Silver and Gold
Harry stared at his mended wand; he still couldn't quite believe that it was whole once again. Ron and Hermione were snogging each other in the corner; seemingly unaware that Harry was still in the room. He didn't really mind; he knew they were showing their relief that each of them had survived. Harry felt as if he was a balloon that had unexpectedly deflated. He'd been running on nothing but adrenaline and hope for hours now but as he placed his wand in his back pocket; his stomach growled and Moody's voice seemed to ring in his ears. Better wizards than you have lost buttocks, you know.
Harry removed his wand from his pocket and set it on the desk; a sad frown on his face. So may lives lost, so many injured. Harry's body may have been hungry, but Harry himself had no appetite. Nausea roiled in his stomach at just the thought of food. So many dead, but when Harry closed his eyes, there was only one face that he could see clearly behind his eyelids. Severus Snape. The silver doe. Snape's Patronus - his mother's Patronus.
No one had ever told Harry much about his mother, except that his eyes were hers. There was nothing much about when Lily was in school, not like they'd told him stories of James and his Quidditch and his tricks with the Marauders. Had any of them even known what Lily's Patronus was? Anyone except Snape? Had she been an Animagus as well? There were still so many unanswered questions and Harry's mind went once again to the Resurrection Stone, but he shook his head. He knew that even if he summoned them, summoned anyone; they wouldn't be real, could never be real. The dead were dead and no stone or magic could truly bring them back. At best they would be just shades of their former selves and at worst; he might accidentally conjure Inferi. Harry didn't want to see his mother's lifeless eyes looking blankly out at him.
Snape's memories that Harry had viewed in the Pensieve swam before him again; they'd been so fast moving that it had been difficult to keep track of them. Pensieve memories didn't show you the emotions behind the memories, just the recorded facts. And what had the facts seemed to indicate now that he had time to think about it? That Snape had been in love with his mother? Was that why Snape had seemed to hate Harry so much even as a first year? Had Harry reminded the man of the son he would never get to have with Lily? Or was it the fact that Harry had his mother's eyes sitting in James Potter's face and Severus Snape hurt every time he saw them and realised what he had lost?
Harry supposed it might make sense, except for one thing - Harry had always assumed Severus Snape was gay. Of course, he had no concrete proof either way, but his mind wandered back to the Occlumency lessons of fifth year. To Harry, it seemed that Snape always lingered longest on those memories of Harry where he'd been masturbating or having wet dreams. Would someone one hundred per cent straight linger on those? Maybe he was bisexual? None of it mattered now, though, did it?
Harry still saw the blood and heard the thud as Snape's hands fell to the wooden floor of the Shrieking Shack. Hagrid had gone to recover the body; a lot of people still weren't convinced that Severus Snape was the hero Harry had been making him out to be and had refused to even go and fetch him back. Harry had wanted to go too, but Hagrid had shaken his head. "Yeh've done enough, Harry. We're all grateful to yeh. Yeh shouldn't have to do any more."
Harry had to look away when he caught George's eye. How could George be grateful when his twin was gone? How could any of them be grateful when there was so much death and destruction? Harry didn't feel as if he'd just won a victory. He felt hollow; as if someone had scooped out all his insides and he was filled with nothing but air.
Harry sighed as he thought again of all those who had died to protect him or even just because they'd known him. It all seemed so senseless and unfair. That was war though, wasn't it? And they'd been in a war; there was no doubt about that. Harry wasn't sure whether he wanted to be on his own or be with other people to commiserate with them. He felt pulled in a hundred different directions and he didn't know which way he wanted to go.
He knew if he went to Ginny, she would want some sort of comfort from him over the loss of her brother and Harry knew he couldn't give it. Not when he was feeling so guilty over the deaths already; he couldn't bear her telling him that it wasn't his fault. That sunny birthday spent in Ginny's room seemed a long way away. He'd read somewhere once that the past was a different country. It was, and one he didn't want to revisit. They couldn't go back. Any of them.
Harry lifted up his repaired wand and clasped it with the Elder wand in his right hand. Heading over to the office door, Ron and Hermione were too engrossed in each other to notice, he pushed it open with his left. The spiral staircase started moving as soon as he set foot on it and as Harry reached the ground floor, he saw Ginny waiting by the foot of it. There were no tears; in fact Ginny seemed quite irate about something.
"I've been waiting here for hours!" she yelled before Harry even got a word out. "Why wouldn't the staircase let me up? It let Ron and Hermione up!"
"I don't know, Ginny."
"You should have been with me! What were you doing with them when you could have been with me?"
"I couldn't face anyone."
"I'm not anyone! I'm your girlfriend! I just lost my brother and you weren't there!"
"Ron lost a brother too," said Harry softly.
"Oh? So Ron's grief is more important than mine, is it?" Ginny demanded, tears starting to trickle down her cheeks. It was a relief to see them; but at the same time Harry didn't want her to be crying in his arms either.
"I'm sorry, Ginny," said Harry as he started to walk away. He had to get out of the castle before he went mad. "It's over. We're over."
"Don't you dare! Don't you dare try and break up with me over this!" Ginny screamed. In her anger and her grief, Ginny didn't look pretty. She looked quite a bit like the angry Veela at the World-Cup; her features contorted into something ugly and grotesque as she continued to scream obscenities at him. "You bastard! You utter bastard! After all I did to get you, you're going to walk away?"
The words didn't affect Harry in the least; he wondered if all he'd been through had somehow damaged him in some way; that he could no longer feel normal emotions. The words didn't affect him, but some of them brought him up short.
"What do you mean all you did to get me?"
Ginny paled. "Nothing! Nothing!"
Harry didn't believe her, but he wasn't in the least bit curious either. Let her have her secrets, Harry found he didn't really care any more.
"It's over, Ginny."
"It can't be over! You're supposed to be with me!"
"No, I'm not," said Harry. "I'm supposed to be dead."
Harry shuddered as he remembered that ugly, wailing child he'd seen under the chair. Was that the part of Voldemort's soul his body had contained all these years? Was that why Harry felt so empty now? Would he ever feel whole again? Harry didn't want to dwell on the fact that he felt as if there was something missing, some essential part of him. Who was he now? The Harry everyone had known had contained part of Voldemort; so who was this Harry who'd been left behind?
Harry walked on towards the entrance, Ginny's voice was still following him out but he ignored it. He'd replace the Elder wand in Dumbledore's grave and then take a walk towards Hogsmeade. How long had Hagrid been gone now? Maybe Harry would meet him coming back from the Shack.
Harry had no idea of the funeral arrangements for those who'd been killed in the battle, but he was determined that whatever happened; Severus Snape would be buried with honour too. It hurt; somewhere deep in Harry's chest, when he remembered how distrustful he had been of Snape over the years when all along Snape had been trying to protect him. It didn't matter to Harry that Snape was doing it because he was Lily's son; the fact still remained that Snape had protected him.
During his musings, Harry's feet had taken him to Dumbledore's tomb; the white marble was cracked where Voldemort had desecrated it and Harry felt a shiver down his spine despite the warmth of the evening. He knelt down beside the marble and had to brace himself to push back the slab on top of the tomb. Dumbledore's voice echoed in his head, that there was nothing to fear from the dead. Harry didn't look as he put the Elder wand back to its resting place and replaced the marble. He stood up and cast Reparo so that the tomb was as good as new once more.
As he walked towards the clock tower courtyard intending to head down the path to Hogsmeade, he spied the bulk of Hagrid returning with a body clasped in his giant arms. There were two other figures with the half-giant as well; one seemed to be holding the other one up. It was too dark to make out much beside their shadows.
"Hagrid!" Harry called as he ran over to greet them.
"Harry! Fetch Madam Pomfrey! Quick!" yelled Hagrid. "He's not dead! Snape's not dead!"
Harry ran as fast as his legs could carry him back up to the castle, through the portrait at the base of the clock tower and then it was a sprint up the stairs to the fourth floor and the infirmary. He didn't know whether it was because the castle had been so damaged or just because the stairs knew of his urgency, but they didn't start moving around randomly so that he managed to get to the infirmary in record time.
"Madam Pomfrey! Madam Pomfrey!" Harry screamed as soon as he'd yanked the infirmary doors open. There were people on the beds, but Harry didn't have time to look and recognise them; Hagrid's own urgency making Harry doubly panicky.
"Snape! He's still alive! Hagrid's got him!"
Madam Pomfrey gaped at him for a few seconds, but in an instant she had Summoned vials of potions, bandages, dressings and some sharp looking instruments to her, which she deposited in her pocket. There wasn't any sign of a bulge and Harry was reminded of Hermione's bottomless (or so it had seemed to him) handbag when they'd been forced to go on the run.
"Take me to him, Potter," said Madam Pomfrey as she left instructions with one of the seventh year prefects who'd been helping out in the infirmary. Now that Harry noticed, there were quite a few students who weren't actually in bed injured, but going around the beds helping those who had been.
Harry ran down the stairs; Madam Pomfrey running behind him, her footsteps sounding so loud on the stairs. Once through the portrait and the secret passage leading from the grand staircase, they saw Hagrid leaning over Snape's prone form as he lay on the stone floor of the base of the tower.
Madam Pomfrey conjured floating balls of light and now Harry could see the two figures that accompanied Hagrid. One of them was even paler than Snape, it was a face that Harry thought was familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. He'd seen the man somewhere before, he was almost sure of it. The same could be said of his companion, but no matter how hard he wracked his brains, Harry just couldn't remember.
"How come he's still alive?" asked Harry of no one in particular. "He was dead, I saw him! There was so much blood and Nagini was poisonous!"
"He wasn't dead, he'd just passed out from loss of blood," said the short man with glasses. "He needed blood in him and quickly."
Harry looked at the tall, pale man and suddenly realised who he was. "Sanguini!" He'd seen the vampire and his friend at one of Slughorn's parties last year.
"So Snape's a vampire now?" asked Harry, glancing back as Madam Pomfrey tended to Snape.
Eldred Worple laughed but without any humour in it. "It's so true what they say, isn't it? The Defence classes here are appalling! Of course he isn't a vampire, any more than you would become me if I were to give you a blood transfusion. That's basically what it was; but it was a lot easier for Sanguini to give his blood being a vampire and being a vampire, his blood also has immunity to quite a few poisons. Not this one unfortunately. The only way to become a vampire is to be born one or for the exchange of blood. Sanguini didn't taste of Professor Snape."
Harry looked warily at the vampire; who seemed to be struggling to stay upright and wasn't sure if he could trust what he'd just been told. Maybe Worple was just protecting his friend? As Harry looked closer, he saw the vampire's left wrist had marks on it, but besides the bites from Nagini, Snape didn't seem to have any others. He guessed the vampire's marks were where Snape had fed from him.
There was a cough, a splutter from behind him. Harry turned around just in time to see Snape glance around him in some confusion.
"Dear Merlin, I always knew Hogwarts was hell!" before he promptly passed out.
Madam Pomfrey put Sanguini and Snape in the small private ward off the infirmary. Harry guessed it was because the matron didn't trust the vampire to be as circumspect in a ward full of injured and bloodied patients and it would also help keep the questions from the rest of the castle to a minimum.
Harry sat by Snape's bed while he lay resting as Eldred Worple sat by Sanguini's. After plenty of blood replenishing solution given to them by Madam Pomfrey their pallor had improved considerably, although Sanguini still looked paler than any normal human. But what on Earth was normal? Harry had spent most of his life playing host to part of Voldemort's soul! That wasn't exactly normal, was it?
"I hope your friend will be okay," said Harry. "That was good of him. To save Professor Snape, I mean." Harry knew he was rambling but he couldn't seem to be able to stop his mouth.
"Vampires and others who are different are often discriminated against," said Worple. "Sanguini was born a vampire; but why should we punish the child for the sins of its parents? He has never killed anyone and his donors have always been willing participants. He needs blood, yes, but he doesn't need to kill to get it. No vampire needs to kill in order to stay healthy. Some of them just like it; just like some wizards like it."
"Our illustrious Ministry disagrees, of course," spat Harry, remembering Dolores Umbridge and all her rants about half breeds and purity. Was she still there? Were those laws still going to be in force now that Voldemort was gone?
"That's why we were at the Shrieking Shack," said Worple. "We were hiding out, a half-blood and a vampire. We didn't want to fall prey to the Muggle-born Registration Commission. Of course, they're not just going after Muggle-borns, are they? Merlin, that Umbridge woman is foul, isn't she?"
Harry glanced down at his right hand and the scar that had never faded. I must not tell lies. "Yeah, yeah, she is." Harry stared out one of the long windows, seeing nothing but his own reflection he sighed rather loudly; a snort rose from the figure on the bed beside him.
"Potter. Haven't I suffered enough? Now I'm expected to endure you for all eternity as well?"
"Not for eternity, sir. You're not dead yet."
"I rather gathered that. Which one of my many crimes has landed me the punishment of being stuck with you for a nursemaid?"
"It's not a punishment. I just wanted to be here."
"Why?" Snape asked, struggling to sit up. Harry leaned over and tried to help him. "Potter, what do you think you are doing?"
"I was just trying to help."
"I neither require nor do I wish your help. Please leave."
"Don't you understand English, Potter? Leave. I do not wish to see you. I do not wish to see anyone."
"Now look here, old chap, the boy's been with since you were found. You can't just chase him out like that! He needs to know you're all right!"
Snape glowered at the small man. "If I wanted your opinion, I'd ask for it, Worple!"
"Oh, that's just bloody fantastic, that is! Sanguini and I saved your life and not so much as a thank you!"
"I didn't want saving," snarled Snape. "I was prepared to die!"
"If we hadn't found that Bezoar in your pocket, you would have done! What were you carrying a Bezoar around for if you didn't mean to use it, eh?" asked Worple.
"I had every intention of using it if it was required, but it was never for me." Snape was silent then, his breath coming in ragged gasps and Harry knew that although the man was no longer in danger of dying, he wasn't well either. Harry had his suspicions as to who Snape had intended that Bezoar for. Snape had been spying on Voldemort for years, had never once been suspected of working for the Light. Snape probably knew how Voldemort's mind was working and that he might very well have been tempted to set Nagini on Harry if he wasn't sure any spells would have worked.
"Thank you," said Harry.
"Get out!" Snape screamed, his face red and blotchy.
"I'm going," said Harry. "But I'll be back."
True to his word, Harry returned to Snape's bedside every day the man spent in the infirmary. Two days after Snape had returned to consciousness, Sanguini was discharged and he and Eldred Worple went abroad. It seemed that Dolores Umbridge was still on her "hunt down those who don't fit her concept of purity" routine and there were rioters outside the Ministry in London, calling for her removal. Since Scrimgeour had died, another election was due in the near future and Harry was appalled to read in the Daily Prophet that she was in the running for Minister. Surely no one would be so foolish as to make her Minister of Magic? But then who would have thought she would still have been at the Ministry after what she'd done at Hogwarts either?
Harry brought books which he read aloud to Snape when it seemed the man was having some difficulty in reading the text himself. Snape still suffered from the odd dizzy spell and the even more frequent outbursts of rage directed at Harry, since Harry was his most frequent visitor. Madam Pomfrey tended him of course, but she was so busy with other patients that she didn't have time to read to him or talk to him.
Snape was the worst patient Harry had ever seen. The food was never good enough; the books Harry brought weren't right; his juice was never the right temperature; the room was too dark, too bright; the pillows were too soft, too hard.
By the end of the fortnight, Harry was seriously contemplating throttling the man.
"The pillows are fine!" snapped Harry, at the end of his tether after Snape had done nothing but complain all morning. "I should know, I spent enough time in here!" It didn't help that Harry had just come from Fred Weasley's funeral. He hadn't wanted to go but knew it was expected of him.
"Yes, you always did have a knack for getting yourself into trouble," sighed Snape. "Just like your sainted fath-"
"Don't. Just don't," sighed Harry, setting the book down on the bed and pinching the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses. "I know he wasn't a saint, all right? I know you hated him. I think I even know why you hated him, but can we please just forget that and move on? I am not my father no matter how much I might look like him."
"No," said Snape, looking deeply at Harry for the first time in days. "You have more of Lily in you now."
"Do I?" asked Harry. "Can – can I ask you about her? About her childhood? No one's ever told me anything much about her."
"What do you want to know?"
"Were you really in love with her all these years?"
"Potter, what madness have you got into your head now? I was never in love with Lily Evans. We were just friends."
"But your Patronus was the same as hers."
"Yours is the same as your father's, are you telling me you were in love with him?"
"No! Of course not!"
"And anyway, you've got it wrong. Your mother's Patronus was a doe. Mine was a fawn."
"It can't have been a fawn, it was too big. It wasn't a baby deer."
Snape seemed to weigh his next words very carefully. He sighed and sank back against his pillows.
"No, it was a fawn on the edge of adulthood. A male fawn."
"You mean – you mean your Patronus was meant to be me?"
After Snape's revelation about the Patronus, Harry fled the infirmary and wandered out by the lake. What did it mean that Snape's Patronus was supposed to be Harry? Snape wasn't – he couldn't be in love with Harry, could he? Snape himself said it didn't have to mean that… that he and Lily had been just friends. But Snape had never been friends with Harry. They'd both been antagonistic towards each other for years. Had all of that been a front? Just to put the Death Eaters' children off the scent? That Snape cared for him in some way? Harry sat down by the edge of the lake, gravel crunching under his bum.
Besides himself and the staff, the castle was deserted. All the students had been sent home early and no exams would be taken at Hogwarts this year. The students were free to sit their exams at the Ministry if they desired, or they could return to Hogwarts for an extra year. All the classes would be held back a year due to the disruption the war had caused.
It was very tempting; Harry had decided against it first of all when he thought he might be in the same class as Ginny, but she would still be in her sixth year while Harry would be in his seventh. Ginny had tried to corner him at Fred's funeral, but there had been so many Weasleys there that it had been easy for Harry to slip away when some cousins had started talking to her.
Harry's hand searched for stones to throw into the water. He remembered when Fred had taught him to pick the smooth flat ones that were best for skimming and Harry felt the tears prickling at the corners of his eyes, though he hadn't cried at all at the funeral. It wasn't fair! Fred shouldn't be dead. Or Hedwig. Or Colin. Remus, Tonks, Mad-Eye. Dobby. Poor Teddy an orphan almost as soon as he'd been born. The names and faces blurred as Harry cried and cried, feeling such grief and guilt over so many deaths. His heart thudded madly against his ribs; his throat ached and snot was running down his nose, but still he couldn't stop the tears from falling. He grabbed a handful of stones, not looking to see which were best for skimming and hurled them into the water, howling as he did so.
They shouldn't be dead. None of them. It should have been Harry.
Harry stood up and walked towards the water; he had no Gillyweed this time, but he wouldn't need it.
The water was chillier than he expected despite the sunshine gleaming on the lake and Harry's teeth began chattering before he got very far. He wondered if he should have removed his shoes before wading into the lake, but realised that soon it wouldn't really matter. Clothes and shoes wouldn't matter. Nothing would.
As the cool water began lapping around Harry's knees, he was yanked backwards and pressed against a rather broad chest.
"Harry! What do yeh think yeh were doing, eh?" demanded Hagrid, shaking Harry so hard that he almost fell into the water anyway.
"I was going for a swim."
"With yer clothes still on? Come on; let's get yeh back to Madam Pomfrey. She'll be having words to say about this!"
"No! Please, Hagrid! Please don't tell anyone! I won't do it again!" Harry was sobbing now, taking great gulps of air that made his lungs ache and his head spin. "It's my fault! It's my fault they died!"
"Ssh, Harry. It's not, it's not. 'Twas a war, Harry. People get kilt in wars. It's no one's fault. These things just 'appen."
Harry wanted to believe him, wanted to believe that none of it had been his fault. But then none of them knew that part of Voldemort's soul had been in Harry's body all these years, did they? What would they do if they found that out? Would they be so inclined to believe that Harry was blameless? How could he be blameless? Voldemort had been the Dark Lord and if Harry had part of Voldemort in him, didn't that mean that Harry was Dark too? He must be!
