news about Remus. It was just an over-reaction."

"An over-reaction?" demanded Albus. "He attacked a teacher in full view of the whole school! How are we going to keep this quiet?"

"He was only obeying his nature," said Severus.

"Fae nature?"

"It's the only nature he has, Albus. You keep thinking that because he looks human that is what he is; but he isn't and never will be. I told you the bond hasn't had time to settle down yet; he was just reacting to a perceived threat to our relationship. He was well within his rights to take action against that threat. Lucien should have known better than to touch me in front of Harry. If we were still in Faerie, Lucien could have lost his life for taking such liberties with one of a bonded pair."

"Well we're not in Cloud Cuckoo Land, we're in the real world, Severus and this cannot go on any longer! He has to go! The governors are breathing down my neck; they're threatening to close the school if he isn't removed."

"Albus! You can't expel Harry Potter! He saved us all!" protested Minerva.

"Don't waste your breath, Minerva. I get it, Albus. Now that Voldemort is gone, you have no need for your precious hero, your tool for the war. The war's over and now you just want to forget about the person who ended it. You're more worried about your fucking school than you ever were about that boy! Why else would you leave him with the Dursleys to be abused time and time again?"

"Abused? What's this? Albus, what's he talking about?"

"Oh? Hasn't the headmaster told you about it? The locked cupboard? The beatings? The starvation? The rapes?"

"The - the rapes?" Minerva placed her hands over her mouth. "Albus is this true? Those Muggles were abusing Harry?"

The headmaster was silent for too long. "Oh my God! I don't believe this! You knew? You knew and you sent him back there year after year? By the time the governors hear about this, you'll be lucky if you get a job cleaning toilets never mind teaching at a school again!"

With that, Minerva turned on her heel and stalked out. Severus had never seen the woman so angry; he knew how much Harry meant to her and he didn't doubt she would do everything in her power to have Dumbledore removed from Hogwarts.

"You won't have to expel Harry," said Severus. "We're leaving. I hope you'll be very happy with your stone walls, Albus. You could have had a grandchild if you'd shown him the least bit of love and affection. Growing up he was starved for it because of you, but you had only to hold out your hand and he would have taken it. What you did was almost as much abuse as what those Muggle bastards did. What you did was worse. He trusted you and you betrayed him time and time again. You almost destroyed that boy, Albus and I will never forgive you for that."

"You said so yourself, Severus. He isn't a boy. He's Fae."

***

Severus made his way to the infirmary; Harry was dosed with the strongest sedative Poppy had on hand. Lucien was getting ready to leave; the cuts on his face and hands already ably healed by the matron.

"I'm sorry, Severus," he said. "I didn't think."

"Just go, Lucien. I do not wish to talk to you."

"Very well, but I really am sorry."

Severus didn't watch him go; he sat down next to Harry's bed and smoothed the hair away from his husband's forehead. Dried tear tracks shone silver on his cheeks and despite the strong sedation he was under, Harry's breathing was ragged and erratic. It seemed his demons had followed him down into slumber as well.

For three days Severus sat vigil by Harry's bedside, reminding him uncomfortably of his stay in the Muggle hospital doing the same, but this time it was Harry's mental health that was in jeopardy. Harry was not waking even after Poppy had stopped giving him the sedatives. It seemed that Harry was keen to avoid having to face up to things and Severus could hardly blame him.

On the third night, Severus was leaning his head on the bed next to Harry's legs when he heard the voices. He, Poppy, Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley had their suspicions as to why Harry was only having nightmares at Hogwarts and it seemed in a few moments they would have their proof.

"Ssh Crabbe! We don't want them to wake up!" hissed Draco Malfoy in a very loud whisper. Severus evened out his breathing to pretend he was asleep. He could sense the Slytherin boy approach the bed; but he daren't look up to see what was going to happen, although he could hazard a good guess.

"Malus Somnio!" Malfoy intoned and almost immediately Harry began thrashing about on the bed as his dreams were taken over by nightmares.

