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“Up! Get up! Now!”

Harry Potter groaned, rolling over in his bed. He hadn’t missed his aunt’s loud and unpleasant wake up calls while he was at Hogwarts. He hadn’t missed anything about his aunt, or his uncle and cousin and 4 Privet Drive, while he was at Hogwarts, but at half past six on a Monday morning he particularly loathed his aunt’s wake up calls.

He sat up abruptly when his door opened though. His aunt never came in his room (or cupboard, where he’d slept until last summer) so the fact that she was now was cause for concern. Concern that only grew when he saw the clothes over her arm. Clothes that she set on his bed. Clothes that could never have possibly belonged to Dudley because they were about the right size for Harry.

“What—”

“You’re going to start earning your keep.”

Harry frowned. He earned his keep. Wasn’t that why he spent most of his time at the Dursleys cleaning their house, cooking for them, gardening their front and back yard, and generally being the slave they seemed to think he was only good for? He certainly never earned his keep wearing a decent pair of a jeans and a white button up shirt.

“Vernon has got you a part-time summer job at Grunnings. You’ll go, you won’t complain, you’ll do what you’re told, and anything you earn will pay for your residence here. Now get dressed and get down to breakfast and don’t make a mess of your clothes,” she snapped before turning and stalking out the room, leaving Harry to stare after her in bewilderment.

His uncle was taking him to work? Harry was fairly sure that no one at Grunnings, a drill company, even knew he existed. Vernon did hate Harry, after all, so he wouldn’t go around telling everyone all about his nephew, let alone actually bring him along.

Maybe it was compulsory, he wondered as he got up and headed for the bathroom to wash up before he dressed. Maybe in order to get a promotion or raise, Vernon had to introduce the next generation to the business world or something like that. But why not take Dudley? Of course, Dudley was allergic to any kind of work and perhaps Vernon hated Harry less than he desired to actually make his fat lump of a son do something he didn’t want to. Maybe Vernon was just smart enough to realise that trying to take Dudley into a workplace would be a complete disaster and he decided that taking Harry would be—just ever so slightly—better.

Whatever the reason, Harry did quite like his new clothes. He didn’t think they were new new, probably just bought from a charity shop, but they’re still a world better than the over-sized rags he normally got. They actually fit him and if not for the nerves he had about what the day had in store for him, he might have felt cheerful going downstairs to breakfast.

“Comb your hair!”

Harry ignored this greeting comment from his uncle. He could spend the rest of his life combing his hair and it would never sit flat or be tidy, so there was really no point. He slid onto a chair, snagged a few slices of toast and began buttering them. He didn’t ask his uncle about what was going to happen; he rather hoped that if he stayed quiet for long enough and didn’t know anything then Vernon might forget him when he left, and Harry could spend the day hiding in his bedroom and plotting how to get his school trunk from the cupboard under the stairs, where it had been locked the moment he came back from Hogwarts two days ago.

He wasn’t that lucky. He ate, got told to wait while Vernon finished his own breakfast, collected his briefcase and kissed Petunia goodbye, then got rudely told to follow Vernon to the car. Despite being only the two of them, he still had to sit in the back and he felt stupidly bitter about it. He was almost twelve years old and less than a month ago he faced the darkest wizard in Britain, almost died, and saved the Philosopher’s Stone—he was mature enough to sit in the front seat of a car.

The trip was done in silence. Harry debated asking his uncle to turn the radio on, but he wasn’t about to risk bringing the man’s wrath on him and Vernon would probably refuse to just to spite him anyway. The silence made him uncomfortable though. The entire trip made him uncomfortable and the closer they got to the town the more he wished it was all over already.

When his uncle eventually pulled in at a hotel, Harry’s stomach was in knots. He leant forwards when Vernon got out of the car and scrambled to obey when the man barked at him to follow, confusion mingling with his nerves.

“What are we doing here? I thought—”

“Be quiet!”

Harry shut his mouth. He followed his uncle to the hotel’s front desk, watched in silence as Vernon talked to the receptionist about a reservation, and tried to ignore the coil of sick anxiety as they headed for the lifts. He tried to ask again why they were there, but Vernon silenced him once more and didn’t speak until they reached the Becker Suite. Harry had never been in a hotel suite before and couldn’t help looking around with wide-eyed appreciation of the lavish room even as Vernon grabbed him by the collar and shook him roughly to get his attention.

“You’re going to stay here all day, boy,” he ordered. “I’ll pick you up after work and in the meantime you’ll do whatever he tells you to.”

“Who?”

“Never you mind who. Just do as he says or you’ll never go back to that freak school of yours, do you understand?”

Harry nodded. The idea of not going back to Hogwarts made him feel sicker than he already was.

“Good. Don’t leave this room.”

And with that, he left.

* * *

The room really was very nice, Harry thought. The bed was huge and even comfier than the four posters in the Gryffindor dorm at Hogwarts, a chaise lounge sat before the windows with a table off to one side, and the bathroom had a bathtub big enough to comfortably hold two people. There was a food trolley waiting to one side with various foods and drinks, including sandwiches, cake, fruit, a pale-gold coloured alcoholic drink, water, and soup.

He was stood in front of the windows when the door opened. He turned, tensing in anticipation, and watched as an impeccably dressed man with slick black hair entered the room. He had a haughty expression that reminded Harry instantly of his rival Draco Malfoy and was accompanied by a second man whose entire posture screamed bodyguard. The bodyguard stopped just inside the room, but the slick haired man approached Harry, who fidgeted and watched him nervously. He said nothing as the man came up to him, took his chin in hand and tilted his head back. For a long moment he just inspected Harry’s face then he let go and stepped back, running his gaze over Harry’s body.

“Turn around,” he ordered. “Slowly.”

Baffled but remembering his uncle’s words, Harry did so. The man hummed with satisfaction and when Harry was facing him again he looked over at the bodyguard and nodded, and the bodyguard left.

The man moved over to the lounge and dropped onto it, removing his leather gloves with precision only to toss them carelessly towards the table. They fell short and landed on the floor and the man made a small noise of irritation but made no move to pick them up. He took off his shoes then turned on the sofa, lifting his legs and stretching them out along the couch, his gaze eventually falling back on Harry. He smiled. It was surprisingly warm and despite the peculiar situation, some of the tension in Harry eased.

“I’m Eric,” he introduced in a smooth voice. “You’re Harry, correct? Come here, please.”

He hesitated, but his uncle’s threat rang in his ears and he slunk over to stand before the man. Eric grabbed his wrist and tugged him close enough that he could lift a hand and stroke Harry’s face with his index and middle finger, making him shiver.

“You’re a very beautiful boy, Harry. Has anyone ever told you that?”

Now more uncomfortable than ever, Harry shook his head, though he wasn’t entirely sure why being told he was beautiful made him uncomfortable.

“Then you can’t have met very many nice people.”

Harry shrugged. He met nice people at Hogwarts, but no one who complimented him like that.

“Sit down, Harry.”

He glanced at Eric’s legs then towards the chairs at the table, but before he could move to them, Eric grabbed his wrist.

“On my lap,” he clarified.

Harry had never sat on anyone’s lap in his life—although he supposed his parents may have held him in their laps when he was a baby, but that didn’t count because he couldn’t remember—and although as a child he often envied seeing Dudley held on Petunia’s lap and hugged, he was too old for anything like that now. Even if he wasn’t, he didn’t feel comfortable sitting on this stranger’s lap. But Eric watched him, waiting, and Harry couldn’t risk not going back to Hogwarts just because he was uncomfortable.

“There,” Eric said when Harry was seated. “That’s alright, isn’t it?”

Harry gave a half shrug.

“Are you uncomfortable? Here, let me...”

He shifted, hands grabbing Harry and moving him about until Eric sat almost upright with Harry between his legs, back to Eric’s chest.

“Is that better?”

Not really. More comfortable physically, yes, but Harry was definitely not happy about their position. He was particularly not happy about the hands that were pressed against his thighs and he squirmed.

“Sir—”

“You can call me Eric, Harry.”

Harry didn’t. “What are you doing? Why are you here? What do you want me for?”

“For now I just want you to sit still and let me touch you.”

“Touch me?”

“Yes,” Eric said, but didn’t elaborate. His hands were rubbing Harry’s thighs now and his cheek was pressed to Harry’s hair, breath coming warm over Harry’s face.

Hogwarts, Harry thought firmly. Just think about Hogwarts. I’m doing this for Hogwarts.

So he sat still and said nothing as the man’s hands moved over him, rubbing at his thighs, coming up to his shoulders, down his arms and lifting them out of the way to move around his waist. His breath hitched when a hand brushed over his crotch, but he kept silent. It was probably just an accident. It didn’t mean anything.

He did speak when Eric started to unbutton his shirt though.

“W-what are you doing?”

“Shh. Just relax, Harry, there’s a good boy.”

He tried to, but he couldn’t help trembling slightly as the shirt was pulled away. Goosebumps sprung up on his arms as Eric resumed his exploratory touching, letting out a small, pleased noise when his fingers brushed over Harry’s skin. When his hands started to undo Harry’s jeans, however, he grabbed them.

“Harry,” Eric said disapprovingly. “Stop that.”

“You can’t touch me there.”

“Touch you where?”

Harry flushed and didn’t answer. Eric shifted his hand to palm Harry’s crotch, unheeded by the hand around his wrist.

“You mean here?”

“Yes! Stop that!”

He tried to squirm away but Eric wrapped one arm around his waist, holding him in place. “Why not, Harry?”

“Because! Let me go!”

“Your uncle told me you were a good, well-behaved boy. It seems he lied.”

Harry went abruptly still. “I’ll be good,” he promised in a mutter. Eric hummed appreciatively and continued to undo Harry’s jeans.

“Adults touch each other here all the time, Harry,” he said as he tugged at the clothing. Harry reluctantly lifted his butt up enough that they could slide down. “They just tell little children not to because they’re too small. But you’re not a little boy anymore, are you?”

Harry wanted to say yes. Everyone from Hermione to Professor McGonagall to Madam Pomfrey said he was small, but his pride got in the way of agreeing. He was, after all, nearly twelve, and nearly twelve years olds weren’t little kids. They were practically teenagers and teenagers were just a step away from adults.

“No,” he agreed a little reluctantly.

“So it’s okay. It feels good too,” Eric promised. One hand was stroking Harry’s thigh again, fingers brushing along the inside, while his other was pressed flat to Harry’s stomach. “That’s why adults do it all the time.”

It did feel kind of nice when Eric started touching him through his underwear. It still felt kind of uncomfortable and wrong, but he made himself remember Hogwarts and tried to focus on the pleasant sensations, which became easier when Eric slipped a hand into his underwear and he was embarrassed to hear a moan come from his mouth as flesh met flesh. Eric chuckled.

“See,” he whispered, “that feels good.”

Really good. He was barely aware of pressing himself against the man, eyes drifting shut, gasping and moaning as the hand stroked and tugged and squeezed until pleasure like Harry’d never felt before exploded through him and he came. Embarrassment quickly spread through him then, especially when Eric pulled out his hand and lifted it to his mouth, licking at the white stuff coating his fingers.

“Now it’s my turn.”

Harry twisted, looking around at him with red cheeks and wide eyes. “W-what?”

Eric gave him a stern look. “It’s only fair, Harry. It’s what any good boy would do.”

“B-but I... I don’t know how,” he tried. Maybe it was only fair for him to touch Eric like Eric touched him, but he didn’t really want to. Despite what Eric said, Harry was pretty sure they weren’t supposed to be doing this. Even though it felt good, it still seemed wrong somehow.

But Eric smiled softly. “Don’t worry. I’ll give you lots of practice. Unless you don’t want to go back to Hogwarts.”

Harry’s face went white. “You know about Hogwarts?” he asked in a whisper, suddenly horrified with the idea that people at Hogwarts knew about what was happening. How could he ever live through classes—through Potions, especially!—if the teachers knew about this?

“I know if you don’t be a good boy for me then all it will take is a word to your uncle to make sure that you don’t return to you peculiarly named school in September.”

“No! No, please, I’ll—” He swallowed thickly. “I’ll touch you.”

Eric smiled and kissed his temple. “Good boy.”

* * *

Hogwarts, Harry thought desperately later that afternoon, lying face down on the massive comfortable bed. I’m doing this for Hogwarts. I have to do it for Hogwarts.

But it was becoming increasingly harder to think about Hogwarts when Eric’s lube-slicked fingers were curling inside of his arse, stretching and filling him, hurting him but occasionally hitting something inside of Harry that sent inexplicable feelings of pleasure through him and made him moan out loud against his will. He kept his face pressed to the duvet, but his hips kept jerking uncontrollably whenever Eric hit that spot and the friction of the duvet against his cock felt good and even though part of him wanted it to stop, part of him really didn’t.

To his embarrassment, he moaned unhappily when Eric took his fingers out. Eric chuckled and kissed the small of his back. “Patience, Harry.”

Harry just pressed his face further into the covers, ashamed, and listened to Eric move, feeling the bed shifting.

“This might hurt some now,” Eric warned. “But you’ll get used to it.”

Harry nodded, but when something a lot bigger and thicker than a couple of fingers slid into his arse he couldn’t help crying out. Eric’s soothing murmurs and promises that it’d get better didn’t mean much when he felt like he was being impaled.

“No, stop!” he cried. “Stop, I don’t like it! It hurts!”

“Shh, it’ll be alright, Harry. Just relax, there’s a good boy.”

“No, no, please stop, please. I don’t like it, I want to stop.”

Eric growled then and bent over him, chest to Harry’s back, mouth coming to Harry’s ear while a hand snaked around his waist, holding Harry against him as the man’s hips drew back and slammed forward again, sending pain spearing through Harry.

“Stop crying,” the man ordered. “Just relax and let me do it and it’ll stop hurting. You’re the one making things difficult.”

Harry sobbed, but tried to relax and go limp, letting the man manoeuvre him. It didn’t really stop hurting, but Eric found that spot in him again and pleasure burst through with the pain, the confusing mix filling Harry and only made worse when Eric reached down and began fondling him. Harry came first, crying out with mingled pain and elation as Eric slammed into him and jerked his cock, coaxing the orgasm from him. His arse clenched around Eric and he heard the man moan deeply, the noise rumbling all through his chest and reverberating through Harry’s back, then he slammed into him one last time before his own cock pulsed within Harry.

When he pulled out, Harry lay sniffling, hurt and embarrassed by his body’s treachery. He shuddered when Eric trailed his hand over Harry’s backside and up his spine before grabbing his shoulder and rolling him over.

“Don’t fight me next time and it won’t hurt so much.”

Harry whimpered at the idea of a next time, but Eric just kissed his check and temple then climbed off the bed and disappeared through to the bathroom.

* * *

By the time Vernon came to pick Harry up, Eric had left and Harry was washed up and reclothed. The ride to Privet Drive was as silent as that morning and seemed twice as long to Harry, who had no objection to sitting in the back of the car now—he merely objected to sitting entirely, the pressure on his arse exasperating the lingering pain of what Eric did. He couldn’t get out of the car quick enough when they finally arrived, but his uncle grabbed him before he could enter the house, bending down to hiss at him, “Not a word to your aunt. Don’t think I won’t burn everything you brought back from that freak school if you say anything.”

Harry just nodded. He would rather face Lord Voldemort all over again before he told anyone about what happened that day.

Chapter Text

Despite Harry's hopes and prayers, he did see Eric again. On Thursday Petunia once again woke him early and snapped at him to wear his decent clothes and Vernon hustled him off in the car to drop him at the hotel. Harry had half made plans to run off the moment Vernon left, but he was unhappy to find that this time Eric was there first and the big bodyguard stood outside the room put rest to any thoughts Harry had of fleeing.

"Hello, Harry. It's nice to see you again."

Harry glared at him and didn't move from the door. Eric frowned, lounging on the sofa, and swung his legs around to set his feet on the floor.

"Come here, Harry."

He almost said no, sullen and unhappy to be there, but bit his tongue at the last moment, the threat of not returning to Hogwarts heavy on his mind. He went over and didn't fight when Eric pulled him between his legs, wrapping both arms around Harry and pressing his cheek to Harry's, sighing softly. When he slipped his hands under Harry's shirt, Harry grabbed the man's suit jacket and shivered, but ducked his head and pressed it to Eric's shoulder, fighting the urge to shove him away.

"That's my good boy," Eric murmured then pushed Harry back slightly. Harry eyed him, wondering what he was going to do today, then flicked his eyes down when Eric lifted a hand. His thumb ghosted over Harry's bottom lip, the touch so light it tickled and Harry flicked his tongue out to wipe away the feel, only to end up licking Eric's thumb. He flushed and pulled back, but Eric's breath hitched.

"Go to the trolley," he ordered Harry, nodding towards the trolley of food waiting by the table. "There's a chocolate cake under one of those dishes. Bring it here."

Harry found the cake under the first dish he lifted and couldn't help leaning closer when he saw it, inhaling the delicious scent, his mouth watering. He caught himself quickly though and tried not to indulge himself in the smell as he carefully carried it over; undoubtedly he wouldn't be allowed so much as a taste of the treat. Certainly he wouldn't be allowed any at the Dursleys and he doubted Eric was any kinder in those regards.

But to his surprise Eric told him to put it down beside him and then swiped his finger through the icing and lifted it to Harry's mouth.

"Eat."

Harry hesitated only a moment, surprise making him pause before his brain kicked in and told him to eat before it was taken away. He felt a bit ridiculous leaning forwards and wrapping his mouth around Eric's finger, but that feeling changed to faint embarrassment when he realised Eric was watching him intensely, his attention so fixed on Harry's mouth that he seemed to have forgotten to breathe. When Harry pulled clear, the man let his breath out in a rush then snagged Harry by the waist with his other hand and jerked him closer, settling Harry on his leg with his arm around his waist, then swiped two fingers through the chocolate.

"Again," he said a touch breathlessly.

Harry did so, unsure why Eric was so fascinated with watching him lick chocolate off his fingers, but not about to argue when it was better than getting those fingers pushed inside him, and he got chocolate out of it. It was the first sweet thing he'd had to eat since leaving Hogwarts and although that was only just under a week, it seemed like much longer. Not to mention that after the mass of food he could always help himself to at Hogwarts, where he could have chocolate cake for dessert every night if he wanted, going back to having his food controlled and restricted seemed a lot worse than it did before. It made the chocolate he had now seem so much sweeter.

He got three doses before Eric apparently had enough, but when Harry started to lick the traces from his lips, Eric stopped him with sharp, "No!"

He jumped slightly, but kept his tongue inside his mouth, watching as Eric leaned in and swiped his own tongue across Harry's lips. Harry wrinkled his nose at the odd sensation and tried to pull back but Eric caught his face in hand and then pressed his mouth firmly to Harry's own.

He's kissing me! Harry thought wildly. I'm being kissed! That's my first kiss!

Hot on the tail of that realisation was the thought that he shouldn't let a grown man kiss him and he jerked away, sudden anger boiling inside him. His first kiss had been stolen by some slick-haired man who'd stuck his fingers and cock in Harry's butt three days ago. Admittedly, it wasn't like Harry had thought much about how his first kiss would go, but if he had then it certainly wouldn't be like this and definitely not with a man. He wasn't gay and he didn't want to be. Being gay was weird and unnatural, his aunt and uncle had said, even more so than magic.

"That was your first kiss."

Harry wrenched himself out of the man's grip, but Eric grabbed his wrist before he could get away, grip tight enough to bruise, and jerked him back.

"It was, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Harry muttered angrily.

"Are you disappointed? Was it not good?"

"No!"

Eric smiled. "I think you're lying. You're upset because you think your first kiss should have been with a girl your own age, and surprised because it was good."

"It wasn't!"

It wasn't really a lie. To be honest, Harry didn't think much of the kiss at all, good or bad. Certainly the simple press of lips to lips didn't seem like something to get excited about like he heard older students at Hogwarts do. Which, he supposed, meant he shouldn't really get so bothered about it being stolen from him.

"You should be glad," Eric said, ignoring Harry's declaration. "A kiss with me is far better than a kiss with a girl your age. I have experience. I know what I'm doing. First kisses with people your own age would be messy and unfulfilling. Come, let me show you how to kiss properly."

Harry shook his head. Eric's grip tightened on his wrist and he winced.

"Are you disobeying me, Harry? That's not how you be a good boy."

Harry resisted a moment longer, still unwilling to give in, but eventually slumped his shoulders and stepped closer again. It was stupid to fight this anyway, he tried to convince himself. Eric was probably right; people his own age wouldn't really know how to kiss properly and it wasn't like there was anyone he particularly wanted to kiss anyway. He had to do what Eric said or lose Hogwarts so he might as well try not to hate it entirely and, he figured, as long as he didn't want to do it even if he did do it then he wasn't gay.

So he let the man tug him close and settle him against his thigh again and when Eric kissed him he leant into it, crushing their mouths together only to have Eric pull back, looking at him with faint amusement.

"Gently, Harry. We'll get to rough kisses when you know what you're doing."

Harry nodded, flushing. Eric kissed him again and he returned the pressure only slightly this time, encouraged to hear an approving noise from Eric. He felt Eric's lips part and his tongue dart out and opened his own mouth like he knew he was supposed to, but Eric broke the kiss again, this time with a small laugh.

"We're kissing, Harry; you're not trying to eat me. Don't open so wide, okay? Let's try again."

Almost forgetting his earlier reservations, Harry started the next kiss, full of Gryffindor determination to get it right. He must do it, because this time Eric wrapped both arms around him, moaning into Harry's open mouth as his tongue swept through, lapping over Harry's own and leaving Harry breathless when Eric finally did break it. He blinked his eyes open as Eric pressed soft little kisses to the rest of his face, not even sure when he'd closed his eyes in the first place, and realised that his hands were clenched in Eric's shirt.

"I told you it was good," Eric murmured. "Much better than any eleven year old girls."

"I'm nearly twelve," Harry couldn't help telling him. "My birthday's at the end of the month."

"Is it? Well, I'll have to remember that. Now, I want you to get on your knees."

Harry blinked at him, surprised by the rather odd request, but obeyed, kneeling on the floor between Eric's legs and looking up at him. He glanced down when Eric's hands went to his trouser button, eyes going wide when the man started to undo them, and looked away when he pulled out his erection, but Eric grabbed his chin and turned his face back. Harry kept his eyes firmly fixed on the man's.

"Suck it for me, Harry."

"W-what?" Harry gasped. "No!"

Eric's hand tightened painfully on his chin. "Are you disobeying me?"

"B-but that's—that's—I can't—that's gross! I can't put it in my mouth!"

"Adults do."

"You're lying."

"I assure you I'm not. Do as I say, and I will even put yours in my mouth."

Harry wrinkled his nose. He didn't really want to put his cock in Eric's mouth, or anyone else's for that matter. Why on earth would he?

"Don't do as I say and I will call your uncle and tell him to make sure you don't return to Hogwarts in September."

Harry whimpered, glancing down. It couldn't be that bad, could it? He did touch it on Monday. As long as he didn't think about the fact that it was something Eric used to pee from or that it had been stuck up his arse, then he could do it. He had to if he wanted to go back to Hogwarts.

Almost cautiously, he opened his mouth. Eric smiled and took his hand away, shifting his hips closer. "Just like with the chocolate," he murmured encouragingly.

Harry hesitantly darted his tongue out and over the head of Eric's cock. It tasted weird and salty, but Eric moaned. Harry did it again, trying to pretend he was licking an ice lolly. Not that he'd had a whole lot of ice lolly's in his life, but he just didn't want to think about what he was actually licking. He closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to see it either and felt Eric's hand tangle in his hair.

"Take it into your mouth, Harry."

He hesitated but Eric's hand tightened threateningly in his hair and he hurriedly obeyed, opening his mouth and wrapping it around the man's cock, trying not to gag as it filled him.

"Mind the teeth," Eric murmured. For a moment Harry was tempted just to bite him and then flee while he was incapacitated with pain, but he remembered the large bodyguard outside and knew he wouldn't get very far if he did run. He dreaded to think what might happen to him as punishment, so he struggled to breathe through his nose and worked his mouth and tongue around Eric's cock, taking guidance from the man's muttered comments and his pleased moans.

He got almost no warning before Eric came, just felt him throb inside Harry's mouth before he thrust his hips up, choking Harry as he came. The moment his hand loosed, Harry jerked away, spitting the weird tasting fluid on the floor and retching. Then Eric reached down and grabbed him by the front of the shirt, jerking him up and slapping him sharply across the face, knocking his glasses askew.

"You disgusting child!" he sneered. "Don't ever spit. It's a foul, disgusting thing to do."

"But—"

"But nothing!" he interrupted sharply, free hand grabbing Harry's chin and face furious as he stared at Harry. "You're not a camel; you do not spit. Next time, you swallow."

Harry whimpered. He really didn't want there to be a next time.

Eric shook him roughly. "Is that clear?"

Harry nodded. That was apparently enough and Eric shoved him to the floor, standing up and tucking himself back into his trousers before going to the trolley. There was a jug of water on it and he poured some into a glass. On the floor, Harry sat up, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand and setting his glasses straight. His cheek stung and anger started to fill him—anger at Eric, at his uncle, and at the entire situation. He got to his feet, glaring at Eric's back and clenching his fists at his sides, burning with brash anger.

"I'm going to tell."

Eric turned to him, still holding the glass. "I beg your pardon?"

"I'm going to tell what you did to me. I don't care what you say—this is wrong and I'm going to tell someone and then you and my uncle will get in big trouble."

"Is that so?" he asked and Harry nodded. Eric set down his glass, a faint smirk about his lips now. "You're going to tell someone—the police, perhaps?—that you gave me a blow job."

"You made me. I didn't want to."

"And what about Monday? Are you going to tell someone that you let me fondle you, that you let me finger you and then fuck you like a proper little slut?"

"I didn't let you!"

"Yes, you did. You lay there and didn't fight." He smirked and added in a lower voice, "You even enjoyed it. You were moaning like the little whore you are and came all over my hand."

"I—what?"

Eric chuckled, coming over and crouching in front of Harry, who glared at him and jerked his head away when Eric lifted a hand to stroke his cheek. "So innocent, Harry. Do you even realise what we did on Monday? Or today?"

"You hurt me and made me do bad things."

"We had sex."

"No we didn't!" Harry burst out, horrified by the suggestion. "We can't!"

"Oh? Why is that?"

"'Cause sex is when a man puts his thing in a lady's thing and they make a baby." He knew that much from overhearing Petunia telling Dudley.

Eric grinned widely. "That's partially right. They don't always make a baby though and sometimes a man put's his 'thing' inside a lady's arse... or another man's. It's called anal sex, and when a man puts his dick in someone's mouth it's called oral sex."

Harry shook his head violently and stepped back. "You're lying."

"I'm not. I will never lie to you, Harry. We had sex and you're a whore. You don't know what that means, do you?"

Harry glared and didn't answer, but he didn't need to.

"It means I pay to have sex with you. In this case, I'm paying your uncle, and quite handsomely I might add."

Harry trembled now with anger and embarrassment. "You can't do that. People aren't allowed to have sex until they're sixteen and boys can't have sex with boys because that's wrong and unnatural."

Eric scoffed. "Who told you that rubbish? There's nothing unnatural or wrong about being gay."

Harry didn't argue with him, mostly because he wasn't really sure. His aunt and uncle said magic was wrong too, but it was perfectly natural to Harry and the entire wizarding world. His aunt and uncle lied and were wrong about a lot of things, he'd come to realise, so why not this too?

But on the other hand, he didn't really trust Eric's word either. Whether or not being gay was wrong, what they did here couldn't possibly be okay, so he settled for saying again, "I'm telling."

"Well," Eric said, rising to stand over him. "In that case."

He stalked to the door, Harry watching him with confusion, and opened it. He exchanged a few words with his bodyguard, got given something, then shut the door again and turned back to face Harry, who turned abruptly pale when he saw the gun in Eric's hand. Anger gave way to fear as Eric approached and he skittered back until he hit the bed.

"Don't—I won't tell," he said hurriedly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I won't tell anyone, please don't kill me."

Eric said nothing, just kept approaching, his expression scarily blank now, the gun down by his side. Harry clambered onto the bed, scurrying backwards until he reached the headboard. It didn't deter Eric, who climbed on after him, uncaring of Harry's fearful whimper as he knelt in front of him, lifted the gun, and tucked it under Harry's chin. The metal was cold against his skin and Harry lifted his chin in a vain effort to get away from it.

"You will not tell anyone," Eric said calmly, "because if you do I will come to your house and I will shoot you, you uncle, your aunt, and your cousin. If you have any pets, I will shoot them too. Do you want to be responsible for all those deaths, Harry?"

"N-no," he whispered.

"I didn't think so." He lifted the gun and trailed it down Harry's cheek. "So just do as I say and don't say anything ridiculous like that again, alright?"

Harry nodded quickly.

"Good boy."

Chapter Text

When Vernon dropped Harry at the hotel on the last Thursday of July, there was a parcel wrapped in red and gold paper on the table. Eric was lounging on the chaise and gestured to the package the moment the door shut behind Harry.

"For you."

"Me?" Harry repeated, startled. "What for?"

"Your birthday. You said it was at the end of the month." Eric frowned as Harry gaped. "Unless I misheard."

"No," Harry assured him quickly. "It's tomorrow. I just..."

"Didn't expect a gift?"

"No."

He didn't move and Eric considered him. "You can open it, Harry."

Harry glanced at him then back at the gift. "My birthday isn't until tomorrow."

"I won't see you tomorrow. Open it."

Harry went over and picked the present up, which was squishy and floppy, taking it over to the lounge and sitting on the edge when Eric shifted his legs out the way. He didn't open it immediately, running a finger over the wrapping paper instead and trying to ignore the painful ache in his chest at the thought that this was only the second birthday present he could ever remember getting. The first was Hedwig, bought for him by Hagrid a year ago, and it struck him as depressing that his second present was from a man who molested him twice a week. He tried not to think about the fact that it might be the only other present he got as well; a month ago he'd have hoped to get one from Hermione and Ron, but he hadn't heard from them since the end of term and he didn't want to get his hopes up that tomorrow would be any different.

"Most people are more interested in the contents of a present than the wrapping," Eric remarked. Harry started, then smiled thinly and shrugged.

"It's a bit ironic, that's all," he said as he started to open it. "At Hogwarts, there's four different houses. Gryffindor—the house I'm in—our house colours are red and gold. Oh," he breathed as the paper fell away, revealing a pair of black jeans and a soft black button up shirt. He picked up the shirt, feeling the soft material. He was no clothes expert, but he was pretty sure both shirt and jeans were designer label and thus probably the most expensive clothes he'd ever had. He put down the shirt to pick up the jeans instead, standing and holding them against himself. They looked to be about the right size.

"You seemed in need of new clothes," Eric commented, watching him. "You wear the same ones whenever I see you."

Harry flushed, looking down. "It's my uncle's fault," he muttered.

"Is it?"

"They don't like spending money on me," he admitted. "All my other clothes are cast offs from my cousin, but he's really fat so they're huge on me. They only bought these," he gestured to his outfit, "because of you."

"Well I expect you to wear those on Monday."

Harry nodded and put aside his new clothes.

"Thank you."

Eric snagged him by the waist and drew him closer, swinging his legs around to set his feet on the floor and settling Harry between his knees, hands resting on Harry's arse.

"I'm sure you'd like to express that gratitude... on your knees."

Harry suppressed a grimace. After a month he was starting to get used to the things Eric made him do. The anal sex was less painful than the first time and was usually pleasurable as well, though always left him feeling ashamed for enjoying something he didn't think he was supposed to enjoy, no matter what Eric said about it. Sucking cock, though, remained thoroughly distasteful. Despite Eric's promise the first time of doing it to him, he hadn't. The one time Harry reminded him of his offer, Eric had snidely informed him that only whores sucked cock. He'd also informed Harry that the only way to improve this particular skill was practice, so Harry'd had to do it ever single time they met.

* * *

Despite Harry's best efforts, he was still disappointed when his birthday came and the clothes from Eric remained the only present he got. He didn't even get so much as a card from his friends and then, to make things worse, the Dursleys had guests over and a house elf came and threw Petunia's home made cake all over the kitchen, resulting in the Ministry of Magic sending him an owl threatening to expel him from Hogwarts if he did anymore magic. The next morning, Vernon had bars put on his window, a lock on his door, and a cat flap installed to give him food through, and the only time he was let out between Friday evening and Monday morning was for a few trips to the bathroom.

He was almost grateful to get dumped at the hotel on Monday morning because it meant he got out of his room and he'd be able to eat something more than half a bowl of cold soup or a couple of slices of unbuttered bread. Eric always ate lunch with him, even if sometimes he insisted on feeding Harry the foods himself, so hopefully he wouldn't mind letting Harry eat some breakfast.

As always the food trolley was already there when he arrived, but he resisted the temptation to take a sandwich or some fruit. Eric had told him before that he wasn't to help himself to anything and he wasn't about to risk getting caught and denied anything else for the rest of the day. So he sat impatiently on the sofa for the half an hour before Eric arrived, wishing it was a Thursday because Eric was always there first on Thursdays.

He stood up when Eric finally arrived, asking if he could eat the moment the door shut behind the man, but Eric didn't answer. He stood in the middle of the room, a smile spreading across his face as he removed his gloves and ran an appreciative gaze over Harry, who was wearing his new clothes as ordered. His aunt and uncle had glared at them that morning and his aunt had asked harshly where he got them, but Vernon mumbled something to her about Harry needing an extra set of clothes for his 'job' and Petunia had settled for pursing her lips and throwing Harry dirty looks, then promising Dudley new clothes when he noticed that Harry had some.

"Beautiful," Eric murmured, throwing his gloves to the floor then startling Harry by picking him up. Instinct had Harry wrapping his legs around the man's waist and arms around his neck for balance, and before he could ask what was going on Eric kissed him. Harry kissed him back, feeling the man's hands clench on his arse. Kissing was the only thing Harry didn't have to fake enthusiasm for with Eric as he found it far more enjoyable than anything else they did. He just tried not to think about whether or not that made him gay or about the fact that he probably shouldn't enjoy kissing a grown man.

"Such a gorgeous boy," Eric murmured against his mouth, moving over to the bed and bending to lay Harry on it, crawling over him and never once stopping in pressing kisses to Harry's face and neck. "So beautiful."

Harry said nothing. Eric was clearly intent on fucking him immediately and he was unlikely to deny Harry food afterwards, as long as Harry didn't fight him. So Harry let himself be kissed and undressed, listening to Eric mutter compliments against his skin and spreading his legs when Eric fetched lube from his jacket. He gasped and moaned when Eric prepared him, hips jerking every time his fingers hit that magic spot inside him, which he'd learnt was called a prostate, and only winced slightly when Eric slid his cock into him.

When they've come, Eric pulled out of him and kissed him gently before collapsing on the bed beside him. Harry took a moment to catch his own breath and let his heart slow down before he took his glasses from the night stand then edged to the end of the bed and made his way to the bathroom. Eric called after him to start filling the bath and he did then wet a flannel and cleaned himself off before wrapping a towel around himself and returning to the room. Eric was sat up on the bed now, propped against the headboard.

"Can I eat?" Harry asked him. "I'm really hungry."

Eric waved a hand at the food trolley. "Help yourself."

He went to it, shifting the towel to hold it closed with one hand while the other picked a cheese sandwich from a tray holding a varied selection. Eric was still watching him when he turned back around. He still had most of his clothes on and although his trousers were undone they were pulled up. Harry didn't bother asking if he could get dressed again; he knew Eric would say no even if he didn't plan on them bathing together. He never let Harry get dressed until the end of the day.

"You seem down today, Harry."

Harry shrugged, and then, because he had no one else to say it to and although Eric could be scary and hurtful he was still the nicest person Harry has had contact with all summer, he burst out, "My uncle won't let me back to Hogwarts."

Eric sat up straighter, leaning forwards and frowning. "Why not?"

Harry hesitated, knowing he couldn't mention magic or house elves, but wanting to explain to someone that things weren't his fault. "On Friday a bird got into the house and knocked my aunt's cake over while my uncle had these business people over that he was trying to make a big deal with. The businessman's wife was terrified of birds so they didn't make the deal and my uncle blamed it on me, and he put bars on my bedroom window and a lock on the door and they only let me out in the morning and evening to use the toilet, until today, but when I get home they'll lock me back up again."

Eric's expression grew hard, reminding Harry uncomfortably of when Eric had threatened him with the gun.

"I will speak with your uncle. I won't have a child treated like that."

"I'm twelve," Harry pointed out. "I'm not a child."

Eric's expression softened. "No, of course not. Did they feed you while you were locked up?"

"A bit, but not much. I didn't get breakfast this morning."

"No wonder you're hungry." He got up and Harry looked away as he started undressing, only glancing at him when he came over and ran a hand through Harry's hair. "Finish eating, then join me in the bath."

Harry nodded, sticking the last of his sandwich in his mouth and snatching up another as Eric headed towards the bathroom.

* * *

Although Eric kept his word and told Vernon that very afternoon that he was to take the bars and lock from Harry's room, both were still in place by Tuesday night, though the lock was left undone. Vernon and Petunia had an argument about the bars that Petunia won by saying that the neighbours would talk if they had them removed so soon after having them added. Harry felt that the neighbours were probably already talking about why there were bars on the window in the first place, but knew his opinion wasn't wanted so kept it to himself. Vernon told him to tell Eric that the bars were gone and Harry considered telling the man the truth, but Vernon was still the one who could stop Harry going to Hogwarts, so he agreed to go along with the lie.

Not that it mattered, in the end, because that night Ron, Fred, and George Weasley turned up outside the house in a flying car to rescue him. With the door unlocked, Harry snuck downstairs to let Fred and George in the front door so they could pick the lock on the cupboard under the stairs to liberate his trunk and haul it out to stuff in the car's boot while Harry took Hedwig, who was locked inside her cage as she had been all summer, from his bedroom and clambered into the backseat with Ron. The entire thing happened without the Dursleys any the wiser and by the time they woke up, Harry and the three Weasleys were long gone.

* * *

Eric got up from the chaise lounge on Thursday morning when the door opened and his bodyguard came in with a very obviously nervous Vernon Dursley in front of him. Vernon stumbled slightly when the bodyguard gave him a shove then caught himself and stood straight, trying and failing to appear imperative.

"You appear to be missing something," Eric said.

Vernon cleared his throat. "Yes, um, well, the thing is, Mr Nicholson sir, is just that, well—"

"Where is Harry?" Eric interrupted his rambling.

"Um... he's... gone."

"Gone," Eric repeated coldly. "Mr Dursley, what exactly do you mean by 'gone'?"

"Little bugger ran off," Vernon explained, some of his usual bravado coming back as he thought about Harry. "Tuesday night. Just left in the middle of the night."

"I assume you have reported his disappearance to the police."

Vernon blinked. "Er..."

"Mr Dursley, your twelve year old nephew has vanished," Eric said with barely constrained anger. "Do you not think the police should know so he can be found? Perhaps with recommendations that they check this school he appears so fond of."

Vernon's mouth worked without letting out any sound as he tried to explain that the police couldn't investigate a school for magical people. Eventually he settled for clearing his throat and saying, "Yes. Yes, of course. But, er... it's just... the police, see... what if the boy tells them? About..." He gestured around the room. Eric smiled coldly.

"I can assure you, Mr Dursley, that young Harry won't tell anyone anything. If you want to explain to the police why Harry might have run away, might I suggest informing them that it was because your own cack-handed child rearing involved bars on his window and a lock on his door and he fled because of you."

He stepped forwards and Vernon swallowed audibly as he stared at the other man.

"Rest assured, Mr Dursley," Eric continued in a deceptively soft voice, "that if my name comes up to the police with even the most tenuous connection to Harry's disappearance, then it may be your son who vanishes next. Is that clear?"

Vernon nodded hurriedly. "Yes, sir, Mr Nicholson."

"Good. Now get out of my sight. I expect to see news reports of a missing child within the next twenty-four hours."

* * *

The next afternoon, Vernon was interrupted in the middle of a phone call during work by his office door throwing open. He leapt to his feet and opened his mouth to start shouting at the intruder, and his secretary for letting the intruder by, but the words died in his throat when he saw Eric and his bodyguard. He muttered something into the phone and set it back in the cradle.

"Mr N-Nichol-"

"I thought I made myself clear yesterday, Dursley," Eric interrupted, stalking across the room to stand before Vernon's desk. The bodyguard stayed by the door, which was firmly shut despite the secretary's protests. "So why is it that there is not a single word on any news channel, newspaper, or radio station reporting the disappearance of a young boy?"

Vernon squeaked, cleared his throat, then said quickly, "I-I was going to, I swear, but it wasn't necessary! The boy is safe. He's with a friend, in Devon; I received word just yesterday at lunch."

Eric planted his fists on the desk and leant forwards. Vernon leant back. "Why is he in Devon instead of at your house, Dursley, were he should be?"

"W-w-well," Vernon stuttered, "h-he's a boy. He has friends. He can visit them."

"He can't, however, visit me," Eric hissed. "I paid for nine weeks of his time, not five. Get him back by Monday."

"I can't!" Vernon said, then looked like he wished he'd never spoken.

"You're his guardian, Dursley. Demand he come back. I don't care if he throws a fit, I don't care if his friends throw a fit, I don't care if his friends' parents say he can stay with them for eternity. I will get my nine weeks."

"Y-you don't understand! There are people. Powerful people. From the government! They said he's to stay with his friend for the rest of the summer until he goes back to his fr- his school."

"Why would the government do that?"

Vernon opened and closed his mouth several times before eventually saying, "His parents. They were big war heroes, lots of friends in high places, and they look out for the boy. They pay a stipend for us to look after him, but they've got the say so on where he goes really, so they say he's to stay with this friend for the rest of the holidays..."

He trailed off, realising that Eric either didn't believe him or didn't care. The other man straightened up, looking down his nose at Vernon.

"I will see you on Monday, Dursley," he said simply. "Either you will have Harry or you will have half of the payment I gave you in June."

"But—"

"But what?"

Vernon swallowed, nodded. "Yes. Yes, of course. Monday. Harry or money."

Eric smiled. "So glad you understand."

Chapter Text

"Oliver?"

"Definitely. If you can get his mind off Quidditch for ten minutes."

"Roger Davies?"

"Homophobe."

"Adrian Pucey?"

"He's a Slytherin, Fred."

"Have you seen his arse?"

Harry paused on the second floor landing, a glass of water in his hands and the moonlight shining through the window. He inched a step closer to the door beyond which he could hear voices.

"That's alright for you. Unless his mouth is skilled, I'm not interested."

"Alright, alright, not Pucey. Cedric Diggory?"

"Oh, Merlin, yes. I'd get on my knees for him."

There was a snigger, but then Harry dropped his drink and it went quiet. He quickly picked it up, but didn't get chance to move away before the door opened and Fred looked out.

"Hello, Harry."

"Hi."

"What you doing?"

"Just getting a drink."

Fred looked at the floor then back up. "You appear to have dropped it."

Harry flushed. "Yeah. Sorry. I'll go get a cloth."

He hurried downstairs and fetched one from by the sink. Fred was still in the doorway when Harry returned to the landing and he watched Harry mop up the mess. When Harry straightened up to head down again, Fred grabbed him by arm and dragged him through the door, eliciting a startled yelp from him that Fred cut off by slapping a hand over his mouth.

"Keep it down, Harry. You'll wake up Percy."

Harry nodded and Fred took his hand away. The twins' room, although larger, was rather more cramped than Ron's with two beds, a desk, a wardrobe, and a cauldron set up in the corner with something inside it bubbling. In the past few days since Harry's been at the Burrow, he realised that small explosions from the twins' room was par for the course and he was vaguely curious as to what caused them and what they might have brewing in the cauldron, but neither boy seemed at all inclined to discuss it right now. George lounged in his bed, lying on his side with head propped on one hand, while Fred pulled out the desk chair and sat on it backwards, resting his arms on the back rest. Harry fiddled with the cloth he still held.

"What do you think, George?" Fred said, gaze never leaving Harry.

"Too innocent. Probably didn't even understand."

Harry flushed, but lifted his chin, unwilling to let them patronise him. "I understood. You were talking about boys you'd..." He dropped his voice to almost a whisper and tried to ignore the heat in his cheeks. "Have sex with."

Fred and George exchanged a glance then they both looked Harry over intently before George said, "Probably."

"Definitely," Fred said.

"Definitely what?" Harry asked. The twins grinned.

"Thought you understood, Harry," Fred said. Harry blinked at him a moment then flushed bright red, making the other two laugh.

"Poor boy's probably never even been kissed," George said.

"I have too!" Harry defended himself, then snapped his mouth shut. He couldn't talk about that.

But the twins weren't letting it go. George sat up and Fred straightened.

"Yeah? Who have you kissed?"

Harry shrugged.

"I think you're lying," Fred said. "I bet if I kissed you now you wouldn't know what to do."

"Would too," Harry muttered.

"Prove it."

"What?"

Fred got up, coming over. "I said, prove it," he repeated and then kissed Harry. For a moment, Harry was too surprised to react, but then he felt Fred smirk and start to pull away and he grabbed the other boy's face in both hands, getting on tiptoes and tilting his head slightly. He darted his tongue out against Fred's lips and they opened to him, letting him swipe his tongue through the other boy's mouth. Fred's hands grabbed him, pulling him closer, and Harry ground his hips against his, drawing a moan from him.

Harry broke the kiss, easing it off and pressing a soft one to the corner of Fred's mouth before stepping back with a self-satisfied smirk as Fred stood there looking a little dazed.

"Wow," he said a touch breathlessly. "Where'd you learn to do that?"

Harry just smirked. He noticed movement from the corner of his eye and looked around just in time to see George bound up to him, shove him against the wall, and crush their mouths together. Weeks of obeying Eric made Harry instinctively kiss back, responding to the mouth on his and arching against him when George pressed his body flush against Harry's.

"Where did you learn to kiss like that?" George echoed his brother when he broke the kiss, his own face flushed now. Harry shrugged.

"Stop holding out on us, Harry."

"Yeah, who's the girl?" Fred agreed. "Or boy? A Muggle you met over the summer perhaps?"

"I'm not telling."

The twins exchanged a look then each put a hand to the wall behind Harry, effectively trapping him. "So you know how to keep a secret?" they asked in unison. Harry, startled by this change of attitude, nodded warily.

"Good, because we'd like you to keep one for us," Fred said.

"We're not quite ready to let the rest of the family know we like boys yet."

"So we'd really appreciate it if you'd keep that titbit of information to yourself."

"Even from Ronniekins," George added. "If you do..."

"...we won't tell him about your secret friend that's been teaching you to kiss so well."

"Deal?" they finished together.

Harry nodded then shook both their hands when they held them out.

"Good lad."

"But it's really getting late.

"So off to bed with you."

"Quidditch tomorrow."

"Sleep well."

"Good night!"

The door shut and Harry blinked at the corridor, wondering how he'd been guided out without even realising. He was still holding the dish cloth and looked back at the twins' door then headed downstairs again. He left the cloth by the sink, got another glass of water, and returned to Ron's room, where Ron was thankfully still fast asleep. Only when he was back in his camp bed and staring at the ceiling did he start to wonder about what he did.

He'd kissed two boys. Willingly. And he'd enjoyed it. Did that mean he was gay? He'd been trying to convince himself all summer that he wasn't even though he enjoyed what Eric did to him, because he didn't have a choice with that so it didn't count and he did try not to enjoy it. But he had a choice with this. He could have refused or pushed them away but he hadn't, so was he gay?

Did it even matter? Fred and George said they were gay and didn't seem particularly bothered about the fact. But they also didn't want anyone else to know, so maybe it did matter. He could ask, he supposed. If they were willing to kiss him, hopefully they'd be willing to inform him whether or not being gay was wrong like his aunt and uncle said. He certainly didn't feel like asking anyone else, just in case it was wrong and the person thought Harry was gay because he was asking. Ron would probably stop being his friend, Mr and Mrs Weasley would throw him out and he'd have nowhere to stay for the rest of August, and Percy and Ginny weren't even options, so that only left asking the twins.

* * *

He spent most of the next day worrying about it and did poorly in practice Quidditch with Ron and the twins in the afternoon. He picked at his dinner, which made Mrs Weasley fuss over him, but eventually night came and the entire house was in bed. Harry wanted to wait until Ron was snoring and he thought most of the others were asleep, but not too long in case the twins were asleep as well, and at midnight he crept out of his room and down a floor. He couldn't hear any sounds from the twins' room when he listened, but he knocked tentatively, wary of knocking too hard in case Percy, in the room opposite, heard and came out to investigate.

He was glad to hear a voice call for entry and cautiously opened the door, peering in before he entered, closing the door behind him then standing nervously in front of it. Fred and George were both in their beds, but candles were lit to give them light and they didn't seem to be trying to get to sleep.

"Come for another goodnight kiss?" Fred asked him by way of greeting. Harry flushed and shook his head.

"Can I talk to you?"

"What's up?" they asked together. Harry looked at the floor and fiddled with the ends of his pyjama sleeves.

"You're gay. Right?"

Humour crept into George's voice. "Is that what we are?"

Harry snapped his head up, suddenly afraid that the previous night had been a prank or, worse, a dream, and looked desperately between them.

"Pretty sure that's what we said yesterday, Harry," Fred said, faint amusement in his own voice.

"Right. Yeah. Um... just... y'know."

"Not really. You'll have to be a bit more eloquent."

Harry flushed again. "I just—I was wondering... if it—if being... gay... whether that's... I mean... is that... okay?"

"Why wouldn't it be?"

Harry shrugged, not looking at them. "It's just I heard that it's wrong. Unnatural."

"You heard wrong," George said, his tone hard now. Harry glanced up to see both his and Fred's expression unusually severe. "There's nothing unnatural about being gay."

"Anyone who tells you otherwise is a homophobic twat."

Harry was surprised by the vehemence of their words. He didn't want to argue with them, but there was still something he had to clear up.

"Why don't you want to tell anyone then?"

Thankfully the twins didn't seem to take offence at his question. "We want to tell them in our own time," Fred answered.

"When we're ready."

"It won't make a difference to them either way."

"Yeah, when Charlie came out Mum just said 'that's nice' and asked him if he wanted another helping of dessert."

"Charlie's gay?"

"Yup," they answered together.

"Oh."

Harry found that more encouraging than anything else. Charlie was a grown up and a respected dragon trainer. If it was okay for him to be gay then it was okay for Harry.

Not that he was entirely certain he was gay. He'd only kissed boys, after all, so he didn't really know if he liked girls as well. It wasn't like he'd ever thought about kissing boys or girls, it just so happened that he'd ended up kissing boys. Maybe he needed to kiss a girl to figure it out. He tried to imagine kissing Hermione, but couldn't picture it. She was his friend; he couldn't kiss her. He tried imagining a different girl instead, but the thought of kissing Lavender Brown, Parvati Patil, or any of the other girls in his year just didn't work. He couldn't imagine kissing any of them.

"Anything else, Harry?"

He jumped, almost forgetting the twins, and shook his head, but then said, "Yes."

George laughed. "Which is it, yes or no?"

"How do you know?" Harry said by way of answer. "That you were gay, I mean. Have you kissed girls as well and didn't like it?"

"I haven't," George answered.

"I did and I liked it."

Harry frowned at Fred. "But..."

"I'm bi. Bisexual," he elaborated when Harry looked confused. "It means I like boys and girls."

"You can do that?"

"Sure, why not?"

"I... I don't know. I just thought..." He realised he didn't have an answer and turned to George. "But then how do you know you don't like girls?"

He shrugged. "Because I'm not interested in kissing them or seeing them naked, but I am interested in seeing naked boys."

"What about you?" Fred asked Harry. "Do you want to see anyone naked?"

"Not really. What does that mean?"

"That you haven't hit puberty yet."

"Don't worry about it, Harry," George assured him. "You'll know when you start getting interested in people and if it's boys or girls or both, it doesn't matter."

"I'm curious though," Fred said, leaning forwards on his bed, gaze heavy on Harry. "If you're not interested yet, why were you kissing someone so much you've become a pro?"

Harry shrugged, suddenly eager to leave. "I should get to bed. Thanks for talking to me."

"Sure you don't want a goodnight kiss?" Fred asked him.

"What Fred means is he wants one," George said with a grin. "But he's too shy to ask."

"I'm not shy."

"Sure you're not."

"If I'm shy then what does that make you?"

"You can."

Fred and George look at Harry. "What?"

Harry, blushing slightly, went over to Fred's bed and kissed him. He meant to keep it chaste, but Fred grabbed him and pulled him closer, deepening it and leaving Harry breathless when they broke apart.

"Ha," Fred said. "Payback for yesterday."

Harry scowled at him, but he just laughed. Harry turned.

"You want one too?" he asked George, who quirked his eyebrows.

"Quite the little kiss whore for someone who—Harry?" he interrupted himself when Harry went stiff and pale then abruptly fled the room. The twins leapt up simultaneously and ran after him, trying to keep the noise down as they rushed upstairs and managed to grab Harry before he reached Ron's room.

"Harry, what's wrong?"

He tried to tug his wrist free and didn't look at either of them. "Nothing."

They didn't believe him. "I didn't mean to upset you," George apologised. "It was just a joke."

"I'm tired," Harry muttered, still not looking at them. The twins exchanged helpless looks and Fred let go of him.

"Alright. Good night then."

"I'm sorry," George said, but Harry was already pushing his way into Ron's room, keeping quiet as he crept to the camp bed and climbed in, listening to the twins' footsteps disappearing downstairs then rolling onto his back and staring up at the ceiling. For the past week, he'd tried to convince himself he wasn't a whore. He'd had no choice in what he did with Eric. Either he obeyed or he wouldn't go back to Hogwarts and Eric would probably shoot him, so it didn't count.

But now, it seemed, he was. At the very least, he was a kiss whore, as George put it. He didn't even mean to be. He just liked kissing so when Fred wanted to he had no complaints, and George had kissed him the night before so Harry had offered him one as well. It seemed fair, at the time, but now he realised it just made him exactly the whore Eric said he was.

Chapter Text

Harry didn't visit the twins again and he avoided getting caught alone with them anywhere in the Burrow for the rest of his stay. For a few days, he avoided even looking at them, but eventually things went back to how they were when Harry first arrived and Harry was glad that no one else seemed to notice the tension that he constantly felt.

He worried that the rest of the Weasleys knew he was whore. He feared that he was being too touchy and that even brushing fingers with someone when he passed them a dish at dinner would be a sign of what he was, yet no one said a word. He couldn't help wondering if they knew and just weren't saying anything because it wouldn't be polite. He started looking for hints, scrutinising every action and word for evidence that they knew, but after a couple of surprisingly exhausting weeks, the only person who was weird around him was Ginny, who Ron said had a crush on Harry. Harry doubted she would if she knew he was a whore.

Although relieved that no one seemed to know, part of him was hurt that they didn't notice. It seemed to him that his status as whore was visible all the time and the fact that no one noticed made him think they didn't care about him as much as they seemed to on the surface. That thought then made him feel guilty; Fred, George, and Ron had rescued him from the Dursleys and Mr and Mrs Weasley were letting him stay at the house without asking for anything in return despite being poor, and here he was thinking ungrateful thoughts about them.

He was glad to finally get back to Hogwarts, even though it was by flying car and he and Ron received detention their first night there. Over the following year he almost managed to forget about the events of the summer, what with Quidditch, classes, and the monster from the Chamber of the Secrets to distract him. The only times he couldn't avoid thinking about it was when he woke up from dreams of Eric, dreams that left him desperate for a shower and flushed with renewed shame at the way he'd reacted to Eric's attentions.

But at the end of the year, after he defeated the basilisk and the rest of the school was cheerful, spirits high from the end of the terror and the beautiful weather of the summer, Harry's mood only grew more glum. He didn't look forward to the end of the year and the summer holidays. Ron and Hermione tried to cheer him up and tell him it would be alright, and Ron assured him that he'd be able to stay at the Burrow again, but he couldn't explain that it wasn't just the Dursleys that he dreaded now, but the thought that he might once again have to see Eric twice a week. He was even tempted to go to Dumbledore and beg to stay at the school for the holidays, even going so far as to head up to the seventh floor and stand in front of the gargoyle guarding the headmaster's office, but he knew he'd have to mention why he was so desperate to stay and he couldn't bring himself do that. Being a whore was bad enough without telling anyone about it too.

So the last Saturday of June found him trudging unhappily from Gryffindor to the Entrance Hall, hyper aware of the fact that it was his last opportunity to run back up to Dumbledore's office, explain everything, and have the chance to stay behind. But his feet kept moving forwards—at least until he reached the third floor and a pair of hands reached out of a classroom and yanked him inside. He heard Hermione and Ron call his name, but his snatchers snapped the door shut and cast a Locking Charm on it.

"What the hell?" Harry gasped, staring between Fred and George, heart pounding. "What are you two doing?"

"We couldn't help noticing that you've been very glum about the holidays, Harry," George said.

Fred nodded. "So we thought we'd give you a little something nice before you go."

"Hopefully it'll cheer you up a bit and give you something good to remember over the next two months."

Harry eyed them warily, all too aware that what they thought of as nice mightn't be entirely fun for him. "What is it?"

George stepped forward, took his face in both hands, tilted it back a bit, and kissed him. It was soft and gentle and undemanding and Harry didn't even think the word 'whore' while it happened, just closed his eyes and made a pleased little noise against George's mouth. He didn't open his eyes when George broke it, but felt his hands slip away and one of Fred's cup his cheek, turn his head slightly, and then he kissed Harry as well, a little harder then George but no less pleasant.

He didn't want to move when Fred stepped away, but a moment after he did the door behind Harry burst open. He snapped his eyes open and spun, blinking at Ron and Hermione, both of whom had their wands out, which would be encouraging if Ron's weren't held together by spellotape and responsible for a few too many unpleasant disasters over the past year.

"Didn't anyone tell you that when a door is locked you're supposed to stay out?" George said to the two second years.

"What were you doing with Harry?" Ron asked suspiciously, wand still in hand, though Hermione stowed hers away. Fred slung an arm around Harry's shoulder.

"Just giving him a little something to make the holidays more bearable."

That didn't ease Ron's suspicions. "What? It better not be anything that'll get him in trouble with the Muggles."

Fred and George smirked. Harry tried not to blush. "Don't you worry about it, ickle Ronniekins," George said. "Our boy Harry here is fine. Isn't that right, Harry?"

Harry cleared his throat and nodded. Fred squeezed his shoulder then pulled away.

"Come on then, children. Don't want to miss the train!"

The twins moved around the three second years and left the room. Harry, Ron, and Hermione followed, the latter two looking over their friend.

"What did they give you, Harry?" Hermione asked. "It wasn't anything dangerous, was it?"

"No," he assured her. "Just... some encouragement."

Ron and Hermione didn't look quite convinced, but they dropped the questioning. Harry walked between them down to the Entrance Hall, feeling just a little bit better and resisting the urge to touch his lips as he remembered the kisses.

* * *

Unfortunately, the memory of the kisses didn't do much to make him feel better when he was woken early two days later by Aunt Petunia and told to put his good clothes on because he was going back to his 'part-time job'. He was startled to find that his black jeans and shirt, which he hadn't worn since leaving the Dursleys last year, were a bit too small for him. It was the first time he'd ever had clothes that didn't fit because they were too small rather than too big.

He washed and dressed reluctantly, picked at his breakfast, and trudged out the house after Uncle Vernon with a scowl. Neither off them spoke as Vernon drove across town and to the hotel; in fact they didn't say a word to one another at all in between leaving the house and Vernon dumping Harry in the hotel room and leaving again.

But when the door shut behind Vernon, Harry pressed his ear to it and listened carefully for his footsteps. He heard them reach the elevator, listened for the ding of it arriving and the door sliding open and then closed again, and then waited fifteen seconds before twisting the door handle and opening it. He peered out into the hall, saw no one, and slipped out. He headed down the hall, ignored the elevator, and went for the stairs. He had only the vaguest plan in mind—get out, make his way back to Privet Drive on foot, sneak into the house the moment he had a chance and pick the lock on the cupboard under the stairs to get to his school trunk. He'd take his broom, his Invisibility Cloak, wand, photo album, and money pouch, fly to London, and withdraw some more money from Gringotts to pay for a two month stay at the Leaky Cauldron. Everything else he owned could be replaced.

But his plan was thwarted two floors from the ground by the very person he was trying to avoid. Eric and his ever present bodyguard were on the landing of the second floor just as Harry turned onto the steps leading down to it. All three of them froze, Harry and Eric staring at each other in surprise, and then Eric smiled.

"What's a handsome young lad like yourself doing down here? Don't," he added when Harry glanced towards the steps leading back to the third floor. "Daryl here is armed, Harry," he said quietly, and Harry swallowed thickly when the bodyguard pushed his suit jacket aside to show the gun tucked in a shoulder holster. "If you run, I'll assume you're running to tell someone and we both know what I'll do if you do that. Don't we, Harry?"

Feeling helpless, Harry nodded. He didn't move as Eric climbed the stairs to his landing, a smile on his face.

"Let's go to our room, shall we?"

Despair settling heavily in his stomach, Harry headed upstairs with him. He stood unhappily to one side when they were in the room, watching Eric take off his gloves and drop onto the chaise lounge, dark eyes glittering as he looked at Harry.

"Come here."

Reluctantly, he went over. Eric grabbed him by the wrist, jerked him forwards, curled his other hand around the back of Harry's neck and pulled him down to make their mouths meet.

Harry had forgotten what kissing Eric was like and now that he was doing it again, he wondered how he'd ever thought it was pleasant. His mouth was bigger than Harry's and he was demanding and forceful. It was so unlike the twins and Harry realised that he much, much preferred kissing them.

Eric frowned at him when he broke the kiss, hands still on Harry's wrist and neck. "You're less... involved than I remember you being."

"It's not like I enjoy being here," Harry replied.

"That's not what I remember," Eric murmured, a smile spreading across his face as heat rose in Harry's cheeks. "I remember you enjoying it rather a lot, begging me to let you come like the little slut that you are, moaning just like a good little whore."

Harry tried to pull away but the hand on the back of his neck tightened.

"Your time away has given you fight, Harry," Eric said disapprovingly, but his smile widened. "I might like that."

Harry scowled. Eric's hand shifted to his shoulder and pushed down. "On your knees. Lets see if you can remember how to suck cock properly."

Harry's knees buckled under the pressure, but the moment Eric's hands left him, he surged to his feet again and moved away, glaring at the man.

"I'm not doing it."

Eric's expression hardened and he stood up. "You will."

"No. You can't make me."

"Do I need to remind you what I'm capable of, Harry?"

Harry's surge of anger and defiance wavered slightly, but he stood fast even as Eric approached him. "You won't kill me, or my aunt and uncle and cousin."

"What makes you so certain of that?"

"Because you didn't last summer. I ran away and you can't have known where I was or anything, but you didn't kill them. You're just bluffing. You won't really kill anyone so you can't make me do anything."

Eric sighed irritably. "I was good to you, Harry. I treated you well, I bought you clothes, I was gentle with you, but now... now I have to show you what I can do when pushed."

And then he kicked out. His foot caught the back of Harry's ankles and wrenched them out from under him, sending Harry sprawling onto his back. Winded, Harry couldn't fight when Eric dropped down on top of him, pinning him down with an arm across his throat while the other fumbled to undo Harry's jeans. He had them unzipped and started to push them down by the time Harry started to struggle. He managed to squirm and fight enough that Eric couldn't get the clothes past his knees, but although the man gave an angry growl, he didn't let it put him off, merely flipped Harry over and manhandled his legs under him, arse in the air, one hand still holding Harry down. Harry struggled desperately, but couldn't fight Eric's weight and he cried out painfully when a finger pushed inside him.

"See what you've made me do?" Eric said. "I've always done my best to be good to you, Harry, but now..."

Another finger pushed inside him and Harry yelled.

"No, no stop! You're hurting me!"

The fingers scissored inside him, never once hitting his prostate, though Harry doubted the pleasure from that would matter much with the pain he was in.

"Exactly. I'm hurting you. I don't like doing that, Harry, but you've made me."

Harry screamed as a third finger entered him, seriously regretting his behaviour now. "I'm sorry," he sobbed. "I'm sorry. Just stop, please, I'll do what you say, just please stop."

The fingers stopped moving but didn't leave him. Eric bent over him, putting his mouth to Harry's ear.

"Promise?" he murmured. Harry nodded, but Eric twisted his fingers and Harry cried out, feeling like he was being torn open from the inside. "Say it. Say you promise to do exactly as I say and never fight me again."

"I promise," Harry whimpered. "I promise I'll do everything you say."

Fingers slid out of him, almost as painful as the going in. "Good boy."

Eric drew back and Harry collapsed to the floor, snivelling pitifully and straightening his glasses as he rolled onto his side to look up warily, but Eric rose to his feet and turned away, going to the bathroom. "Take off your trousers," he called back. Harry obeyed, wincing as the movement sent pain spiking through him, and heard Eric start the bath running. The man came out with a wet flannel, which Harry didn't understand until Eric ordered him to get on his hands and knees and then knelt behind him and gently wiped the cloth over his arse.

"I made you bleed," he explained in a soft but unapologetic voice. "Don't make me do anything like this again, Harry."

"I won't," Harry assured him, trying not to whimper at the pressure. When Eric was done, he pressed a kiss to the small of Harry's back then stood.

"Follow me. Stay on your hands and knees, though," Eric ordered. Harry nodded and turned, too hurt and scared to feel embarrassed about crawling across the floor and into the bathroom. Eric tossed the flannel into the sink then sat on the edge of the bath and dipped his fingers into the water, now half filling the tub, before flicking the droplets off and looking down at Harry.

"Suck me off."

Harry crawled closer and got to his knees, keeping his gaze down as he undid the man's trousers. He wasn't wearing underwear and Harry tugged his half erect cock free and leant forwards to wrap his mouth around it. He was hesitant at first, but memories of the year before came to him as he worked, reminding him of what to do. Eric's fingers tangled in his hair and he murmured encouragement and praise until he came in Harry's mouth.

"I'm glad to see you haven't lost all your skill in that," he said afterwards, smiling at Harry. Harry forced himself to smile back and wiped at his mouth. Eric combed his finger's through Harry's hair one last time then nudged Harry to move out the way and stood up. "Take off your shirt," he said, unbuttoning his own. Harry undid his slowly so that by the time he pulled it off, Eric had lost all his clothes. He watched the man turn off the taps and climb into the bath, sighing softly as he sank into the water, then gestured for Harry to join him and Harry reluctantly climbed into the water, settling himself between Eric's legs with his back to Eric's chest.

"I won't fuck you today," Eric told him as he removed Harry's glasses and set them on the side of the tub before letting his fingers drift over Harry's skin, like he was re-familiarising himself with the contours of Harry's body. "Not after what I did."

Harry nodded, unsure if he should express his gratitude for that and unwilling to anyway. It seemed to be enough for Eric, who made a satisfied noise as he continued to touch him, and Harry just gave himself over to it. He reminded himself that he'd promised not to fight and he'd survived it last year so could survive now, so he leant back against Eric's chest, closed his eyes, and tried not to think too much.

Chapter Text

On the 19th of July, Harry was waiting patiently in the hotel room when the door opened and a large, bulky man with thinning brown hair and an unfriendly face entered the room. Harry got up from the lounge, frowning, and felt nerves coil in his gut as the man was followed by four others. None of them looked friendly.

"Who are you?" he asked, trying not to let his nerves show as the men surrounded him in a semicircle. The bulky one was clearly the leader and he stood directly in front of Harry, looking him over critically.

"So," he said in a nasally voice. "You're Eric's little slut."

Harry flushed, but he could hardly deny it when he spent the last three weeks doing everything a slut would do and enjoying it. He didn't bother trying to convince himself he didn't or that it was just his body betraying him; he enjoyed being touched and even getting fucked wasn't that bad. He was a slut and a whore and there was no point denying it.

"Who are you?" he asked again. "Where's Eric?"

"Delayed," the man said and the others smirked and sniggered. Harry's nerves started turning to fear. "My name's Rodney," the man finally introduced himself, "and I need you to deliver a message to Eric for me."

"What message?"

"It'd be easier for you to just show him," Rodney say. "Boys."

They advanced on him and Harry tried to back up, but forgot about the chaise and just ended up sitting down. He didn't get chance to stand. Hands grabbed him and hauled him up, twisting his arms painfully as they held him in front of Rodney, who reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of brass knuckles. Harry struggled vainly to free himself, but couldn't escape the grip on his arms and when Rodney's fist flew towards his face he squeezed his eyes shut moments before it hit.

The beating was horrendous. Harry had always thought Dudley was a skilled beater, but he realised he knew nothing about brute force compared to Rodney. When he was finally dropped, he collapsed to the floor with a face swollen and bloodied and at least two teeth missing, his entire torso ached and he'd heard bones crack a few times when he was punched in the ribs, and he could barely even find breath to groan. His glasses were shattered, the frames knocked to the floor and bent out of shape.

But it wasn't over. He heard Rodney speak but didn't understand what he said, and then they grabbed him again. He couldn't fight or even cry out with pain as his clothes were ripped off and he was roughly hauled onto the bed, bent over the edge, and then fucked without preparation. He'd thought the pain couldn't get any worse, but he was proved wrong when the throb of his injuries was accentuated by the tearing pain in his arse. He garbled incoherent pleas for mercy and was ignored as every one of the men present took their turn with him.

Eventually he was let go to slide to the floor. He barely heard Rodney's, "Give our regards to Eric," and could only lie there as he listened to the five men leave. He was grateful when his vision went black and consciousness fled.

* * *

He woke up in a hospital, hooked up to various machines, his jaw wired shut and several wounds on his face and torso stitched together. He listened to a doctor tell him about his injuries, the woman's reassuring tone somewhat diminished by her use of phrases like internal bleeding and intestinal damage, and her informing him that he now had metal plates and screws holding his face together. He learnt he was in a private hospital and his care was being paid for by 'your uncle's friend' Mr Eric Nicholson, but as Harry had never been in an NHS hospital before he wasn't sure what the difference was. He did manage to think bitterly that it was only right that Eric pay for his care when it was his fault he was there in the first place, but then the doctor gave him some morphine and he stopped thinking much of anything.

The next few days passed in a haze of pain relievers and the occasional odd dream. One night he dreamt that Dumbledore came to visit him, his midnight blue robes standing out starkly amidst the hospital's light colour scheme. Another night he dreamt about a witch in lime green robes who poked and prodded him with her wand and muttered unpleasant comments about Muggles in between casting spells. But weirdly, when he woke up the next morning he felt better than he had since he got to the hospital.

As it turned out, he was better. At first he was worried when the doctor did her checks on him and then ordered new x-rays and scans, but they removed the wires holding his jaw together and she informed him with no little wonder that he had healed enough that they could release him in a few days to continue his recovery at home. He could talk, eat semi-solid foods, and moving didn't cause him untold agony. Even his bruises had faded considerably.

"You must have an angel watching over you, Mr Potter," she told him. "Either that or you're a superhero."

He managed a weak smile at her joke. Superhero? He wished. Superhero's didn't get whored out by their uncles or severely beaten and raped. Apparently only young wizards endured that. And he definitely didn't have any angels watching over him, but he suspected he had a wizard watching over him. Suddenly his dreams didn't seem quite so unrealistic.

"What about the plates?" he asked her. "Are you going to take them out?"

"We prefer not to. Although you have healed to the point where they're not necessary, unbelievable as that is, removal would mean extra surgery. As long as you don't get an infection like I mentioned the other day, it won't do you any harm to leave them in, but if you do want them out and are willing to undergo the surgery, it can be done provided your uncle gives permission and Mr Nicholson agrees to the cost of surgery."

He decided to leave them in, partially because he didn't know whether Uncle Vernon and Eric would agree to let it be done, but mostly because it struck him as kind of cool that there was metal inside his face. It wasn't much, but he thought he should take something vaguely good away from the attack.

* * *

The morning of his release, he had his stitches removed and then was given an eye exam before picking out some new glasses. He was shown a large selection to choose from and tried on multiple pairs with some delight; he'd had the same pair of glasses since he was eight and they were picked by Aunt Petunia from the small selection of free frames provided by the NHS, and had since been broken multiple times by Dudley, not to mention got bent as his head grew and his aunt refused to get him new ones. Now he had a vast selection and the optician told him he could pick any he liked no matter the price, as Eric was paying the cost for them. He picked a pair with dark red rounded rectangular frames and was disappointed that he would have to wait a week for them to be ready.

His good mood dropped slightly when he learned that Eric would be the one taking him home, but kept his complaints to himself. If he didn't get a ride with Eric, his aunt and uncle would probably leave him stranded in London. Not that that would be completely terrible because Diagon Alley was in London, but without a wand he couldn't access it and without his Gringotts vault key he couldn't get to his money, so returning to Little Whinging was his best option.

"I'm sorry this happened to you, Harry," was the first thing Eric said when they were both sat in the spacious rear seat of Eric's very shiny car, his bodyguard driving. "I promise you that the people responsible will pay."

Harry just nodded. He didn't really want to talk about it, especially not to him. The hospital had offered to let him talk to a psychiatrist, but he refused, although he'd still been given a booklet on dealing with physical and sexual assault. They'd given him the card for a psychiatrist in Little Whinging just before he left and he'd shoved it in the pocket of his jeans without looking at it.

His jeans were new, as well. He'd been stuck with hospital clothes for the past week, but Eric had brought him new clothes when he came to pick him up. Harry had torn feelings about them; he didn't like taking anything from Eric, but they were perfectly fitting and so criminally comfortable that it would be ridiculous of him to refuse them even if he did have other clothes to put on at that moment.

Most of the journey passed quietly. Harry watched the scenery go by and listened to the radio and Eric made no attempts to speak to him, at least until they reached Little Whinging.

"The doctors informed me that your recovery rate is nothing short of miraculous," he said as the streets started to grow familiar to Harry. Harry shrugged. Eric continued, "I will expect you at the hotel next Monday."

"What?" Harry gasped, looking around at him. Eric's expression was unforgiving and staring forwards.

"I will have you put in a different room and security raised, but you will be there."

Harry was so shocked that he could only gape. His voice didn't come back to him until they rolled to a stop outside of 4 Privet Drive, at which point he snapped his mouth shut, undid his seatbelt, and snarled with pure venom, "I hate you" before climbing out, slamming the door shut behind him and stalking up to the house without a glance back. He didn't hear the car move off until he was inside.

* * *

The next few days dragged. Although he expected and received no sympathy from his family for his attack, they at least left him alone. He may as well have been invisible when he joined them for meals and the rest of the time he spent in his room, lying on his bed to rest his still sore ribs. When he slept, he had nightmares.

His mood picked up on Friday night when, about an hour after midnight, he received three owls with birthday presents and letters from Hermione, Ron, and Hagrid, as well as his Hogwarts letter for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately the cheerfulness from that faded at breakfast when he learnt that his much hated Aunt Marge would be coming to stay for a week.

By the time Monday came, Harry was so sick of Marge that he was glad to get bundled off to the hotel. Even after what happened to him, he'd rather get fucked again by Eric than have to endure Marge's bustling, too loud, critical figure.

That gladness wavered somewhat when they finally reached the hotel. As he rode the elevator up, his stomach twisted and his ribs seemed to ache in reminder of what had happened to him just two weeks ago in this same hotel. The suited figures hanging about the hall when the elevator opened only made his anxiety worse, especially when they scrutinised him and Uncle Vernon as they headed to the suite. As Eric had said, it was a different one than usual, but it still didn't make him feel any better. The only thing that even slightly eased his nerves was entering the room to find Eric already waiting inside, which struck him as comically ridiculous. Here was a man who routinely fucked him, and he was more comfortable around him than most other people at the moment.

Eric frowned at him as he entered the room, getting to his feet from the sofa and stopping Vernon when he started to leave.

"What is he wearing?"

Vernon glanced at Harry, who was wearing the oversized jeans, shirt, and a jumper that he got from the Dursleys. "He insisted," he said quickly, clearly hoping to direct all of Eric's irritation to Harry. "I told him to change, but the boy refused."

Eric looked Harry over then waved a hand in dismissal of Vernon, who didn't hesitate to turn and leave. Harry didn't move from his spot by the door as it shut behind him while Eric returned to the sofa.

"You're fighting me," Eric said disapprovingly. "I thought we discussed the consequences of that at the beginning of the summer, Harry."

"Going to rape me?" Harry replied. "Oh, wait, you already do that, don't you?"

Eric looked at him without emotion.

"They gave me this booklet at the hospital," Harry continued. "It had all this information about rape and sexual assault and stuff in it. I didn't even know what rape was until then, but now I do, and it's not just what those men did to me. Sometimes rape isn't violent. Sometimes it's gentle and the rapist even makes it feel good for the victim, but as long as they don't want it then it's still rape."

"I hope you don't expect me to apologise," Eric said. "I'm well aware of what it is that I do and if I felt it was something I needed to apologise for then I wouldn't do it in the first place."

"You're a pervert. And a paedophile. I learnt that word too."

"I'm glad your holidays are so educating." He crossed one leg over the other and slung an arm along the back of the sofa. "So tell me what you plan to do, Harry. If I tell you to suck me off, are you going to refuse?"

Harry said nothing. He wasn't really sure, to be honest. He wanted to say he'd refuse, but he was still aware of what Eric could do to him and to his aunt, uncle, and cousin.

"What if I said I wanted to fuck you?"

Harry hunched his shoulders. "You mean rape me."

Eric ignored him. "Surely you know that the best thing to do after falling off a bike is to get back on."

"I didn't fall off a bike!" Harry half-yelled. "I was beaten and raped. Violently. Because of you!"

"Something for which I sincerely apologise, but the analogy remains. You have suffered something horrible; you need reminding that sex can be good."

"It's not sex, it's rape."

"It's good!" Eric snapped. "I have always made you feel good, Harry. You cannot deny that, whatever words you want to use now."

Harry glared and said nothing. Eric stood and crossed the distance between them, settling his hands on Harry's shoulders, "Let me make you feel good, Harry."

Harry ducked his head, closing his eyes. He hated this. Hated Eric and hated his uncle for selling him, but most of all he hated the fact that he wanted what Eric was offering. The first day of the summer aside, Eric never hurt him, at least not intentionally. It still sometimes stung when they fucked, but it wasn't as painful as it had been the first time and certainly nothing like it had been when Rodney did it. And Eric did with his touch what no one else ever had—he made Harry feel wanted, even if the way he wanted him wasn't entirely innocent. Not that Harry thought his friends at Hogwarts didn't want him, but this was different. Aside from the occasional hug from Hermione or a clap on the back or shoulder from Ron, no one really touched Harry. However wrong the intentions of Eric's touch, it was still the non-painful human contact that Harry craved his entire childhood.

He wasn't about to admit that, though, so he just mumbled, "Not like I have a choice, is it?" and didn't fight when Eric tugged him over to the bed.

Chapter Text

When the doorbell went late on Tuesday evening, Harry was lounging in his bed, avoiding Aunt Marge and wishing it was Saturday already because she was leaving then. He had his new glasses—they'd arrived in the post that morning and thankfully he'd been the one to get the mail so they weren't stolen and damaged by Dudley before Harry even got them—and he was impressed with how much clearer everything was. He'd had no idea his prescription might have changed so much since he was eight.

He listened to Petunia answer the door, call for Vernon, and then a few minutes later Vernon's heavy footsteps came upstairs and he entered Harry's room. Harry sat up warily as he shut the door behind him.

"Mr Nicholson wants you."

"What? But it's—"

"Don't argue!" Vernon snapped. "He's waiting outside and he says it's not the usual, but you'll go with him and do as he says, like always."

Scowling and wondering what Eric wanted if it wasn't the usual, he pulled on his trainers and slouched out the room and downstairs. Petunia, Marge, and Dudley watched Harry with suspicious eyes as he went and Harry wondered what Vernon had told them about why a strange man was asking for him, but didn't really care. Daryl the bodyguard was waiting outside the front door and he walked Harry to the car idling at the kerb, opening the back door for Harry to climb in beside Eric. When Harry glanced at the house, he could see Petunia peering out the living room curtains.

"What's this about?" Harry asked as Daryl got behind the wheel and drove away, trying not to sound nervous.

"You'll see when we get there," Eric answered. He picked up a blindfold from the seat between them. "I'm going to have to ask you to put this on for the trip though."

"Why?"

"Because I'm telling you to."

With mingled nerves and curiosity, Harry took it and tied it around his eyes. He sat in darkness for a half hour journey, listening to the radio and wondering what on earth was going on, but eventually the car came to a halt and Eric said he could remove the blindfold. He did so to find them parked on the edge of an unlit stretch of road beside a river. A little ahead of them was a black van. Daryl got out and went to it and two figures got out the front, then all three went to the back and opened the rear doors to forcibly pull out five people with their hands cuffed behind them and hoods on their heads.

"What's going on?" Harry asked nervously as the five were forced to their knees by the edge of the river. He suddenly had a very bad feeling, but all Eric said was, "Come on," and got out the car. Harry followed, wary and wishing he had his wand. He mightn't be allowed to do magic outside of school, but he could in emergencies and he had a feeling this was about to become an emergency.

Eric took him by the shoulder, grip firm but gentle, and guided him over to the five kneeling figures. They had their backs to the river and as Harry and Eric approached, Daryl withdrew a torch and lit it, then tugged the hood off one. Harry inhaled sharply, stepping back and staring wide-eyed at the man—Rodney.

"W-what... what is this?" he demanded, unable to keep the fear out of his voice. Eric's hand tightened on his shoulder.

"Is this one of the men who attacked you, Harry?"

Harry looked between him and Rodney, swallowing thickly. "Yes. What—why is he—what are you—"

"And these?" Eric asked, ignoring his stuttered words. Daryl went down the row of kneeling figures, removing their hoods and shining the torch on their faces for Harry to look at. Every one of them had been involved in Harry's attack.

"Thank you," Eric said softly when Harry confirmed it. "Please get back in the car."