"I should be – d-d-dead!" Harry wailed, turning around and burying his face in Hagrid's midriff. His jeans were clinging to his legs like damp cement and he just knew that if Hagrid wasn't holding him up he would have fallen to the floor. "I'm not supposed to be here!"
"Of course yeh are! Ye're a hero! The Boy Who Lived! And yeh lived again, didn't yeh? C'mon, I'll take yeh back to me cabin and yeh can get out of them wet clothes. We don't want yeh catching cold, do we?"
Harry had little defence against Hagrid's stubborn common sense and he nodded against the giant's chest, feeling too wrung out to do much else. Hagrid scooped Harry up in his arms, despite Harry's protests to the contrary, and brought him back to the cabin by the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Fang barked a greeting, then went back to sleep in the corner by the fire.
Hagrid set Harry down on the bed and started to pull Harry's t-shirt off his chest. "I can do it!" Harry said quickly as he yanked the garment over his head. He had always been uncomfortable about changing in front of people. The Dursleys had been prudish in the extreme and Harry knew his upbringing was to blame, but there wasn't a lot he could do about it. "Hagrid, please, can you turn round?"
"Oh, oh, sorry Harry. Didn't mean to make yeh uncomfortable. I'll just stoke the fire for yeh, get yeh warm in no time," said Hagrid as he poked the fire, his back to Harry. Harry took the opportunity to divest himself of the rest of his clothes and then wrapped himself in the quilt that had been on the bed. He cast a drying charm on his clothes, but they still looked quite wrinkled. Harry never had learned that ironing charm of Hermione's. Maybe girls were better at that sort of thing… and then Harry wondered if that was being a bit sexist.
Harry put on his dry clothes and wandered over to the fire. Now that his clothes were dry, he wasn't feeling as cold any longer, but he thought he'd better stay awhile after Hagrid had gone to all that trouble. Shame made his face heat, much more than the heat from the blaze.
"Harry, yeh know yeh can talk to me if anything's bothering yeh, don't yeh? Yeh haven't been sleeping. Them shadows under yer eyes ain't for nuthin', are they?"
"Nightmares," said Harry, but didn't elaborate. He wasn't sure he could talk about them with anyone. Hagrid was so pure and good, how could he understand? How could any of them understand the Darkness that was in Harry? Harry rubbed at the scar on his forehead; it hadn't ached since Voldemort had died, but it was still there. Still a constant reminder that Voldemort had used Harry's body to house his soul. Harry felt dirty all the time now. He felt soiled in a way he didn't think anyone else could understand. No one except perhaps Professor Snape.
"Harry, I know some people think I'm not much of a wizard and a waste of space an' all, but I can't let yeh go on thinking that things get so bad there's no option but to do yerself in. That's not an answer, Harry. I don't know what I'd do if I lost yeh! Ye're like a son to me, Harry! Me own son!" Hagrid started sobbing so loudly that he woke up Fang and Harry felt his heart sink to his feet.
"I'm sorry, Hagrid. I never meant to hurt you."
"I know, Harry lad. Ye're a good'un, but there's so much death already, we don't need more, do we?"
"No. I'm sorry. I – I have to go. I need to see Professor Snape."
"Aye, there's a good lad. He'll be right pleased to see yeh too."
Harry wasn't so sure of that, but he knew he couldn't stay in the warmth of Hagrid's cabin any longer.
Severus slept fitfully; his sleep had been the first thing to suffer when he'd first joined the Dark Lord as a reckless teenager and his years of spying hadn't helped. Always alert even when he rested, for he knew that to let down his guard was to endanger his life. He wasn't surprised to find Potter in the infirmary when he woke, although he had wondered after the boy had left so suddenly after the discussion of Severus' Patronus.
What was surprising, was that Potter wasn't exactly by his bedside; in fact he was on Severus' infirmary bed, curled up like a sleeping baby, his knees almost tucked beneath his chin. His back was to Severus' but he could hear the boy's soft snores as he rested. About bloody time thought Severus. He may be ill but he was a master of observation.
Potter hadn't been sleeping since the last battle. His eyes were bloodshot and so shadowed that sometimes Severus felt as if he'd been looking at a corpse. Potter's temper had been frayed around the edges, much like the boy had been in fifth year and Severus knew that the nightmares and visits from the Dark Lord's mind had made the boy miss out on so much sleep then too. It was amazing how much lack of sleep affected a person.
Severus didn't dare move in case he woke Potter, for the boy needed as much rest as he could get. Severus knew he hadn't made it easy on Potter by being such an arse, but he kept telling himself it was for Potter's own good, for Harry could never know why Severus' Patronus had been a fawn or why Severus had helped the Light all these years.
Harry Potter had enough baggage to start up his own luggage emporium; he didn't need any more.
"Professor," came a loud hiss from his right. Severus turned his head without moving the rest of his body.
"Can yeh keep an eye on Harry?"
"He's almost of age, I daresay he can look after himself," said Severus.
"He probably can, after being brought up by those Muggles," spat Hagrid. Severus was surprised; Hagrid has always seemed in favour of Muggles and Muggle-borns. "But the thing is, he shouldn't have teh! He needs someone looking out for 'im."
"And why should I be the one to look out for him?"
"Because you both have summat in common."
"Oh? And what might that be? Do enlighten me."
"Yeh both want to die."
"I hardly think being prepared to die for the cause is the same as being suicidal," said Severus.
"What would yeh call it then? 'Arry tried to drown hisself in the lake!"
"What? You mean today?"
"Yes, today. Look after him, Professor. He needs it. And so do you."
Harry slept on for a few more hours after Hagrid left the infirmary and as much as Severus wanted to give the boy a very good talking too, he wasn't going to disturb his much needed rest in order to do so. Poppy came in to give Severus his lunch and his discharge orders, but Severus wasn't leaving until Harry Potter was awake and fully able to grasp Severus' wrath. He hadn't told Poppy what Harry had tried to do; Severus didn't think having Harry locked up in St. Mungo's would help at this juncture. He wasn't sure what would.
Severus had never been a stranger to despair and more than once his mind had wandered to his potions and the ones that would have meant a quick and painless end. But never in his wildest dreams had he considered that Harry Potter might try to take his own life. Especially now that Voldemort was gone and Harry hadn't even needed to use an Unforgivable to do it. Maybe the losses of so many people he knew were affecting Harry more than they'd considered. Grief could do strange things to a man's mind and Severus was determined to get to the bottom of this.
Maybe Harry would like to go and visit his relatives; they were in a safe house the Auror division had arranged but now that the threat of Voldemort had passed they would be able to move back to Surrey. Perhaps Harry was getting homesick, although he'd never shown any sign of that before.
After lunch, Minerva came in to visit. On seeing Harry Potter lying on Severus' bed, her eyebrows rose up so far they almost became part of her hairline. Severus wondered what would have happened if she'd arrived when Severus had still been in the bed. Severus was sitting up and dressed, really just waiting for Harry to wake.
"Severus, I wondered if I might have a word?" asked Minerva, waving to the other side of the room so that their discussion would not wake Harry. Severus was only too happy to move. The less Harry was disturbed the better.
"Of course, Headmistress," said Severus. His own duties as Headmaster had been blessedly brief; it wasn't a job he was suited to. But of course Voldemort had wanted it and what Voldemort wanted, he got. Or at least he had when he'd still been alive.
"I was wondering what you were thinking of doing now," began Minerva. "Horace is quite keen to stay as the Potions professor, so I was wondering if you would care to become the Defence teacher again? The jinx has been lifted now that You Know Who is dead."
"I'll have to think about it, Minerva. I hadn't really given the future much thought to be honest; I didn't think I would survive."
She blushed and then mumbled something.
"Sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
"I'm afraid I owe you an apology as well. For calling you a coward. After all you've done, Severus, I wouldn't be surprised if there was an Order of Merlin for you."
"I have no use for trinkets," said Severus, although he couldn't help feeling a little bit flattered that she would think of it. "Will Horace still be Head of Slytherin?"
"He is enjoying it; but the final decision will be up to me. We do have another opening for a Head of House, as I can no longer be both. A bit of a conflict of interests, wouldn't you say? How would you feel about becoming Head of Gryffindor House?"
"Gryffindor?" Severus spluttered. "Is that a joke? I was a Slytherin!"
"It's not a joke, Severus. Things change and they need to. I thought it was a very good idea myself. Maybe it will help us all get over this enmity once and for all. Or maybe I'll just do away with the Houses altogether!"
"You can't do that! Hogwarts has always had Houses! It's traditional!"
"So was beheading house elves and mounting them on the wall, but we don't do that at Hogwarts either. It's really up to you, Severus. If we don't have four Heads of House, then maybe we shouldn't have Houses."
"I didn't say no, Minerva. You just sprung it on me. Did Albus give you lessons?"
Minerva smiled, as well she might. Severus had never had a real home other than Hogwarts and even if it meant he was to be the Head of Gryffindor House, he was tempted by the offer if he chose to stay.
"Well, have a think about it and if you could let me know your decision by the end of July at least, then if I need to get someone else I'll have some time to do so. It's good to see you up and about. If you don't mind me asking, why is Harry asleep in your bed?"
"He needed the rest," said Severus. They had done nothing wrong, school wasn't in session, Severus was not currently one of the staff and since Harry had not decided whether he was going to continue with his education he wasn't technically a student either.
"I see," she said in a clipped tone. "I wonder if he might not have been happier staying at The Burrow than here during the summer. He's probably a bit lonely." In other words if he wasn't, he wouldn't be spending time with you.
"Thank you, Minerva," said Severus, chivvying her along to the door so quickly that she was out and the door had closed behind her in a matter of moments.
When Severus turned back round, Harry was slowing coming to and rubbing his eyes free from sleep. He fumbled about on the bedside cabinet for his glasses. When he saw Severus glowering at him from the door, his face – already pale – took on a hue more commonly seen in a bowl of porridge.
"Mr. Potter. You have some explaining to do," said Severus without preamble. "What on Earth were you thinking? The lake?"
"Hagrid told you?"
"He had to tell someone! You are a danger to yourself. What were you thinking?"
"Nothing. I didn't want to think," he admitted softly. Severus sat down on the chair by the side of the bed; it was the very chair Harry had occupied for most of Severus' stay in the infirmary. "You're dressed."
"An excellent deduction. I have been given leave to vacate the infirmary; you on the other hand should be tied to that bed and not let out until you come to your senses!"
The young man's lower lip trembled and then the floodgates opened; tears dropped down his cheeks as he fought for breath enough to yell: "What would you care? You hate me! They'll all hate me now!" Harry sobbed, wrapping his arms around his midriff, as if he expected the only comfort would come from himself.
Severus didn't know what made him do it; whether it was just seeing the boy's obvious distress or knowing that he had caused at least part of it, but he got up from the chair and settled himself on the bed next to Harry, wrapping the weeping boy in his arms. Harry's whole body shook as he cried and cried. "Ssh, Harry. It'll be all right. Ssh. Ssh." Severus rocked Harry gently against him, but Harry didn't seem to calm much.
"Harry, no one is going to hate you."
"They will! They will!" shrieked Harry. "He was in me! He was in me! He was inside me!"
"I know, but it's all right now. He's gone, Harry. The Dark Lord won't be able to hurt you ever again."
Harry gasped in surprise. He looked up at Severus, his tears silvery tracks on his cheeks. "You knew I was a Horcrux? That his soul was inside me? And you're still touching me?"
"Dumbledore had suspected it for a long time," said Severus. "He confided as much to me."
"But if he's gone, then who am I?" asked Harry so plaintively that Severus felt an ache in his chest. "I don't know who I am."
"You're Harry," said Severus. "Just Harry."
Harry wasn't sure how long he lay weeping in Professor Snape's arms and he wondered why the man wasn't angrier at him, at what he'd tried to do. The hugs in Harry's life had been few and far between and he clung onto Snape as if he was afraid to let go. His hands were cramping as he clutched at Snape's robes, but Harry still couldn't make himself let go. He waited to be shouted at, berated for his weakness at breaking down and sobbing, but it never came.
Instead, he felt hands caressing his head and Harry had never felt such comfort before as Snape whispered words in a soothing tone. The Dursleys had never done that.
"Harry, now that Voldemort is gone, your relatives can return home whenever they wish. For the same reason, there is no danger if you wish to return to Surrey and visit them."
"No!" said Harry quickly, pulling away from Snape as far as he could get without falling off the bed. "No, I don't want to see them."
"Harry, it's all right. They aren't in any danger; you don't need to fear for their safety."
"I'm of age; I'm never going back there ever again. You can't make me!"
"That's true; I just thought you might like to see them. It might make you feel better. If you were feeling homesick..."
"Homesick? That's what you think this is about? That I'm homesick?" asked Harry. "Privet Drive was never my home. Accio Harry's first Hogwarts letter."
A few moments later, the crumpled envelope and parchment zoomed in through one of the open windows. Harry thrust the letter into Snape's hand. Harry didn't need to read it; he knew what that envelope said.
The Cupboard Under the Stairs.
"I don't understand," said Snape. "What's this about a cupboard?"
"Privet Drive was never my home, Professor. It was my prison."
Severus stared hard at the envelope in his hands. "Is this some sort of joke, Potter? All of these letters are magically addressed when a witch or wizard turns eleven. They will only ever be sent to the proper address."
"It isn't a joke, Professor. That was the proper address."
Severus searched Harry's face for the hint of a lie or the smirk that would suggest this was some sort of prank. It was the sort of thing James Potter would have found funny. But the young man in front of him didn't look as if he was joking and as the years had passed, Harry was looking less and less like James and more and more like the unique individual he was.
"You're not seriously trying to tell me that you lived in a cupboard?"
"Depends on what you mean by lived, I suppose."
"Well, you had a bedroom, didn't you? A bed?"
"For the first ten years I lived there, no I didn't. I slept in the cupboard and I didn't have a bed, only some old blankets. In fact I spent most of my time in the cupboard; they let me out to do chores, but after they were done I was locked back in. At first, they hadn't even told the neighbours about me, but Mrs. Figg must have let the authorities know I was there, as someone from the education department came round wanting to know why I wasn't at school."
Severus couldn't quite grasp what he was hearing. The boy who survived the Killing Curse, who'd defeated Voldemort while still a baby, the Chosen One – locked in a cupboard and his very existence hidden as if he was worthless! Severus realised he'd seen this cupboard before; in Harry's memories during those disastrous Occlumency lessons.
"I thought it was a punishment," said Severus softly. "That you were a wilful child and you were being disciplined."
"Well, yeah, if you call existing being wilful," said Harry in a low voice.
"Why on Earth would they keep you in a cupboard?" asked Severus. Lily had been a generous warm-hearted woman and although the young Petunia Severus had met had seemed most unlike her sister, Severus was sure she would have welcomed her sister's only son with open arms. Severus thought she would have been delighted to discover her nephew was a wizard. Petunia had been in awe of magic, even going so far as to write to Dumbledore to ask if she could attend Hogwarts too.
"I guess they were ashamed of me. I was a freak, wasn't I?"
"A freak? What do you mean?"
"I was a wizard, I could do magic and they hated magic. They hated anything out of the ordinary. They hated magic with the same sort of mania that Voldemort hated Muggles and half-bloods."
"What? But they weren't violent, were they?"
The boy's silence was all the answer he needed. "Dear Merlin," Severus whispered under his breath and sank back in his chair. He had been a spy for the best part of twenty years and he thought his observation skills were what had kept him alive for those years. How could he have missed what was under his nose all this time? How could any of them? How could he have been so wrong about Harry Potter? Far from being the arrogant, pampered prince – the role Severus had cast him in – Harry Potter had spent ten years locked in a cupboard, and who knew what other abuse had gone on at the one place where he was supposed to have been safe!
"You were abused by the people who were supposed to care for you."
"That's none of your business! It's not as if you care, is it? You'll be telling the Slytherins the first chance you get! Let's all have a good laugh at Potter, such a freak that his relatives tried to beat the magic out of him! He's such a piss-poor wizard he couldn't even defend himself against a couple of Muggles! Well, go on then, tell them! See if I care! No one else does!"
"That isn't true," began Severus, but Harry cut across him.
"It is! Where were you lot when Vernon kicked me so hard in the head I was unconscious for four days? Where was the wizarding world when Vernon burned me with the poker then beat me black and blue with it? Where were you all when I was locked in and starved for days at a time? Where were you when they put bars on my bedroom windows?"
"Harry, I'm sure if someone had known..."
"They did! They did!" screamed Harry. "The whole bloody Order knew and still Dumbledore sent me back there year after year, knowing what the Dursleys did to me! Oh, they all pretended to care, but we know what they really cared about – they just wanted me to defeat Voldemort for them! They threatened Vernon at the train station after my fifth year. Do you want to know what he did to me once he got me back to Surrey?" Harry didn't wait for an answer, but yanked his t-shirt over his head and threw it down on the bed.
"Finite Incantatem," said Harry as he waved his hands across his chest so that the glamour disappeared. Severus should have realised that the boy had been using a glamour as soon as he'd seen the smooth, unblemished chest. No one who'd lived for eighteen years could avoid some sort of minor injury or scarring. But what he saw now wasn't minor in the least. Most of the skin was puckered, as if it had been burned and hadn't been treated properly. There were thin, raised scars which seemed to be from a knife or something else sharp. There were raised, red welts as well and on Harry's belly, just above the waistband of his jeans, was some sort of branding. The words were tiny and Severus couldn't make them out. Harry was so thin that most of his ribs were visible.
"What does it say?"
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. It took him three days to do that, I kept passing out from the pain and he wanted me awake to feel it. The Order promised that they would check up on me every three days, but no one ever did. When Dumbledore told me he was going to take me away on my birthday, I didn't believe him. I'd heard all the promises before."
"But he did collect you on your birthday."
"Oh, yes, but it wasn't to rescue me. He just wanted me to persuade Slughorn to take the teaching job. I was never a person to Dumbledore, was I? He knew all along I had part of Voldemort in me, so I guess he didn't care what I suffered. He probably thought I deserved it. Confronting Vernon just made things worse."
Harry recast his glamour and put his t-shirt back on.
"Harry, why today? Why did you go into the lake today?" Severus tried to keep his voice steady.
"I – it was Fred's funeral. That just made everything seem worse."
"You're very close to the Weasleys, aren't you? Couldn't you have told them what was happening at the Dursleys'?"
"Well, Ron and the twins knew some of it; they knew about the bars on the windows and the locked doors but when they told Mr. and Mrs. Weasley; they just said that Dumbledore knew what was best for me."
Anger at the deceased headmaster flared anew in Severus' breast. Albus had asked so much of both of them.
"I'm sorry," said Severus, reaching out to place a hand on Harry's shoulder. He was relieved when Harry didn't flinch away from the touch.
Harry glanced up at him; his eyes shining with unshed tears. "Yeah? So am I."
Snape had told Professor McGonagall about Harry's suicide attempt and she was adamant that Harry shouldn't be left alone at any time. So the dorms were no longer an option for when he left the hospital wing. She'd given Harry a choice, he was either to stay with Snape in the Defence quarters (Snape had accepted that teaching post again) or he was to stay with Hagrid. Harry knew he wouldn't have been able to handle Hagrid's gentle reproaches. Every time Hagrid looked at him these days, his eyes were so sad. Harry didn't want to be reminded that he was the one who had caused such a look in his friend's eyes.
Harry knew he ought to have expected it after what he'd tried to do, but for the next few weeks; Hagrid and Snape both watched him like hawks. The only time he was ever truly alone was when he went to the bathroom, but even then Snape would wait outside the door. If Harry seemed to be taking too long, Snape would give Harry a verbal warning before barging his way in. It was very difficult to try to go to the toilet knowing that the man might come in at any moment. Wanking in the shower was definitely out, although recently Harry hadn't really felt much like doing that anyway.
Sometimes Harry worried what his friends would think about him staying with Snape over the summer, but the truth was that Harry was glad that someone had noticed how depressed he was after everything that had happened. He couldn't confide in Ron how upset he was, for it was Ron who had lost a brother and he felt that Ron didn't need Harry harping on about how awful things were. Ron knew that already.