Malfoy tried to exit the hospital wing, but Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley barred the exit. "Oh, I don't think so, Malfoy," said Granger as Severus stood up and gripped Malfoy by the shoulder.

"A hundred points from Slytherin, Mr. Malfoy, that might make you think twice about hexing your classmates and getting caught doing so."

"You're not Head of Slytherin anymore," protested Malfoy. "You can't take points."

"Really? You sounded so sure of that as well. Miss Granger, the door if you please." Hermione opened the door and in the entrance hall they all saw the emeralds dwindling away from the Slytherin hourglass.

"But you were sacked! My mother told me!"

"Ah." Narcissa Malfoy had taken over duties as school governor ever since Lucius had been imprisoned; she was also one of the few who knew that Severus was half-Fae. "I presume she told you about the Fae?"

"When I wrote to her and told her that Potter had some sort of protection against hexes, she told me what she suspected, that he was Fae. She sent me my grandfather's wand; it has a core of iron so I could hex him even if he was Fae."

So there in front of him was the reason that Harry's dreams had been filled with nothing but nightmares while he was at Hogwarts. Draco Malfoy had been hexing him without his knowledge; he was just as cowardly as his father.

"Thank you, Miss Granger; you can take these two to the headmistress for punishment."

"What do you mean, headmistress?" demanded Draco. "We don't have a headmistress!"

"We do now," said Poppy emerging from her office and checking on Harry. "He's awake, Severus," the matron called down to him. Severus almost ran to the bed; his heart lifted when he saw those green eyes blinking up at him.

"Severus? What happened?" asked Harry, his eyes squinting as he tried to see without his glasses. Severus placed them gently on his face and stroked his cheek.

Poppy laughed. "It's a long story, dear. I'll let Severus fill you in."

***

Part 29

Five Years Later

Harry took off the green shirt and tried the blue again, staring in the mirror. No, that made him look too washed out. He was pale enough already worrying about the upcoming party. He tried the green again. No. The white? The pink? Ron would have a heart attack if Harry wore pink. He was quite happy to accept the fact that Harry was gay as long as he didn't advertise it too loudly in Ron's presence, so pink was out. Maybe dark purple? Maroon? Harry yanked every shirt he owned from the wardrobe and threw them onto the bed.

Severus peeked his head around the door. "Harry, aren't you ready yet?" he asked with an indulgent smile.

"I don't know what to wear!" wailed Harry, feeling tears of frustration building up in the corners of his eyes. "Oh God, they're all going to be staring at me! I can't do this, Severus, I can't!"

Severus was across the room in two strides and he wrapped Harry in a comforting hug. "Harry, no one is going to notice what you're wearing; it's not a fashion show. You'll look wonderful in whatever you wear."

"Ah, but you're biased," said Harry, risking a smile. "You think I look good in anything."

"That's because you do," said Severus, leaning down to give him a long, lingering kiss. Severus' hands skimmed down Harry's bare chest and tweaked his nipples. The knock on the bedroom door had them jumping apart like two guilty teenagers and when Molly Weasley popped her head round the door, that's exactly what Harry felt like even though his adolescence was a few years behind him.

"Severus, Harry, the cars are here."

"Already?" gasped Harry in a panic.

"Molly, Harry could use some sartorial assistance," said Severus. "I'll leave him in your capable hands."

Molly stepped into the room just as Severus left it. "Now, Harry dear, what seems to be the trouble?"

***

As Severus waited for Molly and Harry to come back downstairs; his mind wandered back over the past five years and everything that had happened. Minerva had indeed gone to the governors that day and once it was discovered what the Dursleys had done to the boy saviour and that Dumbledore had allowed it to happen, he'd been stripped of the headship and Minerva McGonagall had been instated as headmistress in his stead. Dumbledore had left and no one knew where he was now. Severus couldn't care less where the ex-headmaster had gone, just as long as he stayed away from Severus and Harry.