Harry fought not to run. The more distance between him and Rodney's men, the better, and he shook as he clambered into the backseat. He still didn't realise what was going on though, not until Eric took a gun from Daryl, put it to Rodney's head, and shot him. Harry screamed then clapped his hands over his mouth, staring wide-eyed as Rodney fell backwards, toppling over the river bank and into the water. It didn't occur to him to close his eyes as Eric shot the four others.

* * *

The rest of the night and the next day passed in something of a daze. Aunt Marge's spiteful comments largely flew over Harry's head because he was too preoccupied with the fact that he'd watched five people get murdered. He jumped whenever someone made a loud noise and when Petunia dropped a frying pan on Thursday morning he actually thought a gun had gone off and leapt out of his seat. He didn't bother explaining himself, just fled the kitchen without finishing his breakfast and hid in his bedroom until Vernon yelled for him to come down.

His hands shook as he went up to the hotel room. As always on Thursdays, Eric was there first, but he didn't call Harry over the moment he entered. In fact, Harry realised, he looked almost like Harry felt.

"I assume you kept your silence, Harry," he said first. Harry nodded quickly. He wasn't about to tell anyone what he'd seen and risk ending up in the river with Rodney. "Good."

He still didn't gesture Harry over.

"Harry, you..." He began, but then stopped. Harry watched him. He'd never seen Eric stuck for words.

"Your school," Eric tried again. "Hogwarts. Correct?"

"Yeah."

"That would be... Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

Harry started. "What? No. Don't be—magic isn't real."

"That's what I thought when my daughter received a letter on Saturday," Eric said. "In fact, I assumed it was a poor attempt at a prank from you, but you gave no indication of it on Monday and I realised you couldn't possibly know that I had a daughter, what her name was, and you certainly couldn't know which bedroom was hers. That led me to think that someone was trying to threaten me through her, but when I checked my not inconsiderable resources, I found absolutely no mention of a school named Hogwarts."

He paused. Harry said nothing, sensing there was more to come. Sure enough, Eric continued in a slightly quieter voice, "But yesterday, as the letter had promised, a Professor Ponoma Sprout turned up on my doorstep to assure me that my daughter was, in fact, a witch, and would need to attend this Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in September or risk her magical powers causing her and others uncontrollable harm."

"Oh," Harry said.

"Indeed," Eric said dryly. "I take it, then, that you're a wizard."

Figuring there was no point pretending otherwise, Harry nodded.

"And your aunt, uncle, and cousin?"

Harry let out a burst of humourless laughter. "As if. They hate magic and hate me because of it. Why do you think my uncle is so willing to sell me to you? No, they're Muggles through and through."

"Muggles... That's non-magical people, correct?"

"Yeah."

"And yet somehow Muggles manage to birth witches, like my daughter."

Harry nodded and finally went over, sitting down beside him. "They're called Muggleborns, but it doesn't make a difference. One of my best friends is Muggleborn and she's the best witch in our year."

"Are you Muggleborn?"

He shook his head. "I'm what they call half-blood. My dad was a wizard and my mum was Muggleborn."

Eric frowned. "Then your mother was a witch? But you're considered a 'half-blood'?"

Harry shrugged. "It's just how it is. There's some purebloods—that's people who only have magical ancestors—who think that they're better than Muggles and they consider Muggleborns no better than Muggles, so someone like me is still considered a half-blood. But like I said, it doesn't really matter. Only the stuck up, stupid, self-absorbed purebloods think it makes a difference."

"And how common are those types?"

"Most people are decent."

"Why do your aunt and uncle hate magic?"

Harry shrugged. "It's freaky and unnatural according to them. I think my aunt doesn't like it much because she was jealous of my mum being a witch when she wasn't."

"Jealousy is an ugly emotion," Eric murmured, then he sighed and slid an arm around Harry. "I have one last question before we move onto more pleasant things. Do you honestly use owls to send post?"

Harry couldn't help grinning. "Yes. I have one. They're actually really good pets."

Eric didn't look convinced, but he said nothing more on it.

* * *

"Eric?"

"Hmm?"

"How much do you pay my uncle for me?"

Eric paused in buttoning his shirt to look around at Harry, who sat on the edge of the bed, his own clothes back on already.

"How much does he give you?" Eric asked instead of answering and Harry snorted.

"He doesn't give me anything. He says it's my payment for staying with them."

Eric's eyes narrowed. He turned away and finished dressing without saying anything more, but instead of leaving he spoke a few words with Daryl then settled back on the sofa and waited with Harry until Vernon came. When he arrived, Daryl showed him into the room and Eric held a hand out to his bodyguard. Daryl withdrew a thick envelope from his pocket and handed it over, Vernon's eyes following it greedily.

"Come here, Harry," Eric said. Harry did, a little confused. Eric held the envelope up between himself and Vernon.

"Two thousand pounds—this week's pay," he said to Vernon, who started to reach for it, only for Eric to shift it away and hold it out to Harry, who blinked at it then looked up. "Take it."

He did so, glancing between the two men. Eric was smirking; Vernon looked angry.

"It is his services I pay for," Eric said, drawing Vernon's gaze. "It came to my attention that he wasn't seeing any of the money, so he is getting every penny of this, and next weeks, and the week after, and however much else I feel like giving him. I have paid you more than your fair share, Dursley."

Vernon looked like he wanted to argue, but he nodded jerkily. Eric smiled unpleasantly, said goodbye to Harry, and walked out with Daryl dogging his footsteps. Harry quickly stuffed the envelope in his pocket before Vernon could snatch it from him.

"I better not see a penny of that in the house," Vernon spat instead. "You'll keep your bloody mouth shut about it, do you hear me?"

"Not like I can explain where I got it, can I?" Harry retorted. "Are we going or are you going to stand there spitting at me for the rest of the night?"

* * *

The following evening, he was ridiculously grateful for that two grand because he meant he had money to catch a train to London when he fled Privet Drive after blowing up Aunt Marge like a balloon. The only trouble was it was too late for any buses and the train station was a long walk, especially when he had a heavy trunk and an owl cage to haul along. In the end he didn't need to though, as he managed to accidentally summon the Knight Bus instead and that required wizard money, which he thankfully had a pouchful of in his trunk.

The next morning, after a night at the Leaky Cauldron and giving his word to the Minister of Magic himself that he wouldn't venture into Muggle London, Harry wandered through Diagon Alley and debated converting his two grand to Galleons, but decided it was rather unnecessary when he had plenty of wizard money anyway and he never knew when Muggle money might come in handy, so he just stuffed it at the bottom of his trunk.

He couldn't help thinking about Eric as he explored the Alley. Harry would be staying at the Leaky Cauldron for the last three weeks of summer and he wondered what Vernon told Eric about his disappearance and what he'd told him last year as well. He wondered if Eric would do anything to them for letting Harry get away, given his previous threats, but then forced himself to stop thinking about that because it made him feel guilty—not just guilty that he might be responsible for the Dursleys getting hurt and maybe even killed, but guilty that it made him almost want Eric to do something because if the Dursleys died than Harry would live somewhere else during the summers and he wouldn't ever have to see Eric again.

The only trouble was Harry's body apparently missed Eric even though his mind didn't. All too often Harry woke up from dreams of their time together with sticky sheets, or he'd find his mind drifting to sex before he went to sleep and he would guilty masturbate to memories of Eric, though sometimes he would manage to imagine someone else fucking him, but their faces were never as clear as Eric's. Masturbating also wasn't nearly as fulfilling as having someone else's hand jerk him off.

A week after arriving at the Leaky Cauldron, he stood outside Quality Quidditch Supplies, admiring the Firebolt in the window, when a young girl with black hair tied in pigtails and wearing a white summer dress bound up to the window, pressed her hands and face to the glass, and breathed, "Wow. A real broomstick that you can fly on."

He couldn't help smiling, remembering his own enthusiasm for flying when he discovered the wizarding world.

"Daddy, can I get one? Please!" she asked, swivelling around to look at her parents.

"Your supply list says you're not allowed until next year, Emma," an all too familiar voice answered. Harry stiffened. He looked around, trying to make it seem casual and failing miserably, and laid eyes on Eric, stood beside an attractive and well dressed woman. Eric glanced at Harry but gave absolutely no indication that he knew him.

"Hey, mister, have you ever flown one?" the girl, Emma, asked Harry. Harry dragged his gaze away from Eric and nodded jerkily.

"Y-yeah." He cleared his throat. "Yeah, I have. Excuse me, I have to go," he said quickly and hurried away. He could swear he felt eyes burning into his back the entire way back to the Leaky Cauldron and didn't relax until he was back in his room with the door securely locked behind him.

Chapter Text

A few days later Harry was returning to his room after dinner when, just as he opened his door, someone grabbed the back of his shirt, shoved him through, and shut the door behind them, flicking the lock. They shoved him forwards and he stumbled, but caught himself and whirled to face the intruder, blood running cold when he laid eyes on Eric, a cloak worn over casual Muggle clothes in a clear attempt to blend in that made Harry wonder just how long Eric's been in Diagon Alley. He had to have been following Harry to find his room and it is Thursday; had Eric been in Diagon Alley all day, looking for Harry?

"W-what are you doing here?"

"You've a terrible habit of running away from home, Harry," Eric said instead of answering.

"I can scream. This isn't the hotel, people will hear; Tom the barman—"

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Eric interrupted, pushing his cloak aside to show the gun holstered at his hip. "I'm beginning to realise that magic can do incredible, unbelievable things, but I don't think it'll save someone from a bullet, do you?"

Harry swallowed thickly and said nothing. Eric smiled coldly.

"Good boy. Now you and I need to have a few words, Harry."

"About what?" he asked, wondering if he should go for his wand, but he didn't think the Minister of Magic would forgive him a second time for using underage magic, especially not when attacking Eric would be intentional. He'd have to explain himself and Harry wasn't sure that just saying Eric broke into his room would be enough to get him out of trouble.

"You and my daughter." Eric moved forwards and Harry forced himself to stay still, looking up as Eric stopped in front of him. "Emma is a good girl. Well behaved, polite, innocent. I want her to stay that way. I don't want her associating with whore likes you, and I don't want you getting any funny ideas in your head about telling her that her father likes to bugger young boys."

"I wouldn't—" Harry started, but Eric lifted a hand and pressed two fingers to his lips.

"If, on the off chance that Emma approaches you, for whatever reason, you will politely inform her that boys your age don't socialise with girls two years younger than them. You will not upset her and you will not, under any circumstances, inform her that you know me. Have I made myself perfectly clear?"

Harry nodded.

"Good." Eric's hand slipped from his mouth but he didn't move away, instead looking over Harry with a familiar gleam in his eye. "I live in London," he said in a quieter voice, trailing the backs of his fingers along Harry's jaw. "The commute from my home to here is considerably shorter than to Little Whinging, and you owe me several days."

Harry fought the urge to knock his hand away, but at the same time he didn't want to. He was disgusted with himself for it, but he missed being touched.

Eric sighed. "Unfortunately, this location is not ideal to continue our arrangement. The walls are too thin, the barman too keen-eyed, and the risk of visiting a place where you're residing too high. But..."

Before Harry knew it, he was on his knees and bent over the edge of the bed, Eric behind him and a hand undoing his jeans. "I can risk one fuck."

"No!"

The word was out before he even thought about it, the reaction instinctual to their position and the sudden memory of Rodney and his men bending him over a bed the same way.

Eric froze. "No?" he repeated coldly.

"N-not like this," Harry stuttered. "On the bed properly. Please."

Eric drew back and Harry scrambled onto the bed, turning to face him and trying not to flush under the scrutinising gaze.

"If I had the time, I'd question your sudden issue with positions, but my wife will only forgive me for being so late home. Take your shirt off."

Harry did so, saying nothing as Eric climbed onto him, kissing his face and neck while one hand undid Harry's jeans. Harry squirmed out of them and spread his legs as Eric drew a small bottle of lube from his pocket and prepared him. He didn't remove his own trousers, just undid them and quickly applied some lube to himself before pushing into Harry hard, making Harry groan at the intrusion.

Eric kissed him, silencing the noise. "Quiet, Harry," he murmured. "You don't want anyone to hear now, do you?"

Although fairly certain no one would actually barge into his room, Harry knew the noises would be distinctive enough so he bit his lip, holding back any further sounds as Eric drew back and thrust forward again, his movements gentle enough that Harry could keep himself quiet, but at the same time being slow enough that Harry wanted to scream at him to speed up—and he didn't even bother trying to kid himself that he just wanted it over and done with. He was just turned on and Eric's slow motions were almost agonising.

Then, when he was on the brink of orgasm, Eric reached down and wrapped his hand around the base of Harry's cock, squeezing almost hard enough to hurt and keeping him from coming.

"I can't have you getting my clothes dirty," he murmured in Harry's ear while Harry whined unhappily. A few thrusts later Eric came and Harry was gasping pleas for his own release, but Eric didn't let go until he drew out, pulling away to stand over Harry.

"Finish yourself," he ordered. Harry did, feeling himself flush under Eric's watch but not so embarrassed he couldn't wrap a hand around himself and bring himself to orgasm in a few quick jerks.

"Always a pleasure."

Harry opened eyes he didn't realise he'd shut and struggled not to turn completely red at the smugly pleased look on Eric's face as the man tucked himself away and did his trousers up. Harry sat up, wincing slightly as he did, and drew his knees up, watching silently as Eric pulled out his wallet, paused then returned it to his pocket and pulled out a money pouch instead, opening it with a frown and withdrawing ten Galleons.

"That should be right if I remember the exchange rate correctly," he said, setting the coins on the dresser. Harry said nothing and Eric returned the pouch to his pocket then straightened his cloak and headed for the door, pausing just in front of it to look back at Harry.

"Don't forget what we discussed earlier."

Harry nodded, watched the man leave, then buried his face in his knees. He felt a renewed burst of shame and disgust at himself for what just happened, for how much he'd enjoyed it when he knew he shouldn't. It was even worse than before; although he always knew he was a whore, there was a sense of disconnect because it only ever happened in the Little Whinging hotel room. In that room, he was a just a whore and nothing else; outside, he was Harry, who happened to also be a whore. Now though...

He scrambled off the bed, snatching up the money on the dresser, going to the window, and throwing it out. He heard a shout of surprise as the coins rained down on people in the street below, but he ignored it, shutting the window again then hurrying through to his bathroom to clean up. He couldn't be a whore here, not in the wizarding world where he was the Boy Who Lived. He refused to let that part of him infect the part of his life that was supposed to be good and decent.

* * *

He met Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasleys again on the last day of the holidays when they arrived at the Leaky Cauldron to spend the night before all going to Kings Cross the next morning. He saw Hermione and Ron outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream parlour and went over with a grin. They already knew about his blowing up Aunt Marge, as Mr Weasley heard about it from work. Ron thought it was hilarious; Hermione was less amused.

"Honestly, it's a wonder you weren't expelled. And how did you get that scar?"

Harry's good cheer dropped and he self-consciously rubbed at his cheek, which bore an almost invisible white scar about an inch long just under his left eye. He'd thought it was hidden by his glasses, but trust Hermione to have noticed. Ron certainly hadn't, learning forwards to peer closer when Harry dropped his hand.

"Oh yeah. What happened, Harry? I like the new glasses by the way."

"I was attacked last month," he admitted in a mutter. "Mugged."

Hermione gasped and Ron looked grim. "You alright, mate?"

He shrugged. "It was pretty bad at first, but I'm healed up. I've got metal plates in my face now."

Hermione clearly didn't find this as cool as he did, but Ron found it rather fascinating after they explained why he had metal in his face.

"Did they catch who did it?" Hermione asked. Harry hesitated then shook his head and tried not to remember the sight of five dead men splashing into a river.

"They probably won't," he said truthfully. "But anyway, have you got your books and things yet?"

They had, but Hermione wanted to buy a pet for her upcoming birthday and Ron needed to get his pet rat Scabbers checked, as he wasn't looking too healthy, so they all headed to the Magical Menagerie. Ron got some tonic for Scabbers and Hermione bought a monstrous, fluffy ginger cat named Crookshanks.

They returned to the Leaky Cauldron afterwards, where they found Mr Weasley reading the Daily Prophet at the bar and Ron didn't hesitate to inform his father that Muggle doctors had put metal in Harry's face. Mr Weasley, predictably, looked fascinated.

"Really? Metal in your face? How? Why?"

"Who's got metal in their face?" a new voice asked before Harry could answer, and Fred sidled up beside him, George nearby. "Hi, Harry."

"Harry does," Ron answered Fred, and both twins peered at Harry.

"I think you're mixing up your prepositions, Ron," George said. "He's got metal on his face."

"Yeah, maybe you need some glasses too," Fred agreed. "Nice specs, Harry."

"Thanks."

"He really does have metal in his face," Ron insisted.

"Don't be ridiculous, Ronald," Mrs Weasley said, bustling up to them with Ginny in tow and Percy not far behind. "Why would Harry have metal in his face? Hello, Harry dear. It's good to see you."

"You too, Mrs Weasley, but I really do have metal in my face."

Mrs Weasley blinked at him. "What on earth are you talking about?"

He told them. Mrs Weasley hugged him hard when she heard about his attack, fussing over him despite his assurances that he was fine. The twins and Mr Weasley looked thoroughly intrigued by the idea of putting metal inside bodies to help them heal, but Mrs Weasley frowned and muttered about unsafe Muggle medical practices.

Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys ate dinner together that night, three of the pub's tables pushed together to seat them all then they all trudged upstairs to their rooms. Fred and George stole Percy's head boy badge and while he was tearing apart his and Ron's room trying to find it, Harry went back down to the main pub to fetch the rat tonic Ron left behind. On the way he overheard Mr and Mrs Weasley arguing and learned the distressing news that Sirius Black, the recently escaped mass murderer, was apparently after him. After that, he returned Ron's tonic and shut himself in his own room to think over the information.

He was surprised to find he wasn't that scared, really. He knew Black was a violent and dangerous criminal, but he was a distant threat and by this time tomorrow Harry would be at Hogwarts, which had Albus Dumbledore and the Azkaban guards that everyone seemed terrified of, so Black wouldn't be able to get to him. In all honestly, he was more scared of Eric than Black because Eric was someone whose violence Harry had witnessed first hand.

* * *

He told Hermione and Ron about it the next day when they were on the train and they were both more bothered about it than he was. Discussion after that moved onto Hogsmeade, which did nothing for Harry's mood as Uncle Vernon had refused to sign his permission slip before he'd run away so he wouldn't be able to go. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle came by in the afternoon, but they didn't stick around because the three Gryffindors were sharing a compartment with a fast asleep Professor Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Shortly before they reached Hogsmeade, the train clattered to an abrupt stop. The lights went out and after several moments of confusion in which Neville Longbottom and Ginny came stumbling into the compartment, Professor Lupin finally woke up and brought them all light with some conjured flames that he held in his hand.

And then the creature came. Harry had never seen anything like it before, a big, cloaked figure with greyish, slimy, scabbed hands. It brought with it an all consuming cold that swamped over Harry and made his face sting like someone injected cold water into his veins. His eyes rolled back and there was a roaring sound in his ears, and then he heard a woman screaming and remembered suddenly his attack that summer, recalling with painful clarity the agony of a brass-knuckled fist slamming into him over and over again before he was hauled over the bed and raped, and there were gunshots firing, and all the time he could hear that woman screaming—

"Harry! Harry, are you alright?"

He became aware of someone slapping him and jerked up, gasping and flinching away from the hand. He blinked, looking around, and found himself on the floor with Ron and Hermione kneeling by him while Lupin and Neville watched from above.

"Are you alright?" Ron asked nervously. Harry nodded jerkily, glancing towards the door.

"What was that—thing? Where'd it go? Who screamed?"

"No one screamed."

"You were whimpering and muttering," Hermione said, and Harry felt himself flush, then almost jumped out of his skin at a loud snap, head jerking around, but it was just Lupin breaking up a large bar of chocolate. He gave a big piece to Harry.

"Eat. It'll make you feel better."

Harry took it but didn't eat. "But what was that thing?" he asked shakily.

"A Dementor," Lupin answered, now handing chocolate to the rest of the compartment's occupants. "One of the guards of Azkaban. Eat, it'll help. I need to speak to the driver, if you'll excuse me..."

He left and Harry got up, moving back onto the seats.

"What happened?"

"Well—that thing—the Dementor—stood there and looked around—and you—you—" Hermione seemed stuck for words.

"I thought you were having a fit or something," said Ron, who still looked scared. "You went sort of rigid and fell out of your seat and started twitching—"

"And Professor Lupin stepped over you, and walked toward the Dementor, and pulled out his wand," said Hermione, "and he said, 'None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go.' But the Dementor didn't move, so Lupin muttered something, and a silvery thing shot out of his wand at it, and it turned around and sort of glided away..."

"It was horrible," said Neville, in a higher voice than usual. "Did you feel how cold it got when it came in?"

"I felt weird," said Ron, shifting his shoulders uncomfortably. "Like I'd never be cheerful again..."

Ginny, who was huddled in her corner looking nearly as bad as Harry felt, gave a small sob; Hermione went over and put a comforting arm around her.

"But didn't any of you—fall off your seats?" said Harry awkwardly.

"No," said Ron, looking anxiously at Harry again. "Ginny was shaking like mad, though..."

Harry didn't understand. He felt weak and shivery, as though he were recovering from a bad bout of flu, and his face still felt oddly cold, like there was ice underneath his skin, and it was giving him a headache. He felt embarrassed, as well, for being the only one to fall out of their seat and pass out, and twitchy with the lingering memories of his attack and the murders he witnessed. He didn't understand why he'd remembered them so vividly while the Dementor was there and didn't like being jumpy again over loud noises. After three weeks in Diagon Alley, where loud noises were almost par for the course as people cast spells and things were knocked over, he'd managed to stop thinking of guns every time something went bang, but now the snapping of chocolate was enough to make him leap out of his skin.

Lupin came back and once again encouraged Harry to eat the chocolate. He did so, surprised to feel warmth spreading through him as he did, at least through most of him. His face remained almost painfully cold and he had a full blown headache now.

He was glad when they finally reached Hogsmeade and left the train. They waved to Hagrid as he called the First Years to him then headed off to a mud track where a procession of carriages waited for the rest of the students, all pulled by skeletal, almost reptilian horses with pupilless white eyes and big, black, leathery wings.

"What are they?"

"What are what?" Hermione asked, stopping beside him.

"Those horse things pulling the carriages."

Hermione and Ron looked at him worriedly. "Harry, mate," Ron said nervously, "there's nothing pulling the carriages."

"But—they're right there! Can't you see them?"

"You're not mad."

Harry jumped and whirled. Professor Lupin stood behind them, a distinctly sad expression on his face.

"They're call Thestrals," Lupin told him.

"You can see them too?" Harry asked, relieved, and Lupin nodded, but his gaze was piercing.

"But then why can't we see them?" Hermione asked. Lupin didn't take his eyes from Harry.

"Thestrals can only be see by people who have seen death."

Harry suddenly wished he'd never asked.

"What do you mean 'seen death'?" Ron asked. "Do you mean death's an actual person? Because my brother Bill said—"

But Lupin was shaking his head. "No, that's not what I meant. You should get in; they're about to leave."

Harry was all too glad for a chance to get away from the conversation. Unfortunately, Ron and Hermione weren't so willing to let it drop. When they got in with him, Ron immediately asked, "What did he mean then?"

Hermione glanced at Harry, who avoided her eyes, staring at the window. "He meant seeing someone die."

Ron's eyes went wide. "But you haven't seen anyone die, have you, Harry?"

Harry wanted to say no, but it would be a bit stupid to lie when there was evidence to the contrary.

"Harry?" Hermione said quietly. Harry shook his head, not sure what he was denying, but the carriage passed through the gates then, taking them past two more Dementors, and he sank back in his seat, closing his eyes and feeling the cold ache in his face grow sharper, aggravating his headache.

A few minutes later they were at the castle and Harry clambered out of the carriage quickly, but didn't get more than a step towards the castle before a very unwelcome voice called out gleefully, "You fainted, Potter? Is Longbottom telling the truth? You actually fainted?"

Draco Malfoy pushed forwards, grey eyes glittering maliciously, but thankfully didn't get chance to say much more than that as Lupin stepped out of another carriage and intervened. Malfoy headed inside and Harry, Ron, and Hermione went after them, but before they could reach the Great Hall, a voice rang over the crowd.

"Potter! Granger! I want to see you both!"

They turned, startled, to see Professor McGonagall pushing through the crowd. She sent Ron on to the Great Hall and ordered Harry and Hermione to follow her up to her office, where they were sat in chairs and joined by Madam Pomfrey, the school medi-witch, who immediately began fussing over Harry.

"Dementors at a school," she grumbled as she felt his face. "Terrible things, and the effect they have on people who are already delicate—"

"I'm not delicate!" Harry objected. Madam Pomfrey frowned.

"You're cold," she stated.

"Poppy?" McGonagall queried.

"I'm fine," Harry tried to insist, despite the headache and persistent cold in his face. He dreaded to think what Malfoy would say if he had to spend the night in the hospital wing.

"You are not fine," Pomfrey countered sharply. "Your face shouldn't be this cold, Mr Potter."

"Oh!" Hermione suddenly gasped and everyone looked at her. One hand was fingering the metal ringed button on her robes. "The Dementors! They make things cold! Madam Pomfrey, Harry has metal plates in his face."

McGonagall and Pomfrey snapped their gazes back to Harry, the former with bewilderment, the latter with irritation that Harry didn't think was actually aimed at him.

"Why on earth would you have metal plates in your face, Potter?" McGonagall asked.

"It's a Muggle medical procedure, Minerva," Pomfrey answered, frowning heavily. "Used to help hold bones in place when they've been badly broken. What happened, Potter?"

Harry told her about his 'mugging', studiously ignoring McGonagall's pitying expression. Pomfrey listened with a stern expression.

"Right, you'll have to come to the hospital wing."

"What? But what about the feast? I—"

"I'm sorry, Potter, but those plates in you need warming up. I imagine your head is positively pounding by now—yes, I thought so," she said disapprovingly at Harry's expression. "Come along. You can get fed in the hospital wing."

Reluctantly, Harry got up and followed her out, muttering a goodbye to Hermione. He traipsed after Pomfrey and got bustled into a bed in the hospital wing then left for a moment as Pomfrey went to her office. She came back with a navy potion that she set beside Harry's bed before drawing her wand.

"Remove your glasses and sit still now, Potter."

He did as told and she waved her wand in front of his face, saying a spell. As she did, warmth spread through his skin, delicious and wonderful after the continuous cold. He couldn't help giving a soft sigh of appreciation as Pomfrey finished her spell and tucked her wand away.

"Right, drink that pain reliever for you head, then settle down and I'll have dinner brought to you in just a moment."

"Can't I go up to the feast? You've warmed me up now. Please, Madam Pomfrey, I feel much better and I really want to go."

She pursed her lips, but he had a feeling she didn't want anyone in the hospital wing the first night anymore than he wanted to be there.

"Please?"

She sighed. "Drink the potion then you can go. But make sure you eat some chocolate, Mr Potter, and if you head starts hurting again I want you to come straight back."

He grinned. "Thank you!"

Chapter Text

Harry's first twenty-four hours were less than brilliant. The first night was alright, at least initially. Ron was quick to inform their roommates that Harry had metal in his face, and Seamus and Neville refused to believe it until Dean said Muggles really did put metal in people and he had a few screws in his ankle after breaking it playing football. When he got to sleep though, he had bad nightmares about Eric, Rodney, and Dementors.

He got a few compliments on his new glasses the next morning, but once classes started, things went downhill. During their first class, Divination, Professor Trelawney proclaimed to see a grim in Harry's tea leaves, the dreadful omen of death. This was bad enough on it's own, but it somehow reminded Hermione that Harry could see the Thestrals and she and Ron started asking him why he could see them. He eventually got them to shut up by snapping that he didn't want to talk about it. His bad mood persisted right up to their afternoon Care of Magical Creatures class, where he felt better after successfully riding Buckbeak the hippogriff, but then took a prompt nose dive when Malfoy goaded the animal into attacking him and Harry spent the rest of the afternoon worrying that Hagrid was going to get fired.

Harry's nightmares started to fade after a week or so and his mood started to pickup. He occasionally caught Hermione and Ron looking at him worriedly and he knew Ron had told Hermione about his nightmares, but he pretended not to notice and studiously ignored them when they tried talking to him about Thestrals or his 'mugging'. He was glad to discover that Emma Nicholson had been sorted into Hufflepuff, so he wouldn't have to have that reminder of Eric around him as he would if she'd been sorted into Gryffindor, and he could more easily obey Eric's orders to not interact with her.

He was miserable for most of Hallowe'en, which the rest of the third years got to spend in Hogsmeade while he was stuck in the castle, and that misery only got worse when Lupin invited him in for tea. Harry liked Lupin. He was the best Defence Against the Dark Arts professor they'd had—though he didn't exactly have much competition—and he was friendly to everyone. But after discussing Boggarts and Dementors, Lupin asked Harry how he could see Thestrals.

"I can't talk about it," Harry muttered, setting his almost empty tea cup on Lupin's desk.

"Harry... is someone threatening you?"

"No. I just can't talk about it."

"If you're in danger—"

"I said I can't talk about it!" Harry snapped, then realised he was shouting at a professor and hurriedly apologised. Lupin accepted it with a nod.

"If you ever need someone to talk to, Harry, I'll be happy to listen," he said just before Harry left.

* * *

Sirius Black tried to break into the Gryffindor tower that night. They slept in the Great Hall while the teachers searched the castle for him and for the next week the school was abuzz with theories as to how he got past the Dementors and into the castle. Harry didn't have any of his own; he was more bothered by the increased security around him. Teachers would find excuses to walk with him between classes and Percy Weasley would tail after him, working, Harry suspected, on his mother's orders. Even Quidditch practices were now done with Madam Hooch watching them.

Quidditch had become something of a difficulty for Harry this year. Not the game itself, which he still excelled at and enjoyed more than anything, but the before and afterwards in the changing rooms had become somewhere he suddenly had very mixed feelings about. On several occasions he found his eyes wandering as he and his teammates changed and he was mortified to realise that he liked looking at his teammates getting undressed. Things weren't helped by Oliver Wood, who had absolutely no shame about stripping down completely and showering in full view. Not that Oliver had anything to be ashamed of. He was extremely well built, with a firm torso and strongly muscled thighs and buttocks that Harry struggled not to stare at on the second to last training session before their first match.

"I should work out more."

Harry snapped his gaze away from his captain, looking over at Fred, who stood near Harry with a towel wrapped around his waist and was prodding his stomach. He caught Harry's gaze and winked.

"Maybe then you'd look at me like you look at Oliver."

Harry turned bright red, grabbed his clothes, muttered something about showering back at Gryffindor, and fled.

* * *

Three days later they played Hufflepuff, but Dementors came onto the pitch and they lost the game when Harry fell from his broomstick, overwhelmed by the memories they elicited. To add insult to injury, his broomstick was blown into the path of the Whomping Willow and smashed to pieces. He insisted on keeping the broken remains; he knew it was ridiculous when the Nimbus was beyond repair, but he couldn't bring himself to get rid of it.

Pomfrey kept him in for the weekend, but he was too miserable to complain. She'd found out about his two missing teeth from the attack in the summer, which he'd never mentioned before as he'd grown used to the gaps at the back of his mouth, and dosed him with Skele-Gro to make them grow back. It was a foul tasting potion and it made his mouth throb as it worked.

He was rather glad when Ron and Hermione finally left that evening to return to Gryffindor, leaving him to wallow in his misery alone and giving him the chance to think about what he heard when the Dementors came on the pitch. More specifically, to think about the screaming woman he heard, because he didn't want to think about the rest of the memories. As he played it over and over in his mind, he came to the realisation that he knew who that voice was—it was his mother. He heard her final moments, her screaming for mercy before Voldemort killed her. He fell into a fitful sleep filled with dreams about Dementors and when he jerked awake he nearly screamed because there was someone creeping up to his bed.

"Shh!" they whispered. "Harry, it's just me!"

"Fred? George?" he asked, heart pounding as he squinted in the dim moonlight shining through the windows and making out the ginger haired figure now hovering over his bed.

"Just Fred. You alright there?"

"Yeah. What are you doing here? What time is it?"

"Little before midnight. I just... wanted to come see you."

Harry blinked at him. "Why? You saw me earlier."

"Yeah, but there was other people around and I just thought maybe you'd want to see a friendly face before you went to sleep. Seems I was a bit late though."

Harry was now feeling rather bemused. "It was a nice thought."

"Yeah. Bit stupid I suppose. I should go before Madam Pomfrey catches me," he said, turning away.

"Fred, wait!"

Fred paused, turning back. Harry bit his lip. He had the ridiculous urge to offer the other boy a goodnight kiss, but he couldn't bring himself to do. It wasn't that he thought Fred wouldn't want it—all evidence suggested he would rather like it, especially if his comment a few days ago was anything to go by—but that was only while he didn't know about what Harry had done in the past two summers. If he did, he'd probably be disgusted that he'd ever kissed Harry at all and he'd certainly never want to again, and it seemed wrong to continue misleading him.

So eventually all he said was, "Good night. Don't get caught."

* * *

Despite the Quidditch loss and renewed set of nightmares brought on by the Dementors, Harry's mood was better for the second half of the term. Ravenclaw flattened Hufflepuff in their match at the end of the month, which meant Gryffindor wasn't out of the running for the cup, and Professor Lupin promised to give Harry anti-Dementor lessons after the holidays, which cheered him up. He spent a fair bit of time thinking about Fred, too. He wasn't sure if he was imagining it or not, but it seemed like Fred was watching him an awful lot and he had mixed feelings about it.

After a late night discussion one Saturday between the third years boys about crushes, kissing, and various other sex-related things that Harry pretended to know very little about—easy when the other boys discussed female anatomy, about which Harry knew nothing—he came to the realisation that he fancied Fred, though he kept that realisation firmly to himself. But, as Harry's renewed nightmares continuously reminded him, Harry was a dirty whore who'd been used and abused and wouldn't be desired by anyone if they knew. As embarrassedly pleased as he was with the attention Fred seemed to give him, it also made him feel guilty and dirty. He showered more often, but whenever he thought Fred was staring at him he instantly felt dirty and untouchable again.

Even his late night fantasies made him feel guilty. Over time it'd become easier to imagine people other than Eric and these days it was almost always Fred that Harry thought about when he masturbated, but he felt dirty for doing it. Fred was a good, decent person and Harry was just a slut who enjoyed getting fucked by a grown man who paid for it; it felt wrong to even think about Fred touching him when Fred deserved a lot better, but that same reasoning kept him pretending. Fred would never want Harry in real life if he knew Harry was a whore, so his imagination was the only place Harry could have him.

* * *

There was another Hogsmeade weekend on the day before the end of term. Harry resigned himself to not going, but as he was heading towards Gryffindor tower, the Weasley twins all but accosted him on the third floor and dragged him into a classroom.

"What are you doing?" he asked them, wondering if this was going to be a repeat of when they grabbed him at the end of last year and feeling guilty and dirty for wanting it. "Why aren't you in Hogsmeade?"

"We want to give you a bit of festive cheer before we go," Fred said, pulling a bit of parchment from inside his cloak with a flourish and laying it on the desk. Harry tried not to feel disappointed that their festive cheer didn't involve kissing. "Early Christmas present for you, Harry."

Harry stared at it, but the parchment was completely blank and remained blank even after several moments.

"What's this rubbish then?"

"'What's this rubbish?' he says," Fred scoffed. "That there is the secret to our success."

"It's a wrench giving it to you, believe me," George agreed.

"But we decided your needs are greater than ours. George, if you will."

George drew his wand, touched it lightly to the parchment, and said, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

Ink filled the parchment, thin lines spider-webbing out from George's wand to spill over the entire parchment, and at the top in curly green letters:

Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs

Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers

are proud to present

The Marauder's Map

It showed every inch of Hogwarts castle, but better than that it also had little dots with labels indicating the castle's occupants, tracking their locations and movements.

"Brilliant!" Harry breathed, looking up with a grin. "Where'd you get it?"

"Filch's office," Fred answered brazenly. "First year.

"Now listen," George said seriously. "There are seven secret passageways leading out of the castle. Filch knows about these four—" he indicated them on the map "—but we think we're the only ones that know about these three. This one is no good—it caved in last winter—and this one is covered by the Whomping Willow, but this one leads straight into Honeydukes cellar and the entrance is right outside this room, behind that one-eyed old crone's hump."

"But you'd best hurry," Fred added, glancing at the map. "Filch is headed this way.

"Oh, and Harry, don't forget to clear the map when you're done."

"Just say 'Mischief Managed!' and it'll go blank again."

"Otherwise anyone can read it."

Harry nodded, looking down at the map and feeling more excited than he had in ages. Finally he could get into Hogsmeade!

His attention was so fixed on the map that he didn't notice the twins moving until they were on either side of him. He looked up, started to ask what they were doing, and then they both kissed him, one on either cheek, and all that come out of his mouth was a surprised, "Oh!"

George smirked. "See you in Honeydukes," he said, then they both disappeared out the door before Harry got his voice back.

* * *

Harry couldn't sleep that night, too full of anger and hatred and fury at learning that Sirius Black was responsible for getting his parents killed. Shortly after midnight, when the rest of his roommates were asleep, he slipped out of bed and left Gryffindor. He didn't have any set destination in mind, he just needed to be moving, to burn off some of the anger. He didn't pay much attention to where his feet took him, only sparing attention to keep an ear out for Mr Filch, Mrs Norris, or anyone else who was wandering the castle and could get him in trouble.

He found himself in the dungeons by the time he did hear someone else though. He was a bit startled at how far from Gryffindor he'd gone, but didn't have time to worry about it. Two sets of footsteps were coming towards him, just around the corner, and he couldn't run without giving himself away and the corridor was long and narrow, so he wouldn't be able to reach the end before the others turned into the corridor. His only option was a door to one side. He opened it, praying that the hinges wouldn't squeak, and ducked inside, pushing the door to but not shutting it properly to avoid making any noise, and stood there holding his breath, listening carefully to the approaching footsteps and accompanying voices.

"What if it's not ready?" someone, a boy, whispered.

"It will be," another boy whispered back, sounding irritated with the first. "We just need to add the last of the salvia divinorum, give it a mix, and it'll be done."

"But—"

"Shut up, Bower. It'll be fine."

Then the door opened. Harry, who'd been too busy listening to the conversation to pay attention to the footsteps stopping, got smacked in the face by the heavy wood and staggered back to fall on his arse.

"What the—shit," he heard the second boy swear and looked up just in time to see a tall, short-haired Slytherin boy reach down and grab the front of his robes, hauling him off the floor. "Bower, shut the bloody door," he hissed before shaking Harry roughly. "What are you doing down here, Potter?"

"Nothing. Get off me!"

He didn't.

"Tanner, let him go," Bower said worriedly, drawing his wand and flicking it at a torch on the wall to light the room. "We need to finish the potion."

Harry noticed then that there was a cauldron set up on a table in the room, a low flame burning underneath it.

"Don't be thick, Bower," Tanner sneered. "If we let him go he'll rat us out."

"No, I won't!" Harry insisted, struggling to free himself from Tanner's grip. "I'm not stupid. If I rat you out then I'll get in trouble for being out of bounds as well. I don't care what you're doing, just let me go."

"No. I was thinking we need a test subject; you're the perfect lab rat."

"Tanner, we can't!" Bower hissed as Tanner drew his wand and cast a Full Body Bind on Harry, who toppled to the floor with a thud and was left lying there. He could only move his eyes and he flicked them around, watching the two older boys go to the table with the cauldron. "If this isn't done right, it's poisonous."

"It'll only make him sick," Tanner replied dismissively, taking the lid from the cauldron, which released a plume of violet smoke. "It won't kill him. Besides, I have done it right so you've nothing to worry about. Give me the bag."

"I really don't think this is a good idea," Bower persisted even as he handed over a messenger bag, out of which Tanner took a jar with half a centimetre of fine green powder which he sprinkled into the cauldron. "What if something goes wrong?"

Tanner shot him a dirty look and drew a mixing rod from the bag, sliding it into the cauldron and stirring. "For Merlin's sake, nothing will go wrong. Will you give it a rest? We have a great opportunity here. Think of the blackmail material we can get from witnessing Harry Potter's worst memories."

Harry's breath left him with a puff through his nose and he desperately wished he could move. He didn't know how the potion would show them his worst memories, but he knew he definitely didn't want it to. If the Slytherins found out about what had happened to him in the last two summers he might as well hunt down Sirius Black and let him kill him. It would surely be less painful than the humiliation of everyone knowing he was a whore.

But Tanner's Body Bind Curse held firm and he could only lie then for fifteen nerve-wracking minutes until Tanner declared the potion complete. Bower tried to convince him against feeding it to Harry again, but was shot down and told to pin Harry down while Tanner removed the Body Bind. Harry struggled the moment it was, but Bower was heavy and had his arms and legs pinned firmly. Tanner knelt by Harry's head, a vial of deep purple, slightly steaming potion in one hand and used his other to wrench Harry's mouth open enough that he could pour the surprisingly sweet tasting liquid inside, then he clamped his hand over Harry's mouth and nose and held fast until Harry was forced to swallow.

"Now we watch," Tanner said nastily, drawing back. Harry gasped a breath in and started to push himself up when Bower climbed off him, but his head spun and he collapsed again.

Then it started.

Chapter Text

Severus was patrolling the corridors when he heard the voices and he sped up, looking forwards to catching a student out of bed. There was always some stupid child that seemed to think the last day of term meant they wouldn't get in trouble for breaking the rules, and while some of his colleagues would probably go easy on any rule-breakers, Severus delighted in handing out nasty punishments right before the holidays.

The sounds led him to one of the unused dungeons and he stormed inside, hoping to shock the rule-breakers into jumping out of their skins, but his scolding died on the tip of his tongue when he stepped into the room and found himself staring at the ghostly figure of Lily Potter.

His jaw went slack and he could only stare, regret and sadness and longing spilling through him as he watched her rush up an equally ghost staircase, carrying a young baby in her arms, and into a nursery. She slammed the door behind her, locked it, and rushed over to the crib, carefully putting the child down in it.

"It's alright, Harry," she whispered to the baby, pressing a kiss to the mess of black hair on his head. "It's alright, my baby. Don't cry now. Mummy loves you."

The door crashed open. Lily whirled, staring with mixed terror and the fierce determination that Severus always loved, as none other than Lord Voldemort stepped into the room. Severus shuddered when the almost forgotten, cold, high voice said, "Step aside, girl."

"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"

"Stand aside, you silly girl... stand aside, now..."

"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead—"

Then a different voice whimpered, "Mummy..." and Severus wrenched his gaze away from the ghostly figures to notice the very real and alive ones in the room. Two of his Slytherins stood by one wall, staring at Voldemort with their mouths hanging open, and on the floor, curled up with his hands on his head, was Harry Potter, eyes open but staring unseeing at the space in front of him while tears slipped down his cheeks. Severus took in the rest of the room, trying not to cry himself as he heard Lily beg for mercy yet again, and saw the cauldron on the table. He stalked over, looking in critically and leaning down to sniff it, then he snarled. The two Slytherins seemed to finally notice him and their expressions turned fearful as he stalked over, face utterly furious, and grabbed them both by the robes, shoving them towards the door.

"OUT!" he roared. "OUT! Get back to Slytherin and don't leave until I come get you!"

They almost tripped over their feet in their haste to obey. Severus slammed the door shut, turned, and—

"Avada Kedavra!"

He couldn't help screaming an objection, reaching out like he could stop it or interfere or do something other than watch helplessly as green light burst from Voldemort's wand and slammed into Lily's chest.

"Mummy!"

He didn't look at Potter, gaze stuck to Lily's body as it fell backwards and thumped to the floor. The baby Harry in the crib was crying now, wailing with uncomprehending distress, while Voldemort turned on him and recast the Killing Curse. Even though he knew the outcome, Severus still expected to see a dead baby in the crib when the green light struck, but it didn't happen of course. The light hit baby Harry in the forehead and then bounced off again with a blinding burst of white light that Severus had to shield his eyes from. When he could finally look again, Voldemort was gone, leaving only the wailing child and beautiful, dead Lily lying on the floor of the destroyed nursery.

Severus took a step towards her, but even as he did she faded away. He caught himself and straightened up, looking around as the nursery and everything in it faded away. For a brief moment, the dungeon was back to normal, but then a new ghostly memory started to form. It was a living room, Muggle judging by the TV in pride of place, and two toddlers were on the floor playing with bricks while a woman Severus knew and loathed sat on the sofa reading a magazine. One of the toddlers he recognised, the shock of black hair and bright green eyes impossible to not recognise, and so he knew the other had to be Potter's cousin, though Severus didn't know the boy's name.

"Is this it, Potter?" he sneered at the teenager still lying on the floor, but his voice shook slightly. "Your parents death first, and now your worst memories consist of not being pampered enough?"

Because he knew it had to be a bad memory. It's what the Dread Thoughts Potion did—forced the drinker to relive their worst memories while projecting them onto the surroundings for anyone else to watch. There was an antidote, but it took time to brew and the only other thing to do was wait for the potion to run its course. Severus could only be thankful that Potter was thirteen, so didn't have a full life time of bad memories to share, and that his worst memory was over. He doubted the boy had anything worse to remember than the night his parents were killed.

He also decided not to examine the strange new feelings he felt at knowing that Potter could even remember that night.

He cast Locking and Silencing Charms on the door then fetched a chair and sat down, crossing one leg over the other and folding his arms over his chest as he watched the ghostly toddlers play. At first all seemed normal, but as the two built a tower going higher and higher, it grew out of their reach before they ran out of blocks. He also had to assume that little Harry was using magic to stabilise it because there was no way the haphazard tower would stay up otherwise. Then Harry used far more obvious magic, levitating the last of the blocks up to the top of the tower, clapping and laughing with delight as they did. On the sofa, Petunia glanced up from the magazine and then promptly dropped it when she noticed the floating blocks. Severus smirked at the clear terror on her face as she witnessed the magic, but the terror soon gave way to fury. She leapt up and grabbed little Harry by the arm.

"You horrid little freak!" she shrieked. Ignoring the boy's cries, she spun him about and slapped him hard across the backside. Harry yelled and then cried harder, tears and snot dripping down his face as she dragged him out of the room and into a hallway. She stopped outside a cupboard set under the stairs, opened it and roughly shoved the boy inside, slamming the door shut behind him and flicking the lock on it.

"No..."

Severus, no longer smirking, flicked his eyes to Potter.

"No, please," he whimpered. "It's dark. Please let me out."

His words echoed those of toddler Harry, the two voices mingling together. Someone other than Severus might have said the sound of it was heart-wrenching. Severus merely scowled.

"Pull yourself together, Potter," he muttered, rather pointlessly as neither Harry could hear him. "It's not that bad, I'm sure."

Then Petunia spoke once more. "You'll be sleeping here from now on," she informed Harry snippily. "It's more than you deserve, freak."

* * *

Severus watched as several more memories of childhood abuse played out, the last one involving Harry accidentally treading on the tail of a dog and getting chased up a tree and left there until well into the night while the dog barked and jumped at the base of a tree. Severus tried not to feel anything other than disdain for the boy, but it was hard when he was watching ever preconceived notion he had about Harry Potter get violently disproven in front of his very eyes, while the teenage Potter lie whimpering on the floor, echoing his younger self's pitiful cries.

He was glad when a memory formed that was set at Hogwarts, knowing it meant they would be coming to an end soon. Potter couldn't possibly have many bad memories of Hogwarts—though if Severus had to watch him endure a detention scrubbing toilets he would not be impressed—and with only two summers spent with the Dursleys, both of them, Severus knows, cut short by Potter leaving his guardians before the end of the summer, there couldn't be very many more memories of abuse from them either. Once that was over, Severus could dump the boy at the hospital wing, report the abuse to Dumbledore, deal with Tanner and Bower, and go back to hating Potter in peace.

He forgot, though, that Potter's two years at Hogwarts hadn't been ordinary. Severus frowned as the next memory formed in the Forbidden Forest, the trees and shrubbery taking shape around him, and he laid eyes on eleven year old Harry walking alongside Draco Malfoy, trying to figure out why on earth they would be together in the Forbidden Forest of all places. But then he noticed the massive boarhound accompanying them and realised it must be the detention the two served with Hagrid for something relating to a dragon, if Severus recalled correctly.

He watched with a scowl, wondering if Potter and Draco loathed each other so much that a memory of their time together would create a memory bad enough for the Dread Thoughts Potion to pull out, but as the two boys came across a dead unicorn in the depths of the forest, Severus came to realise that Draco's presence had nothing to do with why this memory was so bad. Instead he watched a cloaked figure come out of the undergrowth to bend over the slain creature and drink its blood. Draco screamed and fled, but Harry clapped his hands to his forehead, face screwed up with pain as he staggered back while the figure, drawn by Draco's scream, glided towards him. Severus watched with an anxiety he'd never admit to even under the Cruciatus, but before the thing reached him a centaur bound into the clearing and scared the thing off.

The next memory formed in a stone chamber that Severus didn't recognise, but he didn't need to. The Mirror of Erised stood in the middle of the room with Quirrell in front of it and Harry near the door. Severus sat up straighter, watching with interest now. He'd heard about what happened at the end of Potter's first year, of course, but much preferred to see it first hand. He scowled when Harry said he'd thought Severus was not only the one after the Philosopher's Stone but also responsible for nearly killing him in Harry's first Quidditch match, and unwittingly let out a shocked noise when Quirrell unwrapped his turban to reveal Voldemort's face underneath.

That memory ended with darkness as Harry passed out after battling Quirrell. Severus sat back in his chair, bracing himself for whatever new abuse he would have to see from Potter's summer holiday. As unforgiving as the Dursleys were towards Harry before, Severus expected them to be worse now that Harry was receiving training for his 'freakishness'. But he never could have imagined what would happened.

It started innocuously if unexpectedly—Harry in a hotel room on his own, clearly waiting for something. The sight of him made apprehension coil in Severus' stomach, an apprehension that only grew when a strange man calling himself Eric arrived. When the man started molesting Harry, Severus thought he might actually be sick.

He wanted to look away, but he forced himself watch as Harry was molested and fucked, needing to know what happened so he could report it all to Dumbledore later. On the floor, the real Potter writhed around like it was happening to him right then, echoing his memory self as it he begged for it to stop. Severus was shaking with fury when the memory finished, feeling more disgusted that he had since working for Voldemort. Angry tears spilled down his face as he watched more memories of Eric forcing Harry to service him, threatening him with violence and not going back to Hogwarts whenever Harry dared to refuse or fight.

He was grateful when the memories returned to Hogwarts, but there were only two set there despite the events of the previous year. He watched Harry learn about Granger being petrified, and then saw the boy venturing into the Chamber of Secrets with Ron Weasley and Gilderoy Lockhart. Still reeling from the earlier memories, Severus couldn't even manage a sneer when Lockhart accidentally wiped his own memory. He did hiss in a sharp breath when he saw Harry fight the basilisk and get bit, despite knowing that he wouldn't die, and then to his great displeasure, the memory finished and he was once again surrounded by a hotel room.

He should have known better than to indulge the spark of hope that came when he saw Harry sneak out of the hotel room after being dropped off, especially knowing what potion was letting him see these memories, but he was still furious when he saw Harry walk into Eric and his bodyguard on the stairs while trying to flee.

He frowned when, in the next memory to form, different men entered the hotel room, and he surged to his feet when he saw the men start beating Harry. When they bent him over the bed, bloodied and broken, to rape him, Severus' emotions finally got the better of him and the bag on the floor, left behind by Tanner, exploded with a horrendous bang. Severus didn't even glance at it, just stood there, trembling from head to toe, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides, tears dripping unchecked down his face. He knew Potter had been attacked by Muggles in the summer; Dumbledore had informed them all at the first staff meeting of term in case Potter came looking for someone to talk to, and Pomfrey had told them about there being metal plates in the boy's face, but he hadn't known it was this bad. He wondered if Dumbledore knew exactly what had happened to the boy.

He screamed with pure fury when he saw the memory of Potter's next meeting with Eric, outraged that even after the brutal attack the man was intent on buggering the boy. When the memory of Harry in Eric's car formed around him, he stood in the centre of the room, breathing hard and watching with confusion and dread at what might happen. All the previous memories of Potter with Eric had been during daylight and in the hotel room; what wretched thing could happen in a car late at night?

His question was soon answered of course, and as Harry watched five men get murdered in cold blood, Severus sank to his knees. He could remember the first time he'd seen someone killed; he was eighteen and he'd been horrified by it. He couldn't imagine what it was like for a thirteen year old watching his abuser kill men who'd attacked him, what horrendous conflict of emotions that must produce within the boy. It did, however, answer the question that the staff had been wondering ever since Lupin informed them that Potter could see the Thestrals that pulled the school carriages.

He watched Harry blow up his aunt then was horrified to see the encounter between Eric and Harry in the Leaky Cauldron, furious that even fleeing to the wizarding world wasn't enough to keep Eric away, but also feeling just a little bit pleased. Eric knew of magic and had committed a crime in a magical establishment; that meant he could be convicted by the Wizengamot. It was rare that they did try Muggles in wizard court, but Severus knew it'd been done before and he thought that they would do it again in this case.

The rest of the memories seem tame in comparison, Severus thought. He saw Harry encounter a Dementor on the Hogwarts Express, fall from his broom after the Dementors came on the Quidditch pitch, and finally saw him in the Three Broomsticks. Severus couldn't even manage to feel spitefully gleeful about having incontrovertible proof of Potter breaking a major rule—and putting himself in very serious danger in the process. He was too overwhelmed by everything else he'd seen, and when he saw Harry learn about his parents betrayal and the very obvious distress this caused him, he felt something akin to pity.

Chapter Text

Harry flinched violently when he felt a hand touch his shoulder. He gasped, rolling over and scrambling away from the hand, eventually ending up sat with his back to a wall, knees raised, hand held out before him as though trying to ward something off. He could feel ghostly hands on his skin, his body seemed to ache with the memory of his attack, there were tears on his face, and his breath came in ragged gasps. He felt like he'd just relived every bad thing that had ever happened to him rather than just remembering it, a lifetime of pain re-inflicted on him.

"Potter."

He blinked and focused his eyes on the figure crouching in front of him. It took him a moment to realise it was Snape because, for the first time in Harry's memory, the man wasn't looking at him with absolute loathing, though he couldn't quite read the expression that was on his face.

"Professor?" he said, voice coming out hoarse. "Where—what...?"

But he didn't need to ask what happened. The memory was coming back to him, filtering through the others—unable to sleep and leaving Gryffindor, wandering through the castle until he ended up in the dungeons, getting ambushed by the two Slytherins and force-fed a potion... a potion they'd claimed would reveal all his worst memories.

He suddenly felt very sick.

"What—what did—how—do you know?" he asked raspily, dreading the answer but needing to know. "Did you..." He had no idea how the potion worked, so settled for saying, "see my memories or...?"

"Yes," Snape answered softly. Harry lurched to one side and threw up on the floor, fresh tears spilling down his cheeks as he stomach heaved. Snape knew. The very last person in the world who Harry would want knowing about either his childhood or the events of the past two summers.

"I'm going to take you to the hospital wing."

Harry wiped his mouth with a shaking hand and looked over. "What'll it take?"

Snape frowned. "Excuse me?"

"To make you not tell anyone. What do you want? I'll give you anything. I've got loads of money, I can pay you. You can fail me on all my assignments for the rest of my school career. You can put me in detention every night for the next five years. Just please... don't tell anyone."

"The only person I intend to tell is the headmaster, Potter."

"No!" He flung himself forwards, grabbing at Snape's robes and looking at him desperately. "Professor, please, you can't. You can't tell anyone!"

Snape hands curled around his wrists, but he didn't detach Harry from him. "Professor Dumbledore needs to know, Potter, so he can take steps to have you removed from your aunt's home."

Harry shook his head. "No, please, please don't tell him. Please, I'll do anything. You can fuck me if you want. I give good blow jobs. I—"

"Potter!" Snape interrupted, some of the bite finally coming back into his voice as he jerked Harry's hands off his robes, but didn't let go of his wrists, apparently concerned that Harry would grab him again. "I have absolutely no interest in engaging in sexual activity with you."

Harry dropped his head, closing his eyes. "Please," he begged. "Please don't tell anyone."

"I have to."

Anger flooded through Harry then and he jerked his head back up, wrenching his hands out of Snape's grip. "Why?" he demanded.

"I told you why. Professor Dumbledore needs to know so you can be moved."

"What do you care?" Harry snapped. "You hate me. You probably think it's great—the famous Harry Potter, reduced to nothing more than a filthy whore. Put in my place like you think I should be."

Anger flickered across Snape's own face at that and he grabbed Harry's chin in hand, leaning closer. "Potter, there is no one—no one—who deserves what happened to you and I will adopt you myself before I let you go back to your aunt's home."

Harry didn't get chance to express his very strong objection to the mere idea of Snape adopting him. Gold light burst out from where Snape's hand touched his chin. Harry squeezed his eyes shut against it, but he heard Snape breathe out, "No!"

He felt a tug on his chin, like Snape was trying to remove his hand and couldn't, and opened his eyes enough to squint and see the light split into two long, thin strands, one of which wrapped itself around Snape's hand and the other around Harry's head. It glowed brightly for a moment and then faded away and Snape wrenched his hand back, looking utterly furious.

"What was that?" Harry asked.

"That was magic, Potter," Snape spat. Harry scowled.

"But what kind? Why did that happen?"

"It happened because I was an idiot."

Harry blinked. He doubted anyone had ever heard Snape say such a thing about himself.

The man sighed irritably and then explained further, "It was a binding oath triggered by a too honest statement and physical contact."

Harry thought about that, frowning. "Wait, so... you have to actually adopt me?" he asked, unable to keep the horror out of his voice. "I don't want you to adopt me!"

Snape snorted. "I don't particularly want to adopt you either, Potter, but if I don't find you a new home before the summer, I'll have no choice."

"Why? What happens if you don't find me a new home or adopt me?"

Snape looked at him shrewdly. "I die."

Harry blanched.

"Quite." He sighed then got to his feet. "Come along. I'm taking you to the hospital wing."

"Why?" Harry asked, getting to his feet. He staggered the moment he was up, legs surprisingly weak, and cringed when Snape grabbed his arm to steady him.

"I'm not going to hurt you, Potter."

Harry flushed. "I know that."

Snape didn't refute him. He let go when Harry was steady on his feet. "You've been dosed with a dark and illegal potion and have just spent the whole night reliving the worst memories of your life. You need to see Madam Pomfrey."

"The whole night?" Harry asked incredulously as they left.

"Yes, and I have had to sit here and watch it rather than get a decent night's sleep. So if you're quite finished, I would like to get you off my hands so I can begin dealing with the fallout."

Harry followed him out, pausing in the hall as Snape shut the door and cast a powerful locking charm on it to stop anyone else from getting inside while the potion was still there.

"What do you mean the fallout?"

"As I already told you, I need to inform the headmaster, then deal with Misters Tanner and Bower, both of whom will be on a train home in five hours so need to be dealt with before they leave."

"You're really going to tell Professor Dumbledore?"

"I believe we've already gone over that," Snape said, but his voice softened slightly when he added, "No one else will know."

Harry nodded though he wasn't sure he really believed him. "What about Tanner and Bower? How much did they see?"

Snape didn't look at him and his voice was oddly quiet when he answered. "I suspect they saw your father die. I threw them out before Lily..."

Harry stopped short, gaping at him, but Snape kept moving so he had to hurry after him. "My parents? That showed? But I don't remember that. Not... not really."

"Apparently you remember it enough," Snape said shortly. They didn't speak again until they were almost at the hospital wing, when Snape paused outside the doors and turned to Harry. "You will not tell anyone about the oath."

"If I agree will you not tell anyone about my memories?"

Snape scowled. Harry sighed.

"I thought so. It's not like I want anyone to know there's a possibility you'll—"

"Don't say it," Snape interrupted. "I will inform Professor Dumbledore of it, but you will not say a word to anyone. Including to Weasley and Granger."

"I won't," Harry promised. He dreaded to think what Ron and Hermione's reactions would be to the idea of him being adopted by Snape.

They entered the hospital wing and Snape ordered him to a bed while he fetched Madam Pomfrey. Harry slipped off his shoes and flopped onto the bed, feeling suddenly exhausted. By the time Snape came back with Pomfrey, he was fast asleep.

* * *

Harry slept until lunch, when Madam Pomfrey woke him and gave him some food that he picked at listlessly, not particularly hungry despite having missed breakfast and eaten little at dinner the evening before. After that, Dumbledore came to see him. They had a mostly one sided conversation in which Dumbledore assured him he would never return to the Dursleys, offered to have a therapist come into the school for Harry to talk to, informed him that Tanner and Bower had been expelled for brewing and using an illegal potion, and apologised for not realising earlier that Harry was being sold. Harry shrugged at that, not meeting the man's eyes.

"Not like you could have known, sir. I didn't tell anyone."

"I understand why," Dumbledore said gently. "Please understand, Harry, that I do not think any less of you for not speaking up about this. I know it must have been incredibly hard for you."

Harry said nothing and though he appreciated Dumbledore's words, they didn't make him feel any better. If he'd had the nerve to speak up sooner, things wouldn't have got so bad. He could have avoided going back to the Dursleys last summer and thus never been attacked so badly.

"But I still should have realised," Dumbledore continued apologetically. "When you were attacked this summer, I had a medi-witch attend to you to accelerate your healing."

"I know. I thought it was a dream, but then the doctors said I healed miraculously fast so I figured it was real."

"Indeed. But when I sought to discover how that had come to happen, your uncle informed me you were doing part time work. If I had investigated more thoroughly..."

"It wasn't your fault, sir."

An aged hand reached over and laid over one of Harry's own. When Dumbledore didn't say anything for a long time, Harry looked up to find the man looking at him with sad blue eyes.

"Neither was it yours, Harry. I hope you realise that."

"I do," Harry answered, partially honestly. His attack was all Eric and Rodney's fault. But the time spent with Eric... Harry wasn't blameless in that. Never mind the fact that he could have told someone about it when he got back to Hogwarts, he'd enjoyed what they did, had wanted it to a certain degree.

Dumbledore patted his hand then drew back. "I just have one last thing to ask you, Harry: do you wish to press charges against Eric Nicholson and—"

"NO!" The word burst out of Harry before he could stop it. "Professor—please, I can't—if there's a trial it'll all come out," he said desperately. "Everyone would know."

"I understand your apprehension, Harry, but this is a very serious issue. What he and your uncle did—"

"I can't," Harry insisted. "I can't have everyone knowing and I don't care if they get away with it because of that. I'm never going back. You promised and Snape made an oath, so I'm never going to see them again."

"Harry, your privacy would be protected," Dumbledore tried to reassure him. "A sensitive issue like this—the victim's name wouldn't be released."

But Harry shook his head. "I can't, Professor. You don't know him and people would still find out—his daughter would know—" He shuddered at the thought. "I can't."

Looking unhappy about it, Dumbledore nodded, but added, "You realise, however, that this also means Eric will get away with murdering five men. You're the only witness against him."

"No, I'm not. There was his bodyguard and two other guys there."

"They're not likely to ever stand witness against him."

"Neither am I."

It was probably cowardly of him and he didn't deserve to be in Gryffindor for saying it, but it was true. He wouldn't stand in a courtroom and tell people about what he saw. He would much prefer to forget absolutely everything about Eric Nicholson.

"And what about Misters Tanner and Bower?"

Harry frowned. "What about them?"

"They force-fed you an illegal dark potion and they're both of age; you would be within your rights to press charges against them. The details of your memories would not be brought up in trial and they are both already facing charges for brewing the potion at all."

Harry shook his head. "Just leave it with that. I don't want the trouble."

"Very well. Get some rest, Harry, and don't fret about your summer accommodation. I will inform you when something has been arranged."

* * *

Madam Pomfrey insisted on keeping him in for the rest of the afternoon, saying he needed rest after the ordeal of drinking Dread Thoughts Potion, but she let him out after dinner once she elicited a promise from him to go straight back to Gryffindor and do nothing but rest for the evening.

He met no one until he got back to the tower, but as it was the first day of the holidays that wasn't a surprise. With a mass murderer on the loose who'd already broken into the castle, almost no one wanted to stay at Hogwarts over the holidays.

In the common room, he found Ron and Hermione sitting in armchairs. Hermione had her homework spread across three tables, but surprisingly she didn't appear to be doing any, and Ron had a chess set in front of him but was merely staring at it. They both jumped up when he entered.

"Harry! Are you alright? No one would tell us anything and Ron said you weren't in the dormitory all night, and then we found out this morning that you were in the hospital wing, but Madam Pomfrey refused to let us in. What happened?"

"I'm alright," Harry told them, sitting down. Ron returned to his own chair but Hermione joined Harry on the sofa.

"But what happened? Why were you in the hospital wing?"

"Yeah, and where were you last night?" Ron asked. "I got up at one to use the loo and you weren't there. I tried to wait up, but you never came back and you weren't here this morning."

"I went for a walk last night. I needed to think, clear my head after learning that stuff about Black."

Hermione and Ron exchanged wary looks, but after everything Harry was in no mood to get worked up about Sirius Black and the fact that no one felt it necessary to inform him the man was his godfather and responsible for Harry's parents dying.

"I ended up getting ambushed by a couple of Slytherins and they forced me to drink this Dread Thoughts Potion."

"I've never heard of that," Hermione said, looking annoyed about the fact. "What is it?"

"It's illegal. It makes you relive your worst memories. Not just remember them, but make it feel like you're living them all over again."

"Oh, Harry." Hermione flung her arms around him and he couldn't help flinching slightly, then chided himself for being ridiculous and patted her on the back.

"I'm fine, Hermione. Really."

She pulled back, expression stern. "You spent all day in the hospital wing."

"You know what Madam Pomfrey's like," Ron said, and Harry shot him a grateful look. "She always keeps people in for ages, especially Harry. We should tell him about Hagrid."

Harry sat up straighter. "What about Hagrid? Is he alright?"

"We went down to see him before lunch, to ask if he knew anything about you. He got a letter from the Ministry about Buckbeak. They're not blaming Hagrid for Malfoy's arm, so he won't get fired or anything, but they're holding a hearing for Buckbeak."

"What does that mean? What'll happen at a hearing?"

"Hagrid will have to prove that Buckbeak isn't dangerous," Hermione answered. "If he doesn't..."

Ron dragged a finger across his throat.

"Can't we do anything to help?"

"I'm going to look in the library," Hermione said, which didn't surprise Harry in the least. "There has to be something about hippogriff baiting that sets precedent for them being proven innocent."

Harry nodded firmly. "I'll help. Library tomorrow then?"

"You want to go to the library?" Ron said like Harry had just announced he was planning to elope with Professor Trelawney. "Are you sure that potion didn't turn you into Hermione?"

"I want to help Hagrid," Harry said honestly. He really did, but he also wanted something to think about that didn't involve Sirius Black or Eric Nicholson.

Chapter Text

Harry almost wished they did have classes for the next week. After the Dread Thoughts Potion, his nightmares were worse than ever, and now he didn't just dream about Eric and Rodney, but also his parents dying and Sirius Black. Sometimes it all got mixed up and he would wake up from dreams about getting raped by Sirius Black or about Eric murdering his parents. He gladly read the thick tomes they fetched from the library to research information for Buckbeak's defence, eager for anything to distract himself.

But all those things took a backseat in his mind when he woke up on Christmas morning and found a brand new Firebolt among his presents. It came with no note or card saying who sent it and for a moment he wondered if it was from Eric, then dismissed the thought. Certainly Eric was probably the only person Harry knew that could afford one, but he couldn't know that Harry liked flying and needed a broomstick, and there was no reason Eric would be buying him gifts anyway. The clothes that he'd gifted Harry with before had been for his own purposes, given only to make Harry look good for Eric, but there was nothing Eric had to gain from getting Harry a Firebolt. Although curious as to who did send it, he didn't worry about it too much, not when it was the best broom in the entire world. Even Ron and Hermione's squabble over Crookshanks trying to eat Scabbers didn't dull his elation at his new present and he was humming with joy as they went down to lunch.

The house tables were gone when they reached the Great Hall, replaced by a single round table seating Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick and Sprout, as well as Mr Filch, a Slytherin fifth year, and a couple of Hufflepuff first years—neither of them Emma Nicholson, thankfully. Harry avoided Snape's gaze as he took a seat between Ron and Hermione; it was the first time he'd seen the man since being dropped at the hospital wing and he was doing his best to forget about Snape's oath. He really didn't want to get adopted by the man.

But he could feel Snape's eyes on him for most of the meal and he knew the man noticed him flinching slightly every time a cracker was pulled, each one going off with a bang like a gunshot. Harry was almost grateful for the sudden appearance of Professor Trelawney, who took a seat between Snape and McGonagall and thus distracted some of Snape's attention to scowl unhappily at her.

The meal passed uneventfully though, unless you counted Trelawney's insistence that thirteen people dining together was a dreadful omen and that either Ron or Harry, as the first two to rise, was destined to die. Afterwards, the two boys headed back to Gryffindor to admire the Firebolt, leaving Hermione when she said she wanted to talk to McGonagall, but less than hour after they arrived, the portrait opened and Hermione and McGonagall came in and McGonagall confiscated the Firebolt, claiming it needed to be stripped down for hexes or curses in case it'd been sent by Sirius Black, effectively ruining Harry's good mood and his Christmas in one fell swoop.

He was therefore glad when the rest of the students came back. Fred came and found him the moment he got in, saying he'd been worried when Harry was in the hospital wing at the end of term and glad that Harry was alright. When he left, Harry looked across the common room and saw George watching him with an expression bordering on exasperation, but when Harry caught his eyes he just winked and turned to Lee Jordan. Harry didn't get chance to think about it; Oliver came looking for him then, awkwardly mentioning Harry's issues with Dementors, and Harry was quick to assure him that Lupin had offered him anti-Dementor lessons. He also asked if Harry'd got a new broom and when Ron told him about the Firebolt he ran off to talk to McGonagall about getting it back.

He spoke to Lupin the next day about the lessons and they started them the following Thursday. Lupin caught a Boggart for Harry to practice against, but conjuring a Patronus wasn't easy, and made all that much harder by the fact that the boggart-Dementor came with the same cold as the real thing and by the end of each lesson he had a pounding headache. He knew he should probably go to Madam Pomfrey to get the plates inside his face heated up, but he was scared she'd insist Lupin stop teaching him so he slugged through.

They had Quidditch practice five times a week. Slytherin narrowly defeated Ravenclaw in their match, which was good for Gryffindor. Between all their practices and anti-Dementor lessons, Harry had only one night a week to do all his homework and he was thoroughly exhausted by the time he got to bed every night. He didn't complain; the more exhausted he was, the less likely he was to have nightmares. By the end of January, he was no more bothered by his memories than he had been before the Dread Thoughts Potion and with so many students back making so much noise, he stopped being twitchy over loud bangs again.

Despite Snape's promise, Harry worried that he might let something slip about what he discovered, but even though he spent the first Potions lesson of the term being extra snide and taking nearly thirty points from Gryffindor for the slightest reason, he never once even implied anything about being a whore amidst his insults to Harry. Harry was so grateful he almost forgot to be angry that Snape was being so mean to him. Ron, however, didn't.

"Can you believe that bastard?" he grouched as they headed out the castle to Herbology. "What's his problem anyway? He was even worse than usual."

"Maybe he had a bad holiday," Hermione suggested vaguely, "but you shouldn't call him that, Ron. He's a professor."

"He's a git and I hope he gets fired."

"Hear hear," agreed a voice behind them. They looked around to see Ernie Macmillan and Justin Finch-Fletchley catching up to them.

"Snape took fifty points from Hufflepuff this morning," Justin explained to the trio as they crossed the grounds. "And made Emma Nicholson cry, one of our first years. She was in a right state at lunch."

"Tosser," Ron commiserated. Hermione scolded him, but not as harshly as usual and she looked sympathetic. Harry said nothing and stared at the ground, suddenly feeling a mix of worry, irritated understanding, and surprised gratitude. He realised that Snape's attitude towards him might be anger that Harry hadn't pressed charges against Eric, and while he appreciated Snape sticking up for him—even in his mean, Snape-like way—he didn't really want Emma writing to her father complaining and Eric somehow figuring out that it was all Harry's fault, nor did he want Hufflepuff to suffer for what Harry had been through. But he doubted bringing that up to Snape would do any good and just hoped the man would ease off soon.

* * *

McGonagall returned the Firebolt just two days before the match against Ravenclaw, free of jinxes. Harry and Ron went to Hermione to make up, but that same evening Ron found blood and ginger cat hair on his bed sheets and Scabbers missing, and any chance of him and Hermione making up was completely gone.

They won the match against Ravenclaw that Saturday, despite Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and the Slytherin team captain Marcus Flint's efforts to sabotage Harry by turning up pretending to be Dementors. They celebrated with a party in the Gryffindor common room that lasted well into the night, but a few hours after they all went to bed, Ron woke them all screaming because Sirius Black had broken into the tower.

The very next day security all over the castle was tightened, but the humpbacked witch hiding the passage to Honeydukes remained untouched, so the next weekend when a Hogsmeade visit was scheduled, Harry was able to sneak in, this time taking his Invisibility Cloak, and meet up with Ron, ignoring Hermione's objections and threats to tell on him.

It went fine at first. They visited the shops and then made their way up to see the Shrieking Shack, which is where things went wrong. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle turned up and started taunting Ron, so Harry took advantage of his invisibility and started throwing handfuls of mud at the three Slytherins, but when he did his cloak slipped from his head. As the three Slytherins fled, Malfoy screaming as he went, Harry jerked the cloak back up and ran off as well, rushing back to Honeydukes and through the secret passage, leaving his Invisibility Cloak inside it, only to exit the humpbacked witch and run into Snape, who didn't hesitate to order Harry down to his office.

"So," Snape said once they were inside the gloom of his office. "Once again you've decided to disobey rules put in place for your own safety and sneak into Hogsmeade."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry said obstinately.

"Don't lie to me, Potter. Mr Malfoy just came to see me with a very odd story about your floating head being in Hogsmeade. If your head was in Hogsmeade then so was the rest of you despite none of you being allowed. I know you have a way in; you were there before."

"No, I wasn't."

Snape smiled unpleasantly. "I have seen your memories, Potter. I know you were in the Three Broomsticks last term and the only reason you haven't been punished for that is because of the headmaster's gracious belief that unwilling consumption of illegal potions was punishment enough. You will not escape so lightly this time."

Harry hadn't realised that that memory had shown, but he still wasn't about to outright admit to breaking the rules, not to Snape, so he just said, "I wasn't in Hogsmeade. Malfoy's lying or seeing things."

"How typical," Snape spat. "Just like your father. You think rules are only for common people, is that right, Potter? Or perhaps," he said silkily, "you did it for me."

"What?" Harry said, baffled now.

"Perhaps you were trying to get yourself killed by Black. It would free me of the oath I made, so perhaps I should thank you and be disappointed that he didn't find you."

"That's rubbish!" Harry yelled, surging to his feet. "I'd never do anything for you!"

"How terribly ungrateful you are, Potter, after I ensured you'd never return to the Muggles that call themselves your family, after I expelled two of my own students and kept those same students from seeing your miserable excuse for a life—"

"SHUT UP!"

Harry was trembling now, glaring at Snape and so furious and hurt that he didn't care that Snape's black eyes were glittering menacingly.

"What did you say to me, Potter?"

"I told you to shut up! I knew it! I knew you were just a greasy, horrid bastard and the only reason you even stuck around was to get information to use it against me. I wish my dad had never saved your pathetic life! Yeah, I know about that," he said when Snape's skin turned the colour of sour milk. "Dumbledore told me all about how my dad saved you."

"And did the headmaster tell you the circumstances in which your father saved my life?" Snape whispered. "Or did he consider the details too unpleasant for precious Potter's delicate ears?"

Harry glared at him. He didn't know what had happened and didn't want to admit it—but Snape seemed to have guessed the truth.

"I would hate for you to run away with a false idea of your father, Potter," he said, a terrible grin twisting his face. "Have you been imagining some act of glorious heroism? Then let me correct you—your saintly father and his friends played a highly amusing joke on me that would have resulted in my death if your father hadn't got cold feet at the last moment. There was nothing brave about what he did. He was saving his own skin as much as mine. Had their joke succeeded, he would have been expelled from Hogwarts.

"Now turn out your pockets, Potter. Now," he added sharply when Harry didn't move, "or we'll go straight to the headmaster."

Harry reluctantly reached into his pockets and pulled out a bag of Zonko's products and the Marauders Map. He didn't want to face Dumbledore, no matter how angry he was with Snape.

Snape picked up the Zonko's product, raising an eyebrow.

"Ron gave me them," he lied. "Ages ago."

"And you're still carrying them around? How sentimental. And this?"

"Just a spare bit of parchment."

"Really?" Snape sneered. "Surely you don't need such an old bit of parchment. Perhaps I ought to throw it away—"

"No!"

Snape grinned maliciously. Harry seethed silently.

"So, what is it, hmm? Invisible instructions on how to get past the Dementors?" Snape laid the map on the desk, drawing his wand and touching it to the parchment. "Reveal your secrets!"

Nothing happened.

"Show yourself!"

Still nothing. Just as Harry was starting to think it might be alright, Snape said, "Professor Snape, master of his school, commands you to yield the information you conceal!"

As though an invisible hand were writing upon it, words appeared on the smooth surface of the map.

Mr. Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape, and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business.

Snape froze. Harry stared, dumbstruck, at the message. But the map didn't stop there. More writing was appearing beneath the first.

Mr. Prongs agrees with Mr. Moony, and would like to add that Professor Snape is an ugly git.

Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a professor.

Mr. Wormtail bids Professor Snape good day, and advises him to wash his hair, the slimeball.

"So..." Snape said slowly when it was clear that that was the last of it. "We'll see about this."

He got up and stalked to the fireplace, throwing a handful of powder into the flames and calling through it for Lupin, who came whirling out a minute later, brushing soot off his shabby robes and inquiring politely, "You called, Severus?"

Snape gestured to the parchment. "Take a look, Lupin. This parchment is plainly full of Dark Magic; this is supposed to be your area of expertise. Where do you imagine Potter got such a thing?"

Lupin's expression was curiously closed off. He spared a glance at Harry, then answered, "I seriously doubt that, Severus. It seems to me it's merely a parchment designed to insult anyone who reads it. Childish, but not dangerous."

At that moment, Ron came bursting through the door, panting hard as though he'd just run a long way, and gasped, "I gave Harry that stuff—from Zonko's—ages ago—"

"There, you see?" Lupin said calmly, picking up the Map. "Harry, Ron, come with me, I need a word about my vampire essay. Excuse us, Severus."

Harry didn't dare look at Snape as he followed Lupin out. He only half paid attention as Lupin revealed that he knew about the Map, scolded them for not handing it in sooner, and let them go. He was still furious at Snape for bringing up his memories, but he was also starting to feel sick and worried about what Snape might do to get revenge for Harry shouting at him and saying he wished Snape had died.

But Snape took a backseat in his mind when they reached Gryffindor and met with Hermione, who told them with teary eyes that Hagrid had lost his hearing against the Ministry and Buckbeak would be sentenced to death.

* * *

The following weeks were exhausting for Harry, what with homework, Quidditch practice, and researching for Buckbeak's appeal, plus worrying all the time about whether Snape was going to let something slip during Potions classes. As the Quidditch final approached, he had to put up with being accompanied at all times by half the house, who were all eager to obey Oliver's orders that Harry was to be escorted so the Slytherins couldn't sabotage him before the match.

The day of the match dawned brightly but with no wind—all in all, not bad conditions to be playing in. No one said a word in the changing rooms before the match, all too tense, and eventually they trudged out onto the pitch amid roaring cheers from three quarters of the school. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were just as eager to see Gryffindor take the cup from Slytherin, who'd held it for the last eight years.

It was a tense, dirty, rough game, the Slytherins playing foul at every turn. Malfoy even latched onto Harry's broom at one point, dragging him down to stop him going after the snitch, but eventually after nearly two hours, Harry caught the snitch and Gryffindor won 230-20. Harry held the snitch high up, bellowing with joy, while the rest of his time swarmed over to him. Oliver was crying with joy, hugging Harry awkwardly and almost pulling him off his broom, while Alicia, Angelina, and Katie flew circles around them, whooping with delight, and then the Weasley twins descended and to Harry's utter shook, Fred flew right up to him, grabbed his face in both hands, and kissed him firmly on the mouth right in front of everyone.

Chapter Text

Harry wasn't sure how he and Fred ended up being the only ones left in the changing room after the match, given that Harry was usually the fastest to change and Fred the slowest, but when he looked up from buttoning his robes, he found that Oliver and George were gone and Fred was looking at him with, quite surprisingly, a nervous grin.

"Great match, eh?"

Harry nodded, grinning as well. "About time we got that cup."

"Yeah," Fred said with a chuckle. "Good job catching the snitch."

Harry shrugged, but his smile was still fixed in place. "It was a team effort. Every- mmph!"

Fred had kissed him. Harry was too startled to react at first, but then Fred backed him up against the changing room wall, one hand sliding around his waist and the other curling around Harry's shoulder. One of Harry's hands found its way into Fred's hair quite against his will, tangling through ginger strands while his body arched against the other boy and his mouth opened to Fred's probing tongue, moaning. God he'd missed kissing, missed being touched, missed being close to someone—

"No!"

He wrenched himself away from Fred, staggering to put space between them, and looked around guiltily as Fred blinked at him.

"Harry, what—"

"I'm sorry, I can't—I'm sorry," he said, and fled the changing rooms.

"Harry!"

He didn't stop or look back, running across the grounds and back towards the castle, racing up staircases. He rushed past Moaning Myrtle's bathroom then skidded to a halt and backtracked, pushing open the door of the bathroom and peering inside. There didn't appear to be anyone there—he couldn't even hear Myrtle moping in her usual toilet—so he slipped in, shutting the door behind him and going over to the sinks.