Hermione had gone to Australia to remove the memory charm from her parents and although she'd written to Harry a couple of times while she was there, Harry had yet to write back. He didn't know what to say that wouldn't reveal his state of mind. Hermione was excellent at reading between the lines. Harry wondered how much she knew of what had happened with the Dursleys. Even though Harry hadn't said anything outright to his two best friends, sometimes Harry had the impression that Hermione knew a lot more than what was found in books.
"You haven't eaten much breakfast," said Snape as he'd said every morning for the past three weeks.
"I'm not very hungry," said Harry, his answer always the same as well. It was true, he had very little appetite these days and he positively dreaded the Hogwarts start of term feast. He'd decided that he would continue at school, basically because he hadn't decided on anything else yet and it was the path of least resistance. He knew he no longer wanted to be an Auror, though; he'd had enough of chasing Dark wizards.
"You've got to eat."
"I'm not hungry!"
"Well, if you think I'm going to stand by and watch you starve yourself, you're wrong. Eat your toast."
Harry lifted up a slice of toast and took two bites out of it before setting it back down on the plate with a defiant glare in Snape's direction.
"Stop sulking, it doesn't suit you."
"So says the man who could sulk for England!" retorted Harry. They were getting on each other's nerves spending so much time together, but Snape refused to leave him alone even for a moment. Harry still wasn't trusted and he knew the professor was right not to trust him. Just this morning, Harry had stared at the bar of soap in the bathroom and wondered how easy it would be to Transfigure it into a knife.
Just as Snape opened his mouth to reply, there was knock on their door. As Snape got up to answer it; he waved his wand over the table to remove all the knives. Harry sighed and slumped down in his chair. How had Snape known that Harry had been thinking of trailing the butter knife across his skin?
"Ah, Severus. Is Harry here?" came Professor McGonagall's voice from the doorway. "He's got a visitor."
"Of course he's here, where else would he be?" asked Snape in an exasperated tone. "Who is it?"
"It's Arthur Weasley. Shall I tell him to come up?"
"I'll open the Floo," said Snape coming back into the room and lighting the fire. Harry pushed the plates around on the table. What did Mr. Weasley want? Had Ginny told him how Harry had avoided her at Fred's funeral? God, Harry didn't need any more people angry at him, but he couldn't think of any other reason why Mr. Weasley might want to visit him.
The fire flared green and Mr. Weasley stepped out into the living room. "Good morning, Arthur. Would you care for some breakfast or coffee? There's plenty left."
Mr. Weasley seemed surprised that Severus and Harry seemed to be sharing the same space, but he didn't comment on it. "Oh, not for me, thanks. I've just had breakfast at The Burrow."
"Very well." Snape sat down at the table and conjured another chair for Mr. Weasley.
"Hello, Harry. How are you?"
Harry shrugged. "Hi."
"Severus, I wondered if I might have a word with Harry alone? It's a rather delicate matter."
Oh, God. It was going to be about Ginny. Maybe Mr. Weasley would kill him and save Harry the bother.
"I will only be in the next room," Snape warned Harry with another glare and headed off to his bedroom.
"Harry, you may have seen in the papers that Dolores Umbridge is running for Minister of Magic."
"Yes, I did read that. Voldemort will have won if she gets to be Minister."
"Exactly, Harry. There are still some factions who think that You Know Who had the right idea about Muggles and half-bloods, so she will have some support. She can't get in. It's just unthinkable. That's why I'm here on behalf of the wizarding world, Harry. You'll be eighteen in a matter of days and will be legally allowed to run for office. We want you to run against Umbridge."
"What?" squawked Harry. "You want me to run for Minister?"
"That's the idea, yes."
"No, Mr. Weasley. I'm sorry. I'm not a politician, I can't do it."
"You see, that's why you'd be so good, because you aren't a politician. You could really make a difference, Harry."
"No, it's not for me. Why don't you do it? I'm sure there are lots of people who would vote for you," said Harry. "I would."
"Me? But I've never thought about anything like that."
"You know so much about the wizarding world, Mr. Weasley. You know what needs to be done; I'd be hopeless. You'd be a much better candidate against Umbridge."
"Do you really think I have a chance, Harry? There's a thousand galleon deposit to run for office, we can't afford to lose that sort of money."
"I could lend you the money," said Harry, thinking of his full vault.
"Oh, no, I couldn't let you do that. We have some savings put by, I'm sure there'd be enough. I'll run it by Molly and the rest of the family, see what they think. Can I mention in my campaign that you're supporting me?"
"Of course you can. I'd be proud to be associated with you, Mr. Weasley."
Mr. Weasley flushed. "Why, thank you, Harry. Very kind of you to say so."
"It's the truth."
"Well, thanks again. Oh, now where did I put it – ah, here we are." Arthur Weasley removed a crumpled letter from his pocket. "It's from Ron, he thought since I was coming, he'd save Pigwidgeon the bother."
Harry felt the guilt coiling in his chest. He hadn't written to Ron all holiday either; this must have been the fourth letter Ron had sent him already. "Um. Thanks."
"I'll be spending a bit of time with Professor McGonagall this morning; if you want me to I can take your reply to Ron this afternoon."
"Right. Okay," said Harry, wondering how he was going to write anything when some days he hardly felt like getting up never mind doing anything else. Harry saw Mr. Weasley out and then sat down on the sofa, ignoring the laden breakfast table. Almost as soon as he was settled, Snape came out of his bedroom and called the house-elves to remove the breakfast things when it was clear Harry wasn't going to eat anything else.
"Was that wise, Harry? Openly showing your support for Arthur Weasley?"
"You were listening?"
"Neither of you saw fit to cast a silencing charm, so it was rather hard to avoid your conversation."
"Not that it's any of your business, but yes I'm going to be supporting him."
"And what about Umbridge? She is still very influential at the Ministry; she could have both of you before the Muggle-Born Registration Committee."
"I don't care. And anyway, Mr. Weasley is a Pureblood.”
“She’ll be after blood-traitors next.”
“I won't let her get away with things like that again. If Mr. Weasley becomes Minister, I'm sure he can fire her. She's awful." Almost absently, Harry ran his left hand over the scars on his right.
"What's that on your hand? Did Dursley do that too?"
"No, that was Umbridge. She had a special quill for detentions."
"She used a Blood-Drawing quill in a school? Well, Harry, you may get your wish and more. Those quills are illegal. Fired from the Ministry? The woman will be lucky if she keeps out of Azkaban."
Severus hadn't eaten much by the time the remains of dinner were cleared away and the dishes of pudding appeared in their stead. It hadn't escaped Severus' notice that Harry had barely touched his meal either. The boy didn't even reach for any of the desserts; Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger seemed oblivious to the distress their friend was in. They had returned to finish school, so too had Neville Longbottom and Parvati Patil. Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas had decided they would rather stay in the Muggle world as long as Umbridge still held a position of power within the Ministry. Severus didn't think it would be long before the woman was ousted; the election was in a week's time and popular opinion seemed to be favouring Arthur Weasley, despite Umbridge trying to pass laws that would forbid Muggle-borns, half-bloods and blood traitors to vote. Severus hoped it was only a matter of time before the woman got sent to Azkaban. She was raving mad and he just hoped the voting populace could see it.
Severus couldn't get the boy's scars out of his head; every time he closed his eyes he saw them hovering behind his eyelids. How could Harry have kept such treatment to himself for so long? As Severus remembered his own childhood, he realised that if he felt ashamed at what his father had done to him, it was probably even worse for Harry. Abusers were clever; they always made it seem as if it was the victim's own fault. Naughty boys have to be punished.
Tonight Harry would be back in the dorms. If Harry was as depressed as Severus thought he was, he didn't think the dorms were the safest place for him. He'd already had an argument with Minerva about it; he'd wanted Harry to stay with him so he could keep an eye on him but she didn't think it would be appropriate now that Harry was a student again. Severus turned his attention back to Minerva as she stood up and tapped her goblet for order; the Hall had been awash with noise as friends caught up with one another after their long summer.
"Good evening everyone. I'd like to issue a very warm welcome to our new students and to those of you who have returned to continue your education. As some of you are aware, the school schedule was disrupted somewhat last year. This mainly affects the students who would have been due to take their OWLs and NEWTs. Since they were unable to do so through no fault of their own, those who were in fifth, sixth and seventh year during last term, will repeat those years."
None of the previous seventh year Slytherins had returned. The last Severus had heard, the Malfoys had moved to France in order to avoid arrest as Death Eaters. The rest of the families he didn't know about.
There was a mumble of dissent at the Headmistress' words and Severus saw Ginny Weasley looking severely disappointed that she would not be in the same year as Harry Potter. She kept trying to catch his eye, but Harry was resolutely staring anywhere but at the Weasley girl. What had happened between those two? Severus felt a weight against his chest as he thought of the two of them together.
"Those of you in younger years, will of course move up a class, so the fifth year classes will be slightly larger this year. If any of you are finding it difficult, we will be setting up tutoring sessions with some of the older students and the staff to help you. Anyone who would like to sign up to be a tutor, please see your Head of House so that things can be arranged. The same goes for any of you who would like to have a tutor. Now, as some of you aware, I was recently made Headmistress of Hogwarts and as such I will no longer be able to fulfil my duties as Head of Gryffindor House. It is with great pleasure that I announce the new Head of Gryffindor – Professor Severus Snape."
There were roars of: "No way!" from both the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables.
Well, Severus had never assumed it was going to be easy.
"Silence!" roared McGonagall. "It is not up to the students to decide who becomes their Head of House. That responsibility lies with me. You will treat all of your teachers with respect. Need I remind any of you what happens when someone thinks they are better than someone else because of their status? We are all magical folk here and we will all conduct ourselves with decorum!
"Now, onto some notices. The Forbidden Forest is out of bounds unless you are accompanied by a member of staff for a lesson or detention. No magic is to be performed in the corridors between classes and Mr. Filch would like me to remind you all to please wipe your feet before coming into the castle. Now all that remains is for me to announce our new Head Boy and Head Girl for this year: they are Harry Potter and Hermione Granger."
There were whoops and cheers from the Gryffindor table and boos and hisses from the Slytherin one. Severus was so glad he was no longer Head of that House. It had been draining trying to pretend loyalty to Voldemort, patting the wannabe Death Eater's on the back and berating everything Harry Potter did in his classes just to avoid suspicion. It had kept both of them alive though, that was the main thing.
As the applause died, Minerva sat down. Severus was on one side of her, Hagrid on the other and they both looked at each other over Minerva's head with the same shocked expression.
"Minerva, you can't be serious about making Harry Head Boy," said Severus.
"Professor Snape's righ', Headmistress, yeh can't be having Harry as Head Boy. Yeh jus' can't."
"I can understand your reluctance to allow Harry such accolades, Severus, but I thought that you, Hagrid, would be very proud that he'd become Head Boy."
"It's not abou' bein' proud, Headmistress! I'm worried about 'im!"
"Worried? Why would you be worried?"
"The Head Boy and Girl are each given their own room!" exclaimed Severus.
Harry stared at the new bedroom he'd been given now that he was Head Boy. It didn't feel like a luxury or a perk. For years he'd been locked away on his own and he had relished coming back to school, back to the dorms and his friends. The room was larger than the bedroom he'd been using in Professor Snape's quarters with an enormous double canopied bed in some sort of dark wood. There were carvings of flowers and centaurs and some other creatures he didn't recognise around the bedposts. The bedspread and the bed curtains were in deep red velvet with embroidered Golden Snitches on them, although thankfully the Snitches didn't seem to be moving.
Harry had his own desk and stool, along with a small wardrobe and dressing table. There was even a plush window seat overlooking the Quidditch pitch. Another door led off to his own bathroom, already equipped with everything he'd ever need. Red fluffy towels on the rails; shampoos, soaps, even a mug with an old-fashioned shaving brush resting inside it and a straight razor lying on the shelf above the sink. Harry wondered who had put it there; maybe one of the elves. Harry normally used spells to shave, but he lifted the razor in his hand.
He stared at himself in the mirror above the bathroom sink and wondered how long it would take. Would anyone come to his room before morning to find him? Ron might, or maybe even Neville and the thought that either one of his friends would have to go through that – discovering Harry bloody and lying on the floor, had him dropping the razor into the sink with a loud clatter. Harry gripped the edges of the sink; his whole body shook. He needed help. He couldn't keep relying on Snape or Hagrid to be there all the time to save him from himself.
It was time he took responsibility for himself. He was eighteen now, legally an adult in both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and it was time he faced up to things.
Harry made his way through the castle with his Invisibility Cloak draped over him and down to the fourth floor. It was with some trepidation that he pushed open the door to the infirmary, remembering all the bloodied patients it had held so recently. Tonight, however, there were no patients, just rows of empty beds and a couple of lanterns alight on the walls.
Madam Pomfrey was nowhere in sight, Harry guessed she might still be in her office or maybe she'd already gone to bed; the Welcome Feast had lasted longer than normal. Harry pulled off his cloak and as he walked towards the office; he saw a sliver of light streaking the floor beneath the door. He knocked on the wood.
There was a scrape of a wooden chair on flagstones and then the matron opened the door to him.
"Harry! I didn't expect anyone so late. Are you ill, dear?"
"Not exactly," said Harry.
"I'm not right, Madam Pomfrey," Harry admitted. "A few weeks ago... I ... I... I tried to kill myself and tonight I thought about doing it again. I need help. I don't think I really want to die."
"Oh Harry, you poor boy!" said Madam Pomfrey clasping her hands over her mouth and in the next instant, she had Harry wrapped up in her arms and was pressing his face against her bosom. Harry hadn't thought he would cry, but the hug was just so motherly, just what he would expect from a mother, that he soon broke down in sobs and just couldn't seem to stop.
"Ssh, Harry. It's all right. We'll get you well. We'll get you well. I promise."
"Now, Harry. As part of your treatment, I want you to take more exercise. There has been some Muggle research done and they've found that exercise can help with depression."
"Really?" Harry asked Madam Pomfrey. For the past week, he'd been seeing the matron after dinner for counselling sessions and although he wasn't sure how talking about things could help; he was glad that he could talk to someone without them berating him for being weak. "What sort of exercise? Quidditch?"
Madam Pomfrey shook her head. "I'm sorry. It would be very irresponsible of me to allow you to play Quidditch considering your state of mind. No Quidditch."
Harry understood; it would be all too easy to fall off his broom and have it seem like an accident. Madam Pomfrey was speaking again.
"Not Quidditch. I was thinking more of exercises like jogging, swimming or weight training, or even a combination of those."
"Weight training? You mean like a gym?" Hogwarts didn't have a traditional Physical Education class that Harry knew of and he wondered if he would get permission to go into one of the Muggle cities nearby to join a gym. "Is there a gym in Aberdeen?"
"There probably is, but you won't need to go that far, Harry. Hogwarts has a gym right here. It's mostly members of staff that use it, but students are allowed use of it if they wish. As it happens, I don't think you should be exercising on your own anyway, especially if you haven't done anything like that before. You need a trainer; I think Professor Snape would be your best bet. I'm not really that knowledgeable about weights and such."
"Oh," said Harry and for a brief moment he had a flash of Snape, bare-chested, muscles rippling as he hefted a bar bell above his head, grunting with the effort. What on Earth had brought that on? Harry had never even seen the man bare-chested. "I can ask him, but he might not want to do it."
"He wants to help you, Harry. I'm sure he'll agree; and if he doesn't, you just send him to me."
Harry giggled at the thought of the professor being raked over the coals by Madam Pomfrey – he knew she'd do it too. It wouldn't matter whether the person in question was a teacher or a student – you didn't mess with the matron if you could help it.
"Now, Harry. Have you been taking the Hearts-ease Potion every day like I told you?"
"And is it helping?"
"A little. I don't feel quite so awful, but I know I'm still not back to myself. I'm not even sure who that is anymore."
"It is a time of adjustment, Harry. Remember, you only had a seventh part of Voldemort's soul inside you, but you had one hundred per cent of your own all along. Your own soul was always the dominant one. I've only given you enough potion for a month, you really shouldn't take it any longer than that. It's best if we can get you feeling better without it."
"But I don't have to stop taking it yet?"
"No, not unless you're having any side effects. Are you getting headaches? Suffering from dizziness? Any nausea, things like that?"
"No, nothing," said Harry. "I still don't have much appetite, but I don't think that's the potion. I just don't feel much like eating."
"And how's your libido?"
Harry blushed, as he had done every time she'd asked that same question. "Still the same. Nothing."
"Harry, I know it's embarrassing to talk about this with me, especially since I'm a woman, but I am not asking these things lightly. Your libido and your appetite for food is one way we can measure your depression. If your libido starts to increase or you start having wet dreams again, it means that you are recovering."
"You won't tell anyone, will you?" Harry asked, wringing his hands together.
"Of course not. Everything you tell me is confidential." Madam Pomfrey glanced down at the watch attached to her apron. "Goodness, it's almost curfew! You'd better get back to your dorm. It's the election results tonight, isn't it?"
"Oh, yeah. I forgot. Ron'll be going spare if I'm not there. Thanks, Madam Pomfrey. See you tomorrow."
"And don't forget to ask Professor Snape about your training."
"Right," said Harry as he reached the door. "Goodnight."
When he reached the Gryffindor common room; it was packed to capacity with everyone trying to angle themselves as close to the radio as they could get. Ron and Ginny were closest, as expected. Hermione was perched on the arm of Ron's chair, all three of them looking anxious. The rest of the Gryffindors were seated on the remaining sofas and armchairs, but most of them were lounging on the floor, some with cushions tucked tight against their chests as Lee Jordan's voice filled the airwaves. It seemed his stint as the main host of Potterwatch had done him in good stead and Lee was now one of the Wizarding Wireless Network's most sought after commentators.
As the clock above the mantelpiece struck ten, one of the first years yelped in excitement. The voting ended at ten and since it was all magically recorded, the results of the election were only minutes away. Hermione spied Harry and gave him a wave; no one was speaking as they waited for the results.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for. By a landslide victory, the new Minister of Magic is Arthur Weasley! Well done, Arthur. Bad luck, Umbridge!"
The whole common room erupted into whoops and cheers, almost drowning out the radio show. "And wait – what's this – our new Minister has just announced that Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt will be the new Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Office. Never one to shirk a duty, Auror Shacklebolt has just arrested Dolores Umbridge, who is protesting quite vociferously. Minister Weasley, can I ask you why Miss Umbridge has been arrested?"
"You can indeed. As well as using Blood-Drawing Quills at Hogwarts School while she was a teacher there, it has come to the Ministry's notice that she accepted bribes from known persons of interest in order to try and pass unfair laws concerning Half-bloods and Muggle-borns. Corruption will no longer be an option in the Ministry of Magic. It will be fair to all magical folk, be they Pureblood, Half-blood or Muggle-born. And by all magical folk, I am of course including all magical creatures as well. The arrogance of human wizards must stop."
"These persons of interest, were they Death Eaters by any chance?"
"I'm sorry; we aren't at liberty to discuss that."
"Very well, Minister. Thank you and congratulations! Would you like to say anything else for our listeners?"
"First, I would like to thank my wife Molly for all her support during this campaign, not to mention the rest of my family and to Harry Potter who supported me wholeheartedly. Without any of them, I don't think I would be standing here talking to you as the new Minister. That will take a bit of getting used to, I think."
"Well, there you have it ladies and gentlemen, our new Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley. Thank you, Minister. And now back to our regular programming."
The strains of Celestina Warbeck filled the room and the cheering drew to a close. Hermione flicked off the radio as Ron jumped up and clasped Harry in a bear hug. "Did you hear, Harry? Dad's the Minister of Magic! The Minister! I can't believe it!"
"He deserved it, Ron. He'll be brilliant."
Over Ron's shoulder, Harry saw Ginny giving him a smile and if Ron hadn't still been hugging him, he got the impression that Ginny would have been over to give him a hug as well. Harry wasn't so sure he could handle that right now.
"I'm a bit tired, Ron. I think I'll head off to bed. That's great news about your Dad. See you tomorrow."
Harry pulled away and headed up the stairs, cries of Harry and wait following him up, but he didn't go back down. There was bound to be a party in the common room and Harry was not in the mood. He didn't want to spoil everyone else's fun just because he was feeling so out of sorts. Someone was bound to notice that he wouldn't be joining in with all of the celebrations despite his support of Arthur Weasley as a candidate.