It turned out that the only one of the governors angling for Harry's expulsion had been Narcissa Malfoy; none of the other governors knew a thing about it. Basically, Dumbledore had lied when he said that the governors would close the school if Harry wasn't expelled. When Harry's nature had been made so public after the debacle in the Great Hall, Minerva didn't really see the point of keeping two bonded Fae away from each other and Harry had moved into the dungeons. Madam Pomfrey had taken over Harry's Potions lessons so that his marks weren't questioned and Harry's school life had moved on to its inevitable conclusion when Harry took his NEWTs with his friends.

Remus Lupin had deteriorated rapidly until Harry had the bright idea of sending the werewolf to Tir Na Nog. There was no day or night there and no sun or moon so he wouldn't transform at all. Harry and Severus had travelled back to see Harry's parents one last time to ask them if they would be willing to allow Remus to stay. Harry had been so ill when they returned that they knew they couldn't risk the trip to Faerie again.

Knowing how much the werewolf meant to their son, they allowed it. Although Harry was sad that he would probably never see Remus again he was content knowing that Remus was happy somewhere else and not locked up in St. Mungo's. Remus' mind had gradually returned after he'd been in Faerie for a while and hadn't transformed. He had somehow managed to send a letter full of apologies to Harry. He was also now an item with Prince Jasper, much to Harry's delight.

Severus smiled as he thought of his husband and how far he'd come in just a few short years. Harry had seen Poppy for counselling until he'd left school and although Harry sometimes had the odd nightmare, he was a lot stronger emotionally than he had been.

Harry had done so well in his exams that Minerva recommended he continue his education at the Wizarding University in Edinburgh; but Harry hadn't wanted an academic career. Much to everyone's surprise, including Severus', Harry went off to study at the Cordon Bleu School of Cuisine in Paris – a Muggle school for upcoming chefs. Severus had left Hogwarts to travel with him and Severus spent his time while Harry was studying at the Institute to work on his own potions and perfumes, which he then sold to a local natural health shop.

Three weeks ago Harry had graduated from the Cordon Bleu with the highest honour they bestowed on their chefs - Le Grand Diplome - and they had moved back home. Tonight was the launch party for their new restaurant, The Wishing Well and Severus' poor husband had been a nervous wreck all day.

Molly came down the stairs, smiling warmly at Severus, but he had eyes only for his husband. Molly had persuaded Harry to wear the jade green shirt that brought out his eyes and a pair of black dress trousers. Harry smiled shyly at him. "Is this okay?" he asked, still so unsure of himself after all these years.

"You look beautiful, Harry," said Severus, meaning it as he meant it every time he said those words. Harry had let his hair grow out, it now reached his shoulders and although he tied it back with a black ribbon it still covered his pointed ears. The restaurant guest list included both Muggles and Wizards tonight and it would cater to both as well. That's why they were arriving in cars rather than travelling magically, it was the only way to get to the restaurant. There were no Floo or Apparation points as The Wishing Welll was right in the heart of Muggle London, exactly where Harry wanted it.

Severus would do everything in his power to make sure that from now on Harry would have everything he ever wanted.

"Ready to go, Harry?" Severus held out an arm. Harry skipped down the remaining few stairs and grabbed hold of it.

"I suppose so," said Harry with an enormous grin.

***

The party had been a roaring success; Harry's party food had gone down a treat and he felt so pleased at all the compliments he received on his cooking. The Wishing Well wouldn't open to paying customers for a few days after the party but Harry felt confident that after the hopefully rave reviews in the London papers that they wouldn't be empty.

After the party they invited the Weasleys, Hermione and Neville to stay on at the house. Fred and George were all for staying up and partying on into the wee hours, but Arthur and Molly pleaded tiredness and headed off to bed in one of their many guestrooms. A few moments later, Severus said the same.

"Okay," said Harry. "I'll be up in a minute."

"No, stay and talk with your friends," said Severus and headed for the stairs. Harry stared at his husband's retreating back, loving the way Severus’ trousers framed his form and he felt his groin stirring again at the sight. He'd been feeling horny nearly all night. What with the excitement of the launch party – not to mention the dances he had shared with Severus earlier in the evening – Harry wasn't in the mood for talking with his friends. They'd all still be there in the morning. Harry had something else in mind for tonight.