He stood for a minute in front of one, staring at his reflection in the mirror and breathing hard. His hair was even messier than usual, his cheeks were flushed, and there were tears in his eyes. He rubbed at them then snatched his glasses off and tossed them into a sink, a sob forcing its way up his throat.

It wasn't fair. He liked Fred. He wanted Fred to shove him against changing room walls and kiss the living daylights out of him, wanted Fred to hold him and touch him... he just wanted Fred. But he couldn't have him and he wouldn't even be able to explain to Fred why, because he couldn't bare the disgust that would be in Fred's eyes if Harry told him that he'd been dirtied and spoiled by Eric and Rodney and the rest of the people who'd fucked him. He was a filthy whore and he didn't deserve to be kissed or touched by Fred or any other decent people, no matter how much he might want it.

He ended up sitting on the floor, arms on his knees and face buried in his arms as he cried. Part of him wanted to be angry at Fred for ruining such a brilliant day, but he couldn't do it, not when his brain kept reminding him that it wasn't Fred's fault Harry had interrupted a perfectly good kiss that should have been the cherry on the cake that was winning the Quidditch Cup.

He was so lost in his misery that he didn't notice the door opening slowly or the figure slipping inside until a gentle voice said, "Harry?"

He started and jerked his head up to see the slightly blurry figure of Lupin crouching in front of him, a worried expression on his face.

"What's wrong?"

Harry hurriedly wiped at his face. "Nothing."

"Excuse me for saying I find that hard to believe," Lupin replied. "Your friends are looking for you. They said you didn't show up at the party to celebrate your win. Did something happen after the match?"

Harry shrugged, looking away.

"Harry, you can tell me anything," Lupin assured him kindly. "I know some people don't take loss well. If any of the Slytherins—"

"It wasn't the Slytherins, sir."

"Then who was it?"

"No one. Nothing. It doesn't matter." He wiped at his face again and got to his feet. Lupin did as well. "Really, sir, I'm fine. I should find my friends."

But Lupin put a hand on his shoulder. "I meant what I said, Harry. If there's anything you want to tell me, I will listen without judgement."

For the first time in his life, Harry almost told someone. Lupin was warm, kind, and friendly. He made Harry feel safe, he'd always been good to him, and Harry thought that if anyone might not despise him for being a whore then it would be Lupin, but he never got to find out if he'd have the nerve because at that moment the door opened.

"I really doubt he's in here, Hermione," Ron's voice came through then two figures stepped into view, familiar even at a distance and when Harry wasn't wearing his glasses. "Oh, you are in here," Ron said, seeing him.

"Harry, what's wrong?" Hermione asked worriedly, coming over and glancing between him and Lupin.

"Nothing," Harry muttered. "It's nothing."

"But—"

"It's nothing, Hermione," he repeated firmly. He stalked over to the sink with his glasses, taking them out and splashing water on his face before he put them on. "Is the party still on? We should go to Gryffindor."

He didn't give them chance to argue, just stalked out and headed off.

* * *

Gryffindor was in full party mode. No one noticed Harry's red eyes when he entered, too busy shouting congratulations and patting him on the back. A butterbeer was shoved into one hand, but he didn't open it, just steadily made his way through the crowd to the stairs and slipped away from them under the excuse that he needed the loo. Once free, he slipped into the dorm, shutting the door on the noise, and flopped onto his bed with a sigh.

He wasn't left alone for long. Barely a minute later the door opened. He sat up and looked over then away again when he saw Fred, who jabbed his wand at the door to lock it then stood with his arms folded over his chest.

"I deserve an explanation."

"I'm sorry."

"That's not an explanation. Did I do something wrong?"

"No, of course not."

"Then what? I mean... I like you, Harry. Really like you, and it's taken me ages to get the nerve to actually make a proper move on you without George prodding me in the back. And I thought you liked me too."

"I do," Harry assures him quickly. "I do, it's just..."

"Just what?"

Harry picked at a thread on his bed. "I just can't be with you."

Fred didn't say anything for a long time and when Harry glanced up he was frowning.

"Is it that you don't want anyone to know? Because we can keep it a secret. Everyone already thinks that kiss on the pitch was just over-excitement so you don't have to worry about that."

"No, I... I just can't. I'm sorry, I can't really explain."

Hurt flickered across Fred's face before he pushed it away. "Right. Well. See you about, I guess," he said, and left. Harry wanted to call him back, to apologise and say he was wrong and they could be together, but the words stuck in his throat and he could only watch Fred disappear out the door, pulling it shut behind him with a snap.

* * *

Harry never thought he'd be glad to not have Quidditch practice, or for upcoming exams, but both things meant he could avoid Fred—and George, who was offended on his brother's behalf and had no qualms about making Harry the target of several pranks, including spiking his morning pumpkin juice with a potion that made the metal in Harry's face glow bright blue, causing him to spend half a day walking around looking like a light bulb until Fred cornered him before lunch to shove a vial of antidote into his hands and mutter, "I'll tell him to quit it," before stalking away before Harry could even say thanks. He was a bit wary about drinking the potion in case Fred wanted to take his own revenge; he drank it anyway because he figured Fred probably had the right, but it really did stop his face glowing.

At the end of May he made his way to the headmaster's office. The summer holidays were on the way and Harry hadn't heard anything about his new summer accommodations. To his displeasure, Dumbledore told him that they hadn't yet come to a decision and sent Harry away with the assurance that everything would be sorted by the end of term and that Harry should focus on studying for his exams and not worry about it. Harry thought that the possibility of getting adopted by Snape was something he should worry about a great deal. Since the Quidditch final, Snape had become even more menacing in their Potions lessons, though despite Harry's fear he never revealed anything about Harry's past. But Harry dreaded to think what kind of revenge Snape might take if he had legal rights over him.

Hagrid sent a letter shortly before exams telling them that Buckbeak's appeal date had been set for the sixth of June—their last day of exams—and that an executioner would be coming, giving the horrible implication that the decision to execute Buckbeak had already been reached, regardless of the appeal.

The final day of exams dawned bright and warm, like many of the days before it. They had Defence Against the Dark Arts in the morning, which was the oddest but most fun exam they'd ever taken, consisting of an obstacle course of hinkypunks, red caps, and other creatures that they'd learnt about over the year, and then in the afternoon they had Divination.

That evening, after Hermione had fetched Harry's Invisibility Cloak from behind the humpbacked witch where it'd been stored ever since his trip to Hogsmeade, the three of them ventured down to Hagrid's hut. He'd sent a letter earlier informing them that the appeal had failed and the execution was set for sunset, and they wanted to see him before it happened. To their great surprise, while they were there Hermione found Scabbers hiding in a milk jug.

Hagrid hurried them out when the executioner and Minister of Magic was seen crossing the lawn towards the hut, shooing them out the back door and telling them not to linger and watch or listen to what would happened. Unfortunately their progress across the grounds was hampered by Scabbers, who refused to stay still in Ron's hands, squeaking madly and struggling to get away, and they heard the unmistakable swish and thud of an axe.

Shocked and outraged, they started towards the castle again, but Scabbers, growing more and more agitated, bit Ron and escaped. Ignoring Harry and Hermione's cries, Ron threw off the cloak and chased after the animal, eventually catching up to him just near the Whomping Willow, which was where the dog appeared.

It was big, black, and vicious looking. It leapt past Harry and Hermione, latched its teeth into Ron's arm, and dragged him away to the Whomping Willow. Harry and Hermione tried to go after him, but couldn't get past the furiously swinging branches until Crookshanks appeared from the darkness and hit a knot at the base of the tree that made it go still. They hurried into the gap between the roots and slid into an underground tunnel, which took them what seemed like an age to traverse before eventually coming out inside the Shrieking Shack.

The supposedly haunted building was filled with dust and home to broken furniture. A strip of floor had been wiped clean, as if by something heavy getting dragged through it, and they drew their wands and followed it upstairs, across a landing, and into a room. Ron was lying on the floor with a broken leg and Scabbers tucked in his pocket, but when Harry and Hermione rushed to him he pointed across the room.

"It's a trap," he said in a shaky voice, face pale from pain. "Harry, it's a trap. It's not a dog, it's him, he's an Animagus!"

Harry whirled, the door to the room swung shut, and Sirius Black stepped out of the shadows.

Chapter Text

By the time Snape showed himself, Harry's mind was reeling with information. He almost leapt out of his skin when the Potions Master appeared from under Harry's own Invisibility Cloak, which he'd left at the base of the tree. Snape had his wand fixed on Lupin and an expression of suppressed triumph.

"I told Dumbledore you were helping an old friend into the castle and now—here's the proof."

"Severus, you're making a mistake," Lupin said urgently. "You haven't heard everything—I can explain—Sirius is not here to kill Harry—"

But Snape wasn't listening. With a bang that made Harry jump, ropes shot out of Snape's wand and bound around Lupin's wrists, ankles, and mouth, knocking him off balance to fall to the floor. Black surged forwards, but Snape shifted his wand, pointing it straight between Black's eyes.

"Give me one good reason," he said silkily. "Give me a reason to and I swear I'll do it."

Hermione, with more nerve than Harry currently had, stepped forwards to speak hesitantly.

"Professor Snape—it—it wouldn't hurt to hear what they've got to say, w-would it?"

"Miss Granger, you are already facing suspension from this school," Snape spat. "You, Potter, and Weasley are out-of-bounds, in the company of a convicted murderer and a werewolf. For once in your life, hold your tongue."

"But if—if there was a mistake—"

"KEEP QUIET, YOU STUPID GIRL!" Snape shouted, looking suddenly quite deranged. "DON'T TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!" A few sparks shot out of the end of his wand, which was still pointed at Black's face. Hermione fell silent.

"Vengeance is so very sweet," Snape breathed at Black. "How I hoped I would be the one to catch you..." He looked at Black with a loathing that Harry had never even seen directed at him. "I could do it, you know... but why deny the Dementors? They're so longing to see you."

What little colour was left in Black's face drained. Snape smiled unpleasantly.

"Is that a flicker of fear I see? Oh, yes. The Dementors kiss... one can only imagine what that must be like to endure. It's said to be nearly unbearable to witness, but I'll do my best."

"You—you've got to hear me out," Black croaked. "The rat—look at the rat—"

But there was a mad glint in Snape's eyes that Harry had never seen before. He seemed beyond reason.

"Come on, all of you," he said. He clicked his fingers and the ends of the cords that bound Lupin flew to his hands. "I'll drag the werewolf. Perhaps the Dementors will have a kiss for him too—"

Before he knew what he was doing, Harry crossed the room in three strides and blocked the door. He was shaking slightly, a dangerous idea only half-formed in his mind and which could backfire on him brutally, but he had to.

"Professor, he's my godfather."

"I am aware of that, Potter," snarled Snape. "Get out of the way; you're in enough trouble already. If I hadn't been here to save your skin—"

"Professor, don't you realise?" Harry said desperately. "If what they're saying is true—if the rat is Pettigrew, if he's alive then Sirius is innocent."

"Sirius Black is anything but innocent, Potter. Get out of the way!"

"But if he is!" Harry yelled. "If he is then—he's my godfather and that means he's meant to look after me in place of my parents." His gaze flicked past Snape to Black, who was watching him. "You are, aren't you?"

Very slowly, Black nodded. Harry looked back to Snape, willing him to understand.

"If he's innocent, then we can prove it and he'll be pardoned and he can give me a home. A new home," Harry said pointedly.

He knew Snape understood the implication, but the man didn't move, wand still fixed firmly on Black and still holding the ropes binding Lupin. But if he and Dumbledore hadn't found Harry new accommodation yet—and they hadn't told him of it if they had—then here was an opportunity for Harry to get a new home, fulfilling Snape's oath without him having to adopt Harry. A good opportunity, too. If Black really was innocent, there was no one Harry was better off with; this was the man his parents had chosen to care for him.

"What do you mean 'if the rat is Pettigrew', Potter?" Snape asked eventually, his tone making it clear that he wasn't willing to be tested. "What on earth makes you think Black could even possibly be innocent?"

Hermione and Ron were looking between Snape and Harry with clear shock, realising that there was something between them that they didn't know about.

"They think Ron's rat is Peter Pettigrew," Harry explained quickly. "That he's an Animagus and when everyone thinks Black killed all those Muggles it was really Pettigrew and he faked his death."

Snape's eyes flicked over to Ron and Scabbers, still squeaking madly and trying to escape Ron's grip, then over to Black.

"You expect me to believe a story as ridiculous as that?" Snape said coldly. "Next you'll try and convince me you didn't sell Lily to the Dark Lord."

That, of course, was the one problem Harry still had, but a little part of him was suggesting that if Black was innocent of killing Pettigrew then he might be innocent of this too, though he wasn't sure how. He was just clinging desperately to any possibility of a guardian who wasn't Snape.

"I didn't," Black croaked and Snape pushed his wand into the spaced between Black's eyes, face twisting with fury.

"You were her Secret Keeper."

"I was going to be, but they changed. At the last minute. I convinced them to change it to Pettigrew. I may have got them killed, but he sold them out, not me." Black's eyes flicked past Snape to settle on Harry. "I swear to you, Harry. I didn't betray Lily and James. I'd have died first."

Harry believed it. Or maybe he just wanted to believe it. But he nodded and asked, "If Scabbers is really Pettigrew, how do we make him turn back?"

"There's a spell," Hermione said tentatively. "I read about when I did the Animagus essay for Professor McGonagall. It forces an Animagus back into their human form."

"So let Remus go," Black said to Snape, "and let him do it. Then I can finally commit the murder I was imprisoned for."

Snape's lip curled. "This is the man you'd have as your guardian, Potter?" he said to Harry, never taking his eyes off Black.

"Better than my uncle," Harry replied quietly. "Let Professor Lupin do the spell, sir."

Looking thoroughly unhappy about it and never once taking his eyes or wand off Black, Snape clicked his fingers and the ropes around Lupin dissolved. Lupin stood up, rubbing at his wrists and glancing between Snape and Harry with a faint frown.

"Get on with it, Lupin."

Lupin looked once more between Snape and Harry before turning to the bed, approaching with an outstretched hand. "Your rat, please, Ron."

"Will it hurt him?"

"If he's really a rat, no."

Ron hesitated, but then held out the animal. Scabbers squeaked and squirmed even more furiously than before, but Lupin held him firmly in one hand and pulled his wand from his belt with the other. He pointed it at Scabbers and a burst of blue light shot from the end then Lupin let go of the rat. For a moment, Scabbers hovered frozen in mid-air, then there was another burst of light, he dropped to the floor, and a man sprang up in his place like a tree growing incredibly quickly from the ground.

Harry gasped, Hermione uttered a small scream, Snape hissed in a sharp breath, finally taking his eyes off Black, and Ron gaped. A look of pure hatred flashed across Black's face and when he stepped away from Snape, Snape didn't react.

"Hello, Peter," Lupin greeted calmly, as though seeing rats turn into old school friends was commonplace. "Long time no see."

"R-Remus... S-Sirius... my old friends..."

He looked around the room skittishly, eyes flicking to the boarded up windows and the only door, in front of which Harry still stood. He took a step towards him, but Lupin, Snape, Hermione, and Ron all fixed their wands on him and he stopped.

"H-Harry... look at you... you look so much like your father... just like James—"

"HOW DARE YOU!" Black roared. "HOW DARE YOU FACE HIM? HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT JAMES IN FRONT OF HIM?"

Pettigrew whimpered, but kept his gaze on Harry. "Please, Harry, you don't believe them, do you? I wouldn't betray James and Lily, I—"

Light shot out of Snape's wand and smacked into Pettigrew, knocking him to the floor with a gash across his forehead. Snape's hand shook as it held his wand, fixed firmly on Pettigrew's snivelling face.

"Don't you dare speak her name," he said in a furious whisper. "You have no right."

"I-I-I don't—I don't know—"

"You betrayed them," Lupin said, the only one still sounding calm. "You betrayed Lily and James Potter to Voldemort. Do you deny it?"

"I didn't mean to!" Pettigrew wailed, looking between them all fearfully. "I was scared! The Dark Lord had powers you can't imagine! What would you have done, Sirius?"

"I'D HAVE DIED!" Black yelled. "I'd have died rather than betray my friends!"

"You should have realised," Lupin said quietly, "that if Voldemort didn't kill you then we would have."

Before Harry could stop him, Black snatched the wand from his fingers and pointed it at Pettigrew, standing shoulder to shoulder with Lupin.

"Goodbye, Peter," Lupin said.

"NO!"

Harry rushed forwards, putting himself between Pettigrew and the other men. "You can't kill him."

"Harry," Lupin said, staggered by his actions, "this man is the reason your parents are dead."

"I know. Trust me, there's nothing I'd like more than to see him pay in kind, but I don't think my dad would have wanted his best friends to become murderers, not for him," he said, then shifted his gaze to Black. "And if you kill him now, you'll never be proven innocent. I can't go back to my aunt and uncle's; I need a new home and my parents chose you."

"Poor choice," Snape muttered and Harry glanced at him.

"Better than my other options," he said spitefully. Snape's eyes narrowed, but Harry ignored him, looking back to Black and Lupin. "We take him up to the castle and give him to the Dementors."

Pettigrew was still wheezing behind him.

"Very well," Lupin said. "Stand aside so I can tie him up."

Harry did so. Ropes shot from Lupin's wand, binding and gagging Pettigrew. Black stepped forwards bending over the man.

"But if you transform, we will kill you."

"Oh, for pity's sake," Snape muttered and flicked his wand. "Stupefy!"

Red light slammed into Pettigrew, making his body jerk, and then he was unconscious. Snape turned his wand on Lupin, who raised his own defensively.

"Severus, what—"

"You're staying here."

Black lifted Harry's wand and fixed it on Snape. "The hell with that, Snape. If anyone should stay—"

"It is the full moon," Snape spat. "He hasn't taken his potion. He stays here."

Lupin lowered his wand, looking suddenly weary. "He's right, Sirius."

"What? What potion is he on about, Remus?"

"The Wolfsbane. It's a new one, it helps me keep my mind when I transform. You—all of you—must leave."

"I'll stay with you," Sirius offered.

"No, Sirius—"

"Shut up, Remus. Besides, I don't trust Snivellus not to turn on me the minute we get out anyway."

Snape snarled, wand shifting to Black, but Lupin stepped between them.

"Sirius, you need to go."

"I need to stay. I know the Dementors have Kiss-on-sight orders, so I'll stay here with you. If Snape does what he's meant to and takes Pettigrew to Dumbledore to get my name cleared, we'll find out about it in the morning."

"What makes you so sure I won't have the Dementors sent straight here?" Snape sneered. "I could get you both Kissed in one go."

"You won't," Harry said quietly. "You know you won't."

Snape looked at him with pure loathing, but he didn't refute the claim.

* * *

"Harry," Hermione whispered as they headed back to the castle, her and Harry on either side of Ron as support while he limped along with his broken leg now secure in a splint, and Snape came behind them with Pettigrew floating in front of him, "why did you keep saying you can't go back to the Dursleys?"

Harry hesitated, resisting the urge to look around and see if Snape was eavesdropping, which he probably was. He wasn't sure what to tell them; certainly not the truth, either about Snape's oath or about his uncle selling him, but Hermione had an expression on her face that said she wouldn't let the matter drop any time soon.

Eventually he settled for a half truth. They already knew the Dursleys abused him to some degree after all, even if he'd never told the full extent.

"Dumbledore found out how the Dursleys treated me," he answered quietly, glad that he had the rough terrain as an excuse not to take his eyes off the ground. "He said I won't be going back there. Ever. He was looking for somewhere else for me to live, but I don't think he'd found anywhere yet."

"D'you really think it'll be alright living with Sirius Black?" Ron asked. "I mean, I know he's innocent and all, but he still spent twelve years in Azkaban and he seems a bit... wild."

"He can't be any worse than the Dursleys," Harry said.

Chapter Text

This can't be happening , Harry thought. Not again.

He'd tried to ignore it at first. He was overjoyed to move into the London flat with Sirius, newly pardoned by the Ministry and with Peter Pettigrew soulless and locked in Azkaban. He got his very own bedroom which he got to furnish with brand new furniture and put whatever things he liked on the walls—he'd stuck up pictures of his friends and parents, as well as a Gryffindor banner—and all his belongings were right there in the room with him rather than locked in a cupboard under the stairs like they had been at the Dursleys.

But then the touches started. Fingers brushing when they passed each other things, Sirius standing unnecessarily close to him, Sirius leaning into him while he sat on the sofa with their thighs touching. He tried to brush them off as nothing, just accidents or his godfather being affectionate. He pretended not to notice at all the looks Sirius gave him, violently refusing to acknowledge that they were the same kind of looks Eric used to give him.

But there was no arguing with the hand on his thigh as he tried to read Flying with Cannons, inching higher until Harry shifted away. Instead of leaving it at that, though, Sirius turned to sit sideways, facing Harry and resting one elbow on the back of the sofa.

"You ever had a hand job, Harry?"

Harry almost dropped his book. He stared at Sirius. "What?"

"A hand job. You do know what one is, don't you?" Sirius asked with a tone that said he would tease Harry mercilessly if he didn't.

"Yeah. I mean, I know what one is."

"So you ever had one? Maybe from Hermione?"

"What?!" Harry cried. "No! Hermione's my friend!"

"Nothing more between you two? She seems like a great girl."

Harry looked at his book. "She's just a friend," he said firmly.

"You didn't answer my question."

He didn't want to, either, so he said instead, "Why are you asking that?"

Sirius shrugged. "I remember what it was like as a teenager. Your body's practically insatiable and there's only so much fulfilment you can get from your own hand. Having someone else's is better."

Sirius' hand was back on Harry's thigh, but Harry was at the end of the sofa now so he had nowhere to go without getting up completely.

"You ever given one?"

Harry dropped his book. It was an accident, but he was a bit glad when it landed on Sirius' hand and he jerked away with a surprised yelp.

"Sorry," Harry apologised only half sincerely. Sirius waved it off. He didn't put his hand back.

"So?"

"So what?"

"Have you ever given someone a hand job? You can admit it if you have," he added when Harry said nothing. "It doesn't make you queer or anything. James and I used to give 'em to each other all the time. It's just a chance to get off, you know."

Harry stared at him. "You and my dad...?"

"Yeah," Sirius said with a nonchalant shrug. "In the showers or whatever."

"But... what about Mum?" Harry asked, despite knowing full well that married men could be interested in boys—Eric was evidence of that—and that his parents hadn't always been married.

Sirius laughed. "Your dad and Lily didn't start dating until seventh year. They didn't even get along until then."

"Really?" he breathed, half forgetting Sirius' advances in light of information about his parents. "Why not?"

"Lily thought James was a bit of a prick to be honest. She was stuck up for most of our Hogwarts years; didn't get a sense of humour until our last year. Snape's fault if you ask me."

Harry didn't much like hearing his mum get called stuck up, but he focused on Sirius' last words. "How was it Snape's fault?"

"They were friends," Sirius told him like it was a dirty word. "From first through fifth year they were mates, until Lily started seeing sense and ditched him."

"But Snape's a Slytherin!"

"I know. I still maintain that Snape hexed her or something. No other reason a girl like her would hang about with a greasy git like Snivellus."

Harry sat there, trying to wrap his head around the notion that his mother had been friends with Snape. It didn't seem possible. Snape, Harry was fairly sure, had probably been a horrible bastard his whole life—just a few weeks ago he revealed Lupin's lycanthropy to the school, causing him to have to resign before the parents all complained—while Harry had only ever heard kind things said about Lily, excepting Sirius' comment about her being stuck up.

"So?"

Harry blinked. "Sorry?"

"You ever given someone a hand job?"

His hand was back. His other arm was stretched along the back of the sofa, fingers playing with Harry's hair.

"No," Harry lied, realising that Sirius wasn't going to let it drop without an answer. "I'm just a kid. I can't... do stuff like that."

Sirius laughed loudly. "A kid? You're nearly fourteen, Harry, you're not a kid anymore. And come on—you've faced down Voldemort three times. No one could call you a kid in any sense of the word." His hand shifted higher and he leant close enough that Harry could feel his breath on his face. "Come on, Harry. You do me, I'll do you. It'll make you a proper man."

"I'm not—I don't—"

He wanted to say no. He should say no. This was no different than what Eric did, except Eric had paid for it and threatened serious harm to him if he said no. Sirius wouldn't hurt Harry for refusing. He was his godfather, he'd taken Harry in, given him a home. He was his parents' best friends; he'd never hurt Harry.

"If you're not in the mood then it's fine," Sirius said and drew his hand away, and Harry wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but then Sirius continued, "But I'd really appreciate if you could do me, Harry. It's just..." A shadow passed over his face. "I haven't been touched since before Azkaban. I'm just looking for a little release, that's all. Some human contact. You can't fault me for that, can you?"

"No..."

Sirius smiled. "It's really easy. Just do what you do to yourself."

He was already unbuttoning his own trousers. Harry wanted to object, to say he wouldn't do it, but he couldn't find an excuse except 'I don't want to' and that seemed selfish. What harm would it do Harry to help Sirius with this? It was only a hand job after all. It wasn't like Sirius was asking for oral or to fuck Harry and it wasn't like he'd never done it before so he really had nothing to complain about.

* * *

He told himself the same thing a few weeks later when Sirius asked him for oral: He'd done it before and Sirius deserved the comfort of human touch after so long in prison, so it'd be selfish for Harry to refuse. It didn't do much to stop him feeling filthy when he went to bed each night.

He did say no one time. Sirius tried to convince him to change his mind, but when Harry insisted he didn't want to Sirius stopped, nodded stiffly, and said coldly, "Sure. Fine." He only spoke in monosyllables to Harry for the rest of the day and only whenever Harry asked him a direct question and Harry went to bed feeling guilty and unhappy. The next morning Sirius was back to normal and acting like the previous day had never happened, but it was enough that when he next came onto Harry, Harry didn't refuse again. He wanted Sirius to like him. He needed Sirius to like him. Without Sirius, Harry wouldn't have a home.

Harry just wished he liked Sirius better. He'd thought having a godfather would be a great thing, and while he appreciated the regular stories about his parents—mostly James—he didn't appreciate Sirius' insistence on comparing Harry, usually unfavourably, to his father and it was hard to like him when he wanted Harry to give him blow jobs before bed, or when he said that Harry owed him sex because Harry was the reason Sirius couldn't go out and find a girlfriend to do it for him. He also really disliked the fact that Sirius was, as Fred Weasley had once so eloquently put it, a homophobic twat. This baffled Harry to no end given how keen Sirius was on using Harry for sex, but Sirius insisted it didn't make him gay as long as he never actually fucked a guy in the arse or kissed one.

"Getting blow jobs from guys is fine for single blokes," he told Harry. "You have to take what you can get, y'know? And it's really hard scoring with birds when you're an ex-con with a teenager to look after."

When Harry tried to suggest that being gay wasn't a bad thing, Sirius had laughed. He asked Harry if he was gay and Harry lied just because he didn't want Sirius calling him a faggot.

Lupin visited them a few times. Harry tried to tell him about what was going on, but Sirius never left them alone long enough for Harry to get up the nerve, and he wasn't sure it would really make a difference. Lupin was Sirius' oldest living friend after all; he might agree with what Sirius was doing.

The high point of Harry's summer holiday came towards the end. As part of Sirius' restitution from the Ministry for twelve years undeserved imprisonment, he had received two top-box tickets for the Quidditch World Cup. As Mr Weasley had also managed to procure some for his family and Hermione, they invited Sirius and Harry to join them at the Burrow the night before the match and to share a tent with them. Even though Harry was thoroughly excited, he was also nervous about Sirius meeting the Weasleys; he really hoped Sirius didn't say anything homophobic because Harry knew they were accepting about it and that three of the Weasley children were gay. He doubted they would put up with Sirius saying that Fred, George, and Charlie were faggots, though as far as Harry knew the rest of the Weasleys still didn't know about Fred and George.

Harry was also a bit nervous about spending any great time around Fred. They hadn't interacted much since the last Hogwarts Quidditch match and the rather disastrous kiss afterwards.

Sirius Apparated them to the Burrow the afternoon before the match. Hermione was already there and so were Charlie and Bill, who Harry had never met before. He'd been eager to meet Charlie, who worked with dragons which Harry thought was incredibly cool, but when he was introduced to the two it was Bill who really caught his attention. He was tall with long hair tied in a ponytail and had a fang for an earing hanging from one ear. Harry stumbled over his greeting when Ron introduced them and didn't realise he was staring until George bent down and whispered in Harry's ear, "You're out of luck with that brother; straight as an arrow."

Harry flushed, taking his gaze from Bill. He glanced over at Sirius, afraid he might have heard George or noticed Harry's fascination with Bill, but he was talking to Mr and Mrs Weasley.

"I don't fancy him," Harry hissed back at George.

"Good, because it'd hurt Fred and you've already done that enough."

George slipped away. Harry glanced over at Fred, who was talking to Charlie, and then looked away again. But he couldn't help feeling a little bit uplifted by George's comment; if Fred would get hurt over Harry fancying his brother then didn't that mean he still fancied Harry? It was selfish of Harry to hope so when they could never be more than friends, but he wanted it nonetheless.

The afternoon passed nicely. Harry joined Ron, Bill, Charlie, and the twins in a game of three-a-side Quidditch; Hermione declined to play and the boys refused to let Ginny join them, which they'd apparently been doing her whole life. Harry felt bad about that, having always been left out of things by the children at primary school, so he claimed to get thirsty and need a break and said Ginny should play in his place to keep the teams even. The other boys reluctantly agreed and Harry fetched himself a glass of water and sat with Hermione to watch.

They had dinner in the garden, sitting around two tables pushed together to seat the twelve of them, and somehow during dessert they ended up discussing the attractiveness of various famous Quidditch players, with each person saying who they thought the fittest player was. When Charlie said he'd love to spend a night with Polish Chaser Ladislaw Zamojski, Sirius thumped down the chair he'd been leaning back on two legs.

"A guy?"

Silence fell over the table as everyone looked at Sirius. Harry was holding his breath.

"Problem with that, Mr Black?" Bill said calmly. Sirius glanced at him then around at everyone else, seeming to realise that his opinions on gay people wouldn't be appreciated.

"No," he said, and Harry let his breath out. "Just... surprised."

But he was noticeably colder towards Charlie for the rest of the night.

"Darren O'Hare," George said suddenly, drawing everyone's attention to him. He grinned at the slightly surprised looks on his family's faces. "Definitely be who my eye is on at tomorrow's match."

Fred thumped him on the shoulder. "Don't be an idiot. If you're going green, go for Aidan Lynch. He can catch my Snitch any day."

There were laughs and groans at his joke and the conversation continued. When it came to Harry's turn, he said Gwenog Jones, the Holyhead Harpies captain and the first female Quidditch player he thought of. He ignored the glances Fred and George sent him and turned to Hermione, who confessed that the only Quidditch players she knew were Hogwartians. This didn't stop the twins from thinking she should contribute and they goaded her into picking a Hogwarts player until she eventually said Cedric Diggory, which earned groans from the twins.

"Disgraceful, Hermione," Fred said. "Have you no house loyalty? He kicked our butts last year."

"You're the one who insisted I had to choose and he is very good looking," Hermione replied with a faint blush in her cheeks.

"She's right about that," George said with a bit of a sigh, but then chirped up. "What about you, little sis? Who takes your fancy?"

Ginny glanced towards Harry and blushed. Harry pretended not to notice. The twins certainly saw it, but a glare from their mother stopped them saying anything and Ginny stuttered out the name of a French player. After that they finished eating and headed back inside to get to bed. Harry managed to slip away first and get upstairs and settled with only a brief goodnight to Sirius, who he didn't want to talk to right now because he knew Sirius had noticed Ginny's blush and he had a gleam in his eyes that Harry didn't particularly like. Sirius had made several comments over the summer about how Harry should get himself a girlfriend and the last thing he wanted was Sirius deciding Harry needed to get together with Ginny.

Chapter Text

The match was brilliant—better than anything Harry'd seen before. The players flew with a skill that made him envious and he only hoped he could be as good of a Seeker as Krum one day. Even Sirius didn't manage to spoil his mood, despite being grouchy after meeting his cousin Narcissa in the top box and then, for some reason, he got irritated with Harry when the Veela's song and dance didn't affect him like it did most of the men in the stadium.

Ireland won, although Bulgarian seeker Viktor Krum caught the snitch. They headed back to the tent amidst shouts of delight and excited chatter as they and everyone else discussed the match. Back in the tent they stayed up late talking and Harry tried not to worry about the fact that Sirius seemed to be doing his best to pretend Harry didn't exist.

But he had bigger things to worry about later that night when Mr Weasley woke them to the sounds of people running and screaming outside. They left the tent to see a group of masked wizards moving through the campsite, levitating a family of Muggles overhead. Horrified, Harry, Ron, and Hermione ran for the shelter of the woods with Fred, Ginny, and George, but they got separated and ended up deep in the trees, away from the sounds of the campsite, and ended up being accused of throwing up the Dark Mark when it appeared in the air above them.

To his surprise, when they finally got back to the tent, guided by Mr Weasley, Sirius grabbed Harry and pulled him into a fierce hug.

"Thank Merlin, you're alright. If something had happened to you..."

It was the first time he'd actually shown genuine concern for him and it made Harry feel suddenly uplifted despite the events of the night.

* * *

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Harry stood in the living room of their flat, tired after barely a few hours sleep, and looked warily at Sirius. They'd just returned from the Burrow after catching an early portkey back from the campsite. Mrs Weasley had invited Harry to spend the next week with them until the end of the holidays, as Hermione was doing, but Sirius wouldn't let him, saying he wanted to get as much time in with his godson before he returned to Hogwarts.

"Tell you what?"

"That you're queer."

Harry's blood went cold. "W-what? I'm not."

Sirius' mouth curled into a half-smirk. "Yeah, you are. It's the reason why the Veela didn't affect you; they don't work on faggots."

Harry shook his head. "You're wrong. I'm not gay."

Sirius grabbed him by the shoulders, bending to put their faces level, and Harry stared at him, feeling sick to his stomach.

"Harry, it's fine."

"B-but you..."

Sirius straightened up, waving a dismissive hand. "I know what I've said. I'm not saying I approve, but I figured Lily and James would still love you if they were here, so I can put up with it. Explains why you're so good at giving head though," he said with a laugh. Harry managed a weak smile.

Sirius dropped onto the sofa with a tired sigh, stretching his long legs along the cushions and watching Harry with his hands behind his head. "Have you tried not being gay though?" he asked. "I mean, have you ever actually done anything with a girl? Kissed one?"

Harry shifted, still wary of Sirius' attitude and not sure if he should outright admit he was gay despite the fact Sirius seemed convinced of it. "No. I don't... um... I don't think you can just... choose it."

"Maybe not, but if you've never done anything with a girl maybe that's the problem." He grimaced. "Maybe I've turned your gay."

"You didn't," Harry said firmly. He really doubted it was possible to get turned gay, but if it was then he had no doubt that Eric Nicholson was the one responsible.

"Yeah, well, whatever it was, you should get yourself a girlfriend. Set yourself straight. Once you've got in a girl's pants you'll realise what you're missing."

* * *

Harry had hoped that his being gay would stop Sirius wanting to use him, but apparently Sirius' desire for oral was bigger than his concern over Harry's sexuality. It was worse now, though, because Sirius would tease him even while he had his cock in Harry's mouth and hands tangled in Harry's hair, calling him queer and faggot and saying things like "I bet you love this", and the night before Harry was due to return to Hogwarts, he said the one thing Harry really hated.

"Such a little whore for it, aren't you, Harry?"

Harry almost bit him then. He managed to resist and when he was done he wiped at his mouth and didn't look up at Sirius, burning with shame and anger—not just at Sirius, either. The entire summer he convinced himself that what he did for Sirius didn't make him a whore. He wasn't getting paid for it and he didn't enjoy it so it didn't count, but clearly he'd just deluded himself. He was a whore through and through and that was never going to change.

He was thoroughly glad to leave the next morning. He noticed the Weasleys and Hermione almost as soon as they arrived on platform nine and three-quarters and was glad when Sirius said goodbye and left Harry to go to the family. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and the twins had been accompanied to the station by Mrs Weasley, Bill, and Charlie and while Mrs Weasley was giving goodbye hugs to her children, Harry tugged on Charlie's sleeve. He'd wanted to talk to him before, at the Burrow, but things had been so busy that he never got the chance and he knew he might not get the opportunity again, so he had to do it now.

"I'm sorry about how Sirius was to you at the Quidditch cup," he said nervously. "I just want you to know that I don't think like him."

To his relief, Charlie smiled, waving away his apology. "Don't apologise for other people, Harry. I've dealt with worse than him before and I figured you didn't share his opinions. I saw the way you looked at Bill," he added quietly when Harry looked surprised, and Harry flushed.

"I don't fancy him."

Charlie chuckled. "Probably a good thing; he's a bit old for you." He clapped Harry on the shoulder. "It was good meeting you. You should get on before the train leaves though."

"Yeah. It was nice to meet you too."

He boarded the train feeling a bit better and joined Ron and Hermione in a compartment. Ron shut the door behind them and sat down facing Harry with a surprisingly serious expression.

"Look, Harry, we're best mates," he began and Harry's stomach turned to lead. He didn't know what Ron was about to say, but his tone wasn't encouraging.

"Ron," Hermione started, but Ron cut her off.

"I need to know, Harry."

"Need to know what?" Harry asked worriedly.

"Do you agree with Sirius about gay people? Even though he said it didn't matter at dinner that night, he was definitely—"

"No," Harry said, relieved. "I swear, Ron, I don't. I know what he's like and I hate it."

Ron looked as relieved as Harry felt, sitting back against the seat and nodding. "Good."

"Really," Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes. "I told you he didn't, Ron."

"You did?" Harry asked Hermione.

"Of course. I knew you wouldn't think like that."

"It was a reasonable concern, Hermione," Ron said a touch defensively. "Even you said normally reasonable people like your parents can be homophobic and the Dursleys were about as far from reasonable as you could get."

Hermione blushed. "I know," she muttered unhappily, clearly ashamed of this fact about her parents. "But Harry's got more sense than to listen to anything the Dursleys told him, don't you, Harry?"

"Definitely."

"There was still Sirius," Ron said. "He is your godfather. You might have agreed with him."

"I don't," Harry said firmly. "I promise, I don't think there's anything wrong with being gay. In fact..." He took a deep breath, nervous despite the clear evidence that they didn't care, and blurted out, "I'm gay."

Hermione's mouth dropped in surprise. Ron smiled.

"Yeah, I know."

Harry's mouth dropped as well. "You did?"

"Sure. I figured it out when the Veela didn't affect you at the World Cup."

Hermione snapped her mouth shut and frowned. "That was because he's gay?"

Ron nodded. "They's female, aren't they? So their charm thing or whatever it is only works on people attracted to women. Didn't you notice it didn't affect George or Charlie either?"

"Oh," Hermione said, looking annoyed that this hadn't occurred to her before. "But it worked on Fred and he's gay."

"He's bi," Ron corrected.

"Oh," Hermione said again, this time in understanding. Then she said, "But why didn't you say anything then about Harry being gay? And just a minute—if you knew Harry was gay, why did you think he might be homophobic? That doesn't even make sense."

"Yes it does. Charlie's told me all about it. It's call internalised homophobia or something, and I knew that Harry might not even know he was gay. Charlie told me it's not something you just know, not for everyone. Anyway, I figured if he did know then he'd tell us when he was ready. It's not something you just go shouting about, Hermione. People have to come out in their own time. It's not fair to go telling people about a gay person if you don't know whether they want people to know."

Harry smiled, suddenly very grateful to have two such brilliant friends, but his smile faded at Hermione's next question.

"Does Sirius know?"

"Yeah. He figured it out like Ron did."

"And?"

He shrugged. "He said he doesn't exactly approve, but he doesn't hate me or anything. And he thinks I should get a girlfriend so I can 'straighten myself out'."

Ron looked aghast. "He actually said that? Blimey. No offence, Harry, but your godfather's an idiot. If dating girls made you straight then Charlie wouldn't be gay. He had a girlfriend for his last two years at Hogwarts. He said it just made him miserable and absolutely certain about himself."

"I tried to tell him it's not something you chose or could change, but he wouldn't listen."

Ron snorted, shaking his head. "Homophobes," he muttered in the same distasteful tone he always used for the word 'Slytherin'.

* * *

Their day ended quite excitingly with the revelation that famous ex-Auror Mad-Eye Moody was their new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor and the news that Hogwarts would be playing host to the Triwizard Tournament that year, though unfortunately anyone under seventeen wouldn't be allowed to enter.

The Gryffindor Fourth Years didn't have Defence Against the Dark Arts until Thursday, much to their chagrin, but Harry decided he liked Moody on the first day of classes. Just before dinner, Malfoy was taunting Ron about an unpleasant article in the Daily Prophet about Mr Weasley, gleefully reading it aloud for everyone to hear and then insulting Ron's parents, and when Harry insulted Malfoy's mother in return, Malfoy threw a hex at his back that thankfully missed. Before Harry could do more than whirl around and draw his wand, Moody came stomping down the main staircase, his own wand out, and shot a spell at Malfoy that hauled him into the air and turned him upside down, much to the amusement of the onlookers.

"Did he get you?" Moody asked Harry, who shook his head.

"Missed."

"Good. You," Moody growled, turning around to face Malfoy, "are a cowardly, scummy little ferret. Firing at a man when his back is turned—ain't nothing more pathetic. But then I wouldn't expect much better from a Malfoy."

Malfoy, whose face was now bright red from both embarrassment and his upturned position, looked like he wanted to object, but Moody flicked his wand and Malfoy dropped to the floor with a thud. Moody grabbed the shoulder of his robe and ungraciously hauled him to his feet, shoving him in the direction of the dungeons.

"Come on. I think I'd better have a discussion with Snape about you. He's an old acquaintance I've been wanting to talk to."

And he stumped off, still holding Malfoy by the robe.

"Brilliant," Ron said from beside Harry, looking gleeful. "Come on—dinner. I'm starving."

* * *

Malfoy spent the next few days glaring at Harry whenever they saw each other, apparently blaming him for getting him in trouble. On Wednesday evening as Harry left the Great Hall, he saw Malfoy with a group of older Slytherins, leaning together and whispering, and his stomach turned slightly when they all sneered at Harry as he passed the Slytherin table.

"What do you think they're planning?" he asked Ron.

"Nothing I'd worry about," Ron answered dismissively. "It's only Malfoy and he's never actually done anything really terrible, has he? Too cowardly."

Ron was right, but Harry had had a bad experience with older Slytherins before and he didn't fancy another one.

They had their first Defence lesson the next day. They started learning about dark curses and spent the first class discussing the Unforgivables, the three worst curses ever made and which included the Killing Curse—the curse, Harry learnt, that had killed his parents and failed to kill him thirteen years ago.

He struggled to get to sleep that night, too busy imaging the night his parents had died. As a child, when he tried to remember it, he'd always remembered lots of green light. He knew, now, that that was the Killing Curse, and he could imagine the night in far more vivid detail—Voldemort blasting the front door open, his father standing against him to give Harry and his mother time to run, Voldemort killing him first and then moving on to go after Harry, giving his mum chance to move aside and she refusing until he killed her too, and then he turned on Harry himself.

When Harry finally did fall into a fitful sleep, it was filled with nightmares full of bright green light. He woke early the next morning, still a bit tired but too worked up to get back to sleep. It was just getting light out and it wasn't so early that students were still confined to their houses, so he quietly got out of bed, dressed, took his Firebolt, and slipped out the dorm intending to clear his head with a bit of flying. He was disappointed that there wouldn't be any Quidditch this year—the cup cancelled to accommodate the Triwizard Tournament—because there was nothing better for clearing his head than a good flying session. And he would dearly love to use the Wronski Feint against Malfoy. It was a seeker's move that he saw at the World Cup which involved one seeker flying very fast towards the ground, as though they were racing for the snitch, and the other seeker chasing after them, only for the first to pull out of the dive at the last minute while the second ploughed into the ground.

He spent nearly an hour in the air and by the time he landed he felt much better—at least until he was walking off the pitch with his Firebolt slung over his shoulder and a pair of hands suddenly darted out from under the stands to grab him. He yelped in surprise and dropped his Firebolt then grunted as he was shoved to the floor beneath the stands and a knee dug into his back.

"Been hoping to catch you alone, Potter," an oily voice sneered. Harry twisted his head to try and look around and caught a glimpse of Slytherin Chaser Graham Montague before a large hand shoved him into the mud. "Then I saw you out the library window. Out for a little morning flight. You like riding broomsticks, don't you?"

He heard two people laugh. Harry squirmed trying to throw off the one holding him down. He thought it was just one holding him at least, but he couldn't really tell with his face pressed into the mud.

"Gerroff!" he managed to say through the corner of his mouth.

"What's the matter, faggot?" Montague said, and Harry froze. "Thought you'd like having a fit bloke on top of you."

He had no idea how they knew, but he knew it couldn't be good so he struggled harder, but they were bigger and stronger than him and he couldn't escape.

"Do the spell, Terry."

The hand holding his head left and he looked up, squinting over his dislodged glasses as a Slytherin he recognised as Terrence Higgs, who'd played as Seeker in Harry's first year, drew his wand, pointed it at Harry, and said, "Imperio!"

Harry had the briefest moment to think wildly an Unforgivable! Then he was overcome by the most wonderful floating sensation, as if every thought and worry in his head had been wiped away. He felt Montague get off him, but he had no inclination to get up. He just lay there, feeling immensely relaxed and unconcerned about the two Slytherins standing over him.

Then Higgs' voice came to him, echoing in some distant chamber of his mind: Take your clothes off.

He got to his feet and removed his cloak, but even as he did he suddenly wondered why. He didn't want to take his clothes off. Did he?

Get undressed.

His hands gripped the bottom of his jumper but he didn't lift it over his head. He didn't want to take his clothes off.

Get undressed! Higgs' voice demanded. Take your clothes off now!

Harry jerked his hands up, but it took him an abnormal length of time to yank the jumper over his head as he struggled not to do it while his body tried to obey the orders ringing through his mind. The same thing happened with his t-shirt, but when Higgs told him to undo his trousers, Harry fought so hard not to that Montague got annoyed and reached around to undo them himself and then shoved Harry's trousers and boxers to the floor in one move.

Get on your hands and knees.

Harry dropped to the floor, but he struggled to get up again, panic and anger and humiliation burning through that echoing emptiness inside his head.

"He's fighting it, Monty," Higgs muttered. "I don't think—"

"No!" Harry cried and Higgs gave an echoing cry of surprise. The emptiness left Harry's head and he scrambled to his feet, but he still had his trainers on and trousers round his ankles so he fell over again and when he rolled onto his back and tried to yank his clothes up, Montague dropped on top of him and pinned him down.

"Put it on him again!" Montague hissed at Higgs, who hurriedly recast the curse. Once again that emptiness swept through Harry's mind and he didn't fight when Montague rolled him over and jerked his hips up, shoving his knees under him.

Don't fight, was the order ringing through his mind this time. Don't fight, don't struggle.

He tried to disobey. His body shook with the effort, but he couldn't fight enough to stop something that was too cold and hard to be either a finger or a cock pressing at his arse. Only when he heard Montague mutter a spell and he felt an all too familiar slick feeling of lube sliding inside him did he realise the thing was a wand.

Don't fight, don't struggle, just stay—

"NO!"

He jerked forwards, head clearing, but throwing off the curse wasn't enough. It didn't stop Montague grabbing his hips, jerking him back, and then something thick and hard thrust inside him and he yelled out in pain, the magically applied lube not enough to make up for the lack of preparation. He dropped his head, feeling hot tears of shame, agony, and anger drip down his cheeks, but he didn't struggle. He knew that would only make it worse at this point.

He heard Higgs unzip himself and then a hand grabbed his hair and jerked his head up so hard he thought the hair would rip from his scalp. The sudden change of angle made Montague moan and his next thrust hit Harry's prostate, unwillingly drawing a gasp of pleasure from him, and he heard Montague laugh.

"Yeah, you like that don't you, you little slut? Fucking faggot whore."

He closed his eyes, more tears spilling down his face, but snapped them open again when he felt fingers on his chin. Before he could react, Higgs jerked his mouth open and thrust his dick in Harry's mouth. Harry gagged, but habit made him adjust himself to the intrusion.

Higgs' wand was still in his hand and he pointed it at Harry's head. "Bite me and I'll blow your brains out with a Blasting Curse, you hear me?"

Harry made a noise of affirmation and Higgs moaned, eyelids fluttering shut as the noise vibrated around his dick. Harry closed his eyes again as the boy thrust into his mouth once more, letting his mouth work and trying to ignore the comments and names the pair muttered in between thrusts and moans. Higgs pulled out of Harry's mouth before he came so that it landed on Harry's face, smearing across his glasses, sticking in his hair, and dripping down his cheek, and a few thrusts later Montague orgasmed.

When they were done, Harry collapsed to the ground, curling up, but Montague grabbed him by the chin and jerked him half off the ground again to stick his wand against Harry's throat and hiss, "Tell anyone and you won't live to regret it."

Harry spat in his face. Montague punched him hard enough to break his glasses and bloody his nose then dropped him. Higgs stepped forwards and cast a spell that slashed across Harry's stomach like an invisible sword, slicing open a deep wound straight across him. As blood dripped down Harry, Higgs sneered down at him.

"We mean it. Tell anyone, and next time it'll be your throat."

Harry nodded. He wouldn't have told anyone anyway, but he certainly wasn't going to now. He tensed when Montague drew something from his pocket and flinched when he threw it at him, but as it bounced off his skin and onto the grass, he looked down and realised it was a handful of coins. Blood rushed to his face and the two boys laughed, stalking away and leaving Harry lying on the ground bleeding and used. With no little effort, he jerked his boxers and trousers up then scrunched up his shirt and pressed it to his stomach, wishing he knew a healing spell, even if it was just one to stop the bleeding. He wiped the come, blood, and mud off his face and hair, and then pulled his wand from his cloak and cast Reparo on his glasses. He slipped them back on his face, and then slumped on the ground, curling up and closing his eyes, grimacing.

He didn't want to go back to the castle. He didn't want to move at all, in fact. Why him? Why was it always him? Was he really that much of a whore? Was there some invisible sign on his face that told certain people he should be used and abused? Was this really what his life was destined to be—a mouth and arse for other people to fuck as they pleased?

Chapter Text

He must have passed out because the next thing he knew he was blinking his eyes open. His neck ached from lying at an awkward angle, he was cold, and his stomach throbbed. When he sat up and pulled the shirt away he found that the wound had mostly stopped bleeding, so he pulled his jumper on and gingerly got to his feet. A glance at his watch showed it was lunch time and he grimaced. He'd missed Charms and History of Magic, but it could be worse. Binns and Flitwick were fairly lenient; as long as he apologised to Flitwick with some vaguely reasonable excuse he'd probably get away with nothing more than a few docked points, and given how attentive of a teacher Binns was it was entirely possible he hadn't even noticed Harry's absence.

Harder would be explaining himself to Hermione and Ron, who'd no doubt demand to know where he'd been all morning. He was half tempted to drop down again and stay there all afternoon as well, but he had double Potions and he wasn't about to risk Snape's wrath by missing that, so he reluctantly pulled on his cloak, picked up his Firebolt, and headed back to the castle, carrying his bloody shirt under his cloak. He left the money behind.

He managed to avoid meeting anyone all the way up to Gryffindor. Ron and Hermione weren't in the common room when he reached it, nor was Ron in the dorm. Harry stowed away his Firebolt, grabbed fresh clothes and headed to the bathroom for a quick shower. He wanted a longer one but didn't have the time so it would have to wait until later. All the movement and the water made his stomach start bleeding again and he dug out one of Dudley's old shirts to tear into strips that he wrapped around his stomach; he wondered if he should go to Madam Pomfrey, but couldn't come up with an excuse for why he had a great big gash across his stomach so decided he'd be fine as long as he kept it bandaged, however poorly. He dressed, returned to the dorm to pack his bag, and headed out again, but his luck ran out then.

"Harry!"

Ron and Hermione had just come in through the entrance hole. Harry grimaced and went to meet them.

"Where have you been?" Ron asked at the same moment Hermione scolded, "You missed classes!"

"I know. I just... erm... I didn't sleep well last night and went flying this morning, but when I came back I got caught by Peeves and he locked me in a cupboard; I only just got out. I'm going to find Flitwick right now," he added hurriedly when they opened their mouths to say something more. "To apologise. Did Binns even notice I wasn't there?"

"Nah," Ron told him.

"But we have homework," Hermione said, "and, Harry, you—"

"Great, you can tell me it later," Harry interrupted, sidling past them. "Gotta catch Flitwick before Potions. See you later!"

And he slipped out before they could stop him. He did go to find Flitwick, catching him in his office. He apologised and told him the same lie he'd told Hermione and Ron. Flitwick took five points and assigned him extra reading to catch up on what he missed, which Harry thought wasn't all that bad of a punishment.

He went straight to Potions afterwards and was, for the first time in his life, early. He stood in the hall, leaning against the wall and pressing a hand gingerly to his stomach. He wasn't sure if it was still bleeding or not, but it hurt like hell, almost as much as his arse. He didn't look forwards to spending two hours sat on a stool. Hopefully they'd spend most of the lesson brewing, which would let him get away with standing up.

He straightened when he heard footsteps and had to suppress a groan when he saw the Slytherins turn into the corridor, Malfoy front and centre as always. He really hated Slytherins and the last thing he wanted was a confrontation with Malfoy and his cronies while he, Harry, was alone. Unfortunately there was no escaping and a nasty smile spread across Malfoy's face as he noticed Harry, swaggering up to him and stopping just a few feet from him.

"Well, well, well, what're you doing down here all by yourself, Potter?"

"Sod off, Malfoy."

"That the best you've got?"

"I said, sod off!"

Malfoy leered, stepping forwards until he was toe to toe with Harry. They were almost the exact same height. Harry's fists clenched at his sides with the effort it took not to hit the other boy.

"What's the matter, Potter?" he hissed in a voice low enough that only the two of them could hear. "Didn't they pay you enough, faggot?"

Harry's breath caught and his eyes widened. Malfoy grinned widely.

Then years of hatred, humiliation, shame, and anger bubbled up inside of Harry and before he knew what he was doing, Malfoy was on his back on the floor, Harry on top of him, smashing his fist into Malfoy's face over and over again with as much force as he could muster. His vision had gone red with rage and it wasn't just Malfoy that he was hitting—it was Eric, his uncle, Rodney, every one of Rodney's men, Sirius, Higgs, and Montague.

"DON'T—CALL—ME—FAGGOT!" he heard himself yell. He was dimly aware of voices shouting and someone screaming and a voice yelling his name, but blood was rushing in his ears and he was too angry to pay attention. A hand grabbed him and he jerked his elbow back, felt it smack into something hard and which cracked; he hit Malfoy once more, drew his fist back, and then a curse hit him and his body went stiff, arms and legs snapping together. He fell forwards onto Malfoy, but was soon grabbed by the shoulder and rolled off. He caught a glimpse of Snape's face, furious and dripping blood from his nose, then the man crouched over Malfoy.

"Nott, fetch Madam Pomfrey. Quickly! The rest of you—inside. Now."

Harry heard footsteps and he watched his classmates pass by him, several shooting him frightened looks. He saw Ron and Hermione pause by him, but Snape snarled at them and they hurried inside the classroom after the rest. Harry could do nothing but lie there until Theodore Nott returned with Madam Pomfrey, who crouched down over Malfoy, tutting, and conjured a stretcher which she carried Malfoy away on.

Snape stood up and looked down at Harry. He lifted his wand to his nose, muttered a spell that made it snap back into place then another that vanished the blood, then stepped over Harry and into the classroom.

"Read the first chapter of your text books and take notes. No one is to leave their seat until I get back; anyone who does will lose twenty house points and I will know."

He came out again and finally caste Finite on Harry, bending and hauling him up by the front of his robe. Pain lanced across Harry's stomach, but he kept a staunch face as Snape glared at him, despite the fact that some of his anger was starting to fade and he knew he was in very serious trouble.

"We're going to see the headmaster, Potter," Snape hissed. "With any luck, you'll be expelled by the end of the day."

He shoved Harry forwards. Harry staggered, almost fell, but managed to catch himself and straighten up. He walked in front of Snape, never looking around as they headed up to Dumbledore's office. Neither of them spoke until they reached it and Snape said the password to the gargoyle, which leapt aside to reveal the revolving staircase. They went up it, Snape knocked hard, and Dumbledore's voice called for entry. He was behind his desk when they entered and greeted them with a serene smile and his usually twinkling eyes, but both faded as he took stock of them, seeming to realise that this visit wasn't a pleasant one.

"To what do I owe the visit, gentlemen?" he inquired.

"Sit," Snape ordered Harry shortly, "and inform the headmaster of what you've done."

Harry stepped away from Snape, but he didn't sit in one of the two chairs facing Dumbledore's desk.

"I beat up Malfoy," he answered honestly, just enough anger still burning inside him to give him the courage to admit his behaviour without looking away or mumbling, at least until Dumbledore dropped his head slightly to peer sadly over the top of his glasses.

"Why?" he asked simply.

Harry glanced away, but answered without wavering, "He called me a faggot."

"That's no excuse," Snape snarled. "Headmaster, Potter beat Mr Malfoy into unconsciousness, causing who knows what damage. He is in the hospital wing right now being treated by Madam Pomfrey, but given the state of him it wouldn't surprise me if he needed transferring to Saint Mungo's!"

"I surely doubt that," Dumbledore said calmly, which seemed to infuriate Snape. "Madam Pomfrey is a very skilled medi-witch. Harry, please sit down."

"I'd rather stand, professor," Harry replied, although his legs were feeling weak. The climb from the dungeons seemed to have drained all the energy out of them, and he was starting to feel dizzy too.

"The headmaster told you to sit down, Potter!"

Dumbledore held up a hand. "That's alright, Severus. You have a class to teach, I believe; you should return to them, and I will deal with Harry."

"Headmaster—" Snape started to object, but Dumbledore shot him such a look that he snapped his mouth shut with an audible click of his teeth. He turned, stalked towards the door, and then Harry's legs gave out and he collapsed, unable to stop himself for gasping with pain as he hit the stone floor. He tried to push himself up, but his head spun and he slumped down again.

Dumbledore, moving with surprising speed for someone so old, was by his side in an instant. "Harry?"

He blinked, trying to focus his eyes on Dumbledore's blurring figure and unable to.

"There's blood on his robes," he heard Dumbledore mutter.

"Of course there is," Snape snapped. "Malfoy's."

"No, Severus," Dumbledore replied. "His own."

Harry felt hands undo his robes and he tried to push them away, but his hands were easily knocked aside.

"No," he whispered, "no... not again, please..."

He didn't notice Dumbledore's frown at his words, barely even aware of what he was saying. He was really dizzy now and the whole office was turning blurry, but he was conscious of his robes being tugged open and his shirt lifted, then he heard someone hiss in a sharp breath.

"Foolish boy," someone muttered from far away and then everything went black.

* * *

He woke up in the hospital wing. This was common enough that it didn't initially concern him and it was with weariness that he cast his mind about trying to figure out why. When he did, he sat up quickly and then hissed painfully, hand going to his stomach. He tugged up the hospital gown that had replaced his robe, jumper, and shirt—though he still wore his own trousers—and looked at himself, finding a long, thick white scar dissecting his stomach.

He heard footsteps approaching and shifted the gown back into place just before the curtains around his bed opened and Madam Pomfrey looked in, carrying a fresh shirt over her arm.

"Good, you're awake," she said, sounding even more curt with him than was normal. He caught a glimpse of Malfoy across the wing, lying in another bed with his head wrapped in bandages. Guilt flooded Harry, but anger came with it and he tried to shove the guilt away. Malfoy knew. He knew what Higgs and Montague had done to him and he thought it was a joke; he deserved to be laid out in a hospital bed.

Pomfrey stepped closer, tugging the curtains shut behind her and setting the shirt on the end of the bed.

"Lie back, Potter, and let me have a look at you. The headmaster will be here soon to see you."

He lay down, suddenly sick with nerves, and stared at the ceiling as Pomfrey tugged the gown up and inspected his stomach, prodding his scar with her wand and asking if it hurt. It did a bit, but he shook his head. The pain of that was nothing next to the sick feeling in his stomach. He was going to be expelled, he knew it. Lucius Malfoy had got a hippogriff executed for attacking Malfoy last year; what would he do to Harry for so violently attacking his son? Maybe if Harry was lucky Dumbledore would let him stay on, like he had with Hagrid, and Harry would become Hagrid's assistant. He wasn't sure what was worse: traipsing around after Hagrid and watching his classmates continue to become proper wizards, or going home and having to service Sirius every other day. If he went home he'd probably become a real whore, selling himself on the streets to make a living; he didn't know what else he could do with himself.

"You're healing well. Nothing I can do about the scar, I'm afraid, not after leaving it so long before healing."

He didn't mind; he had bigger things on his mind than a scar that was far easier to hide than the one on his forehead.

Pomfrey tugged the gown back into place. "Put the shirt on, then stay here," she ordered before disappearing through the curtain, her footsteps crossing the wing to Malfoy's bed. Harry got up, changed into the shirt and slipped on the shoes tucked neatly under the bed, briefly entertaining the idea of running away—he had plenty of Galleons in his trunk and he still had the two grand from Eric, so he could manage for a while in the wizarding or Muggle world—but Malfoy and Madam Pomfrey were between him and the door so he wouldn't even escape the hospital wing. It left him with no option but to sit there filled with dread until Dumbledore came to see him.

He heard the hospital wing door open some ten minutes later and then three sets of footsteps entered.

"Father!" he heard Malfoy greet, and lead settled in Harry's stomach. He was dead.

One of the sets of footsteps stopped but the other two carried on to Harry's bed. His legs were shaky with nerves as the curtains tugged open to reveal Dumbledore and Sirius. Harry was suddenly grateful for the bed because it stopped him hitting the floor when his legs decided they didn't want to hold him up. Why did Sirius have to be here?

"Harry," Dumbledore greeted. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay," he managed to say. "How's Malfoy?" he asked, figuring he should probably know what damage he'd caused.

"Recovering. Madam Pomfrey doesn't think there will be any permanent damage."

"Pity," Sirius said with a grin.

"Sirius," Dumbledore scolded. Sirius waved him off, perching on the bed beside Harry.

"Did you really beat him up because he called you a faggot?"

Harry nodded jerkily. Sirius looked almost amused.

"I'm all for giving Malfoys what they deserve, but you over-reacted a bit, didn't you? Not like it isn't true."

"Sirius!" Dumbledore said sharply while Harry flushed, dropping his head. "I will not allow such words to be used in my school. I will be discussing that with Draco, but Harry is in very serious trouble. I also," he said, now talking directly to Harry, "do not believe it's the reason you attacked him. You are not a violent young man, Harry, and you have fought with Draco many times before over the last few years. A single slur, no matter how hurtful, would not drive you to this."

Harry shrugged. When Dumbledore next spoke, his voice was a touch harsher.

"Both Lucius Malfoy and Professor Snape are pushing to have you expelled, Harry. An explanation for your actions will go a long way in your defence."

"You can't expel him for a single beating," Sirius defended. "I did worse in school and never got more than a detention."

"I will not be expelling you," Dumbledore told Harry, who sagged with relief, "but this will not be taken lightly. Perhaps you'll at least tell me who attacked you."

Harry's heart skipped a beat and he glanced up. "A-attacked me? No one attacked me, sir."

"Harry, you passed out in my office from blood loss caused by a very severe, untreated wound."

"It was an accident," Harry blurted. "It's nothing. It wasn't—no one attacked me."

Dumbledore's gaze was piercing. "Please don't lie to me, Harry. Your injury was caused by a curse, not by any kind of mundane object."

"I wasn't—no one—I don't know—"

"Was it Malfoy?" Sirius asked. "If it was then you beating him up was self-defence."

Harry just shook his head. Dumbledore laid a hand on his shoulder and he couldn't help flinching. He flushed, dropping his gaze.

"I will not allow anyone at this school to get away with bullying other students. If someone has threatened you, I promise I will not let them bring harm to you again, but I need to know their names."

Harry shook his head again. If he admitted to being attacked, he'd have to admit to being raped, and he couldn't do that.

Dumbledore sighed. He patted Harry's shoulder then took his hand away. "Please wait here while I talk with the Malfoys."

"Why won't you say who attacked you?" Sirius asked as Dumbledore went across the wing to Malfoy's bed. "Once Dumbledore and I have had a word with them they won't dare do it again."

"No one attacked me," Harry insisted. Sirius shook his head, lip curling.

"Dumbledore said you were cursed. Why are you lying? Unless you did it yourself."

Harry was silent.

"Did you do it yourself?"

"No."

"Merlin's underpants, you did, didn't you? What the hell, Harry?"

"I didn't! Why would I hurt myself?"

"People do it," Sirius told him. "There was a Hufflepuff girl in my year—no, actually I think she was a Ravenclaw—she used to cut herself. She had these scars all over her arms. There are better ways to get attention, you know."

"I didn't do it!" Harry insisted. "I wouldn't hurt myself and I get enough attention I don't want without doing something like that."

"Sure," Sirius said, but he clearly didn't believe him.

Dumbledore came back and asked Sirius and Harry to accompany him back to the office. Harry followed unhappily, glancing at the Malfoys as they passed. Lucius gave Harry a look full of loathing, and Draco smirked, evidently thinking Harry was about to be expelled, and mouthed, "Whore."

Harry should probably have learned his lesson the first time, but Malfoy's attitude was too unbearable. Harry sprung forwards, only stopped from lunging on the blonde by Sirius' hands suddenly grabbing him and yanking him back. Lucius had his wand out and pointed it at Harry, who was too angry to notice, eyes fixed on Draco, who had pressed himself back against his pillows, clearly afraid.

"I'm not a whore!" Harry screamed at him, desperately trying to get out of Sirius' grip so he could attack Draco. "They raped me! I didn't—" He broke off with a sharp breath, blood draining from his face as he realised what he'd just said. Sirius let go of him abruptly and Harry looked from Draco's wide eyes to Lucius' furrowed brow, to Dumbledore's suddenly furious expression, to Sirius' shock.

"Someone raped you? Who?"

Harry shook his head and took a step towards the door. "No—that's not—I didn't—"

"Harry," Dumbledore said gently, "who was it?"

Harry could only shake his head and take another step towards the door.

"You're lying," Draco breathed, staring at Harry, and Sirius turned on him, drawing his wand. As he started accusing Draco, and Draco protested his innocence while Lucius fixed his wand on Sirius and snarled at him for daring to accuse Draco, Harry darted for the door, but it snapped shut and the lock clicked before he reached it. When Harry glanced around, Dumbledore had pointed his wand at the door, but he had to turn his attention to Lucius and Sirius before they killed each other, and Harry grabbed the door handle, rattling it hard and trying to get it open. It held fast and he spun, looking around for another way out, because he needed to run, but there was nowhere for him to go. Madam Pomfrey had left her office, drawn by the noise, but she only took a few steps down the ward before Dumbledore's voice rang out.

"Enough!"

Lucius and Sirius' wands left their hands, soaring through the air for Dumbledore to grab. Lucius looked like he wanted to say something, but Dumbledore's expression kept him silent.

"Madam Pomfrey," Dumbledore said quietly, "please move Harry into a private room. Sirius, go with your godson."

"No," Harry said, the word coming out like a plea. "No, just let me—I want to go—I have class, I need to get to class, just—"

"Harry," Dumbledore said gently, and he snapped his mouth shut, pressing himself against the door like he could melt through it. Tears stung in his eyes and he just wanted the whole afternoon—the whole day—to have not happened. Why'd they have to attack him? Why'd he have to lose his temper at Malfoy? Why'd he have to open his stupid mouth and say what he did?

"I promise you I will get to the bottom of this, and the person responsible—"

Someone tried to open the door behind Harry. When they found it locked, they knocked hard.

"Madam Pomfrey?" Graham Montague's voice called through. "The venomous tentacular bit me. Can I enter, please?"

Madam Pomfrey took a step forwards, clearly intending to open the door to let him past, and Harry cried out, "No!" which was as good as an admission that the person on the other side of the door was responsible for assaulting him.

"Poppy, move Harry now," Dumbledore ordered in a voice that wasn't to be disobeyed.

"No. No, please," Harry begged, not even sure what he was begging for, just knowing that he was terrified and trapped between someone who raped him and people he didn't want knowing about it. "Don't, please just don't, please—"

"I'm sorry, Harry, but this is for your own good," Dumbledore said gently, and then stunned him.

Chapter Text

"I'm not saying it was your fault," Sirius said to Harry later that evening, but it certainly seemed like that was what he was saying. "I'm just saying that maybe you were staring at their arses or... or just doing something that made them think you wanted it, that's all. Obviously it's not your fault they decided to rape you, but maybe be a bit more careful in future. Get yourself a girlfriend; no one will think you want it then, and it won't be good for you if word gets out that you're queer."

Harry said nothing.

Dumbledore came to see him to inform him that Montague and Higgs were both expelled and that Higgs was arrested for using an Unforgivable. Montague had confessed to everything and given up Higgs as the one to use the Imperius in a selfish attempt to reduce his own punishment, banking on his open admittance to get him in less trouble than trying to deny it. Harry was just glad he wouldn't have to testify at Higgs' trial; Priori Incantatem on Higgs' wand proved his use of the Imperius Curse, thankfully without showing what it'd made Harry do.

Malfoy insisted that he hadn't known Higgs and Montague raped Harry, had just thought they'd paid him for oral sex that Harry gave willingly, and as no one could prove otherwise he was given no punishment, though Dumbledore made it clear that if Malfoy was ever involved with such circumstances again then he would not get off so lightly.

Harry's own punishment for beating up Malfoy was four Saturday detentions and mandatory sessions with a therapist.

He was still in the hospital wing's private room at midnight, unable to sleep, when his door squeaked open. He snatched up his wand and flung it out, squinting in the darkness.

"Who's there?"

"Me," said a familiar voice in an unfamiliar tone of hesitation.

"Malfoy?" Harry said incredulously, but there was no denying the platinum blonde hair reflecting the moonlight shining through the windows of the main ward. "What are you doing? Don't think I want beat you back into your bed again."

"I'm not here to fight, Potter," Malfoy said, some of his usual cockiness seeping into his voice as he stepped further into the room. Harry fumbled with his free hand for his glasses and slipped them onto his face. He tensed when he noticed Malfoy had his own wand in hand, raised, but the other boy muttered, "Lumos," and dim light filled the room. It threw Malfoy's face into sharp relief. Madam Pomfrey had healed all his injuries now, but Harry supposed she was keeping him in overnight anyway because she seemed to enjoy confining students to the hospital wing.

Harry didn't lower his own wand. "What do you want?"

"Did Higgs and Montague really...?"

"Are you looking for another beating?" Harry asked, trying to fill his voice with anger instead of shame. "You know what they did."

"I didn't," Malfoy said and if it was anyone else Harry might think they sounded almost pleading. "I thought you wanted it. Not... not rape. I thought—they said they paid you for it. For sex."

Harry laughed bitterly. "Sure. They raped me and then they tossed money on me, so yeah, you could say they paid me for it, but why the fuck would you think I'd ever want to fuck a couple of arseholes like them?"

"You're a—you're gay," Malfoy said. "I know you are; I saw you not reacting to the Veela at the Quidditch World Cup."

"That doesn't mean I want to fuck every bloke there is!"

"Keep your voice down," Malfoy hissed, then skittered back when Harry clambered out of bed, raising his wand defensively as Harry stood angrily in front of him.

"Fuck you, Malfoy. Don't tell me to keep my fucking voice down when you're the one that told them to do it."

"I didn't!"

"Don't deny it. I saw you talking with them on Wednesday. You told them to do it to get back at me for what happened on Monday."

"I didn't tell them to rape you! I just told them you were gay and would probably suck cock for a few Sickles. Fag- queers like sucking cock and I figured it wouldn't matter whose when there was money involved."

"Maybe I should inform a few people the same about you and see how much you enjoy getting raped under the Imperius Curse."

Malfoy hissed in a sharp breath. "What?"

"Oh, did they not mention that bit to you? Yeah, they knew I'd never put out for them so they made me."

"You're lying."

"Just get out, Malfoy," Harry said, suddenly weary. "They did it and I'm not in the mood to deal with you, so just get out."

Malfoy hesitated, looking for a moment as though he was going to say something else, but then he turned and left. Harry climbed back into bed, removing his glasses, lying down on his side and curling up. It took a long time for him to get to sleep and he kept his wand clenched in his fist all night.

* * *

Hermione and Ron came to see him the next morning after breakfast. Harry wasn't feeling particularly social, but he wanted to know what the rest of the school was saying about him.

"They know you're gay," Ron told him apologetically.

"They don't know," Hermione countered. "There's just a lot of people saying it. Everyone knows you beat up Malfoy because he called you a faggot and most people think that you wouldn't have reacted so badly if it wasn't true."

"A few people asked us, but we said we didn't know," Ron added.

"Probably no point denying it," Harry muttered. "What about Higgs and Montague? What are they saying about them?"

"That they've been expelled for attacking you, but no one knows the details," Ron told him, much to Harry's relief.

"What did happen?" Hermione asked. "Is this the real reason you missed classes yesterday morning?"

Harry nodded. "They caught me when I went flying yesterday morning. They grabbed me under the stands and... and cursed me."

"With what?"

Harry tugged up the top his borrowed hospital pyjamas, showing the long scar along his stomach. Hermione gasped and Ron winced sympathetically. He covered it again and hoped they would leave it at that, but of course Hermione was too clever.

"But if Madam Pomfrey healed it enough to let you go after lunch yesterday, why did you have to stay last night?"

"She didn't," Harry admitted. "I didn't go to her. Higgs and Montague... did other stuff to me. I passed out and I was still under the stands when I woke up. They threatened to kill me if I told anyone and I couldn't think up an excuse for this so I tried to bandage it myself, but it didn't really work and after I attacked Malfoy I passed out from blood loss in Dumbledore's office."

"Harry, that was really dangerous. You should have gone to Madam Pomfrey as soon as you woke up."

"They said they'd kill me, Hermione. I was scared."

"But you did tell," she pointed out.

"By accident. Malfoy said something yesterday that made me angry again and it just sort of slipped out."

"Did he know?" Ron asked.

Harry hesitated, thinking about Malfoy's words the night before, then answered, "Sort of. He knew they were planning to do something but he didn't know everything."

"Nasty little git. I'm glad you beat him up. It was brilliant to watch."

"No, it wasn't!" Hermione said sharply. "It was really bad of you, Harry, and you were kind of scary. I never imagined you could do something like that."

"I'm sorry, Hermione," he told her sincerely. "I never thought I could either."

She gave him a small smile that said she wasn't so scared she'd stop being his friend. "Are you in a lot of trouble for it?"

"Four detentions and... I have to see a therapist," he griped.

"That's not too bad. Therapists can be nice. I saw one once."

Both boys looked at her in surprise. "You did?" Ron said.

"When I was younger. I didn't really have any friends and my accidental magic sometimes caused me trouble at school. My parents thought it was me acting out so they sent me to a therapist. He couldn't do anything about the magic, of course, but he did help me feel better about myself."

* * *

Harry's therapist didn't make him feel better about himself. He had to have eight sessions, one every Tuesday after classes, though Dumbledore and the therapist, Max, both made a point of saying that Harry had the option to continue the sessions by choice. He didn't. He hated that Max somehow managed to make Harry admit to things he had no intention of admitting, like the fact that Higgs and Montague weren't the first people to rape him and that he feared he would never manage to be anything other than a whore. He didn't believe it when Max told him that he wasn't a whore or a slut; why should he when everyone had told him otherwise—Eric, his uncle, Rodney, Sirius, Higgs, Montague, Malfoy... even George, even if he'd only said it in jest. Similarly, he couldn't believe it when Max said he wasn't to blame for Higgs and Montague raping him; although it'd hurt when Sirius blamed him, as time passed Harry couldn't help thinking that it was true. He was a whore and he must have done something to make them realise it; he just wished he knew what, so he could make sure he didn't reveal it to anyone else.

Most of all he hated that Max not only suggested that Harry could admit to his friends that he'd been raped, but that they wouldn't think him disgusting or worthless because of it. Even when Harry, in a fit of anger, confessed to enjoying sex with Eric to a certain degree, Max still proclaimed that it didn't make Harry a filthy whore and that it wouldn't lose him his friends.

"Professors Dumbledore and Snape know," Max pointed out, "and they don't think any less of you because of it, do they?"

"Snape can't think any less of me," Harry argued, ignoring the part about Dumbledore. "He already hates me so much his opinion can't actually get any worse."

This was evident during his detentions, which Harry spent sitting in Snape's office doing the very tedious job of writing out old report cards of previous wrongdoers. Snape would keep him from ten in the morning until almost two, by which time his hand would be cramping and his stomach growling with hunger. It wasn't just the tediousness of the activity that was bad, either, but the fact that all too often the old, yellowed, and mice-bitten cards named his own father and Sirius guilty of various misdeeds, the names occasionally accompanied by that of Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew.

The various reports he came across with Sirius' name on also cemented something that he finally admitted to Max during one session—that Sirius was an unsupportive and unkind man. Although Harry didn't admit to Sirius making Harry service him, he did mention Sirius' homophobia and how hurtful Harry found both that and the fact that Sirius kept comparing him to James. Max suggested Harry write a letter to Sirius telling him that his words hurt Harry, that it would be easier than saying it in person, but Harry was hesitant about it.

There was also the problem that as Harry realised Sirius wasn't nice, he had to wonder if his dad had been unpleasant too. They were almost always in trouble together, the report cards informed him, and as they'd stayed friends into adulthood then that didn't bode well for James' attitude. On the other hand, Harry tried to convince himself, Sirius had spent twelve years in Azkaban so maybe his bad qualities had been amplified by that horrible place.

On the first Saturday of October, at the end of his last detention, Harry cleared up the cards and set them neatly to one side, but he hesitated before leaving, earning a frown from Snape.

"He was a git, wasn't it?" Harry blurted out before he could stop himself. "Sirius, I mean. He was a git his whole life."

Snape raised an eyebrow, clearly surprised to hear these words coming from Harry, but answered, "Yes, he was."

Harry nodded. He turned to go, but when he reached the door he turned back again.

"Potter, I have spent enough time in your presence today," Snape said coldly, noticing him. "I don't wish to waste anymore."

"Sir, I..." He hesitated, but he needed to know. "Sirius said you were friends with my mum in school. Is that true?"

"Get out."

"Is it?"

"Get out!"

Harry left, scowling and trying to figure out whether Snape's irritation meant it was true or not. But surely if they hadn't, Snape would have sneered and said something horrible about how he wasn't friends with Gryffindors...

BANG!

Harry cried out as a horrendous noise sounded through the dungeons and the very floor shook underfoot. He heard a shout from Snape's office and without thinking he ran back to it. Snape was on his feet, staring at the ceiling, and several of his jars of slimy things had fallen off their shelves. Before Harry could ask what was going on, there was another ground shaking bang. Harry staggered forwards and caught himself on the side of Snape's desk.

"What the hell was that?"

Snape didn't get chance to answer. The ceiling and walls groaned and creaked, then Snape grabbed him roughly, pulled him to the floor and shoved him under the desk, and the ceiling came down on top of them.

Harry wasn't sure how long it took for everything to settle and the noise to stop. When it finally did, he found himself buried under a mass of rubble, dust permeating the air. He could feel blood dripping down his face, his glasses were cracked, and rocks were pinning down his legs and right hand. He had just enough space to lift his head and looked around and he saw Snape's arm sticking out from a bit of rock nearby. It wasn't moving.

"P-professor?" he coughed, mouth filling with dust when he inhaled. He reached forwards and grabbed Snape's wrist, fingers searching for a pulse. "Professor?"

He heard a groan and let out a relieved sigh, dropping his head to rest his forehead on the floor. He listened to Snape shift slightly, heard the clatter of rubble moving, then Snape swearing, before he called out, "Potter!"

"Sir?"

"Can you move?"

"Not really. My legs are stuck and so's one of my hands."

"Are you injured?"

"I think my wrist and one leg's broken and there's a cut on my head and I think on my back too."

"Does anything else hurt?"

"No."

"Is anything completely numb?"

"No."

He heard Snape grumbling then more shifting and clattering before Snape swore again. The hand near Harry twisted and jerked, but seemed to be stuck just above the elbow. The sleeve of his robe was torn and there was a deep gash in his forearm, cutting across the bottom of what looked a tattoo, though Harry couldn't quite make it out in the darkness.

"Potter, can you get your wand?"

He lifted himself as much as he could and dug his free hand into his pocket, dragging his wand out with effort.

"Should I do a spell?"

"No!" Snape half-yelled. "The last thing we need is you bringing more rubble down on us. Give it to me."

"So you can bring more rubble down on us?" Harry asked spitefully, but nonetheless pressed his wand into Snape's hand.

"Close your eyes," was all Snape said. Harry did so, heard Snape mutter something, then bright light erupted from the end of his wand, shining even through Harry's eyelids for a second before fading away. He heard his wand clatter to the floor and opened his eyes again.

"What did you do?"

"Sent a message to Dumbledore telling him where we are, otherwise it could take them twice as long to dig us out."

"How long do you think it'll take?"

"I don't know," Snape admitted with obvious reluctance. "It depends on how bad the explosion was and how many floors above us have fallen."

"What do you think caused it?"

"A potion," Snape answered with much more surety. "I can smell it. No doubt some idiot tried to brew something way beyond their skill."

All Harry could smell was dust, but he didn't say so. He rested his head on the floor and tried to ignore the pain in his hand. Other parts of him were starting to hurt now, the throb and ache of bruises, but nothing so bad that he thought he should mention it.

"Potter, tell me the primary ingredients in the antidotes for neurological poisons."

Harry lifted his head, gaping in the direction of Snape's voice. "We're buried under a bunch of rubble and you're quizzing me on potions?" he asked incredulously.

"You have a head injury, Potter; I have no idea if you might be suffering from concussion so I need to ensure you stay awake. The only way I can know that right now is if you keep talking, so tell me. You should know; I assigned it for homework."