Harry took out the remainder of his homework, an essay each for Charms and Transfiguration. He'd already done some of it before his counselling session and just had to round things off before he could start getting ready for bed. Harry knew that if he didn't finish the essays now, he would be lying awake all night worrying about getting them finished.
Taking off his robe and pulling off his tie, Harry settled down at his desk; all his quills and ink bottles within reach as he sorted through his parchments to find the essays. One of these days he was really going to have sort out his schoolbag. It was a mess of books he no longer needed, broken quills, scraps of parchment and other detritus that he had just never got round to removing. Over an hour later, he'd finally finished his essays and decided to have a long soak before bed to help him relax enough for sleep.
Madam Pomfrey had told him that sometimes depression could be a cause for insomnia and also the other way round, where he might feel like sleeping longer than he used to. Well, tonight Harry felt wide awake but knew that staying up all night wouldn't do him any good for tomorrow's classes. Having his own bathroom meant he could take a bath or shower whenever he wanted to; that was something good to come out of being Head Boy. What wasn't so much fun were Hermione's meetings, which she seemed keen to call every night. Harry had managed to persuade her down to once a week.
Harry put his homework in his bag and summoned an elf to bring him a mug of hot chocolate in half an hour. He liked having chocolate after a bath and Madam Pomfrey had recommended he ate or drank as much chocolate as he could, it was good for him. Harry certainly had no objections; he loved chocolate. Hogwarts was the first place he had ever tasted any and his mood darkened further as he thought of the Dursleys.
He wondered if they had gone back to Surrey or were still living in the safe house. As long as they stayed well away from him, he didn't care where they lived. Waving his wand towards the bathroom, Harry magically turned on the bath taps and added some lavender-scented foam. He undressed quickly, barely looking at his body; not wanting to dwell on his scars. Once the bath was three-quarters full, the taps turned off by themselves and Harry climbed in, leaning his head against the back of the tub and just letting the warm water soothe him.
He'd already had a shower that morning so he didn't really need an extensive wash, but he soaped up a sponge and washed himself anyway. His hand hovered over his groin for a moment or two, soapy water dripping down onto him from the sponge. It had been a while since he'd even felt like masturbating, but he might give it a try and see if the Hearts-Ease potion had made that any easier.
After a frustrating five minutes of letting his soapy hand glide up and down his cock, he wasn't even at half-mast. His prick just wasn't interested.
Harry wondered if anything to do with sex would ever interest him again.
Severus set aside the last essay from the seventh years. Both Harry Potter and Hermione Granger had received Outstanding on their latest efforts; Severus felt relieved that he could honestly mark Harry as competent in this subject, as Severus knew he was. Potions was another matter; Horace was forever trying to corner Severus and lament that Harry's skill seemed to have gone downhill since the last time he'd taught him. Severus knew the reason for that too; his old Potions textbook was on his own shelf where it belonged and not in the hands of a student. It had been quite Slytherin of Harry to keep using it and not admit to where his new found-skills had come from.
A knock on his office door had him sighing. His pep talk to the Gryffindors had told them that as their Head of House his door was always open to them (or at least it was from the hours of six to eight in the evening). It had resulted in quite a few of them pestering him, just because they could, and with no other reason than that.
He marched over to the door and yanked it open.
"Professor Snape?" Harry Potter stood there and peered around Severus' body at the stack of parchments on the desk. "If you're busy I can see you some other time."
"I've finished my marking, Mr. Potter; come in."
Severus stood aside to let Harry in and waved him to the chair in front of his desk. "Is there something in particular you'd like to talk about?"
"I've been seeing Madam Pomfrey. For counselling. Because of... you know."
Severus did know, but was surprised that Harry had sought out help on his own. He had been thinking of suggesting it to the young man. "I see. That's very good news, Harry. I'm very proud of you."
Harry's mouth opened and closed but no sound came out. It was as if no one had ever been proud of him before, or at least hadn't told him so to his face.
"Um. About that. Madam Pomfrey suggested I take more exercise and um ... she sort of suggested that you could be like my trainer or something because I don't know anything about weights or jogging or things like that."
Dear Merlin, was Poppy trying to drive him to an early grave? Train Harry with weights; see those muscles straining, the boy's chest heaving with effort, sweat dripping down his face. Severus coughed to disguise his growing discomfort. Discomfort wasn't the only thing that was growing, either. Placing his hands flat on the desk so that Harry wouldn't see how much they shook, Severus looked at him.
"Are you serious about this training? I won't have you wasting my time. It's hard work, Potter, I'm not going to say that it isn't. You might find yourself cursing me at every opportunity."
To his surprise, Harry grinned broadly. "I thought you'd be used to that by now, Professor."
"Impudent whelp!" said Severus, but there was no anger behind the words and he found himself smiling back.
"I'm sorry; I would really like you to help me. I promise I'll be respectful."
"There's no need to go that far, Potter. I can't very well train you if I fall down from shock, now can I?"
Two days later, on Saturday morning, Professor Snape stopped Harry in the entrance hall after breakfast and asked him to come to his office as soon as it was convenient.
Ron glared at the Defence professor's retreating back. "He's not giving you detention, is he? You haven't done anything!"
"It's not detention, Ron. It's extra training."
Ron paled so much his freckles all but disappeared. "But – but You-Know-Who's gone, isn't he?"
"Yes, Ron, he's gone. This has got nothing to do with that. It's a different type of training."
"Oh? Like training to be an Auror? Can you get him to give me some extra training too?"
Harry wasn't sure why the thought of Ron or anyone other than himself receiving extra training from Snape was making him feel decidedly queasy. The truth was, he didn't want anyone else to have extra lessons with Snape, of any sort. He had become very possessive of his alone time with Snape ever since the summer. "No, Ron. I've decided I'm not going to be an Auror any more. That's not what I want to do."
"But you have to be an Auror!" protested Ron, glancing at Hermione as if to gather some extra support for his cause. "We were both going to go on to Auror training together and share a flat and everything. Tell him, Hermione!"
"Ron, if Harry no longer wants to be an Auror, then that's his decision."
"So what's all this extra training for, eh?" demanded Ron. "If you're not even going to use it! What's the point in getting trained in combat skills if you aren't even going to be in combat?"
"He's not training me in combat. It's physical training. Swimming, jogging, weights."
"He's making you do exercises? But why?" asked Ron in a plaintive whine. "You'll get enough exercise doing Quidditch. That reminds me, you haven't organised any try-out sessions yet. You are still the captain, aren't you?"
If Ron thought that Harry no longer going to be an Auror was bad news; surely the news that Harry was no longer playing Quidditch would seem like the end of the world. "I'm sorry, Ron. I can't play Quidditch this year."
"What do you mean? Of course you can! You're Head Boy! McGonagall can't ban you from playing Quidditch."
"No, she can't, but Madam Pomfrey can."
"Madam Pomfrey? For medical reasons, you mean?" Ron asked, his brow furrowed as if he was just figuring something out. "And the exercise, that's to help you get better, is it? But Snape, Harry! As if you need to spend any more time with him when you're feeling ill."
Harry bristled. "Have you forgotten everything he's done? Everything he sacrificed in order to help the Light? And Merlin help me if you mention that he's still the greasy git! Grow up, Ron!" ranted Harry as he stalked off towards the staircase and up to the third floor without a goodbye to either of them. Harry knew they couldn’t understand; they hadn't seen those memories of Snape: of everything he'd done to save Harry; to keep on protecting him; spying on Voldemort even though he was risking his life again and again.
Harry had long since stopped thinking of Professor Snape as a greasy git. During the summer holidays, when the man hadn't been spending hours standing over a cauldron, his hair hadn't looked greasy at all. Snape had confided in him that when he was teaching or brewing, his hair was covered with a protective potion which had the unfortunate side effect of making his hair lank and oily-looking. Snape's hair in its natural state wasn't even straight, there was a small wave in it and sometimes Harry found himself wondering if the man would hex him if Harry tried to stroke it.
The stairs were behaving for a change and he found himself on the third floor quicker than he had expected. Harry's heart was beating a frantic tattoo across his ribcage as he made his way to the Defence classroom and then up the stairs to the office. Wiping his sweaty palms on his robe, he rapped twice on the wood. He didn't know why he was feeling so nervous.
"Enter," Snape called from the other side of the doorway. Harry pushed the door open, seeing only one parchment on the desk today. Snape must have finished his marking. The DADA professor waved him into the empty chair opposite his desk and Harry sank into it gratefully. For a fleeting moment, he wasn't sure his legs were going to hold him up as that dark gaze lingered on him. The man had always been so intense.
Snape grabbed a black-feathered quill from its holder and proceeded to scratch something onto the parchment in front of him. "Thank you for seeing me so promptly. I've devised something of a schedule here taking into account your other commitments. When are your Quidditch training sessions?"
"I'm not playing Quidditch this year. Madam Pomfrey doesn't think it's a good idea with... you know."
"Ah, I see. A sensible precaution. You are still attending your counselling sessions?"
"And are you on any potions or other medications?" The quill in Snape's hand hovered over the parchment.
Harry didn't really want to answer that; it felt almost as if it would be admitting defeat to say that he had to take a mood-altering substance just to cope with everyday things that most people handled perfectly well. Like sleeping… Going to the bathroom… Even getting out of bed in the morning.
"It is important, Harry. I need to know; whatever you are taking might affect you physically and then we would have to change our schedule accordingly."
"Hearts-ease Potion and Dreamless Sleep."
"Very well. Neither of those will affect your body; they work on the pleasure receptors in the brain. To start with, I thought we could start with swimming. Swimming will be easier on your joints than jogging, and I hate jogging anyway, so I think we'll skip that altogether. A brisk walk in the hills around the school would do just as well, I'm sure."
Harry wasn't so sure about that, but he was under Snape's tutelage, so he decided not to argue.
"I thought early mornings would work best for us. You don't want to do too much heavy exercise before you go to sleep, the adrenaline will make you more alert rather than sleepy. I thought a six o'clock start with an hour in the gym and a half an hour swim afterwards to help you cool down. Then you'll have plenty of time for a shower before breakfast."
"Sir, I can't really swim very well," admitted Harry.
"Well, I can teach you the basics if you wish."
"Thank you, sir."
"And another thing, Harry. Diet."
"What? But I'm not fat, am I?" Considering Harry could see his ribs, he didn't really think that was a possibility.
"No, no that wasn't what I meant. You need to eat a healthy balanced diet to keep your energy levels up. Not so much sugar, fat or salt, but lots of complex carbohydrates and protein, plus calcium and vitamins."
Harry must have looked at Snape as if the professor was speaking a different language, as not very much of it made sense to Harry. Before, when he did have an appetite, he just ate what food was on offer and was grateful for it.
"Potter, has no one ever told you what constitutes a healthy diet? Not even Miss Granger?"
Harry shook his head; feeling tears prickle at the corners of his eyes. Who would have told him? The Dursleys had starved him when he'd been there and at Hogwarts he just ate what was on offer. There wasn't a Healthy Eating class the same as there wasn't a Physical Education class.
"Very well, leave it with me and I will prepare a diet sheet for you. I'll give it to you on Monday."
"You don't have to do that, Professor," said Harry, feeling guilty that he was putting the man out so much already.
"Do you wish to get well, Mr. Potter?"
"Then yes, I do have to do that."
Severus had always hated staff meetings and even with a new Headmistress that was still the case. Why Minerva felt this need to have everything planned out down to the last detail eluded him and he wasn't prepared to risk asking. Two trips to Hogsmeade as a chaperone in one term were plenty. At least Minerva held all of the meetings in the staff room and not the Head's office.
Severus hadn't been up there ever since he'd discovered the truth of what Harry's life with his relatives had really been. He wasn't sure what would happen if he came face to face with Dumbledore's portrait these days. Could you hex a wizarding portrait? Or would that only destroy the frame? How could the man have just let such abuse go on unabated when he first discovered it?
Whether Harry had housed part of Voldemort's soul or not, no child should have had to put up with such treatment. Harry had been an innocent in all of it; it wasn't as if the infant Harry had wanted Voldemort's soul inside him, now was it? Where were Wizarding Family Services? Why had no one bothered to check up on Harry while he was with those people?
Time after time Dumbledore had led Harry into danger, trying to temper his perfect weapon and Severus felt sick at the manipulations. Both of them had been used. Who was it who'd protected Harry time and time again? Not the precious Order with all their waffle about doing what was best. Not Dumbledore with his twinkling eyes and false smiles. It was Severus who had looked out for the boy and was still looking out for him. Severus. A Death Eater. A torturer. A murderer.
Severus was abruptly brought out of his reverie as Sybill Trelawney rattled one of her many bangles in an effort to gain Minerva's attention.
"I still don't see why we need two Divination teachers. I am perfectly capable of handling all the classes!"
Firenze, who'd been standing at the edge of the room, lifted his face to Minerva. "If I am no longer welcome in this castle, you only have to say."
"You are more than welcome to stay, Firenze. In fact, I would be grateful. It's not that I don't think you're capable, Sybill, but we do have some larger classes this year and I thought you would appreciate the help."
Sybill sniffed and flung one of her gauzy shawls back over her shoulders, almost hitting Severus in the face with it. That would teach him to arrive late to these things. The only empty seat had been next to Sybill. He and Sybill got along as well as oil and water, both of them not forgetting that fateful night in the Hogs Head which had led to the Potters' downfall. Although Severus supposed he shouldn't really be holding a grudge against her for something she was unaware of. Sybill Trelawney still didn't know she was the person who had made the prophecy about a child who would vanquish the Dark Lord.
"Right then, I think that's everything."
"Minerva, I wonder if I might have a word with you in private?" asked Severus as everyone else started gathering up their things and departing.
"My office?" she suggested.
Severus shook his head. "Here will be fine." He waited until everyone else had left before casting strong silencing and warding charms on the door.
"It must be serious."
"I would like to talk to you about Harry."
Minerva paled and clutched a hand to her chest. "He's not... he's not tried it again?"
"No, nothing like that. In fact, I do think he is getting better." Over the past month, with both his counselling sessions with Madam Pomfrey and Severus' training regime, Harry seemed to be coping with things fairly well and had even shared a few jokes with Severus while they were both in the gym. He had stopped taking the Hearts-ease Potion a few days ago but Madam Pomfrey reckoned he still needed to take the Dreamless Sleep for a while yet. Severus agreed; after what the young man had been through, no one could begrudge him sleep that was free of nightmares.
With his training and his new healthy eating, Harry was starting to look more like a normal teenager and not an underfed waif. His muscles were filling out on his chest, his arms and his legs but some of the damage was more permanent. The Dursleys' starvation had stunted his growth; he would never grow as tall as his father. Not only that, because he had suffered years of malnutrition, his bones were as brittle as those of an old man. No wonder his arm had broken so easily in his second year. Normally a bludger hit like that would have meant a sprain, not a break. It was lucky that Madam Pomfrey had been on hand so quickly to undo the damage that idiot Lockhart had caused.
"I wondered what you knew of Harry Potter's home life before he came to Hogwarts."
"Not a lot. Just that he lived with his relatives until he came here, his mother's sister. I was there the night Albus left him on their doorstep."
"Didn't it ever strike you as odd that Dumbledore wanted to hand the Boy Who Lived over to Muggles?"
"Well, of course it did! I said as much to Albus at the time. But he assured me that having Harry stay with them was for the best. That he would be well protected there rather than with a wizarding family."
"He wasn't what?"
"He wasn't protected at that house, Minerva. At last not from them."
"What are you saying, Severus?"
"I'm saying that from the moment he arrived there until the moment he left, Harry Potter was treated appallingly. Do you know what those Muggles did to him? He was beaten, starved, locked in, humiliated and berated time and time again because he was a wizard! Not to mention the mutilations!"
"Mutilations?" Minerva's face, already pale, now turned the hue of day-old porridge.
"He was abused for years and Albus knew all along but refused to do anything about it!"
"Abused? There must be some mistake, Severus. Albus would never have let such a thing continue."
"There's no mistake. Go and ask Albus' portrait if you don't believe me. Or do you want me to summon Potter so you can see his scars first-hand?"
"Harry hasn't got any scars. Well, except for the obvious one. I've seen him undressed in the infirmary enough times."
"Don't be dense. He's been using a glamour ever since he figured out how in his first year. I only saw them because he permitted me to see them."
"Oh, my God! They really did those awful things to him?"
"Yes, they did, but what's to be done about it? They can't get away with it. They have to be punished."
"Yes, Severus. They do."
Harry knew Snape was attending a staff meeting on the Saturday morning, so he wasn't too surprised when he entered the gym and discovered his professor hadn't arrived yet. The gym was in one of the lower dungeons, down below the Slytherin dorms and even below the Potions department. One wall was clear, showing the depths of the lake, but the rest were bare stone like the rest of the castle.
As well as the usual gym equipment of treadmills, weight machines, steps and exercise bikes the gym also housed a small pool which was fed by the lake but kept at a warmer temperature with various charms. Harry had not been very confident in the water at first: there were too many bad memories of Dudley trying to force his head under water, but once he realised that Snape wasn't attempting to drown him he'd relaxed and was now quite a confident swimmer, if not a good one.
Snape didn't want Harry using the weights on his own, or going swimming alone and those facilities had charms on them to make sure that if Harry was there on his own, he couldn't do anything to damage himself. Harry didn't want to waste time though so he decided he'd ride for a couple of miles on one of the exercise bikes until Snape arrived. Their weekend sessions started at eight rather than six but Harry had no idea how long the staff meeting might take.
Harry made his way to the attached changing rooms and set his holdall down on one of the benches before pulling out his shorts and t-shirt along with a pair of ankle socks and trainers. As Harry unbuttoned his shirt; his eyes caught the blue t-shirt on the bench and he couldn't help remembering their last session when Snape had worn a t-shirt as well for the first time. Normally, he had just been wearing a loose dress shirt and ordinary trousers and he was just supervising Harry rather than exercising himself. Instead, yesterday, the man had been wearing a tightly fitted black t-shirt that sort of moulded to his body. The sleeves were short and showed off bulging biceps and it was so tight across Snape's chest that Harry could see every visible muscle straining across it. And there were plenty of muscles! The teaching robes and normal clothes had been hiding a lot.
Harry had found himself staring, unable to tear his eyes away from the man's chest and biceps. While Snape had been teaching Harry to swim, he had been wearing some sort of old-fashioned one-piece that had done little to show off the man's body, covering him from neck to ankle. The t-shirt was another matter. Harry hoped Snape would wear it again today and he had a strange jolt in his midriff as he thought about it. His face heated as he hurried to get changed, hoping against hope that Snape wouldn't use Legilimency on him and discover what Harry had been thinking about.
When Harry came back out; he found Snape already there and oh God, he was already wearing the t-shirt and a pair of jogging bottoms that seemed to cling to his legs. Harry's mouth went dry. What was wrong with him? Why was he noticing these things about Snape? Snape had pulled his hair back into a pony-tail, and it made his cheekbones seem sharper and more prominent.
"Ah, Potter. You're here. Excellent. I thought today we might try you with a bit of extra weight, see how you cope."
"Yes, sir," said Harry, his heart thudding as if they'd been training for hours already. After this session, he was going to have to have a talk with Hermione.
A very long talk.
Severus thought it might help if he joined Harry in his exercises rather than just watching, then he would be less inclined to dwell on Harry's physical attributes now that he was finally getting some flesh on his spare frame. It was a mistake; he noticed Harry even more, especially when Harry always seemed to pick whatever weight machine was opposite Severus. Almost as though Harry was as keen to watch him working out as Severus was to watch Harry.
Severus knew that probably wasn't the case. He wasn't the sort of person young men like Harry lusted after and as for Severus lusting after Harry, well there was no fool like an old fool, was there? Severus sighed and Summoned a towel to him so he could wipe his face free from sweat. His eyes were closed as he did so, when he opened them again, Harry was staring at him. No, not just staring. Gaping, open-mouthed, his eyes wide behind his glasses with only a small rim of emerald around the dark pupils. Harry was blushing, his hands no longer on the weight machine, but hovering in front of his groin. As though he was hiding it.