"Goodnight all," said Harry, standing up with a grin and waving.

"You've got it bad!" laughed Fred.

"Anyone would think you're still on honeymoon!"

"George!" scolded Hermione, but she was giggling as she sipped her champagne.

"I always thought Snape would be good in bed," mused Bill with a small smile of his own. "He is, isn't he?"

Harry pretended to zip up his lip, but since he bounded up the stairs with an expectant air they probably guessed that Severus Snape was indeed very good in bed and in a few moments Severus would prove it. Their bedroom was dark when Harry entered.

"Severus? Are you awake?"

"Since I only adjourned to our room a few moments ago that could be considered an excellent deduction. Didn't you want to spend time with your friends?"

"Tomorrow," said Harry, shedding his clothes as he made his way over to the bed. "Tonight I want to spend some time with you." Harry pulled down his underwear and clambered onto the bed by feel as he couldn't see very much in the dark. His skin felt the fabric of Severus' nightshirt. "Why are you wearing this?"

"The bed was cold without you in it," said Severus, tugging Harry towards him for a deep kiss. Harry moaned as his naked erection came into contact with the material of the nightshirt and he rubbed himself wantonly against Severus' body.

"Well I'm here now," said Harry. "We can warm each other up."

"What did you have in mind?"

Harry waved his hand so that the candle on the bedside table illuminated the room and the jar of oil zoomed into his hand. He handed it to Severus and turned over to lie face down on the bed. "And what would our newest restaurateur want this evening? Slow seduction or hard and fast?"

"Oh God!" moaned Harry as his prick rubbed against the sheets. "Hard and fast. I've been hard all night, wanting this, wanting you inside me."

Harry widened his legs and sighed in relief when he felt two fingers enter him. Even when he did want it hard and fast like tonight, Severus always made sure to prepare him thoroughly, to make sure that Harry felt only pleasure, never pain. It had taken Harry a while to allow Severus inside him, the first couple of times they'd tried it Harry had been so scared and tense that Severus could barely get one finger inside him and Harry worried that he would never feel confident enough to allow it. Then Severus had showed him the delights of rimming, the first time Harry had Severus' cock inside him was on his nineteenth birthday, when Severus' tongue had made him a puddle of boneless goo after two intense orgasms.

His cock throbbed just remembering it. "More!" groaned Harry and was rewarded with another finger. Severus' fingers brushed over his prostate and Harry arched his hips backwards and shrieked "Ahh! In me! Oh God! In me!"

Severus removed his fingers and Harry almost wailed at the empty sensation as he waited for Severus to coat his cock with the oil. A few moments later he felt the wonderful stretch as his husband entered his body and gripped his hips. Harry rose to his knees, spread his wings and grabbed the slats of the headboard for balance.

"Fuck! Oh fuck!" moaned Severus. "You're so tight, so perfect." Severus kissed the back of Harry's neck, just above his wings and Harry was lost in ecstasy.

"Severus! I'm so close!" he warned. His sac felt so full and heavy. "I need to come! Please Severus, please!"

Severus' thrusts speeded up and one of his wings came round to caress Harry's cock. Harry was sent hurtling over the edge in a matter of moments, screaming wordlessly as he came and came, come dripping from his cock onto the bed.

"Harry!" Severus stiffened inside him and Harry was filled with his husband's essence as his hips were gripped even harder.

Panting for breath, Severus slipped out and lay flat on his back on the bed. Harry turned over and scooted next to him; their arms and wings wrapping around each other tenderly, now that the lust had passed.

"I love you, Severus."

"I love you too, Harry."

"Told you!" Bill's voice carried up the stairs. "Great in bed!"

"Oh fuck!" groaned Harry, his face flaming with embarrassment. "I forgot to add the silencing charm."

Severus laughed loud and long. "My dearest Harry, if that's all we have to worry about in life we're doing pretty well, don't you think?"

Harry pressed his lips against his husband's. "Yeah, I reckon we are."

THE END