"Yesterday," Harry pointed out. "And in case you didn't notice I've been in detention all morning."

"Which gave you all last night."

"Believe it or not, I have other teacher's homework to do, professor, and it was Friday yesterday. Even Hermione agrees that Friday nights can be spent doing something that isn't homework."

"I'm still waiting for an answer."

Harry groaned, dropped his head to the floor again, and guessed. He got it wrong, unsurprisingly, and Snape insulted him while telling him the right answer, but kept asking him questions. Despite his concern for Harry, though, it was Snape's voice that started to trail off after a while then eventually went completely silent.

"Professor? Professor, are you still awake? Sir!"

There was no response. Harry fumbled for Snape's wrist, feeling through dust and blood for his pulse, and was glad to feel it. The cut on Snape's arm had slowed it's bleeding to a trickle, but still left him smeared with dried blood. Harry clung to his hand, trying to reassure himself that they'd be fine and someone would find them soon, but without Snape distracting him with difficult Potions questions he couldn't battle away his panic.

"We'll be fine," he whispered to himself. "We'll be fine, they know where we are and they'll get us out. We'll be fine."

But his panic soon got the better of him and he started screaming, yelling for someone to find them, and was so stuck in his own fear that he didn't notice Snape's hand twitching under his until he heard Snape yell back, "POTTER! Shut up!"

"Professor?" he gasped. "You're okay?"

"I'm trapped under a substantial amount of rock, my shinbone is sticking out my skin, and this entire situation is not doing my heart any good, so no, I'm not okay, but you screaming is not helping."

Harry whimpered. "Are we going to die?"

"No."

"How do you know that? It's been ages. What if they can't get us out? What if the whole castle blew up and—"

"Potter, calm down! We're not going to die."

Harry gulped in a ragged breath. When Snape's fingers curled around his hand, he gripped it back.

"I was friends with your mother," Snape said quietly, and Harry's breath hitched.

"You were?"

"For a while."

"Why?"

"Why are you friends with that ginger haired menace and the know-it-all, Potter?"

His words sparked enough irritation in Harry to make him scowl. "You're a Slytherin and Mum was a Gryffindor; it doesn't make sense that you were friends."

"We knew each other before Hogwarts."

"Oh," Harry said, startled. He struggled to imagine Snape as a kid. "Why'd you stop being friends?"

"That is not your concern," Snape answered sharply. Worried he'd stop talking about her completely, Harry didn't push the issue.

"Sirius told me Mum was stuck up as a teenager."

"Lily Evans was not stuck up," Snape snarled. "She merely had enough sense to see that Black and Potter were vile human beings."

"But she married James," Harry pointed out quietly.

"Merlin only knows why," Snape muttered bitterly. "If you're looking for happy stories about your parents, Potter, you're looking in the wrong place. I will never understand what possessed Lily to marry your father."

"He does seem to a be a bit of a git," Harry muttered, but Snape heard and snorted derisively.

"He was a bully, plain and simple. All four of them were."

"I don't believe you. Sirius and Pettigrew, yeah, and maybe my dad, but no way was Professor Lupin a bully."

"Stow your hero worship, Potter. Even when Lupin didn't join in to pick on the unfortunate victims, he never stood up for them either which makes him just as bad."

Not wanting to talk about that, Harry asked, "What was my mum like?"

Snape was silent for so long that Harry thought he was refusing to answer or had fallen unconscious again, but then he started talking and Harry lay there, clinging to the hand of his most hated professor and soaking in the information about his mum that finally came from someone who'd known her closely and, judging by the way Snape spoke, liked her a great deal.

Chapter Text

Two days later, Harry was released from the hospital wing with freshly healed bones and cuts, and a sheaf of papers tucked under his robes as he hurried up to Gryffindor to collect his bag before classes. He and Snape had been dug out from the rubble after seven hours, by which time Snape was unconscious again. Harry had seen the sheaf of paper on the floor when the rescue team dug them out and he'd snatched them up without thinking, stuffing them in his pocket before the rescuers reached him and carted him off to the hospital wing, where he kept them shoved under his pillow, constantly worrying that Madam Pomfrey or someone else might find them, but fortunately they hadn't. When he reached Gryffindor, he stuffed them in his trunk, grabbed his bag, and headed off again.

The explosion was the result of a potion, one brewed by a couple of fifth year Hufflepuffs. It had taken out Snape's office and two dungeon classrooms, three ground floor classrooms and a girls bathroom, and the History of Magic classroom above that, with most of the rubble coming down on Snape's office, while the route to the Slytherin common room had been blocked off. The two fifth years barely survived the explosion; three first year girls were injured in the bathroom, and a pair of trysting sixth years were caught in the History of Magic classroom and found, Harry heard, in a rather compromising position.

The repairs were still on going. The passage to the Slytherin common room had been cleared and secured so they could access the rest of the school, but everything else was yet to be fixed. History of Magic classes were moved and so was Potions because although the classroom was undamaged it was too close to the wreckage to be deemed safe for use. It was also being taught by Dumbledore for a few days while Snape recovered. He, the fifth years, and one of the first years were the only ones still in the hospital wing when Harry left on Monday morning. Almost everyone who wasn't a Slytherin was overjoyed to hear they wouldn't have to deal with Snape for a few days, but while Harry looked forward to a Potions class taught by Dumbledore, he was concerned for the Potions Master, who Madam Pomfrey had spent quite a while working on when he was dug out and who remained unconscious until mid-morning on Sunday. Harry didn't broadcast that concern though; Snape was none too happy about being bed bound and he also seemed to want to make sure Harry didn't think Snape liked him after their seven hours trapped together, and did this by being extra snarky towards him. Harry didn't mind; Snape's snark didn't seem so bad when he could just close his eyes and remember him talking fondly about Harry's mother.

Harry couldn't concentrate well in classes that day, which was dangerous as he had Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures in the morning, both of which demanded his attention. His mind kept drifting back to his trunk and the papers inside. Fortunately, Sprout and Hagrid both seemed to accept that he was still a bit shell-shocked from the explosion and didn't take points when they caught him not paying attention. (Not that Hagrid would have anyway when Harry was his favourite student.)

He didn't get chance to look at them at lunch because everyone wanted to hear about the explosion. After that he had to sit through double Divination and listen to Professor Trelawney tell him that the explosion was an omen of his approaching death and that he should be extra cautious.

Finally he got some time after dinner to shut himself in the dorm, take the papers from his trunk, and settle on his bed with the curtains drawn as he looked them over. Written along the top were the words 'Application for Adoption' and halfway down the page, under the instructions for filling it in, were the printed words 'Child's Name' and next to that, written in Snape's spidery handwriting, was Harry's name.

All twenty-seven pages had been filled in, including Snape's signature on the three boxes where it was required, and it had to be one of the most informative things Harry has ever read at Hogwarts. He skimmed over the information about himself, but discovered that Snape's parents were both dead, his Muggle father just five years ago, and that he was an only child. He'd been working at Hogwarts since September of 1980, the first year initially as a teaching associate, been Head of Slytherin since 1981, and that his salary was 7,400 Galleons. Most interestingly was the fact that he'd once been arrested for being a Death Eater. Harry suddenly wondered if that had anything to do with why his mum had stopped being friends with Snape.

What he didn't discover was why Snape had the forms anyway. Had he filled them out because of his oath? But why keep them? Harry had a new home so Snape's oath was fulfilled; why not get rid of the papers once Sirius had been proven innocent and taken Harry in? There was no possible way Snape could have considered adopting Harry after that, not when it was clear that he hated Harry as much as he always had.

He knew he'd never find out though. If Snape knew Harry had these papers, he'd be furious, so Harry stuffed them to the bottom of his trunk and went to join Ron in working on the Potions homework that they didn't dare ignore just because Dumbledore would be teaching instead of Snape.

* * *

Harry's last session with Max was the Tuesday before the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students were due to arrive. Although Harry still wasn't willing to continue them by choice, he didn't hate them as much as he'd initially done. He even promised to write to Sirius about his attitude and said he would consider telling a friend about his rape, because Max had finally done what Harry hadn't thought possible and give him a sliver of hope that he could tell and wouldn't be hated for it.

He wrote to Sirius very reluctantly. He hadn't heard from him since seeing him after beating up Malfoy, not even to get a concerned note after the explosion. He tried not to think too much of it, but it was difficult when he saw Ron and Hermione getting a letter every few weeks from their parents. The fact that he'd never had someone who would send him letters before didn't manage to diminish the hurt. Sirius was his godfather; he was meant to care enough to write.

It took him several days and sessions to complete a letter that he was vaguely satisfied with and even then he thought it was stupid the minute he'd sent it, but it was too late then so he could only hope Sirius didn't take offence or decide he didn't want to look after Harry anymore.

Deciding to tell someone about his rape was somehow both easier and more difficult. He knew Max had meant for him to tell Hermione and Ron, but every time he imagined telling anyone it was always Fred. He wanted to explain why he'd ruined their kiss and turned Fred down after the Quidditch final in May, but even though he came to the decision to do it, actually telling him wasn't so easy. He didn't even know if Fred still fancied him—though he doubted it as Fred paid no more attention to Harry these days than he did to Hermione—but in any case, Harry couldn't work the nerve up to actually ask Fred to sit and talk with him somewhere private. He thought it might be easier if Fred and George didn't spend all their time together, but at the same time he used it as an excuse not to approach.

He let the arrival of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang be a distraction for him, made easier by the fact that among the Durmstrang students was Viktor Krum. He indulged in discussing the Triwizard Tournament with his roommates that evening, laughed at Fred and George when they attempted to cross Dumbledore's age line to enter themselves the next morning and ended getting thrown out with brilliant white beards, and ventured down to see Hagrid with Ron and Hermione in the afternoon. He waited impatiently with everyone else for dinner to end and the Goblet of Fire to make its decision, and applauded loudly when Cedric Diggory was chosen as Hogwarts champion, though expressed his sympathy to Angelina Johnson, his fellow Gryffindor Quidditch player, for not getting picked.

"Wonder what the first task will be," Ron mused as they headed back to Gryffindor afterwards.

"According to what I've read, the first task usually focuses on a champion's courage," Hermione told them. "So it should be quite thrilling."

"Excellent. Hey, do you think it'll involve a—what did you say injured the judges in that other tournament you read about, Hermione?"

"A cockatrice."

"Yeah, maybe they'll have one of those again and it'll escape and kill Snape so he can't poison us in Potions."

Harry didn't join the others in laughing. Although Snape was the same as ever now he was back to teaching Potions, Harry didn't hate him quite as much as he used to and he certainly didn't want the man dead. Whenever Harry did get pissed off at him, all it took was remembering Snape talking about his mother or thinking about the adoption papers Snape never threw out and his anger would fade. Unfortunately, Harry's newfound ability to control his emotions in Potions class only seemed to irritate Snape more and it didn't surprise him in the least when, two weeks after the Triwizard champions were chosen, Snape's eyes glittered maliciously and focused on Harry as he announced that he would be poisoning one of them to test their antidotes.

Luckily for Harry, they brewed antidotes to neurological poisons and Harry was, for once, confident that he'd brewed his antidote perfectly. It seemed he retained information learned while buried in rubble better than he did while in a classroom. Snape didn't look the least bit pleased when Harry gulped down a dose of his antidote and cured himself. The Gryffindors cheered while the Slytherins looked on in disappointment. Harry couldn't help smiling cheekily.

"Looks like that one-on-one tutoring you gave me worked a charm," he said quietly and Snape looked like he wanted to poison Harry all over again.

* * *

His success in Potions gave Harry a confidence boost that he took advantage off and that afternoon he went to where Fred and George were sitting in the corner of the common room and asked to speak to Fred in private. The twins exchanged looks, but Fred agreed and they left the common room and walked in slightly awkward silence to a secret passage behind a bit of wall where the only indication of a hidden door was the fact that one of the stones stood upright.

"It leads into Hogsmeade," Fred told him as they settled on the floor a small distance from the entrance, "but it caved in about a hundred yards up. So, what's up?"

Harry, whose confidence was starting to fade, drew his knees up and tugged on a loose thread on his robes, not looking at Fred as he said, "I know it was a while ago now, but I wanted to explain about the Quidditch cup and the kiss and... and why I said we couldn't... be together."

"Okay," Fred said, which wasn't much to go on but at least he hadn't said that he didn't care anymore and walked off without listening.

"It's just, y'know, there is a reason and I wanted you to know, but I didn't tell you before because I was too scared."

"Of what?"

"I didn't want you to hate me."

"Why would I hate you?"

"Maybe not hate me, but you'd be disgusted and I didn't want you to be disgusted, and I really did want to go out with you, but I couldn't because you wouldn't want to if you knew, but I didn't want to tell you because you'd be disgusted."

"Tell me what, Harry?" Fred asked, sounding a touch exasperated. "I really don't think I'll hate you or be disgusted with you, so just—"

"I was raped," Harry blurted out and Fred fell silent. Harry prodded his knee and didn't dare look up. "My uncle sold me during the summer to this man who paid him to have sex with me. I had to do it or my uncle wouldn't let me come back to Hogwarts and the man—Eric—he threatened to kill me if I didn't do what he said or if I fought or anything."

He paused, still not daring to look up, but there was only silence from Fred and it pushed Harry's nerves until he had to speak again.

"I didn't want you to do anything—I mean, I did, I really wanted you to—but we couldn't do anything or be together or anything because I was dirtied by that and I didn't want that rubbing off on you."

He heard Fred move and tensed, bracing himself for the derisive comments and insults, but they never came. Instead he was surprised to feel Fred move to sit beside him.

"I don't think you're dirty."

Harry, very hesitantly, looked at him. "You don't?"

"No. It wasn't your fault, Harry. You know that, right?"

Harry nodded. "It still happened. I was a whore. I am a whore."

"No, you're not. Whore's choose to have sex for money. You were forced."

Harry bit his lip, wondering if he should admit that he'd enjoyed what was done to him, even if only physically. Max had said that he wasn't dirty for that, that he couldn't be blamed for his body's reaction to external stimuli, but Harry wasn't sure he quite believed that so he didn't mention it, just in case that was too much for Fred to handle. Harry was barely daring to believe that Fred was still beside him as it was.

"He wasn't the only one," he admitted though, figuring that if he could admit to being a whore he could admit to being violently raped, which was something he had far less confusing feelings about. "When I got mugged, that was actually some guys who were Eric's business rivals or something and they raped me to get back at him. And so did Higgs and Montague at the start of term when they attacked me."

Fred hissed in a sharp breath, looking at him with wide eyes. "They raped you?"

Harry nodded, glancing away, wondering if Fred's bigger reaction to that was because he actually knew Higgs and Montague, and afraid that it might disgust Fred in a way that the others didn't.

"Those fucking bastards. I'd heard things about Montague—he was in my year—but I didn't think that he'd do something like that. He's lucky me and George didn't know about him before he was expelled or we'd have made him pay. Still might, if we can figure something—"

"No!"

"What?" Fred said, blinking at him. "Harry... don't you want revenge?"

"You can't tell George, or anyone. I don't want people to know. You're the first person I've ever told."

"You haven't told Ron and Hermione?"

Harry shook his head. "Professor Dumbledore knows, and my godfather and Madam Pomfrey, but they all found out by accident. And Max, the therapist Dumbledore made me see, but Pomfrey told then. I've never actually told anyone before now."

"Oh," Fred said, looking surprised. "Why did you tell me and not Ron and Hermione? They're your best mates."

Harry shrugged. "I owed you an explanation."

"Are you going to tell them?"

He shrugged again. "I don't know. Maybe. I don't really need to."

"You didn't need to tell me."

"I wanted to. Like I said, I owed you an explanation and George told me in the summer that I hurt you and I felt bad about it."

"George butts his nose in too much to other people's business," Fred said, but he didn't sound annoyed. "What else has he been telling you?"

"Nothing really. He just said he didn't want me hurting you again by fancying Bill, but I don't fancy him."

Fred actually laughed at that. "That's a lie—everyone fancies Bill, at least a little bit. He's had people coming onto him since he was about thirteen; he could have anyone he wanted."

"He is cool," Harry admits.

"See? If I wasn't related to him, I'd fancy him," he said with a grin. Then he added more seriously, "But don't worry about hurting me. You did break my heart a little in May, but I've dealt with it and moved on."

"Oh," Harry said, his chest suddenly tight. "Right."

"Thanks for telling me though. It's nice to have an actual explanation and I'm touched that you trust me with it. I promise I won't tell anyone, not even George, unless you say I can."

Harry nodded, not quite trusting himself to speak, but Fred leant over and kissed his cheek and Harry's breath caught in his throat.

"I really don't think you're dirty, Harry," he said quietly. "Or a whore. I think you're a great guy and if I'd known this back then, it wouldn't have stopped me wanting you."

Harry was suddenly incredible glad that the tunnel was dimly lit because it meant Fred hopefully couldn't see the tears filling his eyes.

"I'm heading back to Gryffindor. Coming?"

Harry shook his head. "In a bit," he managed to get out.

"Alright."

He watched the other boy leave and the moment the hidden door shut behind him, Harry buried his face in his knees and burst into tears.

Chapter Text

If Harry hadn't been raped at the start of term, he'd have said that the following week was his worst that year. He was so caught up in his own misery and self-despair that he did terribly in all his classes, earning him extra homework from Flitwick, several scoldings from McGonagall, and the loss of almost thirty points from Snape. Ron and Hermione tried to cheer him up and find out what was wrong, but Harry didn't want to admit to Ron that he'd been harbouring a crush on his brother for the best part of a year and, because of Harry's own fear, had mucked up his chances of going out with said brother.

There was a Hogsmeade trip the following Saturday, which Hermione tried to convince Harry would lift his spirits. He did his best to sound enthusiastic about it, aware that his continuing bad mood was starting to grate on his friends, but all thoughts of Hogsmeade fled his mind when he finally got a reply from Sirius that morning at breakfast. He excused himself without finishing his breakfast, told Ron and Hermione he'd meet them in the entrance hall in half an hour, and ran back to Gryffindor tower to read the letter in the privacy of his bed.

He wasn't sure what he'd expected. He'd had vague hopes of an apologetic letter in which Sirius said he'd stop calling Harry cruel names and using him for sex and would start treating him the way Harry thought godfathers were supposed to treat their godsons, but he hadn't really expected it.

But he'd never thought he'd get a letter calling him ungrateful, the entire thing interspersed with insults as Sirius informed Harry that he should be glad Sirius had taken him in, that Harry should thank Sirius for giving him practice in oral sex because "it's the only thing any potential boyfriends would like about you", and that Harry was a disappointment who James would have been ashamed of if he was alive.

Shame and self-loathing filled him as he read, breaking down what little self-esteem he had and reassuring him of the one thing he'd always known—that he was filthy whore—and tears filled his eyes as he read the last sentence about his dad.

There was a knock on the dormitory door and although he didn't answer, it creaked open and he heard Fred's voice call, "Hey, Harry, you in here? Ron and Hermione are waiting for you downstairs."

Harry didn't answer. He suddenly remembered sitting in a tunnel just over a week ago, Fred at his side and firmly assuring him that he didn't think Harry was a whore, that he thought Harry was a great guy, and the pain in him started to get replaced by anger. When he heard the door click shut, he let out a furious, wordless yell, and punched one of his bed posts hard enough that it splintered and bloodied his knuckles. He barely felt it, too full of anger.

He couldn't tell himself he wasn't a whore, because there was too much evidence to the contrary, but he suddenly decided that it didn't make him a bad person. He'd been used and abused, forced to do things he didn't want to and maybe he had enjoyed what Eric did, but it wasn't his fault. He'd been threatened and hurt and backed into corners, and he was finally sick of it. And he didn't know what his dad would have thought of him, but if he was someone who'd be ashamed of him for being victimised so much, then Harry wasn't sure he wanted him for a dad anyway.

He tore up the letter, but it didn't do much to make him feel better and he leapt up with another angry yell. He heard the door open and threw a pillow at it, screaming for whoever was coming in to get out, and heard Neville squeak and yank the door shut again. He snatched up his wand, not sure what he was going to do with it, and somehow ended up setting his bed on fire. He grabbed his trunk to pull it away from the burning furniture and that's when the idea hit him.

It was a spiteful thing really. He was just so furious at Sirius that he knelt down, after putting out the fire, and flipped the trunk open, digging through for the papers at the bottom. He grabbed a quill and inked it and, hand shaking slightly with anger and still bleeding, a few drops of blood spilling onto the first page of the adoption papers, he scribbled his signature into the three boxes where it was required. He wasn't going to do anything with the papers; he wasn't so angry that he'd bind them and send them off, but after three years in the wizarding world, he should have realised that even something as simple as signing his name on a few papers wasn't as harmless as it was in the Muggle world.

* * *

Snape was in the Great Hall when it happened, finishing his breakfast and scowling at the newspaper. He didn't even notice, too busy glaring at the ad declaring that the Hogsmeade apothecary was holding a sale this weekend; he'd stocked up on a lot of ingredients last week, most of which he could probably have paid almost half price for if he did it now.

"Er... Severus?"

"What?" he snapped at Flitwick without looking up from the paper laid by his plate.

"Your hand is glowing."

Snape looked sideways then promptly dropped his fork when he saw his right hand was wrapped in a glowing gold thread. He stared at it for a moment, trying to figure out why, then Flitwick said with some interest, "Is that an Oath Thread?"

Snape stared at his hand a little longer, because he only had one oath that could be fulfilled and he was certain he hadn't fulfilled it, then he snapped his head up, eyes scanning the Gryffindor table. It held only a handful of students, most of them first and second years who didn't have the luxury of visiting the village, and notably not holding a certain messy-haired student.

"Severus."

He looked around at Dumbledore on his other side. He and all the teachers had noticed Snape's hand now; Snape supposed he could only be thankful that Madam Maxime and, especially, Igor Karkoroff weren't there to see it.

"My office. I'll join you shortly," Dumbledore said, his voice calm but his eyes bearing a definite twinkle that made Snape want to poison him. He nodded curtly and stood up, shoving the hand in his pocket as he made his way out the hall and up to the seventh floor.

* * *

Harry slipped out of Gryffindor tower wearing his Invisibility Cloak and clutching the signed papers to his chest. He left just in time to see Snape stalking past, one hand shoved in his pocket and a thunderous expression on his face that stopped Harry speaking up before he even opened his mouth. He knew he'd have to confront the man eventually, because he suspected that the hand in Snape's pocket was glowing in the same way Harry's head was, but he wanted to see Professor Dumbledore first. Hopefully he'd stop Snape from attempting to murder Harry.

He had the Marauders Map out so he knew that Dumbledore was currently bustling around the Entrance Hall, talking to Ron and Hermione he thought, but he watched Snape stalk to the headmaster's office and, after a moment's indecision, Harry followed, though only as far as the gargoyle. He could have slipped up the stairs after him, but he didn't feel like breaking into the headmaster's office nor standing in a room with an angry Snape for however long it took Dumbledore to return to his office.

He stood nervously for ten minutes, watching on the Map as Dumbledore headed up the castle and noticing that Ron and Hermione had left for Hogsmeade. He stopped at the portrait of the Fat Lady, seemed to talk with a couple of names Harry vaguely recognised as first years, then headed towards his office. Harry checked that there was no one else around or approaching and when Dumbledore got within five feet, Harry tugged the cloak off his head.

"Professor—"

"In my office, Harry," Dumbledore said, no surprise or reprimand in his tone. Harry nodded and followed him onto the revolving staircase, removing the cloak entirely as they went up. Harry stopped just inside the office when they reached it, eyeing Snape warily, but the Potions Master stalked forward and grabbed his chin before Harry could jerk away. The moment he did, the gold thread around his hand and Harry's head burst into a light that forced Harry to squeeze his eyes shut.

"My oath is fulfilled," he heard Snape say and the light faded away. Snape let go and Harry opened his eyes as the man snatched the papers that Harry was still clutching to his chest, and promptly whacked Harry around the head with them.

"Severus!" Dumbledore snapped, though it hadn't really hurt. Snape ignored him.

"What in all nine hells possessed you to do it?!" he yelled at Harry, flecks of spit flying from his mouth.

"I didn't know!" Harry cried back, pressing himself against the door. "I didn't know!"

"You can read!" Snape shouted.

"No—I mean, yeah, but—I just meant I didn't know that it would make it happen just by signing it!"

"It didn't!" Snape belted. "You added your blood!"

"No I—" But then he remembered his hand and looked down at his knuckles. "Oh," he said. "Um."

Snape chuckled, sounding faintly hysterical, and finally turned away from Harry, slamming the papers down on Dumbledore's desk. Dumbledore, standing behind it, pulled them towards him and flicked through them.

"Please sit down," he said calmly. "Both of you."

Harry edged over to a chair. Snape threw the headmaster an angry look but complied, dropping into another chair.

"I suppose," Dumbledore said, settling in his own chair and looking at the two of them over his half-moon glasses with twinkling eyes, "that congratulations are in order."

Snape burst out of his chair as if someone had just set his arse on fire. "This is not the time for jokes, Dumbledore!"

"I was not joking."

"Headmaster—" Snape growled, but Dumbledore held up a hand. With obvious reluctance, Snape lowered himself back to his chair.

"Harry, where did you get these papers?"

Harry cleared his throat nervously. "I, um... found them."

"You stole them," Snape corrected.

"What were you doing with them in the first place?" Harry snapped. "I had a guardian; what did you still have them for?"

"That is beside the point. You're a thief and you had no right to take them."

"They're about me," Harry countered hotly. "I had a right to know."

"You—"

"Gentlemen," Dumbledore interrupted. "The rights of the papers aren't relevant right now. Harry, why did you sign them?"

Harry slumped in his seat. "I was angry. I got a letter from Sirius and it piss- er... annoyed me and I just did it to spite him. I didn't know it would actually activate them or whatever."

Snape's anger came rushing back in full force. "You made me adopt you because you had a falling out with your idiot of a godfather?" he snarled. Harry opened his mouth to snarl something back, but then snapped it shut again without saying anything because he didn't want to end up saying something he shouldn't. Even now he wasn't willing to admit what Sirius had made him do.

"Whatever problem you and Sirius are having," Dumbledore says kindly, "I'm sure you can discuss it shortly."

Harry looked at him with wide eyes. "You've told Sirius already? And he's coming here?"

"I have not," Dumbledore told him, "but the moment you signed those paper and added your blood, the Ministry records will have automatically updated and sent out an owl to inform your godfather that he is no longer your legal guardian. I expect—ah, yes."

There was a sharp knock on the door. Dumbledore called for entry and it opened to show Sirius, McGonagall, and, surprisingly, Remus Lupin. The latter two looked around the room and settled their gazes on Harry, who squirmed uncomfortably and wasn't eased by Remus' gentle smile. Sirius just looked angry. He stalked across the room and slammed a slightly crumpled letter on Dumbledore's desk.

"What the hell is going on?" he demanded. "I just got a letter from the Ministry saying my guardianship has been stripped from Harry."

Dumbledore drew his wand and flicked it, conjuring three more chairs. "Please take a seat. Minerva, you as well as you're Harry's Head of House."

"Headmaster," Snape started to object, but Dumbledore shook his head slightly and Snape scowled as Remus and McGonagall sat down. Sirius didn't.

"I want an explanation, Dumbledore."

"Please sit down, Sirius, and I will explain everything."

Sirius dropped into a chair and raised an eyebrow expectantly.

"About a year ago," Dumbledore began, "Severus became aware that Harry was being abused by his aunt and uncle. I won't go into details," he added, and Harry sagged in his chair, "but suffice to say it would have been unacceptable to let Harry stay with them any longer."

"Why was I not made aware of this?" McGonagall demanded.

"Harry didn't wish it to become common knowledge, but at the time Severus made a magical oath saying that he would adopt Harry before he allowed him to return to his Muggle family."

"That's ridiculous!" Sirius burst out. "Harry would never agree to that!"

"It was a magical oath, Sirius," Dumbledore replied calmly, unmoved by the man's anger. "Harry's opinion on the matter was, though it sounds harsh, irrelevant."

Harry kept his gaze on Dumbledore's desk, not looking at anyone. He noticed that the adoption papers had vanished.

"It didn't happen," Remus said, drawing some of Sirius' attention. "It wasn't necessary for Severus to adopt him, as long as Harry never returned to his Muggle family. The oath would remain unfulfilled but unbroken."

Dumbledore nodded. "I was looking at other options for Harry's summer accommodation and then, of course, your innocence was revealed, Sirius, and the ideal home was found."

"That doesn't explain why my guardianship has been revoked now!" Sirius snapped.

"He kept the papers," Harry answered, finally speaking up and prompting everyone but Snape to look at him. Harry met Sirius' gaze nervously. "Sna- Professor Snape had the adoption papers filled in just in case and he hadn't got rid of them and I found them after the explosion and stole them."

"Explosion?" Remus said with concern. "What explosion?"

"Some students caused a highly explosive potion last month," McGonagall told him. "It caused a large cave in over part of the dungeons; Harry and Severus were trapped in the rubble for several hours."

Remus turned to Harry immediately. "Are you alright? Were you injured?"

"I'm okay. I had a broken leg and hand, and a few cuts and bruises, but Madam Pomfrey fixed me up quick."

"Why didn't you mention this?" Remus asked Sirius, who shrugged, looking at Harry calculatingly.

"What did you do with the papers?" he asked, a hint of something in his voice that said he didn't think he was going to like the answer.

"I just kept them for a while, but this morning I... I signed them, and I accidentally got blood on them—" he held up his bloodied hand "—and they activated."

"Why the fuck did you sign them?" Sirius asked angrily. "You can't seriously want Snivellus for a dad." He turned on Snape without giving Harry chance to answer. "You made him, didn't you? You forced him to just so you could steal him from me."

"Steal him?" Snape repeated incredulously, getting to his feet at the same moment Sirius did. "He's a child, not a broomstick, and I would have cut my own hand off before I forced him to sign those papers, Black."

But Sirius didn't seem to be listening. "Is your jealousy of James so bad you had to steal his son, huh? Are you still bitter over Lily kicking you to the curb that you did the only thing you could to have a piece of her? You're a pathetic piece of shit, Sniv-"

"Shut up!"

Everyone looked in surprise at Harry, who'd leapt out of his seat and shoved Sirius in the back hard enough to knock him to his knees. Sirius stood up again, turning to stare incredulously at Harry, who glared back.

"Snape's twice the man you are! He didn't make me do anything; I signed those papers because of you. I hate you!"

"You don't mean that," Sirius said quietly, disbelief in his voice. "You don't mean any of that."

"Yes, I do. I hate you. You're a horrid, evil git and Snape's poisoned me and I still like him better than you!"

"You did what?" McGonagall gasped at Snape, whose stunned look at Harry's comment about him turned to a scowl.

"I was testing their antidotes."

"By poisoning them?"

"He's fine, Minerva, in case you haven't noticed. His antidote worked."

McGonagall opened her mouth furiously, but Dumbledore cut her off. "Severus and I will discuss his teaching methods later," he said with a pointed glance at Snape, who looked away but showed no other signs of being ashamed about his actions.

"This is a faggot thing, isn't it?" Sirius said to Harry, anger seeping into his voice. "You found out Snape's queer too and—"

"DON'T CALL ME A FAGGOT!" Harry screamed. "IF ANYONE'S A FUCKING FAGGOT IT'S YOU FOR MAKING ME SUCK YOUR DICK ALL FUCKING SUMMER!"

The silence that followed that was so heavy they could almost feel it on their shoulders. Harry went white as he realised what he'd just said and Sirius stared at Harry, apparently frozen. Remus was the first to move, rising from his chair and standing at Harry's shoulder, unforgiving gaze on Sirius.

"Is that true?"

"Of course it is," Snape said, voice little more than a whisper it was so full of anger, and he moved around so he could look Sirius in the face. "It all makes perfect sense now. This is why he signed those papers, because he'd honestly rather me for a guardian than you."

Sirius shook his head, backing up as he looked between them all, taking in the furious and hateful expressions. "I didn't make him do anything."

"Yes, you did," Harry said, because it was out now and he didn't want to deny it any longer. "You guilt-tripped me into servicing you and pretty much completely ignored me if I refused."

Before anyone else could react, Remus snarled and leapt on Sirius, knocking him over a chair and onto the floor, slamming a fist into his face then scrambling to his feet and drawing his wand, pointing it at Sirius' face with a shaking hand.

"You filthy piece of shit!"

"Moony—"

"Shut up!" Remus yelled, sparks spitting from his wand. He stared at Sirius with a hatred that Harry would never have imagined the kindly man capable of. "I don't ever want to hear that name out of your mouth again, Black."

Sirius' skin turned the colour of parchment at Remus' use of his surname. He shifted as though intending to rise, but more sparks shot from Remus' wand and Sirius froze.

"The Marauders are gone, and quite frankly at this point I'm almost ashamed to have ever been one. Between you and Pettigrew, you've disgraced what we once were. James and Lily must be rolling in their graves right now. He's their son and you had the nerve to abuse him, after they put their trust in you to look after him." He shook his head, expression now one of pure disgust. "You should never have left Azkaban."

Dumbledore stepped towards the fireplace. "I'll summon the Aurors."

"You can't!" Sirius burst out, pushing himself up but stopping when Snape and McGonagall fixed their wands on him. "I haven't done anything wrong!"

"You sexually abused a child," McGonagall said, voice dripping with hatred.

"I didn't abuse him. He agreed to it all. Harry, tell them the truth, I didn't abuse you!"

"I don't want him to go back to Azkaban."

The three teachers and Remus looked at Harry in surprise while relief showed on Sirius' face.

McGonagall was gobsmacked. "Potter, this man has—"

"I know what he's done, but I don't want him arrested," Harry insisted. "Everyone would find out and it's Azkaban that messed him up in the first place."

"Harry, he deserves to be in Azkaban," Remus said, looking around without taking his wand off the fallen man.

"Moony—"

A bolt of fire burst out of Remus' wand and smacked Sirius in the face. He cried out, but the fire had already gone, leaving a harsh red scorch mark on his cheek. He tenderly pressed a hand to it, flinched, and lifted shocked eyes to Remus' face.

"I told you not to call me that," Remus said coldly.

"Please stop," Harry said, arms wrapped around himself. "It's over now, Professor Lupin. Just send him away."

"Albus, you cannot allow this," McGonagall objected.

"I certainly won't," Snape said. "As Potter's guardian, I insist you call the Aurors and have Black arrested."

Dumbledore looked at him. "Then you're prepared, Severus, to deal with everything that will result of your adoption of Harry becoming public knowledge?"

Snape opened his mouth and then shut it again without saying anything.

McGonagall was not so easily silenced. "Putting a child abuser behind bars is rather more important than Severus' privacy."

"What of his life?" Dumbledore asked. "Minerva, you know the people he has associated with in the past. If some of his old colleagues were to discover that he has become guardian to the Boy Who Lived..."

"Black cannot get away with this!" she insisted.

Dumbledore sighed. "Minerva, it is not in my hands. If Harry refuses to press charges—"

"I do."

"—then it falls to Severus as Harry's guardian."

Everyone looked at Snape, who scowled under the scrutiny. He looked down at Sirius, who looked plainly horrified that his future lay in the hands of a man who hated him, then glanced at Harry, whose eyes begged him not to insist on calling the Aurors, and then he sighed.

"Get that man out of my sight."

Harry sighed with relief, McGonagall looked like she wanted to box Snape's ears, and Remus stepped away from Sirius with clear reluctance. Sirius seemed torn between relief and disgust that he had Snape to thank for his freedom, but he also kept a wary eye on Remus as he got to his feet.

"Mr Black." Dumbledore's voice commanded attention and Sirius looked at him like he expected the man to curse him. "You will keep today's events to yourself if you wish to retain your freedom. Rest assured, if word gets out that Severus has adopted Harry, I will personally ensure that you return to Azkaban and never get out again. You will never contact Harry again, you are not to ever set foot on these grounds, and so long as Harry is in school then you will not find reason to visit Hogsmeade at the weekends. I may not be able to ban you from the village, but should you happen to be there at the time of a Hogwarts weekend visit, life will become very difficult for you. I hope I have made myself perfectly clear."

Sirius nodded jerkily. Dumbledore gestured to the fireplace, Sirius stepped up to it and took some floo powder, then paused to look around, trying to catch Harry's eyes, but Harry kept his gaze fixed on the ground and Remus moved to block him from Sirius' view. Sirius took in his old friend's hard expression, turned away, and disappeared into the flames.

Chapter Text

McGonagall left soon after Sirius, and Dumbledore sent Harry off after her, saying he should go and join his friends in Hogsmeade for the rest of the day, but only after telling Harry that he would have to start seeing Max again. This time when Harry tried to object, Snape stepped in.

"You have been abused yet again, Potter; you will see a therapist. Do not argue with me," he added sharply when Harry opened his mouth, smiling rather unpleasantly. "I am your legal guardian now and I am ordering you to see a therapist. Unless you'd rather I revoked your Hogsmeade and flying privileges?"

Harry snapped his mouth shut, seething.

"Fine. Can I go now?"

"Of course, Harry," Dumbledore said. "Perhaps Remus would like to walk down to Hogsmeade with you?"

"If you don't mind, Harry?" Remus asked and Harry nodded.

"You'll need escorting out the castle," Snape said and turned towards the door only to freeze when Dumbledore spoke.

"Sit down, Professor Snape. We still need to have a discussion about your teaching methods."

Snape grimaced, clearly having hoped Dumbledore might have forgotten about that, and turned back, slouching over to a chair.

* * *

"Harry, I'm sorry about Sirius," Remus said as they headed down to Hogsmeade after Harry had made a quick stop at Gryffindor tower to stow the Marauders Map and his Invisibility Cloak.

"It wasn't your fault, Professor."

"Call me Remus; I'm not a professor anymore. And I should have realised when I visited you in the summer," Remus told him apologetically.

Harry shook his head. "Really, pro- erm, Remus. It's not your fault and someone told me once that you shouldn't apologise for other people. They were talking about Sirius too. Besides, I'm the one that never told anyone."

Remus stopped just at the foot of the castle's front steps, turning to Harry. "This wasn't your fault, Harry," he said firmly. "You are not to blame for Sirius' actions."

"I know. I do," he said when Remus looked sceptical. "I know it's not my fault—none of it ever has been—but..." He shrugged and continued walking, Remus falling into step beside him. "Sometimes it's hard to believe even when I know it. Does that make sense?"

Remus nodded, but he was frowning slightly. "What do you mean by 'none of it'?"

Harry grimaced. He really needed to start thinking before he let his mouth run away from him.

"Erm..." he said, trying to think of a way to explain it away, but then he glanced at Remus—Remus with his warm, kind face, and remembered Remus' concern for him when he found Harry crying in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom in May, and he thought of how Remus had turned on his oldest friend, the only one he had left from his childhood, the moment he'd realised Sirius was abusing Harry, and he decided he didn't want to explain it away.

He glanced around, just in case there was anyone else nearby, but he couldn't see a single figure as they left the school grounds and started on the path to Hogsmeade. "Sirius wasn't the first person to use me like that," he admitted quietly.

"What?" Remus gasped, stopping short. "Harry—"

"Dumbledore knows," Harry said quickly. "And Snape. That's what—the abuse he found out..."

"Your uncle...?"

"He sold me," Harry told him and started walking again, keeping his gaze on the ground. "To this man called Eric. Twice a week during the summers after first and second year and if I didn't do what he said then he threatened to kill me. And there were these other men," he continued quickly because Remus made a noise as if to speak again. "Rivals of Eric and they beat me up really bad summer before last and then raped me as well, and then at the start of term this year a couple of older Slytherins attacked and raped me on the Quidditch pitch."

Remus didn't say anything now. When Harry glanced up at him, he seemed to be speechless with fury. When Harry stopped walking, Remus did as well but he ran both hands through his grey-streaked hair and turned away. When he spoke, his voice was shaky.

"Presumably Dumbledore is aware of the attack on the Quidditch pitch?"

"Yeah." He paused then added, "Sirius knows too."

Remus dropped his hands, turning around slowly, but Harry dropped his gaze before he saw Remus' face, digging his toe into the gravel of the path.

"I wasn't going to tell anyone about it, but I beat up Draco Malfoy the same day and Dumbledore called Sirius 'cause Mr Malfoy and Snape were trying to get me expelled, and I accidentally told them what happened, but..." He scowled, kicking at some of the gravel. "Sirius said it was my fault. He said I must have done something to make them think I wanted them to do it. And he wouldn't touch me, either, like I was dirty or something. He treated me like a whore all summer, but the moment someone else did suddenly I'm too filthy for him?"

"Harry." Remus' hands landed on his shoulders and Harry couldn't help flinching slightly. He felt blood rush to his face and didn't meet Remus' eyes until his old professor said quietly, "Harry, look at me. This isn't your fault and you are not dirtied by what happened to you. Sirius is a foul, horrible person and he had absolutely no right to say that to you. What those boys did was not your fault."

"I hate him," Harry whispered. "I really hate him. He didn't write to me all term, but the therapist Dumbledore made me see said I should write to him and confront him about what he did in the summer so I did, and this morning I get a letter back and he said I should be grateful for what he did because sucking cock was the only thing I was good at and he said—" his voice cracked and tears filled his eyes as all the hurt he'd felt earlier came rushing back "—he said my dad would be ashamed of me."

"No," Remus said with the tone of someone absolutely set in their beliefs and wouldn't be swayed if proof to the contrary was dancing naked in front of them. "The only person your father would be ashamed of if he was here today is Sirius. James was not without his flaws, but he was a better person than Sirius ever was and he would never have been ashamed of you, I can promise you that. And nor would your mother. They loved you very much and they would have loved you no matter what."

Harry nodded, wiping at his eyes and inhaling shakily.

"They'd have been proud of you, Harry," Remus said softly. "Sirius isn't the easiest person to stand up to; I've failed to do it far too often myself. But you did admirably today and your parents would have been proud. I know I'm proud of you."

Fresh tears welled in Harry's eyes and spilled down his cheeks before he could stop them, but they weren't all sad this time. No one had ever told him they were proud of him before.

"Thanks, pro- I mean, Remus."

Remus smiled and patted his shoulder before pulling his hands away. "Shall we carry on to the village? Or would you prefer to go back to the castle?"

Harry wiped at his face. "Hogsmeade. I want chocolate."

Remus smiled widely. "I can't argue with chocolate."

They started walking, but Harry spoke again before they reached the village, asking tentatively, "Remus, was Snape in love with my mum?"

Remus glanced at him. "Why do you ask that?"

"Sirius told me in the summer that they were friends, and while we were trapped after the explosion Snape told me about her and... I don't know. It was just the way he spoke about her, and then what Sirius said earlier about Snape being bitter and wanting any part of Lily that he could get. It just made me wonder if maybe Snape loved her and that's why he doesn't like me so much, because I'm a reminder that she picked my dad over him."

"I wouldn't presume to comment on another person's heart," Remus replied diplomatically, "but I will tell you that Severus became far more antagonistic towards us in sixth year after he stopped being friends with Lily, and especially so in seventh year when your parents started dating."

"So he probably was," Harry simplified.

"Perhaps," Remus conceded.

"I guess that means Sirius was just being Sirius when he said Snape was queer," Harry said, glancing up at Remus to gauge his reaction to the idea. Remus' mouth tightened slightly.

"It's not my place to comment on your teachers' sexuality; it's really not any of your—or anyone else's—business."

Harry bit his lip, unable to read much from that. "Sirius thinks being gay is wrong."

"Sirius thinks a lot of things," Remus replied, a definite coldness in his voice now, and Harry decided to just ask outright.

"Do you think being gay is wrong?"

Remus stopped, turning to face him with a serious expression. "I think people shouldn't be judged for the person they fall in love with, or even for who they fall into bed with, because when it comes down to it the details of a person's anatomy aren't as important as how they make you feel, and who another person loves is really no business of yours, as long as they aren't hurting anyone."

"Did my parents think that too?"

Remus didn't even hesitate. "Yes."

"So do you think... you think they wouldn't have cared that... that I'm gay?" he asked nervously.

Remus smiled. "They wouldn't have cared one bit," he assured Harry gently. "And I can promise you that Lily would have cursed Sirius halfway around the world for calling you faggot."

Harry smiled thinly. "I really hate that word."

Remus squeezed his shoulder consolingly. "So do I."

* * *

Severus returned to his office, already forgetting Dumbledore's lecture on appropriate teaching methods. He was thinking about poisons, trying to decide which would be best. He might not be able to get Black arrested without putting himself in danger, but that didn't mean he couldn't punish the man. Nothing that killed—if he was found out, murder would mean a life sentence while intense discomfort and maybe some grievous bodily harm held a chance of freedom. Not that he intended to get caught, but he always considered the possibilities. And it would have to be something that lasted—long irritation was more cruel than short agony—and something he could administer through food or drink without notice.

He spent a few days checking his books and wracking his brain before eventually finding the perfect potion—one that caused intense pain whenever the subject got an erection. It was illegal, but he didn't let that stop him. The only annoyance was that it took three weeks to brew, but he realised that could work in his favour. Anything Black received right now would be treated with suspicion, but to receive a bottle of wine from a secret admirer at Christmas... Severus heard there were women who found criminals sexy. A faked note with the wine and by the time Black realised anything was wrong, it'd be too late. As long as Severus covered his tracks, there would be no tracing it back to him.

With a cruel smile at the prospect of finally getting long-overdue revenge on Sirius Black, Severus started brewing.

* * *

Saturday morning's events did have one upside—the emotional upheaval managed to knock Harry out of his heartbroken misery. In fact, he found himself feeling somehow lighter, as though losing Sirius as a guardian and finally admitting to what he made Harry do had taken a great weight off his shoulders. He found himself glad to have to see Max again despite his initial objections, because it gave him someone to talk to and rant at about Sirius and not worry about them thinking badly of him. Even being accidentally adopted by Snape didn't make him feel all that bad, which made him smile when he thought of it. If someone had told him a year ago that he wouldn't mind being adopted by Severus Snape, Harry would have thought they'd been hit with a particularly strong Confundus Charm.

The first Triwizard task was the following Tuesday. Harry watched with the rest of the school, gasping and cheering as the champions each faced a dragon that they had to retrieve a golden egg from. Cedric Diggory came in second place behind Krum, which many of the Hogwarts students loudly announced their displeasure at; Krum had caused his dragon to damage most of her other eggs and should have, in their opinion, lost more points than he did.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in front of the common room fireplace discussing the task when Fred and George came up to them that evening with grins on their faces and Ginny trailing after them.

"What do you want?" Ron asked them warily.

"You three to come with us."

"Come where?" Hermione asked just as warily. They all knew better than to trust the twins when they had grins like that.

"They won't say," Ginny told them.

"You'll see," Fred said, grabbing Hermione's hand and pulling her up, making her squeak in surprise. Harry got up to follow, concerned about the twins' plan but not about to abandon Hermione and Ginny to them. Not that he was given much choice, as George grabbed his hand and pulled him after Fred and Hermione, and Ron came along after them, still demanding to know where they were going—and being ignored.

"Our curfew is in an hour," Hermione said worriedly as the twins lead them all the way through the castle and out onto the ground. "If you get us in trouble—"

"We won't," Fred assured her. "Really, you four need to have more faith."

Ron snorted. "We have faith—faith that you're pulling our tails. Where are we going?"

Neither twin answered, but ten minutes later they had their answer as they crossed the grounds, rounded the forest, and came up to the enclosure where, just that afternoon, they'd watched the champions battle their dragons.

"What—" Harry started, but a semi-familiar ginger haired figured stepped out of the enclosure and waved at them.

"Over here!" Charlie Weasley called, looking bemused as the six of them approached. "I told you to bring Ron and Ginny, not half of Gryffindor," he said to the twins.

"It's just Harry and Hermione," George told him, peering around his brother at the three dragons settled in the enclosure. "Can we get closer?"

"Yeah, just be careful," Charlie warned as all six of them hurried forwards, peering through the enclosure fence at the dragons. The Chinese Fireball was asleep, letting out puffs of smoke with each loud snore, but the Swedish Short-Snout was awake, her big yellow eyes looking around at the dragon keepers moving about the enclosure, and the Welsh Green was hunched over and clawing nervously at the ground.

"Pretty cool, huh?" Fred said from Harry's right. Harry nodded, a little awestruck.

"Totally cool."

"Glad I'm not a champion though," Ron said on his left. "Think I'd have fainted if I had to go against one of them."

His siblings snorted. "Pride of Gryffindor, you are," George said and Ron scowled.

"I'd have been scared too," Harry said, earning a thankful grin from Ron. Fred sighed dramatically.

"No wonder a Hufflepuff got picked as champion if this is the kind of Gryffindors we get these days."

"Like you two knuckle heads would have done any better," Ginny said.

"We would have done amazingly," Fred objected.

"Way better than pretty boy Diggory," George agreed.

Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Pretty boy, is he?"

"Well he is," George said defensively. "Hermione agrees with me, don't you?"

Hermione went pink. "Well, I..."

"Can't deny it, Hermione," Fred said, grinning. "You did say he was the night before the World Cup."

"Well he's definitely better looking than you two," she said, earning disgruntled looks from the twins and laughs from the others.

"Don't know what you're sniggering at, Ronniekins," George said. "We're still better looking than you."

"Hey!" Ron cried. "You can stop laughing," he added, elbowing Harry and Hermione in the ribs. "You're supposed to be my mates."

"Don't worry, Ron," Charlie said, grinning and ruffling Ron's hair. "I'm sure Mum thinks you're good looking."

"Oh, sod off."

Chapter Text

The excitement of Christmas was somewhat diminished for Harry by the upcoming Yule Ball that was being held on Christmas Day as part of the Triwizard Tournament and the fact that he had no idea who to go with. He knew who he'd like to go with, but he wasn't going to even bother asking Fred when he knew Fred wasn't interested in him anymore. The only problem was, Harry didn't know of any other gay boys in Hogwarts except George, and over the last term he'd learnt, by hearing random people throwing slurs at him in the wake of his coming out after beating up Malfoy, that it was impossible to tell who might be homophobic so he was too scared to ask anyone in case he got hexed for daring to assume someone might be interested in boys. His only comfort was the fact that Ron had just as much trouble finding a date.

They were both still single by the end of term. Harry hadn't even plucked up the courage to ask anyone, but he did return to the common room with Hermione on the last Friday before the holidays to find Ron sitting ashen-faced in front of the fire with Ginny beside him, talking in a low soothing voice.

"Why weren't you at dinner?" Hermione asked him as they went over to join the pair.

Ron made a strange sort of whining sound.

"He just asked out Fleur Delacour," Ginny told them and Hermione gasped.

"You what?" Harry gaped.

"I don't know what made me do it!" Ron moaned. "What was I playing at? There were people all around—I've gone mad—everyone watching! I was just walking past her in the entrance hall—she was standing there talking to Diggory—and it sort of came over me and I asked her!"

Ron moaned again and put his face in his hands. He kept talking, though the words were barely distinguishable.

"She looked at me like I was a sea slug or something. Didn't even answer. And then—I dunno—I just sort of came to my senses and ran for it."

"Oh, Ron," Hermione said sympathetically then looked startled when Ron lowered his hands and looked at her as though seeing her for the first time.

"You're a girl, Hermione..."

"Oh well spotted."

"You can come with me!"

"No I can't," she snapped.

"Oh come on," Ron wheedled. "It's one thing for a bloke to show up alone, but for a girl—"

"I won't be going alone," Hermione interrupted harshly, and Harry couldn't blame her, "because believe it or not someone's already asked me! And I said yes."

And she stormed off towards the girls' dormitories. Ron watched her go then looked around.

"She's lying."

"She's not," Ginny said shortly.

"Who's she going with then?"

"I'm not telling, it's her business."

Ron now looked extremely put out.

"Maybe going alone won't be so bad," Harry ventured. "At least we won't have to dance."

To his surprise, Ron suddenly looked shifty, glancing at Harry almost nervously. "Er... look, Harry, you're my best mate and all, but..."

"But what?" Harry asked with a frown.

"It's just... well, if we both show up at the ball together without dates, people will think I'm your date."

Harry blinked at him.

"I just don't want people thinking I'm gay, that's all. And you know I've got nothing against it, but if they think I'm gay then I'll never get a girl."

"Oh," Harry said. "Right. Well. I'll leave you to work on getting yourself a date then. Wouldn't want people to see us hanging out too much and thinking you're gay."

The words came out sharper than he intended, but he didn't take them back, just got to his feet and stormed out the common room. He wasn't sure where he intended to go, just that he wanted to get away from Ron.

He ended up heading towards the owlery and decided he'd go to see Hedwig, but he never reached it. At the bottom of the stairs leading up, he got ambushed by Fred and George as they came down. He almost walked into them and when he looked up to apologise, he stopped in mid-word and narrowed his gaze at the pair as they exchanged calculating looks before looking at him with identical grins.

"Harry," Fred greeted.

"Just the man we were looking for."

"Why?" he asked suspiciously and backed up a step when they came down the last few steps.

"Don't be so suspicious," George said. "We just want to ask you something."

"What?"

"Got a date for the ball yet?"

"No..." Harry answered slowly.

"Excellent," Fred said and then before he could react they managed to move and get on either side of him, each planting a hand on his back and steering him in the direction of a nearby classroom. Inside he stood with his back to the door, looking between them warily as they faced him.

"Why is it excellent?"

"Because it means you're free to come with us."

Harry glanced from one face to the other. "Is this a joke?"

"No," the answered together.

"We're perfectly serious," Fred said. "We want you to go to the ball with us."

"Both of you?"

They nodded.

"Is that even allowed?"

George grinned. "Yup. We asked Professor McGonagall."

Harry looked at him sceptically. "You asked Professor McGonagall if it was alright for you both to take me to the ball?"

"We didn't say you specifically."

"But we asked if it was alright for us both to take the same person."

"And she said yes?"

"Sort of," Fred answered. "She seemed to think that it wold require unmatched levels of madness for someone to agree to go with both of us."

Harry couldn't help grinning a bit at that. "And this really isn't a joke?"

"Really not a joke," they both said. Harry's gaze fell on Fred.

"I thought you didn't fancy me anymore."

"He didn't think so either," George answered, "not until I said I was thinking about asking you to the ball and he got jealous."

"It's true," Fred confirmed. "So what do you say, Harry?"

He considered it. He certainly did want to go with Fred, and he wasn't likely to get any other date in the next week, and he supposed it would be alright to go with Fred and George. Not to mention he found it amusing to imagine Ron's face when he found out that Harry had not only managed to get a date, but two dates.

"Alright."

They both perked up. "That's a yes?"

"I'm probably as mad as McGonagall thinks, but yeah. I'll go with you both."

They grinned widely, said, "Brilliant," and kissed him on the cheeks.

"Oh, just don't tell anyone before the ball, alright?" George said.

"We want it to be a surprise."

Harry nodded, a slightly stupid grin on his own face as he watched them go. He hummed as he headed up to the owlery, feeling much better than he had fifteen minutes ago.

* * *

Ron wasn't impressed to discover that Harry had managed to snag himself a date and even less impressed that Harry was being so tight-lipped about their identity, an irritation that was only exasperated by the fact that Hermione was equally tight-lipped about her own date. Even when he finally managed to get a date with Parvati Patil he still seemed more interested in who Hermione's was.

Harry dressed self-consciously on Christmas evening, though he was less concerned about his appearance in his bottle green dress robes than Ron, who had a pair of frilly, lacey robes that he despised. Harry tried to be sympathetic, but he was feeling a bit too nervous about the upcoming ball and everyone's reactions to his dates.

"Tell me who you're going with," Ron said as they descended to the common room. "I'll find out in a bit anyway."

"Exactly," Harry muttered, eyes flicking around the common room as they reached it, searching out the twins and then almost jumping out of his skin as they both appeared behind him and Ron. George came up on his left and Fred squeezed himself between Ron and Harry.

"You're looking very handsome, Harry," Fred complimented, looking him over and making Harry blush.

"Absolutely gorgeous," George agreed.

Ron rolled his eyes. "You pair are hilarious. Come on, Harry, where's your date? Is it a Gryffindor?"

"Try a pair of Gryffindors," the twins said. Ron blinked at them, expression blank and uncomprehending for a moment, then he noticed Harry's blush and the twins' arms around his waist, and his jaw dropped.

"You... you... what?"

Fred sniggered. "I think we broke him."

"He was born broken," George replied. "Come on, let's head down."

"Hang on a minute!" Ron bellowed, drawing the attention of half the common room, much to Harry's chagrin. "You're going with them? Both of them?"

"Er... yeah?"

"Is that even allowed?" Parvati Patil asked, coming up to Ron's side and shooting an unimpressed look at his frilly robes before looking back to Harry and the twins.

"Yes," Fred answered. "And if it's not—"

"—we'll just take turns and no one will be any the wiser—"

"—because none of you can tell the difference."

"I can," Harry said as they headed out the common room, Ron and half the Gryffindors still staring after them.

"Sure about that?" they asked simultaneously.

"Yeah. You're Fred and you're George."

"What makes you so sure?" Fred asked.

Harry shrugged, grinning. "I just know."

"Does that sound like a challenge to you, George?" George asked Fred.

"It does, Fred."

"That won't work," Harry told them. "I can always tell you apart."

"How's that?"

He opened his mouth to answer, then closed it, frowned, and admitted, "I don't know. I just do."

"Our Harry's psychic!" Fred gasped. Harry rolled his eyes and George wiggled his eyebrows at him.

"Can you tell what I'm thinking right now?" he asked.

"No," Harry answered, then took another look at his expression, flushed, and muttered, "Yes," and they both laughed.

Down in the Entrance Hall they received another round of incredulous looks and whispers as people realised the three of them were together. McGonagall actually gaped at them for a moment before catching herself, shaking her head, and muttering something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like 'should have told them no'. Harry caught Snape's eye and saw the man clenching his jaw. Harry couldn't help smiling as he looked away; Snape had been no different to him since the adoption, though Harry hadn't expected him to be, but Harry often found himself thinking obscure and amusing thoughts whenever he thought about that fact that Snape was technically his father. Right now he couldn't help imagining the expression on Snape's face if Harry were to announce that he was marrying the twins and Snape realised he would be father-in-law to Fred and George Weasley.

"What's so amusing?" they asked, noticing his grin, but he shook his head.

"Nothing."

A group of Slytherins entered the Entrance Hall then, Malfoy among them with Pansy Parkinson on his arm. Harry's humour faded when he heard a few unpleasant comments muttered in his direction by the Slytherins, the word 'whore' among them, but Fred and George tugged him away.

"They're just jealous," George said. "No one else managed to get two dates."

"Yeah," Harry agreed vaguely. Fred leant down slightly to put his mouth close to Harry's ear.

"It's not true," he murmured. "You're not a whore."

Harry just nodded and was glad when the doors to the Great Hall opened and the students filed inside, all of them looking with interest at the three champions waiting to one side with their own dates. Or rather, many of them seemed to be looking at Viktor Krum's date and as he passed, Harry realised why—it was Hermione. She looked as startled to see him with the twins as he was to see her, but before they could do much more than gape at one another, they were in the hall and found themselves seats at one of the many round tables that'd replaced the house tables. Ron and Parvati joined them, as did Padma Patil and a Hufflepuff boy whose name Harry didn't know, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas who didn't have dates, and Lee Jordan and Patricia Stimpson, who were Fred and George's year mates.

"Did you see Hermione?" Ron hissed to Harry, apparently now more concerned by her date than by Harry's. Harry could only nod because the students were settled by then and the champions entered with their partners. Hermione smiled nervously when she and Krum passed their table and Harry smiled back, but Ron watched her with narrowed eyes as they went to the top table where the tournament judges were sat. As they joined them, Harry realised that one of the judges was missing.

"Where's Mr Crouch?" he asked when they had their food and began eating.

"Dunno," Fred answered without much interest.

"Can you believe her?" Ron seethed, gaze still fixed on Hermione. "Coming with him?"

George grinned. "What's the matter, Ron? Jealous?"

Ron spluttered. "What? No. Don't be ridiculous. I'm not jealous of Krum."

"I was talking about Hermione actually," George told him.

"Bet you wish you were in her seat," Fred agreed.

"I do not," Ron said hotly, but their teasing did manage to bring him back to being annoyed with them instead of Hermione. "I can't believe you didn't tell me about you guys."

"Then we wouldn't have had the joy of seeing your surprised face."

"Not that it's a particularly good look on you."

"But then nothing is a particularly good look on you."

"Oh, shut it," Ron grouched, and his gaze slid back to Hermione and Krum.

Harry relaxed as they ate, but when everyone was finished and Dumbledore asked them all to stand up so he could move the tables aside and conjure a platform along one wall for the band, Harry started to feel nervous. He didn't really want to dance, but he had a feeling the twins weren't going to let him get away with sitting at the side of the dance floor all evening.

And he was right. The champions took to the floor to open the first dance, but shortly after Dumbledore took McGonagall's hand and proceeded onto the floor and soon enough it was filled with dancing couples. Harry saw Ginny with Neville, wincing when he kept treading on her toes, while Hermione spun with Krum with more grace than Harry had previously thought his friend capable of.

He glanced down when two hands appeared in front of him then looked up at the twins. "I can't dance with you both at the same time."

They wiggled their fingers at him. "Pick one then," they said simultaneously. He glanced between them, concerned that picking one over the other would make the unpicked jealous, but put his hand in Fred's anyway. George sighed dramatically, but grinned and bowed. "My dance next then," he said and stepped aside as Fred and Harry moved onto the dance floor.

"Just so you know, I can't dance," Harry warned him, trying to ignore the nasty looks he was receiving from a few people who he'd previously heard anti-gay slurs from over the past few months.

"Don't worry, I can," Fred assured him, putting one hand on Harry's waist and lifting his other, and then he proceeded to exuberantly swing Harry around the dance floor.

"Will George be jealous I picked you first?" Harry asked.

"What makes you think I'm not George?"

Harry grinned. "I told you, I just know."

Fred shot him a sceptical look but didn't argue. "He'll be fine. We've never been jealous of each other."

"Except when George said he wanted to ask me to the ball."

"We've never been jealous of each other over something we couldn't share," Fred amended.

"I think I should object to that. I'm not a chocolate cake or something."

Fred grinned. "Doesn't mean we can't eat you," he murmured and Harry went bright red.

He enjoyed the evening far more than he expected. He danced with both twins on several occasions—George, Harry was grateful to discover, was calmer on the dance floor than Fred—and he didn't even let Hermione and Ron arguing over Krum dampen his mood. At some point he and the twins headed outside to the decorated gardens, though Harry wasn't sure how they ended up in the rosebushes with Fred kissing him heatedly while George was at Harry's back, pressing kisses to his neck while his hands where trying to find their way under Harry's robes.

But all three of them broke apart with a yelp when one of the bushes blew apart and Snape appeared, glaring at them.

"Ten points from Gryffindor. Each. Move it."

They hurried away, Harry straightening his robes and flushing while the twins muttered unpleasant comments about Snape.

"Jealous," George said and Fred nodded.

"Probably never been kissed in his life."

"Do you want to find an empty classroom?" George asked Harry.

"We'll get caught again, won't we?"

"Secret passageway," Fred suggested, "or we can just return to the dance if you prefer. Your choice."

Harry wasn't sure what he wanted and he never got chance to find out, because at that moment two bolts of red, one right after the other, shot out of mid-air about four feet in front of them, and slammed into the twins with enough force to knock them off their feet. Harry drove his hand into his pocket for his wand, but before he could grab it a hand appeared out of thin air, clutching a handkerchief which it pressed against Harry's face and the sensation of a portkey jerked behind Harry's navel and the gardens vanished.

Chapter Text

There was blood on his hands and he didn't know where he was. Beside a road next to a forest somewhere in Albania, but as he didn't really know where Albania was that didn't count for much. There was no snow and it wasn't quite as cold as it had been in Scotland or even the house where the man calling himself Barty Crouch Junior

(the dead man whose blood is on his hands)

had first taken him, so he supposed Albania must be somewhere further south of England. He thought it might be in the bottom of Europe somewhere, but he wasn't sure and it didn't really matter because knowing where Albania was wouldn't help him get home.

He intended to walk as far as he could and find someone who might be able to help him, but 'as far as he could' turned out to be as far as a road and then his legs decided they were going to give out on him. He couldn't blame them really; the rest of him was none too happy about having to move, not after the torture

("Where is he?! Where's the Dark Lord? Where's Voldemort? Tell me! Crucio!")

and so he found himself lying on the side of a road, shivering in his torn and bloody dress robes, too cold, aching, and thirsty to drag himself any further. He supposed he was probably going to die there of cold or thirst or something. Would they even find his body? Or would animals devour him before anyone came along? There might not even be any people in this area; it might be the reason Voldemort hid there in the first place.

("Stop! Albania! It's all I know, I swear! I heard he's supposed to be hiding in Albania, just stop hurting me, please...")

Certainly, he and Crouch had never come across anyone while stumbling through the trees, Crouch calling for his lord like he expected him to come crawling out from a badger's burrow. But Voldemort never did and Crouch took his anger and frustration out on Harry, torturing him again, demanding to know the truth, and when Harry screamed that he'd said everything he knew, Crouch said he'd kill him

(and someone dies but it isn't Harry and he remembers the thud of the rock, rough and heavy in his hands, and the crack of bone when it broke so easily, and the wet blood splashing warmly on his face and coating his hands)

and maybe that would have been easier. The Killing Curse had to be more pleasant than dying of thirst, didn't it? He wished he knew what the spell was that made water come from your wand; he'd seen Fleur Delacour use it to put out the fire on her skirt during the first Triwizard task, but he had no idea what it was. Even if he did, it wouldn't matter; his own wand had been left in the house

("My father's house," Crouch sneers, "though I suppose it's mine now, see?" And he gestures to a body on the floor, dead long enough to smell and attract flies)

and Crouch's had broken during the fight so he couldn't do any magic or even summon the Knight Bus, though he had no money to pay even if he had a wand to call it. Put simply, he thought, he was screwed. He just hoped he'd die soon.

* * *

He woke up in a bed surrounded by unfamiliar faces, all of them belonging to children and staring at him curiously and calculatingly. Harry tried to sit up, but when he did every muscle screamed with pain and he gasped, falling back again with a groan. He felt like he'd been hit with a sledgehammer from head to toe; it was almost as bad as when he woke up in the hospital after his assault.

One of the children, a girl of about fifteen and wearing a thin dress under a men's leather jacket, smiled weakly at him. He didn't return the smile; it was one of someone trying to be friendly in a place that didn't cater much friendliness.

"Kako se zoveš?" she said.

"Er... I'm sorry, I don't know what that means."

The girl glanced at another girl, this one maybe thirteen and wearing a pair of jeans and a fraying jumper, who asked in accented English, "What your name?"

"I'm Harry. Who are you? Where am I?"

"I Rozika," the second girl answered. "This pen."

Harry frowned, looking around, but he couldn't see much when he was lying down and surrounded by children. Clenching his teeth against the pain, he forced his aching muscles to sit him up so he could look around properly, and almost immediately thought that 'pen' seemed an accurate term for the place. He was in a large room that was packed with beds and children—at least eighty, all of them looking between the ages of nine and sixteen, maybe fifteen of them boys and the rest girls, some of them packed two to a bed. There were no windows set in the undecorated brick walls and only two doors, one hanging open to show a small bathroom with only a toilet and sink. The entire room had the unpleasant odour of sweat and unwashed humans.

"But where is this?"

Rozika shrugged.

"How did I get here? Why are you all here? What is this place?"

"Aljoša bring you. He bring all us."

"For what?"

"Stay here then go to new home." She smiled at him then, a startlingly broad and pleased grin that seemed out of place in the drab room. "New home in England."

Harry didn't understand at all why this was reason to smile. "But I have a home in England."

"Not anymore," said a new voice and Harry looked around at a sullen girl a few beds over. She spoke with an American accent and was the only person in the room not interacting with anyone else. Harry noticed a few of the others shooting her distasteful looks and the children surrounding his bed drifted away. "I don't know where Aljoša took you from, but now you're here that's it. I've been here three months nearly, the longest of anyone except Danica." She nodded to the girl in the leather jacket. "My parents probably think I'm long dead by now."

"You were kidnapped? Was everyone here?"

"Some of them. Most of them are runaways or orphans that got picked up. But none of us are going home. We're owned now and we'll get sold eventually, when they've got enough of us to sell, which probably won't be much longer."

"Sell to who?"

She shrugged. "The kind of people that buy children."

Harry knew those kind of people. He looked around the room, taking in the occupants. The youngest seemed to be a boy of nine, maybe younger, sitting on a bed with an older boy and talking quietly in a language Harry didn't understand. Harry remembered all too well what it'd been like when he was first sold to Eric, how painful and scary it'd been, and he'd been two years older than that boy. Not to mention he had only been sold twice a week; Harry had a feeling that the people they would be sold to now was more of a permanent deal.

His eyes fell on the second door, but before he could even think the word escape, the American girl spoke again.

"Don't bother. Aljoša and his men are on the other side, seven of them and all with guns. You'll meet them soon enough when they decide they want to use your mouth."

"Do they use everyone here?"

She nodded. "At least once. They've all got their favourites though. If you're lucky, none of them will decide you're their favourite."

Harry's gaze fell on the youngest boy again, then drifted towards several of the girls who weren't much older than the boy. "Better me than someone else," he murmured. The American snorted and her bed squeaked as she shifted.

"You won't say that when you've been on your knees for one of them."

"I've been used before. I can manage."

* * *

He met Aljoša a few hours later when he and six others entered the room with a trolley holding a large cooking pot, a stack of bowls, and a pile of bread slices. The children all stood up, forming a line that weaved between the beds as five of the men spread themselves along the wall with the door. They all held big guns and glared at the children in a way that made Harry think they were concerned about all of them ganging together to take them on, and were trying to dissuade any such ideas. The sixth man with the trolley started ladling food into bowls and the children moved forward, each accepting a bowl and a slice of bread before moving back to their bed.

As that happened, the last of the men, who was clearly the leader so probably Aljoša, pointed at Harry.

"Vi. Dođi ovdje," he ordered, then when Harry looked at him blankly he said with a slight accent, the same as Rozika's but less heavy, "You speak English?"

Harry nodded.

"Then come here."

Harry glanced around, but none of the other children met his gaze so he hesitantly stepped out of line and approached the man.

"I found you at the side of a road. You were lost? Runaway?"

"Lost. I have a home and a family in England and they'll be missing me." It was true enough, even if Aljoša probably didn't interpret it exactly the way he meant. He did have blood family and while they probably didn't even know he was missing, his friends were his real family and they would be missing him.

But Aljoša just smiled coldly. "They will miss you a long time. This is your home now until we find you a new one."

"I don't want a new one."

Aljoša punched him. He stumbled back and landed on his arse, hitting the floor with a cry as the impact sent fresh pain searing through his sore muscles.

"You get a new home," Aljoša said, looking down at him. "In the meantime, you do as I say or I beat you. If you whine, I beat you. If you complain, I beat you. If you complain and whine and disobey, I take you outside and I shoot you. You understand?"

Harry nodded and wiped at his bloody lip.

"Good. Now suck my dick."

Harry glanced around. The trolley man was still handing out food, the armed men were mostly watching Harry and Aljoša, and the children were all pointedly looking anywhere but at Harry. He remembered what the American girl said about everyone getting used once and knew that it had been like this, told to service this man in front of all the others. He wondered how many of them had fought or refused and what price they paid for it.

Harry didn't bother. He'd been in this position enough times to know better so he just got to knees, ignoring his protesting muscles, and glanced up at Aljoša's face as he took the man into his mouth, revelling slightly in the clear surprise he felt at Harry's unquestioning and unhesitating obedience. He might not be able to fight outright, but he'd take what small victories he could and hopefully if they saw he was willing then next time they might not decide to choose someone who wasn't.

* * *

Over the next few days, Harry lay in his bed and tried to figure a way out of the pen. The door was always guarded and the one time he tried to open it, he got punished with the butt of a rifle to his face, which left an ugly bruise and a lump on his forehead. They got fed once a day, always bread and soup, and had to take their water from the tap in the toilet. They never got fresh clothes and if they wanted to wash themselves all they could do was wipe themselves down with water from the bathroom sink. After a while Harry stopped noticing the smell.

He spoke often with the American, who was called Sarah and despite her initially chilly attitude turned out to be quite friendly and clearly glad for someone else whose first language was English. Other than them, only a handful of the children spoke English and none of them very well; Rozika was probably the best at it. She took a liking to Harry and several times came to his bed to talk to him about England, which she seemed to think was some kind of blessed land where she would find a wonderful new home; Harry wasn't sure if she didn't understand that they were likely being sold into prostitution or slavery, or if she just refused to accept it despite the way Aljoša and his men used them. Harry didn't know whether to pity her innocence or admire her fortitude, but he indulged her by talking about England. He made himself homesick describing Hogwarts, but she hung onto his every word as he talked about the magical castle, though he kept any mention of actual magic out of it. As far as he knew, he was the only magical child there and without a wand that didn't mean much. Rozika, in turn, told him about the other children. He didn't remember most of their names when she rattled them off, but he learnt that most of them were Croatian, which was the language Aljoša and his men used most as well, which made Rozika think they were probably in Croatia, but there were some kids who were from surrounding countries and even one from Greece.

His plan to make the men desire him worked at least, and most of the time he was called out of the room and into the neighbouring office instead of having to do it in front of the other kids. Aljoša was impressed by his skill and Harry thought he must have told his friends because every one of them took a turn with him and Aljoša used him once a day. It wasn't perfect—some times the other men still wanted to use someone else and though Harry offered himself in their place every single time, he was usually roughly shoved away with a harsh reprimand that he didn't understand but could recognise the tone of. Aljoša was the only one of them that spoke English, but after a while Harry realised that they were all calling him one thing: drolja.

"It nasty word," Rozika told him when he asked her about it. "Drolja is person who want big seks."

"Big sex?" Harry repeated blankly.

"Big. Many. Like you."

"I don't have big... Oh, you mean a lot of sex? Someone who... a slut," he realised and scowled. "Drolja is a slut. Even in Croatian I'm a whore."

He didn't regret it though, not when the few times Aljoša's men agreed to fuck his mouth instead of someone else's the other kid would shoot Harry such a grateful look that even getting come all over his face was worth it. He was a slut and he'd been used and abused before so what did it matter if he was used a bit more?

The only person they seemed to like better than him was Danica, who appeared just as willing to do what the men asked. The fact that she was a girl clearly appealed to them more and it didn't take Harry long to realise that they weren't just using her mouth when they took her out of the room.

The only trouble came when Harry slept, which he did as little as possible, forcing himself to stay awake as long as he could despite the boredom of having nothing to do, because when he slept he dreamt of blood coating his hands and splattered on his robes. If the other kids thought it was strange that he washed his hands so much, sometimes scrubbing them until they were red and raw, then they didn't mention it, nor did they comment when he would scratch at his hands, so convinced he could feel them slick with blood that he was desperate to get it off and only managed to end up making his own hands bleed.

Nearly two weeks after he'd arrived, the door opened and Aljoša and his men brought in a new girl. She was unconscious and looked about twelve, and they dumped her on the first empty bed they came to then left again. Immediately several people went over to her, shifting her more neatly onto the bed—the usual occupant didn't even complain—but it was another half an hour before the girl stirred. When she finally woke, she took her new situation far less calmly than Harry had, screaming and crying in Croatian.

"That's the more drastic reaction," Sarah told Harry while some of the other kids tried without much success to calm the new girl down. "Most of them cry a bit and beg to get out, but a few of them scream. Aljoša will be in soon to shut her up."

"Shut her up how?"

"He'll smack her 'til she stops screaming, even if that means knocking her out again. Y'know, you're the only one that ever reacted as if you were used to waking up in strange places."

Harry shrugged. "I've had a strange life. Waking up to find I've been kidnapped and will be sold into prostitution isn't the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me."

"Yeah? What is then?"

Harry wasn't even sure, but he knew one thing: "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

* * *

Almost exactly a week after they brought in the new girl, the door to the room opened and six of Aljoša's men walked in while the seventh waited just outside the door. All of them had guns on them and stern expressions, and a ripple of anxiety went through the room. Aljoša gave what were clearly instructions to them all, speaking in Croatian, and Harry exchanged looks with Sarah as those who understood murmured between themselves. He understood why a minute later when Aljoša repeated himself in English.

"You're being moved. When I point at you, you walk out the door, take a bottle of water, and get in the truck. You get one water; if you drink too quickly, you won't get more. There is a bucket in the truck for peeing in."

He started to repeat himself in a different language and Rozika leant over from her bed to prod Harry in the back.

"We go England!" she hissed excitedly. Harry forced a weak smile. He didn't know how long it would take to get from wherever they were to England, but he didn't fancy spending the whole trip locked in a truck with one bottle of water and a bucket to pee in. But he did feel a bit uplifted to hear it; this would likely be his one and only chance to escape. As bad as the upcoming trip was going to be, he'd do his best to rest and store his energy to prepare for taking advantage of any possible escape opportunity.

* * *

The trip was just as horrible as he expected it to be. The truck was cramped, dark, and bumpy. Despite Aljoša's warning, some people weren't careful with their water, but others were kind enough to share some of their own as the journey dragged on. No one liked using the bucket, but the trip was too long not to and they all huddled together as much for warmth as to keep as far from it as possible, though it mattered little when the smell permeated the entire truck.

Everyone had finished their water by the time they finally reached England. Harry wondered if that was intentional; no one had spoken or moved for some time and he knew he didn't have much energy himself to spare for any potential escape. He tried to stay hopeful though. He was a Gryffindor, a wizard, and if he could survive dark lords, basilisks, and insanely fanatic Death Eaters, he could survive this.

He just tried not to think about the fact that he'd killed the insane Death Eater because then he'd have to admit that, if he absolutely had to, he could do it again.

There was a collective sigh of relief and grimace of pain when the truck doors opened, bringing with it fresh air but also light that was almost blinding to them. They spent several minutes blinking and adjusting their eyes, by which point Aljoša and his men were lined out the back of the truck, guns in hand, prepared to stop anyone that might run. Nonetheless, Harry flicked his eyes around, searching for any point of weakness and finding none. They appeared to be parked at some docks with the sun setting over the river, but he was forced to follow the rest of the children a short distance into a warehouse where they were told to stand in a group. They did so, huddling nervously together and eying the guns, a few of the younger kids whimpering slightly, and then all their attention went to the entrance as it opened and Aljoša walked in with an unfamiliar man in a suit followed by a man who was obviously a bodyguard. At least, Harry thought the man would be unfamiliar to the rest of the kids. He, however, recognised him immediately.

It was Eric Nicholson.

Chapter Text

"How many are there?"

"Eighty-three. Seventeen boys, the rest girls. Youngest is eight, oldest sixteen."

"I want one of the boys before you take them. Make sure they—"

"Eh! Drolja, zaustaviti! Zgrabite ga!"

Harry ignored the shout, pushing through the group of children until he stood on the outer fringe nearest Eric and Aljoša, the latter of which lifted his gun to point at Harry. Eric merely stared. Harry glared at him and said nothing, even when one of Aljoša's men stalked up to him, raising his gun to smack against Harry's head.

"Stop!" Eric commanded.

The man froze. Eric gestured to his bodyguard. "Put him in the car. You know what to do with the rest," he added to Aljoša before stalking out the door. Daryl the bodyguard grabbed Harry roughly by the arm and dragged him out after Eric while Aljoša started issuing orders to his men. There was a shiny black car waiting just outside the warehouse and Harry got in the back with Eric. He couldn't help making a small noise of appreciation at entering the warm vehicle and sitting on the comfiest thing he'd touched since Crouch had taken him from Hogwarts.

No one spoke for at least five minutes after entering the car, not until they were on a main road and driving steadily through light traffic.

"How did you end up with Aljoša?" Eric asked Harry without looking at him.

"He kidnapped me."

"He's a Muggle; you were kidnapped from Hogwarts. The Daily Prophet has mentioned you without fail at least once a day since, though you've stopped being front page news."

Harry couldn't help his startled look. "You read the Prophet?"

"My daughter is now part of an entirely new world; I was not going to remain ignorant. How did you end up with Aljoša?"

"I told you, he kidnapped me. After a wizard kidnapped me from Hogwarts."

"What happened to the wizard?"

Harry said nothing and scratched at his hands until Eric reached over and took one of them. There were scabs littering the backs of them, the result of his constant scratching, and they were bleeding again now, little dots of blood beading in places where Harry had torn a scab.

"Whose blood is that on your clothes?" Eric asked.

"Not mine," he answered quietly. He was still in his dress robes, though they were smelly and filthy by now. "Most of it's not, anyway. Are you going to return me to Hogwarts?"

Instead of answering, Eric looked at him calculatingly and said, "I have learnt a great deal about you since we last saw one another, Harry Potter. The famed Boy Who Lived, the child who miraculously defeated the evil wizard Voldemort, whose name most of your people refuse to even speak, and if my daughter's letters are any indication even your years at Hogwarts have been eventful."

Harry said nothing and didn't look at him.

"I understand you were taken in by your godfather this past summer."

"Yeah," Harry said, trying to sound off-hand. "He broke out of a prison a year and a half ago and—"

"I'm aware," Eric interrupted. "As I said, I have been following your news. I'm well aware of Sirius Black's breakout... and his being cleared of all charges. You must be very pleased," he said, a slight smirk to his lips that said he was fully aware Harry had been attempting to scare him with the idea of a criminal godfather.

"Actually, he's a bastard," Harry replied.

"Is he?"

"Yeah, just like you."

Eric tsked softly. "I have just saved you from an unpleasant fate, Harry. You might show a little gratitude."

"Forget it. I remember how you like to be thanked and I've done enough of that these past few weeks. Suck your own fucking dick."

"You have become an eloquent young man," Eric said dryly, "but sucking cock is for whores so even if I could do as you suggested, I wouldn't. Did Aljoša and his men fuck you as well?"

"Why? Jealous? Been missing me, have you?"