Severus stared back and he saw Harry swallow, his eyes never leaving Severus' face. Was Severus imagining the sexual tension in the room or was Harry really feeling something too? He lifted the towel to his face again, flexing his arm as he did so, but didn't close his eyes this time. Harry's eyes seemed drawn to his biceps and Severus could almost swear under oath that Harry was biting his bottom lip to stifle a moan.
Severus' cock began to rise and he knew the jogging bottoms would do little to hide the reaction. Harry's eyes glanced down at Severus' groin and the young man did moan a little that time.
"See something you like, Potter?" Severus asked, before both of them spontaneously combusted.
"Yes," he gasped then flushed even more. "Oh, God! I'm sorry!" With that, Harry leapt up and ran for the door, not even stopping to shower or change his clothes. He hadn't had his regular swim either but Severus' didn't mind too much. He'd discovered something much more important. Harry was definitely feeling something for him as well.
The stairs weren't co-operating; Harry ended up on the fifth floor landing, then the third before they finally allowed him off at the seventh floor and he could get to Gryffindor Tower. He didn't care that he was sweaty and smelly and panting like a horse that had just finished the Grand National. He needed to talk to Hermione! Only when he finally got to the common room, Hermione wasn't there.
He glanced at the clock, it was almost ten, Hermione didn't normally sleep in this late, not even on weekends. Ginny was talking to Neville on the two armchairs closest to the fire. As soon as Ginny spotted Harry, she jumped up and almost ran over to him before whispering in his ear. "I like a man all hot and sweaty. Very manly. Is there something I can help you with?"
"No!" gasped Harry, stumbling away from her. "I'm looking for Hermione."
Ginny flushed. "She's probably in the library. What do you want to talk to her for anyway?"
"Private is it? Well, just make sure Ron doesn't catch you snogging his girlfriend."
Harry didn't even dignify that with an answer; it was none of Ginny's business what he wanted to talk to Hermione about. Ginny was the last person he wanted to talk to about this, whatever this was. He left without even thanking her. This time the stairs behaved and he got to the library without too many detours.
Hermione was in the Potions section, a forest of books was spread out on the table in front of her and on a couple of the chairs beside her as well. Her hair was swept up in a bun today, but a few wisps had escaped their bindings and trailed around her cheeks. "Hi, Harry," she said when she saw him, taking some books off the chair nearest to her so that Harry could sit down.
Harry was glad she was indeed in the library and not still at breakfast. The Great Hall was not the best place for private conversations. The library was much better; they were hidden by bookshelves and a hastily erected Muffliato charm soon took care of any potential eavesdroppers.
"Is Ron here?"
"In the library?" Hermione laughed. "No, he's out on the Quidditch pitch, wanted to get some practice in before the match next week."
"Good," said Harry. "I needed to talk to you alone."
"Oh. Shouldn't you be talking to Madam Pomfrey?" A couple of weeks into term Harry had finally given in to Ron's pestering about why he was seeing Madam Pomfrey and why she had banned him from playing Quidditch. Ron still didn't understand why someone suffering from depression shouldn't be allowed to play Quidditch, but Hermione had looked at Harry and without Harry having to say it, she knew. The knowledge was in her eyes. "Oh, Harry," she'd said and hugged him right in front of Ron. Ron had grinned and then hugged him too.
"I'll probably have to tell her later," said Harry. "But I really just wanted to talk to a friend, Hermione."
"God, Hermione, I've gone and ruined everything!"
"With Professor Snape! I'm such an idiot!"
"Harry, calm down. Just take a deep breath and tell me what's happened."
"You know he's been helping me with my training?"
She nodded and waved him on; Harry realised the whole school probably knew about Harry's training sessions with Snape. "Well, he hadn't actually been doing any weights or anything until yesterday, he was just supervising before. But yesterday and today he was wearing this really tight black t-shirt and working out. Really tight – you could see every muscle when he moved and his arms! Oh my God, I couldn't stop staring at his arms! They were bulging out of his sleeves. And then today he asked me if I liked what I saw and I said yes! I ran out of there and found you. God, Hermione, what's going on?"
Hermione giggled a little. "Harry, you mean you don't know?"
"He was flirting with you!"
"Flirting with me? But why?"
Hermione looked Harry up and down; shaking her head as if she couldn't believe her friend could be so dense.
"Oh, Harry. Why wouldn't he want to flirt with an attractive man like you? He fancies you, haven't you noticed? He's always staring at you at meals or during classes when he thinks no one's looking."
Harry couldn't believe that Hermione sounded so... approving. Snape was one of their professors after all. "And from what you've said, it sounds like you fancy him too."
"But I'm not gay!" protested Harry, but even as he said the words he wasn't entirely sure. "Am I?"
"Maybe you're bisexual?" Hermione suggested. "Put it this way, Harry. What gets you more excited? Seeing Snape in that t-shirt or seeing a girl naked?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "Since I've never actually seen a girl naked." The more he thought about it, the more he realised he didn't want to either. It just didn't get his blood flowing as seeing Snape had. There had definitely been some reaction in his cock as he'd watched Snape, nothing as definite as an erection, but there was certainly some excitement there. Is that why he'd always shied away whenever Ginny had wanted to go any further than kissing?
"You are a gentleman, aren't you, Harry?" smiled Hermione. "Not even admitting that you and Ginny slept together."
"I didn't sleep with Ginny," said Harry. "She wanted to, but I never felt ready."
"Is that the truth? Or are you just protecting her reputation?"
"I swear, Hermione. We've never done anything more than kissing and a bit of petting. Why?"
"Because Ginny was spreading it all around the girls' dorms that you did sleep with her. You were apparently amazing by the way."
"What? Why would she make up something like that?"
"I've no idea. She's talked about all her boyfriends."
"So everyone thinks we've been together like that?"
Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "Ron certainly thought so, that's why he thought you were messing her around last year. That you were just after one thing."
"Ron thought that?" Did his friend really know Harry so little? And what on Earth would Ginny have said in the girls' dorms if they had in fact slept together? Harry didn't think girls talked about that sort of stuff to each other.
"I think he's realised by now that Ginny sometimes exaggerates things to get attention. Ron thinks it's because she's the only girl and the youngest. But anyway, enough about Ginny. I want to hear more about Sexy Snape!" Hermione giggled again and Harry could hear the capital letters in her voice.
"There's nothing more to say," protested Harry, his face heating.
"Do you fantasise about him?"
Harry blushed even more. He hadn't in the past, but he had the impression that he would in the future.
"So are you going to ask him out?"
"What? He's my teacher! You're not saying you would condone it if something happened?"
"You're eighteen, Harry. It wouldn't be as if he was taking advantage of you, not if you both wanted it."
"But what about the teacher thing?"
"If the war taught us anything, Harry, it's that life is too short. I don't think he would mark your work any differently if you were together and your exams aren't taken by him anyway. As long as you're discreet and don't start snogging in the middle of the Great Hall or something, I don't see why you can't be together. You've both lost so much; you deserve to find happiness wherever you can."
"Even if it's in Snape's arms?" Harry could hardly believe what he was saying.
Harry was on time for his counselling session with Madam Pomfrey that evening even though he wasn't sure what he was going to tell her. He didn't want to get Snape into trouble, but he wanted to tell her that he thought his impotence might soon be a thing of the past. How could he tell her without mentioning Snape? There were a few patients in the infirmary, but after she'd made sure that they were all resting comfortably and had placed monitoring charms on them, she ushered Harry into her office and smiled broadly at him as she waved him into his usual chair.
"You're looking very well today, Harry," she said. "I don't think I've seen you this rosy-cheeked for a while."
The comment made Harry blush even harder; Harry was sure his whole body was red. "Um... I think I'm getting better. You know... there," Harry explained, waving his hand in the area of his groin.
"Oh, that is good news, dear! And you have been eating well too; Professor Snape's nutrition advice must be helping. How's your training going?"
"Fine," squeaked Harry, hoping she wouldn't ask him any more about it. Harry wasn't sure he could avoid mentioning how Snape was making him feel if she kept on about him.
"Good, good," she replied and took out her wand to scan him and continue the rest of their session. There was no further mention of Snape during the whole session and Harry finally relaxed.
Over the next few weeks, Harry remembered what Hermione had said – that Snape watched him all the time. So Harry started doing a little watching of his own. At meals, in corridors, in class, but most especially during their morning work-outs. Both of them seemed to be aware of the growing attraction between them, but neither spoke of it and when their eyes did chance to meet, both of them glanced away at almost the same moment.
Harry took to getting to the gym earlier and earlier so that he could ride a few miles on the exercise bike before Snape arrived, the other equipment was still charmed against him using it when he was alone. So now when Snape arrived, Harry would already be flushed, sweaty and out of breath. Snape would stare at Harry for a few minutes, as if he liked what he saw, before heading off to get changed.
Snape always wore a tight black t-shirt now. Harry wondered if it was the same one washed time and time again or if Snape had a wardrobe full of black clothes all in the same style; it wouldn't have surprised him if he had. Harry wondered if Snape continued to wear that t-shirt because he knew how much Harry liked it on him, although neither of them had ever mentioned it since that day.
Every morning Snape would take Harry through his weights and exercise regime and every morning they ended up on machines opposite each other. They would watch each other and, if the truth was known, Harry knew they were showing off a bit to each other as well. Harry was fascinated by Snape's arms and Snape always made sure to flex his muscles when he saw Harry watching. For Snape, it seemed that he was enthralled by Harry's thighs, so Harry made sure to concentrate on them when Snape was looking.
On Halloween morning, Harry woke up with sticky sheets for the first time in months; he barely remembered the dream that had left him in this state, but he remembered snippets of Snape touching him, caressing him and Harry knew he wanted that to happen in real life too. But would Snape even want to act on his attraction to Harry considering that Harry was still a student? Or would it be too strange considering how Snape had been friends with Lily? Not to mention how he felt about James.
Sometimes Harry wished that he had been able to love Ginny the way she wanted. They could have got married and had lots of children; he'd have had a ready made family in the Weasleys. But considering his reactions to Snape, Harry knew it was no longer a possibility. He liked men. He liked Snape and he knew it was as more than just his teacher or his trainer.
By the time Harry had a quick wash; he could hardly go down to the gym with semen still coating his thighs, but he couldn't help wondering what Snape would have made of that if he had. Snape was already there, but he was dressed in warm clothes and hiking boots, not his work-out clothes.
"I thought for a change we'd take a walk in the mountains today, Harry. Do you have any hiking shoes?"
"No, just trainers or my school shoes."
"Leave your trainers here while you go and dress warmly. I'll Transfigure them into boots for you."
Harry pulled his trainers out of his bag and handed them to Snape. Their hands connected briefly and Harry felt his skin heat at that brief touch.
"Oh, right. Okay," said Harry, his mind reeling. Snape was asking him to go walking with him? That sounded almost like it was a date, if Snape did such things as go on dates. The stairs seemed to be on his side today and Harry made it back to his room without too much trouble. He hunted out his warmest winter cloak along with his gloves and scarf before heading back downstairs.
Snape had Transfigured his trainers into a pair of black boots with rugged soles. He was holding the boots in his hand when Harry came through the door and he waved him onto one of the exercise benches. Harry sat down and almost gasped when Snape untied Harry's school shoes and removed them; kneeling on the floor as he did so, his hands caressing Harry's foot through his thick woollen socks. His breath hitched as Snape continued for a few more minutes and Harry desperately wanted to know how the man's hands would feel touching his bare skin.
Snape pulled the boots onto Harry before lacing them up and tying a double bow at the top, as the laces were rather long. In his mind's eye, Harry imagined Snape untying the boots; then tugging Harry's socks off with his teeth before he licked Harry's feet. Harry wondered why he had imagined such a thing, for his feet were so ticklish that he didn't think Snape would get one lick in before Harry was squirming away and giggling.
"Ready?" asked Snape, standing up and brushing the dust from the knees of his trousers. Harry nodded, he wasn't sure he could trust himself to speak. Snape Summoned a cloak to him and then picked up a rucksack that had been propped up against the bench Harry had been sitting on. Harry had been so concentrated on Snape that he hadn't even noticed it before.
They made their way outside and to the edge of the school wards. Frost crunched under their feet as they made their way across the lawn to the front gate. The sky was so blue it looked painted and there was hardly a cloud in sight. It was a crisp, clear day but it was very cold. Their breath misted silver in front of them as they continued to walk out through the gates and onto the path that took them in the opposite direction to Hogsmeade.
Harry was in good condition after all their exercises, but after a while of walking so far uphill he began to breathe a bit heavier, although it might have been the altitude. He didn't know how long they walked before Snape suggested it was a good place to stop. Harry had to agree; they were on the crest of a hill overlooking the lake. Hogwarts was like a toy castle perched on the bank and the sun sparkled on the water.
"It's beautiful," breathed Harry, unused to seeing the whole of Hogwarts like this. He turned around to see Snape setting out a picnic blanket and then rummaging in the rucksack. Harry arched a brow at him.
"It seems the elves are as keen as I am to feed you up. When they discovered our morning outing, they wouldn't let me leave the kitchen until they gave me breakfast for us."
A breakfast picnic? Harry grinned at him as he settled himself on the blanket opposite Snape, his back to the lake. It was hard to think of the elves without thinking of Dobby and Harry knew his smile was probably a little forced.
"Harry, it will be all right," said Snape, as if he knew why Harry was suddenly sad today.
"I think I believe you," said Harry. "You've never lied to me. Even when I thought you hated me, you never lied to me."
"I don't hate you, Harry."
"I know." Harry glanced down, staring at the chequered pattern of black and red squares on the blanket.
"Harry, I'm not imagining things, am I? You feel some... attraction to me as well?"
Harry thought briefly of denying it, but what would be the point? He was attracted to Snape; he wanted to do things with him, but wasn't even quite sure what they were. "Yes. I'm sorry."
"Why are you apologising for how you feel? You're allowed to feel, Harry. It's natural. You haven't done anything wrong."
"But I want to do things. With you," Harry admitted in a quiet voice, still not looking at him. Harry wasn't sure he could speak if he felt those dark eyes on him, measuring him. He rambled on before he lost his nerve. "You're going to say something noble now, aren't you? That we can't do anything because you're my professor or something."
"Actually, that wasn't what I was going to say at all. However, the fact that you my student does rather complicate matters. If we are to pursue anything, we would have to be very discreet. Could you handle that? Not even letting your friends know, perhaps even lying to them? Sneaking around so that we could be together?"
"I'm good at keeping secrets," replied Harry softly. "But, sir, Hermione already knows how I feel about you. She knew before I did."
"I see. But Miss Granger is not one who is likely to spread this news around, is she?"
"And Harry, perhaps it's time you stopped calling me 'sir' unless you have a penchant for being dominated in bed."
Harry spluttered. "Bed?" Oh, God! "I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet, sir."
"No, nor was I suggesting it yet. I've had my fair share of one-night stands, Harry. That is not what I want from you. I want us to do this properly, to get to know each other better first." Snape leaned over and grasped Harry's gloved hand in his. "Harry James Potter, would you grant me the honour of Courting you?"
"Courting? You're sure that's what he said?" asked Hermione. The three of them had just come back from Hogsmeade. Hermione was sitting cross-legged on Harry's bed and Ron was in the bathroom so Harry took advantage of having Hermione to himself for a moment to discuss what had happened that morning.
"Yeah, I'm not imagining it, Hermione. That's what he said."
"It's not that I don't believe you, but if he says he wants to Court you, that means it's serious. He's not after some fling or something."
"He mentioned that he wanted to do things properly. So what is this Courting thing then?" Harry swivelled his desk chair a little to the left and then to the right, just feeling the need to do something. He was restless; he'd been restless all day, ever since Snape's talk that morning. Nervous energy was coursing through him; he felt like he wanted to jump up and down to stop his skin from feeling so tight.
"Well, it's really just a more formal way of dating," Hermione said just as Ron came out of the bathroom. He sat down on the bed next to her and wrapped his arms around her.
"Miss me?" asked Ron, nuzzling her neck.
"You were only gone five minutes," said Hermione, giving him a playful slap on the arm. "Stop that, we have company."
"Oh, sorry mate," said Ron with a sheepish grin.
"Ron, you probably know a bit more about the Courting Ritual. Bill and Fleur did it, didn't they?" asked Hermione.
"Yeah, although I think it was Mum's idea, she likes all the traditional stuff like that."
"So what happens if someone wants to Court you?" asked Harry, hoping Ron would think it was just idle curiosity rather than that he desperately needed to know.
"Well, first of all, you get a Letter of Intent. That's to let you know that the person is interested in Courting you. After the letter is sent, you have a week to decide whether or not to accept the Courtship. You have to write a Letter of Acceptance or Rejection once the week is up. If you accept a Suitor, then they will continue to Court you. Give you gifts; take you out on dates, things like that. It's really to see if you're suited to one another. It can last anywhere from months to years, but a Courtship is quite serious."
"Well, let's-get-married-and-have-children-together serious. You don't have to get married to them, but if they are offering a Courtship, it means they're thinking about it."
Harry knew he was going to have to come clean to Ron sometime about his sexual preferences but he was unsure how Ron might react. Sometimes his temper could be a bit volatile. "Harry, are you thinking of Courting Ginny? Because I have to tell you, she's going out with Ernie Macmillan now."
"Ron, no. There's something I've been meaning to tell you. Well, the person who was interested in Courting me. It's not a girl. It's a man. I'm gay." Harry braced himself for the explosion.
"So what was all that with Ginny then? You were just experimenting with her?"
"It was a mistake," said Harry sadly.
"A mistake?" demanded Ron. "You slept with her and now it's a mistake!"
"Ron! Harry never slept with Ginny!" protested Hermione. "Ginny just wanted people to think that."
"Why would she lie about it?"
"I've no idea," said Harry although personally he thought Ginny wanted the kudos of having slept with the Boy Who Lived or the Chosen One. Or maybe she was upset that Harry had rejected her advances. To Harry, it sometimes seemed that she was more interested in his fame than him. "I haven't slept with anyone, Ron."
"Yeah? Well forgive me if I don't believe you!"
"You can check if you want," said Harry.
"Harry, you don't have to prove anything to him!"
"Whose side are you on, Hermione?"
"I'm not on anyone's side, Ron. I just don't think it's fair of you to invade Harry's privacy like that. That purity charm is only supposed to be used with permission. Whether he's slept with anyone or not is none of your business."
"It is if he's been messing Ginny about!" said Ron with a mulish pout.
"Ron, I'm gay," Harry tried to explain. "I fancy men, men's bodies. I just wasn't interested in doing things with Ginny or Cho, but I didn't realise why until recently. I just thought I was a bit of a late bloomer. Girls don't make me hot. Think of you and Hermione. Now imagine you were doing those things that you've been doing with Hermione with me instead."
Ron's eyes widened. "Mate, you're my best friend, but no offence, I don't want to be snogging you and... and..."
"Well, that's the same way I feel about Ginny. She's a friend, and that's all she can ever be for me."
"I think I get it," said Ron. "So how long have you known you were gay?"
"Oh, about two weeks," said Harry and almost as soon as he said it the three of them burst into giggles.
Harry was surprised that Ron wasn't more curious as to whom Harry's Suitor might be, but Harry was glad of it. The less people who knew about he and Professor Snape the better. He knew Hermione wouldn't say anything; she probably knew the rules of the school backwards and Harry guessed it probably wasn't the done thing to have a relationship with one of your teachers. However, when Harry caught Snape's gaze as the three of them took their seat for the Halloween Feast; Harry knew he didn't care about the rules. He wanted to be with Snape and if he had to sneak around and break rules to do so, then he was going to do it.
The enchanted ceiling was overcast with dark clouds tonight, only a few sprinkled stars flickered through small gaps in the clouds. Live bats fluttered around the Great Hall and instead of the usual floating candles, carved pumpkin heads hovered above the tables and aisles. Halloween had always been emotional for Harry especially since he'd discovered that his parents had been murdered then. He noticed Snape and Hagrid were both watching him, as if expecting him to do something to harm himself tonight.