His hands caressed Harry's own, uncaring of the blood drying on them. "I have, actually, but that's not my concern. I asked for virgins and while I'll ignore them using your mouths, I will have serious words with Aljoša if he has been fucking any of you."

"Then you should have serious words with him. He never asked if I was a virgin and he and the others were definitely having sex with one of the girls."

Eric exchanged looks with Daryl in the rear view mirror, but neither of them said anything more on the matter.

"I will take you to a hotel," Eric told Harry. "You can shower and I will have clean clothes found for you. If you want to be returned to Hogwarts, you'll agree to a cover story as to how I found you."

"And if I don't?"

Eric smiled unpleasantly at him. "Then I won't need to pick a new boy from the group Aljoša brought. Hopefully," he added softly, and suddenly there was a gun held underneath Harry's chin, "I don't need to remind you of just how unpleasant I can be when pushed, Harry. Rest assured, if you tell anyone about my business with Aljoša then not even the anti-Muggle spells I've been told surround Hogwarts will stop me from making sure you pay."

* * *

Whatever Harry thought of Eric—and his opinion of the man had only got worse in the past two hours—he couldn't complain about the man's taste in hotels. The one they took him to was even more luxurious than the one they used in Little Whinging. Harry spent almost an hour in a steaming hot bath, after first showering to clean away weeks of filth, and then he ate as much food as his stomach would accept—which wasn't much after three weeks of nothing but bread and soup—before crawling into a massive, sinfully comfy bed wearing a pair of deliciously soft pyjamas, and slept for twelve hours.

When he woke up, Eric was in bed with him, spooning him. He had a hand under Harry's sleep shirt, fingers drifting over his skin and trailing along the scar cutting across his abdomen.

"How did you get this?" he asked quietly, evidently aware Harry was awake.

"Is this where you say I have to express my gratitude for taking me from Aljoša or you'll bring out the gun again?" Harry asked instead of answering.

Eric made an amused noise. "I don't think the gun will be necessary. I suspect you've seen enough rather bigger guns over the past few weeks that my pistol won't bother you a great deal. No, I was thinking more along the lines of refusing to let you contact Hogwarts until I was finished with you."

Harry shifted, pressing his arse back against Eric's crotch and feeling an answering twitch from the man's cock. "Get on with it then. I want to go home."

Eric's hand stilled under his shirt and then he pulled it free and moved, rolling Harry onto his back and then getting onto his hands and knees over him. He was already naked and Harry looked up at him without concern.

"That's a rather different attitude to the last time I buggered you."

Harry considered him. Eric wasn't as threatening to him anymore, he realised. Even remembering that the man had shot five men at point blank range didn't make him flinch, nor did reminding himself that Eric was both capable and willing to rape him as roughly as Rodney's men and Higgs and Montague had, or that Eric would likely shoot him quite easily if pushed. It just didn't scare him anymore, not when he knew he was just as capable of killing a man when his life was on the line.

"When I said my godfather was a bastard like you, I meant it," Harry told him. "He spent the summer making me suck his dick. He was worse than you, actually, because he also spent the summer telling me I was a disappointment to my father and could never live up to his legacy and basically he did his best to make sure I knew I was worthless."

"He doesn't appear to have succeeded," Eric said quietly and Harry shot him an incredulous look.

"Yes, he did. I am worthless. The only thing about me that's useful is my mouth and my arse. That was made clear when a couple of older students raped me about a week into term—that's how I got the scar, by the way. They didn't want me telling so they cut me and said if I did tell, the next cut would be along my throat."

"Presumably you don't consider them ever likely to discover you told me."

Harry smiled, but there was no warmth in it. "No, but it wouldn't matter. I accidentally let it slip to the headmaster and the boys have been expelled. But the damage was done. I'm a whore and a slut, nothing else. It's why I spent the last three weeks offering to suck dick if Aljoša and his men would leave the other kids alone. I'm already used goods; there was no need to let the other kids endure it too. I don't care anymore what anyone does to my body. They can't do anything that hasn't already been done to it."

Eric looked at him without saying anything for a minute, thinking over everything Harry just said, but eventually he ducked his head and pressed a kiss to Harry's jaw. "I do hope you didn't intend for that little speech to dissuade me, because I can assure you it's done quite the opposite," he said, pressing his hips down until Harry felt the man's erection press against his own groin.

"You're a pervert."

"That I am, but in case you were wondering it wasn't the knowledge of your rape that arouses me, merely the fact that I know you now. I know who you are like I didn't the last time we fucked. I know you better than you know yourself and that's the real turn on."

"You don't—" He broke off with a gasp as Eric bit him hard on the curve of his neck then swiped his tongue over the skin.

"I do," he murmured, a hand tugging at Harry's pyjama top now, and even though it's been well over a year since they were together, Harry automatically obeyed the silent command and squirmed out of the offending clothing. "I know that even though you talk about those older boys raping you as though it's nothing, your breath still hitches when I do this."

His fingers brushed over Harry's scar and sure enough Harry's breath caught in his throat.

"So what?" he said, trying to make it seem unimportant.

"So it bothers you more than you'll admit." Eric shifted, kissing his way down Harry's chest, breath warm against his skin while one hand ran down his side to curl around his hip. Harry stared at the ceiling and clenched his hands in the sheets. He'd forgotten what it was like to have someone touch him like this, forgotten how good it felt to feel another person's hands caressing him. But he didn't want it—not from Eric.

"I think you're wrong about why you serviced Aljoša too," Eric continued. "I'm sure you were thinking of the other children, but you were also just offering yourself up before they used you without your permission."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry said quietly, fighting not to push him away as Eric tugged his pyjama bottoms down over his hips. Eric moved back up the bed, crawling over Harry and looking down at him as though he knew the secrets of the world when no one else did.

"You've been used. By me, by Rodney Weckle and his men, by your godfather, and by the boys who raped you, so now that you're being used again, you're putting yourself out, pretending that you want it, that you're the one making the decision, just so you can give yourself the faintest comfort that you're the one in control."

"That's rubbish," Harry replied. "I don't want it and I know I don't."

Eric smirked. He rolled off Harry and reached down the side of the bed. Harry heard a zip and Eric rifling through something then he turned back, now with a bottle of lube in hand. Without prompting, Harry spread his legs and drew his knees up slightly.

"Still so willing," Eric said, shifting to settle himself between Harry's leg. Harry closed his eyes and listened to him squeezing lube onto his hand before feeling fingers press at his arse. "You're so desperate for it... just like you always were."

Harry said nothing as a finger slipped inside him. It didn't go easy. It'd been so long since he was fucked gently that he was tense, afraid it'd be painful, and it took effort for him to make himself relax. When he did, Eric slipped a second finger in and Harry gasped softly. He'd forgotten what this was like, forgotten how shamefully nice it felt to have fingers pushing into him and filling him up.

"Because that's the truth of you, Harry. You never liked sucking cock, no matter how good you were at it, and you do it freely now so no one will force you, but when it comes to everything else... you do want it. You call yourself a slut and a whore so brazenly, hoping someone will deny it and tell you otherwise because the truth is..." His fingers curled and Harry couldn't help his hips jerking as pleasure he hasn't felt in a long time spiked through him, wrenching a moan from him. "You really are a slut and a whore."

The fingers left him then Eric lifted his hips, lined his cock at Harry's entrance and slowly pushed in. Harry kept his eyes closed, hands at his sides and grabbing the sheets, and struggled to keep himself relaxed.

"You want this," Eric said quietly when he was all the way in. He drew back and pushed forward again and Harry bit back another moan. "You want this. You enjoy having a cock up your arse, enjoy being laid out and spread open, enjoy being used like the whore that you are."

Harry wanted to deny it, but his own body was proof that he did, his cock erect between them with pre-come beading at the tip as Eric fucked him slowly. It was almost agonising, the way Eric moved with careful, regular thrusts, fucking him in a way he never had before until Harry found himself reaching for his own erection, wanting to just get himself off.

But the moment he did, Eric grabbed both his wrists, jerked them over his head and pinned them to the bed. His angle changed, he pulled back, and then slammed forward unexpectedly. Pleasure sparked through Harry and he cried out, back arching and eyes snapping open, and Eric did it again.

"Oh, god," Harry moaned. "Oh, fuck..."

Eric laughed, pressing a kiss to Harry's cheek. "You see? Such a whore, so desperate for it."

"Please..." Harry gasped, trying to tug his hands free. "Oh, please, please..."

"Please what? Please let you get off?"

Harry shook his head, but cried out again as Eric thrust forward hard.

"Sure about that, Harry? I think you do. That's what sluts want. They want to get fucked until they come so hard they see stars, and you're a slut, aren't you, Harry?"

"Fuck, please, please, just..." He trailed of with a whining moan.

"Say it," Eric whispered. "Say you want to come. Beg me to let you come, Harry."

He shook his head again. Eric slowed down, grinning when Harry whined unhappily.

"Beg."

"Please..."

"Please what?"

"Please let me come," Harry gave in, closing his eyes again. "Please, just—fuck—please let me come. I want to come."

"Why?"

He hesitated and Eric thrust hard.

"Because I'm a slut!" he cried. "I'm a slut and a whore and I want to come, oh please, please please..."

"Good boy," Eric whispered, but he didn't let go of Harry's wrists.

"Let me—god, fuck—let me—you said—"

"I said I'd let you come," Eric said breathlessly, "I didn't say I'd let you touch yourself to do it. You can come anytime you're ready, but—" he let out a moan of his own "—but you do it on my cock alone."

"I can't—oh, please, fucking god—I can't—"

"You can," Eric growled. "You can and you will."

Harry shook his head, but he knew he could and would. He was too turned on to not come and every one of Eric's thrusts was hitting his prostate, and he wanted it, he needed it, he was so bloody desperate...

He came with a scream, so consumed by his orgasm that he never noticed Eric letting go of his hands to grab his hips and thrust into him a few more times before he came as well. He went limp against the bed and Eric collapsed on top of him, both breathing hard and covered with sweat.

Eventually Eric slid out of him and rolled off. Harry let his legs go flat against the bed and closed his eyes, shame flooding through him so heavily that a sob built in his throat and tears spilled past his closed eyelids. He rolled onto his side, putting his back to Eric, and pressed his face to a pillow, trying to muffle his crying as he accepted that everything Eric said was true. He'd tried to own the titles slut and whore, tried to accept them as something he couldn't refuse but was above being ashamed of, but that was all gone now. How could he ever not be ashamed of begging for a grown man to make him come and having the best orgasm of his life solely because of a man's cock in his arse?

Chapter Text

Snape had to pry the gun out of his hands afterwards.

He remembered it all blurrily. He remembered sending a letter with the owl Daryl the bodyguard brought and waiting in silence for hours afterwards; he remembered Snape arriving and turning his wand on Eric the moment he saw him; he remembered harsh voices, but couldn't recall the words they spoke, and he remembered Daryl putting a gun to his head; he remembered Snape turning on Daryl, disarming him—was it still called disarming when his whole hand had been cut off?—and then Eric pulling out a gun and knocking Snape to the floor, pressing the barrel against Snape's temple, but he didn't remember how Daryl's gun ended up in his own hands. He remembered Eric taunting him, but couldn't remember exactly what he'd said, only that it had been drowned out in the noise of the gun. He didn't remember pulling the trigger.

"Potter, put the gun down."

He tried, but his fingers wouldn't uncurl. His shoulders and elbows felt locked in place, still holding the weapon straight out in front of him, and he shook from head to toe as Snape got out from under Eric's limp body, getting himself out of the line of fire and moving steadily towards him.

"Harry," he said quietly, "let go."

His own voice came out in a whisper. "I can't."

Moving slowly, as though Harry were an angry snake he expected to lunge at any moment, Snape put his hands over Harry's and prized the gun out of his grip. With it went all Harry's energy and his legs collapsed under him. Snape grabbed him before he hit the floor, lowering him carefully then setting the gun down and reaching his hand out to summon his dropped wand to him. A sob worked it's way up Harry's throat and tears spilt down his cheeks, whole body trembling as Snape pulled him against him.

"I'm taking your back to Hogwarts," Snape said calmly. Harry didn't react, even when Snape pulled a small golden ball from his pocket, wrapped in a handkerchief, and took Harry's hand to make him touch it at the same moment Snape pressed a thumb to it. The sensation of a portkey jerked behind their navels and the hotel room disappeared in a whirl of sound and colour before Dumbledore's office materialised around them.

Dumbledore was out of his chair in an instant and Remus was there as well, but they both stopped short when they saw the blood splashed across half of Snape's face.

"Severus?" Dumbledore prompted.

"Pensieve."

Dumbledore fetched it without question, bringing the shallow dish from his cupboard and crouching beside Snape and Harry. Snape lifted the wand still in his hand and pressed it to his temple, drawing away a long silvery strand of thought and dropping it into Dumbledore's Pensieve then wrapping his arm back around Harry, who now clung to him, still shaking and crying silently. None of the adults spoke, but Dumbledore set the Pensieve on the desk and he and Remus vanished into it. Snape didn't move in the few minutes they were gone, but when they came out he fixed Dumbledore with a hard stare, ignoring Remus as he slumped in a chair and buried his face in his hands.

"What will happen, Dumbledore?"

"Nothing," Dumbledore replied simply. "Not legally."

"I used magic against a Muggle, Dumbledore. Dark magic."

"Why not just disarm him?" Remus asked without glancing over.

"I've seen guns go off because of spells cast on them. Dumbledore—"

"If Daryl survives," Dumbledore interrupted calmly, "I expect he will be rather reluctant to claim his injury resulted of magic and without his word the Ministry will only be able to detect that magic occurred within the hotel. They won't be able to determine what magic or who cast it; you're quite safe, Severus."

"And Potter?"

"Again, nothing legal," Dumbledore said quietly. "From what I understand of Muggle criminology, the police may be able to determine that an unknown person was responsible for Eric Nicholson's death, but—"

"I killed him."

Harry's words, spoken in a shaky, raspy voice, were muffled against Snape's robes but still audible, and all the adults looked at him.

"I killed him," he said again, the words coming out in a sob this time. "I'm a murderer... again."

Snape, who'd opened his mouth to point out that Harry had saved his life, snapped it shut. In his chair, Remus lifted his head to stare at Harry. Dumbledore crouched down.

"Harry, what do you mean by that?"

Never once taking his face from Snape's robes, Harry told them in a broken voice about Crouch kidnapping him, taking him to the house were Crouch Senior's body was, being tortured and then taken to Albania and dragged around the forest until they fought.

"He was angry that we couldn't find him and he kept shouting and cursing and he pinned me down and said he'd kill me if I didn't find Voldemort, and then I grabbed a rock and I hit him and hit him and hit him and hit him and—"

"Harry," Dumbledore said gently and Harry fell silent. "What happened next?"

"I walked. I had to get home, but I didn't know where I was and I was so tired and sore, and then I woke up in the pen."

"The pen?"

Harry explained, telling them about Aljoša and the children he kidnapped, how they were kept in the pen for weeks and used at Aljoša's whims, and then how they were taken and shipped to England where they met Eric. Only then did Harry pull away from Snape, sitting up to look at Dumbledore with red, desperate eyes.

"We have to help them. Please, sir, you have to do something to help them."

"I will do my best, Harry," Dumbledore assured him, "but I cannot guarantee I can find where they've been taken after you left them, not unless you heard someone mention a location."

Harry furrowed his brow, thinking hard, but shook his head irritatedly. "I can't remember. I think I heard something, but I don't remember..."

"The Pensieve," Remus suggested. "If he heard, it'll be in the memory."

"But I can't remember!" Harry told him again, frustration in his voice.

Dumbledore gestured for Harry to stand. He did so, wiping at his face and following Dumbledore to the desk to look down at the Pensieve on it. Snape got up as well, grimacing slightly at the ache in his knees from sitting in the same position for so long and scowling at the wet patch on his robes.

"That's how the Pensieve helps," Dumbledore told Harry. "You put your memory into it and we watch it and see things that you may not be able to consciously recall."

"Put my memory in it? How?"

"Severus, you still have Harry's wand?"

Snape nodded and drew it out of his pocket. Harry took it gratefully.

"How'd you find it?"

Dumbledore answered. "The Crouch home was searched when Barty failed to turn up to work for several days and your wand was recovered then. Now, think very clearly about the memory in the warehouse, Harry, then press the tip of your wand to your temple and slowly draw it away."

Frowning with concentration, Harry did as told and was startled to see a strand of silver thread come away. At Dumbledore's instruction, he flicked his wand gently over the Pensieve and the strand dropped into it.

"Now what?"

"Now we watch it. Would you like to, or would you prefer to stay here?"

Instead of answering, Harry looked around at Snape. "Will you come?"

Snape's eyebrows drew together, clearly not understanding why Harry would ask him to, but he nodded, stepping forwards. Remus stood up and approached as well, and Harry watched Dumbledore bend forwards until his nose touched the tip of the silvery liquid, then it was like something had reached out and grabbed him by the shoulders to drag him into it. Harry blinked, but this seemed to be what was required as Remus did it next and disappeared as well. Harry glanced at Snape before lowering his own face and getting dragged into the Pensieve.

He found himself standing on the docks where they'd first arrived in England, watching a replica of himself walk out the back of the truck with the rest of the children and into the warehouse. He, Snape, Dumbledore, and Remus followed them and Aljoša's men inside, though Aljoša remained outside. As the men ordered the children into a group and they waited for Eric's arrival, Dumbledore slowly walked around the warehouse, inspecting each of Aljoša's men and looking over the faces of the children.

When Eric and Aljoša entered, Harry inched closer to Snape, who glanced at him but said nothing, and watched silently as his memory self pushed through the group to glare at Eric. He was startled by his own appearance, skinny, dirty, and wearing torn and blood-stained dress robes. He knew he'd looked bad, but seeing it from an outside perspective like this seemed worse somehow. Just as startling was the pure hatred on his own face and his unflinching stance even when Aljoša pointed a gun at him and one of the other men raised his gun to smack him.

He was so busy watching himself and Eric that he missed it when Aljoša spoke to his men as Daryl dragged Harry out the warehouse, but as the memory shifted, moving around them to follow Harry and Eric, Dumbledore nodded.

"I heard an address," he said.

Snape took Harry's arm and with a sensation like he'd done a slow motion somersault, Harry found himself back out of the Pensieve and standing in Dumbledore's office.

"You'll help them, won't you, sir?" Harry asked Dumbledore.

"I will do my best to ensure the children are secure and returned home safely, but please be aware that if they've moved on, I may not be able to find them, Harry."

Unhappy but knowing it was true, Harry nodded. He glanced around at each of the adults then asked hesitantly, "What's going to happen to me now?"

"Remus will escort you to the hospital wing where you can get checked over, have some food, then get some sleep. You have been through a terrible ordeal and handled yourself admirably. You are much due some rest."

"But what about... Crouch? And Eric? Am I going to be arrested?"

"No," Dumbledore assured him firmly. "You killed in self-defence, Harry. You will not be punished for that."

"Not Eric," Harry said quietly. "That wasn't self-defence."

"It was in my defence," Snape said. "You saved my life, Potter. It would be poor repayment to let you go to prison for it."

Harry glanced at him and nodded. Remus cleared his throat and stepped forward.

"Come on, Harry. Let's go."

Harry wrapped his arms around himself and didn't move. "Will I... my friends, do I have to...?"

"They are not aware that you've returned," Dumbledore said, understanding his unfinished question. "I shall inform them, but you needn't see them until you're ready if you don't wish."

"I'd like that," Harry said quietly.

"Very well. Off you go now."

But Harry still didn't move. He looked hesitantly at Snape. "Sir, will you... willyoucomewithme?" he asked rapidly. Snape blinked at him.

"What?"

"To-to the hospital wing. Please?"

Snape opened his mouth to answer, but Dumbledore spoke before he could.

"I'm sure Professor Snape would be glad to accompany you. Though perhaps after cleaning himself up."

Snape turned a scowl on him, but drew his wand and cast a spell at himself that cleaned away the blood on his face then he swept towards the door. Harry followed then noticed Remus hadn't moved and paused to glance back.

"Are you coming?"

"I thought..." Remus said, glancing at Snape.

"Please?" Harry said in a small voice and Remus nodded.

"Of course."

They left together, no one saying a word, and Harry walked between the two men as they traversed the halls. The trip took them past the Gryffindor common room and just as they did, the portrait of the Fat Lady swung open behind them and Harry heard a familiar voice saying, "—homework can help distract you, Ron. Sitting in the common room—Harry!"

He cringed, wishing Hermione hadn't noticed him.

"Harry, you're back!" Ron's voice called. "Oi, Fred, George—Harry's back!"

But of course his shout was heard by the entire common room and there was a thunder of noise as everyone rushed to look. Harry didn't turn around and was glad when Snape and Remus stopped and moved to stand between him and the friends he could hear rushing towards him. He heard Ron and Hermione stop short, and could hear Fred and George shoving their way through the Gryffindors and hurrying out.

"Harry?" he heard one of them say.

"Mr Potter has been through a very difficult ordeal," Snape said sharply and Harry knew he had his sternest classroom expression on, the one that kept even Slytherins silent and obedient. "He is going to the hospital wing and he is not to be disturbed."

"But, sir," Hermione started.

"Was I not clear enough, Granger?" Snape interrupted. "Potter is to be left alone."

"You can't stop us seeing him," one of the twins snapped. "We're his friends."

"It's the headmaster's orders, George," Remus said apologetically. "You can see Harry when he's recovered a little. For now, he needs rest."

Harry started walking, not wanting to hear anymore, and Snape immediately followed him with Remus coming soon after. Harry kept his head down, not looking at any of the other few students they passed on the way, well aware that they were staring, and glad for Snape's intimidating presence at his side. When they finally reached the hospital wing, it was thankfully empty of anyone but Madam Pomfrey, who seemed to be waiting for them as she immediately bundled Harry into the private room where a pair of pyjamas waited on the bed. Harry put the pyjamas on, hearing the adults talking quietly outside as he did, then opened the door after he'd changed.

"I need to examine you, Potter," Pomfrey said in her gentlest medi-witch voice, guiding him to the bed and all but shoving him into it.

"I'm not injured."

"Potter, do as you're told," Snape said from the door.

"But I'm not hurt!" Harry insisted. "Except just scratches on my hands, but that's nothing. Please, I just want to sleep."

Snape scowled at him. "Potter, you need to be examined and you know perfectly well why. We both know what Eric Nicholson did to you; you need to be checked for damage."

Harry felt his face grow hot and he clenched his hands in his lap, glaring at them so he didn't have to look at any of their faces as he admitted, "I'm not hurt. It didn't—it wasn't—I'm not hurt. Just let me sleep, please."

There was a brief pause then Madam Pomfrey said, "Very well. Wait a moment while I fetch some Dreamless Sleep potion."

Harry sat in tense silence while Pomfrey was gone, aware of Snape and Remus still watching him, and didn't look up until Pomfrey was back with a dark purple potion that she poured into a goblet to hand him.

"Drink it all, Mr Potter."

Harry did so, gulping it all down in two mouthfuls. Immediately his eyelids grew heavy and by the time his head hit the pillow, he was deep in thankfully dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

It was Tuesday afternoon when Harry returned to Hogwarts and he stayed in the hospital wing until Friday evening. Max the therapist came to see him on Wednesday, but Harry wouldn't speak, just lay in his bed and stared at the wall. In fact, he wouldn't speak a word to anyone and only ever shrugged, nodded, and shook his head at Madam Pomfrey. He refused to see his friends and even when Dumbledore came by on Friday morning to tell him that the other children had been found and were being looked after, he only nodded.

He heard the headmaster speaking with Pomfrey afterwards, the matron's voice despairing as she said she didn't know what to do about Harry and his refusal to talk. He didn't hear Dumbledore's answer, but after dinner that day Snape came by for the first time since leaving him on Tuesday. He had a clean robe which he tossed onto Harry's bed then stood at the end with an unforgiving expression on his face.

"You will get dressed and return to Gryffindor tower before curfew this evening, Potter," he said plainly.

"Professor!" Pomfrey objected, bursting into the room. "Potter is not ready—"

"The hospital wing is for the sick and injured," Snape interrupted without taking his gaze from Harry. "Potter is neither. He can continue his silence if he wishes, but he will do it in Gryffindor tower."

"Really, Professor, I cannot allow this. You're not Mr Potter's Head of House and you cannot determine his release."

"By all means go to the headmaster," Snape replied smoothly. "He will tell you that he gave me free reign to do what I felt best for Potter and I am saying he is to return to Gryffindor. If he isn't back by curfew, then Gryffindor will lose fifty house points. If he isn't back by breakfast tomorrow, another fifty."

"Professor—!" Pomfrey gasped, but Harry reached for the robe on his bed and she fell silent. Snape smirked and swept out the room without another word. Looking unhappy, Pomfrey left as well, shutting the door so Harry could dress.

It wasn't even that he didn't want to talk, just that he couldn't. It was like something inside of him had shut down and refused to start up again.

He was greeted with silence when he got back to Gryffindor some fifteen minutes later, and then everyone started talking again just a bit too loudly. Harry went over to where Ron and Hermione were sitting by the window and they greeted him with tense smiles and worried eyes.

"Hey, mate, good to see you again," Ron said.

"How are you feeling?" Hermione asked. Harry shrugged and sat down, staring out the window and pretending not to notice the concerned look his friends exchanged.

"Fancy a game of chess, Harry?" Ron offered. Harry shook his head then did so again when he asked, "Gobstones?"

Ron and Hermione exchanged another helpless look.

"Did you hear about Hagrid?" Hermione tried. Harry glanced over, which she seemed to take as encouragement. "He's a half-giant."

Harry blinked, shrugged, and looked away again.

"Rita Skeeter found out," Hermione continued, and Harry scowled. Rita Skeeter was a journalist who wrote sensationalist news articles; she'd been covering the Triwizard Tournament and written several unflattering articles about the champions before Christmas. "She wrote a really horrible article a couple of weeks ago. Hagrid refused to teach and he was going to resign—"

That made Harry whip his head around, but Hermione was quick to assure him, "He hasn't. We went to see him on Saturday and convinced him that we didn't care and Dumbledore was there too; he told Hagrid that he wouldn't accept a resignation, so he's back to teaching classes now."

"Hermione shouted at her," Ron said. "Skeeter, I mean. There was a Hogsmeade visit on Saturday and we saw her in the Three Broomsticks, before we came back to talk to Hagrid. It was pretty brilliant, you should have seen Hermione, Harry."

"Well I couldn't say nothing, could I?" Hermione said defensively. "Not after everything she was writing about Hagrid and Sirius."

They noticed Harry's startled look and Ron explained, "Skeeter must have gone to talk to him after your disappearance, probably trying to get information on you or something, but we reckon he must have refused to talk because she published this really nasty article about him, saying how Azkaban had messed him up and he'd become a drunk and was a terrible guardian for the Boy Who Lived."

Harry couldn't argue with the idea that Azkaban had messed Sirius up, but he wondered where Skeeter got the idea that Sirius was a drunk. He occasionally had a beer in the evenings during the summer, but he certainly never got drunk, not in Harry's presence. Not that he cared that much. Skeeter could say what she liked about Sirius; it would never be as bad as the truth.

"Have you seen Sirius?" Hermione asked Harry. "We saw Professor Lupin a few times coming out of the hospital wing, but did Sirius ever come and visit you?"

Harry shook his head. He'd never told his friends about losing Sirius as a guardian; whenever he'd come up in discussion after the adoption, Harry had just pushed the conversation away from him and said as little as he could as vaguely as he could about the man. He supposed he'd have to tell them something eventually, probably before summer, but he didn't know what he was meant to tell them if he had to keep his adoption secret.

He jumped when he felt a hand touch his, but Hermione didn't let go, though she explained apologetically, "You were scratching."

He nodded and tugged his hand back, drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms around his legs, resting his cheek on his knee and staring out the window.

"Harry," Hermione said gently but with clear worry in her voice, "did you do all those injuries on your hands?"

He didn't answer, not even to shrug, and Hermione didn't ask again, but over the next few days his friends would stop him whenever they caught him scratching. He could tell it concerned them and he couldn't tell which bothered them more—his scratching or his silence. Hermione looked worried when she caught him scratching and upset when he would answer their questions and comments with shrugs and nods, and Ron just looked helpless about both things.

The twins took it better. On Saturday evening Harry found himself sat between them on a sofa in front of the fire, each holding a hand and talking around him, sometimes directing questions at him and then carrying on the conversation as if he'd actually answered with something other than a vague gesture. He found himself appreciating both their reassuringly firm warmth and their casual acceptance, and tried to ignore the sick twist in his gut that said he didn't deserve it.

Sunday was a bad day for Harry. At breakfast he found out that a Hufflepuff second year had been pulled out of school earlier that week because her father had been killed, and he had to leave the Great Hall to be sick in a toilet. He didn't need to ask to know the second year's name and now he was swamped with the added guilt of not only being a murderer, but at being responsible for taking Emma Nicholson's father from her. He'd completely forgotten about her.

Later that morning Colin and Dennis Creevey were practising charms in one corner of the common room shortly before lunch and Harry, reading his Transfiguration textbook in an armchair to keep his mind busy and catch up on what he missed, leapt out of his skin when Dennis miscast a spell that blew up a pot plant. He wasn't the only one and several other students shrieked with surprise then laughed it off, but Harry dropped his textbook and started hyperventilating, trembling from head to toe and feeling sick and dizzy while his heart pounded so irregularly inside his chest that he thought he was dying. It was only made worse when everyone kept asking what was wrong and crowding around him while Dennis shouted apologies, until Angelina Johnson snapped at them all to leave him alone because he was having a panic attack, and then she sent Hermione to the hospital wing to fetch Madam Pomfrey while she and Ron took him upstairs to his dorm so he was away from everyone else. Angelina talked to him quietly, helping him calm his breathing down and she told him to keep raising and lowering his arms.

"It'll help you focus," she explained as he did it. "I know you're scared, but you're not in danger here. You can get through this, I promise. I know it's scary, but it will pass and you'll be alright, Harry."

She kept talking even after Hermione arrived with Madam Pomfrey, asking if he needed water and sending Ron to get a glass when he nodded, asking if he wanted a comforting hand and accepting it when he shook his head, and counting him through his breathing.

The panic attack felt like it lasted an eternity to Harry, but in reality was only twenty minutes. When it finally passed and he no longer felt like he was going to die, he gave Angelina a thoroughly grateful look, fairly sure he wouldn't have got through it without her, and she smiled at him.

"My mum has severe anxiety; I've helped her through panic attacks before."

"You did admirably, Johnson," Madam Pomfrey told her. "Twenty points to Gryffindor. Potter, do you feel well enough to stay here?"

He nodded and though she pursed her lips she didn't argue with him. "Do you know what caused the attack?"

"Dennis Creevey blew up a plant pot," Ron answered. "I think it was the noise."

Pomfrey's lips tightened again and she looked like she wanted to mutter something unpleasant, but she just nodded and said, "Come by the hospital wing after lunch so I can give you some booklets on panic attacks in case it happens again. You two as well, Weasley and Granger. You'll need to know how to help him if another one occurs."

"Again?" Ron said, alarmed. "Can't you give him something to stop it?"

Pomfrey directed her answer to Harry. "That would be your therapist's decision, and even then all we can give you are anti-anxiety potions and they won't stop panic attacks, just reduce the chance of you having them. You'll have to discuss it with Max on Tuesday, Potter."

Harry nodded and she left after congratulating Angelina again. Angelina gave Harry one last smile and returned to the common room, and Harry settled himself on his bed, leaning against the headboard and drawing his knees up slightly.

"You alright, mate?" Ron asked tentatively. Harry shrugged.

"I should probably go back downstairs," Hermione said. "This is the boys' dorm. Will you be alright, Harry?"

He nodded and she gave him a weak smile before leaving. Ron sat on the edge of the bed, eyes darting about as he searched for something to say. Eventually he settled for asking, "D'you want me to get your Transfiguration book?"

He nodded and Ron left looking glad for something to do. He didn't come back, but Fred and George turned up, the former holding his book and both entering with unusual hesitation.

"Alright there, Harry?" Fred asked. Harry shrugged and they came over. "Ron said you wanted this."

Harry held his hand out and Fred handed the book over.

"You mind if we sit with you?" George asked. In answer, Harry shuffled over to make room for one of them to sit by him. Fred took the spot and George sat cross legged opposite them. Harry opened the textbook back to the page he was at, but he couldn't manage to concentrate. After two minutes of silence, George reached over and grabbed the top of the book, pausing and catching Harry's eye then pulling it away when Harry nudged it to show he didn't mind. Flipping the book around to look at it, George skimmed what he'd been reading then tossed the book over to Ron's bed and bent down to tug Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland out from under Harry's own bed.

"Much more interesting," he said. Harry had to agree, but when he held out his hand for it George shook his head, opened the book himself, cleared his throat, and began reading. Harry settled himself against the headboard, oddly grateful as George read about the various Quidditch teams, complete with his own running commentary on both various players' skills and attractiveness. By the time lunch came, he was so calmed down that the panic attack felt like a distant memory.

* * *

He was in two minds about returning to classes on Monday morning. On the one hand, they meant he finally had something to do with himself all day and he had plenty to concentrate on after missing three weeks of classes, but it also meant dealing with the whispers and pointing from the rest of the school. He'd attended meals late over the weekend to avoid having to see people too much and he did the same on Monday, but he couldn't avoid people in the corridors. No one came to ask him about what happened, but this didn't surprise him; Hermione and Ron told him that on the morning after his return, Dumbledore had asked the school not to bother Harry or ask about his disappearance when he finally rejoined them, and he had the feeling word had got around about his silence. The teachers certainly seemed to be aware as none of them asked him to speak up in class. Even when Sprout kept him behind at the end of Herbology to tell him about what he needed to catch up on from the weeks he'd missed, she clearly didn't expect anything more than nods from him, though she did look pityingly at him. In Care of Magical Creatures, Hagrid thumped him on the shoulder hard enough to make his knees cripple and said how glad he was that Harry was back and safe.

The only teacher that didn't treat him differently was Snape. In their Potions class on Tuesday afternoon, Snape took fifteen points from Gryffindor when Harry remained silent every time he asked a question, until Ron burst out, "Just ask someone else! You can see he's not talking and he's been through a serious ordeal. Leave him alone!"

Snape's lip curled in a sneer. "Another ten points from Gryffindor for your outburst, Weasley. Your other teachers may feel it necessary to treat the precious Mr Potter like a fragile doll, but I don't not have the patience nor inclination to give him any special treatment. If he cannot participate in classes, then he will endure the punishment for it."

Hermione had to tread on Ron's foot to keep him from saying anything else and losing them more points or getting himself a detention and while Harry was touched by the display of loyalty, he was glad for Snape's behaviour even though it meant losing house points. It was a nice reminder that no matter what else happened, Snape would always be predictably consistent in his behaviour and treatment of Harry.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks were difficult for Harry. He constantly jumped at loud noises, which in Hogwarts were often and which the Slytherins delighted in causing when they realised how badly it affected him, at least until Crabbe and Goyle jumped out on him one day, throwing down firecrackers, and Harry responded by flinging out his wand and managing to wordlessly send the firecrackers soaring into their bellies with enough force to burn straight through their robes and land both boys in the hospital wing for several days.

He had more panic attacks as well, though not always triggered by loud noises. Sometimes all it took was hearing someone make a lewd comment—not even aimed at him, merely said by one student to another and within Harry's hearing—and he would find himself hyperventilating and had to get guided to somewhere isolated by Ron and Hermione to calm down. Just as bad where the random flashbacks and constant nightmares he would have of his month away. His hands were constantly covered in scratches because his friends didn't always catch him doing it before he managed to break through skin.

It didn't help that Rita Skeeter wrote an article about his return that speculated wildly about what happened while he was away, and she must have spoken to some of the Slytherins because she exaggerated all his difficulties dealing with it and suggested he wasn't fit to attend Hogwarts if he was attacking other students.

He continued to have sessions with Max, who informed him that he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and prescribed him an anti-anxiety potion that he had to take every morning, and who overcame his speech problems by making him draw or paint. Harry thought it was stupid at first, especially as he had no artistic skill whatsoever, but he soon found himself looking forward to the chance to express some of what he was feeling by drawing angry pictures or splashing paint on a canvas. He couldn't explain how a mess of colour was an accurate representation of how he felt, but Max seemed to understand it anyway. What he didn't enjoy were the times when Max had him draw or write about Eric's death to help him learn to deal with the memories and the emotions that accompanied them. He didn't like being told that avoiding thinking about it and doing his best to avoid anything that triggered flashbacks—which was admittedly difficult when sometimes all it took was a word—was not a healthy way to deal with what happened, but did appreciate Max giving him a small rubber ball and suggesting he play with that whenever he caught himself scratching at his hands, so he would have something to distract his fingers.

As time went on his refusal to speak began to bother his other teachers as well as Snape—more so, even, because practical Potions classes didn't require him to speak like his other classes, and despite all his point taking Snape claimed he preferred Harry silent because then he didn't have to hear "the nauseating rubbish that spews out whenever you open your mouth". The other teachers understood that he'd been through an ordeal and needed to recover so hadn't complained for the first week, but after that they started getting annoyed that he would only do the wand motions but fail to cast any actual spells. It bothered him too and every time McGonagall would purse her lips at him or Flitwick would sigh sadly he only felt more and more inadequate and miserable, but he couldn't explain that sometime between leaving Dumbledore's office the day he returned to Hogwarts and waking up in the hospital wing the next morning, his throat had closed up and he didn't know how to make it open again.

He was losing his friends as well, he could tell. They didn't leave him, but Ron and Hermione tended to talk around him rather than at him, making little or no effort to involve him in conversations anymore. In retaliation, he started spending less time with them, not wanting to sit while they spoke around him like he was a pot plant and feeling angry at them for doing it, and angry at himself for putting them in that position. He tried writing letters to Remus, who'd said while Harry was in the hospital wing that Harry could write to him anytime and that Dumbledore had agreed to let Remus visit the school if Harry ever needed him to talk to, but he couldn't find words to put on paper any more than he could find them to leave his mouth.

He didn't end up alone, though. Fred and George continued to include him in conversations where they reacted as if he'd spoken to them, and the less time he spent with Ron and Hermione the more he spent with the twins. The highlights of his week soon became Friday evenings. A week after his release from the hospital wing, the twins stole his Firebolt from the dorm, asked if he minded them borrowing it, and ignored his nod that yes he did mind.

"Great! We'll be out on the pitch. See you later!"

Harry couldn't let them get away with that, of course, and hurried after them when they ran out, which was what they'd planned all along and once they reached the Quidditch pitch they summoned their own broomsticks, tossed Harry his, and told him to fly with them. It was the first time he'd been on the Quidditch pitch since Higgs and Montague raped him and he glanced nervously towards the stands under which it'd happened, but Fred called down, "Forgotten how to fly, Harry?" and he refused to let what happened get in the way of doing the one thing that had always made him happy. So he mounted the Firebolt, kicked off, and spent a couple of hours flying rings around the twins and catching snitch-sized balls that they conjured for him. It made him feel better than he had all week and every Friday afterwards they were back out on the pitch.

* * *

"What's this about, Weasley?"

Fred and George stood on the Quidditch pitch one Tuesday afternoon, identical grins on their faces as they looked at the nineteen students collected in front of them—the Quidditch teams from each of the houses, all except for Harry and those who had left at the end of last year and not been replaced because there was no cup this year. The Slytherin and Gryffindor teams were only missing one player each, with Gryffindor no longer having a Keeper and Slytherin having lost Chaser Graham Montague when he was expelled. Hufflepuff were short their Keeper and one Chaser, and Ravenclaw was missing two Chasers.

"Quidditch," the twins answered Slytherin Chaser Warrington.

"What about it?" Cedric Diggory asked. "In case you hadn't noticed, there's no cup this year."

"But that doesn't mean there are no matches," Fred replied.

The Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs, and Gryffindors exchanged confused looks. The Slytherins scoffed and rolled their eyes.

"You're wasting our time," Malfoy sneered. "Let's go."

"Feel free, Malfoy," Fred told him, "just leave behind your Keeper."

Miles Bletchley looked at him with a scowl. "What are you on about, Weasley?"

"We had a talk with Dumbledore."

"And then we had a chat with Viktor Krum and Fleur Delacour."

"And they all agreed to a match."

Even the Slytherins looked intrigued now.

"A match with Durmstrang and Beauxbatons?" Cho Chang asked. The twins grinned.

"Against them," they said together.

Diggory looked sceptical. "What for? This can't have anything to do with the tournament."

Fred shook his head. "It's not. Dumbledore said we could have one match—"

"—mixed team from all houses or we wouldn't have invited you lot—" George added to the Slytherins.

"—against a Durmstrang/Beauxbatons mixed team, on the first Saturday of the Easter holidays, to try and help Harry get out of his slump."

"Fuck that!" burst out Adrian Pucey. "Why the fuck should we do anything for Potter?"

"Maybe to make up for what your housemates attacking him at the start of the year?" Angelina Johnson suggested. The Slytherins turned on her with nasty looks.

"Potter's the one who got our housemates expelled," Pucey retorted. "And it wasn't the first time. He got Tanner and Bower expelled last year as well."

Alicia Spinnet stepped up beside her fellow Chaser, folding her arms over her chest. "Maybe if you lot didn't keep attacking him, it wouldn't be a problem."

"I'll give you problems, you jumped up bitch," Pucey growled, but before he could do more than clench his fists, Malfoy suddenly spoke up.

"I think it's a good idea."

Everyone looked at him with surprise and suspicion.

"Not for Potter," he added in a sneer. "But a match against Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. It's not like we can rely on Diggory to beat them in the tournament—" There were objections from the Hufflepuffs, but Malfoy continued in a loud voice, "—so we might as well kick their arses in this. I assume they're playing mixed team to give them a better selection of players, but they won't be a strong team so we can beat them. The only one we'll have trouble with is Krum. Is he playing?" he asked the twins, who shrugged.

"We don't know who their team will be," George told them all. "They're meeting up to decide at some point, but Maxime and Karkoroff don't know about the match. Krum and Delacour didn't think they'd agree, so they're keeping it quiet and we need to do the same. Dumbledore and Madam Hooch are the only teachers who know and we can tell the other students, but NOT Harry. It's to be a surprise for him."

"Hang on a minute," Cho Chang said. "If this whole thing is for Harry, then presumably he's going to be the Hogwarts Seeker? We can't keep it from him then," she said when the twins nodded. "He needs to practice."

"Don't worry about Harry. We're getting him some practice."

"He's Seeker so it won't be too detrimental to the team for him not to practice with us."

"Us?" Pucey repeated. "Who says you're on the team as well?"

"We do," Fred answered.

"Because it was our idea."

"And we're the best Beaters in Hogwarts," they finished together.

"Who else then?" Cedric asked. "You said you wanted Bletchley for Keeper?"

The twins nodded. "We need a strong Chaser group in case Krum decides to play," George explained. "Harry's good, but against Krum he's probably not good enough so we need a strong set of Chasers to get the points up, and none of us get along with the Slytherins well enough that having any of them as Chaser is a good idea. But as I said, Dumbledore insists we have at least one Slytherin on the team so that only leaves Keeper."

"And Bletchley's the best Keeper in school," Malfoy said, and the Slytherins nodded their agreement.

"Only because Oliver Wood left," Katie Bell remarked.

"Davies, you'll have to play," Cedric said loudly before the Gryffindors and Slytherins could start fighting. "You're the only Ravenclaw Chaser left."

Roger Davies nodded. "I want Macavoy and Applebee," he said, referring to the two remaining Hufflepuff Chasers. "We've already got three Gryffindors on the team," he added to Angelina, Alicia, and Katie.

The three girls exchanged glances and Katie shrugged. "I was glad to get the year off anyway so I could focus on my OWLs, so I don't mind not playing."

"Can't say I'm not disappointed," Alicia said, "but Davies is right."

Angelina nodded reluctantly. Fred and George clapped their hands together.

"Excellent! So let's talk practice times..."

* * *

On the twenty-third of February, the day before the second Triwizard task, Harry was returning to Gryffindor from his session with Max when Sirius stepped out of a secret passage. Harry stopped short, staring at him, and immediately reached for his wand, but Sirius lurched forward and grabbed his wrists. Up close Harry could see his eyes were bloodshot and he reeked of alcohol, his breath stinking foully with every word he spoke.

"Harry... Harry, you're safe..." He hugged him tightly, ignoring Harry's struggling to get away, and pulled back only to wrap both hands tightly around Harry's arms. "I know I'm not meant to be here," he said in a hushed voice, "but I couldn't not see you. I was worried about you when you went missing and then the papers said you were back, but Dumbledore and Snivellus wouldn't let me see you. I'm your godfather, Harry, and I know things have been bad between us, but I miss you. Are you okay?"

Harry shook his head, still trying to wrench himself free, but it only served to make Sirius tighten his grip.

"What's wrong? Are you hurt? What happened while you were gone?"

Harry just shook his head again. His breathing was starting to grow difficult and he knew he was going to have a panic attack, but he didn't have anyone to help him and he just wanted Sirius to let go—

There was a bang and Sirius flew away from him, crashing to the floor several feet away. Harry realised his wand was in his hand and had no idea how it got there, but he didn't care. He turned tail and ran, heard Sirius calling after him and then footsteps following, and he rounded a corner and crashed into someone.

"Potter!" a familiar voice snarled. "Watch where you're going and no running in—Potter, what are you doing?!" Snape interrupted himself when Harry stepped around him, hiding behind him and clinging to the back of his robes, but then Sirius turned the corner.

"You!" Snape spat, wand in hand in an instant, flinging a spell that Sirius dodged, drawing his own wand and throwing a spell back. Snape shoved Harry against the wall, where he stood and watched as the two men threw hexes and curses at one another. Sirius was yelling at Snape for stealing Harry and mentioned something about Snape poisoning him, while Snape yelled at Sirius for being a pathetic drunk and sneered that he wouldn't waste the ingredients to poison Sirius. The noise of their duel brought other people, the corridor crowding with spectators who watched the fight gleefully, many cheering on Sirius just because they didn't like Snape. Harry could see McGonagall struggling to get through the crowd, but they were too interested in the fight to let her through. Meanwhile Sirius' curses were getting worse and Snape had gone defensive, trying to protect the students from wayward spells as much as himself, and Harry did the only thing his panic stricken mind could think of to end the duel, which was fling himself between the two men screaming, "STOP IT!"

And that was when the spell hit him.

Chapter Text

Fred, George, Ron, and Hermione were there when he woke up in the hospital wing and were quick to inform him that he'd been hit by a Lightning Hex from Sirius and died for a minute and fifty-three seconds.

"Snape resuscitated you," Hermione told him, "but Sirius ran after that and now the Aurors are looking for him to arrest him for assault and trespassing."

"Good," Harry said. Hermione's jaw dropped.

"You spoke!" Fred and George cried.

"If we'd known we just had to kill you to make it happen, we'd have done it sooner," Fred joked and Hermione smacked him on the arm.

"That's not funny!"

"Harry thinks so," George countered, noticing the slight twitch to Harry's lips. Hermione didn't look impressed.

"Why's it good?" Ron asked Harry. "They'll send him back to Azkaban, Harry. He didn't mean to hit you; he was aiming for Snape, the greasy git, and he felt really bad about hitting you. You should have seen him; he was crying and shouting while you were..." he shuddered and finished with obvious reluctance, "dead."

"Don't care."

"What?" Hermione gasped. "But, Harry, he's—"

"An abusive bastard. And I think Skeeter was right; he's a drunk now too."

Ron gaped at him. Fred and George exchanged looks. Hermione leant forwards in her seat.

"He abused you? Why didn't you ever say anything?" she asked when he nodded. He shrugged.

"Didn't know how."

She looked like she was going to cry and Harry was glad when Madam Pomfrey's office door opened and she came hurrying out. She sent his friends away so she could examine him, fussing over him far more than usual, though he supposed it was only necessary given he'd died. Snape turned up shortly before she finished, but he didn't say anything until Pomfrey had left, even when she gave him a stern warning not to stress Harry out. Harry watched Snape move to the end of the bed, hands gripping the footboard as he stared down at Harry with an unreadable expression.

"If you ever," he said quietly, "ever do something so stupid again, I will put you in detention for so long your grandchildren will be scrubbing cauldrons. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir. Thanks for saving my life. Um... Hermione said you resuscitated me?" he asked, only just realising what that may have involved.

Snape snorted, lifting his arms to fold them over his chest and giving Harry a disdainful look. "With magic, Potter, so you can wipe that worried look off your face. I was merely repaying the life debt created by your idiocy. If you must insist on saving my life again, at least wait until I've paid off the first life debt."

"You wouldn't have died," Harry tried. He didn't much like the idea of Snape owing him a life debt either. "I didn't. Not permanently anyway. Someone would have revived you too."

"They're not likely to have succeeded. You don't have a congenital heart defect."

Harry blinked. "Oh. I didn't know."

Snape shot him a look that clearly said 'Why should you have?' and asked, "Did those menaces you call friends tell you about Black?"

"He's wanted for arrest."

Snape nodded curtly. "Dumbledore is pressing charges for trespassing and assault of a student. As the crime was committed on school grounds, McGonagall and Dumbledore will be able to act in loco parentis to prevent my needing to be involved, though I have every intention of pressing charges myself for attempted murder."

"What? But—"

"Don't you dare excuse him, Potter," Snape interrupted. "Black threw that hex at me; he was trying to kill me."

Harry scowled and didn't argue. "What about—Sirius was shouting—does everyone about the adopt-"

"No," Snape said shortly, eyes flicking down the ward. "He didn't mention it explicitly, though I may have to do some damage control regarding several things he did say." He turned away, apparently finished and planning to leave, then paused and said without looking back, "If you've returned to your silence by the time you're back in my classroom, Gryffindor will lose so many points you won't win the house cup for another seven years."

* * *

Snape needn't have worried about Harry's speech though. Far from returning to silence, he was now prone to angry outbursts. Just the next morning he blew up at Madam Pomfrey when she said he would have to stay in the hospital wing and miss the second Triwizard task. She responded by charming him to the bed and leaving him there while she went off to be on hand for the task. By the time she came back, he was thoroughly unhappy and suitably remorseful and she let him up after he apologised, but still didn't release him from the wing until after dinner that night.

But over the next couple of weeks he would snap at people for the slightest thing and lose his temper over something as stupid as a misspelling in his homework. He got angry for having panic attacks and flashbacks, would even get angry at himself just for getting angry, and he earned three separate detentions—one for fighting a Hufflepuff named Zacharias Smith in the Entrance Hall after he made a comment about Harry being an attention seeker, one for fighting Malfoy outside of Potions when Malfoy suggested the Lightning Hex had addled his brains and he should be thrown in Saint Mungo's, and one in Potions for shouting at Snape when Snape insulted his parents.

"Harry, you need to calm down," Hermione said to him after class. "You can't keep losing your temper at people."

"Oh, shove off, Hermione," he snapped, still fuming from Snape's remark and the detention that Snape set for the very next morning—a Saturday and a Hogsmeade weekend—and for Sunday evening. He felt a spark of guilt at the hurt look on Hermione's face, but then Ron muttered, "Better when he just didn't talk," and Harry's temper flared again. He whirled around, glaring at his friends who both stopped short.

"Fine! If you prefer me being quiet then just stay away from me so you don't have to listen! No one's making you put up with me, are they?" he yelled before storming off.

The next few days were terribly unpleasant. Ron and Hermione, unsurprisingly, weren't talking to him. He spent Saturday morning pickling rats' brains in the dungeons then got accosted in the Entrance Hall just after lunch by the twins, who said they wanted to take him to Hogsmeade on a date for the rest of the afternoon, and Harry retaliated by snapping that he wasn't a whore and they could find someone else to fuck around. By dinner time he was thoroughly miserable at having managed to push all his friends away, angry at them for abandoning him, and angry at himself for making it that way. He spent most of Sunday shut away in an empty classroom practising the spells he hadn't learnt during his month of silence and getting irritated when they didn't work, but the more annoyed he got the more poorly he cast and the less they worked. He spent his second detention with Snape scrubbing out cauldrons, and by the time he stormed back to Gryffindor tower, he was in such a foul mood that half his housemates didn't even dare look at him, which, of course, only served to make his mood worse.

Monday and Tuesday passed just as unpleasantly and he was eager to see Max on Tuesday evening. The week before, Max had told him his anger was a good thing, that it meant he was finally releasing the emotions he'd been bottling up since his kidnapping; Harry fully intended to inform Max that there was nothing good about his anger because all it did was get him in trouble and make him lose his friends, and he didn't want to have any more sessions because Max clearly didn't know anything about anything, but the moment he walked into the room at the hospital wing that they used, he burst into tears.

Instead of ranting and raving, he spent fifty minutes finally saying everything he hadn't been able to vocalise before—the fear he'd had towards Barty Crouch Junior, his guilt and horror at killing him, his fear and hatred and anger and despair at Aljoša and his men and the situation they put him in, his self-hatred for offering himself up so often even though he didn't want it happening to the other kids, his bitterness towards the other kids for being grateful when it was him getting orally fucked instead of them, his anger at Eric for selling children but his gratitude that Eric had taken him from the group, his shame for having sex with the man and enjoying it, his fear when Snape had shown up and Daryl had put a gun to Harry's head and Eric put one to Snape's head, his horror at killing Eric, his shame for being glad that the man was dead, and his guilt for taking Emma's father from her.

Then there was all his fear that despite Dumbledore's assurances, someone would find out what he'd done and he'd go to Azkaban; there was his self-hatred and horror that he was even capable of murder, and a pressing fear that he might kill again and the next person would be someone innocent; there was his irritation and self-loathing for having panic attacks, jumping at loud noises, suffering flashbacks, and just generally being pathetic; there was his regret for not having written to Remus and a fear that Remus would now think Harry didn't like him, and a fear that in the time since they last saw each other Remus had come to hate Harry for being a murderer; there was his growing feelings towards Fred and George, which surely just confirmed his status as slut because normal people weren't attracted to two people at the same time, and a normal person wouldn't be interested in getting a boyfriend or two when they were recovering from a traumatic experience; more recently there was his renewed anger at Sirius, not only for turning up but for daring to say he missed Harry and worried about him, making Harry feel guilty for abandoning him because Sirius clearly wasn't dealing with that well, and feeling angry at himself for feeling guilty, and feeling newly afraid because Sirius had actually killed him, if only for a few minutes; and then there was his brand new fear that he'd irreparably ruined things with Ron, Hermione, Fred, and George.

When he finally ran out of things to say, he slumped in his chair with a shaky sigh, a pile of soggy tissues in the bin beside him. He looked blearily at his hands, limp in his lap. They were covered in scabs because he hadn't had anyone to stop him scratching over the past few days, and he'd been too angry to stop himself on the times he even noticed he was doing it.

"And how do you feel now?" Max asked him. "After saying all that?"

"Tired," Harry said, earning a small smile. "And... I don't know. Lighter, kind of. It's still all there, but having said it all now it's not so overwhelming."

Max nodded in understanding. "And you understand that everything you feel—it's alright. You're not bad for feeling any of those things, Harry; it's not wrong."

"Even being glad Eric is dead?"

"Even that. He abused you. It's not wrong for you to be glad that he can't do it again."

"He's a human being though. A person. He's got a kid at Hogwarts who's heartbroken that her dad is dead, and I'm glad. How is that not evil?"

"You're not glad for Emma's pain. That would be cause for concern, but there is nothing wrong with being glad that a man who abused you can't hurt you any longer. You can feel that and feel sympathy for Emma's loss, and one doesn't lessen the other."

Harry nodded, not sure if he believed it but too tired to argue or think about it too hard.

"We haven't got long left," Max told him after a glance at the clock. "I want to talk about your friends before you leave."

Harry sank further in his seat. "I was horrible to them. They probably hate me."

"I highly doubt that. I expect that when you apologise for the things you said, you'll quickly make up. You, Ron, and Hermione have been through too much together to let a lost temper ruin things now, and Fred and George have stuck by you all these weeks, haven't they? From what you've told me, they're not going to abandon you now just because you shouted at them. You just need to explain yourself. The past couple of months have been hard on them as well, worrying about you when you were gone and now they probably feel concerned and guilty for not knowing how to help you. That's not an invitation for you to feel more guilt," Max added, correctly reading Harry's expression.

"I don't like making them worry."

"I know, but you mustn't pretend to feel fine just because you want them to stop worrying. They're your friends, they're going to worry about you, but it won't help you at all if you start suppressing your emotions again just because you don't want to burden them. Talk to them, Harry."

"You mean tell them everything?"

"Perhaps, in future, if you feel ready to. But for now you should at least tell them you're grateful to have them and that their presence and support is important to you. They want to help you, Harry. How you want them to do that is up to you, but you have to let them know, even if it's just to tell them that all you want is for them to just be there and to treat you normally."

He nodded. A glance at the clock showed he had five more minutes left and he picked at a scab on his hand until Max coughed pointedly and he pulled out his small rubber ball to fiddle with instead, rolling it between his fingers and then blurting out, "What about Fred and George?"

"What about them?"

"About fancying them. Both of them. That's weird, isn't it?"

"No."

He frowned. "But..."

"It's more common than you'd think, Harry," Max informed him. "And they are physically identical, so it's not surprising that you would find yourself attracted to both of them."

"But they're still different people."

"There isn't anything wrong with liking two people at the same time. From what you've told me, I expect your feelings are reciprocated and they'd be quite willing to... ah... share you, if you want that. It doesn't make you a whore or a slut," Max added when Harry flushed. "I've told you before and I will tell you again: there is nothing wrong with desiring and enjoying sex."

"But Eric..."

"Eric did what?" Max prompted gently. Harry pressed the ball between the palms of his hands, feeling it depress slightly from the pressure.

"He abused me," he said, repeating words Max made him speak every time he tried to blame himself for what happened. "He made me feel responsible for things that weren't my fault and shamed me because of his own twisted desires. I shouldn't let the things he did to me stop me from living a normal life and doing the things normal people do."

"And...?"

He inhaled shakily. "And I shouldn't be ashamed of feeling attracted to someone and wanting to have a relationship and safe, consensual sex with them."

Max smiled. "Precisely. We've run out of time now, but we'll talk more next week about some of the things you said today, alright?"

He nodded, muttered a thank you, and left. He played with the ball all the way back to Gryffindor, where he found Ron and Hermione sat in armchairs in one corner of the common room. He hesitated before going over, still slightly worried that they would tell him to shove his apology up his arse, and fidgeted when Ron gave him a cold stare.

"Yes?"

"I, um... I wanted to apologise," he said, glancing nervously between the two. "I'm sorry for shouting at you on Friday and I'm sorry for being a bit of a git these last couple of weeks. I know it's been difficult for you with me being missing and then not talking and then being really angry, and I want you to know that I really appreciate you sticking by me and I'm really glad to have you as friends. If—if we're still friends?"

"Oh, Harry!" Hermione leapt out of her chair and flung her arms around him in a fierce hug. He flinched, but tentatively returned it. "Of course we're still friends."

Harry squeezed her then looked over her shoulder. "Ron?"

Hermione pulled away, biting at her lip as she looked at Ron as well. His expression was still cold.

"What did Snape make you do for detention?"

Harry blinked, not expecting to be asked that. "He made me pickle rats' brains on Saturday, and on Sunday I had to scrub cauldrons."

Ron looked at him for another moment, then wrinkled his nose. "Gross," he said with a grin and Harry smiled.

"Yeah, it was. I've got my one for attacking Smith tomorrow, with Filch. God knows what he'll make me do."

"Nothing pleasant," Ron commiserated. "Fancy a game of chess?"

"I need to do homework," he said apologetically. "I'm still catching up on the spells I didn't do before, but I need to apologise to Fred and George as well. Do you know where they are?"

"They went off somewhere earlier this evening," Hermione answered. "They'll be back eventually. Do some homework while you wait; what spells are you still learning?"

He sat and discussed cross-species transfigurations with her for half an hour until the portrait hole opened and Fred and George entered, looking rather wind swept. Harry excused himself and went over as they crossed the common room, catching them just as they reached the stairs to the boys' dormitories.

"Hey, guys? Can I talk to you, please?"

For a moment he thought they were going to say no, and he was more wary of them than Ron and Hermione because there was a good chance they'd just prank him, but eventually they nodded and turned to walk up the stairs. Harry followed them all the way up to their dorm, where they kicked out Lee Jordan and then turned to him with expectant expressions.

"I'm sorry about Saturday. I shouldn't have said what I did. I didn't mean it, I was just... I was pissed off and not friendly and you're not the only ones I snapped at, so it wasn't anything personal and I'm sorry."

Fred stuck his hands in his pockets. "We wouldn't mess you about, Harry. Especially not after everything you've been through."

"We like you—"

"Really like you."

"—but if you're not interested or you're just not ready for a relationship because of whatever happened while you were gone, just say so."

"We'll still be your friends," Fred assured him. "We'll stick by you, stop you hurting yourself, and support you however you need."

"But we'd like to know if there's any point in keeping our hopes up for taking things beyond friendship."

Harry bit his lip. He hadn't expected that, though he supposed he should have given what they were asking for when he snapped at them.

Fred stepped forward, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Really, Harry. If you say no or not now, we won't be angry or anything. Heartbroken, if it's a no, but we won't abandon you."

Harry could tell he meant it; it was clear in his eyes, and without even thinking about it, Harry grabbed him by the collar and tugged him down the short distance to make their mouths meet. Fred made a surprised noise, but immediately returned it, one arm slipping around Harry's waist and the other cupping his cheek—which was when Harry gasped and jerked away.

Fred blinked at him. "What's wrong?"

"Your hands are freezing! What have you been doing?"

Fred grinned sheepishly. "Flying. Forgot my gloves."

Harry shook his head, smiling, then looked over at George. "Are yours cold too?"

George wiggled his fingers. "Come find out."

Smiling a little, Harry went to him and kissed him as well, then made an embarrassingly high pitched noise when George slipped a hand under his jumper and shirt to press cold fingers against his skin.

"You're mean!" he cried, jerking away, and they both laughed at him. He huffed and folded his arms over his chest, turning his nose up. "I hate you both."

Instantly they were on either side of him, two pairs of arms circling him and two mouths pressing kisses to his cheeks. "No, you don't," George said.

"We're too adorable to hate."

"Modest much?" Harry asked, but he was smiling.

"Modesty is for humble Hufflepuffs, not gorgeous Gryffindors."

"Nice alliteration, Gred."

"Thank you, Forge."

"You're going to drive me mad, aren't you?" Harry said dryly.

"Yes," they answered together. Harry found he didn't really mind.

Chapter Text

Harry was irritated to discover that finally talking about everything didn't stop his panic attacks, nightmares, or flashbacks. It seemed to him that finally getting everything off his chest should have meant a reprieve, but if anything it seemed worse, like talking about it all gave his brain permission to think about it more often. Unfortunately that also made him more prone to scratching his hands, which over time had become less about trying to get rid of imaginary blood and more of an anxiety reaction, the pain of digging nails into his skin providing some distraction from his wild thoughts. Sometimes he found himself doing it just because he felt like he should hurt himself in punishment for the things he'd done.

He finally wrote a letter to Remus. He apologised for not writing earlier and explained why, scribbling out a long message about how he'd had so much trouble trying to find words and had then been too angry to sit down and write. He confessed to his misbehaviour during those weeks and the detentions he did for it, and although he didn't go into detail about all his mixed feelings, he did briefly touch on them and say how good it felt to finally get it all off his chest in his sessions with Max. He also mentioned his relationship with Fred and George and how happy it made him, then finished the letter asking about how Remus himself was doing.

On the last weekend of March, Harry confessed to George, Ron, and Hermione about Eric, the truth of his 'mugging' and the attack by Higgs and Montague, clinging tightly to Fred's hand the entire time he spoke. He also admitted to Sirius using him, and to what happened to him while he was missing, though he didn't go into detail or mention the murders he committed. George stood up and walked out of the secret passage they were sitting in to talk, and Fred squeezed Harry's hand then went after his brother. Hermione burst into tears, but seemed to realise Harry wouldn't appreciate being attacked with a hug right then and instead flung herself on Ron, who stroked her back and looked at Harry with a hard expression.

"If I ever see Sirius again, I'll kill him."

Harry nodded, but his gaze slipped worriedly to the entrance of the passage.

"They'll be back," Ron assured him. "George just won't cry in front of anyone but Fred."

Harry nodded again, but he didn't relax until the twins came back and George, red-eyed, sat down beside him and pulled him into a hug. Harry leant into it gladly, feeling Fred sit on his other side, and was silently thankful for the friends he had.

* * *

A week later, on the first Saturday of the easter holidays, he'd just finished his breakfast when Dumbledore stood up at the staff table and called for their attention. Harry frowned, glancing around and noticing that rather a lot of students looked as baffled as he felt, though a few appeared excited. More interesting was the fact that not a single member of staff seemed to know what Dumbledore was about to announce. McGonagall was frowning at him; Snape had a coffee cup held halfway to his mouth and was scowling; Moody had both his normal and magical eye on the headmaster and seemed to be fingering his wand under the table as though worried he'd need to start hexing someone; and Madam Maxime and Igor Karkoroff were looking at him suspiciously.

"It is my great pleasure to announce that, thanks to the efforts of a few very kind students, a very exciting event will take place this morning. If I could please ask everyone to make their way down the Quidditch pitch, where it will start in half an hour."

"What's that—" Harry started to ask Hermione and Ron, but the twins stood up on either side of him, grabbed him under the arms, and hauled him to his feet.

"Come on, Harry," Fred said firmly, guiding him towards the door. "Time to go."

"What? Go where? What's going on?"

"Well it involves you—"

"—a broomstick—"

"—and a Golden Snitch."

"Oh, and the rest of the team—"

"—and the other team—"

"—a few more balls—"

"—and a couple of bats."

Harry's head spun from the volley of words, but he managed to extract a meaning from it. "We're having a Quidditch match? Against who?"

"Find out when we get there," Fred said with a smirk. Harry frowned at him.

"But we don't have a Keeper."

They'd reached the entrance to the grounds now and at his remark they suddenly veered off course, pulling him to one side and away from the other students who were heading towards the Quidditch pitch.

"The thing is," Fred said in a tone that made a ripple of unease run through Harry, "we're playing on a mixed team, Harry. Not just Gryffindor."

Harry looked between them, taking in the concerned look that was particularly apparent on George's face, and realised, "We're playing with Slytherin, aren't we?"

"Just one," George assured him, taking Harry's hands to stop him scratching himself; he'd not even realised he was doing it. "Miles Bletchley. He's our Keeper."

"Why? Who else are we playing with, and if we're a mixed team then who's our opposition? And why am I only hearing about this now?"

"Because it's a surprise?" Fred replied.

George shook his head and looked apologetic. "Because Fred's an idiot sometimes. We came up with this idea back in February, while you were still in your silent phase."

"We thought it might be a good way to lift your spirits a bit and took it to Dumbledore. He agreed, but said we had to have at least one player from each house."

"I didn't think it would be such a problem until last weekend when you told me exactly what the Slytherins have done to you. Fred here never mentioned that playing with Slytherin could be an issue for you."

He seemed to be expecting Harry to blow up at the idea of playing with a Slytherin or to refuse point blank, and the idea did appeal because he had a deep set loathing and distrust of the entire house—except Snape, who he'd grown to trust a little since the explosion—and walking onto the Quidditch pitch with a Slytherin did make him queasy, but... it was Quidditch. As long as the twins stuck by him between here and the pitch, he thought he might be alright.

"Just Bletchley?" he asked.

"Warrington and Pucey are our reserve Chasers and Malfoy's on reserve as Seeker, but main team—just Bletchley," Fred confirmed.

Harry's jaw dropped. "Malfoy?! Why not Diggory or Cho Chang? Why Malfoy? He's not even good!"

"We know," George grimaced, "but he paid for our uniforms and he's letting us use the Slytherins Nimbus 2001s, so we had to let him."

Fred shook his head sadly. "Diggory refused anyway, said he needed to concentrate on the tournament, and Chang actually said that Malfoy deserved it for buying the uniforms and letting us use the brooms."

"What uniforms? And why couldn't everyone use their own brooms?"

They gestured and the three of them started walking again. "Because except for your Firebolt, the Nimbuses are the best brooms in school," George explained, "and we need them because we don't know how good our opposition are. As for the uniforms, everyone decided we couldn't play in mixed colours."

"The new robes are irritatingly nice," Fred added.

Harry scowled. "Malfoy buys his way into everything."

They patted his shoulders sympathetically. "Just don't get injured and it won't be a problem. He'll spend the entire match on the bench."

Harry grumbled but didn't argue. "So who are our Chasers?" he asked as they reached the changing rooms. "And just when have you all been practising? You have been practising, haven't you? Because I assume all those Friday evenings flying was my practice."

"Of course," Fred assured him. "Why do you think Ron and Hermione have been keeping you busy in Gryffindor tower so often?"

"As for our Chasers, we've got Heidi Macavoy and Tamsin Applebee from Hufflepuff, and..."

They entered the male changing rooms and Roger Davies looked up from the bench, lifting a hand in a vague wave.

"He's our captain," George mentioned.

"Hi," Harry said vaguely, but most of his attention was on Bletchley, just pulling on a black Quidditch robe with Slytherin green inside lining, his name in silver on the back above a large '1' and the Hogwarts crest on the left breast, while he wore the usual Slytherin jumper underneath. He glanced over his shoulder at the three Gryffindors, but didn't give a greeting. Davies was wearing almost identical robes, except the inner lining was blue, he wore his Ravenclaw jumper underneath, and there was a '2' under his name. Three more robes hung on pegs, red lined and with Gryffindor jumpers waiting with them, and Fred and George started pulling off their school robes to change, but Harry didn't move.

"Can you two leave?" he asked Davies and Bletchley. Davies nodded and immediately left for the door leading to the team room between the male and female changing rooms, but Bletchley scowled and sat down to put his boots on.

"I'm not interested in you, Potter. Just because you're queer doesn't mean we're all going to try—"

"Get out, Bletchley," Fred interrupted him, him and George now standing shoulder to shoulder in the space between Harry and the Slytherin. "You can put your boots on in the team room."

Bletchley glanced between them. "This is a changing room and I'm really not interested—"

"Get out before we throw you out," George warned. "Harry wants privacy to change. He gets it."

Bletchley glanced between them and for a moment Harry thought he was going to fight, but then he muttered under his breath, grabbed his boots, and left for the team room. Harry let out a long breath.

"Thanks," he muttered.

Fred gave him a smile. "Don't worry about it."

"Better hurry and change though."

He nodded and tugged off his jumper, not having bothered with a robe when it was a Saturday. He changed quickly, as he's done ever since September, and soon enough the three of them headed through to the team room where everyone else was already waiting. The reserve team was there as well, made up of Malfoy, Warrington, Pucey, Hufflepuff Beater Maxine O'Flaherty and Ravenclaw Beater Jason Samuels, and Angelina. She gave Harry a smile and Harry acknowledged it with a stiff nod, unable to manage a smile himself when Pucey was shooting Harry and the twins distasteful looks. Ron was there too, holding Harry's Firebolt, and he wished Harry luck as he handed it over while the rest of the team each took one of the Nimbus 2001s waiting at the back of the room.

Davies stood up, facing them all with a set expression. Harry had never seen him look so determined and he'd always wondered why he was the Ravenclaw captain, but he could see now that while he may not be the fanatic that Oliver Wood was, he was definitely invested in the game.

"Alright, team. We have no idea exactly who we're going to meet when we walk out there, but this is a game for the history books and let's make sure the history books name us the victors. We've flown damn well over the past few weeks, and even though it was without our actual Seeker—" The Slytherins, all except Malfoy, shot Harry looks as if this was his fault. "—we can still fly just as well today. So let's kick their arses!"

Harry didn't cheer with the others. When they walked onto the pitch, he kept himself between Fred and George eying Bletchley distrustfully—at least until they stopped in the middle of the pitch and he noticed who the opposition were.

"Ahh, shit," he heard Tamsin Applebee mutter, but Harry was too busy gaping. Across from them was a team of mostly unfamiliar faces, all wearing robes of light purple, the one familiar face among them was—

"Krum," the twins said together, tone a mix of awe and despair.

"I'm playing against Viktor Krum?" Harry asked somewhat unnecessarily in a rather high pitched voice. The people in the stands were cheering loud enough to rival the noise of the world cup and when Harry dragged his gaze away from Krum to look around, he noticed that many of them seemed as shocked as he was with the turn of events. When he looked to the teachers' seats, however, he saw Snape and McGonagall both throwing Dumbledore angry glances every few moments. Dumbledore acted as if he didn't notice, sitting calmly with a serene smile on his face and apparently completely unaware of the utterly furious looks he was getting from Karkaroff and Maxime. But also among them was one face that made Harry's heart lift—Remus. The man caught Harry's eye and smiled and Harry returned it.

"Mount your brooms!" Madam Hooch called. Harry returned his attention to the pitch and, stomach full of butterflies like he hadn't felt since his first ever Quidditch match, slung a leg over his Firebolt. Opposite him, Krum did the same, but Harry was glad to see that they were the only ones with Firebolts. The Durmstrang/Beauxbatons Beaters and two Chasers were riding Cleansweep Sevens, with one Chaser on a Nimbus 2000 and the Keeper on a Nimbus 2001. "On my whistle—three... two... one..."

They took to the air. Harry soared up high over the pitch, eyes peeled for any sign of the Snitch and trying not to feel intimidated by Krum flitting about as well. He only half listened to Lee Jordan's commentary, but heard enough to keep track of the score and was pleased to hear Hogwarts immediately take the lead. It seemed that they really had been practising well; when Harry spared a bit of attention to the rest of the game, Applebee, Macavoy, and Davies looked to be working together as well as Angelina, Alicia, and Katie did for Gryffindor, and Bletchley, Harry had to reluctantly admit, was a decent Keeper.

They were half an hour into the match, the score sixty-twenty to Hogwarts, when Krum flew past Harry and then dove suddenly. Harry immediately went after him, pressing himself flat to his broom as he tore after Krum, eyes wide and scanning the ground for the Snitch, and remembered too late about the Wronski Feint he'd seen Krum use so effectively at the World Cup.

"Oh shit," he muttered in realisation just before ploughing into the ground in much the same way Aidan Lynch had. He heard the whistle go and the crowd screaming, but he got to his feet quickly. He staggered, noticed Madam Pomfrey striding towards him across the pitch, but he refused to get sent off and clambered back on his broomstick and took to the air before she reached him, shaking his head to clear it.

"You are very determined, Potter," Krum said. Harry started. It was the first time he'd actually heard him speak.

"Uhm," he said stupidly, then flushed and added a little cockily, "Takes more than that to put me down."

If he didn't know better, he'd think Krum almost smiled at that.

Despite his words, he was on the ground again forty-five minutes later, though he at least had the reassurance that it hadn't been a feint this time. The Snitch had been right in front of him as he dived side by side with Krum, but he'd missed a catch and didn't pull out of the dive quick enough to avoid hitting the ground. As he lay dazed for the time it took Pomfrey to reach him, his only comfort was that Lee Jordan hadn't called the match so Krum hadn't caught the Snitch either.

"Mr Potter, I cannot let—" Pomfrey said the moment she reached him.

"No," he said, sitting up and blinking away the stars in his vision. "No, I'm fine."

"Mr Potter—!"

But he was already up. He paused after mounting his broomstick, feeling for a moment like he was going to be sick and getting another attempt from Pomfrey to make him stop, but took a deep breath and soared into the air again. The Snitch had vanished and Krum was back to hovering, eyes scanning around for it, but he glanced at Harry when Harry was level with him again.

"Perhaps you should let your reserve play," he suggested. Harry shook his head, but didn't speak, not entirely sure he wouldn't be sick if he opened his mouth. "Pity," Krum said. "I vould like to make that Malfoy boy hit the ground."

Harry gave him a surprised look and this time Krum's mouth was definitely curled into something approximating a smile.

An hour later, Hogwarts had fallen behind in points, the score standing at 180-150, and the Snitch remained elusive. The twins where smacking Bludgers with a ferocity Harry'd never seen before, and most of the time it seemed to be at Krum; he had a feeling they were trying to get revenge for the feint against him. He was determined not to fall for another though, so when Krum took a dive just after Davies scored a goal to bring the score to 180-160, Harry didn't go after him as fast as before, desperately looking around for the Snitch—

—which whizzed past his ear. Without even thinking he immediately swung into a turn, hurtling around and tearing after the tiny golden ball as it darted down the pitch. He heard Lee Jordan shouting, saying Krum was turning to tail after Harry who didn't look around to check, and he heard the tell-tale whistle of a Bludger coming up behind him, which he ducked also without looking around, never once taking his eyes off the Snitch and pressing himself low to his Firebolt.

"Come on, come on," he hissed, urging the broom forwards. He took one hand from it, reaching out to grab the Snitch. It flitted down and he missed, swore, caught a glimpse of purple out the corner of his eyes and knew Krum was coming up beside him. He reached out again, aware of Krum doing the same, and then a Bludger slammed into Krum and Krum knocked into Harry.

Harry felt himself leave his broom, blindly snatched out with both hands and felt one wrap around cold metal, but the fingers of his other just brushed against his Firebolt. He heard several people scream his name as he dropped towards the ground for just long enough to feel a spike of terror before a strong hand latched around his wrist. He screamed with pain as his shoulder wrenched out of its socket, but it was better than splattering against the ground seventy feet below. He looked up at Krum, who was holding onto his own broom with only his legs because his other arm was very obviously broken, and they descended unsteadily and faster than was generally safe, eventually hitting the ground with a thud that jarred through Harry's legs. They crumpled under him and he collapsed with a groan; beside him, Krum fell to his knees and dropped forwards, catching himself on his good arm and gasping painfully.

"Harry!"

The twins landed nearby and dropped their brooms to hurry over and kneel beside him as he sat up.

"Harry, are you alright?"

"Shit, his shoulder. Where's Pomfrey?"

"Out the way, out the way!" Pomfrey's voice came, hurrying over to them. "He's not going back in the air, not this time."

"That's not necessary," Harry said weakly, holding up the hand still holding the Snitch, which no one seemed to have noticed him catching. Fred, George, and Krum all looked at it with surprise, then Lee Jordan's voice rang out.

"HARRY POTTER CATCHES THE SNITCH! HOGWARTS WINS, THREE HUNDRED AND TEN TO ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY!"

Cheers and shouts filled the stands. Fred and George still looked slightly gobsmacked.

"You caught it," Fred said, as if the idea was unprecedented. "Harry..."

"... you beat Viktor Krum."

Harry blinked at them then looked at Krum, who seemed just as startled by this revelation.

"Oh. Yeah... Wow," Harry said, and then promptly vomited all over himself.

Chapter Text

"That was some excellent flying today."

Harry looked up from the hospital bed he was sat in to grin at Remus as he approached. "My Firebolt!"

Remus smiled, laying the broomstick on the bed. "I thought you wouldn't appreciate it suffering the same treatment as your last broomstick and made sure to fetch it for you."

"Thank you," Harry said sincerely. "And what are you doing here? How did you know about the match?"

"Professor Dumbledore contacted me. He thought I might like to come and watch you. I understand you knew nothing about it until this morning, though."

Harry shook his head, throwing a vaguely disgruntled look at Fred, George, and Ron, who were sat around the bed with him. None of them looked even slightly remorseful. "They all kept it secret from me."

"It wouldn't have been much of a surprise if we told you, would it?" George retorted. Harry stuck his tongue out at him, but he was grinning.

"How are you?" Remus asked, eying the sling supporting Harry's arm and the scratches on Harry's hands that he clearly thought were the result of the match.

"I'm fine. Madam Pomfrey knocked my shoulder back in and gave me a painkiller and I was only sick 'cause of all the knocking about, and the Feints didn't hit me that bad. I'm better than Krum—that Bludger shattered his elbow," Harry said, nodding down the ward to where Krum was laid in another bed. Hermione was sitting with him; she went to him after Krum's Durmstrang friends had left with Professor Karkaroff, who'd stormed out after Krum spoke harshly to him in Bulgarian when Karkaroff accused Madam Pomfrey of trying to make Krum's injury worse. It was a good thing Krum had; Pomfrey looked like she was going to curse Karkaroff for daring to question her integrity, and it probably wouldn't have been good for the international relations Dumbledore proclaimed the Triwizard Tournament was all about if the Hogwarts medi-witch hexed the Durmstrang headmaster. But, Harry thought, the relations were probably already strained; he'd heard Karkaroff on the pitch accusing Dumbledore of arranging the match just to injure his champion and give Hogwarts a better chance.

Remus looked surprise to see Hermione with Karkaroff. "Are they...?"

"Yeah," Harry said. Ron scowled and muttered under his breath about stupid Quidditch players.

"I'm surprised Hermione would be with a Durmstrang student," Remus confessed quietly, watching the pair talk.

"Apparently he's not the bad," Harry told him. "She said he claims to like it better here."

Remus looked at them a bit longer before turning his gaze away. "I wouldn't want to judge someone I don't know, but I hope she's careful."

"D'you think he'd hurt her?" Ron asked him worriedly. "Maybe you should tell her to stay away from him, sir."

"There's no need to call me sir, Ron; Remus is fine, and I will do nothing of the sort. That would be highly inappropriate and I never said that he would hurt her."

They talked for a little while until Remus said he had to go. He gave Harry a letter first, a reply to the latest one Harry wrote him, and Hermione came over to say goodbye as well, and then Madam Pomfrey came to shoo his friends out. When they were gone and Pomfrey had returned to her office, after sternly telling Harry to get some rest, Harry slipped out of his bed and padded over to Krum's, slowing as he got closer and Krum looked at him.

"Um... hey," he said a little awkwardly. "I just... I wanted to say thanks. For catching me. You saved me life."

"You are velcome," Krum said as though saving Harry from a seventy foot fall was no bigger favour than lending him a quill. Then he said, soundly only faintly disgruntled, "You are a very good flyer."

"Oh. Thanks," Harry replied, a little flustered at receiving such a compliment from a famous Quidditch player. "You're great as well. I mean, obviously. Famous and all that... I saw you at the World Cup. You were brilliant. The Wronski Feint—very effective," he said, rubbing at his head. Krum noticed and seemed a little pleased by Harry's discomfort.

"You took it better than Aidan Lynch."

Harry shrugged. "Metal in my face probably helped."

Krum frowned at him. "Metal in your face? Is this common among English vizards? Some kind of cheating?"

"Oh, no!" Harry hurriedly assured him. "No, it's not. It's a Muggle thing actually. I got mugged a couple of years back and beat up really bad, but I was living with Muggles at the time so I was taken to a Muggle hospital instead of wizard one. The doctors—Muggle healers—they use metal plates and screws to hold together bones that have been broken really badly to help them heal."

"That sounds very painful."

"No, they sedate you while they put them in, and once it's done it doesn't hurt. I can't feel them or anything. They're just there, like extra bits of bone but made of metal."

"Muggles are very strange."

"Yeah, I guess they can seem weird." There was an awkward pause then and Harry squirmed slightly before clearing his throat. "Anyway, thanks again for saving my life."

To his surprise, Krum stuck out his uninjured left hand. "Good match," he grunted when Harry shook it.

"Thanks. You too."

* * *

Harry found his popularity soaring over the next few weeks. His defeat of Krum on the Quidditch pitch made him something of a star, at least among the Hogwarts students, and to his great surprise a few of the girls who were often found hanging out in the library spying on Krum through the stacks came up to ask for Harry's autograph. A few Slytherins did suggest that Krum must have thrown the match because there was no way a fourteen year old would beat him otherwise, but they were foolish enough to say it within Krum's hearing and they didn't suggest it again after Krum tore into them for daring to suggest he would ever play at anything less than his best.

Harry also found himself in the Daily Prophet again, though thankfully the article mentioning the match wasn't written by Rita Skeeter so it was a fairly pleasant piece detailing his win and suggesting the British teams take a look at recruiting Harry. Most surprisingly, Harry did receive letters over the course of the Easter holidays from several British Quidditch teams inviting him to practice with them in the summer, with the possibility of getting signed on to a reserve or even main team if he impressed them. Harry would have been overjoyed—except every single letter made it clear that, because he was under seventeen, he would need his guardian's permission, and he didn't think for a second that Snape would ever agree to let him go.

"Who is your guardian now?" Hermione asked, looking over his shoulder as he read an offer from Pride of Portree. "Surely Sirius isn't still."

Harry shook his head. "I don't know," he lied. "I guess I'll talk to Dumbledore."

"You should," Ron said. "This is incredible. Imagine if you made it to the England team. The next time you play against Krum it could be at a World Cup match!"

Ron liked to bring up Harry playing against Krum at every opportunity, seemingly just to rub it in Hermione's face that Harry had beaten her boyfriend. Hermione stoically ignored it.

* * *

"No."

"But, sir—"

"I said no, Potter."

"Why not?" Harry demanded, just barely restraining himself from childishly stomping his foot. It wouldn't help his case.

"Because I said so, Potter," Snape told him smugly, sat behind the desk in his office.

"That's not a reason."

"It's my decision; if you don't like it, you should have chosen someone else for a guardian."

Harry glared at him, hands clenched at his sides. "That's not fair," he said quietly. "You know why I did that."

"My decision is final; you're not going."

"I hate you," Harry snapped, turning and stalking out.

"I can assure you the feeling is mutual."

Harry scowled, stomping down the corridor and up to the Entrance Hall, where he paused. He didn't really feel like going back to Gryffindor. It was the second to last day of the Easter holidays, so the common room would be crowded and noisy, and he didn't want to confront his friends and confess that he couldn't take up any of the Quidditch offers he'd received. He couldn't even tell them why, though he could lie of course, but he didn't want to lie to his friends. He couldn't lie to them forever anyway, could he? They would have to find out about his adoption at some point and he would have to tell them something about where he'd be in the summer. He didn't even know where that was. Did Snape stay at Hogwarts over the summer holidays or did he have a home somewhere else? Would he have to stay with Snape the whole summer? He hoped not. He was pretty sure two months with Snape was as bad as things could get without returning to the Dursleys or Sirius. With any luck, Snape would feel the same way and might ship him off to the Burrow at some point and he could spend most of his summer with the Weasleys.

Now he was wondering about it, he found himself eager to know what would happen, so he turned around and went back into the dungeons, knocking on Snape's door and getting a terse, "Enter."

Snape scowled the moment he saw who it was. "My answer hasn't changed, Potter, and I can assure you asking me again will not make me change my mind."

"What's happening in the summer?"

Snape frowned. "Excuse me?"

"The summer. Do I have to live with you and if yes, is that here or do you have a house somewhere?"

"Your summer accommodation is yet to be decided. The headmaster and I are still discussing the issue."

"So I might not have to stay with you?"

"Not if I have anything to say about it."

Harry nodded, pleased to hear it. "I want to tell my friends about—"

Snape didn't even let him finish. "No."

"I have to tell them something!"

Snape stood up, planting his hands on his desk and leaning forward to glare at Harry. "You will tell them nothing, Potter. You have no idea the repercussions I could suffer if it was revealed that I adopted the Boy Who Lived."

"My friends can keep a secret. They already know that Sirius abused me so they know I won't be staying with him again. I have to tell them something about where I'll be for the holidays and Ron and the twins are already saying they're going to ask their parents about taking me in."

"That is none of my concern. You will not tell them. Now get out."

Harry stormed out for a second time, barely managing to avoid stepping on the beetle that scurried out the office at the same time.

* * *

Being sandwiched between two very good looking and attentive boys, Harry discovered, was a good way to improve one's mood. He wasn't entirely sure how he'd ended up in a hidden passage after dinner, but he wasn't about to complain when Fred and George were smothering him with kisses and four hands were squirming their way under his clothes, and his own hands were just touching whoever he could find wherever he found them.

"I don't have enough hands," he griped a little breathlessly, head leant back on Fred's shoulder while George kissed and bit and licked Harry's throat, Fred's hands up Harry's shirt and fingers teasing his nipples, Harry's own hands clutching at George's hips to draw them together even as he pushed back against Fred, trying to feel both of them at the same time and ignoring the little voice in his head that called him a whore. He was allowed this. They wanted him and he wanted them and there was nothing wrong with that.

"Don't worry about it," Fred murmured in his ear, breath warm and making Harry shiver. "We've got plenty of time for you to get your hands on both of us."

He punctuated the remark with a twist of Harry's nipple that made him gasp and arch up against George, who chuckled against his throat then lifted his head and caught Harry's mouth in a deep kiss. Harry moaned appreciatively, opening his mouth to it eagerly and so focused on the kiss that he didn't pay attention to Fred's hands moving until he heard his trousers being unzipped.

George broke the kiss and Harry opened his eyes to find the twins looking at each other over his shoulder, having one of their silent conversations. It didn't last long and ended with George grinning wickedly and then, much to Harry's surprise, suddenly dropping to his knees in front of Harry.

"W-what are you doing?" he asked, hands grabbing Fred's wrists as he started to push Harry's trousers and boxers down. George looked up with a falsely innocent expression.

"I'm going to suck you off."

"No!"

The word burst out of him so vehemently it surprised all three of them. George exchanged a look with Fred then got to his feet again.

"Harry... you know we'd never hurt you, don't you?" he said gently and Harry flushed.

"I know that. I just... I..."

"Do you not like blow jobs?" Fred asked, though his tone said he couldn't imagine why anyone wouldn't, and Harry's flush deepened.

"I never had one," he admitted in a mutter.

"Criminal!" George gasped. "Everyone should have a blow job."

"Surely you'd like one?" Fred asked Harry. His hands had shifted slightly and his thumbs were now rubbing comforting circles on Harry's hips.

"I don't... maybe?" He did, because it was clearly enjoyable given how often people demanded them from him, but he didn't want to put anyone in the position of servicing him. Words Eric had told him so often rang inside his head: "Only whores suck cock," but he didn't want to mention it because he didn't want George to think he was calling him a whore.

"So let me give you one," George said. "Unless you prefer Fred do it."

"I probably won't be as good though," Fred told him. "I've never done it before."

"You've done it before?" Harry asked George, who nodded. "Because you wanted to?"

The twins exchanged another look and Harry could tell they'd figured out his problem, but all George did was confirm, "Because I wanted to, and I want to give one to you."

Hesitantly, Harry nodded. George kissed him then slid to his knees again and Harry watched, lip caught between his teeth and hands tightening slightly around Fred's wrists. Fred pressed kisses to his neck and flattened his hands reassuringly to Harry's hips as George tugged his trousers down, but Harry remained hesitant right up until George's tongue flicked against his cock. He gasped and both twins chuckled. Fred's hands pressed more firmly, holding his hips still as George took Harry into his mouth, and Harry gasped and moaned and whined, babbling incomprehensible words as he finally understood why so many people enjoyed using his mouth. He'd never imagined it would feel so good, the wet heat of George's mouth and the torturous swipes of his tongue creating pleasure that made his toes curl and bringing him an orgasm that took him by surprise.

"I think he enjoyed that, George."

"I think so too, Fred."

Harry could only manage a noise of confirmation. He focused his gaze on George as he stood up, taking in the smug smile and gleaming eyes and the fact that there wasn't a hint of shame in his face, even as he swiped his tongue out to lick away the bit of cum caught in the corner of his mouth, and it occurred to Harry that maybe Max was right and sex wasn't something to be ashamed of.

* * *

The pleasure of his orgasm and strange new lightness he felt at the daring to consider the possibility that sex wasn't shameful and sucking cock didn't make someone a whore—because he refused to even suggest that George was a whore—lasted him all night, through Sunday, and up to Monday morning, when Hermione choked on her cornflakes the moment she unrolled the Daily Prophet and shortly afterwards a silence fell through hall, broken only by shocked whispers. Ron snatched up Hermione's newspaper, holding it up for him and Harry to look at, and Harry's blood ran cold as he read the headline.

DEATH EATER ADOPTS BOY WHO LIVED

Chapter Text

Under different circumstances, Harry might enjoy watching Madam Pomfrey hex Snape into a chair and force a Calming Draught down his throat. Afterwards, Snape sat in the chair in Dumbledore's office with his elbows on his knees, face buried in both hands, and didn't say anything when Pomfrey muttered at him about looking after his heart.

"Perhaps some tea would be good," Dumbledore said when the medi-witch finally left.

"If by tea you mean whiskey, then gladly," Snape said without lifting his head.

Dumbledore waved his wand and a tea set appeared on his desk. "You cannot drink, my boy, and it is nine o'clock in the morning."

Snape lifted his head to scowl at Dumbledore. "I expect several of my former associates will do their best to assassinate me before dinner, headmaster; I don't think a drink or two will do me much harm!"

"That's not—you don't mean that, right?" Harry asked. "It's a joke... isn't it?"

"A joke!" Snape spat. "I should be so lucky!"

"Professor Snape is exaggerating," Dumbledore assured Harry, passing him a cup of steaming tea. Harry nodded and took it, but didn't drink.

"I am not—I don't want any bloody tea, Albus!" Snape interrupted himself when Dumbledore levitated a cup to him. "Could you please take this matter seriously?"

"I am taking it seriously, Severus," Dumbledore replied, sipping his own tea. "You are the one over-reacting. I acknowledge," he said loudly, speaking over Snape when he tried to argue, "that the revelation of the adoption will cause you a few difficulties, but shouting about assassination attempts is a touch far-fetched."

"Headmaster, have you forgotten that we currently have a known Death Eater visiting the school?"

Harry dropped his tea cup. "What?"

Dumbledore cleared up the tea and broken china with a flick of his wand and frowned at Snape. "Igor Karkaroff is a former Death Eater, Severus. Much like yourself. Perhaps you have forgotten that we also currently have a former Auror in the school."

Snape let out a derisive snort. "Oh yes, because I feel so much safer having Mad-Eye Moody roaming the castle."

"Severus, that's enough," Dumbledore said quietly, and Snape said nothing more. "Cornelius Fudge will be here shortly. Before he arrives, I'd like to try and discover how this got out."

"I didn't tell anyone," Harry said quickly. Snape had already accused him of it before the Calming Potion.

"I believe you," Dumbledore assured him. "Have the both of you discussed it anywhere you might have been overheard?"

"The only time we've ever discussed it was in my office," Snape answered, face in his hands again. "On Saturday. The door was shut and I have anti-eavesdropping spells on the room. I've never discussed it with Minerva, but I'd have thought the one responsible was obvious, Headmaster."

Dumbledore shook his head. "Black would not have revealed his mistreatment of Harry."

Harry scowled, glancing away and scratching his hands. For him, that was the worst part of Rita Skeeter's article; he could handle people knowing he'd been adopted by Snape, but he hated everyone knowing he'd been abused. His only comfort was that Skeeter didn't seem to know the details of his abuse, though it hadn't stopped her making up a wild story about Sirius being a drunk who'd mercilessly beaten Harry senseless on a daily basis, but Harry preferred everyone thinking he'd been beaten to knowing he'd been sexually abused.

"Then Lupin," Snape said. "I'm sure whatever Skeeter paid for the story would have been a veritable windfall for him."

"I do not believe Remus would have told anyone either."

"Then what do you suggest, Headmaster?" Snape asked irritably, looking up at him. "She found out somehow; someone had to have told her. Potter, leave your hands alone," he added snappishly. Harry jerked his hands apart, flushing slightly, then dug his ball from his pocket and rolled it between his fingers.

"I don't know, but I will do my best to find out," Dumbledore said just as there was a knock at the door. "In the mean time, it would do everyone some good if the two of you can pretend to like each other for the duration of this meeting. It won't help to have anyone think either of you didn't want this adoption to happen."

* * *

Fudge wasn't the only one to turn up. Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, was there too, and a woman from the Department of Family and Child Services, who Harry had to have a private meeting with and assure that he did want the adoption and that he hadn't been coerced or forced into it. She asked about Sirius abusing him and he said it wasn't true, but when they rejoined the others she mentioned it and Dumbledore and Snape immediately outed his lie.

"The truth is out, Potter," Snape said while Harry scowled. "It is time Black paid for what he did."

Harry just scowled deeper and said nothing, squeezing his rubber ball.

It was late morning by the time everyone from the Ministry was satisfied that the adoption was above board and Harry could leave. He didn't feel like dealing with the Slytherins, or even the rest of the school, so he skived off the rest of Care of Magical Creatures and spent the half an hour left until lunch hiding out in the caved-in secret passage. He would skip lunch as well, but he hadn't had much breakfast and his stomach was growling unhappily.

However when he opened the entrance to go down to the Great Hall, it was to find Fred, George, Ron, and Hermione outside, George carrying an armful of food and Fred with the Marauders' Map in hand.

"Is it true?" Ron asked pushing his way past but then turning to face Harry. The others came in as well, all looking at him expectantly. Reluctantly, Harry nodded. Ron snatched a sandwich from George and sat down, angrily chewing and saying nothing else. The rest of them sat too and Harry took a sandwich from George as well.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Hermione asked, grabbing an apple.

"Dumbledore said I had to keep it secret," he answered apologetically. "And I didn't really know how to tell you."

"Why him?" Ron demanded around a mouthful of food. "If you wanted adopting, our parents would have."

"Ugh," Fred said. "No thanks."

"Yeah, we don't want Harry as a brother," George agreed.

"How can you say that!" Ron exclaimed. "It's Harry!"

"Exactly," they said together, then Fred, sat on Harry's left, grabbed Harry's face suddenly and kissed him firmly on the mouth.

"If Harry was our brother," George started, and Fred broke the kiss.

"We couldn't do that," Fred finished as George kissed Harry.

"And we like doing that."

"Yeah," Harry agreed a little breathlessly, cheeks flushed. Ron scowled.

"I still don't see why you had Snape adopt you. The man's a git, Harry. And a Slytherin."

"He has a point," Hermione agreed. "You never even told us you were thinking about adoption. When did this even happen?"

Harry explained everything, from Snape's oath to finding the papers and why Harry signed them.

"That can't possibly be legal," Hermione said with a frown when he finished. "They can't accept an accidental adoption."

Harry shrugged. "We told Fudge and the Ministry people that it was intentional. Everyone accepts it. Snape didn't even bother trying to argue when I did it, and he clearly didn't want it, so it must be all legal and proper. Mostly."

"What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Do you want it?" Hermione asked, looking at him intently. "You caused it to happen by accident, but how do you actually feel about it?"

He glanced at each of them, seeing curiosity in their faces, and shrugged. "I don't mind."

"How can you not mind?" Ron burst out immediately. "After the way Snape's always treated you! Have you forgotten that he poisoned you once?"

"He's never sexually abused me," Harry said quietly without meeting their eyes, "which is more than my other guardians have done."

There was an awkward pause after that until Harry looked at his watch and said, "Classes start soon. We should get going."

* * *

The rest of the school wasn't as accepting of Harry's adoption as his friends. Many of the Gryffindors felt that Harry wasn't a proper Gryffindor when he had the Head of Slytherin House for a guardian and muttered disparaging comments about him, until Fred and George started pranking anyone they heard calling Harry a spy or snake. The Slytherins seemed similarly concerned that Harry was trying to become a Slytherin and/or steal their Head of House, and expressed their displeasure with hexes and insults. Even Snape's unchanged attitude towards Harry didn't stop them.

"Sir," Malfoy said at the start of their first Potions lesson after the article was published, while Snape collected their homework, "I'm concerned about you showing favouritism towards your son."

"That would be a reasonable concern if I had a son, Mr Malfoy," Snape replied. Several people looked at Harry as if expecting him to be hurt by this, but Harry merely handed his homework over and said nothing.

"Then why did you adopt Potter, sir?"

The entire class looked interested to hear the answer to this, but didn't seem to know how to react when Snape said without missing a beat, "It was my only chance to steal his family fortune."

The rest of the class passed in much the same way as usual, and Snape found excuses to take a total of thirty points from Harry, once taking five points just for having a wonky tie. The Slytherins seemed to take this as permission for them to continue being horrible to Harry, but at least the Gryffindor fourth years realised that Harry's adoption didn't mean anything had changed and Seamus apologised for being one of the people who'd accused him of being a Slytherin spy.

Even the rest of the wizarding world felt it necessary to express their opinion on the adoption. Harry received letters telling him that he was cursed, confused, or outright mad for letting a Death Eater adopt him. He had offers from complete strangers to adopt him instead, a few encouraging letters saying that if Harry chose Snape for adoption then he couldn't be that bad of a person, and a couple of rather scary missives detailing horrible things the writers intended to do to Sirius as payback for abusing Harry. Sirius himself remained hidden from the authorities.

He wasn't the only one to get letters either. Snape seemed to receive an unusual amount of mail in the mornings, and a few times he even received howlers which shrieked insults at him for the entire hall to hear. Harry really wished people would stop that, because whenever Snape got a howler he inevitably found a way to take his irritation out on Harry with loss of points, even if they didn't have Potions class that day.

Fortunately, the letters tapered off eventually, but a week and a half after the article was published, Harry received one more unexpected letter.

Harry—

I know I'm not supposed to contact you, but given the circumstances I figured it wouldn't hurt. I didn't tell that Skeeter bitch about the adoption. I want you to know that even though I realise it won't stop Snivellus and Dumbledore demanding my arrest. I also want you to know that I'm sorry about that hex hitting you back in February. I never meant for it to hit you and I can't begin to say how bad I feel about it. I'd have told you in person when it happened, but Dumbledore wouldn't let me see you.

I know there's some bad feelings between us, Harry, but you know everything Skeeter wrote about me was a lie. I never hit you. If you insisted, you could stop the Aurors coming after me. I can't go back to Azkaban. I'd rather die first, but you could make them stop. I've never hurt you, Harry. I know you're mad at me for the blow jobs in the summer, but I never hurt you and if you're honest you'll admit that you agreed to them every time. I never forced you and I shouldn't be punished for it. Whatever you think of me, I'm still your godfather and I do love you, Harry. You can't want me to go back to Azkaban. James wouldn't want me to.

Sirius.

Harry didn't take it straight to Dumbledore. He carried it in his pocket all day, taking it out at break and lunch to re-read it, but in the evening, not long before curfew, he left Gryffindor and went to Dumbledore's office, where he handed the letter over. Dumbledore read it then set it aside and looked over his glasses at Harry, but didn't say anything.

"He still thinks what he did was okay," Harry said. There was an ink stain on Dumbledore's desk and Harry stared at it instead of meeting the headmaster's gaze. Dumbledore still didn't speak, but Harry found he didn't need him to. "If he'd said sorry and said he realised it was wrong, I might not have told anyone he wrote to me, but he only did it to try and make me stop him getting arrested. He still just sees me as something he can use. I'm just James' kid to him, not an actual person on my own." He scuffed his toe against the floor, lifted his eyes to meet Dumbledore's, and finished quietly, "If they catch him, I'll tell the truth in court."

Dumbledore inclined his head and smiled gently. "That's very courageous of you, Harry. You're growing into an incredible young man, far more than just the product of your parents, and I feel quite safe in saying that wherever your parents are now, they're proud of you."

Chapter Text

Harry didn't think much of it when Remus asked to borrow Hedwig for a bit. Remus only ever sent letters by reply with Hedwig and Harry didn't think he had very much money to spare to pay for a post office owl, and as Hedwig didn't get to send much post for Harry he didn't mind lending her to Remus for a bit if he was in need of an owl.

But a few weeks later she returned to him with a missive from Remus saying simply Thank you; you have an incredible owl on the same day that the Daily Prophet reported Sirius Black being found in southern Italy, and Harry realised that Remus had asked to borrow Hedwig right after Harry had told him about Sirius' letter. He didn't mention his suspicions to anyone, but he was almost certain Remus had been involved with getting Sirius caught, especially when he got called to Dumbledore's office at lunch and informed that Sirius would be put to trial for the child abuse just as soon as they'd cured him of the array of hexes and curses he'd been suffering from when he was found, which happened to include a curse that caused permanent erectile dysfunction.

Harry wasn't sure how Remus had used Hedwig to track down Sirius, and he wasn't sure Remus would answer if he asked or even admit to being responsible for Sirius' capture, but he did send his old professor a large box of Honeydukes chocolate 'to show my appreciation for you'.

Despite his decision to testify against Sirius, Harry still found himself worrying about the upcoming trial, which was eventually set for the seventh of July. He was rather grateful for end of year exams, because they gave him something else to think about, and there was the upcoming third Triwizard task on the twenty-fourth of June.

But the morning of the twenty-fourth also gave him something brand new to worry about. Halfway through breakfast, while Harry and Ron discussed the third task and Hermione tried to convince them to focus on the History of Magic exam they'd sit in half an hour, a commotion between the Ravenclaw and Slytherin tables caught their attention and they looked over just in time to see Snape collapse.

Several teachers rushed down from the staff table, shouting at students to get out of the way, and they all watched as Dumbledore magicked Snape onto a stretcher and hurried him out of the hall, the Potions Master barely conscious and with one hand clutching weakly at his chest. At the staff table, McGonagall collected up Snape's mail and headed off.

"Do you think you should go after them?" Hermione asked Harry anxiously. "He is your guardian."

Harry shook his head despite his worry. "They'll probably only kick me out for getting in the way."

"What do you think is wrong?" Ron wondered. "Did you see him holding his chest? Maybe he had a heart attack."

Hermione didn't look convinced. "He's a bit young for a heart attack."

"He has a heart problem," Harry told them in a quiet voice, fairly sure Snape wouldn't appreciate him informing the whole school about it. "He told me after Sirius hexed me back in February."

They all exchanged worried looks then Hermione said unconvincingly, "I'm sure he'll be fine."

Snape wasn't at lunch. Harry debated going to the hospital wing, but decided to wait until later if he would go. He wasn't sure how much interest he was really supposed to take and didn't want to appear overly concerned, but at the same time he was worried that something serious had happened and he was about to lose yet another guardian. Bad things did always seem to happen at the end of the school year and enough bad things had happened throughout the rest of the year to leave Harry sufficiently worried.

Lunch also brought more bad news. Fred and George slid onto the bench opposite him and Ron with surprisingly serious expressions shortly after they'd sat down, and said without preamble, "McGonagall had a heart attack in our class this morning."

"She's alive," George reassured them. "Angelina and Lee got her to the hospital wing quick."

"My god..." Hermione breathed. "I hope she's alright."

"What's going on?" Ron wondered. "First Snape, now McGonagall. Is someone attacking teachers?"

They could only shrug helplessly.

Neither Snape or McGonagall were at dinner, which had more courses than usual in celebration of the end of the Triwizard Task. When Dumbledore stood up and asked the three champions to make their way to the Quidditch pitch, which they did amongst applause and cheers, Harry leant over to mutter to Ron and Hermione, "I'm going to stop by the hospital wing when the rest of us leave."

Five minutes later, when Dumbledore said they should all head for the pitch, Harry slipped away from the crowd and headed upstairs instead, but when he reached the hospital wing it was to find Madam Pomfrey just hurrying out, likely going down to the pitch as well.

"Oh, Potter, what have you done now?" she asked warily, eyes raking over him in search of an injury.

"Nothing. I just wanted to know—Professor Snape... is he okay?"

"Staff health issues are not students' business, Potter."

"But he's my guardian, Madam Pomfrey. I don't want to see him or know the details or anything, I just want to know he's alright."

She pursed her lips, considering it, but eventually said gently, "I'm afraid he's been taken to Saint Mungo's hospital. He has a very serious heart problem that I'm just not equipped to deal with. I can't tell you any more than that, I'm sorry, Potter."

Harry nodded and headed off, now even more worried. At the Quidditch pitch, he found the task ready to start, the judges and champions just waiting for the last of the spectators to settle and for Madam Pomfrey to arrive, and Harry hurried up to join Ron and Hermione, who he quietly told about Snape while the task was introduced.

"Do you reckon he'll die?" Ron asked.

"I don't know. Pomfrey didn't say, but 'serious heart problem' doesn't sound good, does it?"

"Do you think it's connected to McGonagall?"

"It could be a coincidence," Hermione said. "Professor McGonagall isn't exactly young; it's not that much of a surprise for her to have a heart attack. And if Snape had a pre-existing condition, then it could have flared up or something."

"Seems like a big coincidence though," Ron countered. "Both of them having heart problems on the same day..."

Any further talk was drowned as cheers went up for the champions. Cedric Diggory was in first place for points so when the whistle went he was the first one into the maze, vanishing between the bushes to roaring cheers from the Hogwarts students.

They couldn't actually see what was happening in the maze, which Harry thought was a bit stupid. It made their presence a tad redundant really. Once the three champions were in—Krum in second place and Fleur in third—then there was nothing for them to do but sit and twiddle their thumbs, talking between themselves as they waited to see who would win.

"This is more boring than the second task," Ron commented after fifteen minutes and when Harry and Hermione looked at him, he added, "Well you were in the hospital wing, Harry, and you were under the lake, Hermione, so I was too worried to really get bored."

"I didn't miss much then," Harry remarked.

"Nothing more exciting than this," Ron confirmed.

"Don't wizards have some kind of video projection?" Hermione wondered. "There must be some kind of spell that would follow the champions and project their progress onto a screen. Or put a one-way transparency spell that lets us see into the maze without them seeing out or something."

Ron just shrugged.

It was almost an hour before the task finished. There was a shout from the start of the maze and Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked over to see Fleur Delacour there, holding the Triwizard Cup firmly in both hands, and soon after a torrent of noise took over the pitch as everyone realised it was over.

* * *

Their Potions and Transfiguration classes for the final week of term were cancelled, but Dumbledore assured the school that both teachers were going to recover fine, and three days before the end of term Dumbledore called Harry to his office to inform him that Snape would be back for the holidays and that Harry would be staying at Hogwarts for the summer, living with Snape. Harry, who'd previously considered the idea of staying at Hogwarts for the summer to be something great, accepted the information with wariness. He didn't much fancy spending his summer holidays with Snape, especially not a Snape who was probably extra grouchy about being sick. Hopefully with any luck he would get to visit the Weasleys at some point and stay with them for a few weeks; Snape had said at Easter that he didn't want to spend the summer with Harry.

The last afternoon of term found Harry once again tucked away in the secret passageway with Fred and George, Harry trying not to let the other two sense his nervousness. He'd been the one to drag them to the passageway this time, with definite intentions of how he expected the afternoon to go. They've only been able to get away all together once since the end of the Easter holidays, at the end of May when the date of Sirius' trial was set and the twins decided Harry needed some help relaxing, which Fred did by giving him a blow job. Though Harry had appreciated it, it also left him feeling guilty for not even offering to return the favour, but it wasn't until he'd spoken to Max—somewhat reluctantly and blushing the whole time, which was stupid because it wasn't like he'd never talked about sex with Max before, but somehow this was different—that Harry really admitted that he wanted to return the favour. Having been on the receiving end, Harry could understand the attraction now and while it still wasn't something that he enjoyed, he found that the idea of doing it to Fred and George wasn't completely unappealing. He still worried slightly that it would make him a whore, his experiences too many for him to completely throw off the idea even after admitting that Fred and George weren't whores for doing it, but the thought wasn't so strong that he wouldn't do it.

But he knew the twins picked up on some of his tension and his hands fumbled when they tried to undo Fred's trousers, and when he tried to drop to his knees, George's arms wrapped around his waist from behind and stopped him, while Fred's hands found Harry's and curled around them.

"Harry, are you..." Fred trailed off, unsure what he wanted to say.

"I can't suck your cock while I'm standing up," Harry said, feeling his face heat up and not quite meeting the other boy's eyes. He was aware of them exchanging a look over his shoulder—they did it quite a lot—then George asked, "That's what you're planning?"

Dragging up some of the courage Gryffindors were so famous for, Harry lifted his gaze to meet Fred's and managed a faint smirk. "Someone has to show you how to do it right."

There was a brief pause in which Fred looked startled and Harry worried that he'd said the wrong thing, but then George burst into laughter and Fred's startled look turned to one of disgruntlement.

"It was my first time," he muttered. "And you didn't seem to be complaining at the time."

"I'm not complaining now," Harry assured him while George sniggered into his shoulder. "I'm just saying there's room for improvement."

"Then I should be the one to get on my knees."

Harry shook his head. "It's my turn," he said firmly and nudged an elbow into George. "So let me."

But George still didn't let go of him, though his laughter faded, and Fred fixed Harry with a serious look.

"You know you don't have to, right?" Fred asked him. "You don't owe us anything. I don't want you doing something you don't want to just because—"

"I do."

"You sure?" George asked. "We won't mind if you don't."

"I'm sure, so back up a bit."

They exchanged one last look, but then George withdrew his arms and tugged Harry's head around for a kiss before he stepped back to give Harry room to drop to his knees. To Harry's surprise, while he was tugging Fred's trousers away, George dropped down behind him, kneeling with one leg either side of Harry's and wrapping his arms around Harry's waist again. Harry glanced at him, but said nothing and focused his attention on Fred's half-erect cock and taking it into his mouth.

It was different. He wasn't sure why, whether it was because he went into it completely willing or because of George pressed against his back or because not once did the word slut or whore pass through Fred's lips, but for the first time Harry didn't feel bad for what he was doing. In fact, when Fred gasped swear words and moaned Harry's name, he felt something that he'd only later identify as satisfaction at bringing pleasure to someone he liked pleasuring.

But maybe what really made it different was the fact that halfway through, George's hand slipped into Harry's trousers and wrapped around his dick. Harry jerked in surprise and made a noise that made Fred's hips jerk.

"Oh, fuck!"

Harry felt George smirk against his neck, evidently pleased with himself, and continued to stroke Harry's dick. Harry closed his eyes and tried not to lose his rhythm, clenching his own hands on Fred's hips mostly to remind himself that it was someone else's hand on his dick. He'd only ever touched himself while sucking cock when Eric had told him to, always watching Harry and making comments about Harry getting off on sucking cock that inevitably left Harry ashamed and firmly of the opinion that getting aroused while he was doing this wasn't acceptable. But he made himself ignore those thoughts now. He wanted to do this for Fred, so it was okay which meant it was okay for Harry to get aroused, and it was especially okay for him to get aroused to someone else touching him. If he happened to come while there was a cock in his mouth, that was alright.

Not that he did. Fred came first, with a shout that Harry worried would carry out the secret passageway and get them caught, and afterwards he slid to the floor looking thoroughly satisfied, and Harry leant back against George until a few moments later he came as well.

"That," Fred said, still not quite recovered, "was amazing."

"Yeah?" George asked.

"Yeah. Seriously. Wow." He caught a glimpse of Harry's face and smiled. "Why d'you look so shocked?"

Harry didn't realise that he did and shrugged. "Dunno. Just... glad you enjoyed it, I guess."

Truthfully, he was shocked that he was glad Fred had enjoyed it. He'd never felt good about bringing other people pleasure before, but then he'd also never wanted to in the first place and no one else had ever complimented Harry's skills like that. Usually when people told him he was good, it was with a sneer and the obvious implication that being good at it was something he should be ashamed of, if they didn't just call him a whore or a slut. But Fred's appreciation... it was almost as if Harry should be proud of being so good.

George shifted and Harry became aware of the erection pressing against his arse. Full of unexpectedly good feelings, Harry turned around, gently pushed George onto his back, and started to undo his trousers. George got up on his elbows to watch.

"You don't have to—"

"I want to," Harry interrupted. "Now hush."

"Yes, sir," George said with a smile that vanished when Harry lowered his head and wrapped his mouth around his cock. He didn't speak, even to babble uselessly like Fred did, just gasped and moaned. Harry had to hold his hips with both hands to stop him jerking up into Harry's mouth and choking him, though he did so hesitantly because the twice he'd tried to with Eric he'd been roughly told off, but George didn't stop him. He just dropped back against the floor, hands scrabbling at the ground, and when he came he stopped breathing, whole body going tense and still save for his cock pulsing in Harry's mouth and his hips jerking slightly, and then he finally went limp, letting his breath out in a rush.

"Yeah," he said breathlessly, staring at the ceiling. "Wow."

Fred, now with his trousers back up and buttoned, shifted around and caught Harry's mouth in a kiss, tangling a hand in Harry's messy hair and tugging him down as Fred lay beside his brother. Harry ended lying with a twin on either side of him, feeling good about himself and feeling good about feeling good, and let out a contented sigh as they pressed kisses to his face, his only wish being that they were lying on something a bit more comfortable than stone flooring.

* * *

Snape and McGonagall were back for the leaving feast. McGonagall was there early enough to exchange a few words with the Gryffindors, accept well-wishes and assure people she was fine. Snape arrived just before the food was about to be served, quiet falling over the room as everyone looked over. He didn't look like he should have been out of bed; his skin was even paler than usual, his hair lanker, and he leaned heavily on a walking stick as he slowly made his way up the Great Hall to the staff table, scowling at the students and the yellow and black decorations that showed Hufflepuff had won the house cup, but he said nothing to anyone until he sat in the chair between McGonagall and Flitwick. A moment after he did, food appeared on the tables and loud chatter filled the hall. Harry kept his gaze on the staff table until he caught Snape's eye. He smiled tentatively and Snape scowled at him, which only made Harry smile wider, uplifted to see that whatever was wrong, Snape clearly wasn't so ill that he couldn't continue being unpleasant towards Harry.

Chapter Text

Snape's rooms were situated halfway between his office and the Slytherin common room, and they were surprisingly nice. Harry expected lots of stone, dim lighting, and more jars of slimy things like in his office, but the large living-dining area that he stepped into was carpeted, well lit, and there wasn't a single unidentifiable dead thing in a jar. There were several bookshelves heaving with tomes, though no photographs or ornaments; the three doors that weren't the entrance were all made of a pale coloured wood; and the upholstery on the sofa and armchair in front of the fireplace and on the dining table chairs was, most shockingly, white.

Harry arrived there with his trunk shortly after the rest of the school left to catch the train, dragging it down from Gryffindor after saying goodbye to his friends. Snape let him in without getting up from his armchair, setting down his wand as the door swung open and Harry stepped inside. He hadn't been at breakfast that morning and he didn't look any better than he had at dinner the night before. His walking stick rested against the arm of the chair and there was a book in his lap.

He pointed to one of the three other doors as the main one shut behind Harry. "That's your room." He pointed to another. "Bathroom." And the last. "My room. You will not step foot inside it. A healer will be visiting every few days to attend to me. Do not get in their way when they're here."

Harry nodded and dragged his trunk over to his room, opening it to look into a respectably sized bedroom with a single bed, a desk, a chest of drawers, wardrobe, and bedside cabinet. There was a window set in one wall, charmed to give a view over the Quidditch pitch. He wasn't sure if he should decorate it at all; it didn't really feel like his room, just a guest room that he happened to be inhabiting for the next two months. On the other hand, he didn't really want to stay in a bland, stone walled room for that long without something to bring it to life.

Eventually he settled for unpacking his clothes and leaving the decorations at just the picture of his parents that he always put at his bedside and a few pictures of his friends that he stuck up by the bed. With that done, he wasn't sure what to do with himself. He hovered in the doorway, undecided if he should stay in his room or settle in the living area with Snape, but Snape took the decision out of his hands.

"Sit down, Potter," he growled without looking up from his book. "The headmaster should be here shortly. He wants to speak to you."

Harry sat on the sofa, at the furthest end from Snape's armchair. He toed off his shoes and tucked his feet under him, looking idly around the room. The books on the shelves covered a variety of subjects, but potions and curses seemed to be most prevalent. There was a pot of floo powder and a clock on the mantelpiece, which told him it was just after half past eleven. Harry had a feeling the summer was going to drag; already he felt like he'd been in Snape's quarters for too long.

"Potter."

He looked around. Snape closed his book, a leather marker tucked between the pages, and curled one hand around the top while the fingers of his other hand drummed against the cover. When he spoke, it was with obvious reluctance.

"Though I'm loathe to tell you, it is necessary that you're aware of the details of my health issues."

Intrigued now, Harry sat up straighter. "Is it something to do with the heart problem you told me about before?"

Snape's fingers stilled. "Yes," he said, then paused. Harry waited, letting him find the words, and eventually Snape continued. "I have a hole in my heart."

"How—"

"Don't interrupt, Potter."

Harry scowled, but said nothing.

"I was born with it," Snape explained. "It was repaired when I was a baby, but due to a poisoned missive I received last Thursday, further damage has been done. My heart has rejected all attempts to repair it again and subsequently I am in need of a heart transplant. Shut you're mouth, Potter. Gaping is unbecoming."

Harry snapped his mouth shut, but then swallowed thickly and asked, "Who poisoned you?" Then, without waiting for an answer, he blurted out, "Is that what happened to Professor McGonagall as well?"

"Unfortunately," Snape confirmed. "She collected my mail and suffered because of it. As for the culprit, that is none of your concern."

"But what if they try again?"

Snape gave him the same disparaging look he gave when Harry answered a question wrong in class. "Why on earth would they poison me again when they've already succeeded the first time around?"

Harry frowned. "But you're not dead. Didn't they poison you to kill you?"

"If I don't get a new heart within a year, I will be," Snape answered, then at Harry's horrified look he elaborated, "Currently there are spells and potions keeping my heart functioning, but they are not permanent and can only be renewed so many times. Without a new heart, I will die within a year at most, though more likely it will be within six months." He paused, then added almost nonchalantly, "Were I a Muggle, I'd likely already be dead."

"Shit," Harry breathed, unable to find any other words to express his feelings on the matter.

"Ten points from—" Snape started, only to cut himself off and frown.

"You can't take points from me because it's summer," Harry realised and couldn't help grinning at the fact. Snape scowled.

"Don't think that means I won't find ways to punish you, Potter. I am your guardian; I am not restricted to detentions and point taking anymore," he said with a grim smile that took the grin off Harry's face. Thankfully there was a knock at the door then, distracting Snape from methods of punishment, and it swung open without waiting for any response from Snape.

"You could at least give me chance to deny you entry before you invade my privacy, Headmaster," Snape grumbled as Dumbledore entered the room, smiling serenely. Before Dumbledore could answer, Snape shifted in his chair, expression twisting, and spat, "Why is he here?"

A second person had stepped in behind Dumbledore and Harry leapt up from the sofa at the sight of him.

"Remus!"

Remus smiled. "Hello, Harry."

"What are you doing here?"

It was Dumbledore who answered. "Remus will be staying in the castle for the duration of the summer. I thought you would like having him around, Harry, and that you, Severus, might appreciate the assistance."

"I don't need any assistance," Snape snarled. "Especially not from him. If I did need assistance, there is an entire squadron of house elves I can call upon."

"Then you wouldn't like to have someone take Harry off your hands occasionally?"

"Delinquent as he is, Potter is nearly fifteen years old," Snape said. Harry had been about to mention the same thing, if slightly less rudely. "He does not need constantly babysitting."

"Nevertheless, I have already made my decision and Remus will be around should either of you need companionship."

Harry fully intended to make it clear that he didn't need babying, but he had no objections to having Remus around. His friendly demeanour would make a nice counterbalance for Snape's unpleasant attitude.

Snape also seemed to have decided there was no point arguing further, but he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "I can't brew the Wolfsbane. The healers don't even want me anywhere near a cauldron."

"Arrangements have been made for the full moon," Dumbledore told him.

"And where, exactly, will he be staying?"

"In some guest quarters just down the corridor."

"Then why," Snape said irritably, "can't Potter stay there?"

"Remus' quarters only have one bedroom."

"So did mine until November!" Snape snapped to Harry's surprise; he'd assumed the second bedroom was a standard guest room. "You managed to make another one appear here; do it in Lupin's rooms."

Dumbledore smiled to Snape's clear irritation. "I did nothing of the sort, dear boy. Hogwarts recognised that one of her resident's had a child and—"

"He's not my child," Snape interrupted at the same moment Harry said, "He's not my father."

"Technically—"

"Take your technically and stick it in your hat," Snape told Dumbledore, who frowned.

"You will stress your heart if you continue like this, Severus."

"It is stressing my heart to have a meddlesome headmaster and a werewolf in my living room. Now that you've made my already unpleasant existence even more so, perhaps you can all leave so I can have a modicum of peace. In case you need reminding, I am seriously ill; I need rest and quiet."

With that, he opened his book and pointedly ignored all three of them.

* * *

Living was Snape wasn't that bad. After Snape reluctantly told Harry the password to his rooms—dragon's tongue—Harry was free to come and go as he pleased and with the entire castle to wander, Harry saw no reason to stay in Snape's quarters that much, although wandering the empty castle during the day wasn't as interesting as it was at midnight during term when there was the thrill of rule breaking. There was still Filch to contend with, but all he did was grumble and send Harry on his way, unable to assign detentions, and there were very few other teachers at the school—only Dumbledore, McGonagall, Sprout, Flitwick, Hagrid. and Professor Trelawney, who, as usual, remained in her tower all the time. Harry hardly even saw the others, as they usually took meals in their own rooms instead of the Great Hall, though he did visit Hagrid regularly.

Even the hours he did spend in Snape's quarters weren't that bad. Snape spent most of his time in his armchair, reading, and didn't even insult him that much, though that might have been because he didn't have the energy. He slept later than Harry did and was always in bed before him, and sometimes Harry would also find him sleeping in his armchair during the afternoons. Every few days a healer would come from Saint Mungo's and they would go into Snape's room, presumably to do tests and whatever else the healer needed to check.

Harry enjoyed having Remus about. He usually ate lunch with him and sometimes dinner as well—Snape wasn't up for full meals and ate whenever it suited him, calling for a house elf to bring him something that he usually didn't finish, and Harry felt awkward eating at the dining table alone—and sometimes Remus would teach him an interesting new spell.

"What about the no magic in the summer rule?" Harry asked the first time Remus offered.

"Ah, well," Remus said, looking a little mischievous, "it's Hogwarts. The Ministry expect magic to be cast here and they're hardly going to pay attention to underage magic at the school, are they? Even in the summer. Just best not let Severus know in case he decides to confiscate your wand."

That seemed like the kind of thing Snape would do, so Harry nodded his agreement and spent the next few hours learning how to do a Babbling Curse, which caused the target to start talking nonsense and Harry looked forward to casting it on Malfoy the next time he started talking about... well. Anything, really.

A week after the end of term, Harry finished his Charms homework at Snape's dining table and was just calling a house elf for lunch when he realised that Snape hadn't left his room all day, not even to use the bathroom. He stared at the man's door as he ate his sandwich, feeling concerned. Should he knock and see if Snape was okay? Maybe he was just have a particularly long lie in. Or maybe he'd died in his sleep. Harry really hoped not. But if Snape was alive, he might not appreciate Harry disturbing him, especially if he was asleep. He had said that Harry wasn't allowed to enter his room, but surely he could be forgiven for being concerned about the man? He was seriously ill so it was justifiable for Harry to be worried and want to make sure the man wasn't dead. But if Snape was dead, Harry didn't particularly want to be the one to find out.

He had to know, though, especially now the worry was in his head. He got up, but only took two steps towards Snape's door when there was a knock on the main door. Harry stopped, looked between the two doors, then decided he'd answer the main door and let whoever was out there check on Snape. It would have to be either Remus or another teacher, so it would be alright for them to go into Snape's room and if Snape was dead then it wouldn't be Harry who found his cold corpse.

It was Remus on the other side of the door and he only managed to get out a greeting before Harry cut him off.

"I think Snape's dead," he blurted out. Remus looked horrified and Harry quickly amended, "I mean, I don't know. He hasn't come out of his room all morning."

Pushing past, Remus stalked across the main room and straight to Snape's door, not bothering to knock before twisting the handle and stepping in. The room beyond was dark and Remus drew his wand, lighting it with a murmured Lumos and stepping in further. Harry approached hesitantly, just enough to see the edge of a bed beyond Remus.

"Severus?"

To Harry's great relief, he heard Snape shifting and the murmur of a reply that he couldn't quite distinguish, but Remus must have heard because he responded, sounding faintly amused to Harry's annoyance, "Harry was concerned when you didn't leave your room. Are you alright?"

Another murmur then Remus came out, shutting the door quietly behind him and extinguishing the light on his wand as he turned to Harry with a smile. "He's just tired, nothing to worry about. He's touched that you're concerned."

Harry doubted that—more likely Snape had insulted him—and he now felt a bit stupid over getting so worried, but Remus didn't comment on his concern. "I was thinking about going into Hogsmeade this afternoon," he said. "Did you want to join me?"

Harry grinned. "Definitely."

Chapter Text

 

Harry was surprised on Friday the seventh of July when, while he was picking at his breakfast and wondering if it'd be alright to change his mind about testifying against Sirius, the door to Snape's room opened and he walked out fully dressed, leaning heavily on his stick as always but looking like he should still be in bed.

"You're up early," Harry said in surprise as Snape lowered himself into a chair at the table.

"The trial is at nine," Snape replied shortly. "Misty!"

A house elf appeared and Snape ordered some coffee, which he soon had, though he scowled at it and muttered unhappily about drinking decaf.

"You're coming to the trial?"

Snape shot Harry a disparaging look. "I'm your guardian; I have to take you."

"But Remus is taking me. And should you really be going out?"

"Your concerns are touching, Potter," Snape sneered, "but Lupin is not your legal guardian. I'm required to attend, health issues not withstanding."

"Oh." Harry prodded at his baked beans with a fork, trying not to think about what would be happening in a few hours. His gaze drifted around the room and eventually settled on the walking stick leant against the table, between him and Snape, and he abruptly blurted out a question he'd been wondering since the start of the holidays but never asked.

"What happens to me if you die?"

Snape paused with his mug halfway to his mouth, looking at Harry with unreadable eyes, but then his hands began to shake and he set the mug down before he dropped it. Harry watched him cautiously, wondering if he shouldn't have asked but unwilling to take the question back.

"The Weasleys will take you," Snape answered quietly. "My will ensures custody falls to them and they've already agreed and signed the relevant legal documents. No one would be able to argue with it, not even the headmaster or the Minister for Magic."

Harry hadn't expected that. "They already agreed?"

"Did you expect them to refuse?"

"No, I just... I'm surprised you did that, that's all."

Snape's mouth tightened. "I don't like you, Potter, but you are my responsibility and I take my responsibilities seriously."

"Oh," Harry said, then, "Thank you."

Snape looked slightly surprised at that, but when Harry smiled, he scowled and returned to his coffee.

* * *

An hour later, smiling was the last thing Harry felt like doing. He sat in a court room feeling sick, blood on his hands from scratching them so hard, and wishing he was anywhere but sitting in a chair to one side of the court while Sirius was chained in another in the middle of the room. Although pale, with his dark hair hanging in unwashed strands past his shoulders, there was confidence in Sirius' face and he seemed to take courage every time he glanced at Harry, as if Harry was there to clear him rather than condemn him. Harry did his best not to look at the man, focusing his attention on the Wizengamot members as Fudge started the proceedings.

"Criminal trial of the ninth of July into offences committed by Sirius Orion Black, resident at Flat twenty-three, Princess Court, London. Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister of Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Albus Dumbledore, Chief Wizard of the Wizengamot. Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley. Accuser: Harry James Potter. Charges: Sexual abuse of an underage wizard."

He paused, lifting his gaze to look at Sirius with undisguised hatred. "You are Sirius Orion Black?"

"Yes," Sirius answered almost sullenly.

"How do you plead?"

"Not guilty."

There was a murmur through the court. Fudge cleared his throat and looked down at his papers. "The court calls on the accuser, Harry Potter," he said and looked over at him. The entire court—the jury, Wizengamot, and Snape in the viewing gallery—seemed to focus its attention on Harry then, who fought down the urge to flee. He wished Remus was there, but he hadn't been allowed in as he wasn't a witness in the trial nor related to either Harry or Sirius. The only upside was that press was also forbidden from entering; there had been several reporters hanging about the Atrium when Harry first arrived.

"You are Harry James Potter, currently residing at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?"

"Yes," Harry said, but he was so nervous his voice came out as a hoarse whisper and he had to clear his throat and say again, "Yes."

"And you hereby agree that the accused is Sirius Black and that you wilfully charge him with the crimes previously listed?"

"Yes," Harry said again, trying to keep his voice steady and still not looking at Sirius.

Fudge gave a satisfied nod. "Would you please describe for the court your relationship to Mr Black?"

"He's my godfather. I lived with him last summer."

"Last summer being between the dates of June twenty-fifth and September first, nineteen ninety-four?"

"Yes."

"When was the first time Mr Black abused you?"

Harry scratched at his hands, using that minor pain to keep himself from getting too anxious about all the eyes watching him, and made himself answer, "About a week into the holidays."

"Please describe what happened."

"I was reading a book and he sat next to me and put his hand on my leg—on my thigh—and started asking me if I'd ever... um... if I'd ever had a hand job or if I'd ever given one."

"Then what?"

"I said no. He kept touching my leg and said that I should give him one and he'd give me one and it'd... it'd make me a proper man." His face was burning hotly and he scratched at his hands hard, digging his nails in and scraping the flesh away. He hated this, describing everything in front of all these people, but he knew he had to. "I didn't want to."

"That's when Mr Black forced you?" Fudge asked. Harry closed his eyes, feeling a shame like he hasn't felt in a long time flooding through him. He tried to remember Max's words, that it wasn't his fault and he wasn't the one who should be ashamed, that Sirius was, but it was hard to think when he was sat in front of so many people.

"I... it wasn't exactly... I mean, he..."

"Please answer the question, Mr Potter. Did Mr Black force you to sexually service him?"

"I didn't want to," Harry said desperately, opening his eyes again. "He said he deserved it, that he was just looking for some human contact and a little release after being in prison for so long and I should—but I didn't want to!"

"Then you refused him?" Fudge prompted. Harry flicked his eyes between the watchers, swallowing thickly.

"No," he admitted.

Fudge's brow furrowed. "You agreed to provide sexual favour to Mr Black?"

Harry really didn't want to say it, but he couldn't lie in a court. "Yes."

He looked away as Fudge raised his eyebrows judgementally and another ripple of murmurs spread through the Wizengamot. Sirius looked almost relieved. Snape, Harry saw, was clutching his walking stick and looking furiously at Sirius.

"Harry."

He glanced back. Dumbledore had stood up and his calm expression and unaccusing eyes brought a little bit of calm to Harry's own emotions.

"Please tell us why you didn't refuse Mr Black."

"I thought he would hate me if I did," Harry said, keeping his gaze on Dumbledore. "I was scared that if I didn't do what he said, then he would throw me out and I wouldn't have anywhere to live."

"That's bullshit!" Sirius burst out, the chains binding him rattling loudly as he jerked in his seat.

"Be quiet, Mr Black!" Fudge snapped, glaring down at him. "If you cannot control your temper, you will be removed from the court."

Sirius sank back in his chair, but didn't lower his gaze. "I never threatened to throw him out."

Fudge looked to Harry. "Is that true, Mr Potter?"

"Well, I... I mean, he... he never said it, but I still—"

"Did Mr Black ever threaten to evict you when asking for sexual favours?"

"No, but—"

"Did he ever threaten you in any other way?"

"No."

"So you willingly provided sexual favours, gave them without being coerced or threatened?"

"I..."

"Answer the question, Mr Potter."

Feeling on the brink of tears, Harry did so. "Yes."

But Dumbledore wasn't so easily settled by Fudge's questions. "Harry, please inform the court why you felt Mr Black would evict you if he never explicitly threatened it."

"Because he treated me like I was... like I wasn't good enough. He was always comparing me to my dad and saying I wasn't as clever as him or as good and saying that he—my dad—would be ashamed of me and things like that, and he—Sirius—said I was lucky he'd taken me in when... when I was so useless."

When he dared to glance away from Dumbledore, he noticed there were several pitying looks among the Wizengamot. He didn't like it much more than he liked the feeling of judgement for not refusing Sirius, and looked down at his hands. The left was bleeding surprisingly heavily now and he pressed his right over it, trying to stem the flow.

"Did Mr Black ever say anything else that made you feel you had to service him?" Dumbledore asked and Harry nodded.

"He said it was my fault he couldn't go out and get a girlfriend because he had to stay and look after me, so he said I should suck his cock to make up for it."

"Fair exchange," Sirius muttered, but his words carried and in an instant all the dislike and distrust in the room was back on him. Harry felt like a magnifying glass had swung away from him and onto Sirius, who seemed to feel the same way because he shifted, chains rattling, and said defensively, "It wasn't like I forced him. He could have said no if he wanted to."

Amelia Bones spoke for the first time. "Then you admit to sexually abusing Mr Potter?"

"No," Sirius said firmly. "I never abused Harry and I never would. All I did was ask for a few favours, and he gave them. Willingly! He's already admitted that!"

"Mr Potter is fourteen years of age," Bones pointed out. "At the time of the first incident, he was thirteen. The legal age of consent, of course, is seventeen."

"So you're punishing me because he broke the law and had underage sex?"

"You're a legal wizard, Mr Black," Bones said sharply, unimpressed by his attempts to divert the attention away from himself. "You should not have been requesting sexual favours from any minor, let alone someone entrusted to your care."

Her clear disdain and that in the other Wizengamot members seemed to bother Sirius, who darted his eyes between them, unable to miss the mutters and shaking heads, and he snapped, "It wasn't like the little faggot didn't want it."

Every eye on the room fixed on him, some with shock, some with disbelief, some with antipathy. Harry found himself filled with sudden anger. When he glanced around, he saw pure hatred on Snape's face, and when he looked at Dumbledore it was to see intense dislike gleaming in his blue eyes.

"He can say he didn't want it, but it's a lie," Sirius insisted. "I noticed none of you asked about the fact that he's queer or about whether he's done it before, because I know he has. He was too good for a first timer."

"Mr Potter's sexual orientation is completely irrelevant to the proceedings at hand," Dumbledore said coldly. "As are any other sexual acts you believe he may or may not have performed."

"Agreed," Bones said curtly. "Mr Potter, please inform the court when else the accused assaulted you?"

It was a tiny bit easier now, knowing that at least some of them didn't blame him. He told them about things escalating from hand jobs to oral sex, and afterwards watched with bated breath as the Wizengamot members talked quietly between themselves briefly to debilitate, and then Madam Bones cleared her throat and silence fell.

"The jury will raise their hands. Those who find the accused guilty of multiple counts of child sexual abuse?"

Harry's breath left him in a rush as almost everyone lifted a hand.

"Sirius Black, you have been found guilty of all charges," Fudge declared. "As punishment, you will serve twenty-five years imprisonment in Azkaban."

"NO!"

"Guards, take him away!"

"NO!" Sirius screamed again, now thrashing in the confines of the chains holding him to the chair, face twisted with fear as a door to the room opened and two Dementors swept inside. "No, you can't send me back there! Harry, tell them! Tell them you wanted it! Don't let them take me, don't make me go back there!"

Harry shrunk back in his own seat, wrapping his arms around himself and shivering as the Dementors came forwards. The chains unbound from Sirius' arms and the Dementors grabbed him, but he continued to struggle, still screaming and begging, and halfway back to the door he suddenly transformed, a 'pop' echoing through the room as Sirius disappeared and Padfoot took his place. The Dementors lost their grip and Padfoot bound away. Several people yelled, many going for their wands, and a few spells were cast but none of them hit their mark. Harry scrambled to his feet as Padfoot leapt towards him, but wasn't quick enough to avoid getting jumped on and knocked to the floor. He landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him, and felt a spell whizz past him, close enough to ruffle his hair, and Padfoot turned into Sirius.

"This is your fault," he snarled, and he snatched the wand sticking out of Harry's pocket. "You drove me to this," he said, then, without getting off Harry, he stuck the tip of the wand under his own chin, muttered "Confringo!" and his head exploded.

Chapter Text

"Let go of me."

"Why, so you can fall over?"

"I'm fine."

"You're not fine, you're seriously ill. At least let me help you to the chair."

"I don't need your help, Lupin."

"You need someone's help."

There were shuffling sounds then a tired and vaguely pained sigh, all of it sifting through the fog floating around Harry's brain. He was snug in a bed, the warm, comforting weight of covers pressing down on him, and he wasn't sure why or what'd happened, but there was a prickle in his mind that said he really didn't want to remember, so he just let himself drift in half-conscious fog and listened to the two adults talk.

"You can leave now."

"I'm not going anywhere until Harry wakes up."

"You're infuriating, Lupin."

"Yes, you've told me before," Remus answered, a hint of something in his voice that Harry recognised but couldn't quite put a name to. Snape growled.

"I don't appreciate your flirting at the best of times, Lupin; now is hardly appropriate."

Something like surprise flicked inside of Harry. Flirting? Remus? With Snape? Surely not.

"You never used to complain about my flirting."

Or maybe yes.

"That was before you tried to kill me."

"That wasn't my fault," Remus replied, his quiet tone perfectly serious now, even bordering on angry. "Don't scoff at me, Severus. You know it wasn't and you always have, or you'd have chosen someone other than Regulus Black for your revenge fuck."

The conversation had turned distinctly surreal now and Harry had a feeling he should open his eyes and let them know he was awake, because he didn't think he should really be hearing this. That besides, the name Regulus Black made that uncomfortable twinge his mind grow, like his memories were threatening to spill forwards to make him think about the Bad Thing he knew he didn't want to think about.

But when he tried to wake it was as if someone had weighted down his eyelids, or drugged him with something that wouldn't let him wake up properly. Yes, that was it. He'd been drugged. He couldn't recall it, but he knew he had been just like he knew it was because of the Bad Thing, so he didn't worry about it because worrying about it would make him remember.

"Believe what you want, Lupin, but don't ever think we will have what we had before."

"As if I want that either," Remus murmured. "I'd much prefer something new."

Harry could hear the sneer in Snape's voice when he responded. "Are you so desperate to get laid, Lupin, that you feel the need to hit on a dying man? Are you hoping I'm going to say yes just because I might not get another chance?"

Harry definitely shouldn't be hearing this and he didn't want to. He struggled to pull himself out of the fog and wake up, hopefully without remembering the Bad Thing in the process.

"You know full well that I don't want that," Remus said quietly. "I settled before for being the one you choose because you couldn't have who you wanted; I won't do that again. That besides, I don't expect your heart would withstand it if we—"

A noise came out of Harry's mouth, something between a groan and a gasp, and he felt his eyelids flutter. He heard shifting and then a hand lightly touched his shoulder.

"Harry?"

He finally managed to blink his eyes open to the blurry view of his bedroom in Snape's quarters. He blinked until his vision focused as much as it could without his glasses and, with some difficulty, turned his head to look at Remus.

"Don't be concerned if you feel sluggish and drowsy; the sedative they gave you was quite strong." Remus paused, and then, looking as if he didn't really want to know, asked, "Harry, do you remember what happened?"

Harry managed to rasp out a weak, "No."

Remus looked torn between relief and regret. "That's the potion as well. It can cause temporary memory loss."

Harry made an unhappy nose. Temporary. That meant he would remember and he didn't want to remember. He knew that if he did, it was going to be bad. So he closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep.

* * *

Blood everywhere, splashed all over his face, slipping into his mouth and dripping over his skin, the body heavy on top of him. Screaming and speaking and spells all around him and Sirius' words echo in his head over and over—"This is your fault, you drove me to this." Someone pulls the body off him and Dumbledore crouches over him.

"Harry—Harry, look at me. Are you hurt?"

He opens his mouth, but all that comes is a high pitched whining noise that transmutes to a scream that he can't stop. He's just seen a man's head explode and it's his fault, it's his fault, and Sirius is dead, he killed himself because of Harry and there's blood everywhere and tiny shards of bone and blobs of white stuff that must be brain and this is so much worse than killing Eric or Crouch.

Hands touch him, pulling him up, and he screams louder, mind full of nothing now but exploding heads and myfaultmyfaultmyfault and he thinks he's going to be sick, and then he is sick, which at least it stops him screaming, but then he's crying, sobbing and gasping for breath, still held up only by the hands on his arms, and he thinks someone's speaking to him or shouting at him or maybe shouting at someone else about him, and Sirius is deaddeaddead and it's his fault and he didn't even know magic could do that to a person.

Then something touches his mouth and he jerks away, shaking his head, but someone grabs him and holds him still, tilting his head back so liquid can tip into his mouth, spilling past his lips and down his chin, and someone says a spell and his throat works against his will, swallowing down liquid that zaps the energy from him and floods him with beautiful darkness.

* * *

"Harry, it's alright. Harry, you're safe, it's alright. It's alright..."

He became aware of arms wrapped around him, a warm body holding him securely as he shook with huge, wracking sobs. He was in his bed, in Snape's quarters, and there was candlelight flickering over the walls, while his enchanted window showed the Quidditch pitch under the night sky and the covers were bunched at the end of the bed.

"It's alright, Harry," Remus' voice said softly. "You're alright."

No, he thought, he wasn't. He was never going to be alright. Nothing would. Not as long as he could remember Sirius' head blowing apart mere inches in front him.

But he slumped against the man, clinging to Remus' patched robes until he cried himself to the point of exhaustion, eventually falling into another fitful sleep plagued by nightmares.

* * *

He was too tired to really feel surprised when he stumbled out of his room the next morning and found Remus asleep on Snape's sofa, though did manage to spare a thought to think that the man must be uncomfortable curled up like that to fit. He staggered to the bathroom, used the toilet, and blinked blearily at himself in the mirror over the sink as he washed his hands. There were heavy shadows under his bloodshot eyes and his skin was sickly pale.

He looked back down at his hands. For the first time since January, there were no scratches on them; someone must have healed them while he was knocked out, probably because he'd scratched them so badly during the trial. It was strange to see them so clear and smooth he thought as he finished washing, shook off the excess water and reached for the towel, drying them off then turning to the door, but he caught another glimpse of the mirror and jumped back, letting out a startled scream when he saw himself covered in blood and bits of brain. He hit the edge of the bath and fell backwards, landing painfully in the tub but uncaring of it, too busy pressing his hands to his face, breaths coming in short gasps as he tried to wipe away the blood only to realise there was none.

A loud knock on the door made him jump. "Harry! Harry, are you alright?"

"F-fine," he called back to Remus, voice shaky. He hauled himself out of the bath and looked in the mirror with trepidation, but the face looking back at him was clean, though even paler than it had been a minute ago. He swallowed thickly and turned away, opening the door and finding Remus standing outside still, expression worried.

"What happened?"

"Nothing. I just... thought I saw something."

Remus didn't look reassured. "Max is coming later this morning for you to talk to."

Harry nodded, though he didn't really feel like talking. He felt like washing his mind with bleach, but he didn't think that was possible even for wizards.

The door to his right swung open then and Snape, still his pyjamas but with a dressing gown thrown over the top, stepped out, leaning heavily on his walking stick and putting his other hand on the wall for support as well as he looked around with eyes marred by even darker shadows than were around Harry's. Most worryingly, though, was the distinctly blue tint to his skin and the wheeze in his breathing. He fixed his gaze on Harry and opened his mouth to say something, but never got the chance. His legs gave out and he collapsed against the wall, sliding down it even as Remus lurched towards him and grabbed him to ease his fall while his walking stick clattered to the floor.

"Harry, my wand!" Remus said urgently, jerking his head towards the sofa. Harry hurried to it, snatching Remus' wand from where it sat on one arm and quickly taking it to him. Remus flicked it in the direction of the ceiling and something silvery and smoke-like shot out of it.

"I think he's trying to say something," Harry said, looking worriedly at Snape as he struggled just to breathe, collapsed against the wall. One hand was reaching for his walking stick, but Remus took his hand and wrapped it comfortingly in both of his.

"Severus, save your breath. Whatever it is, it'll wait. Help is on the way."

Irritation flickered across Snape's face and he wheezed out an indeterminable word with a distinct tone of annoyance.

A ball of silvery light shot through the door and coalesced as a phoenix Patronus in the middle of the room, and Harry jumped slightly as Dumbledore's voice spoke out of it.

"His cane is a portkey to Saint Mungo's; trigger word is 'medice'."

"Harry, come with us," Remus said, snatching up the walking stick and curling his and Snape's hands around it.

"But—"

"Now!"

He wrapped a hand around the stick, Remus said the trigger word, and the portkey activated.

* * *

Several hours later found Harry sitting in a chair beside a bed in Saint Mungo's hospital. Snape lay in the bed, unconscious, but the blue tint had faded from his skin and he was breathing easier now, though that was mostly due to the magical bubble on his face that was shaped like one of the oxygen masks Harry himself had used when he was in hospital after his attack, and which served the same purpose, providing Snape with more oxygen than the air gave. The healers said he'd overtaxed himself, but as long as he rested then he would be fine—in as much as he could be when his heart was failing. Though no one said anything, Harry had a distinct feeling that it was his fault Snape had overtaxed himself, that Snape was too stressed by the trial and the aftermath of what happened.

He never should have testified. He should have just kept his big mouth shut right from the start and never told anyone anything about Sirius using him in the first place. Sure, it meant that he would be spending the summer with Sirius and still giving him blow jobs every other night, because even with the adoption if no one knew about the abuse then they'd probably have sent him back to Sirius for the summer, but at least he wouldn't be responsible for Sirius killing himself and Snape wouldn't be laid up in a hospital bed relying on magic to get him enough oxygen.

The door opened and Remus and Dumbledore entered the room. Harry noticed for the first time that Remus' eyes were heavily shadowed and he remembered that the full moon was in just a couple of days, and his guilt grew. It probably wasn't doing Remus much good to be worrying about him, and no doubt he was mourning Sirius even if he'd shown no signs of it so far—they had been friends before, so surely Remus mourned him at least to some degree—and given what Harry heard when he woke up after the trial Remus was probably worrying a good bit about Snape as well.

"Harry," Dumbledore greeted with a gentle smile. "How are you?"

Harry shrugged. Dumbledore gave him a sad look, but didn't comment on it, instead saying, "The healers say Severus needs to get some bed rest for a few days and that it would be best if he did so at the hospital. As the full moon is in just two nights, and I myself am unfortunately busy with several things, I have contacted the Weasleys and they have agreed to house you for a week. You can leave after your session with Max."

"Just a week?"

"Severus should be back at Hogwarts by then, and Remus recovered from the full moon. He did come to stay at the castle for you this summer, so you should be there. Besides," he added with a twinkle in his eyes, "given their history, we wouldn't want to leave Remus and Severus with just each other now, would we?"

Considering what Harry recently learnt about Snape and Remus, he thought that leaving them with each other might be just what Remus wanted, but he could hardly say that. At least a week was better than nothing, and the noisy hustle and bustle of the Burrow was extremely appealing right now. He wanted a distraction from his thoughts, wanted someone to take his mind away from Sirius and suicide and Snape and sickness, and if anyone could do that it was the Weasleys.

Chapter Text

Harry couldn't sleep that night—or more accurately, he didn't want to, because every time he closed his eyes all he saw was Sirius' head exploding and he knew it would be the only thing filling his dreams. So a little after one, when Ron was snoring in his own bed, Harry crept out of the room and snuck down to the Burrow kitchen. He got a glass of water and sat at the table with it, wrapping his hands around the cool glass and wishing he had something that would clear his mind. He'd played two-a-side Quidditch with Ron and the twins that afternoon, then chess in the evening with Ron, but neither of those things did much to take his mind off everything. Mrs Weasley's fussing didn't help; they all knew that he'd seen Sirius die, though he didn't think they knew the details, and Harry wished they didn't know anything so he could pretend everything was normal.

He realised he was scratching his hand and stopped. It was red and inflamed all the way from his knuckles to his wrists and he'd even broken the skin in a few places, but it didn't really hurt. It was too familiar now, the action a bad habit more than anything else, and what was the point in hurting himself if it didn't actually hurt or provide that minor relief that it used to? All it did was leave him with ugly, torn up hands for no good reason. He should probably return to Ron's room and find his ball to play with, but he didn't want to. It might distract his hands, but it wouldn't distract his mind, which was what he wanted more than anything else just then. Anything that would stop him thinking about blood and brains and bone, about a heavy headless body weighing down on him, about Sirius dying and Snape dying and it was all his fault...

Pain lanced through his hand and he realised he was scratching again. He stared as little drops of blood welled up and trickled slowly down his hand. How odd, he thought, that he despised the images of blood in his head so much but felt just a tiny bit better for hurting himself and making himself bleed. He supposed it was justice. He was the cause of so much death that getting hurt himself was only what he deserved. He'd killed three people now—and he had killed Sirius, no matter that it hadn't been his hand on the wand or his voice that spoke the spell—and he hadn't paid for any of them. Max had even tried to convince Harry that afternoon that Sirius' death wasn't his fault, and for months he's been told that killing Crouch and Eric was justified, it was self-defence and saving Snape's life, so he didn't need to be punished for it, but they were wrong. He'd taken lives. That needed punishing, and scratching at his hand wasn't going to cut it.

His eyes fell on a knife sat beside the sink. It was only a butter knife, set there likely by someone who'd taken a last minute snack before bed and hadn't bothered to wash it up—Mrs Weasley would grumble in the morning when she found it—but it was enough to put the thought in his head. He scratched his hand, glancing towards the drawer where he knew the proper knives were kept. It was stupid and insane, he couldn't possibly... but the idea was appealing, and he could be excused a little insanity, couldn't he? He'd seen a man's head explode; no one could expect him to be in his right mind after that. And really, he did deserve it. No one else was willing to punish him for the things he'd done, and the pain of it would be greater than scratching his hand so with any luck it would drive away everything in his head...

He got up without thinking about it, didn't really pay attention to crossing the room and sliding the drawer open, and only paused when he had the small paring knife in his hands. It would be the best for what he wanted, the easiest to handle, and he knew it was sharp because Mrs Weasley had been complaining just that evening about her cooking knives being too blunt and he'd seen her cast a spell to sharpen them each individually.

That same thought made him hesitate. It wouldn't be right to get his blood all over Mrs Weasley's cooking knives, even if he cleaned it off properly. He might miss a bit and then Mrs Weasley would be using stained knives to cook with, which simply wasn't acceptable.

He put it back and pushed the drawer shut, but the thought remained with him, persistent now. He wanted to hurt himself—needed to. He had to punish himself for the things he'd done and he was almost certain that this was the only way he'd be able to get Sirius out of his head, to cut him away and bleed him out. It would be dual purpose, he realised; he could hurt himself as punishment while cleansing himself of the wretchedness inside.

He yanked the drawer open again, but before he could pick up the knife, a voice spoke from behind him, quiet but so unexpected that he nevertheless jumped a mile, whirling around to face the figure at the foot of the stairs.

"It won't help."

He slammed the draw shut with a rattle and leant against the counter, breathing hard as Percy stepped further into the kitchen. Harry hadn't even heard him come downstairs.

"W-what?"

"It won't help, not in the long run."

"Wha- I don't know what you're talking about," Harry said, trying to sound off hand despite his hands clenching the counter behind him. Percy gave him a look that was uncharacteristically gentle. Dressed in his pyjamas and dressing gown, with his hair unbrushed and a distinctly sleepy look to him, Percy didn't look as pompous as usual.

"I used to do it," he said, moving over to the cupboards and fetching himself a glass that he filled with water from the tap. "For most of my last three years at Hogwarts. It helped me ease the stress, but it was only temporary. That relief—it only lasted until the next time I sat down to study, or until I thought about the possibility of failing all my exams, so then I would have to do it again, but it only gave me more stress because I kept worrying someone would find out and worrying about how they'd react. In the end, all it did was make things worse and leave me with a lot of scars I wish I didn't have."

He took a drink of his water then. Harry said nothing, too stunned at the revelation to speak. It seemed strange to him that someone would hurt themselves because of stress. He wanted to do it as punishment, so pain was necessary, but how would hurting yourself help with stress? Percy said it provided him with relief, so perhaps it was similar to what Harry hoped for—bleeding out the stress just like Harry wanted to bleed out his guilt, and maybe the pain was a distraction from whatever caused him stress in the first place, which seemed to be his studies. Harry marvelled at that slightly; where OWLs and NEWTs really that bad? And this was Percy Weasley, who was intelligent and studious; what would it be like for someone like him, who didn't put half as much effort into his school work? Or maybe that was the problem—all that effort was what drove Percy to hurt himself.

"All I'm saying," Percy said, drawing his attention again, "is that there are better ways to deal with what you're feeling."

Harry nodded, but he wasn't sure he really believed it. He didn't want to hurt himself to deal with his feelings—or he did, but not just because of that. He needed to punish himself. He doubted Percy would understand that.

Percy turned away, taking his half empty glass with him, but paused at the bottom of the stairs and turned back, speaking now with his usual pomposity. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell Ron, Ginny, or the twins about this; Mum and Dad know, but I don't want them to."

Harry nodded again and Percy left. Harry waited until he heard his bedroom door shut before he stepped away from the counter and looked down at the drawer, but he moved away from it without taking the knife. Much that he wanted to, he was worried about getting walked in on again and he still felt that he shouldn't use one of Mrs Weasley's cooking knives to do it. So he took his water and returned to Ron's room to lie in bed, watching the people in the Chudley Cannons posters whizz about and trying not to think about anything until sleep finally took him.

* * *

"Harry?"

He didn't respond to the voice, nor to the accompanying knock on the door, not even when said door swung open and the voice called his name again. He was still in bed, covers pulled up over his head, but far from sleep, which was a small mercy.

"Mum wants to know if you want any lunch."

"No," Harry said in a small voice, hoping Fred or George—he could tell them apart in sight, but not by voice—went away.

They didn't. He heard footsteps cross the room and then the bed squeaked and depressed as someone sat on the edge.

"No one's angry at you about this morning."

Harry tugged the covers tighter. He'd woken the entire house up at four o'clock that morning because he'd woken screaming from a nightmare where he'd been giving a blow job to Sirius, only when Sirius orgasmed his head had exploded.

"We know it must have been traumatic to see Sirius kill himself; it's understandable you'd have nightmares."

Harry couldn't help letting out a dry laugh, because traumatic just didn't seem to cover it. Getting beaten and raped was traumatic, fighting for his life in an Albanian forest was traumatic, and shooting one of his rapists was traumatic, but somehow seeing a man's head explode mere inches in front of him—and it being his fault—wasn't something that could be so easily named.

A hand rested on his arm, squeezing gently through the covers. "Did you want to talk about it?"

He didn't even bother to answer that. Talking was the last thing he wanted to do.

His visitor seemed to get the message. They squeezed his arm again then got up to leave. Only when the door had shut behind them did Harry realise he didn't want to be alone, but it was too late by then and he didn't want company so much that he was willing to leave the bed and go downstairs to join the rest of the Weasleys. He just thought he might like to have someone sit with him quietly, but it would be selfish to ask anyone to do it. It was the middle of the summer holidays and his friends had more fun things to do than sit with him while he stewed in bad memories.

* * *

His stomach forced him out of bed eventually, too empty to be ignored any longer. He trudged downstairs and reached the kitchen at the same moment the back door swung open and Ron and Ginny came in, their hands muddy and Ginny saying, "... at least fifty feet. Way further than you," and Harry realised they must have just de-gnomed the garden.

"Go wash your hands, young man!" Mrs Weasley snapped when Ron reached for a bread roll from the dish on the table and Ron snatched his hand back. Ginny noticed Harry at the bottom of the stairs and greeted him with a small smile. She seemed to have gotten over her crush on him and was able to be in his presence without blushing deeply or knocking anything over, and thankfully didn't seem too crestfallen that he'd taken up with two of her brothers instead.

"Hey, Harry."

Her words made Mrs Weasley look around, relief mingling with concern on her face. "Oh, Harry dear, take a seat. I'm just serving dinner; you must be starving. Ginny, tell the twins and Percy to come down, will you?"

As Ginny and Ron headed off to clean up and fetch their brothers, Harry took a seat and Mrs Weasley turned to him to say, "Arthur's bought you some Dreamless Sleep Potion, Harry. He brought it over on his lunch break."

Harry looked up in surprise. "You didn't have to do that."

She waved him off. "It's no worry, and you could do with some."

He couldn't argue with that. "Thank you," he said sincerely. "Do you want me to pay you back for it?"

"No, not at all. It's really no worry, dear."

By the time everyone was seated—everyone minus Mr Weasley, who was still at work—Harry already had a loaded plate of food in front of him, but now that he did he suddenly found himself not hungry. He picked at his meal as the rest of them passed dishes to one another and chatted freely, and ignored Mrs Weasley's concerned glances and the way Percy gave his arms a long searching look. He ate a little of the lasagne they were having, but when Mrs Weasley tried to encourage him to eat more he couldn't even manage another bite, suddenly feeling that if he even tried then he would be horribly sick. He excused himself when the others were having dessert and headed back upstairs. He stopped by the bathroom, needing to use it but also not really wanting to return to Ron's bedroom. When he came out, he noticed the twins' bedroom door wasn't quite closed properly and, without thinking about it, slipped inside.

Like the last time he'd been there, they had a cauldron set up to one side and it was currently bubbling away with something that smelt rather sour. There were books on the desk, sat open and scattered about, with bits of parchment amidst them. Idly curious, Harry went over to have a look. One of the books was open to a potion recipe for a Scintillation Solution, but Harry didn't think it was the potion in the cauldron because his quick skim of the instructions said nothing about the Scintillation Solution ever being fluorescent yellow. He flicked through the rest of the book, keeping one finger at the page it'd been on so he didn't lose it, but he forgot all about that when he came across a recipe for a Memory Dulling Draught.

This, he thought as he read the description with a growing sense of hope, is exactly what I need.

Chapter Text

With the Dreamless Sleep Potion and a plan of action, the week passed not too terribly. He still had to contend with his memories during the day and he really wished Mrs Weasley wouldn't fuss so much, but playing Quidditch and spending time with his friends helped a little. He didn't give in to his urge to cut himself, though he was tempted by the knife that the twins left lying with their potion ingredients. He still felt he deserved the punishment and he still craved the release he was now convinced it would bring, but there was almost never a chance to be alone in the Burrow and he definitely didn't want anyone finding out about it. Percy had said he'd worried about people finding out which made Harry think no one would react well to him cutting himself, but he also remembered what Sirius had told him once about a girl in his year who hurt herself and Sirius' follow-up remark about how there were better ways to get attention, so if he did cut himself he'd have to make sure that no one ever found out; the last thing he needed was anyone thinking he was trying to get even more attention.

He was glad for the moments he managed to spend alone with the twins, which weren't often because it didn't seem fair to abandon Ron to spend so much time with his brothers when Harry was meant to be his best friend. He also had to contend with Mrs Weasley, who knew about the three of them and while she clearly had no qualms about Harry sitting between the twins on the sofa in the evenings, as long as everyone's hands were in plain sight, she seemed concerned about what they might get up to behind closed doors and the few times Harry did manage to get alone with Fred or George, she would inevitably come bustling in as though she had a sense for when her children were feeling amorous. Not that Harry did feel particularly amorous, but still. He barely even got a decent kiss out of them both until the last day he was there, when he slipped off to their room during breakfast to check the name of the book with the Memory Dulling Potion, so he would know which one to find in the Hogwarts library.

"Oi, oi, what's this then?"

He whirled. Fred and George stood in the doorway, each leant against a frame, George with his arms folded over his chest and Fred with one hand on his hip and an exaggerated expression of disapproval.

"Looks like a trespasser to me, Fred," George remarked.

"I have to agree with you there, George. What should we do about him?"

"Punish him, obviously. We can't let people trespass in our bedroom and get away with it, can we?"

"Definitely not. But how should we punish him?"

George pushed away from the door frame and crossed the room to stand before Harry. Fred stepped inside as well, shutting the door behind him. Harry glanced between them, wondering just what they had in mind as 'punishment'. He didn't expect it to involve George cupping his face in both hands and kissing him softly.

"No, no, no," Fred said, stalking over and laying a hand on George's shoulder, prompting him to break the kiss. "Honestly, man, that's not how you punish someone. Like this."

Then he nudged his brother aside, grabbed Harry's face and kissed him hard. Harry made a startled noise, but opened his mouth to Fred's probing tongue, wrapping an arm around him and kissing him back. He let his eyes drift shut and didn't open them even when Fred broke the kiss, just pressed himself flush against the other boy and buried his face in his shoulder, one hand clutching the back of his shirt while the other reached blindly behind him for George, glad when George got the message and stepped up behind him, sliding his arms around Harry's waist and pressing a kiss to the back of his neck.

"You alright?" Fred asked quietly, all their joking about punishments gone now, his own hands curled around Harry's shoulders.