Harry hadn't wanted to do anything like that for a while. Madam Pomfrey's counselling was helping. It was good to be able to talk to someone about anything and know they weren't going to judge you or second-guess what you should be feeling just because you were the Boy Who Lived or the Man Who Defeated Voldemort. But Harry knew that probably he would never be fully well. Some days he felt worse than others, but he was having more better days now than he used to. Madam Pomfrey never belittled how he was feeling or that he should be feeling something different. He knew she wasn't going to allow him to play Quidditch any time soon but she was thinking of reducing their sessions down to two or three times a week.
Aware of Snape's eyes on him, Harry made sure to eat a decent dinner and although he would have quite liked seconds of dessert; he put his spoon down when he'd finished his first portion of treacle tart. He skipped the toffee apples altogether but giggled along with Hermione when Ron started on his fourth. Harry wondered if Ron had hollow legs, for despite his large appetite, Ron was tall and lean with hardly an ounce of fat on him. Where did he put all that food?
As the Feast drew to a close and everyone started making their way back to their dorms, Harry hung back until the teachers started dispersing as well. Harry followed Snape out of the Great Hall and was pleasantly surprised when he was pulled into an alcove behind a suit of armour flanking the doors. Snape's cheeks were flushed with colour as he handed Harry a cream envelope with his name on the front.
"I don't think I need to remind you to open this missive in private, do I?"
"No, sir. Thank you." Before he lost his nerve, Harry stood on tiptoes and pecked him on the cheek. Snape stared at him and rubbed at his face, as if not quite believing what had just happened. Harry smiled as he took his leave and all but ran up the stairs to Gryffindor Tower. Harry bypassed the small party in the common room and locked himself in his bedroom, casting the strongest locking charms he knew on his door.
He yanked off his robe and toed off his shoes before settling down on the bed in the remainder of his clothes. His heart was hammering fit to burst as he slid his thumb underneath the wax seal and got ready to read the letter.
My dearest Harry,
I have never been one who wears my heart on my sleeve or who has written romantic poetry. My talent lies in Potions. I have no skill with a pen or an artist's brush, but when I look at you, I wish I had.
I wish I could draw a portrait of you and when I see your smile and how it makes your eyes glow I want to capture the moment forever. Your smiles have been rare, but they are all the more precious because of it, and when one is bestowed upon me I feel like a prince (although I imagine I look more like the frog of the fairy tales.)
I am not a rich man, nor a handsome one, so what can I offer you? You have been through so much and throughout it all you have never once faltered, your courage and your bravery shows in everything you do. I won’t ask to be your protector, for you are a powerful wizard in your own right and hardly need protecting, but I can help you. Let me share your burdens and your joys. Let me look after your heart to keep it from harm, as I'm hoping you'll look after mine.
I had found the world to be a cruel place until I met you. I had lost hope; you gave me hope, Harry. You made me feel again. I want to close my eyes and see the world through yours, for I know with you it will be wonderful.
If you feel the same way, please accept this as my Letter of Intent to Court you.
Harry set the letter on his bedside cabinet before his tears smudged the ink. No skill with a pen? He would have to disagree with Snape there, the letter was beautiful and he'd felt both happy and sad at the same time as he read it.
There was no doubt in Harry's mind and he wasn't going to make the man wait a week for his answer. Harry wandered over to his desk and took out quill and parchment.
As he usually did, Harry sat next to Ron in Defence. But this lesson was far from usual. It was the first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson since Severus had sent him the Letter of Intent and Harry had replied with his Acceptance. Harry's hands were shaking as he took out his textbooks and quills. Hermione glanced over at him and gave him an encouraging smile. Why was he so nervous? Harry knew that he and Severus both felt the same. It wasn't as if their feelings were unrequited.
Severus' dark gaze swept the room but he only lingered for a few seconds on Harry, as if he was afraid that his feelings might be discovered by the other students. "Today, we will be practicing the Patronus Charm as it often comes up on the NEWT exams. Mr. Potter, would you come to the front of the class and demonstrate the Charm, please?"
The seventh year Defence class was small. There were no Slytherins at all and only a handful of people from the other Houses had returned for their NEWTs. Dean and Seamus hadn't come back even though Dolores Umbridge was now out of office; they'd settled back into the Muggle world. As Harry walked to the front of the classroom, he felt the weight of so many stares on his back and could almost imagine the thoughts. Snape, choosing Harry for something? Being polite, even?
Harry stood next to Severus, trying his best not to stare at him, which was difficult, considering how much he wanted to get lost in the man's gaze.
"Wand out, Mr. Potter."
Harry removed his wand and readied his stance for the Charm.
"Now, as most of you should already be aware, the Patronus Charm is used to deflect a Dementor attack by conjuring a shield which will prevent the Dementor from feeding on the wizard's emotions. It can only be produced by a strong, happy memory. Rest assured, we will not be practicing on real Dementors during lessons. Mr. Potter's boggart turns into a Dementor, so we will see how he deflects it. Although not a real Dementor, the Patronus Charm will still work if conjured correctly."
Severus pointed to the chest at one side of the room and Harry was transported back to third year when Remus Lupin first taught him the Charm. He swallowed the lump in his throat. Harry took a deep breath when Severus magically opened the chest and the Dementor boggart slid out. Only it didn't stay as a Dementor for long. The boggart swirled, grey smoke obscured it for a moment and then it became something else. Something that until that moment Harry didn't know he feared: Severus and Draco Malfoy locked in a passionate embrace. "Riddikulus!" Harry barked and the boggart changed to an image of Draco Malfoy snogging Filch before it flew back into the trunk.
The rest of the class was chattering animatedly and Harry wondered if he'd gone and blown everything before they'd even started. "An interesting fear, Mr. Potter," Snape drawled, "I would find kissing Mr. Malfoy a rather stressful event as well."
The rest of the class burst out laughing, the situation was defused and no one seemed any the wiser. "Very well, we will have to do without the Dementor. Everyone come to the front, push the desks back and let's see how many of you can cast your Patronus. Remember, you need a strong happy memory and you need to keep your concentration."
There was a scrape of wood on stone as people pushed desks and chairs out of the way so that they could have a clear floor to practice on. Ron, Hermione and other DA members gave Harry a knowing grin; this was so reminiscent of their practices in the Room of Requirement. Harry grinned back and they all yelled, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!" at the same time.
Silver animals exploded out of the ends of their wands and as Harry glanced at Severus with a broad smile on his face, he could see that Severus looked gobsmacked. It seemed like Severus hadn't expected so many of the class to be able to conjure a real Patronus straight away. After a few moments the Patronuses disappeared as there was nothing for them to fight and no messages to send.
"Excellent work," said Severus and the whole class beamed at him. It was like he was a different teacher, now that there were no Slytherins to report back to Voldemort what Severus was teaching in class.
"Sir, how do you send messages with a Patronus?" asked Ernie Macmillan, his hand in the air.
"Your Patronus is an extension of you. If you wish to send a message to someone; you just think of what you want to say and who the message is intended for. A Patronus message is the most secure way to send a message as it can only be received by the intended recipient. Unlike an owl it cannot be intercepted nor can it be overheard if the Floo network is being monitored."
"And our Patronus animal, is it like our Animagus form?" asked Parvati Patil.
"No, Miss Patil. They can sometimes be connected, but a Patronus will take the form of something that is unique to the individual or special to them in some way. Some Animagi will find that their Animagus form and Patronus form is the same, but it is not always the case. Your Patronus form can also change over time, whereas a wizard who is a cat Animagus will always be a cat Animagus."
The bell rang for the end of the lesson. "For homework, I want an essay on the mating habits of Dementors. At least twelve inches, and Mr. Weasley, I do not want to see your handwriting so large that there is barely a paragraph on each page. That is why your last essay earned such a low score. I expect better from you in future."
Ron blushed, but he nodded as he put his books away.
"Class dismissed," said Severus, waving them on their way. He didn't call Harry back and Harry guessed he was trying to be discreet after the debacle with Harry's boggart. As Harry caught up with his classmates on the way to Charms, he heard them discussing the lesson.
"It was brilliant!"
"Just like the DA!"
"I hope we do more on Patronuses, they're so cute, aren't they?"
"Snape's mellowed a bit, hasn't he?"
"He's not spying any more. He was on our side all along."
As Harry went into the Charms classroom, he couldn't keep the grin off his face. It seemed he wasn't the only one who approved of this new Severus Snape.
Harry spent a productive two hours in the common room finishing his homework; just enjoying the ebb and flow of the conversations as they happened around him. His essays on the mating habits of Dementors had him thinking of other matings and for the first time in ages he felt himself getting an erection. He shoved his books back into his bag and held it in front of him as he made his way upstairs to his room.
It was lovely not to have to worry about privacy. As soon as he was in, he cast his silencing and locking spells on the door just in case anyone might overhear him. When Harry turned around to face the bed; he saw there was a small white box tied with a green bow sitting in the middle of it. Harry grinned and bounded over to the bed like an eager puppy; he knew who that present must be from.
There was a small card tucked into the bow with just the initials S.S. on it in an elegant script. Harry lifted the card and kissed the signature before putting it with the Letter of Intent in his bedside drawer. Harry undid the bow and lifted the lid off the box. Once he'd lifted the lid the box expanded to its full size and Harry was staring down at a crystal chess set which sparkled with reflected light. It was gorgeous, but it looked so delicate.
Harry gently lifted out each piece and set them down on the bed. The chessboard at the bottom was made from glass, with a checked pattern of clear and etched glass to take the place of the white and black squares. He carried the board over to his desk and carried each piece over individually as well. For a while Harry just stared at it, awed at the gift Severus had just given him.
Harry cast an unbreakable charm over it before heading off for his shower. His erection had faded somewhat as he'd sorted out his gift but with the rush of the water and the anticipation of what he might be doing in the shower, his prick perked up again. Harry undressed and put his dirty clothes in the linen basket before stepping under the hot water.
He moaned in bliss as the water cascaded down his neck and back; washing away all the tensions of the day. Except for one. His cock was rock-hard and Harry decided to try and wank first in case he lost the erection again, that had happened before. He slicked up his hand with some orange shower gel and rubbed up and down on the shaft. God, that was good! The scent of oranges wafted around him and Harry inhaled deeply; the scent was adding an extra dimension to his arousal. It had been so long since he'd been able to do this, since he'd been able to enjoy this, and he was determined to make the most of it.
Did Severus do this too? Was he in his shower now, imagining Harry doing the same? Harry closed his eyes as he imagined Severus' hands on his body. Harry left off his prick for now and trailed his hands along his collarbone, pretending it was Severus' hands caressing him. He shivered with desire and moaned again. His whole body was trembling and when Harry pinched both his nipples he almost slipped on the floor of the bathtub. "Ahh!"
He used one hand to brace himself on the tiled wall ahead of him as the other wandered back to his cock, so much slicker now with precome and the water. His balls ached, they felt so full and heavy and Harry knew it wouldn't take him long at all to come. Teasing was all well and good, but he was getting beyond that now. His breaths were coming in ragged gasps and he felt the familiar ache low down in his belly and at the base of his cock.
Harry thrust into his hand, rubbing and thrusting at the same time, eager now to reach completion. His legs were trembling, his mouth was dry and his heart was hammering as if he'd just finished a race. His cock was throbbing like a second heartbeat. A few more thrusts and the orgasm erupted from him in pearly white ropes. "Ohhhh GOD! OHHH! OHHH! Sir! Sir!" Harry shrieked as pulse after pulse of semen left his cock and was washed away by the shower water. His vision swam with the intensity of his climax.
Harry leant his forehead against the tiles as he got his breath back and tried to will his legs to stop shaking as the aftershocks tore through him. A few moments later he was feeling okay to continue with his wash and he started whistling in the shower.
As Harry climbed into bed, freshly scrubbed and sated, he had to smile when he realised what he'd said. Even in the throes of his passion he'd still called Severus 'sir'.
Severus Apparated onto the back lawn of Arabella Figg's house. The autumn evening was drawing in; the sun was low down on the horizon and there was a sharp chill in the air. Arabella was expecting him, standing by her open back door, wrapped up in a winter coat, scarf and gloves. "Professor, come in," she said, moving aside so that he could enter the house.
Severus had seen the woman's house in Harry's memories during Occlumency lessons, but seeing the memory could not prepare him for the overwhelming smell of over boiled cabbage, cats and dirty litter trays. He almost gagged at the stench. There were cats sitting on the sofa, on the armchairs, curled up in front of the fireplace; some were asleep, some yowling madly as they curled around Arabella's and Severus' legs. "Shoo, Misty," she waved at a tortoiseshell kitten who padded off in the direction of the hallway.
There were hundreds of photos of cats on the walls; it was almost as if the room had been wallpapered with them. Severus shuddered; he never did like cats and hoped his visit wouldn't take too long.
"I was a bit surprised to get your letter, Professor," she said, shooing the cats off the sofa and inviting him to sit down with a wave of her hand. Severus remained standing; he could see the cat hairs against the fabric of the sofa and didn't want them on his clothes. "No one has ever asked me about the Dursleys before or how they treated that boy. They weren't interested. It was like he was just left there and forgotten about until he was needed."
"An oversight I intend to remedy. They can't get away with it. How long did you know they were abusing Harry?"
"Well, for a start, no one on the street even knew there was another boy living there until he was about seven. The Dursleys started leaving him with me then when they wanted to go on holiday without him."
"What did they do before that?" For Severus couldn't imagine that the Dursleys would forgo their holidays for six years just because they didn't want to take Harry with them. Had Harry ever been on a holiday?
"I believe they left him with Vernon's sister, Marge, but she refused to look after him any longer so that's how he ended up staying with me. When Harry turned up to stay that first time; he was dressed in these dirty, tattered hand-me-downs far too large for him and he was as thin as a wraith. He was supposed to be staying with me for three weeks, but those were the only clothes he had with him. Here he was all alone in a strange house and they didn't even leave him a teddy bear or a favourite toy!"
"They only ever gave him his cousin's broken toys," said Severus. "If any."
"That doesn't surprise me. When I took him upstairs for his bath, I couldn't believe the amount of bruising he had on him. It was as though someone had used him for a punch bag. I firecalled Dumbledore straight away but he refused to take Harry away from there! He refused! Something about blood wards because of Lily's sacrifice and that Harry was better off where he was. How could any child be better off there? I should have insisted that something be done. That poor boy."
"Is that why you contacted the Muggle authorities?"
"Partly, but it was mainly because Harry hadn't been to school. He couldn't read or write or count; the Dursleys never bothered to teach him anything except cooking and housework. I wanted to tell them about the abuse I suspected, but Harry wouldn't talk about it and told the social worker that he'd fallen. Without his evidence, there wasn't a lot they could do. I think Harry was too scared of what his uncle would have done if he'd talked. I don't think he understood that if he did tell them what Vernon had done, they might take him away from the Dursleys altogether."
"He's been talking about it now," said Severus. "But Harry is a very private man; I don't think he would want this knowledge made public. However, the Dursleys abused him for years and got away with it. I need your help to change that, Arabella."
"My help? What can I do? I'm a squib!"
"You’re also their neighbour. You know the enemy as it were. What would make them squirm?"
"Well, I know that Petunia is a snob; she puts great store in what other people think. Public humiliation would ruin them. Something that would get in the papers, perhaps even on the national news. Something they'd never be able to live down."
"Hmm," said Severus. "Something that would humiliate them but not invade Harry's privacy. I'll need to think about that. In the meantime, I think I need to pay them a little visit. A couple of spells should do it."
Arabella smiled and shook his hand. "I always knew there was a reason I liked you, Professor."
Severus walked along Privet Drive, shuddering at the sight of all the boxy houses. His own childhood home had been a small terraced cottage and he'd hated it. Hated the fact that the neighbours were always spying on each other, the twitching net curtains gave him nightmares to this day. It was the same on Privet Drive. As he made his way down the street there were the residents pulling back their curtains so they could have a good view of the stranger. Frost sparkled on the pavement in the orange glow of the street lamps as he made his way to number four.
There were two large silver cars in the Dursleys' driveway; the driveway itself was swept clear of the golden leaves that decorated some others, as if they couldn't bear any sort of untidiness, even in nature. Severus rang the doorbell, the tinny sound of Rule Britannia echoed inside the house.
A few moments later the door was opened by a large man who resembled a walrus rather than anything human. Folds of fat quivered on his short neck; his forehead was beaded with sweat despite the coldness of the day and he was panting like a racehorse.
"Yes?" he barked out. "I'm not changing my religion and we don't want burglar alarms or double glazing, so if you're selling something you can just clear off now!"
"I'm not selling anything, Mr. Dursley. It might be best if you invite me in, otherwise your neighbours will be wondering why you're talking to a wiz–"
Vernon Dursley yanked Severus forward by the lapel of the Muggle jacket he was wearing and slammed the door hard behind them.
"How dare you! How dare you freaks keep harassing us! I'll go to the police, I will! They'll soon sort you out!"
"Go ahead, Dursley, and while you're there perhaps you'd like to tell them about the abuse Harry Potter suffered at your hands?"
"Abuse? Abuse? Who the ruddy hell do you think you are? Coming into my house and making unfounded accusations! We took in that freak and we looked after him! Fed him, clothed him and gave him a home!"
"You never fed him, at least not properly. The only clothes you gave him were your son's cast-offs and he never had a home here, he had a prison with locked doors and bars on the windows."
"What's he been saying, eh? What has that fucking freak been saying? He's nothing but a lying, good-for-nothing freak! If he was here now..."
"You would what, Dursley?" asked Severus dangerously. Vernon seemed to sense the threat for he didn't answer.
"Vernon, who is it? Why are you shouting?" asked Petunia Dursley as she entered the hall, drying her hands on an apron. She stopped short in the doorway leading to another room, a kitchen Severus guessed from the dusting of flour on her cheeks. "You!" she gasped.
"You know him?" demanded Vernon, turning round to his wife.
"He was that Snape boy. They lived a few doors down from us and he was always sneaking around, spying on us."
"I see you remember me, Petunia."
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm here about restitution."
"What? They're finally going to pay us some money for looking after the Potter brat?" said Vernon, rubbing his hands together in greed. "About time something good came out of all this. Do you know how much he cost to bring up?"
"Very little I should imagine, considering you did not feed him very often, nor did you buy him any clothes or school books. There were no expensive birthday or Christmas presents either. I am not here to pay you any money, Dursley. I'm here to make restitution on Harry's behalf."
"Eh? What do you mean?"
"I'm here to avenge Harry," Severus removed his wand and smiled cruelly when he saw the flicker of fear in their eyes. How much fear had these two caused to Harry over the years? Every night Harry had spent in this house he'd been alone and in pain, seeing no way out.
The spells were cast in quick succession. When nothing seemed to happen, both the Dursleys seemed surprised that they hadn't been tortured or worse.
"What did you do to us?" snapped Vernon.
Severus roamed his gaze over the fat man in front of him and made a snort of disgust. "For your greed, Dursley, you will eat and eat and eat, but you will never find satisfaction. Like Harry through all the years he spent in this house, you will always be hungry. No matter how much you eat, that hunger will never abate."
"And me, what did you do to me?" asked Petunia, horror-struck, her hand to her throat.
"Since you were so enamoured of magic as a child, but yet punished Harry for his magic, you will now be able to sense any magic, anywhere. You will sense it and you will yearn for it, but you will never know what it is you yearn for and it will never be fulfilled. Both of you will lead lives that will never satisfy you; you will never be happy no matter what you have. Obliviate!"
Severus left the two of them standing there, glassy-eyed and incurious as he made his way out the door. Once on the path he heard Vernon's booming voice. "When's dinner, Petunia? I'm starving!"
Severus smirked to himself. It wasn't nearly enough to make up for what they had done to his Harry, but it was a start.
It was still strange to come down to the dungeons for Potions but have Horace Slughorn take the lessons instead of Severus. Sometimes Harry had to do a double-take when he entered the Potions classroom and saw Slughorn, his hands clasped over his ample belly as he smiled jovially at everyone and waved them to their seats. At least Potions was now the last class on a Friday rather than first on Monday morning. It was hard enough sometimes just getting out of bed without having double Potions first thing.