"You've got a funny idea of punishment," he said by way of answer.

"Well you looked so wide-eyed and afraid that I just couldn't bring myself to punish you," George said. "Don't expect it to work all the time though."

Harry gave a short jerky nod, fully aware that the lack of punishment was them trying not to distress him, but he was grateful for it.

There was a farting noise and Harry blinked, wondering who it came from and hoping it wasn't him, then the cauldron in the corner gave off a plume of red smoke and he realised it'd come from that.

"Crap!"

Harry was rather ungraciously pushed aside as Fred hurried to the cauldron, snatching up the glass rod sitting in it and hurriedly stirring the mixture while George reached for one of many jars of potion ingredients sat on the window sill and unscrewed it to take out four newt eyes, which he plopped into the cauldron one after the other, letting Fred do a single stir of the mixture between each one. When the last one was in, Fred gave three more slow stirs then drew the rod out, wiping it off on a stained cloth then peering into the cauldron.

"That almost was. Do you think we saved it?"

"Looks alright," George said.

"What is it?" Harry asked curiously, coming over.

"Just a little invention of ours," Fred answered him, frowning at the goopy, dark red mixture. "I hope it's alright; we can't afford another muck up."

"Find out when we test it."

"Is this more joke stuff?" Harry pushed. "Like the Canary Creams you made?"

George nodded, returning the jar of newt eyes to the windowsill and cleaning his hands on another, less filthy cloth. "Base mixture for our Skiving Snackboxes, but Fred's right, we really can't afford any more mishaps. Ingredients are expensive."

Harry didn't get chance to ask more. There was a knock at the door and then, without giving anyone chance to answer, it swung open and Mrs Weasley came in with an armload of laundry that she dropped on one of the beds.

"I hope you're not pulling Harry into your trouble making," she said sternly, looking between the three, but Harry had a feeling trouble making wasn't the kind of thing she suspected they were up to. "It's a lovely day out, much too nice to be stuck up inside. Why don't you three find Ron and Ginny and do something in the orchard."

Though phrased as a suggestion it was clearly an order and they slunk out the room and headed downstairs.

* * *

That evening, Harry packed up his bag and, with mixed feelings, flooed from the Burrow back to Hogwarts. He didn't want to leave the Weasleys, especially not to spend his days with a sick Snape inside an almost empty castle, but he was glad to see Remus again and it did mean he'd finally be able to brew the Memory Dulling Draught. It was something to keep him busy and when it was done the memories of seeing Sirius die would, if he'd done it right, be much less bothersome.

But all thoughts of potions fled his mind when he stepped out of the fireplace and into Snape's main room to find Remus pressing Snape up against one wall, an arm around the other man's waist and his other hand curled over the one of Snape's that clutched his walking stick, while Snape's other hand was tangled loosely in Remus' hair and their mouths were locked very firmly together, at least until they realised he was there, at which point they broke apart and Remus stepped back, clearing his throat and not quite looking at Harry, while Snape leant against the wall and glowered.

"Um," Harry said.

Remus cleared his throat again. "Hello, Harry. How was your visit to the Weasleys?"

"Erm... good. I'm going to the library," he said and darted towards the door.

"Potter!"

He turned slowly.

"Not a word to anyone," Snape said in a low, dangerous voice. Harry nodded and hurriedly left, but as he left the dungeons he found himself, for the first time in a week, feeling something positive. He wasn't sure why, but he liked the prospect of Snape and Remus being together. Maybe getting laid would cheer Snape up a bit, although anything more intense and intimate than the kiss Harry walked in on was probably too strenuous for Snape's heart, he thought, and then dragged his mind firmly away from Snape and Remus getting intimate. He did not want to think about that.

He went straight to the Potions section when he reached the library, which was left unlocked but he'd been told he wasn't to remove any books throughout the summer, as Madam Pince wasn't around to check them out and make sure he brought them back. Part of Harry was annoyed, as he felt this showed a distinct lack of trust in his ability to look after and return books, but another part of him didn't care that much because he wasn't Hermione and didn't feel the need to fill his summer with reading.

It didn't take him long to find the book that Fred and George had been using and then to find the recipe for the Memory Dulling Draught. He was annoyed then about not being able to take books from the library, but, after a moment's hesitation, he snuck behind Madam Pince's counter and found some blank parchment, a quill, and some ink, and carefully copied the instructions down word for word. He didn't think he had all the ingredients necessary left in his potions kit and some of them weren't ingredients in the students stores, which meant he would have to steal from Snape's personal stores. At least this time he wouldn't have to throw a firework into a cauldron to distract Snape in the process, as he'd done in second year so Hermione could steal bicorn horn and boomslang skin for their Polyjuice Potion. Snape never left his quarters so it should be easy enough for Harry to sneak into his office and steal what he needed.

He just needed to decide where to make it. Moaning Myrtle's bathroom seemed like an obvious choice, as it had worked so well before, but had the downside of Myrtle herself. But with the school mostly empty, he could conceivably brew it anywhere, and the Memory Dulling Draught only took a few days.

He checked the recipe once more then returned the book to its shelf and left, heading back to Snape's quarters slowly and knocking before he entered, just in case Snape and Remus were still busy, but he entered the main room to find it empty of either man. Snape's bedroom door was shut, as always, but there was a light shining under it; Harry wasn't sure if both men were in there and didn't want to linger too long on the possibility if they were. Harry went to his own room, dumping down the bag of stuff he still had from his trip to the Burrow then pulled the draught recipe from his pocket, reading over the ingredients list again as he knelt down by his trunk and opened it, digging out his potions kit to check what ingredients he did have. It confirmed what he thought—he was missing several ingredients. If he was lucky, the student store cupboard would have what he needed, but if not then he'd have to get permission to go to Hogsmeade, hopefully alone or Remus would ask why he was buying potion ingredients. If need be, he'd even sneak in through the secret passage and buy what he needed that way.

* * *

He didn't have to resort to sneaking into Hogsmeade, thankfully. He managed to find everything he needed in the student stores and Snape's office, though the office did cause him some difficulty as he found a complex locking charm on it. He spent almost two days scouring the library to find a counter spell that would get it open. He didn't mind the extra research, as it gave him a distraction from his nightmares, but he didn't like having to use his wand so much. It was the first time he'd even touched it since Sirius had used it.

When he mentioned that he had no more Dreamless Sleep Potion, Snape refused to let him have more and Remus agreed; apparently it was supposed to be used sparingly and he'd already crossed the limit by having it every night for a week straight. Harry felt spitefully pleased that Snape looked regretful about his decision when Harry woke up screaming so violently Snape had staggered in from his own room because he thought Harry was being tortured, but it didn't make the man change his mind, nor did he when Harry woke from a dream where Snape was the one whose head exploded and he was so scared it was real that he'd burst into Snape's room at three o'clock in the morning to check he still had his head. He was glad to find Snape with all his body parts intact, but less glad to get cursed with boils for his sudden intrusion, which he had to put up with until Snape had sent a Patronus message to Remus and sent him to the hospital wing to fetch a boil cure.

Avoiding Snape and Remus to work on the potion was surprisingly easy. All he had to do was say he was going to work on his summer homework and they wouldn't question him any further. Harry didn't come across them kissing again, thankfully, but he started to wonder if they were even in a relationship, despite the fact that Remus spent more time in Snape's quarters now. He was there most days and claimed it was just to be there in case Snape took a turn for the worse again; Harry wondered if maybe that was true because he saw no indication that the two ever did anything more than sit in quiet together and read, very occasionally talking to one another. Anytime Harry was with them, Remus spent most of the time talking with him and Snape only ever interjected with a snide comment on their topic of conversation. The two men never even exchanged brief touches of the hand and Harry started to think maybe the kiss he'd interrupted had been a one time thing, unless they were just being careful about not doing anything in front of him. Not that he wanted them snogging each other all over the place; if they did that then he was going back to the Burrow no matter what Snape, Remus, or Dumbledore said.

He brewed the potion in one of the boys' toilets on the ground floor. Doing it in a classroom felt too out in the open even in a mostly empty castle; he considered and discarded Gryffindor tower because the Fat Lady was a renowned gossip and he didn't want her telling anyone that he'd been in and out of the tower on a regular basis; and he didn't fancy putting up with Moaning Myrtle again, but a bathroom seemed like a good place. He didn't bother brewing it directly over a toilet, like Hermione had with the Polyjuice Potion, mostly because he wasn't as good at conjuring waterproof flames, and he figured that it wasn't necessary to tuck himself in a cubicle when his chances of interruption were so small.

He finally gave into his self-harming urges as well, taking a carefully cleaned knife to his thigh as he sat in the bathroom with the potion bubbling away nearby. There was no reason for anyone to be seeing his thighs and they were far easier to hide than his arms, so it seemed the best place to do it, and it was even more effective than he'd thought it would be. The pain, the careful act of drawing the blade along his skin, and even the sight of the blood dripping down his leg brought a calm to his thoughts that nothing else did. It really was like he was bleeding away his guilt and it made him feel better to know that he was finally suffering for the lives he'd taken.

A week after he returned from the Burrow—by which point he was more than ready for the potion, thoroughly sick of his nightmares and sporting shadows under his eyes that were almost dark enough to rival Snape's—he drew a stirring rod from the cauldron with a hand that shook slightly from tiredness and adrenaline at finally finishing the potion. It was yellow, like his instructions said it should be, so with any luck he wasn't about to poison himself. Brewing a potion alone in a bathroom was a lot easier than doing it in a dungeon with Snape looming over him and the Slytherins being irritating.

He cleaned off the stirring rod and packed away his collection of ingredients as he waited for the potion to cool, tucking everything away in his school bag to be returned to his trunk later, then he ladled some out into a tumbler, keenly inhaling the surprisingly pleasant smell. It might not even taste too bad, though he didn't hold out much hope. The only potion he could remember drinking that didn't taste foul was the Dread Thoughts Potion. Perhaps, he thought, the more helpful a potion was the worse it tasted, which would explain why all Madam Pomfrey's brews tasted so foul. If that was the case, he hoped the Memory Dulling Draught was disgusting.

Taking a deep breathing and raising the tumbler in a silent salute to himself, he muttered, "Cheers," then gulped it down in one go.

* * *

Dumbledore hummed as he strolled down a corridor, heading towards the dungeons to check on his boys, as he privately referred to them. Privately because he knew neither Snape nor Harry would appreciate his fond term, though he thought Remus might not complain.

"Excuse me, sir!"

Dumbledore paused and turned, recognising the voice calling him, and smiled as Harry came running out of a bathroom and jogged up to him. He was quite surprised to see that Harry had a smile on his face, as he hadn't seen the boy smile once since Sirius' trial, but was nonetheless glad to see it, especially as the smile was a tad sheepish and embarrassed, suggesting Harry might not be on his best behaviour. Dumbledore didn't mind; if Harry felt up to misbehaving, that was definitely a good sign.

"Sorry, sir, but um..." Definitely sheepish and embarrassed now and Dumbledore wondered just what he'd been up to and needed help with. He knew Remus had been teaching Harry some new spells before Sirius' trial; had he tried something and created a minor disaster? "I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me?"

"Of course, my boy," Dumbledore told him gladly. "Ask away."

"Right, well, erm... you wouldn't... um... happen to know my name?"

Dumbledore blinked.

"Or where I am?" the boy added.

Dumbledore blinked again. Then he frowned and raked his gaze over Harry more calculatingly. There were heavy shadows under his eyes, his clothes were rather wrinkled, and he looked to be skinnier than Dumbledore remembered him being at the end of term, all signs of the emotional trauma he'd been through, but as he gazed into the green eyes he realised there wasn't so much as a hint of the guardedness and insecurity that Harry had always had even before the trial. He stood without the hunch to his shoulders that Dumbledore now realised was normal, as if the weight he constantly carried on his shoulders had lifted, and the gladness Dumbledore had felt a minute ago faded very rapidly.

"You don't remember your name?"

Another sheepish smile. "No, sir. Do you know me?"

A heavy weight settled in Dumbledore stomach. "Yes," he said gently. "Yes, Harry, I do."

Chapter Text

Severus closed his book with a sigh. Getting out of bed this morning had been a bad idea. His breathing had been strained from the moment he woke up, but he thought he would be alright with the Oxygenation Charm. It made things easier, but after an hour in front of the fire with his mind continuously failing to concentrate on his book, he knew it was a mistake and he needed to get back in bed.

He didn't get up though, and pretended not to notice Lupin's sidelong glance from the sofa. The distance between the sofa and his bedroom seemed ridiculously long and he didn't really want to spend the energy it would take getting there. Maybe he'd be alright if he just lounged in his armchair a while. It was almost the same thing; he'd be mostly sitting up in bed anyway because lying only made his breathing more difficult.

He looked over at the door when there was a knock followed by it swinging open without waiting for answer from him, and he scowled instinctively, knowing it would be Dumbledore or Potter, neither of whom he cared to see, but the scowl turned to a frown when Dumbledore did enter—with a cauldron floating along in front of him on a slab of wood (because anyone with half a brain knew you did not cast magic on cauldrons filled with potions, unless the spell was part of the potion or you were trying to cause an explosion). Potter, school bag slung across his body, traipsed in behind the headmaster and Severus' frown only deepened when the boy looked around the room with curiosity, as if he'd never seen it before, then turned equally curious eyes on Severus and Lupin.

"Headmaster, Harry," Lupin greeted as Dumbledore set the cauldron on Severus' dining table. Severus itched to get up and go investigate what was in it; he'd been forbidden to be around brewing potions since his heart failure because his healers didn't want the fumes to stress his heart any further. The cauldron on the table didn't seem to be giving any off, but even so Severus didn't have the energy to spare just to go and look inside, not when he would likely get an answer from one of the two visitors in his rooms. It probably also wasn't a good idea for him to peer into the cauldron of anything Potter had made—because that was definitely a student cauldron.

"Hi," Potter greeted Lupin, and Severus looked at him in surprise that he was sure Lupin also felt, surprise at hearing Potter speak in a tone of part teenage awkwardness and part good cheer, as if Harry was actually happy. And then, just to surprise them even more, he smiled.

Severus narrowed his gaze at the cauldron. An Elixir to Induce Euphoria, perhaps? But that was a NEWT level potion; there was no way Potter could brew that competently. And surely Dumbledore wouldn't have; he was the one that made a point of saying people needed to work through their emotions without chemical (or alcoholic) aid, save for healer-prescribed anti-anxiety or anti-depressant potions, which Potter was already taking and had been since his return from his Christmas kidnapping. A less potent mood-altering potion, then? But that didn't explain the slightly curious expression on Potter's face as he took in the room and its occupants. No, that expression was more suited to someone who...

"Dumbledore," Severus said with some trepidation, "what is in that cauldron?"

Dumbledore took a sheet of parchment from his pocket and brought it over. Severus snatched it from him, instantly recognising the handwriting, and read it over, then lifted his eyes to the boy still stood by his front door, who cocked his head slightly as he met Severus' gaze.

"Why do you have a bubble on your face?" he asked, which confirmed all of Severus' suspicions.

Lupin spoke then, frown clear in his voice though Severus couldn't see his face at this angle. "It's the Oxygenation Charm, Harry. Surely you remember that."

A distinctly sheepish and vaguely guilty expression crossed Potter's face then, which was exactly the kind of look Severus expected from him, and he glanced at Dumbledore, but it was Severus who answered.

"No," he said, anger seeping into his voice. "No, Lupin, he can't remember. Can you, Potter?"

Potter looked surprised to be addressed so curtly, but shook his head. Lupin looked between him and Severus with a frown.

"What do you mean?"

"Tell us, Potter," Severus sneered. "What exactly can you remember? Clearly your language skills are still intact, so what damage has been down to your already highly impaired brain?"

Potter scowled at him and Severus found himself almost glad for the glimpse of normality, but he answered, "I've forgotten mostly everything. Professor Dumbledore said I must have tried to make a potion to ease the memory of my godfather dying, but did it wrong and made myself forget everything about myself. You're not very nice," he added, which only made Severus snort. No one had ever accused him of being nice. Potter's gaze shifted to Lupin. "Are you Severus Snape then?"

Severus was so outraged at the suggestion that he couldn't even find words to speak. Lupin, irritatingly, sounded vaguely amused.

"No, I'm Remus Lupin. Why would you think I'm Severus?"

Harry looked startled, then almost outraged as he stared at Severus. "You're Severus Snape? You're my adopted dad?"

"I'm not your father," Severus spat. Potter frowned at Dumbledore.

"You told me Severus Snape adopted me 'cause my real parents died."

"Indeed he did," Dumbledore answered, infuriatingly light-hearted in tone. "But it was only last November and neither of you have yet reached the stage of calling him your father. I think you prefer the term guardian."

Potter didn't look pleased. Severus, with effort, got to his feet, leaning heavily on his cane as he shuffled over to the table. The healers be damned, he needed to look at this potion and he had the Oxygenation Charm in place so he should be fine. The liquid inside was a shade of yellow far darker than a Memory Dulling Draught should be and was far too viscous, if he recalled correctly. He looked again at the instructions Potter had clearly copied out of a book then drew his wand and pointed it at one of his bookshelves, silently summoning a book on mind altering substances and thumping it down on the table, taking a seat to look through it.

"Cool!"

Severus paused in flicking through to the section on memory potions to look over at Potter, who looked utterly delighted at having witnessed something as simple as a Summoning Charm, then turned his gaze on Dumbledore. "He forgot about magic as well, didn't he?"

Dumbledore nodded, a pleasant smile on his face as though this wasn't something to be concerned about. Resisting the urge to hex the headmaster, Severus looked back down at the book and found the page with the Memory Dulling Draught, checking the instructions against those written on the parchment. He was surprised to find that Potter's written instructions were accurate, if phrased slightly differently to those in Severus' book, which probably only meant he'd copied it from a different tome. It also meant the fault must have been in Potter's brewing, though that was no great surprise.

Lupin came over to the table, peering into the cauldron then at the book. "Are the effects permanent?"

"Not to a Memory Dulling Draught as it's intended to wear off over time, but given that that's not what Potter managed to brew, there's really no telling without close analysis of his botched potion." He looked up at Dumbledore, who at least had lost the serene smile and seemed to be taking the situation a little bit more seriously. "The healers don't want me brewing, Dumbledore, I've told you that already."

"I know," Dumbledore said with a faint sigh. "I will find someone else to investigate the matter. Perhaps Horace Slughorn won't mind doing me a favour."

"You will keep Potter's name out of it?" Severus asked it only because he wasn't about to tell Albus Dumbledore what to do, but he made it clear that this wasn't truly a request. Before Dumbledore could answer though, Potter himself spoke up.

"Why do you call me that?"

All three adults looked around. Potter had a sullen expression on his face as he looked at Severus.

"Call you what?"

"Potter."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "Surely the headmaster told you your own name?"

"Yeah, but I'm your adopted son. Why don't you call me by my first name?"

"Because I didn't want to adopt you, Potter, and I don't particularly like you. It's not like you call me anything other than 'sir' or 'professor'."

"Then why'd you even adopt me in the first place? Seems a bit stupid if you don't like me."

"I didn't. You adopted me. Headmaster, might I suggest sending a portion of this to Caoimhe Underwood as well? She is an expert in mind altering substances, and a correspondent of mine; I can write to her myself."

"Yes, that would be good, thank you, Severus." Dumbledore drew his wand and conjured two large vials which he filled with the botched potion then pocketed one.

"Put the rest in my office under a Stasis Spell," Severus told him. "It should keep a while; if I get the transplant before this mess is fixed then I want to take a look at it myself."

Dumbledore nodded. "I'll write to Horace immediately, and contact a healer to come and examine you, Harry. They may be able to determine if your memory lapse is permanent or not. In the meantime, the two of you can fill Harry in on the details of himself. Good day, gentlemen."

Severus watched him leave, levitating the platform carrying the cauldron in front of him, then glanced at the other two, eyes lingering on Potter and deciding he was absolutely not in the mood to fill him in on the details of his life. He got to his feet, taking the vial Dumbledore had left to send to Caiomhe, and headed for his bedroom.

"I'm going to bed," he told them. "Try not to cause any more disasters before nightfall, won't you, Potter?"

* * *

Harry watched Snape disappear into his bedroom, the door shutting with a snap behind him, then looked at Remus.

"Is he really my adopted dad?" he asked, hoping it was a great big trick that the three adults were playing on him, but Remus smiled.

"Yes, he really is."

"Why? What did he mean that I adopted him? It doesn't work like that, does it?"

"It's a bit of a long story, but I will tell you it. Did you want to go in your bedroom to hear it? The familiar surroundings might jog something in your memory."

Harry nodded and went to the door Remus gestured at, opening it to find a decent sized bedroom. The walls were undecorated except for a few photos by the bed, but the floor was a bit of a mess with clothes and books strewn across it. He added his bag to it, dumping it down on top of a closed trunk at the foot of the bed. There was a window looking out over a large pitch of some sort that had tall hoops at either end, at least fifty feet high, and Harry couldn't begin to fathom what they were for. He was also confused as to how the window could be there because he was fairly certain Dumbledore had lead him into a dungeon.

"It's enchanted," Remus explained, obviously reading the confusion on his face.

"With magic, you mean?"

"Yes. Did Dumbledore tell you this is a school for magic?"

"Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, right? And I'm a wizard." He couldn't keep the awe out of his voice at that.

"That's right. I believe you keep your wand in that drawer."

He pointed to the bedside cabinet and Harry tugged open the drawer, finding it empty but for a polished stick made of holly. He picked it up, turning it over in his hands then pointing it at a bit of clothing on the floor. Nothing happened, much to his disappointment.

"How do I make stuff fly?"

"That depends: do you want to levitate it like the headmaster did with the cauldron, or summon it like Severus did with the book?"

"Either. Both."

"Well levitation is easier; that's a first year spell, so you should try that first."

He drew his own wand and pointed it at a sock. "The incantation is Wingardium Leviosa, and it requires a flick and swish motion, like so: Wingardium Leviosa!"

The sock lifted off the floor and, following the guidance of Remus' wand, settled on the bed.

"So cool," Harry breathed, then had a go himself on a t-shirt. It worked, if a bit too well—the t-shirt soared upwards so quickly it smacked into the ceiling, but Harry wasn't bothered. "Wicked!"

Remus laughed. "Well at least it doesn't seem like you'll have too much trouble picking up on your magic again. That's good."

"Yeah." He looked down at his wand again, smile fading a bit.

"Everything alright?"

"Yeah. I just..." He frowned, trying to pinpoint the feelings he had as he looked at the wand. "I don't know. There's just... I've got a kind of bad feeling about this wand. Is that normal?"

Remus' own humour faded from his face. "What kind of bad feeling?"

"I don't know. It's like... like I'm holding a dangerous weapon."

Remus, he noticed, looked slightly unhappy about that and was clearly reluctant to admit, "Not all magic is benign. It can be dangerous and harmful, but that is entirely dependant on the wizard using it and what they're doing with it."

Harry wanted to say that he'd never do anything dangerous or harmful, but something inside of him said that would be a lie, so he just returned the wand to its drawer. There was a framed photograph on top of the cabinet with a picture of a messy-haired man and a red-headed woman and he picked it up, looking at the two as he sat on the bed.

"Those are you parents," Remus told him. "James and Lily Potter."

Bittersweet emotions welled up in Harry as he looked at the pair, who danced within the confines of the picture, laughing and smiling. His parents...

"Professor Dumbledore said they were killed when I was a baby," he said past the lump in his throat, brushing a finger over the picture. Did he feel this desperate longing to have them before he lost his memories? Or was it just so strong because the news of being an orphan was technically new to him?

"Unfortunately, yes," Remus said quietly. Harry looked up to see him smiling sadly at the picture.

"You were their friend, weren't you? That's what Professor Dumbledore told me."

"I was. They were brilliant, wonderful people, and I'm sorry you never got to know them."

Harry felt close to tears and he didn't want to cry, so he quickly put the picture aside and turned his attention to the few tacked up on his wall instead, kneeling up on the bed to get a better look at them. One of them was of him, a few years younger than he was now, with a ginger-haired boy and a bushy-haired girl, all three of them laughing as they stood in front of a lake on a sunny day. Another showed him with two ginger twins that Harry thought must be related to the first boy, though his picture self looked thoroughly disgruntled as one of the twins dumped a ball of snow on his head and the other twin laughed.

"Who are these people?"

"Your friends," Remus said, coming over and bending slightly to look at the pictures. He pointed to the first. "That's Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, your best friends. These are Ron's brothers, Fred and George." Remus paused, then added, "They're your boyfriends."

Harry snapped his head around. "My what?"

Remus shot him an amused look. "Boyfriends."

Harry gaped at him. "Boyfriends? You mean... like a girlfriend... but a boy?"

Remus nodded, amusement fading to a look of slight discomfort. "You, er... how much do you remember about... erm... relationships?"

Harry looked back at the picture, feeling his cheeks grow hot. "Well I know what a girlfriend is and... y'know. What you do with them. Sort of. Um... presumably it's kind of the same with a boyfriend? I mean... kissing and... stuff. I really do that with boys?"

"Well," Remus said a little uncomfortably, "you kiss those boys, yes."

"Right," Harry said. He thought about it for a minute, trying to figure out how he felt about it. The boys weren't bad looking, he thought as he stared hard at the picture so that he wouldn't look at Remus. He supposed he maybe wouldn't mind kissing them. "And that's alright? That they're boys, I mean?"

"It's perfectly alright," Remus said, his tone once more steady and gentle, and the niggling little thought in Harry's mind that said boys were meant to kiss girls, not other boys, disappeared.

"Alright." He paused, then asked, "And it's alright that they're both my boyfriends? They do both know that, don't they? I mean, I'm not cheating on one with the other? Because that would be bad and I don't think I'd like myself if I am."

"No," Remus said with a laugh, "you're not cheating. You're in a three-way relationship with them both, and you're all very happy with it."

"I suppose that's good then. If we're happy. Just seems a bit odd, having two boyfriends."

Remus merely shrugged and sat down and Harry turned to sit as well.

"So tell me about..." He paused, frowned, and asked, "What do I call my adopted dad? He said 'sir' or 'professor' but that must be to his face."

Remus nodded. "Just Snape when talking about him."

"Right. And how did I ended up getting adopted by him then? And what was that bubble on his face and what was he talking about when he mentioned a transplant to Professor Dumbledore?"

"The bubble is an Oxygenation Charm. It provides him with a higher level of oxygen than is in the air, and he needs it because he's unfortunately very ill. His heart is failing and that's what he needs a transplant for. As for the adoption, that was a bit of an accident..."

Chapter Text

Harry woke up and screamed, clambering out of his bed and tripping over the clothes he left discarded on the floor, then skittered back to put as much distance between himself and the oddly dressed little man floating by his bed, a decidedly wicked grin on his face.

"It's potty wee Potter!" the man cackled.

"REMUS!" Harry yelled, scrambling to his feet and lurching for the door, yanking it open and colliding with Remus just outside.

"Harry, what—Peeves," Remus interrupted himself angrily. "What are you doing here? Get out! You know better than to enter staff quarters!"

Peeves cackled again, flipping over in the air and then hurtling towards them. Harry and Remus ducked and Peeves whizzed over their heads, across the main room, and through the door to the hallway. A moment later, Snape's bedroom door opened and he stepped out with a thoroughly grumpy expression on his face.

"What is all the noise?" he asked in a growl.

"There was a man in my room!" Harry blurted out. "He woke me up and he was flying!"

"Peeves," Remus explained to Snape, who scowled.

"Was he a ghost?" Harry asked them. "He went through the door like ghosts do, but he didn't look like the one I met yesterday."

"Peeves is a poltergeist," Remus explained. "Not a ghost, just a mischievous spirit. He exists to cause trouble."

"What is that?"

Harry and Remus looked at Snape, then around at the door he was glaring at, and a distinctly sheepish expression came over Remus' face.

"Ah. That."

Snape's glare shifted to Remus. "Why is there another door in my quarters?"

"It's not my fault," Remus told him defensively. "It just appeared last night."

Snape leant against his door frame, looking put out. "Please tell me I don't have yet another bedroom."

"You don't."

Snape frowned. "Then where does it lead?"

Remus didn't answer.

Snape growled. "Lupin, where does it lead?"

Remus smiled wanly. "My rooms. Hogwarts apparently felt I needed to be more readily available to you both."

Snape glared and then, without another word, retreated back into his bedroom and slammed the door shut behind him.

"I guess he's not a morning person," Harry remarked.

"No, that's what Severus is like all the time," Remus countered. "Seeing as we're up, would you like some breakfast?"

Harry agreed and a minute later had his second shock of the day when Remus summoned a house elf to bring them breakfast. Not only was he startled by the appearance of a three foot tall elf with eyes the size of tennis balls, he was also rather unnerved by Dobby's apparent hero worship of him. He was quite glad when Dobby brought him a plate of eggs, bacon, beans, sausages, and hashbrowns and a glass of pumpkin juice, and then left again.

"Are there any other weird magical creatures I should know about?" he asked as he tucked into his breakfast.

"Weird?" Remus repeated thoughtfully as he stirred sugar into his tea. "Well... I suppose you should watch out for anything Hagrid gets his hands on. He's rather fond of creatures that other people would classify as dangerous, but most magical creatures might be things you classify as weird. It's a matter of perspective really."

"Who's Hagrid?"

"The Care of Magical Creatures teacher and groundskeeper. You're good friends with him; if you like, we can visit him later today."

"Alright," Harry agreed, keen to meet other people who know him, who could tell him more about himself. "Er... is he likely to have any dangerous creatures though?"

Remus chuckled. "I don't expect so, just Fang, his boarhound, and the only danger he presents is the risk of drowning in his drool. Just don't accept any of his food; cooking is not Hagrid's strong point."

"Alright," Harry agreed, amused. "Oh, I want to ask—I've got some injuries on my leg. D'you know why?"

Remus frowned at him. "I wasn't aware of any. What kind of injuries?"

"Cuts." He pushed his chair back and pulled up the right leg of his pyjama bottoms so he could show Remus the scabbed over cuts on his thigh. There were eight of them, about two inches long, sitting parallel to each other with half a centimetre between each one. "I thought maybe it was cat scratches or something, but they seem a bit neat and too deep and I don't appear to have a cat."

"No," Remus agreed, looking at the cuts sadly. "I don't know where you got those wounds, but I suggest you mention them to Max this afternoon."

"Who's Max?" Harry asked, pushing his pyjamas back down and returning to his breakfast.

"Your therapist."

"Therapist?" Harry repeated scornfully. "What do I need a therapist for? Am I mental?"

Remus frowned at him. "No, you're not 'mental'."

"Then why have I got to see a therapist? They're for mental people."

Remus seemed reluctant to answer. "You've suffered unpleasant situations in your life, Harry. Max helps you deal with them."

Harry was sceptical still, but he moved the conversation to the rest of the school's teachers. When they'd eaten, Remus left a note on the table for Snape so he'd know where they were when he woke up then took Harry through the castle and out onto the grounds to a hut. Harry was nervous when he first met Hagrid because the man was huge, but it didn't take long for him to realise that Hagrid was perfectly friendly and by lunchtime he was quite happily settled in Hagrid's hut with a cup of tea, Fang's drool on his leg, and listening to stories about himself and Ron and Hermione.

After lunch Remus took him to meet Professor McGonagall, who was his Head of House and a bit stern. Remus hoped the more people he met the more Harry's memories might come back, but Harry had no sudden revelations about his past when he met McGonagall, nor when Remus took him to Gryffindor, though he did get a sensation of coming home and asked why he couldn't sleep in his dormitory rather than in Snape's quarters.

"He clearly doesn't want me there," Harry pointed out when Remus said he couldn't. "And I don't really like living with him either."

But Remus shook his head. "He's your guardian; you have to stay there for the holidays."

"Can't I stay with you? You're nice."

"I'm glad you think so, but there's no extra bedroom in my quarters and as you've seen, they're now connected to Severus' so in a way, you are."

That wasn't quite what Harry wanted and he made it clear with a pout, but that only made Remus laugh and pat him on the shoulder sympathetically.

* * *

A few days later, Harry sat on the sofa with his shoulders hunched, a blanket around his shoulders and the fire burning gently in front of him. The clock on the mantelpiece read two in the morning when he heard a door open behind him and he glanced around to see Snape shuffle out of his room, leaning on the wall as much as his cane as he moved to the bathroom. He didn't notice Harry—he looked as if he was still mostly asleep—so Harry turned his gaze back to the fireplace and listened to the bathroom door open and shut. He thought about going back to bed, but immediately discarded the thought. He'd woken from a nightmare weird and disturbing enough that he didn't want to go back to bed and risk having another one.

He didn't look around when he heard the bathroom door open again, but Snape must have noticed him this time because he voice came quietly across the room, "What are you doing up at this hour?"

Harry shrugged, unwilling to talk about it. With Snape, at least. He might have if it was Remus, though he didn't really want to go into the details of his nightmare even with him.

But Snape wasn't satisfied with that. He came over and Harry looked at him warily. He still didn't know how he was supposed to act around Snape; he still hadn't quite gotten his head around the idea that he'd chosen this grouchy man to adopt him, even if it had been heat of the moment and spurred by an apparently unpleasant letter from his godfather. There had to be something about Snape that was good and which Harry liked, or else Sirius Black was an even worse man than he imagined.

"You had a nightmare." It wasn't a question and Harry supposed his surprise at the outright statement was as good as an admission, because Snape got an expression that suggested Harry having nightmares was irritating but unsurprising. He sat down in his armchair. "What about?"

Harry shot him a frown, suspicious of why Snape would care to know, and Snape elaborated, "Your dreams may be memories seeping through. Obviously, you will need someone to inform you of it if they are. What did you dream of?"

Harry really doubted his dream was a memory. He got the impression his life had been weird, but surely not so weird that he'd seen a man's head explode. He was pretty sure that was impossible, even with magic.

"It doesn't matter," he muttered when Snape looked at him expectantly. "It was just a weird dream."

"Potter, the more you know about your past, the more likely you are to remember it. I already know your history—I have seen your worst memories played out in front of me. I can assure you, whatever the nightmare was about I am not going to judge you for it."

"It's just a dream. I really don't think it was a memory."

Snape sighed irritably. "At least tell Max in your next session."

Harry pulled a face. "I still don't see why I have to have a therapist. Or take those gross anti-anxiety potions. I'm not anxious and I can't remember any of the bad things that happened to me."

Snape lifted his cane and used the end to tap Harry's hands, which he realised he'd been scratching rather hard. "Because you have had a miserable life and you need the help. Even if Max decides you no longer need the potions, they're not something you just stop taking. You should return to bed. You'll need your rest for tomorrow's lesson."

He didn't want to sleep more, but he also didn't want to get in an argument with Snape, so he tugged the blanket around his shoulders and returned to his bedroom. Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout, along with Remus, had agreed to teach him some magic. As he'd picked up the few spells Remus taught him easily enough, Dumbledore felt Harry would be able to relearn most of his first fours years before the start of the new year and that anything he hadn't yet learnt would be covered by extra lessons once school started. He was already working his way through his textbooks to learn about history, herbology, and potions, the latter of which he had to rely on the theory for as Dumbledore didn't have the time to do practical work with him and no one else was qualified enough except Snape, who wasn't allowed and made it clear that he didn't think Harry should even be allowed near a cauldron ever again.

Privately Harry agreed, given that his last attempt at potion brewing left him with no memories about himself. But he liked the learning because reading his textbooks sometimes triggered something in his memories; he wouldn't have any great revelations, but occasionally he'd read something and it would be like he was re-reading it instead of seeing it for the first time, as though he was revising instead of learning.

* * *

Harry slept late on the thirty-first and when he realised he scrambled out of bed with a curse word, pulling on his clothes hurriedly and rushing out the room. It was Monday and he was meant to have Charms tutoring in the morning and while Professor Flitwick seemed like a nice man, Harry doubted he'd appreciate him being late. But when he stumbled into Snape's sitting room he found Remus sat calmly at the table with breakfast waiting. Snape, of course, was nowhere to be seen; on the days he left his bed, it was never much before ten in the morning.

"Why the rush, Harry?" Remus asked.

"I'm late for Charms."

Remus shook his head. "You're not having lessons today. Your shirt is on backwards, by the way."

Harry glanced down at it and pulled his arms in to twist it around. "I'm not?"

"No. You can spend the morning relaxing then I'm taking you upstairs to meet Professor Dumbledore for something special after lunch."

"Special?" Harry repeated, sticking his arms back through his now right-way-round shirt and sitting down, glad at least that he wouldn't have to rush his breakfast. "What kind of thing?"

"It's a surprise. Tuck in."

Harry ate, curious but familiar enough with Remus by now to recognise the faint smile on his face as one that meant he wouldn't answer any inquiries—at least not with anything useful. As Harry ate, Remus drank his tea and read the newspaper, and Harry's curiosity slowly turned to suspicion.

"What are you so cheerful?"

Remus glanced at him. "Am I? I guess I just got up on the right side of bed this morning."

"What's the surprise?"

"It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you."

"Give me a hint. I probably won't work it out anyway."

"Then what's the point in giving you a hint?"

"Does it involve magic? Or flying?" he asked hopefully. Remus had taken him out to the Quidditch pitch on Saturday and Harry had learnt how to fly on his—apparently top of the line—broomstick. It was by far the best thing he'd ever done.

But all Remus said was, "Your food will get cold."

Harry huffed, but asked nothing more. He ate, then spent the next couple of hours flicking through his textbooks while Remus read his own book on the sofa. Snape made an appearance only to use the bathroom and grumble incoherently when Remus greeted him, returning to his bedroom with a sharp snap of his door.

They had lunch which Harry ate impatiently and Remus seemed to take an extraordinarily long time with then, finally, Remus walked him up to the Great Hall. Harry was bursting with curiosity at this point and the last thing he expected when he walked into the hall was to be greeted by a bang and a group of people turning to him and loudly crying, "Surprise!"

He stopped short, blinking like an owl as poppers went off and streamers flew down. When he looked up, he noticed a large banner strung across the hall reading HAPPY 15TH BIRTHDAY, HARRY, and his jaw dropped.

"It's my birthday?"

Remus nodded, smiling widely, and led him over to the group. Dumbledore was there, and so was McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, and Hagrid, but the other faces were only familiar from pictures—Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny Weasley, who'd been in a photo in the photo album Harry had found in his trunk, and a woman he didn't recognise but knew just from looking at her that she must be the Weasleys' mother. The house tables that'd been in the hall when Remus first showed him it were gone and instead a single large round table stood in the middle, with a small pile of gifts on top.

"Harry!"

He looked over and had a brief moment to feel wary of the two identical boys bounding up to him, but then they both planted a kiss on his cheeks and his wariness instantly turned to embarrassment, though he realised that even as his cheeks flamed he wasn't entirely bothered by the attention.

"Happy birthday, Harry," they said in unison.

"T-thanks," he stuttered, looking between them as they grinned at him.

"Oh, honestly!" Hermione chided, coming forwards. "You're embarrassing him. Hello, Harry. Happy birthday."

"Thanks," he said, embarrassed smile turning a little more natural. "Nice to meet you, Hermione. Or see you again, I guess. Erm... you do all know I lost my memories, right?"

"Yeah, we know," Ron told him with a shake of his head and a grin. "Honestly, mate, what were you thinking messing about with potions?"

Harry shrugged. "Can't remember," he said, earning a few chuckles. Mrs Weasley came forward and gave him a hug, much to his surprise, but he liked it and even hugged her back.

"Happy birthday, Harry dear."

"Thank you, ma'am."

"Oh, no need to call me that. I'm Molly Weasley."

"It's nice to meet you. Have we met before?"

"Plenty of times. You stayed at my house just earlier this month."

"Oh. Well. Good to see you again, then."

He noticed she looked a bit teary now and was glad when Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, "Perhaps you'd like to open your gifts, Harry, then I'm sure you children would like to go and make the most of the good weather and an empty Quidditch pitch to work up an appetite for your birthday dinner. I understand Dobby the house elf has made you quite the birthday cake."

More than eager to spend an afternoon flying—he suspected it'd be even more fun with people than alone, especially if they could play a bit of Quidditch—Harry gladly started on his presents, which included rather a lot of chocolate, some home-cooked fudge from Mrs Weasley, a box of joke items that made Mrs Weasley frown in disapproval and the twins wink conspiratorially, and a shallow stone basin with runes and symbols carved around the edge and filled with a silvery liquid.

"It's a Pensieve," Dumbledore told him. "A device that holds memories for the user to view at their leisure. All of us have added some to it of our times with you; I hope it'll help you get a sense of yourself better than second hand stories alone would."

"Thank you," Harry said sincerely, interested to try it, but not before flying. He noticed three brooms leaning against one wall, presumably belonging to his friends; he guessed they would have to take turns and share brooms when they flew.

"Why don't you take your gifts back to your room," Dumbledore suggested, seeing him eying the brooms, "and fetch your broomstick to go out?"

Harry nodded eagerly and the twins leapt up. "We'll help you take your stuff down, Harry," one of them said. Harry hadn't yet figured out which was which, but before he could thank them, Remus stepped forward and cleared his throat.

"Not so fast, boys. Severus will have my head if I let you pair know where his quarters are. I'll take Harry down."

The twins looked thoroughly disgruntled and Harry suspected that if they could have, they'd sneak down after them anyway. He shot them a smile and picked up his Pensieve while Remus levitated the rest of his gifts and took them down to Snape's quarters. Snape was up when they arrived, settled in his armchair with a book, and he glared at the floating pile of a gifts.

"It's my birthday," Harry told him a little defensively.

"I'm aware," was all Snape said in reply, turning back to his book. Harry found himself unconcerned by his adoptive father's lack of interest in his birthday, and wondered if he should worry about that, but shrugged it off and grabbed his broom, racing back out the rooms fast enough to leave Remus behind, his mind already on the Quidditch pitch.

Chapter Text

"So which of you is Fred and which is George?"

Fifty feet above the ground, Harry looked between the twins that he was still processing as his boyfriends, and didn't understand the surprised and then utterly delighted looks they got at his question.

"He can't tell us apart anymore!" they said together gleefully.

"Could I before?"

"With irritating accuracy," one of them said. "There aren't many who can tell us apart when we don't want them too."

"But to answer your question, I'm Fred," the other said, "and he's George."

"But we'll only be honest this once," George told Harry with a grin. "Or at least, it's the only time you can know we're being honest."

"From here on out, you'll never know if we're joking or not."

They beamed at his obvious dismay at this declaration, then flew across the pitch to flank Ron. They were playing three-a-side Quidditch with the three Weasley boys playing against Harry, Ginny, and Hermione, the latter two of which were on brooms borrowed from the school as they didn't have their own. As Harry was a good flier and Quidditch player—or so he'd been told—and Hermione was fairly terrible, while Ginny turned out surprisingly decent, this evened up the teams, as Fred and George were brilliant as well. Harry thoroughly enjoyed spending half his afternoon whizzing about tossing a Quaffle between them until Hermione said she'd had quite enough flying for one day and wouldn't be convinced to continue. With odd numbers, one of the others was forced to withdraw as well and Harry said he'd go first. He joined Hermione in the stands to watch as the others continued playing. They sat in awkward silence for a few minutes, Harry unsure what to say to her; what did he talk about with his friends? All he could think of at the minute was Quidditch, but it was clear that Hermione wasn't a fan of the sport. Eventually she broke the silence for him.

"Professor Dumbledore told us there's no news yet on whether your memories can be returned."

Harry nodded. "He sent some of the potion I made to a couple of potion masters to examine, but he hasn't heard back yet and the healer that examined me said that I might eventually remember everything, but it'd be better to get an antidote brewed."

"I know you can't remember, but do you have any idea what you were trying to do when you made the potion?" she asked curiously.

"Make a Memory Dulling Draught apparently. There was a list of instructions with the potion, so Dumbledore thinks I must have been trying to make a potion that would make the memory of my godfather dying less painful. He killed himself right in front of me."

"I heard," Hermione said sympathetically. "It must have been horrible."

"Don't remember," he said with a shrug, which wasn't entirely true. Apparently the dream he'd had of an exploding head was Sirius' death, but to him it still just a dream rather than a real memory. "That seems to be a good thing from what I can tell. I think I've had a pretty crappy life really, even though Remus has tried to make it sound okay."

"What's he told you?"

"My parents were killed when I was a baby by a tyrant named Voldemort, who also tried to kill me, and I was raised by my aunt and uncle, but they abused me. I saved a powerful magic stone from a not-really-dead-Voldemort when I was eleven, killed a basilisk when I was twelve, and helped prove my godfather's innocence last year so he could take me in, only he ended up abusing me as well, apparently so badly that I honestly prefer Snape for a guardian even though he doesn't really like me."

He hadn't asked for the details about the abuse. Max had offered to tell him, suggesting that knowing might help him remember, but he could tell that whatever his aunt and uncle and godfather had done to him, it was bad and would probably make him miserable to know about it. He didn't really want to remember it, so Max agreed not to tell him unless he asked for more details.

"You have good things in your life too," Hermione told him. "You love magic and Hogwarts, you have friends, you have Quidditch."

He gave her a broad smile. "I know. And I have Remus. He's great. Dumbledore and the other teachers are alright too. They're teaching me magic again so I can get mostly caught up before the new school year starts."

"How are you finding that?"

"Brilliant. Most of it's easy, but Dumbledore says that's because my magic remembers how to do it even if I don't, so I'm just relearning the motions and words without actually relearning how to do the spell, and that when I start learning new spells again during term they won't be so easy."

"It's good that you can catch—" she broke off with a shout as she noticed the Quaffle hurtling towards them and they both threw themselves aside as it crashed past.

"Sorry!" Ron shouted, flying over. Harry retrieved the Quaffle from where it landed while Hermione glared at Ron, who kept spewing apologies. Ginny, Fred, and George flew over as well, the latter two sniggering.

"Maybe we should swap," Ron said to Harry. "I'll take a go on the bench while you fly."

"Actually," Ginny said before Harry could answer, "I've had enough for the afternoon. Do you think we can get a snack and something to drink? It's sweltering out here."

"I can call a house elf," Harry offered. "We could go sit by the lake. Why are you looking at me like that?" he asked Hermione, who was frowning disapprovingly.

"Because you shouldn't use house elves."

Harry glanced at the others, who all rolled their eyes at Hermione's words. "Why not?"

"Because it's slavery!"

"Remus said they're servants, and Dobby and Misty seem to like it. Dobby really likes bringing me stuff. It's a bit unnerving actually."

"Dobby was always a bit weird, mate," Ron informed him.

"It's what they want to do, Hermione," one of the twins—Harry thought it was George, but he wasn't certain—said. "We've told you that before."

Hermione clearly didn't care for that. "It's slavery and they've been conditioned to like it by wizards. It's not right."

"It's the only way I know how to get food and drink," Harry said.

"You could make it yourself!"

"There's no kitchen in Snape's quarters."

Hermione huffed.

"If you object that much to making the house elves work, we could always go into Hogsmeade," suggested the twin that Harry thought was Fred.

"We're probably not allowed, are we?"

Both twins shrugged and George said, "Never much cared for rules."

"They'll probably notice we're gone though," Ginny commented. "Can we just decide? I'm thirsty."

Harry stood up, tucking the Quaffle under his arm. "Let's ask Remus about Hogsmeade. He said he'd take me at some point so he probably won't mind walking us down."

Fred and George exchanged a look that said they didn't want to visit Hogsmeade with adult supervision, but the others agreed so they all returned to the castle. Remus had said he would take Mrs Weasley to his rooms while they played Quidditch and Harry led them all down. He did wonder if that was alright, given the proximity to Snape's quarters, but figured as long as they kept to Remus' rooms then it'd be alright.

They found Remus and Mrs Weasley chatting over tea and they agreed to take the six of them to Hogsmeade. Remus slipped through the door to Snape's rooms for a moment before they left, no doubt to tell Snape where he was going, which he always did no matter how many times Snape snapped at him about Remus not being his nurse and therefore he didn't need to tell Snape whenever he went out. Harry left his Firebolt propped against Remus' wall and cheerfully headed back up to the Entrance Hall and then out to Hogsmeade, chatting amicably the whole way there.

He was thoroughly delighted by Hogsmeade, with the brilliant selection of treats in Honeydukes, the amazing array of owls in the post office, the delightful bunch of tricks and jokes items in Zonko's. When they visited the Three Broomsticks for a drink, Harry decided Butterbeer was his new favourite drink, whether or not it had been before.

"We have to take Harry to the Shrieking Shack," Fred declared when they were thinking of heading back to the castle.

"What's the Shrieking Shack?"

"It's supposed to be the most haunted house in Britian," Ginny told him. "Not even the Hogwarts ghosts visit it."

"Should we really be going there then?" Harry asked worriedly, but Remus chuckled and he noticed Ron and Hermione exchange grins.

"You shouldn't believe everything you hear," Remus said. "There's not much to see at the shack, but if you really want to visit it, it won't hurt you."

They decided to and as they headed in that direction, Mrs Weasley said thoughtfully, "I do wonder about that shack. It wasn't here when I was at Hogwarts, you know. It must have only been there... oh, the last... thirty years or so? It was definitely there when Bill started; I remember him telling me about it."

"Bill?" Harry queried.

"Our oldest brother," Ron told him. "He works in Egypt as a curse breaker for Gringotts."

"That sounds cool," Harry said with interest and Ginny nodded her agreement, and told him, "Our other brother, Charlie, he works with dragons."

Harry's eyes went wide. "Brilliant! I bet it's great to see a dragon in real life."

"Yup. But you have seen one."

"Whoa, really?"

They told him about the first Triwizard task and visiting the dragons afterwards. By that time they'd reach the Shrieking Shack and Harry looked up at the crumbling house, the windows boarded up and the garden overgrown, and had to admit it did look a bit creepy.

"We tried to get in once," Fred informed Harry in an undertone so his mother could hear. "But all the entrances are boarded up."

Remus shifted, looking at the house with clear dislike even as he said in an overly offhand tone, "I don't believe anything really lives here, not even anyone dead. It must be nearly time for dinner; we should return to the castle."

He waited only as long as it took for them to nod their agreement before turning and heading down the path. Hermione hurried after him and started talking quietly to him, and Harry fell into step with Fred and George at the back of the group. The three of them didn't talk as they followed the others back towards the castle, but they each slipped a hand into Harry's and Harry gave an embarrassedly pleased smile. He still had some reservations about having a boyfriend, though he couldn't deny he enjoyed their company. He hadn't wanted to admit to Remus that he didn't know what a person did with a boyfriend other than kiss and hold hands. He knew about sex—though wasn't sure how he knew; presumably someone had told him and he'd forgotten it without forgetting the information—but that was between a man and a woman and involved making babies, so he supposed it didn't really apply to him. He didn't worry about it much though; what to do with a boyfriend, like everything else, was no doubt something he'd eventually relearn.

* * *

His birthday dinner was extremely delicious if somewhat fattening, complete with a cake decorated with a likeness of Harry flying around a Quidditch pitch chasing a Snitch, and then Fred and George set off an impressive fireworks display out on the grounds, but Harry missed most of it because once the fireworks were lit the twins used it as a distraction to tug Harry away from everyone else and show him that kissing was thoroughly enjoyable and better than anything Harry had imagined. They also each gave him a few small glass vials with silvery strands in them, which they informed him were memories for his Pensieve, but private ones that he shouldn't let anyone else see. He was disappointed when they had to rejoin the others and the Weasleys and Hermione left, flooing out of the castle to the Weasley home.

He walked down to the dungeons with Remus afterwards, entering his rooms so he could pick up his Firebolt before moving through to Snape's quarters, but Remus asked to talk to him and they sat down on his sofa together.

"Is everything alright?" Harry asked a little worriedly. Remus had been quiet ever since their trip to Hogsmeade and Harry hoped he wasn't about to get some bad news on his birthday.

"Yes, I just need to tell you something. It's nothing bad," he added, seeing Harry's expression. "I promise. It's just something about myself that you should know and which I've been putting off telling you."

"Are you sick as well?"

Remus' mouth tightened. "You could call it a sickness, but it's nothing like Severus. I'm not drastically ill or dying."

"Then what?"

Remus shifted, turning away so he sat straight forwards instead of facing Harry, and stared at his knees as he said in a quiet, reluctant voice, "I'm a werewolf."

"Oh," Harry said. Then, "Is that a bad thing?"

Remus looked at him with a guarded expression. "Many people would say yes."

"What about me? What do I say? Presumably I knew about this before."

Remus nodded slowly. "But your opinions now aren't necessarily the same as before."

"Seem to be," Harry countered. "From what everyone tells me. I mean, you haven't told me I like something and then I've discovered I don't, so if you say I was okay with it before then I'm okay with it. And if I wasn't okay with it before, then I'm an idiot," he added, earning a slightly surprised look from the man. "You're really nice and great, so I don't see why I should get in a huff over you turning into a wolf once a month. As long as you don't try to eat me or anything."

He was glad to see Remus' mouth twitch slightly at that. "I take steps to secure myself away from people on the full moon, so no, I shan't eat you."

Harry nodded. "Nothing to worry about then," he said with a grin, and Remus smiled. "Can you show me how to use the Pensieve to look at memories?"

Chapter Text

Our Dearest Darling Delicious Harry,

If you've been through your Penseive, you should know about the humpbacked witch. If you haven't been through your Pensieve, why not? It's been a week. If you have and you don't know about the witch, you haven't been through it properly and we're very disappointed in you.

But we're sure you have been through it properly and you do know about the witch, and we're also sure you've looked at the extra memories we gave you.

Prior to your forgetful little accident, it was our intention to give you a birthday present along the same lines as the events of those memories. We would still like to give you such a birthday present, but thought you should know about it beforehand.

Also we couldn't figure out how to get you away long enough at Hogwarts to do it.

If you would like to receive the belated birthday gift that we would very much like to give you, send agreement by return owl then meet us at the witch tomorrow evening at your earliest possible convenience without alerting lovely Lupin or sneaky Snape. We recommend you bring your invisibility cloak, too.

If you wouldn't like to receive the belated birthday gift, but would like to break some rules with your favourite rule breakers, send agreement by return owl then meet us at the witch tomorrow evening at your earliest possible convenience without alerting lovely Lupin or sneaky Snape. Definitely bring your invisibility cloak.

Lovingly, lusciously, longingly yours,

Gred and Forge.

* * *

Harry glanced up and down the empty third floor corridor, took one last glance at the Marauders Map, then stuck his wand out from under his Invisibility Cloak, tapped the statue of the humpbacked witch and muttered, "Dissendium!" Immediately the statue opened up and he slipped through the narrow gap, sliding down a stone ramp until he hit damp earth then tugged off the cloak and grinned at the two boys sprawled in the passageway, a few candles giving them light to see the parchment they were scribbling on.

"Hey, how long have you been here?" he asked them.

"A while," Fred—at least, Harry thought it was Fred—answered, "but don't worry about it. We've kept busy."

"With what?" Harry asked, peering curiously at the parchment.

"Joke shop ideas."

"We want to open one," George explained at Harry's questioning look, "but we need to get the money to get it going. It's no good us having the ideas if we don't have the finances."

"How are you going to get the money?"

"We've got a few things made," Fred told him. "Hopefully during the next year we can sell some bits to students and if it comes to it we'll have to find work until we can convince Gringotts to give us a loan."

"But we've got more interesting things to do right now," George said with a cheeky grin. "Like you."

Harry flushed, mind filling with the image of George giving him that grin before he wrapped his mouth around Harry's cock. He might not remember it first hand, but watching the memories that the twins had given him was almost as good and they'd filled his dreams for the past week.

"Yep, stuck with us all night," Fred agreed cheerfully.

"All night? Where do your parents think you are? How did you even get here?"

"We told Mum and Dad we were staying at Lee Jordan's—our mate's—for the night, then we Apparated into Hogsmeade. Finally passed the test."

"And we can't go back, because Honeydukes is shut by now and we'd set off the alarms going out. So unless you condemn us to a cold, lonely night in a cramped secret passageway, we're sticking with you."

"Where, exactly?" Harry asked them. "There's no way I'm sneaking you into my room in Snape's quarters."

The twins pouted. "We'd really like to see your room," George complained. "You've seen ours."

"No way, I'm not risking that. Snape'll probably chop me up and pickle me if I let you in his rooms, so you can stop looking at me like that."

The exaggerated puppy-dog expressions didn't waver. "Won't Snape and Lupin notice you're missing?"

"Maybe, but doubt it. Snape's already in bed and he never checks up on me, and Remus said he'd retire early tonight as well so he won't be waiting up to see me return. As long as I'm back before breakfast, it should be alright."

Fred gave a dramatic sigh. "Well then—you wouldn't happen to know the current password into Gryffindor tower?"

He did, so the twins stuffed their parchment into a bag they had with them, huddled under his cloak, just in case they came across anyone, and they headed to Gryffindor tower where the Fat Lady hesitated to let Harry in even with the password, but he told her he was trying to trigger some memories and she let him by with a pitying look.

Fred and George threw off the cloak as soon as the portrait shut behind them, looking around the empty common room.

"We should come back here the day before term starts," George remarked. Fred glanced at him, a smile spreading across his face.

"I think you're right. We could set up a nice welcome back for all the Gryffindors."

George slung an arm around Harry's shoulders. "What do you reckon? Help us out?"

"As long as you don't get me in trouble. I don't fancy serving detention the first day of term."

Fred's arm slid around his waist, hand curling around his hip. "Wouldn't dream of it."

"I don't believe that for a minute," Harry said dryly.

George gasped in mock offence. "Harry! How can you say that? You hardly know us!"

Harry shook his head, smiling. "Just because I can't remember you doesn't mean I don't know you. I trust my gut, and my gut says you're bad trouble."

"Hmph," Fred said with a sniff, turning his nose up. "To think we came all this way just to be insulted."

"Disgraceful," George said. "We should make him pay."

And before Harry could even think about getting away, fingers found their way under his shirt to tickle him. He gave an embarrassingly high pitched squeak and squirmed between them, but twisting out of the reach of one hand just put him in reach of another and they were able to keep him trapped between them.

"Stop!" he gasped, managing to grab one wrist and thrust it away, for all the good it did him. "Stop! Mercy!"

"Should we show him mercy, Fred?"

"Don't think he's done anything to deserve it."

"I hate you both," Harry groused, still struggling to free himself.

"Did you hear that, Fred?"

"I did, George. We'll just have to remind poor forgetful Harry why he likes us."

The fingers stopped and Harry had just enough time to give a relieved sigh, then a pair of hands grabbed his face and George kissed him firmly on the mouth. Harry made a startled noise, but immediately leant into it, sighing softly and opening his mouth to George's probing tongue. He really did enjoy kissing, to have someone else's lips on his, another tongue brushing against his own, hands caressing his face and a body pressed firmly against him.

He made an unhappy noise when George broke the kiss, but was tugged around so Fred could claim his mouth instead, silencing any complaints. He felt George move away, much to his disappointment. He enjoyed being sandwiched between them almost as much as he enjoyed kissing, but Fred's arms were wrapped around him now, one hand tucked under his shirt to press against Harry's back, soft and warm and making Harry want more—more hands, more skin on skin, more Fred and George...

"Upstairs," Fred gasped against his mouth, but kissed Harry hard again and didn't let him go until George's voice called from a distance, "Oi! You two coming or what?"

Fred broke the kiss, grinning wickedly, then turned and hurtled towards the stairs leading up to the dorms. Harry went after him without a second thought, not entirely sure what was going to happen when he rejoined the pair, but knowing that he wanted it.

He did stop short though when he entered the dorm marked sixth years and found George stripped to his boxers and standing before one of the four poster beds, which had been enlarged to twice the size of the others. He felt his cheeks flush, but couldn't take his eyes off the boy. Fred gave him a slight shove and he stumbled towards the bed then kept moving. George held out a hand and grabbed the bottom of his shirt the moment he was in reach.

"You're wearing too many clothes, Harry. Don't you think?"

"Y-yeah," he stuttered, still flushed and still with no real idea of where this was going, but not about to say no because whatever was happening, he wanted it. Fred was behind him now and he let them both manoeuvre him out of his shirt, then George curled a hand around the back of his neck and pulled him into a kiss and Harry curled his hands around George's waist, moaning softly at the feel of skin under his hands. George chuckled against his mouth and Fred smirked, pressing kisses to Harry's bare shoulders and neck.

"Don't mind if I take your jeans off, Harry, do you?" he asked.

"No," Harry breathed, more interested in touching as much of George as he could, though when Fred's hands slid around his waist and went to the button of his jeans, he became hyper aware of the fact that he was half hard and Fred was about to find that out, but didn't let it put him off. He'd had his cock in Fred's mouth once, even if he couldn't remember it directly, so there was really nothing to be embarrassed about. Not that it stopped his cheeks from burning anyway or his nerves jangling as he clutched at George while his jeans dropped to the floor and Fred kicked them aside.

"Harry, what's this?"

Harry glanced down as Fred brushed his fingers over the mostly healed cuts on his thigh. George looked as well, concern marring his face as he saw them.

"I don't know. They're from before I lost my memories."

It wasn't exactly a lie, but he didn't want to tell them that Max thought the cuts were self-inflicted. It was clear to Harry that prior to losing his memories he must have been a bit crazy, no matter what Remus said, but he didn't want to tell the twins that and put them off.

Eager to draw their attention away from his injuries, he kissed George and slid his hands around the other boy's waist, sliding them down towards his boxers and pushing them down, cupping his hands over George's arse and squeezing. George pressed his hips forward, erection pressing against Harry's hip, and Harry moaned. Fred stepped away, but he could hear him undressing, then he was back, bare chest pressing to Harry's back and somewhere amidst all the new and wonderful sensations of skin against skin that left Harry gasping and hard, they ended up on the bed, Harry on his side with George still at his front and Fred behind him. There were mouths and hands all over him, his own hands touched whatever skin he could reach, somehow amidst it all his boxers were pulled off and his glasses removed, and the only time his conviction wavered was when Fred slid a finger between his cheeks and over his arsehole. He gasped and jerked then went still, one hand tight around George's arm. George ran a soothing hand down his side.

"You alright?" Fred asked gently. Harry nodded. Fred stroked his finger again and Harry shivered. "Sure?"

"Yeah. Just... nervous, y'know? But I'm fine."

It was true. Fred's finger on his arse had triggered something in the recesses of his memory and he knew now exactly what was going to happen, but it'd also triggered a bundle of nerves that seemed almost out of place, like something in him was afraid. It wasn't so bad he couldn't ignore it though and he shifted one leg up and slung it over George's leg, giving Fred easier access. An instinct had him press his arse back against Fred's hand to prove that he wanted what Fred was offering, but even as he did something in him whispered that doing so was bad, that he shouldn't want it. He ignored it though. The feeling wasn't bigger than his desire for the two boys.

He looked around when he felt Fred pull away, looking over his shoulder as the other boy climbed off the bed and went to the bag discarded on the floor.

"What are you doing?"

Fred just shot him a grin and pulled out a bottle of—Harry squinted to see, but his mind provided the answer even before his eyes could figure it out—lube.

"Remember we can stop anytime you want," George reminded him, pressing a kiss to Harry's forehead.

"No. Yeah. I mean, I know. I don't want to. Stop, I mean. I don't want to stop."

"Get there eventually," Fred said with a grin, returning to the bed. Harry flushed, but he watched as Fred slicked his fingers then moved his hand back towards Harry's arse, pausing to glance up and catch Harry's eye and only pressing a finger to him when Harry nodded. The digit pushed in and Harry let out a long, breathy sigh, letting his head fall forward to rest on George's shoulder. George's hands were still running over him, just smoothing his palms over Harry's skin while Fred prepared him, curling his hands around Harry's hips when they jerked in response to Fred curling his fingers against a sweet spot in Harry that sent sparks of pleasure spearing through him.

Harry whined when Fred pulled his fingers out then felt his cheeks burn, embarrassed at making such a wanton noise. He was trying to ignore the little part of his brain that was saying he shouldn't want this, that wanting it was wrong, because as far as he could tell there was really nothing wrong with this.

"Ready?" Fred said and Harry nodded, hand clenching on George's arm as Fred pushed inside him. He didn't realise he was holding his breath until Fred was all the way in and Harry let it out in a moan.

"Fuck," Fred breathed, pulling back and pushing forwards again. "Oh, fuck, yes, that's... oh, god..."

Harry pushed his hips back, moaning wordlessly, only to let out a loud, "Holy fuck!" when Fred thrust forward and Harry's cock, already leaking pre-come, rubbed against George's. George hissed in a sharp breath, arching towards Harry, and then snaked one of his hands down between them and wrapped it around Harry's cock, and Harry lost himself in the feel of them both, of Fred thrusting inside of him and George rutting against him, of a hand on his cock and hands holding his hips, and he wasn't even sure which of them came first in the end, because as soon as one of them did it seemed to spur the other two.

"Alright?" Fred murmured to him a few minutes later, when they'd caught their breath. George got up to find his wand and spelled them all clean before returning to his position, and Harry hummed an agreement to Fred's question, happily nestled between them, feeling delightfully secure to have a boy on either side of him.

"George's turn next time?" he asked without opening his eyes, feeling said twin's fingers drifting over his skin like George didn't want to stop touching him.

"Sorry, Harry, I don't do anal. Receiving or giving."

Harry cracked an eye open to look at him. "You don't?"

"Nah. Not interested in having anything shoved up my arse, or sticking any of my body parts up other people's arses. Quite happy with hand jobs and blow jobs."

"Oh," Harry said, closing his eye again. "Give you one later then."

George kissed his forehead. "Only if you want to."

"Wouldn't offer if I didn't," Harry told him, with one of those instinctive twists in his gut that said the words were a complete truth and feeling unsure why that knowledge made him feel better. Surely even with his memories he wouldn't offer oral sex if he didn't want to give it?

But he thought little of it, just settled himself more snugly between the two and basked in their presence and the afterglow of sex.

Chapter Text

"Harry?"

He froze halfway down a fourth floor corridor then slowly turned. "Headmaster. Good morning."

Dumbledore came to a stop in front of him, smiling pleasantly. "Good morning, Harry. You're up early today."

Harry nodded. "I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so thought I'd take a walk. Not in trouble for that, am I?"

"Not at all," Dumbledore assured him. "I enjoy a brisk morning walk myself sometimes. Are you heading back to the dungeons?"

Harry nodded and Dumbledore fell into step beside him, humming cheerfully as they went and Harry feeling a little awkward. He was painfully aware that his clothes were rumpled, could still taste the twins in his mouth, and he felt like there was a big sign over his head advertising that he'd spent the night getting fucked and just that morning received and gave a blow job. He'd left the Cloak and the Map with the twins so they could use them to sneak back to the humpbacked witch after the Hogsmeade shops had opened, and they would leave them in the tunnel for him to collect later.

They reached the dungeons to find Remus asleep on Snape's sofa, but he stirred when they entered, looking around sleepily then leaping to his feet when he saw them.

"Harry! Where in Merlin's name have you been?"

"I went for a walk, that's all."

"An all night walk?" Remus asked with a raised eyebrow. "Those are the same clothes you were wearing yesterday and they look like you slept in them."

Harry resisted the urge to fidget. "I couldn't sleep last night so I went for a walk and visited Gryffindor tower and fell asleep there."

It was sort of true. They didn't need to know that he hadn't been alone in the tower.

Remus was frowning, but Dumbledore clapped a hand on Harry shoulder. "No harm done, but perhaps next time leave a note so poor Remus doesn't worry about you."

Harry nodded and muttered an apology then slinked off to his bedroom. Inside, he flopped down on his bed and let out a sigh, scowling as he wondered what Remus had been doing checking on him in the night anyway, but his mind soon drifted to the events of the night and the scowl was replaced by a silly little grin. He definitely intended for there to be a next time.

* * *

"Have you completely lost your mind?!"

Harry cracked his bedroom door open to peer out. It was mid-morning and his Care of Magical Creatures studying was interrupted by Snape's shout. Curious as to who Snape was yelling at, he looked out. Snape was in his usual armchair, but sat up straight with his back stiff. Harry couldn't see his face, but found it easy to imagine the angry expression he had. Remus and Dumbledore sat on the sofa and Harry could see Remus frowning.

"What could possibly make you think hiring Narcissa Malfoy to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts is a good idea?" Snape asked bitingly.

"She is the only applicant," Dumbledore replied calmly. "You know as well as I that finding someone to fill the position is getting more difficult every year. People are afraid. And Narcissa has the qualifications; she passed her NEWT with an Outstanding."

"There has to be someone else," Snape insisted. "Someone who isn't a Death Eater's wife!"

"Certainly," Dumbledore agreed. "Cornelius Fudge is quite eager to let one of his people take the position; he thinks the inability to keep a Defence teacher for more than a year is due to my sub-standard staff management. I'm sure you can imagine just the sort of person he would put in the school if I failed to find an alternative."

Harry could hear Snape's teeth grinding even from his room.

"This won't end well, Dumbledore."

"Narcissa isn't stupid, Severus," Remus said. "She wouldn't try anything, and you said she's a Death Eater's wife—not one herself."

"Nevertheless—"

"My decision is made," Dumbledore interrupted quietly.

Snape remained stiff in his seat. "And the Potions position? What imbecile have you offered that to?"

"Caoimhe Underwood. Horace refused."

Snape settled back, still tense but no longer completely stiff. "Acceptable. And the Head of Slytherin?"

"Aurora will take the position. But both will step down when you're fit to return."

"If I'm ever fit to return," Snape corrected. "I'm not likely to live to see Christmas, and if you say one word about thinking positive I will curse you, Dumbledore."

Dumbledore merely smiled. Harry wondered about what he'd just heard. He knew Draco Malfoy from the memories his friends gave him; he was the Slytherin Seeker and seemed a bit of a git from what little Harry had seen of him. Malfoy didn't seem the kind of name that was common, so presumably this Narcissa was related to him. Mother, perhaps? Or an aunt maybe, or even a sister. But was she as bad as Snape seemed to think? Harry could certainly agree with not wanting a teacher who was connected to Death Eaters, but if Dumbledore thought she was acceptable then surely she couldn't be that bad?

"There's another thing I have to tell you," Dumbledore said. "Barty Crouch Junior's body was found last night... in Hampshire."

Remus and Snape exchanged glances at that then Remus asked, "How is that possible? Someone found him and dumped his body in Hampshire? Why would they do that?"

"He may not have been dead," Snape murmured. "We only had Potter's word and given the circumstances... it's possible the man wasn't entirely dead when Potter was done with him."

"The body is being examined this morning," Dumbledore told them. "When we know more, we can better guess what might have happened."

"Should we tell him?" Remus asked.

Snape shook his head dismissively. "There's no point. He doesn't remember the incident and it's hardly something he needs to know."

"It's part of his life."

"A bad part and I know you haven't told him all the other bad parts, Lupin. If you tell him about Crouch, why not Eric Nicholson too?"

Lupin scowled unhappily, but conceded the point in silence. Frowning, Harry withdrew back into his room and shut the door. Who exactly were Barty Crouch Junior and Eric Nicholson, and what did they have to do with him?

* * *

It was Remus who found Harry sitting in front of the fire the next time he had nightmares bad enough to wake him. He had his hands around a mug of hot chocolate, brought to him by a house elf, and he glanced up when the door between Snape and Remus' quarters opened and Remus stepped through. It was the first night since the full moon and Remus looked little better than Snape on a good day, his eyes shadowed and skin tight and grey, but he still managed to find a small smile as he moved to sit beside Harry.

"What are you doing up so late?"

"What are you? You look like you need the sleep."

"I do," Remus agreed tiredly, "but sometimes I have trouble sleeping after... Is that your problem as well?"

Harry shrugged. He sipped his drink and they sat in silence for a while, the fire crackling gently in the hearth, filling the room with flickering light. Harry tried not to think about his dream, but it weighed on his mind like a physical weight until, before he had chance to really think about it, he blurted out, "Sirius didn't hit me, did he?"

He didn't look at Remus, but he could feel the man's gaze on him.

"That's what I thought when you said he abused me. That he hit me, but he didn't, did he? He made me..."

Remus didn't confirm or deny it. "Are your memories coming back?"

"No. I don't know. I have dreams of things sometimes and I think maybe they're memories." He finally glanced at Remus, whose expression was one of pity. "I'm right about Sirius though, aren't I? He didn't hit me, he... he made me do... sex stuff. Didn't he?"

With obvious reluctance, Remus nodded.

"He was a bastard," Harry muttered angrily, looking back to the fire.

"Yes, he was."

"Why was my dad ever friends with someone like that? Why would he and Mum choose Sirius for my godfather if he's such a bastard?"

"They didn't know, Harry," Remus said apologetically, leaning forwards to rest his elbows on his knees. "None of us knew. Not that that's an excuse—he was our friend, we should have known, but... we didn't. I'm sorry for that, Harry."

Harry sighed. "Not your fault. It just makes me angry to know he did that to me. I don't think I want to get my memories back, to be honest, even if Ms Underwood or Mr Slughorn create an antidote."

"I can understand the desire, but you would be giving up all your good memories as well, Harry."

Harry shrugged. "I can make new good memories. I already have. I know I can make new bad ones as well, but I have a feeling they can't be as bad as the one's I can't remember."

* * *

Professor McGonagall brought Harry's Hogwarts letter and booklist down two weeks before the end of the holidays. Remus agreed to take Harry to Diagon Alley and Harry got a letter from Ron the next morning saying the Weasleys were going on the last day of the holidays and inviting Harry to come with them—and also mentioning that Ron had been chosen as prefect, much to Ron's shock. Hermione wrote as well saying she, too, was a prefect and asking when Harry intended to visit Diagon Alley so they could all meet up.

The next fortnight passed unremarkably. He hoped the twins would be able to sneak off again to meet him, but they weren't able to. His lessons with the teachers eased off so they could focus on preparing for the new year, but he studied alone, trying to relearn as much as possible before term started. Although it was agreed that they wouldn't be able to keep his memory loss secret, he intended to try and keep things as quiet as possible and he didn't want to look stupid in front of his classmates by not knowing something that a first year would.

He meet Caoimhe Underwood a few days before term started; she came to visit Snape after setting up in her office and rooms and they spent over an hour arguing about memory potions. Snape called it a debate, but it sounded like an argument to Harry's ears. It did, however, put Snape in a better mood than he'd been all summer; Harry supposed he must enjoy having someone as knowledgeable as himself to discuss potions with.

He didn't meet Narcissa Malfoy as she wasn't coming up to the school until September 1st. Snape took this as evidence of her ineptitude for the position.

Harry and Remus were due to meet Hermione and the Weasleys in Diagon Alley at half past ten on the thirty-first. Snape was even up early enough to join them for breakfast, though he didn't actually eat anything or attempt any breakfast table conversation, just scowled into his coffee mug. It was a rarity for him to be up so early, and it was even becoming uncommon for him to bother getting out of bed at all for anything except the bathroom. He seemed to be getting worse and Harry knew he wasn't looking forward to the students' return, and though he claimed to be thankful that Harry and Remus would be leaving, Harry thought he didn't really want Remus to go. A live-in carer was going to come and stay with him once term started because his healer had declared Snape too unhealthy to be left alone for extended periods, and Remus wasn't permitted to stay in the castle after the holidays because if the students, and subsequently parents, found out there was a werewolf in the castle there would be uproar.

Their breakfast was interrupted by the fireplace flaring and a bald head appearing in the flames—Snape's healer.

"We have a suitable donor," he said by way of greeting the moment he settled his gaze on Snape. "You have to come to the hospital immediately."

Snape stared at the man. "You have one?" he asked as though he couldn't comprehend what the healer was saying.

"Yes, but we have to move quickly. You only have six hours, remember? Don't bother changing, just grab a bag and use the portkey to come. We can't have you inhaling soot before surgery."

"Yes," Snape agreed, then seemed to understand exactly what was going on and stood up. "Right, I'll be there in a minute. Lupin, call the headmaster."

The healer disappeared and Remus knelt by the fireplace to use it instead while Snape headed to his bedroom to fetch a bag. Harry finished his breakfast, feeling glad and worried. He knew doing a heart transplant was dangerous, but if all went well and Snape's body accepted the new heart then he'd be much better off.

By the time Snape came out of his bedroom with a holdall, Dumbledore had flooed through.

"Do you want someone with you?" the headmaster asked Snape. "I'm sure Harry wouldn't mind someone else escorting him to meet the Weasleys if you wanted Remus."

Harry nodded his agreement, but Snape merely scowled at Dumbledore. "I don't need someone holding my hand like a child, headmaster, and I will be prepped for surgery immediately so there's little point."

"If you're sure."

Snape nodded curtly, gripping his bag and cane tightly. He glanced at Harry. "Keep this to yourself when you meet the Weasleys; I don't want word getting out."

Harry nodded. He felt he should say something but he wasn't sure what; 'good luck' didn't really seem appropriate, and 'see you later' seemed too glib. He settled for just giving a small, encouraging smile that Snape scowled at. Given that this was normal for him, Harry didn't take it to heart.

Then, to both Harry and Snape's apparent surprise, Remus stepped up to the man and kissed him on the cheek. He smiled as he stepped back and Snape shook off his surprise to scowl at him, but Remus just said, "I'll see you when you're out of surgery."

Snape looked at him for a moment as though he was going to speak, but in the end merely nodded curtly again, gave one last glance to Harry and Dumbledore, then said, "Medice," and disappeared.

Chapter Text

Harry was pretty sure he wasn't meant to be wherever he was. He'd gotten separated from the Weasleys in Diagon Alley and somehow ended up down a dark, dirty alley with lots of dingy looking shops which had window displays showing shrunken heads, gigantic spiders, and poisonous candles. None of the people in the alley looked at all friendly and as he walked along, trying to find his way back to Diagon Alley, he felt sure there were eyes watching his every move.

"What would you be doing down here?"

He whirled. A heavily built boy who couldn't have been more than a couple of years older than Harry loomed over him, an unwelcoming expression on his face that told Harry the two must know each other—and that this boy didn't like him. But he was still probably Harry's best bet at getting out of wherever he was.

"I got lost," Harry told him with an embarrassed grimace. "Don't suppose you could point me in the direction of Gringotts?"

"Why the fuck would I do that?" the boy asked nastily.

"Erm... the goodness of your heart?" Harry suggested.

"Yeah," the boy drawled sarcastically, "because I feel so kindly towards the little prick who got me expelled."

"Oh," Harry said nervously. No one had told him he was responsible for getting anyone expelled from Hogwarts. "Right. That. I'm really sorry about that."

"Save me your bullshit," the boy hissed, stepping closer. Harry stepped back. "Do you know what I do for a living now? I stock shelves. I should have been taking my NEWTs next June then joining the Aurors, and instead I'm stocking shelves with crap that barely earns me enough to pay my rent."

"Look, I'm really sorry," Harry said, backing up still as the boy advanced on him. "But I just want to get back to Diagon Alley."

Harry flinched when the boy moved, but he'd backed himself up to a wall and had nowhere to go to escape the grabbing hand that fisted in his t-shirt, jerking him forwards.

"Sure. I'll show you out... as soon as I've taken payment for getting me expelled."

He jerked Harry down a gap between a shop selling human fingers and a pub that was closed, dragging him to the back area where the shop kept its bins and shoving Harry face first against the wall.

"No, don't," Harry begged almost instinctively, the words leaving him without him even knowing what he was begging for. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry for whatever I did that got you expelled, just please—"

He broke off with a pained cry as the boy spun him about, slamming him back and then pressing his arm across Harry's throat, expression twisted with anger.

"Whatever you did? You ruined my whole future and you can't even remember why?"

Harry gagged, unable to answer. The boy leaned closer, mouth curling into a sneer. "Or maybe you're just such a whore that me and Higgs fucking you got lost in all the others, huh?"

Unexpected shame flooded through Harry at the word whore, one of those inexplicable bursts of emotion that he'd been having since his memory loss and which told him the word whore meant something to him from before.

"I guess I'll just have to remind you."

He shoved Harry to the floor and Harry gasped in a breath, feeling skin tearing on his palms when he threw out his hands to break his fall. He remembered that he had a wand in his pocket and went for it, but the moment he had it in hand the boy was on top of him, wrestling it from his grip and tossing it away, then a hand grabbed his hair and slammed his face into the ground. His nose cracked, blood spilling from it, and his glasses broke while his vision swam and his head spun. He was aware of his jeans being roughly jerked down and he struggled weakly to stop it, but even if his head hadn't been throbbing and his movements sluggish, the boy was bigger than him and Harry couldn't fight him off.

"Don't," he begged again when the boy drew his own wand and pushed it between Harry's cheeks to press the tip against his hole. "Please, sto- ah!"

Something warm and wet filled him at a muttered word from the boy, making Harry jerk and causing another of those emotional surges—this time of fear. He struggled to get up, but the boy pinned him down easily.

"I'll scream," he threatened desperately. "Someone will hear, they'll stop you."

But the boy just laughed. "No they won't. This is Knockturn Alley; when someone screams here, everyone goes the other way, so scream all you like, whore."

He thrust into him and Harry did scream, tears spilling down his face as sharp pain speared through him and he begged the boy to stop, squirming uselessly beneath him and filled with growing shame and disgust and anger until the boy gave one final thrust and a grunt as he came.

Harry thought it was over then. The boy climbed off him, doing up his trousers and looking down at Harry with hatred as Harry rolled onto his side, wiping at the blood on his face while trying to pull his trousers up one handed and also scurry away at the same time, which only managed to make him fail at everything, but then the boy seemed to decide that just raping him wasn't enough. Harry cried out as the boy kicked him hard in the stomach then dropped down again, now pinning Harry on his back and wrapping both hands around his throat.

"You should have just died when the Dark Lord attacked you years ago," he hissed, as Harry clawed at his hands, desperately trying to free himself so that he could draw breath. "You don't deserve to live, you shit-stained half-blood whore, so I'm going to do the world a fav-"

A jet of light slammed into the boy, knocking him off Harry and sending him hurtling into a pile of rubbish bags. Harry wheezed in a breath and struggled to push himself up as a tall man with a pointy face and blonde hair tied with a ribbon at the nape of his neck stalked up the alley towards them, his wand drawn. He stopped a few feet away, sparing Harry a glance then fixing his steel grey eyes on the boy as he climbed out of the rubbish, swearing colourfully until he laid eyes on the man.

"Mr Malfoy," he greeted with obvious surprise and no little nervousness. Harry realised the man must be the father of Draco Malfoy; the similarities between him and the boy from the memories in Harry's Pensieve were too similar in appearance to be anything but father and son.

"If you're going to kill someone in the name of blood superiority," Mr Malfoy said coldly, "don't do it like a common Muggle."

The boy's mouth dropped, clearly not expecting to hear that. Harry edged towards his wand.

"We are wizards," Mr Malfoy continued. "We kill with magic."

He jerked his wand and although there was no light and he spoke no spell, the boy stumbled back suddenly, eyes going wide and one hand going to his throat. Harry could only watch wide-eyed as the boy staggered to the floor, mouth open and clearly trying to breathe but unable to, until eventually his eyes rolled back in his head and he went limp and still amidst the rubbish.

Mr Malfoy turned to Harry, who gave up all pretence of subtlety and lunged for his wand, but it leapt off the floor and flew into Mr Malfoy's grip.

"Pull your trousers up," the man snapped. Harry did so because if he was going to die he wanted it to be with at least a shred of dignity. When Harry was on his feet and properly dressed, Mr Malfoy put the tip of his wand under Harry's chin, a very clear threat.

"Am I to assume you're here with the Weasleys? I saw Arthur's brood earlier and I doubt Severus is in any state to be going anywhere."

"If you're going to kill me—"

"I'm not," Mr Malfoy interrupted. "That is not my place. Montague was merely a witness I needed to erase, but you..." He stepped forward, wand tip pressing painfully against Harry's Adam's apple. "You will ensure the safety of my son, Potter."

Before Harry could ask what he meant by that, Mr Malfoy grabbed him tightly by the arm and the alley disappeared into blackness and the horrible sensation of being pressed in from all sides by a constricting pressure. When the sensation faded, Harry found himself standing in a drawing room, a crystal chandelier overhead and a cauldron in the middle of the room, big enough to hold a full grown man with a fire burning under it while the liquid inside bubbled and gave off fiery sparks. There were a few chairs in front of an ornate marble fireplace and from one of them rose Draco Malfoy—at least, he looked like the Draco Malfoy in Harry's Pensieve, but his expression was more cold and haughty than any of the memories Harry had seen and he moved with a fluidity and grace that seemed out of place in any fifteen year old. That besides, his eyes weren't grey but instead a blood red. Although Harry couldn't directly remember having any interactions with the other boy, he was almost certain that the person in front of him wasn't really Draco

"Where you seen?" not-Draco asked his father in a cold voice that also didn't suit him.

"No," Mr Malfoy answered, not letting go of Harry's arm, which was starting to ache from the pressure. "There was a potential witness; he was dealt with."

"Good. Narcissa should be back soon and then we can begin. Tie him down."

Mr Malfoy shoved Harry to the nearest wall and with a few flicks of his wand Harry's arms were wrenched over his head and shackles appeared to lock around his wrists and ankles, and a gag was stuffed in his mouth. He tried to pull free, but the shackles were tight and unyielding, so he could only press himself into the wall as not-Draco approached him, red eyes staring unblinking at Harry and mouth tight with hatred. He stopped just in front of Harry and lifted a hand, pausing briefly with it hovering an inch from Harry's cheek before pressing skin to skin.

Instantly pain seared through the scar on Harry's forehead and he screamed into the gag, jerking his head away from the other boy's touch even as not-Draco yanked his hand away with a hiss of pain as well. Breathing hard through his nose, Harry blinked away the tears in his eyes to look over and see the boy cradling one hand in the other, his palm burnt as though he'd touched burning metal. He looked up and met Harry's gaze, red eyes glowing maliciously.

"Soon that won't be a problem, Harry Potter. Soon I will be able to touch you."

Harry gave another useless yank at the shackles. He really didn't want this person, whoever he was, touching him in any way.

"I've waited a long time for this, Harry," he murmured. "I almost had you earlier this year, but Barty Crouch was just barely alive when I took him. He barely had the strength to contain me after your brutal attack on him. Had I been faster, found him sooner, I'd have killed you then, but..." He trailed off with a tsk. "Still, Barty served his purpose. He got me to England and to another, albeit slightly less faithful, servant."

He glanced around at Mr Malfoy, who lowered his gaze and ducked his head slightly, but there was a tense set to his jaw. Not-Draco noticed, lips curling into a slight smirk, but he didn't comment on it. He gave Harry one last, disdainful look, then turned away and moved to a tea table, drawing Harry's attention to a human skull sitting atop a pair of folded black robes. The boy picked it up, looking at it with clear dislike.

"This is my father's you know," Not-Draco commented, though Harry wasn't sure if it was to him or to Mr Malfoy. "He'll finally do something useful; he certainly never did in life." He flicked his gaze to Mr Malfoy, who was tapping his wand impatiently against his palm, and set down the skull. "Relax, Lucius. You'll have your son back soon enough and you only have to give me your hand in payment."

Mr Malfoy nodded stiffly and didn't stop tapping. The next ten minutes passed in tense quiet, the only noise being Mr Malfoy's tapping and Harry's attempts to free himself, until the sound of a door opening sounded outside the room and Mr Malfoy and not-Draco looked in the direction of it. A moment later a tall, slim, blonde woman entered the room with a sleeping toddler in her arms. The boy was dressed in robes, brown haired and limp as a rag doll as the woman laid him on the floor. Not-Draco stalked over and crouched by the child, running a finger down one cheek.

"Sufficient."

Mr Malfoy stopped tapping his wand and fixed his grey eyes on not-Draco. "Then we're ready."

"We are." Not-Draco rose, turning to look at Mr Malfoy. "Your right hand, Lucius. It's the least I deserve. Remember that."

"Of course, my lord."

Not-Draco held Mr Malfoy's gaze for a moment longer before looking back at the boy on the floor. Narcissa had backed away, but she and Mr Malfoy both watched avidly as not-Draco knelt down, put one hand on the boy's chest and his other on the boy's head, and closed his eyes. Harry yanked at the shackles, not knowing what was going on but knowing he absolutely didn't want it to happen. There was nothing he could do though; not-Draco went stiff, lips parting with a sharp exhale of breath then thick black smoke poured out of his mouth and hurtled into the boy, who jerked awake with a scream. Harry watched wide-eyed as the boy's eyes snapped open, blue orbs staring at the ceiling unseeing as blood red stained the irises.

Then the boy went quiet. Draco collapsed sideways and for a moment no one moved. Mr Malfoy and Narcissa didn't seem to be breathing, but when the boy sat up and Draco moaned, Narcissa let her breath out in a rush.

"Lucius," the boy said, his cold voice disturbingly unsuited to his small figure, "do it now. This child cannot sustain me long."

Mr Malfoy pocketed his wand and stalked towards him, picking the boy up around the waist and then, to Harry's utter shock, placed him inside the cauldron of boiling liquid. The boy didn't scream, just disappeared beneath the surface and didn't resurface. Mr Malfoy looked around at Draco, now pushing himself up and rubbing at his head while Narcissa knelt by him, a hand on his shoulder.

"Draco?" Mr Malfoy queried.

Draco didn't look up. "I'm fine, Father."

"Just get on with it, Lucius," Narcissa said sharply. Mr Malfoy held her gaze a moment then looked away, stalking to the table holding the skull and picking it up.

"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son," he said and dropped it into the cauldron. The liquid inside turned vivid, poisonous blue and spat more sparks. Mr Malfoy drew a knife from his pocket, pushed up his right sleeve, and held his hand over the cauldron.

"Flesh of the servant, willingly given, you will revive your master."

He hesitated only long enough to inhale a bracing breath then slashed the knife down, cutting his hand off at the wrist. He didn't scream, but did gasp before biting down the pain with a whimper, and the liquid turned bright red as the hand fell into it.

Skin pale and slick with sweat, Mr Malfoy turned to Harry, who renewed his struggling as the man approached. Mr Malfoy barely seemed to noticed, face pained but determined as he lifted the knife in a surprisingly steady hand and cut a deep line along Harry's cheek. Harry whined into the gag and uselessly turned his head away, and Mr Malfoy dropped the knife to take a small vial from his pocket, holding it up to the cut to collect some of the blood before returning to the cauldron.

"Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe."

The blood went into the cauldron, the liquid instantly turned blinding white, and sparks flew in all directions. Mr Malfoy staggered away and dropped down beside his wife and son, staring at the cauldron as white steam billowed from it, so thick and copious that it almost filled the room and left Harry only able to see vague shapes.

Then a tall, thin shape rose out of the cauldron and a cold, high voice spoke. "Robe me."

Without getting to his feet, Mr Malfoy drew his wand and flicked it at the robe on the table, which unfolded and draped itself around the figure. The steam started to dissipate and Harry stared wide-eyed as a waxy-skinned, dark-haired, red-eyed man stepped forwards. He wasn't sure if it was something from before his memory loss creeping in or just an instinct, but the moment their eyes met Harry instantly knew that this man before him was Lord Voldemort.

Chapter Text

Harry crashed out of Malfoy Manor, stumbling his way down the stone steps and hurtling down the gravel driveway. He almost tripped over an albino peacock and he didn't dare look behind him, hearing the Death Eaters chasing after him. He heard a voice yell " Stupefy! " and a bolt of red shot past his left ear. He jerked aside but didn't stop moving forwards until he crashed into the gates at the end of the driveway. He grabbed them and yanked, but although they rattled they didn't open.

"No! Let me out! Let me out, just open up!"

They didn't. He looked around desperately. Tall, thick hedges rose on either of him and he knew he couldn't fight the Death Eaters. He'd got away from Voldemort through sheer luck after his wand connected with Voldemort's in mid-duel. Ghosts had come from Voldemort's wand—ghosts of his parents and a few other people Harry didn't know—and they'd distracted him long enough for Harry to run.

But now it looked like it'd be for nothing. There was no getting past the Death Eaters behind him, the gate wouldn't open, and the hedges were too dense for him to escape through them. In a last desperate effort to get away, he grabbed the bars of the gate and wrenched himself up. There was a single crossbar halfway up, but he barely got a foot on it before hearing a spell shouted and his hands suddenly felt covered with butter. He lost his grip and fell back with a grunt, landing on his arse and hurriedly scrambling to his feet and whirling about, wand held before him against the advancing Death Eaters.

"Stand aside! I will kill him, he is mine!"

The Death Eaters parted and Harry clenched his grip on his wand as Voldemort came forwards, red eyes glittering menacingly as he approached. Harry cast Expelliarmus, but Voldemort deflected the curse easily; there was no joining of their wands this time, and when Voldemort cast the same spell Harry's wand leapt from his fingers. Voldemort snatched it out of the air, grinning cruelly at Harry as he took the wood between both hands and snapped it clean in two.

"Now," he said coldly, pointing his own wand at Harry, "you will die. Avada Kedavra."

* * *

"...But it didn't work."

Silence fell over Severus' sitting room. It was a month into the start of term, barely ten days since Severus had left the hospital after his transplant, and he sat in his armchair, Lupin at his dining table, Dumbledore standing by the fireplace, and Draco Malfoy sat on his sofa.

Lupin was the first to speak. He'd been visiting Severus—who would admit to no one even on pain of torture or death that he maybe liked having the werewolf there, just a little bit, even though their conversation mostly centred on the fact that they still had no idea where Harry Potter had vanished to—when Draco turned up on his doorstep and when Severus called Dumbledore, the headmaster thought Lupin should stay. Severus had initially thought that a bad idea, but now knew Dumbledore was right. Lupin needed to know this.

"What do you mean it didn't work?"

Draco glanced around at him then at Severus then at Dumbledore. "I mean, the Killing Curse hit him, they both fell over, and I think Potter passed out, but then he got up again."

"But... that can't be possible," Lupin said. "Dumbledore?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "I don't doubt that it is the truth, but how... I cannot say. Please continue, Draco."

Draco looked down at his hands, folded in his lap but fingers of his right tapping restlessly against the knuckles of his left. "There's not much else. They dragged him back inside, tortured him a bit, then the Dark Lord said he would keep him as consort and sent everyone away."

Severus straightened in his seat. "Consort? He said that specifically?"

Draco glanced up. "Yes. Is that bad? Really bad," he clarified. "I know it can't be anything good."

"Worse than you can imagine," Severus said quietly. "Draco, why are you telling us all this?"

"I told you, I'm offering to spy for you and he's going to have me marked at Christmas. You need one now they know you're a traitor."

"Why?" Severus pushed. "Draco, you have to realise that you don't turn on the Dark Lord lightly. What you're offering is dangerous."

"I know that, sir, but I want to be on the winning side."

Severus raised a sceptical eyebrow. Dumbledore smiled benignly.

"What makes you think we're the winning side, Draco?" the headmaster asked and Draco looked at him incredulously.

"I saw Potter get hit with a Killing Curse then get up again. I saw him die from that Lightning Hex back in February and come back from it, and he survived the Killing Curse as a baby." He glanced between them pointedly. "You have an immortal hero. Of course you're the winning side."

"As you've just told us, Potter is trapped with the Dark Lord," Severus pointed out, "and in the grand scheme of things having a single immortal on our side doesn't guarantee victory."

Lupin and Dumbledore glanced at him, but Severus wasn't about to dissuade Draco of his belief. As long as he didn't go publicising it, there was no harm in him thinking Potter was invincible.

"Are you trying to discourage him, Severus?"

Severus shot Lupin a dark look then caught Draco's gaze, shifting forwards to rest his elbows on his knees. "This is not something done lightly. Spying on the Dark Lord is immensely dangerous, Draco. You're putting yourself at incredible risk by doing this. You have to understand that."

"I do. Really, sir, I know," Draco assured him, his own expression darkening, a haunted look filling his eyes. "I had him in my head for two months. He was so angry and insane and... disjointed. I can't even explain what it was like, but he's not someone I want in charge of the world. I know that."

"Well then," Dumbledore said, stepping away from the fireplace. "Draco, you should return to your dormitory. You shouldn't come here again; it would be best if you're not seen to be near Severus' quarters. I will devise a way for you to pass information to me without suspicion and let you know; I suspect you won't be able to tell me much more until the winter holidays anyway. And Draco... thank you."

Draco spared him a nod, shot Severus a last glance, and left. Severus sat back as Lupin moved from the table to the sofa, taking Draco's vacated spot, and both men looked to Dumbledore as the headmaster sighed, seeming to age before their very eyes as he let slide the pretence of being calm and collected.

"I did not foresee this," he said quietly.

"No one could have," Lupin comforted. "But what do we do about Harry? We have to get him back."

"Of course, but I don't expect he's being kept at Malfoy Manor any more. Severus, I take it Voldemort has taken consorts before? What kind of treatment can we expect Harry to receive?"

Severus' mouth tightened. "Every foul sexual depravity you can imagine. The last consort the Dark Lord kept was his personal whore, but he had no qualms about loaning her to his Death Eaters, usually to more than one at a time."

"What else?"

"Nothing good," Severus said shortly then, when Dumbledore opened his mouth to push, he snapped, "Don't. It sickens me to think of it, Dumbledore, let alone discuss it. Suffice to say, Potter is not in a good position and what he endured at the hands of Eric Nicholson or Sirius Black will look like child's play compared to what the Dark Lord will do to him. Knowing what's happening won't help us to find him, which is what we should be focusing on."

"You're right. Severus, if you could compile a list of locations Voldemort may be holding him. Newly resurrected, he's probably relying on old haunts for the time being. For the moment, we have him at an advantage. He doesn't know we know about him."

"Shouldn't we make it public?" Lupin asked. "People need to know, they need to be aware."

Severus snorted. "And who do you expect will believe us, Lupin? No one will want to believe the Dark Lord's back; they think he died in eighty-one and they want it to stay that way."

"The Prophet, or Fudge—" Lupin started, but Dumbledore shook his head.

"I know Cornelius and he will deny it without evidence, which we don't have. We cannot even let him know how we know about it, and not even the Prophet will publish a story like this. No, for now I'm afraid this news won't be able to go public, but we do need to alert the old crowd. I want you to go, Remus. Alert Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher, Dedalus Diggle—you know the ones."

Lupin nodded, spared one last glance at Severus—who absolutely did not feel disappointed that their time together was being cut short—and left through the fireplace.

* * *

Harry wished he was anywhere but where he was. He would even prefer to be getting handed around a group of Death Eaters like a cheap whore—anything would be preferable to being face down in a puddle of blood with his knees under him and arse in the air so Voldemort could fuck him, while somewhere to his right the last of the Muggles was screaming as the Death Eaters slowly killed him. On his left, right in Harry's line of vision, was the brutalised remains of another Muggle, her dead eyes staring right at him. He wanted to shut his own eyes to the sight, but every time he did Voldemort would jab his wand into his shoulder and searing pain would tear down his arm.

It felt like forever before Voldemort came, spilling himself inside Harry with a grunt. He pulled out almost immediately after, rising to stand over Harry and take in the massacre around him. All the Muggles were dead now, the last one with his flesh hanging off him in strips. Harry took one look at him as he pushed himself up and straightened his dislodged glasses, and promptly threw up. Unfortunately he'd already done that earlier, when they first started and the stench of blood—not to mention piss and shit when the Muggles lost control of themselves in their fear—made him vomit, so all he brought up this time was stomach acid that made his throat sting and his stomach ache from clenching. Fresh tears spilt down his face, carving trails through the blood covering his skin, and he prayed that he'd never have to be in a situation like this again.

* * *

The next night found Harry curled on the floor of Voldemort's bedroom in the pile of blankets that constituted as his bed, where he'd been since he was brought back from the slaughter. He didn't have the luxury of his own bed and he was only ever in Voldemort's when the Dark Lord wanted to fuck him.

He didn't look around when the door opened, nor when footsteps approached his nest, just tugged his blankets tighter around him.

"I have something for you," Voldemort's voice said.

"I don't want it."

He heard shifting then a hand grabbed his blankets and tugged them away before fingers curled in his hair and jerked his head up. "I seem to have given you the mistaken belief that I care about what you want, Harry, so let me assure you: I don't."

He yanked Harry up into a sitting position and held up his other hand. A leather collar dangled from his fingers. "Put this on."

Reluctantly, Harry did so. He'd been there long enough to know he didn't disobey Voldemort.

"Do I get anything else to wear? Like clothes?" he asked as it settled in place, not tight enough to hurt but restricting nonetheless just in its presence. Voldemort drew his wand and touched it to the collar. When Harry felt it, the clasp had vanished, leaving him with an unbroken circle of leather around his throat.

"No. Get up. I've something to show you."

He didn't give Harry time to respond, just grabbed his arm in a bruising grip and hauled him to his feet, half-dragging him out of the room, down the staircase of the big old house they lived in, and through to the kitchen. Harry stood awkwardly to one side when Voldemort let go of him, hands clasped in front of him to try and cover himself while Voldemort opened a cat carrier sat on the table, letting out a grey tabby with a red collar around its neck. He picked it up with one hand and drew his wand with the other, looking around at Harry.

"Watch carefully now, boy."

Squinting because he hadn't been given chance to put his glasses on, Harry watched warily as Voldemort touched his wand to the cat's collar and said a spell then went to the back door and opened it.

"Keep your eyes on the cat."

Voldemort put down the animal and Harry watched him nudge it with his foot, just a gentle tap that prompted the cat to run outside. Harry didn't understand why he should pay so much interest to a fleeing animal—and then the cat staggered just two feet from the house. Harry's eyes went wide as the cat managed to let out a pitiful mewl before the collar constricted around its throat, getting tighter and tighter until it simply cut through the animal's neck, messily decapitating it.

Voldemort moved and Harry flicked horrified eyes to him as Voldemort lifted his wand, touched it to Harry's collar, and said the same spell he put on the cat. There was a cruel smile on his face when he lowered his wand.

"You're free to leave any time you want," he said and left Harry staring at the open door and the decapitated cat just outside it.

Chapter Text

Strong fingers gripped his chin and forcibly turned his head around. Hips slammed forward and his mouth opened but no sound left him, the silencing charm keeping his pained cry unheard. Ropes chafed against his wrists, bound to the headboard behind him.

"Look at me," Voldemort's cold voice ordered and he opened his eyes, staring up at the cruel red gaze just inches above him.

"Arthur Weasley is dead."

Harry's eyes went wide and even knowing it was pointless he still objected with a silent, "No!"

Voldemort smiled and thrust hard against him. "Yes," he hissed. "Just this night. He was between my dear Nagini and something I wanted, so she attacked him and now he's dead."

Harry shook his head, refusing to believe it, and squirmed uselessly, wanting him off more than ever. This was a new low even for Voldemort. He'd never said anything like that before when he fucked Harry.

Voldemort snarled, digging sharp nails into Harry's face, forcing his head still while he thrust hard again, sending pain spearing through Harry and making him arch up, mouth open in a silent scream.

"He's dead. Look at me!"

Harry did so reluctantly, feelings tears sting his eyes.

"Arthur Weasley is dead, Harry Potter," Voldemort said again as the tears slipped down Harry's temples. Voldemort smiled at the sight of them, slammed into Harry one last time, and came with a shudder.

* * *

"This is wrong on so many levels," Draco Malfoy said to Harry just a few days later.

"Your father said the same thing. Only more eloquently."

Draco turned away from the window of the room they were in to look disgustedly at Harry. "My father? You did this with him? Don't answer that," he added quickly. "I don't want to know."

Harry tugged on his skirt and fought the urge to touch himself. The lust potion he'd been given was starting to work on him now, rushing in his veins and filling him with a need that demanded satisfaction and would, he knew, grow painful if ignored. He'd already experienced the agony of ignoring a lust potion; Voldemort had delighted in showing him during the early days, dosing him then tying him spread-eagled on his bed. Within two hours he'd been begging for anything to touch him and he probably would have come from just a warm breath on his cock; barely an hour later he was sobbing and screaming for realise, whole body feeling like it was on fire and so turned on that it hurt, not even noticing that he was struggling against his bonds so hard he made his wrists and ankles bleed. Half an hour after that he was unconscious, and when he came around it started all over again. He'd cried with relief when Voldemort finally fucked him and hadn't even cared when the night ended with him bleeding from his arse.

"I didn't," he told Draco. "He was no more interested than you were, even like this."

This being as a girl. It wasn't the first time either. In the three and a half months he'd been Voldemort's consort, several Death Eaters enjoyed him dosed with Gender-bending Elixir, especially in groups. It gave them more holes to fuck at once.

"He expects you to use me though."

Draco sneered. "I don't want to... to use you, Potter. I don't care if you've got a pair of tits now; I'm not interested in you."

Harry looked down at his chest, immodestly covered by flimsy, low-cut, mostly see through top that didn't hide the fact that his nipples were hard and each pierced with a silver ring, then glanced back at Draco and sauntered towards him, clasping his hands behind his back, pushing his chest out more.

"Then why do you keep looking at them?"

A faint flush filled Draco's pale cheeks. "Well it's hard not to," he snapped, stepping back only to find himself against the wall. "You could have worn something more covering."

"I don't get to pick my clothes. I'm lucky if I even get to wear clothes."

"I—you—what?"

Harry stopped just in front of him, looking into Draco's wide eyes from between his lashes. He was fairly certain that look was more effective without his glasses, which was a good thing because his glasses had been broken several weeks ago and never repaired. "Most of the time I'm naked, just walking around with everything on show. Even when I get clothes like now, it's still something that doesn't get in the way. No underwear either. It makes it easier that way."

"E-easier?"

Harry leant forwards, unable to keep from gasping slightly as his nipples pressed against Draco's chest, and put his mouth to the other boy's ear. "For them to fuck me. It's easier when there's no pesky clothes keeping them from just bending me over a table and ramming into me."

Draco's hands hit his shoulders and shoved him back. "Stop that! Merlin, Potter, you think I want to hear that?"

Harry shrugged, backing up to the bed in the middle of the room. It was the largest bedroom in Voldemort's house, one kept aside purely for this—somewhere for people to fuck Harry. There were lubes on the dresser to one side, along with lust and gender-changing potions, and various toys in the drawers.

"Some people like it," he told Draco, sitting on the edge of the bed. His hands fell to his thighs and without really thinking about it he started trailing his fingers over the bare skin. "They like hearing about me being used, but maybe you prefer the coy virgin act. I can do that too."

"I prefer nothing. I'm not interested in—Potter!"

"What?"

"Stop doing that!"

Unhappily, Harry drew his hand away from where it'd been creeping under his skirt. "Then fuck me."

Draco shook his head emphatically. "No."

"Then let me touch myself. Didn't they tell you? I've been dosed with lust potion. I have to get off, Draco. I don't really care how."

"I don't want to watch that," Draco told him, but he kept glancing down at Harry's hand as it drifted back towards his skirt. Harry didn't comment on it, just spread his legs a little and trailed his fingers along his inner thigh.

"Then close your eyes and use a silencing charm. It's what your father did. But I'm your reward for joining the ranks, Draco, courtesy of the Dark Lord, and it's rude for you not to use me so you're stuck here for a few hours."

Draco swallowed thickly and didn't lift his gaze from Harry's fingers.

"I don't mind, you know," Harry said softly. "I'd quite like to get fucked by you. You're young and pretty and I'll wager you're a gentle fuck. It'd be nice."

His fingers brushed against the wet folds of his cunt. He still found it strange to touch female genitalia, especially on himself, but the lust potion made sure he didn't find it so strange as to stop.

"Yeah," Draco agreed vaguely, still staring, then seemed to catch himself and snap his gaze up to Harry's face. "I mean, no! I'm not fucking you."

Harry shrugged and kept touching himself, seeking out his clit. He hadn't been allowed to touch himself much as a girl, but he knew it was there somewhere and he knew the kind of pleasure it brought.

"Stop touching yourself!"

Harry didn't. He couldn't. The lust potion was burning through him and he couldn't think of much besides getting off now.

"If you want me to stop, you'll have to make me. I told you, they gave me a lust potion. I have to get off and if you tie me down, I'll scream."

"I'll gag you."

Frustration slipped through his arousal, but didn't last long because his fingers brushed over his clit, hard and sensitive, making his breath hitch. Then Draco stalked across the room, grabbing his wrists and shoving him back, pinning him down on the bed.

"I said stop it."

"Do you want to torture me? Because that's what it is to have a lust potion and not get off. It's torture. I won't scream from anger, Draco, I'll scream from the pain of being so turned on. If you don't want to watch then don't. But I need this."

He spread his legs, Draco fell between them, and Harry lifted them to wrap around the boy, pulling him against him and smiling as Draco's eyes went wide when his crotch came into contact with Harry's.

"Or you could just fuck me," he murmured. "I know I'm probably not your ideal person, but I've got all the right parts, at least for another hour and a half. Unless you'd prefer me as a boy."

"No," Draco breathed. "I'm not gay."

Harry rolled his hips, rubbing himself against the other boy and feeling his cock twitch beneath his trousers. Draco groaned, then jerked away, wrenching himself free and staggering back from the bed.

"No. No, I'm not—I don't want this."

Harry sat up. "Don't you?"

"No! I'm not attracted to you, Potter. I—"

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not. Just because you've got a... really nice pair of tits doesn't mean I'm attracted to you. Lots of girls have nice tits. And I'm not interested in fucking someone who's not willing. You're a prisoner and this is rape. I'm not doing that."

Harry was up in an instant, pressing himself against Draco again. "I am willing."

"No, you're dosed with lust potion. It's not the same thing. I can't—I won't. I don't want to."

With effort, because he really wanted someone else's body against his right now, Harry stepped away, turning his back and going to the bed.

"Then close your eyes and cover your ears, because I'm fucking myself even if you won't," Harry told him and climbed onto the bed, kneeling in the middle and looking over his shoulder at Draco. "Unless you want to torture me."

"Of course not."

Harry gestured to the sofa on one side of the room. "Then sit down and be quiet."

Draco didn't move, but Harry ignored him, closing his eyes and putting one hand between his legs, the other cupping one of his own breasts. He was still definitely attracted to men, but even without the lust potion he couldn't deny that there was a certain niceness in having a boob underhand, and it felt good to have a hand on his boob, even if it was his own.

Not that he cared at this stage what touched him, as long as something did. He forgot about Draco as his fingers sought out his clit again, forgot about being Voldemort's whore, about being prisoner in a strange house, and just focused on the pleasure he could bring himself.

* * *

Draco doubted any of the other boys he knew would have held out so long. He'd heard them talk—he'd joined in their talks, discussing the girls at Hogwarts and which ones they'd most like to fuck, but the way the others spoke made him realise now that they wouldn't have denied Potter at all. The fact that it was Potter, and that Potter wasn't strictly speaking a girl despite his current attributes, wouldn't have stopped someone like Theo or Blaise from jumping on the chance to fuck him. They wouldn't have cared that Potter wasn't really willing; to them, a lust potion was as good as consent and even if they had initially objected, they would probably have given in the moment Potter pressed against them and said in that husky voice that he wanted them. But he supposed Theo and Blaise didn't have mothers who'd made a point of impressing upon them the importance of consent.

And he tried. He really, really did. He'd turned away when Potter started touching himself, but he couldn't block out the sounds and he'd never actually heard a girl masturbate before. When he heard Potter moaning, he couldn't help imagining it—Potter's hand under that tiny little skirt, fingers pushing inside himself. Reminding himself that it was Potter he was listening to didn't help. The gasps and moans were distinctly feminine and he kept remembering that Potter now had a really nice pair of breasts, which were something else he'd never seen in real life, not that much anyway. The most he'd seen was Tracy Davis' impressive cleavage, which she seemed to enjoy displaying for all of Slytherin. She was also gay, so he doubted he'd ever have the chance to see more than her cleavage.

His body certainly didn't care about the details of the situation. He tried to think of Hagrid, or complex Arithmancy equations, or the lingering ache in his arm from where he'd been branded, but his fifteen year old virgin body was having none of it. There was a girl behind him masturbating and it was very interested, so he muttered a curse, hurriedly unzipped himself and wrapped a hand around his almost painfully hard dick. This was acceptable, he told himself. He wasn't looking at or touching Potter, so there was no harm in him jerking himself off. It was his own body so there were no consent issues in the way. He didn't even think of Potter, instead falling back on his preferred fantasy of Alana Huff, seventh year and voted Most Attractive Slytherin three times in a row.

But then, when he was close enough to orgasm that he'd braced his other hand on the wall for support, a body pressed against his back and someone else's hand touched his dick and he jumped, yelping with surprise then moaning when the hand stroked along his dick, thumb brushing over the head.

"I knew you wanted it," Potter's soft voice whispered, breath warm on Draco's ear. Draco moaned again, thrusting into his hand, then realised what he was doing and twisted away, stumbling slightly and falling back against the wall. Instantly Potter was pressed against his front, skirt hitched up and hips rolling forwards so his cunt rubbed against Draco's cock and he thought he'd come right then and there.

"No!" he gasped, pushing Potter back with effort. "I can't. Potter—oh, god."

He'd done it again and Draco's will wavered, hands clenching on Potter's arms as he fought the urge to pull him closer. He'd lost the shirt and there were real, bare naked breasts pressed against Draco and he wanted to touch them even though he knew he shouldn't. He wanted to tug on the rings looped through Potter's nipples, just to see what reaction it would cause.

"C'mon," Potter murmured. "Just fuck me, Draco. I want it. You want it."

He did. He couldn't even deny it anymore and the voice that was telling him he shouldn't was getting smothered by the one that pointed out there was an eager sort-of-girl practically begging him to have sex. That same voice was pointing out that he wasn't likely to get laid anytime soon otherwise; Pansy Parkinson had made it clear she wouldn't let him do more than grope above the waist and only through clothes, Tracy was gay, Daphne Greengrass was famous for hexing any guy that even suggested getting in her pants, and Millicent Bulstrode really wasn't Draco's cup of tea and she was shagging Crabbe besides.

Not that a genderbent Potter was exactly his cup of tea, but he did make an attractive girl and Draco's stuttered objection as Potter pulled him towards the bed was more because he knew he should than because he actually objected. He certainly didn't push Potter away or stop him when Potter tugged down his trousers and pulled him on top of him as he fell back on the bed. He did hesitate when Potter spread his legs and guided Draco's hips towards his, but it didn't last.

"Do it."

"I'm going to hell," Draco muttered, pushing his hips forwards and letting out a long moan as the wet heat enfolded him, so different than how he'd imagined and so much better. Legs wrapped around him and Potter tilted his head back, baring his collared throat. Without even thinking about it, Draco lowered his head and kissed the bare skin above the leather, pressing himself against Potter and wishing he'd taken his shirt off so he could feel more skin. Potter seemed to think the same because, without looking, his hands sought the buttons of Draco's shirt and deftly undid them, pushing it open and sliding his hands around Draco ribs and over his back. Draco slid a hand between them, cupping one of Potter's breasts and catching the piercing between thumb and forefinger. Potter gave a breathy moan, arched into the touch, and thrust his hips up, and that was all it took to have Draco coming, jerking his hips forwards with a grunt and feeling Potter clench around him, legs tightening around Draco's waist. When it was done, Draco collapsed on top of him, not moving for a minute as he caught his breath.

Then the voice that his arousal had smothered returned with a vengeance to remind him that he'd just fucked Harry Potter, who was under the influence of a lust potion and was going to hate him when it wore off. He pulled away, not looking at Potter as he fumbled to pull up his boxers and trousers.

"I'm going to hell. Merlin, fuck, I'm going to hell. I shouldn't have done this. I'm exactly the kind of guy my mother said I shouldn't be."

"Will you shut up?"

He looked around in surprise. Potter was sat up, arms wrapped around himself and a glare on his face, but his cheeks flushed and pupils dilated, still aroused but clearly not as caught up in it as he had been before.

"You're not going to hell."

"I just raped you."

"No, you just had sex with me. I've been raped—a lot. That's not it."

"Yes, it is. Just because you're dosed with lust potion—"

"I know that," Potter interrupted. "I'm not an idiot, but when you've been enduring this for as long as I have, your perceptions change. I'm still feeling the potion, but when it wears off I'll appreciate the fact that you resisted. You wouldn't have done it if I hadn't pushed, so stop beating yourself up about it. It was the nicest sex I've had in a long time."

That didn't really make Draco feel better, but he realised it would be selfish of him to keep complaining about his guilt when Potter was the real victim here. It did make him wonder though...

"Potter, can I ask you something?"

He shrugged.

"It's personal."

Potter glanced at him. "You've just fucked me and you're worried about invading my privacy? I don't have any of that anymore. Just spit it out."

"Have you ever actually willingly had sex?"

Potter looked away, eyes dropping and arms tightening around himself. "Once, that I can remember. And I've given a few blow jobs willingly."

"Good." Potter glanced at him questioningly and he added, "I'm glad you've done it willingly at least once, so you know it's not all bad."

To his surprise, Potter smiled at him. It was faint, and their was a sultry hint to it, but it was there. He leant forwards and, startling Draco further, pressed a soft kiss to his mouth.

"For a Death Eater, you're not all bad."

"Uh... thanks, I guess. Potter, what are you doing?"

He was pushing Draco onto the bed and crawling over him and only Draco's hands on his shoulder kept him from kissing him.

"Lust potion, Draco. You think a crappy fuck like that will burn it out of me?"

Draco had, but that wasn't the part of Potter's words he focused on. "What d'you mean crappy?" he asked indignantly. "You said it was the nicest sex you've had in ages."

"Nicest, not best," Potter said, hands trailing over Draco's torso. "It didn't hurt and you weren't rough, but you really think I got much out of your thirty seconds?"

Draco felt himself flush all over. "That's not fair. I was almost coming before you—"

"I know," Potter interrupted. "And you're a virgin, so it's hardly your fault."

"I am not—!" He broke off, the expression on Potter's face saying no amount of denial would make him believe it. "Alright fine, yes I was."

Potter grinned. Draco's hands were still on his shoulders but not pushing him away and he felt pierced nipples press against his chest as Potter ducked his head to mouth at Draco's throat. "So you need the practice. Take advantage, Draco. This way when you shag your girlfriend you can do it right and impress her."

Draco muttered something about not having a girlfriend—he and Pansy weren't exactly official—and made a token objection about doing anything more with Potter, but it seemed a bit stupid when he'd already fucked him and his pride was telling him to do it again so he could show Potter that Draco Malfoy was most certainly not crappy.

Chapter Text

Harry didn't tell anyone when his memories started coming back. They filtered back to him in bits and pieces, sometimes just creeping up on him and he wouldn't even realise he was remembering things until he remembered that he'd forgotten in the first place, and other times a memory would hit him without warning. The first time that happened was in mid-December, when he stood at Voldemort's bedroom window, staring wistfully outside at the snow only to suddenly remember a snow ball fight with the Weasleys the previous Christmas.

He quickly turned away from the window then, filled with a sudden, desperate longing to be back at Hogwarts. He wanted his life back, to be with people who cared about and liked him, to go to classes and learn magic and hold a wand. He hasn't even touched one in months, not since taking Voldemort's while he slept and attempting to remove the collar, but only managing to turn it purple before Voldemort woke and noticed him. After what felt like an eternity under the Cruciatus Curse, he'd been dosed with lust potion and tied down for twelve hours. He'd never dared touch anyone else's wand again, unless he counted the twisted Death Eaters who sometimes liked to use their wands to violate him.

It didn't stop him trying to do magic though, which is why at nearly midnight one day in early January he sat at the kitchen table, wrapped in a blanket and staring at the wooden spoon sitting in front of him, brow furrowed and mouth moving as he whispered Wingardium Leviosa over and over, trying to make the spoon fly. He'd seen Voldemort and Lucius use wandless magic occasionally and he wanted to do it himself. Maybe then he might be able to do enough to get himself out of the collar and escape. Unfortunately, he wasn't having much luck. Thus far he hadn't managed to so much as make the spoon wiggle.

The backdoor's handle turned and he swore and scrambled up, leaving his blanket as he snatched the spoon up and hurriedly returned it to its drawer then turned back to the door with a nervous expression. He didn't look forward to Voldemort's return. Voldemort was in a good mood and Harry knew something big was happening that night, big enough that Voldemort actually left Harry in the house completely alone. But Voldemort hadn't touched him all day, nor let anyone else, and Harry had a bad feeling that when Voldemort returned it wouldn't be fun for him.

But there were two people on the other side of the door, both of them familiar and both of them completely unexpected.

"Hello, Harry," Remus greeted. Harry gaped at him. Snape pushed past Remus and quickly crossed the room to Harry; Remus stayed just outside the door.

"We have to be quick," Snape said quietly, tilting Harry's chin up and touching his wand to the collar. "Is there anyone else in the house and is this the only thing on you that's cursed?"

"No, and yes—how do you know it's cursed?" he asked, moving his hands to cover himself. Through necessity, he grew used to being seen naked by the Death Eaters, but being seen by Remus and Snape was a whole different issue and he wished he hadn't left the blanket on the chair.

Snape didn't answer, attention entirely on the collar as he murmured spells. Remus answered for him. "We detected two perimeter wards around the house, but nothing else to keep people inside; we figured the wards were tied to something on you to keep you from leaving."

"It'll decapitate me," Harry confirmed. "I saw him do it to a cat. How did you find me? Did you know he was out tonight?"

"We've known for a few weeks where you were and we've been watching the house, figuring out what protections are on it and choosing the best time to save you. I'm sorry we didn't do it sooner."

"Got it!" Snape muttered then Harry felt the collar loosen and fall away. He rubbed at his throat; it felt strange now not to have leather sitting against it.

Snape snatched up his blanket, murmured a spell over it, and it transfigured into a pair of trousers which he shoved into Harry's hands.

"Thanks," he said, pulling them on. Even that felt weird; it'd been so long since he's worn trousers. "I guess the transplant went okay then."

"Yes," Snape said curtly. "We don't have time to play catch up. Move."

Harry nodded and followed him out the kitchen. He hesitated at the door, remembering the cat, but touched his throat and took courage from feeling nothing there. He stepped out and Remus grabbed his wrist, tugging him forwards and pointing across the dark garden.

"Run. We have to reach those trees before we can Apparate."

Harry nodded and ran, sparing a thought to marvel at the feel of grass underfoot and wind on his face. Unpleasant as it was, pebbles and twigs digging into his feet and the cold biting at his skin, he was glad to feel it anyway. He was outside for the first time in months and he loved it.

Until they were just a few metres from the trees and he slammed into an invisible wall. It felt like running straight into brick, but he bounced off it like rubber, thrown off his feet and tossed to the ground a few feet away, groaning.

"Harry!"

He sat up as Remus crouched by him, looking over to see Snape stood beyond the spot where Harry had hit the wall.

"What was that?"

Remus looked around at Snape as well, who waved his wand and said a spell that made a shimmer appear in the air, a large, bubble-like dome that encircled the house and garden.

"Lupin, try crossing it."

Harry got to his feet and moved forwards with Remus, but while the werewolf could easily step through the barrier, to Harry it was completely solid and the harder he pushed against it the harder it pushed back.

"Is it tied to him?" Remus asked. "A blood ward?"

Snape shook his head, frowning as he inspected the ward, then looked to Harry, raking his gaze over him.

"The piercings! Potter, remove those rings, and any others you've got."

Harry looked down at his chest then back up, feeling his cheeks flush. "I can't. They're solid, like the collar."

Swearing, Snape stepped through the ward again and Harry turned his head away as the man touched his wand to the ring in his left nipple.

"Severus, hurry," Remus said, a sudden urgency in his voice. "We've got company."

Harry and Snape both looked at Remus, then around at where he was staring across the garden and just past the house—where Voldemort and at least fifteen Death Eaters had just appeared. Harry's blood ran cold.

"Hurry," he begged Snape. "Get them off, don't let him take me again."

But Snape barely had time to touch his wand to the ring before what felt like a giant, invisible clamp latched onto Harry's arms and wrenched him backwards. He screamed more from fear than pain as his feet left the ground and he soared through the air before coming down on the ground again to collapse in a heap at Voldemort feet.

"Get the traitor and his pet wolf," Voldemort ordered, and the Death Eaters around him charged. Harry attempted to get away as well, but a hand grabbed his hair and jerked him up, twisting him around to face Voldemort, whose red eyes glittered menacingly.

"Where do you think you're going, Harry? Surely you're not going to miss the welcome back party for all my newly freed Death Eaters. That would be a terrible shame."

Harry whimpered and Voldemort smiled, dropping him to the floor again. Harry didn't try moving.

"Hopefully Severus and the wolf will join us too."

* * *

"Go."

"Severus—"

"We can't help him, Lupin, there's too many of them. Go!"

"But—"

Severus grabbed his arm and pulled him after him, reaching the trees at the edge of the property and Disapparating the moment they did. Lupin jerked away from him as soon as they reappeared outside 139 Leziate Drive in Coventry, the house where the Order of the Phoenix was set up.

"Severus, you bastard we need to go back!"

"To get ourselves killed?"

"To save Harry!"

Severus shot him a disdainful look. "We can't, Lupin. There were too many of them for us to take on, and the Dark Lord besides. We would have died and then been no use to Potter at all."

"We're not much use to him here, are we?" Lupin growled.

"We're alive. It's more than if we'd stayed."

Lupin covered his face with both hands, shoulders slumping.

"We need to get inside, Lupin."

"We were supposed to save him."

"We tried."

"That's not good enough!" His hands dropped and he looked at Severus with angry despair. "We didn't try hard enough. We have to go back, we have to save him, Severus."

Severus stalked up to him, grabbing Lupin's chin in hand and meeting his eyes with a hard gaze. "We will die if we go back there."

"We'll take the rest of the Order. If we all go..." He wrapped a hand around Severus' wrist, tugging his hand down but keeping hold of it, fingers warm on Severus' skin. "I can't fail him again, Severus."

"Then come inside so we can report to Dumbledore and figure out what to do next."

Lupin's hand tightened momentarily on his wrist, but then he nodded and let go, leaving a cold patch on Severus' skin. He ignored the urge to rub it and turned to the house, heading inside and hearing Lupin follow him in.

* * *

"Lupin, what did you mean earlier?"

They sat in the living room of the Order headquarters, each with a cup of tea as they waited for Dumbledore to come back from the Ministry, where he'd been called urgently while they were on their mission. There was no hurry for them to be anywhere else; Severus didn't even need to be back at the school. He was mostly fit and healthy again—though his cardiologist probably wouldn't approve of his trying to rescue the Boy Who Lived—but he hadn't gone back to teaching, except to cover a few classes when Caoimhe Underwood fell ill just before the Christmas holidays. Had the night gone right, he'd have taken up the task of getting Potter caught up in his studies, but now he guessed he would go back to figuring out how to rescue Potter again.

Lupin looked over his tea cup at him. "When?"

"When you said you didn't want to fail Potter again. When have you before?"

Lupin lowered his cup, staring down at it. "Sirius. I visited them repeatedly that summer and never realised what he was doing."

"Hardly your fault. I doubt Black was molesting Potter right in front of you."

"That's beside the point. He was my friend and I never realised there was something that bad about him. I never even imagined."

"That's not entirely true."

Lupin glanced up, frowning. "What do you mean?"

"You must have realised there was something off about him or you wouldn't have so easily believed he betrayed the Potters."

Lupin sighed and sipped his tea. "Maybe, but that makes it worse that I never realised. I suppose I felt bad about letting him stay in Azkaban for something he hadn't done and so I wasn't willing to see what he was doing. Whatever it was, it doesn't excuse me failing to see that Harry was suffering."

"There's no use beating yourself up about it now. Black's dead, and good riddance for it."

Lupin huffed. "Comforting people really isn't your forte, is it, Severus?"

Severus scowled at him. "You made a mistake, Lupin, it's not the end of the world. Do you think you're the first person to miss something like this? Potter got through it and Black's dead. You'll help no one by stewing in your self-blame. Unless you want to end up a miserable sod like me."

"Here I thought you were born that way," Lupin murmured. "So tell me, Severus, what is it you've felt so guilty about that it made you a miserable sod?"

"There's plenty in my past to regret," Severus said quietly. "None of which you need or want to know about."

"It's your life, Severus, of course I want to know—"

"No, Lupin, you don't," Severus interrupted coldly.

Chapter Text

Harry thought he'd endured the worst things the Death Eaters could come up with, but in the weeks following the failed rescue attempt, the Lestranges—Bellatrix, her husband Rodolphus and his brother Rabastan—showed him that he knew nothing of pain and violation. He was moved to a new place, somewhere underground, and spent weeks being punished for his near escape, enduring the Cruciatus so often he could feel the ache in his bones even when he wasn't under it, getting repeatedly raped by people who hadn't touched another human in over a decade and wouldn't have given much of a damn about him even before that, and suffering the attentions of Bellatrix, who felt it necessary to make up for fourteen years without torturing anyone.

It eased off after a while, but his life was still more painful and unpleasant than before, especially as his memories started coming back more and more. The worst was remembering Eric and everything that'd happened with him, because for months Harry had heard Death Eaters whisper whore and slut and bitch in his ear and he'd comforted himself with the thought that he wasn't, it was just the potions they fed him and the fact that he was given no choice in the matter, but then he remembered that he was a whore. Voldemort and the Death Eaters were just the latest in a long line of people to use him.

Returning with his memories were his self-harming urges, and they brought suicidal thoughts with them. He'd had hope before the rescue attempt, hope that he would get away, escape by himself or get rescued, but as time went on his hope dwindled to the point where all he could think was that dying might be his only way out. He just wasn't entirely sure he could die, not after getting hit by the Killing Curse and waking up from it. Three times now he should have died and hadn't, twice from the Killing Curse, once from a Lightning Hex. But it left him wondering if it was only magic that couldn't kill him. Would he be able to survive slitting his wrists? He was curious to find out, curious enough that it scared him how often he'd find himself imagining it. He'd become familiar with the sensation of knives on his skin so he could easily imagine cutting open his wrists and letting his blood pour out of him. Coming back from a Killing Curse was one thing, but surely even he couldn't survive losing all his blood.

He almost found out towards the end of February. Rabastan left a knife in his bedroom—if it could be called a bedroom, the windowless stone room with his nest of blankets and pillows, where his food was brought to him and his toilet in a tiny adjacent room—and he'd taken it to his wrists as soon as he'd been left alone. His backside still throbbed, his nipples were sore from being pinched and twisted, and there were small burns all over his back that hurt so much he felt sick, but he barely felt the pain of the knife. As he lay there, feeling the blood draining from him and not sure if the growing darkness was because he was dying or because his wall torches were going out, the only word he could find to describe how it felt was freeing.

But somewhere between passing out and dying—if he could die—Lucius had found him. He was healed and given a Blood-Replenishing Potion, and then Voldemort tortured him.

"I am the one to decide when you die, Harry," he told him between curses. "I'm sure you're just as curious as I am to know the extent of your own immortality, but I decide when to test it. Not you."

* * *

A few weeks after his failed suicide, Lucius entered his room, tossed a hooded robe at him, and told him to get dressed. Harry thought it was a sign of how messed up his life was that being given clothes—proper clothes as opposed to something that he was put in just for sex games—made fear coil in his gut. He put it on though; he long ago learned better than to disobey orders, so he took the shoes Lucius also passed him and tugged them on before following Lucius out the room after a tersely ordered, "Follow."

Outside was a second, smaller room with only a staircase that lead up to a door which opened into the hallway of a house. It wasn't the one he used to live in Harry realised as Lucius led him to a dark, curtained sitting room; presumably it was somewhere new that was better protected and harder to find than the last one.

Voldemort waited in the sitting room, along with five other Death Eaters, making Harry's fear spike, but he said nothing as Lucius shoved him to stand in front of Voldemort. He glanced around nervously then lifted his gaze to Voldemort's face as the man lifted his wand and touched it to Harry's forehead. Harry cringed with the expectation of pain, but there was none, just a slight tingle on his forehead. The next spell was cast on his collar (new and still cursed despite his being unable to leave his room) and to Harry's surprise it loosened and fell away, then Voldemort cast one last spell, this one spoken.

"Silencio." He stepped away, gaze shifting to the waiting Death Eaters. "Now go. Fetch my prophecy."

* * *

If he could, or if he had the nerves, Harry would have commented on the fact that breaking into the Ministry of Magic with Bellatrix, Roldolphus, and Rabastan Lastrange, and Augustus Rookwood seemed a bit stupid. As Azkaban escapees, they would draw plenty of attention. Not to mention that Lucius stood out enough on his own, and Walden Macnair was big and unmissable, but apparently breaking into the Ministry of Magic wasn't very difficult because they didn't meet anyone on their way through the Atrium and to the lifts.

"Looks like the Order have given up trying to protect it," Macnair remarked as they stepped off the elevator and headed for the entrance to the Department of Mysteries. Harry didn't like Macnair; not that he liked any of them, but Macnair only fucked Harry when he was a girl and did it rough and brutally, and only after slicing him up a bit. He seemed to get off on the blood.

"Don't be so certain," Lucius murmured, wand drawn. "Homenum revelio!"

A human shaped white glow appeared just down the hall. Immediately Bellatrix and Macnair moved forwards, throwing curses at the figure, which ducked around the corner even as the white glow identifying them faded away.

"Move," Lucius ordered Harry, shoving him forwards and leaving Bellatrix and Macnair to deal with the person who must be hiding under an invisibility cloak, while the Lestrange brothers and Rookwood followed Lucius and Harry through a door that lead into a circular room lined with a dozen doors interspersed with blue-flamed torches. The moment the door shut behind them, the walls spun around them, the doors and torches becoming a blur of light before they stopped, leaving Harry to wonder how they would know where to go. Rookwood solved the problem by announcing loudly, "Hall of Prophecies."

A door snapped open and Lucius shoved Harry towards it. They entered a tall, cathedral-like room filled with towering shelves covered in small, dusty glass orbs. The shelves were numbered and Lucius stopped by the nearest to check it then stalked down the rows, muttering the numbers until they reached 97. Here he told Rookwood and the brothers to wait and tugged Harry down it, lighting his wand with Lumos and shining it on the shelves, which Harry now noticed had labels affixed to them. He didn't get a chance to read any until Lucius stopped, pointing his wand at one of the glass orbs.

"There. Pick it up, Potter."

Underneath the orb was a label that read:

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.

Dark Lord

and (?)Harry Potter

Incredibly curious now, but also thinking that it was probably bad for Voldemort to have whatever this ball was—the prophecy he mentioned?—he picked it up. It felt surprisingly warm, but otherwise did nothing and seemed to be an unremarkable glass ball. Lucius immediately snatched it from his grip though, sticking it in his pocket and pulling Harry along again. They left as quickly as they came and exited into the hallway to find Bellatrix and Macnair waiting for them over the limp body of a man who, with a jolt, Harry realised he recognised. He couldn't remember a name, but remembered seeing the man bow to him in the street once before he ever knew about magic and met him again in the Leaky Cauldron on his first visit.

He didn't get chance to tell if the man was dead or alive. As a group they all headed for the elevator again, riding it up in terse silence to the atrium—where Harry's heart lifted at the sight of half a dozen people all pointing their wands at the Death Eaters, Snape and Remus among them.

"Bloody Order," Harry heard Macnair mutter, then the Lestrange brothers stepped forwards to throw the first spells and chaos descended.

Harry tried to slip away from the Death Eaters during the fighting, but Bellatrix noticed and grabbed him, not only keeping him from getting away but also shoving him before her to use as a shield. A curse from a tall black man who Harry didn't recognise slashed across his torso and he felt his skin split, blood spilling down his front. It didn't stop Bellatrix shoving him at Lucius and hissing, "Get the boy and prophecy out of here."

Deflecting a curse to smash into the fountain in the middle of the atrium, Lucius grabbed Harry by the arm and started dragging him towards the fireplaces and Apparition points further down the atrium. It wasn't easy, Harry stumbling along with a hand pressed to his stomach, vainly trying to stem the flow of blood and also attempting to squirm out of Lucius' grip, while Lucius defended them from curses thrown their way.

They were almost at the fireplaces and Apparition points when Rookwood went down with a scream as Snape hit him with a curse, and Lucius thrust Harry forwards as Snape ran over. Harry stumbled and fell, landing half in a fireplace, and Snape threw a spell that Lucius deflected.

"Give me the boy, Lucius."

The two men stood facing each other, wands pointed but no curses thrown, and Harry watched, breathing ragged and hoping someone helped him before he bled to death. Despite his previous suicide attempt, with six people who were here to help him he felt hope that he could get away and he didn't want to die before that happened.

"Do you think you can best me, Severus?"

Snape tightened his grip on his wand. "Give me Potter and the prophecy and you can go to Azkaban with all your limbs still attached."

Lucius chuckled. "You are very sure of yourself, aren't you, Severus? But then, you always have been. Tell me—how's the heart?"

A jet of light left his wand and Snape twisted, barely avoiding it but already returning fire with a spell that knocked Lucius' head back as though he'd been punched, sending him staggering backwards to trip over Harry. Harry let out a silent cry of pain as the man landed on him, exasperating the pain of his injury, but he noticed the prophecy fall from Lucius' pocket. Without thinking, Harry snatched it up and then flinched when light flashed past him, slamming into Lucius and drawing a choked cry of pain as his back arched and his arms and legs turned like someone was trying to twist them off his very body.

"Potter, quickly."

Moving as fast as he could, Harry scrambled to his feet, stumbling against Snape and feeling an arm wrap around his back to hold him up. He still had the prophecy in hand and he slipped it into Snape's pocket, figuring it was safer with him than with Harry, and then a spell slammed into them. It missed Harry by a hair's breadth, but hit Snape with enough force to knock him down and Harry was pulled down with him, landing on Snape's chest. Snape gasped and then screamed and Harry rolled off him, staring wide-eyed as thick, boiling black liquid began to ooze from Snape's ears and nose.

"Harry!"

He looked around, caught a glimpse of Remus on the floor, one hand pressed to his blood covered face, then Bellatrix was between them. Harry lunged for Snape's dropped wand, but a hand grabbed him roughly by his robe collar before he could, dragged him to the nearest Apparition point, and Disapparated with a crack.

* * *

Severus stared at the glass orb on Dumbledore's desk. He'd found it in his pocket after he'd been treated for the Burning Oil Curse Bellatrix had hit him with and went straight from Saint Mungo's to the school to show it to Dumbledore. Dumbledore had smiled at the sight of it and Severus barely refrained from hexing the old man; the fact that Potter had managed to slip Severus the prophecy and keep it from Voldemort wasn't worth grinning about when Voldemort still had Potter. Severus didn't like to imagine the punishment Voldemort would inflict when he realised that Potter was the one to keep the prophecy from him.

Lupin sat in a chair beside him, the left side of his face marked by jagged pink scars and his left eye hidden under a simple black patch. Even his werewolf healing couldn't repair the damage caused to his eye during the fight, but when his socket healed enough they would be able to fit him with a prosthetic to at least give him back his sight. Lupin hadn't seemed all that encouraged by the news. Failing to save Potter a second time seemed to have destroyed the optimism that Severus hadn't thought Lupin capable of losing. Severus didn't mention how much it bothered him to see Lupin so dejected.

Dumbledore slid the prophecy off his desk and into a drawer. "I will keep this. For now, I think it's safer here than trying to return it to the Ministry, but I will let Cornelius believe Voldemort has it."

Severus snorted. Dumbledore had been trying to make Cornelius Fudge believe Voldemort was back since the Azkaban breakout, but so far the Minister adamantly refused to believe it. Severus doubted anything would change now.

Dumbledore glanced at him, but didn't comment on his scepticism. "For now, I wish to discuss a new mission with you both."

Lupin lifted his gaze from his lap. "Both of us? But Albus, what about Harry? And the werewolves?"

"I think you'll both agree this is more important than trying to convince the werewolves not to join Voldemort, and it will go towards helping us save Harry when we find where he is. I am not abandoning him," he added loudly when Lupin started to object. "Remus, I understand your feelings. I want Harry back as much as you, but there's only so much we can do when we don't know where he is, and what I want of you both is the most important thing we can do in the fight against Voldemort."

"What is it, Dumbledore?" Severus asked. Dumbledore leant forwards in his chair and rested his arms on his desk, linking his fingers in front of him and looking over his glasses at them.

"What do you know about Horcruxes?"

Chapter Text

Getting fucked by Voldemort while being told that the Burrow had burnt down, Charlie Weasley was confirmed dead, and Bill, George, and Ron were seriously injured, was not how Harry wanted to bring in his seventeenth birthday. Over a year after the fiasco with the prophecy, he was still trapped as Voldemort's consort despite several more attempted suicides, including an attempt to hang himself using a blanket for a noose, smashing his head repeatedly against the wall, and tearing at his throat with his own fingernails. He'd lost all hope of getting away, especially after the news just a few weeks earlier that Dumbledore was dead.

The rest of his birthday was spent being visited by what felt like every single Death Eater coming to give him a 'present'. The Death Eaters who'd been captured at the Ministry the year before where newly freed and they blamed Harry for their arrest so they were particular brutal. There were a lot of new faces Harry had never seen before and he knew Voldemort's ranks had grown since the attempt to steal the prophecy, but the Malfoys weren't there and he supposed there might be a few other Death Eaters he didn't know that didn't come to have a go with him.

By ten o'clock that night, he lay curled in his blankets with his entire body aching and considering another attempt at breaking his head open on the wall. He couldn't try another hanging; after the first, his torch brackets had been replaced with floating candles. His nails were kept cut short so scratching his neck or wrists open would be too difficult. But maybe he could drown himself, he suddenly thought. He knew he couldn't suffocate just by burying his face in his pillow, but perhaps if he stuck his head in the toilet and left it there until he passed out... as long as his body didn't then slip down and free his head from the water, it might just work.

When he could find the energy to move, anyway. For now he would gladly settle for just falling asleep if it meant he could ignore his ravaged body for a little while.

The only good thing he had these days, and it wasn't even that much of a good thing in his books, was that he'd finally managed to learn a little bit of wandless magic. It wasn't much, just the ability to levitate and summon objects, but it was something. He had been careful not to let anyone find out about it though. If, on the off chance he ever had the opportunity, he'd use it to aid his escape, but he wouldn't reveal it before then and lose the only advantage he had.

He didn't look around when he heard the door open and footsteps approach, just sighed and hoped whoever it was would be quick and not too painful.

"Harry?"

He opened his eyes, looking up at the blonde boy crouching by him and hoping the hate he felt was visible in his gaze. Over the past year he and Draco had become sort of friends during the course of several times when Draco requested sessions with Harry, but unless Harry was still dosed with lust potion from someone else using them then they spent the time talking or playing cards. But Harry didn't think he wanted to carry it on now, not after hearing that Draco was the one who'd killed Dumbledore.

"Come to give me a 'birthday present' too, murderer?" he asked, trying to sound angry but only managing to sound tired and bitter.

"Yes, but not what you're thinking." Draco reached into his pocket and, to Harry's surprise, drew out two vials of unfamiliar potions, a wand that wasn't Draco's own, a knife, and a thin sheet of metal about the size of a credit card. He then straightened up and took off his robe; he was wearing trousers and shirt underneath, but he didn't take them off, just held it out to Harry.

"Put this on and drink these."

Harry stared. "What?"

"Put it on. Then you need to break this," Draco said, pointing to the bit of metal.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Harry, please, just do as I say."

Harry almost said no. He always did what everyone told him to and he shouldn't have to do it with Draco bloody Malfoy as well, but he couldn't be bothered to fight. He'd long ago learned that doing what he was told was far simpler. So he sighed, grimaced as he pushed himself up to his knees—sitting wasn't an option right now—and pulled on the robe, then drank down the potions. He was shocked to feel the first ease away most of the aches and pains and the second gave him an burst of energy that stripped away all his tiredness. He gave Draco a questioning look, but the other boy just smiled at him and gestured to the bit of metal. Harry picked it up and snapped it in two and a burst of magic rippled out of it, expanding away from them and through the walls, disappearing through the house.

"What was that?"

Draco smiled. "A device that Snape's been working on for over a year. It destroys all the spells attached to a residence, but only works for someone who lives there."

"Snape?" Harry repeated uncomprehendingly. "Why are you talking with Snape?"

"I'm the spy, Harry. The one the Dark Lord's been trying to find all year?"

"You?"

"Yes. Now come on, I have to get you out. Take the wand and—"

"Out?" Harry knew he was being repetitive but, in his defence, it was late and he'd had a hard day, despite the relief of the potions. "What do you mean out?"

"I mean away from here," Draco said, some irritation seeping into his voice. "Look, I'm the spy. I'm working for Dumbledore, and—"

"You killed Dumbledore."

"Actually, I didn't. We faked it."

Harry just gaped at him this time. Draco snatched up the wand and knife, shoving them into Harry's unresisting hands, and Harry grabbed them instinctively. As he did, noises came from overhead and he looked up.

"Dumbledore and the rest of the Order, plus a load of Aurors, are attacking," Draco explained. "But they needed you to bring the wards down. I'm in charge of getting you out of here safely, so get up and lets go."

He got up, following Draco to the door where the other boy inched it open and peered out, drawing his own wand as he did. Harry was still processing everything.

"They're attacking? To save me?"

"And kill the Dark Lord, hopefully. Snape and Lupin finished their super secret mission about a week ago and Dumbledore's been practically bouncing with glee ever since. With any luck, the bastard will be dead before your birthday's over."

Harry gaped. "The Dark Lord dead?"

"Hopefully."

Harry struggled to process the idea. Over time Voldemort had taken on a form of immortality within Harry's own mind, his constant presence creating the impression in Harry that the man simply couldn't die, that he'd be around as long as Harry would because he was the cornerstone of Harry's world of pain and misery, which seemed unending. The idea that he might actually die—tonight—was one Harry couldn't quite comprehend.

"Right, come on. Stick close to me. Use the knife if the wand doesn't work for you or you can't remember any spells." He opened the door further then paused and glanced back over his shoulder. "And don't stab me in the back."

"Get me out and I won't."

* * *

I should have known better than to hope, Harry thought half an hour later. They'd been unable to get through the fighting to the main doors, but Draco said there was an old servants' exit. They'd headed for it, but been pushed off course and ended upstairs, where they were ambushed. Draco was injured and Harry found himself locked in a bathroom, told by a sneering Walden Macnair to sit tight and wait for the fighting to finish so Voldemort could have a victory fuck. The bathroom had a window, but it was too small to fit through, and he didn't know any spells strong enough to break through Macnair's locking charms.

He had no idea if Draco was still alive; Dumbledore's presence in the house had ousted him as a spy so the Death Eaters were all out for his blood. He'd seen a few familiar faces as well, including Molly and Bill Weasley, Remus, and Professor McGonagall.

It was another half hour before he heard the sounds of fighting stop and another five minutes before the bathroom door swung open. He stood, clutching the knife in his pocket; he'd lost the wand, but amidst adults with far more training and skill it hadn't done him much good anyway.

He tried not to hope that the good guys had won the fight, but he still felt his heart sink slightly when the door opened to Macnair's ugly face. He let go of the knife, knowing it would do him little good against the massive man. If he was lucky, he could keep it with him long enough to have a chance to kill himself. Maybe I should have done that now, he thought as Macnair roughly grabbed him and half-dragged, half-led him through the house, while I knew I had the chance.

They passed dead and injured people as they went, both Death Eaters and others. Harry saw Mrs Weasley among them and managed to squirm away from Macnair just long enough to see she was alive, though unconscious, before Macnair yanked him along again. They passed a decapitated Nagini on the way as well. When they reached the large room where Voldemort held his meetings, he found the uninjured Death Eaters standing around Voldemort and Dumbledore, the latter of which was on the floor. There were splashes of blood on his purple robes, but Harry thought it was from other people rather than himself. He seemed to have died of a Killing Curse, Harry thought, judging by the way he lay limp and unmarked, eyes staring sightlessly at the ceiling.

"H-Harry."

He glanced around. Remus was on the floor to one side, his face marked by old scars and his left eye a gleaming blue next to his normal, amber right one. There was a knife buried in his side which Bellatrix bent down and twisted when Remus spoke, drawing a pained cry from him. Fred and George were there too, which made Harry both glad and afraid, but they looked mostly uninjured, save for the fact that George was sporting several semi-healed cuts along his face that Harry thought might be from the earlier attack on the Burrow. There were others there who were alive; it seemed that all the remaining fighters had been brought in, forced to their knees or dumped on the floor so they could see Dumbledore—and Harry. He was marched towards Voldemort until he was close enough for him to take Harry's other arm, pulling Harry against him while Macnair moved to stand with the rest of the Death Eaters. Draco was there, semi-conscious and leant against his father, who had one arm around Draco's chest and the other clutching his wand, looking angry and afraid.

"Look, Harry!" Voldemort said loudly, glee evident in his voice. "Albus Dumbledore, your esteemed leader of the light, dead at my hand!"

The Death Eaters cheered. Harry closed his eyes, fighting the wave of despair threatening him. Despite all his suicidal feelings and hopelessness, there had still been a tiny part of him that believed as long as Dumbledore was alive then Voldemort would, one day, be defeated. He lost the hope once, but it flared up again with the attack of the Order, and now he was losing it all over again.

Long cold fingers gripped his chin. "Look, Harry," Voldemort ordered. Harry opened his eyes. "See what has become of the man who thought to save you. Ah, and here! Finally I get to face an old traitor."

Harry glanced up and didn't know what to feel as he saw Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange dragging Snape into the room, the Potion Master hanging limply between them but conscious despite the blood dripping from beneath his hair. There was a great deal more covering his robes, but Harry knew it had to be someone else's because there was too much for it be Snape's and he still be alive. They dumped him down in the middle of the room and Snape gasped painfully, but pushed himself up to a sitting position and wiped blood from his face with a shaking hand. It looked like his ankle was broken, but he didn't pay it any attention, instead looking over Voldemort and Harry then glancing around the rest of the room, eyes eventually falling on Remus.

"You alive over there, Remus?"

With obvious difficulty, Remus opened his eyes, opening his mouth to answer but only letting out a yell when Bellatrix twisted the knife again.

"For now," the woman answered Snape with an unpleasant smile.

"So it's true," Voldemort sneered, drawing Snape's attention again. "My how you've fallen, Severus. Working for dead men, adopting whores..." He shoved Harry forwards and he stumbled, falling to his knees by Dumbledore's body, "...sharing your bed with an animal."

Snape said nothing. Voldemort moved forwards, passing Harry and approaching Snape.

"I've been eager to punish you for your treachery, Severus. It will be long and painful, just as it will be for young Draco." He glanced towards the two Malfoys and Lucius swallowed visibly, clutching Draco closer to him. Voldemort sneered, gaze drifting back to Snape. "The only question is how to begin?"

Snape looked at him uncaringly and said nothing.

"What do you think, Harry?"

Harry lifted his head, glancing at Voldemort then looking at Snape, catching his eye and holding his gaze as he said, "Make him hurt."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Voldemort smile. "Now why would you ask that?" he said, feigning ignorance. "Do you hate your adopted father so much, Harry?"

"Why shouldn't I? He was willing to let me die if you spared my mother."

For the first time, emotion showed on Snape's face. He dropped his eyes, mouth tightening and a shameful flush suffusing his cheeks. The sight of it made anger burn through Harry, the despair of his situation taking a backseat to the fact that he was finally confronting the man responsible for getting his parents killed. A year ago Voldemort had told him everything about Snape's involvement; his sixteenth birthday present, Voldemort had said, and delivered, as usual, while Voldemort unforgivingly fucked him to the point of bleeding. It felt kind of good to know that he could ask for pain inflicted on someone else for a change.

"Make him hurt. Make him pay for getting my parents killed, for being willing to sacrifice me and my dad if it meant saving my mum, for being the reason I had to grow up with my abusive Muggle family and spend most of my teenage years getting raped by one person or another." Everyone's eyes were on Harry and Snape now, staring at Harry with surprise and Snape with disgust. "Make him hurt."

Voldemort smiled, aiming his wand at Snape. "I can hardly deny a boy his birthday wish," he said. "Crucio!"

Snape screamed, collapsing to the floor completely and writhing, arms and legs twitching and flailing. Remus choked out his name and reached towards him, only to have Bellatrix stamp down on his arm, snapping the bone.

Harry watched it for ten long seconds before he stood up, drew the knife from his pocket, and before anyone realised what was happening, stabbed Voldemort in the back.

Snape's screams stopped. At first the onlookers seemed to think it was because Voldemort had ended the curse, but then they noticed Harry and silence fell over the room as they all stared at him, too stunned to do anything else. Harry drew the knife out with a squelching noise, Voldemort gave a weak gasp, and Harry stabbed it into him again. Voldemort staggered forwards, falling to his knees and then to his face, and Harry went down with him, drawing the knife out and slamming it in, repeating it over and over until—

"Harry."

It was Snape, speaking quietly but nevertheless breaking through Harry's anger. He pulled out the knife one last time, hands now soaked with blood and Voldemort still and unmoving under him. Breathing hard, he stood up, looking around at the stunned faces.

Bellatrix was the first to react. "MASTER!"

Her wand started to raise, but Harry was faster, thrusting out a hand and yelling, "Accio!"

He didn't specify the object, but his mind was fixed on wands and Bellatrix's leapt from her hand to slam into Harry's palm—and everyone else's flew from hands to knock into him and clatter to the floor at his feet. No one moved and Harry saw fear creeping into their faces now.

"Get on your knees," he ordered. "All of you."

They exchanged glances. Behind him he heard movement and glanced around to see a young woman, no more than eighteen or nineteen, lower herself to the floor. She was the only one, ignoring the hissed order from another Death Eater to get back to her feet.

"You expect us to obey you?" Bellatrix sneered, though she didn't move from her spot Harry noticed. "A whore? I had you on your knees with my fist up your arse this morning, boy."

"And now I have your master at my feet, dead," Harry replied calmly. "I have suffered everything you people have thrown at me for the past two years, but I'm still standing, I'm still alive, and I'm the one that killed your master. You can't kill me. You know you can't. You've seen the Dark Lord try and I got back up again. So yes, Bella, I think that for once in your fucking life you lot are going to get on your fucking knees and do as I fucking say!" he screamed.

For a moment, no one moved, then there was a rustle of robes. Seconds later, everyone but Bellatrix was on their knees.

"I will never kneel to you, whore."

Harry glanced at the wand in his hand, dropped it, switched the knife to his other hand, and took Voldemort's wand instead, pointing it at Bellatrix, who lifted her chin and sneered.

"You think you can kill me with magic?"

"I don't think I need to. Stupefy!"

She dodged and the spell smashed into a window behind her. She lunged forwards, hoping to snatch one of the wands from the pile on the floor, but Snape was faster, grabbing one from the pile and throwing a silent Stunning Spell at the same moment Harry did another. Both spells slammed into Bellatrix, knocking her back with enough force to throw her into the wall.

Harry turned to Snape, Voldemort's wand clenched in one hand, knife in the other. The rest of the room watched and Harry wondered if they expected him to kill Snape, to make good on his request of Voldemort and make Snape pay for his parents' death. The thought certainly crossed his mind. Two years of anger, frustration, and hatred was coursing through him and he found a previously unknown desire to inflict on someone all the pain he's suffered, not even really caring who he hurt. Looking at Snape's face, he had a feeling Snape might even accept it without a fight, but whether it was that or the energy potion Draco gave him wearing off or something else entirely, Harry dropped to his knees in front of the man and let wand and knife fall from his blood stained hands.

"Sir?"

"Potter."

"I'd like to go home now."

Chapter Text

Harry drank down a Gender-bending Elixir, waited for it to take affect then pulled on a pair of knickers, a bra, and a robe, inspecting himself in front of the mirror critically before deciding it would do and picking up his wand—cedar, unicorn tail hair, ten and a quarter inches. He straightened his hair, which eliminated the worst of the trademark messiness and made it just long enough to pull into a half ponytail—it took longer to lose the straightness that way—then he cast a Concealing Charm on his scar before finally swapping his glasses for contact lenses that also served the purpose of making his eyes look brown. He slipped his feet into a pair of trainers, grabbed his letter and keys to shove in his pocket, and left his penthouse suite.

Dressing as a girl was his most effective way of avoiding the press when he was in wizarding society, which, admittedly, wasn't often these days except when he worked. He'd come up with the idea after getting really sick of the constant picture taking and hounding journalists desperate for the story on Harry Potter's life after his imprisonment. He spent a long time hidden away from everyone but Snape, Remus, very occasional visits from Draco, Hermione, and the Weasley twins, and his weekly sessions with Max the therapist. While everyone else had been celebrating the death of Voldemort, Harry had only wanted to disappear; he recognised the irony of it after spending two years locked away against his will, but as glad as he'd been to see his friends, he couldn't bare the pitying looks, the hesitant touches that he flinched away from, or the gap between them that inevitably came from not seeing each other for so long. He needed time to deal with everything that had happened to him and he didn't care what anyone else wanted.

He'd been the one to approach Snape, to both their surprise, but Harry realised he didn't hate the man. He couldn't deny he was angry over what he'd learnt about Snape's involvement in Lily and James' deaths, but Harry had endured enough from people that he simply didn't have the energy to waste hating Snape for something that happened years ago, not when there were far more recent slights against him for him to hate people for. And Harry thought maybe he understood just a little; if he knew someone he loved might die and he could potentially stop it by letting someone he hated die... he might do it to. He could easily imagine sacrificing Bellatrix Lestrange or any number of other Death Eaters who'd raped him if it meant saving the life of Remus, or Hermione, or the Weasleys.

So he'd lived with Snape and Remus at a small house Snape owned, dealing with his trauma while relearning old magic and learning new under their tutelage, eventually taking his OWLs the winter after his nineteenth birthday. He moved out of Snape's house that same winter, converting some of his substantial fortune to pounds to buy himself a large Muggle flat in London with lots of windows high off the ground. Now, after private tutoring from them and some other teachers—he refused to go back to Hogwarts, unwilling to be in classes full of people as much as three years younger than him—he'd taken his NEWTs as well and just that morning received the results.

Midday found him sitting in a cafe in Diagon Alley with a cup of tea and a sandwich, a new pair of cheap sunglasses on his face because he'd left his at the flat, and one foot jiggling impatiently as he waited. It was fifteen minutes and he'd finished his sandwich before someone slid into the chair opposite him, also in disguise though not quite to the degree that Harry was. Draco wore Muggle jeans, a white shirt, and a navy jacket despite the heat—he never went anywhere in public with his arms bared because he didn't trust Concealing Charms to hide the Dark Mark—and his hair was hidden beneath a navy cap. According to Draco, this was his 'slumming it' outfit, despite the fact that every item of clothing was designer label; the mere fact that it was Muggle meant it was lower-class for him.

"You're looking pretty today, Harry," he said by way of greeting, flagging down a server to order a coffee and sandwich.

"Very handsome yourself," Harry replied with a grin.

"I wouldn't dream of being seen with a lady like you in anything less than my best."

Harry stuck his tongue out at him, making Draco roll his eyes but smile nevertheless. "You know I'm joking."

Harry smiled. "Yeah," he agreed, but he appreciated the reassurance anyway. The fact that he was willing and comfortable to dress and go out as a woman didn't change the fact that he was definitely a man. He accepted that when he was out strangers were going to acknowledge him as female, but he didn't want his friends to.

"So did they come?" Draco asked. Harry nodded, digging the letter out and handing it over. Draco took it, opening the envelope and drawing out the folded sheet of parchment inside, scanning the contents with a growing smile.

"Didn't beat me," he said first, handing it back, but added, "but you didn't do badly. You've got the grades to accept any of those Ministry offers you got."

Harry nodded, tucking the envelope away again. "Still don't know if I will, but I can."

"Don't see why you would," Draco remarked as the server brought his coffee and BLT. "You wouldn't be able to avoid attention with the Ministry."

"I know, but I don't really know what I want to do. I suppose I'll just keep working with the twins until I decide otherwise."

Two months ago he'd taken a job at Weasley Wizard Wheezes just to keep busy. The twins had opened their store six months earlier and quickly become busy enough that they needed another pair of hands to help keep them going; they'd happily hired Harry with hardly an interview, but they'd had to ban the press from entering the very next day.

Things had been a little awkward between him and the twins in the first year or so after Voldemort's death until they'd actually sat down together to discuss things. Harry told them that as much as he adored them, he wouldn't be ready for anything even approximating a relationship for the foreseeable future, and he didn't expect them to have been waiting for him anyway, so he didn't mind if they moved on to other people. He did mind a bit when the other person Fred started to move on to was Hermione, but he had to admit to himself that he wasn't sure he would ever want to be with another person again, so when Hermione asked him if he minded her going out with Fred he told her he didn't. After a while, he discovered that it was true and he was happy for them.

"I don't see why you should work at all. You might not be as rich as me, but you've got enough to live off comfortably."

Harry shrugged. "I want to work. I need to keep busy."

Draco didn't need to ask him why.

"Besides, don't you get bored sitting about your manor all the time?"

Draco shot him a disdainful look over his coffee. "Parties, Harry. Clubs. Outings. General socialisation. It's not like I'm always in the house, or alone even when I am."

"Alright, alright, keep your hair on. How's your mum anyway?"

He didn't ask about Lucius, who's still in a cell in Azkaban.

"Possibly mad," Draco told him. "She said I should invite you to dinner."

Harry frowned. "Why does that make her mad?"

"Because we've been friends four years and she's never done it before. Clearly there's something wrong."

"I'm sure she's not mad," he said with a shrug, then a thought occurred to him and he looked at Draco suspiciously. "You didn't mention my girl thing, did you?"

Draco blinked, hand pausing with the last bit of his sandwich lifted to his mouth. "Uh..."

"Draco!"

He grimaced and stuck the sandwich in his mouth, chewing and swallowing. "I'm sorry, I had no choice. Adelaide Greengrass saw us last month at that restaurant in Hogsmeade and she told my mother, who insisted on knowing who my new 'girlfriend' was."

"Well no wonder she invited me over. She's just trying to hook you up with another girl."

"You're not a girl."

"Yeah, but did you actually explain that or did you just happen to mention that sometimes I look like one? Your mother certainly doesn't seem picky about who you marry."

"I don't remember," Draco admitted. "But I'll talk to her, so don't get your knickers in a twist, Harry."

Harry lifted his cup to take some tea, but found it empty and stopped the server as she passed their table to order a fresh cup. "Can't believe you told your mother," he grumbled. "If she lets the press know—"

Draco scoffed. "My mother doesn't talk to the press. It'll be fine, really. But, you know, you could come over for dinner one day if you wanted."

Harry raised an eyebrow and Draco shrugged. "Just a suggestion. Our house elf is a master cook. You wouldn't have to dress up as a girl to see me."

"And you wouldn't have to wear Muggle clothes."

"Exactly. Win-win situation, Harry."

"I'll think about it. Tell me about the date with Connie Quinn."

Draco groaned and Harry grinned, listening as Draco recounted the latest in a line of dates his mother had set up for him. Draco didn't even want to find someone to settle down with yet, but he kept accepting the dates his mother made because, as far as Harry could tell, he was incapable of refusing his mother anything, and Mrs Malfoy seemed incapable of realising that Draco wasn't interested in finding a wife. Whatever the case, Harry didn't tell his friend that he quite enjoyed the entire scenario; he enjoyed the way that even when Draco was complaining about his mother's meddling there was still an undeniable fondness to his tone, and he knew Draco didn't really hate the dates he went on. Most of the time he still seemed to manage to get them into bed with him even if he didn't go on to date them.

Besides, Draco's dates and his recounting them was a part of Harry's life and he appreciated his life these days, especially the good parts. Sometimes he would wake up from nightmares and stare at his ceiling wondering if maybe he should test whether he could die yet; Snape told him that Dumbledore had theorised that Voldemort using Harry's blood to resurrect himself was what had kept Harry from dying when Voldemort used the Killing Curse, by taking a part of Lily's protection into himself and subsequently keeping it alive for Harry, and so he would almost certainly die now. But it was his conversations with Draco, his work with Fred and George, his friendship with Ron and Hermione, his visits to Remus and Snape, and his Sunday lunches at the rebuilt Burrow that kept him from doing it. He had a good life now, despite thinking for a long time that such a thing would never be possible, and no amount of nightmares or bad memories were going to take that away from him.