Slughorn wasn't such a fan of Harry's now that Harry didn't have the Half-blood Prince's book any more to rely on. Consequently, although his efforts weren't as atrocious as they used to be; they were nowhere near as good as during sixth year. It also meant that Harry was spared any invitations to Slug Club parties and he didn't miss them in the least.
Harry's lab partner was Ernie Macmillan; Slughorn had paired the class up earlier in the year. For most of the past few lessons, Ernie kept apologising to him for – as he saw it – stealing Harry's girlfriend. Since Harry and Ginny had broken up long before Ernie was on the scene, the apologies got a bit wearing after a while.
"Hi, Harry," said Ernie as Harry took his place beside him by the workbench. Harry would have much preferred to have been partnered with someone else, even Neville, and considering how hopeless Neville was at Potions, that was saying something.
At the front of the classroom, Slughorn rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet; he broke into an excited smile and clapped his hands together with glee. "Well now, everyone, a thrilling potion for us today! We're going to be attempting to make the Felix Felicis Potion! What do you say to that, eh?"
"Cool!" said Ron.
"The instructions and ingredients are on the board. Remember to read through them carefully; you must add the ingredients in the correct order, otherwise who knows what might happen? It's a very volatile potion that often comes up on the NEWT exam, but because of the nature of the potion you will not be asked to sample it during your exams!" He guffawed and held his belly as tears of mirth dripped down his cheeks.
The class exchanged wary glances with each other; Slughorn was acting even weirder than usual today.
Harry read through the instructions three times just to make sure he would get it right. If things went wrong with potions, they tended to go spectacularly wrong and he for one did not want to be on the receiving end of an exploding cauldron or worse today. It would soon be the weekend – Severus was taking him to London on Saturday; their first official date as a Courted couple and Harry could hardly wait.
He took a few deep breaths as he made his way to the storeroom; daydreaming about Severus in Potions was not the best way to concentrate. It was difficult though when everything in the classroom reminded him of its previous occupant. All the storage jars still had Severus' handwritten labels on them; the room was laid out exactly as it had been when Severus had been teaching. There were even some of his old aprons and work robes hanging up in the storeroom and before Harry was even aware of what he was doing, he was caressing the dark, woollen fabric and wishing Severus was here now. When Hermione came in, he dropped his hand as though the clothes had burned it and was just relieved it was his friend who'd caught him and not anyone else.
"Harry? Are you all right?"
"Yeah. Just a little distracted," said Harry. "It's our first date tomorrow."
"Oh! That's wonderful! You must be so excited!"
Harry grinned at her. Excited didn't even cover it.
"Hey, what's taking you two so long?" Ron asked as he reached the storeroom. "Slughorn'll think you've come in here to snog or something."
"Nah, I'll leave that to you, Ron," said Harry as he gathered up his ingredients and left them to it. It was another ten minutes before Ron and Hermione emerged; both of them looking rather red-faced and with swollen lips. Harry wondered what it would be like to kiss Severus; somehow Harry didn't think Severus' kisses would be as disappointing as the ones he'd shared with Cho and Ginny.
Harry grinned at his friends, who blushed even harder at that, and took stock of his work space. He set everything out in the order it was to be added to the potion and made sure all his equipment was clean before he started. Even a speck of a dust on his knives could have disastrous consequences if it got mixed into his cauldron.
For the next hour Harry was engrossed at his worktable: he chopped and diced, poured and stirred, his mind filled with nothing but the potion he was brewing. He could sometimes see the fascination; it was interesting to put so many disparate ingredients in a cauldron and come out with something new. In that way it was like cooking and although the Dursleys had made Harry cook so much when he was younger, Harry enjoyed it as long as he got to eat what he cooked. Which had never usually happened at Privet Drive.
It was as if time had stopped; there was no past, no future. Just the now and the potion that was bubbling and turning golden, like it should. Little drops arced over his cauldron and Harry was surprised when he heard Slughorn behind him.
"Excellent, Harry! Well done. I never expected anyone to be able to make it on the first attempt!" Slughorn turned to Ernie who was just about to add Puffaseed pods to his mixture, but his bubotuber pus was still sitting on the bench.
"No, Ernie!" Harry cried, but he was too late. The pods dropped into Ernie's cauldron, making it rattle ominously.
"Get down!" Harry shrieked, lunging for Ernie and toppling him to the floor. There was a loud bang as the cauldron exploded and Harry's back was scalded by the boiling contents, even through the layers of his clothes. He screamed again, a scream of pain this time as it felt like the skin was being flayed from his bones. He could hear hisses and sizzles as the potion ate through his clothes and his skin.
There were screams of 'Harry!' from all around the room.
"Mr. Weasley, Mr. Granger, take Mr. Potter to the hospital wing at once!" Slughorn ordered.
Harry could do little besides groan as his two best friends helped him up. He could smell burning flesh and dreaded to think what his back looked like.
"Mr. Macmillan, are you hurt?"
"No, sir. Harry saved me."
"Very well. For not paying attention to the instructions, you will serve detention all weekend! Because of your ineptitude your classmate could have been killed!"
"I'm all right," protested Harry but moaned again as pain shot through him. Well, maybe not all right, but he certainly wasn't at Death's door.
Ron took hold of one arm and Hermione the other as they led Harry out of the dungeons and up the stairs towards the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey was waiting for them at the double entrance doors. "Professor Slughorn sent a message by Floo to expect you," she explained on seeing their puzzled expressions. "Can you lie down on the bed for me? Face down."
Harry couldn't climb onto the bed, his limbs had turned to water as soon as his friends let go of him and if it hadn't been for Madam Pomfrey's levitation spell he would have slid to the stone floor.
"Your body's going into shock. Burns can do that sometimes."
She kept Harry hovering in the air for a few moments while he heard the rattle and clink of potions bottles as she gathered them all up from the storage shelf next to her office. Once that was done, she gently lowered Harry to the bed so that he was lying on his stomach and not on his burnt back. It was awkward trying to drink the potions, but he managed it.
"I'm going to numb the area first before I even attempt to put the salve on, Harry. The potion has eaten right through to the nerves and underlying tissue. I can see some bone as well; you're going to be in here for a while until everything grows back. You'll be at a high risk of infection until the skin is renewed. I will put some salve on the minor burns, they should heal in a few days and then we'll get you started on some regenerative potions. Miss Granger, can you go and see Professor Snape and ask him if he has any left of his stocks? We have no regenerative potions in the infirmary at the moment; it's not something we usually need."
"Shouldn't I ask Professor Slughorn, Ma'am?" asked Hermione.
"The man may be useful at teaching Potions, but he is not a full Potions Master. I'd prefer to trust my patients' health to Professor Snape. His medicinal potions are the best in Europe."
"Professor Snape. Definitely," said Harry, suddenly feeling very drowsy. "Spell," he mumbled. "Silent spell."
"I'm sorry, Harry," said Madam Pomfrey. "But you won't want to be awake for this."
When Harry awoke, he was still lying face down on one of the infirmary beds. It was dark outside, a sliver of moon visible through the window. A drip was attached to his left arm and making the skin on the back of his hand itch where the needle was embedded. Lanterns were lit all along the room so it was difficult to see anything else outside except for the room's reflection. Harry was no longer wearing his school uniform; he had on a pair of pyjama bottoms but nothing except bandages on his top half. Although he was lying on top of the covers; he wasn't cold and nor were his feet. Usually in the colder months in the castle he had to wear socks in bed to stop his toes feeling like icicles. Madam Pomfrey must have cast a warming charm over him.
Harry turned his head and glanced out the window, seeing the room's reflection again. "Severus!" Harry hadn't noticed him before; his head was still a bit fuzzy from the potions and spells Madam Pomfrey had cast on him. Harry tried to arch his head around so he could see his intended, but Severus placed a restraining hand on Harry's upper arm.
"Ssh, Harry. Don't move. You'll undo all of Poppy's hard work. How are you feeling?"
"A bit spaced out, but I'm not in pain any more. At least, not my back."
"Did shrapnel from the cauldron hit you anywhere?"
"I don't know, I can't remember. But my stomach aches. Maybe it's just because I'm lying on my front and I can't move. I'm sorry, Severus."
"You had our weekend all planned and now I've gone and ruined it."
"Harry, you haven't ruined anything! I'm just so glad you're okay. I've had a word with Horace and he's agreed with me that you are competent enough not to need a lab partner for the rest of the year. You will have your own workbench and will not have to put up with the idiocy of the likes of Ernie Macmillan! I could strangle him! Seven years of magical education and he still couldn't follow a simple instruction! If that had been my class..."
"It was a mistake, Severus. He didn't do it deliberately."
"A mistake? A mistake that could have killed you!" Severus sounded so angry, but underneath it Harry recognised another emotion: fear. Severus had been terrified that he might have lost Harry. In the window behind his bed; Harry could see Severus' face high with colour.
"I'm all right, Severus. Madam Pomfrey thinks I'll be fine and I've been taking your potions, how could I not be?"
Severus sat down on the chair next to Harry's bed and began to stroke his hair. Harry knew better than to try and angle his head into the touch. The growing skin on his back felt tight and he guessed that the less he moved his body until it healed, the better. "I was so worried, Harry. And selfish too."
"Because as you were lying here so ill in the infirmary, I was thinking to myself that I hadn't even got to kiss you yet."
"You can kiss me now, Severus," suggested Harry. As Severus leant over, he closed his eyes, readying himself for their first kiss. It wasn't the one he expected. Severus lifted Harry's fringe and pressed a soft kiss to his forehead.
"Get well soon, my Harry."
"I'll try my best."
"I know you will. If your stomach still isn't any better tomorrow; get Poppy to have a look at it. There might have been something we missed in your initial examination."
"I will. Thanks for being here."
"You have no need to thank me, Harry. I'm where I want to be. By your side."
Harry felt tears begin to form in the corners of his eyes and he didn't want Severus to see them; he hated to be seen as weak by other people. "I'm a bit tired now, Severus."
"Very well. Goodnight, I'll visit again tomorrow."
When Severus left the infirmary a few moments later and Harry drifted off to sleep once more; he wasn't thinking of the accident or how much pain he'd been in. He was thinking of Severus and the possessive way he'd said, 'my Harry'.
Harry could get very used to belonging to Severus.
The next morning, Madam Pomfrey allowed Harry to sit upright so he could eat his breakfast and drink down some more potions. He had to sit sideways on the bed so that he didn't accidentally cause any more damage by leaning against something. Harry wasn't feeling very hungry but he ate everything on the tray so that he would hopefully get out of the infirmary that much quicker. Once the breakfast tray was cleared away, Madam Pomfrey allowed him to go the bathroom by himself and once he returned she gently unwrapped the bandages.
Before she Banished the dirty dressings, Harry caught a glimpse of the blood and pus staining them and he winced.
"It's healing nicely, Harry. I think it will be completely better within the week," said Madam Pomfrey as she soothed some more healing salve onto his back. His skin didn't feel so tight anymore and Harry was prepared to believe her; the matron always seemed to know what she was doing. If she said he'd be better within a week, then he would be.
"How are you feeling this morning, dear?" she asked as she finished wrapping him in clean bandages and came around to face him.
"My back's fine, but my stomach is a bit sore. It started yesterday and Professor Snape said I should tell you if it still felt the same."
"Where are you sore, dear? A lot of people say stomach when they really mean their abdomen."
Harry blushed, realising she was right. It was his abdomen that was aching. He placed his hand there, just above his groin.
"What sort of pain is it? Sharp and intense? Or more like a nagging ache?"
"More like a nagging ache. It's not there all the time but it does feel weird, I've never felt anything like it before."
Madam Pomfrey removed her wand and scanned Harry's whole body from head to toe. "Well, except for your injuries from yesterday, everything else is coming up normal. Did you have a bowel movement this morning?"
"And was it normal? Was there any blood or pain?"
"No, it was normal," said Harry, beyond blushing by now. Madam Pomfrey was always very professional.
"Hmm. There is something – maybe – but it's so rare. I'll do a blood test. How are you with needles, Harry?"
"Fine, I think. I mean, I've never really had anything to do with them."
"Didn't you get your Muggle vaccinations before you came here?"
Harry shook his head; the Dursleys wouldn't have cared whether he was protected from getting sick.
"I see," said Madam Pomfrey briskly and Harry knew the matron was remembering all the times he returned from Surrey weighing less and with bruises that he wouldn't explain. Harry was so ashamed at what the Dursleys had done. It was as if Harry felt it had been his fault and that if he admitted that the Dursleys had done those things people would think he had done something to deserve it. As yet in their counselling sessions, they had never discussed Harry's abuse but Harry guessed the matron already knew and was waiting for Harry to bring it up. "Very well, Harry, just extend your arm for me and make a fist."
Harry did as he was told but had to look away when he saw the conjured syringe in the matron's hand. She swabbed his arm with something cold and then he felt a small pin-prick on his inner elbow. "There, all done. I'll just go and test the blood now. I should only be about ten minutes or so."
After Madam Pomfrey walked to her office with the vial of Harry's blood he did nothing but worry. Did he have some rare wizarding disease? Or maybe a Muggle one as he'd never been vaccinated? Harry could only think of mumps and measles, but he wasn't sure what their symptoms were. Did they cause aches in the abdomen? Maybe it was some form of cancer. Harry didn't know much about the disease, just that it was very bad and was most often fatal. Harry felt the urge to pace up and down the room, but worried that doing so might hinder his recovery.
When Madam Pomfrey emerged from her office after what seemed to Harry hours later, she was smiling broadly and Harry sighed with relief. If she was smiling, that meant he probably wasn't dying. She sat in the chair by the bed, the same chair Severus had been in last night.
"What is it? What's wrong with me?" asked Harry.
"There's nothing wrong with you, Harry, but you do have a very rare genetic condition called Gaian Syndrome."
"Gaian Syndrome? I've never heard of it."
"No, a lot of people haven't. It's a very rare condition that only affects wizards, but as I said, very rarely. Wizards with Gaian Syndrome are males who are able to bear children. The pain that you are feeling is happening because it's the first time you are ovulating. When I scanned you, everything was coming up as normal because ovulation for someone with Gaian syndrome is normal."
"No, there must be some mistake," said Harry. "I can't get pregnant. That's not possible. Boys can't get pregnant."
"You're thinking like a Muggle, dear. Some wizards can indeed become pregnant and you are one of them. I tested your blood's hormone levels; you have Gaian Syndrome and you are ovulating at the moment."
"But why now? I've never had this pain before," said Harry.
"No, and it probably won't be as strong next time either. It's just because it's the first time. I'm guessing it didn't happen sooner because you were so underweight before. Now your body is at its optimum weight for conception, ovulation can occur. Your womb is also starting to enlarge. It would normally have happened during early puberty but because of your low weight, it is only happening now."
"Does this mean I'll have periods and stuff like girls?" asked Harry worriedly.
"No, you'll have a different type of cycle, not a menstrual one. It's more like an oestrus cycle."
"Oestrus?" It was as if the matron was speaking in an entirely different language.
"You won't be able to get pregnant all the time; just at certain times when your body is in what's known as 'season' or 'heat'. At that time you will crave sexual contact very strongly and the craving will not diminish until you become pregnant. Because you have Gaian Syndrome, your own sperm are sterile, you would never be able to get a girl pregnant, but you can get pregnant yourself by another man."
Harry stared at her, wishing it all to be some sort of joke. "It's not a joke, is it?"
"No, dear. I know it must be a bit of a shock to hear, but it's best we found out now or you could have got pregnant without even knowing about it. You'll need to take a contraceptive potion every month to prevent you from going into season. It won't stop your normal libido, but it will stop ovulation and the manic craving for sex."
"But what about now? You just said I was ovulating. Does that mean I'll be craving sex now?"
"No, the first time you ovulate is more like a test run just to see if your body can cope with it, which it can. Do you want something for the pain?"
Harry shook his head. "No, the pain's gone now." The pain may have been gone, but not the shock. He could get pregnant? He could have children? It just didn't seem possible, but then a lot of things that happened in the wizarding world wouldn't have seemed possible to Muggles – flying about on broomsticks; transforming into an animal; repairing things with magic and all the hundred and one other things that were possible for wizards. Why should a male getting pregnant be any stranger than that?
But it was strange. Maybe it was because it was happening to Harry; he thought he'd be more accepting of it if it was someone else who had Gaian Syndrome. Yet because it was him, it just seemed another thing to add to the long list of things that marked him out as something different, something unique, something freaky. He just wanted to be normal and a boy getting pregnant didn't seem to be that.
When Harry had thought of having children – and he had thought about it sometimes – he'd imagined it happening in the usual way with him falling in love with a witch. To be told that he wouldn't be able to father children that way but could in fact get pregnant himself was not something he'd given any thought to as he hadn't thought it was even a remote possibility.
"I'll leave you to rest now, dear. If you need me, I'll just be in my office."
"Oh. Okay," said Harry feeling a bit like he'd just been run over by a very large lorry and had survived the impact.
He was still feeling a bit dazed when Severus arrived a few moments later to visit him. Harry was still sitting sideways on his bed and dangling his legs over the edge.
"Should you be sitting up?" asked Severus in a concerned voice as he took his seat.
"Madam Pomfrey said I could; the wounds are healing."
"That's good to hear."
Both of them were silent for a few more minutes. Harry didn't know how Severus was going to react if he told him about the Gaian Syndrome. Would Severus no longer want to Court someone who was such a freak?
"Harry? What is it? You're not usually so quiet. Are you still in pain? Do you need me to get Poppy?"
"I'm fine, Severus. Well, maybe not fine, but I'm not in any pain. Your potions are good."
"So what's the matter?" Severus leaned over and caressed the back of Harry's hand.
"I'm a freak, that's what the matter! The Dursleys were right all along!" Harry yanked his hand away, feeling unworthy of the comfort. Tears leaked down his cheeks but he didn't rub them away.
"Harry, you are not a freak. And how can you believe anything those vile excuses for human beings ever said to you? What makes you think this now? I thought you were getting better?"
"Maybe you should just go," said Harry.
"I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what is bothering you. Nothing you will tell me will make me love you any less, Harry. I thought you knew that."
"Love? You love me?"
"I thought my Letter of Intent was enough to show you that, but perhaps I was wrong. I love you, Harry. Real love has no conditions. I will love you no matter what."
"Oh, Severus!" sobbed Harry, lurching forward and wrapping his arms around Severus, forgetting all about his damaged back. "I love you too!"
Severus stroked his hair but avoided touching his back. "So what is it, Harry? Why are you so upset?"
"Madam Pomfrey told me I have Gaian Syndrome, that's why my abdomen hurt yesterday. I didn't think you'd want to be with someone who was such a freak!"
"Hush, Harry. You're not a freak. It's rare certainly, but not unknown. And did you really think so little of me that I would leave you because of this?"
"I – I don't know," Harry admitted.
"Harry, this is not a disaster. You're not ill, you're not dying. It's a gift to be able to bear children, especially for wizards. The population is on the wane, wizards need new blood. All this pure-blood mania has taken its toll; there are fewer witches and wizards being born and we need to be more accommodating to Muggleborns and half-bloods. I have to admit that I thought my own orientation precluded me from ever having children."
Harry leaned back so he could look at Severus' face. "So – so you'd like to have children one day? With me?"
"Harry, if you wish it, I would be honoured to be a father with you."
Harry began crying again and couldn't seem to stop. He'd never cried so much since he'd been a scared child locked in a cupboard with no food and no love. And now here was Severus telling him he would be loved unconditionally. Harry burst out giggling; they hadn't even kissed and here they were talking about having children together! "God, I feel weird," said Harry once he'd calmed down enough to speak.
"Probably your body is getting used to different hormones," said Severus. "When you're feeling better; I've arranged with the headmistress for us both to have leave to go to London all weekend. We'd be staying from Friday night and would come back Sunday evening. Would you like that?"
"Staying?" gasped Harry, his heart thudding madly as he thought of shared hotel rooms and perhaps shared beds.
"Don't worry; we'll be in separate rooms. Your virtue is quite safe from me, Harry. For now," said Severus and winked at him.
Two weeks later Harry's back was completely healed and Severus finally got to take him to London. Harry was a little surprised that Professor McGonagall had let him go off alone with Severus; wouldn't she suspect something if the two of them were away for the weekend together? It seemed she hadn't even thought of it.
They Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron but Severus had booked them rooms in a Muggle hotel near Leicester Square. After stopping at Gringotts to exchange their money into Muggle currency; they walked down Charing Cross Road towards Leicester Square. Harry had been on Charing Cross Road a couple of times as it led to the Leaky Cauldron and the entrance to Diagon Alley, but he'd never been to the area around Leicester Square before.
There were restaurants, cinemas, theatres, and in a couple of side roads Harry saw signs for Licensed Sex Shops. "Severus, what are those? Are they brothels?" Harry asked in a whisper, his face flaming.
Severus grinned. "No, they sell books and videos, sex toys, things like that."
Harry nodded. "Oh, right," as if he knew exactly what Severus was talking about. What on Earth were sex toys? He felt he'd asked enough embarrassing questions for one day though and was happy when Severus stopped outside their hotel. The hotel was a brown, brick building taking up one corner and part of a side street leading off Leicester Square. It overlooked the small park in the middle of the square and there was a large cinema to one side of it.
"Let's get checked in; then I thought we could go out to dinner and catch a film this evening," said Severus, taking Harry's elbow and steering him towards the front steps of their hotel. Harry nodded, still gazing around him at the bright lights with awe. It was a cold, frosty evening, but with warming charms he and Severus had hardly felt the chill.
The hotel lobby had a cream and terracotta tiled floor, so highly polished that you could see your face in it. Crystal chandeliers adorned the ceiling as well as hidden spotlights. There was a long mahogany desk with five receptionists dressed in navy blue suits, the men wearing blue ties and shirts and the women wearing white blouses and blue scarves around their necks.
Severus wheeled his suitcase up to the nearest female receptionist; Harry followed suit.
"Good evening, sir, how may I help you?" she asked, her mouth full of teeth so white Harry was sure they couldn't be natural.
"Severus Snape and Harry Potter. We have reservations."
The receptionist typed something on a computer in front of her. "Of course, Mr. Snape. You have adjoining single rooms, is that correct?"
"Very well, we just need a credit card imprint to take care of any extras such as phone calls or drinks."
Harry thought for sure that Severus would balk at that, but he was surprised when the man fished out a credit card from his jacket pocket. Severus Snape had a credit card? It was as if his world had turned upside down. Seeing Severus with a credit card was as surprising as if Harry had seen Aunt Petunia flying a broomstick.
Once everything at check-in was taken care of, the receptionist handed them each a small, plastic card. "You have rooms 304 and 305 on the third floor. The lift is just opposite. Do you need anyone to help you with your luggage?"
"No, thank you. We can manage," said Severus.
Harry almost giggled at that. Of course they could, both their suitcases had feather-light charms on them. A Muggle hotel porter would have been in for a shock if he'd tried to lift them. Harry followed Severus across the floor to the bank of lifts and luckily one was already on the ground floor waiting for them. Severus entered first, holding the door open so that Harry could get in and then pushed the button marked '3'.
It didn't take long, the lift juddered to a halt and Harry grinned across at Severus. He could hardly believe how excited he was. This was his first stay in a Muggle hotel, his first real holiday and his first date with Severus was only hours away. How could he not be excited?
"You seem very happy tonight, Harry," said Severus as they left the lift and walked down the corridor to their rooms.
"I am, Severus. I'm with you for the whole weekend. Thank you for this."
"You're very welcome. We've time to freshen up before dinner, how does seven o'clock sound?"
"Sounds brilliant," said Harry as they reached their doors. Harry watched as Severus slid the plastic key into the slot on the door and a green light came on. "See you soon," called Harry as he did the same with his own door and pushed it open.
Despite the receptionist saying they had two single rooms, Harry's bedroom was dominated by a large double bed. The walls were painted cream, brown curtains adorned the window and there was a brown leather headboard on the bed. Orange, brown and cream cushions and pillows were fluffed up in neat piles and there was a desk and brown leather armchair. A hospitality tray holding varieties of sugar, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, mineral water and shortbread biscuits along with cups and a kettle stood on a wide shelf.
There was a small wardrobe next to the bathroom but since they were only staying two nights Harry hadn't packed a lot of clothes so he didn't bother hanging anything up. He set his bag down on the bed and removed the clothes he would wear for their date: an emerald green shirt, black dress trousers and a pair of black leather boots.
The bathroom was fully tiled in grey marble with sparkling silver taps and Harry didn't linger too long over his shower, so keen was he to get on with their date. He felt a little dizzy and turned the water down so that it was warm rather than hot. Predictably as he washed himself with the hotel's own shower gel, his cock began to swell, but knowing that Severus was on the other side of the wall made him a bit anxious about masturbating here. It just didn't seem right, so Harry ignored his erection and continued washing until it had gone down.
The towels were plentiful and fluffy, not at all like the raggedy rough ones the Dursleys used to give him – when he was allowed a wash at all, that is. Harry sighed as he switched off the water and began drying himself. Sometimes he just couldn't forget the things they'd done to him; he looked away from the mirror and the reflection of his scarred chest. Irritated, he shook himself. No. He couldn't allow them to spoil the rest of his life. It was over. It was in the past. He had Severus now, he didn't need them. He had never needed them.
Harry finished dressing and tried to tame his hair, but as usual it was futile. It just wouldn't lay flat no matter what he did to it. Hagrid used to tease him about combing it, but combs and hairbrushes had no effect on Harry's unruly mop of hair. At ten to seven he took out his winter coat and draped it over his arm; it was too hot to put it on in the hotel.
At five to seven there was a knock on his bedroom door. Harry rushed to open it, a broad grin on his face.
Severus, too, was dressed like a Muggle today and Harry couldn't help staring. Severus wasn't wearing black; he had on a pair of grey woollen trousers, a royal blue shirt with white buttons and a matching grey waistcoat. The man looked good enough to eat, from his tied-back hair to his grey-clad legs. Harry swallowed as a frisson of desire ran up and down his spine. "You look fantastic!" exclaimed Harry, unable to keep it to himself any longer.
Severus coloured and inclined his head. "Thank you. You look very handsome yourself, Harry."
"Thanks. I wasn't sure what to wear. Is this dressy enough for dinner?"
"It's fine. Shall we go? I made reservations for quarter-past seven and we have to walk there yet."
"Is it far?"
"No, just a street on the other side of Leicester Square."
The walk wasn't far at all, Harry wished it had taken longer so that he could spend some more time with Severus just looking around and chatting about inconsequential things. There were street performers on the square who were gathering quite large crowds and Harry was glad of Severus' supporting arm as the older wizard manoeuvred them away from the mass of people.
"Here we are," said Severus as he stopped in front of a glass-fronted building with a wooden sign with gold lettering on the front. Guiseppe's.
"Oh! Italian! I've never had Italian before," said Harry as they entered the restaurant and were greeted by the Maitre d'.
"We have a reservation. Snape," said Severus. The Maitre d' skimmed down the list on the podium in front of him and clicked his fingers at a passing waiter who was dressed in a white shirt, black tie, black trousers and a long white apron.
"Carlo, please escort our guests to table five."
The waiter lifted some menus from a stack on the podium and showed them to their seats. All the tables were round and covered in red-and-white checked tablecloths. An empty wine bottle on their table held a candle and the neck of it was encrusted with old wax drippings. Once they'd settled themselves in the chairs, the waiter handed them each a menu.
Harry's education in food was limited to what they served at Hogwarts and Molly Weasley's dinners. There were a lot of dishes on the menu that Harry didn't recognise and he felt a bit out of his depth. When the waiter came back for their order, Harry just waited until Severus ordered first.
"The minestrone soup to start and then the lasagne. Harry?"
"I'll have the same," said Harry, hoping Severus didn't see through his ruse.
"And to drink?"
"Just water for me," said Harry.
"Make that two. Sparkling," said Severus, handing the menus back to the waiter.
"Very good, sir. It shouldn't be long."
Once he'd gone, Severus' gaze rested on Harry. "Harry, you're eighteen, you could have ordered something alcoholic if you wanted."
"Water's fine," said Harry. "I'm not used to anything stronger than butterbeer really and I didn't want to get drunk." He shuddered and Severus waited for Harry to continue.
"He … he was worse when he got drunk," Harry said softly. "My uncle."
Severus' face darkened. "I cursed them."
"Your relatives. I cursed them a few weeks ago. They shouldn't have been allowed to get away with hurting you."
Harry gaped at him. "You cursed them? For me?"
"Yes. I'm sorry if that upsets you, but it had to be done."
"Upsets me? No, you didn't upset me, Severus. They had it coming."
"They did," agreed Severus.
Harry reached across the table and pressed his hands down on Severus'. "Thank you, Severus. Thank you."
"And what would you like for dessert, sir?" asked the waiter once he'd whisked their dinner plates away.
Severus didn't like the way the waiter, Carlo, was ogling Harry. Not that he could blame the man; Harry looked delectable tonight: the green in his shirt brought out his eyes and he had an air of innocence that certain people would be drawn to. Severus included himself in that. Despite everything Harry had been through, including playing host to part of the Dark Lord's soul for most of his life, he was still innocent. It was as if he had a core of light that nothing dark could penetrate.
"I'll have the pear tartlet with fresh cream. Harry, why don't you try the tiramisu, I think you'll like that."
"Okay, I'll have that," agreed Harry and Severus had to wonder at his easy compliance. It seemed so different to the persona Harry showed in class. Did he have a penchant for being dominated? The thought had Severus' head reeling and heat pooling in his groin. Severus would adore having Harry as his pet, but he had no idea if Harry even knew what that would mean.
A few moments later Carlo was back with crisp white napkins which he set on the table before laying out a dessert spoon and fork on each one. To Severus, it seemed that the man was taking an unnecessary amount of time setting out Harry's place and he could see Harry shying away from this stranger invading his personal space. The waiter's left hand dipped beneath the table and Severus saw red. He reached out and grabbed hold of the waiter's wrist as he fiddled with the edges of Harry's napkin yet again. "That will be all," said Severus with a pointed glare.
The waiter nodded, rubbing his wrist when he left their table and Severus resolved to use a spell on their desserts when it arrived: he wouldn't put it past the waiter to spit in it or worse after that little altercation. Harry had paled considerably and was toying with his cutlery.
"Harry, are you all right? What did he do?"
"He pinched me. On the thigh," said Harry, some of his colour returning.
Severus knew that Harry had done nothing to encourage the man, but the waiter's antics had brought out a possessive streak in him. If there was any pinching of Harry to be done; it would be done by Severus and only by Severus. When the waiter returned with their desserts, Severus had the strongest urge to reach across their table and stake a claim to Harry there and then. But he was mindful of the packed restaurant and Harry's own innate shyness, so he settled for pressing Harry's hand to his lips and glowering at the waiter.
The waiter seemed to sense that antagonising Severus was not the thing to do; he left the desserts with very little fuss and headed off to see to some more customers. Severus didn't let Harry touch his food until he'd scanned both of them with a silent and wandless spell. Both were fine and he nodded to Harry to show that he could eat it now.
Severus barely tasted his own dessert, so intent was he on watching Harry eat his. "Mmm, that's delicious," Harry moaned after his first mouthful of the Italian trifle. His eyes were sparkling in the candlelight; his face aglow with pleasure. Red lips as plump as ripe strawberries were just begging to be kissed and Severus couldn't tear his eyes away from the boy in front of him. No matter what age he was, Harry would always be a boy to him. His boy, he hoped.
"What?" asked Harry, dropping his spoon. "Do I have some on my face or something?"
"Yes," replied Severus, lifting up his own napkin and dabbing Harry's cheek with it. Their gazes locked; Severus could hear Harry's breathing speeding up and wondered if Harry's heart was suddenly beating as fast as Severus' was just then. It was easy once Harry's skin was clean for Severus' finger to linger on a caress and Harry's eyes fluttered closed and he moaned a little. Severus' trousers had become unbearably tight in the last few minutes and he wished now he hadn't agreed to them taking things slowly.
By the time the waiter returned with their bill and payment was sorted out, Severus had calmed down enough for their walk to the cinema. But his mind was still on Harry, on his kissable lips and the way he'd moaned when Severus had caressed him. Harry had seemed so responsive to his touches and Severus wondered anew how far Harry had gone with anyone. He didn't think Harry had been with any men before, but there had been a few girlfriends.
It was no good, Severus couldn't bear it any longer; as they walked across the park in Leicester Square he pushed Harry up against the trunk of a tree, none too gently. Harry gasped in surprise and the open mouth was too tempting an invitation. Severus pressed his lips down hard and started devouring Harry's mouth. Finally, finally he got to taste him! Severus moaned in relief at the kiss, his arms going around Harry's waist and rubbing his back through his coat. Harry's hands tangled in Severus' hair as he returned the moan and began grinding his hips against Severus' legs. Harry was frantic, almost climbing Severus' body like a vine. When Severus licked his tongue along Harry's mouth and eased inside, Harry almost tore Severus' hair out by the roots, groaning and bucking madly.
Merlin, he was as responsive as Severus had suspected! Severus didn't think it would take long for Harry to come just from kissing and rubbing up against him. He kissed Harry softly, gently easing him down as Harry whimpered. Severus hadn't known Harry would get so aroused so quickly, or he would never initiated such a passionate kiss as that. He continued kissing Harry tenderly, cupping Harry's face in his hands until Harry calmed down. Salty tears dripped onto their lips.
Severus pulled away and glanced down at Harry.
"I'm sorry," said Harry. "I know you wanted to go slowly and I all but molested you in the middle of the park!"
"Ssh, Harry. You've done nothing wrong and I wouldn't be averse to a bit of molesting," Severus grinned, trying to cheer him up. "However, the first time you come under my hands, I would prefer it to be a bit less public."
"Oh, God!" Harry groaned and leaned his head against Severus' chest.
Severus held Harry against him and they stood there in silence for quite some time. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence and it was no hardship to hold Harry close to him, but the film started at nine and if they wanted to see it they would need to start walking to the cinema soon. Severus tried not to think of their hotel rooms too much or he would have been tempted to chuck in the film altogether.
"Harry, the film is starting soon," said Severus, carding his fingers through Harry's messy hair. He smelt of soap and shampoo, the chocolate from his dessert and underneath it all, the musky, earthy scent that was just Harry.
Harry gazed up at him. "Oh. Right."
"Would you still like to go?"
"Yes, I've never been to a cinema before."
Harry's erection had faded but as they made their way to the cinema he seemed a bit more subdued than he had been before the kiss. Had Severus pushed things too far, too soon? It had never been his intention to make Harry uncomfortable, but that was just what he'd done.
"Would you like to come in for some tea or coffee?" asked Harry when they returned to their hotel after the film. For the whole two hours, Harry had snuggled up to Severus, his head on Severus' shoulder and his arm resting on Severus'. It was something Severus was determined to get used to. He'd draped his arm around Harry's shoulder and at quiet moments during the film had kissed his head, feeling the strangest urge both to protect Harry and to ravish him at the same time; it was very disconcerting.
"Just coffee," said Severus as he followed Harry into his room.
"Just coffee?" echoed Harry as he lifted up the kettle, his brow knitted in confusion.
"Sometimes people ask you in for coffee when they have something else in mind. Something a bit more physical."
"Oh!" Harry dropped the kettle, just missing his feet. "I didn't mean – I'm – um – I mean..." Harry sank into an armchair and hung his head in his hands.
Severus knelt down in front of him and tilted his chin up. "What's the matter?"
"It's me. I'm so stupid! I didn't even know that about coffee. I did really mean just coffee, Severus."
"You're not stupid, Harry, far from it. But perhaps you are a little bit naïve about sexual matters. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Not everyone is a sex maniac, you know."
"What about in the park?" asked Harry.
"That was a physical reaction to stimulus. It was my fault; I initiated the kiss and was perhaps trying to push you further than you were willing to go at the time."
Harry flushed a delightful shade of pink. "I – I would have been willing to do anything, then," Harry said softly.
"Now I feel a bit embarrassed that I lost control so quickly."
"You're very responsive, Harry; but that means I should have taken more care with you. I meant what I said about taking things slowly; your body may be ready but from what you just said, I don't think your mind is."
"I think you're right. I'm glad you stopped, I'm not sure I would have been able to."
"Harry, if you feel things are progressing too fast for you, you only have to tell me. I won't be angry if you want things to slow down or stop for a while. Have you had much experience before me? You don't have to answer that if you don't wish to."
"No, it's all right. There was Cho and Ginny. All I did with Cho was kiss, but it was nothing like being kissed by you. I never got aroused by it."
"And Miss Weasley?"
"We did some other stuff. Hands mostly, but I could never come. I could never relax enough with her. I think I was always afraid that one of her brothers would catch us and demand to know what her hands were doing down my trousers. She – she wanted us to go all the way, but I just couldn't do it. The thought of doing it with her; it sort of made me feel a bit sick, to be honest."
"Was that when you suspected you might be gay?"
Harry shook his head. "No, I never suspected that until I saw you in your workout gear. And then I started dreaming about you."
"Interesting dreams?" asked Severus, arching an eyebrow. Harry was smiling again now.
"Very interesting, but since we're going slowly, I don't think I should tell you about them yet."
"Does that mean you'll tell me about them one day?"
"Maybe," said Harry, lifting up the kettle. "Now how about that coffee?"
"I'd be delighted," said Severus, with a smile of his own.
After a hearty cooked breakfast at their hotel on Saturday morning, Severus took Harry shopping on Oxford Street and Harry was hard pushed to decide where he wanted to shop first. The Muggle shopping street was a lot larger than Diagon Alley and was full of so many varieties of shops that Harry felt almost as out of place there as he'd felt the first time he visited Diagon Alley. They spent a few hours in clothes shops getting Harry lots of new Muggle clothes.
Severus chose nearly everything, leaving Harry to browse for underwear on his own. Harry couldn't help wondering what Severus would like to see him in, so he tended to tailor his choices to that. They bought sandwiches and sweets and had a small picnic lunch in St. James's Park, watching the ducks swimming by on the ponds.
In the afternoon, Severus took him to the National Gallery and in the evening they had dinner on a boat cruising the Thames. Until then, it had been a perfect day. The boat trip started out all right, but a few minutes after they boarded the winds got stronger and the water got a bit choppy. Harry didn't even manage the starter (melon and Parma ham) before he was heading to the nearest bathroom. He hadn't realised you could get seasick on a river.
When he emerged, Severus was waiting outside the door for him. Harry felt clammy and his stomach was still roiling with the waves. "I've asked the captain to let us off at the next pier, Harry."
"I'm sorry," said Harry. "I didn't mean to ruin it."
"Nonsense. You didn't ruin anything. We'll just get you back to the hotel so you can have a lie down."
Harry didn't protest; he was feeling so sick and upset that he just wanted to get off the boat as quickly as possible. He nodded, and then regretted it as the movement of his head brought back his nausea in full force. Harry dashed to the toilets again and threw up twice more before he felt well enough to go back out to the deck.
By that time, one of the crewmen was tying up the boat so they could get off. Harry heard a few of the passengers wondering what was going on, but he ignored them and gratefully leaned on Severus' shoulder as they walked down the gangplank and off. Even though they were now on dry land, Harry still felt as if things around him were swaying. Luckily, the walk to their hotel wasn't too far from the river. They were both silent as they made their way up in the lift.
Severus ushered Harry inside his bedroom. He helped Harry off with his coat and then pushed Harry down to sit on the bed while Severus also removed his shoes. Once that was done, Harry stood up and headed for the bathroom.
"Where are you going?"
"To brush my teeth and rinse my mouth, it tastes awful."
"Fine, but then you're straight into bed. No arguments."
"Okay," said Harry, feeling so glad that someone was here to take care of him. It was awful feeling ill when no one looked after you, which is what had always happened at the Dursleys'. Harry sometimes wondered what curses Severus had cast on them, but after remembering the things that Severus had done as a Death Eater, decided that maybe he was better off not knowing.
Harry brushed his teeth twice and rinsed out with mint mouthwash for good measure before having a pee and going back out to the bedroom again. Severus had turned off the overhead lights and switched on just one of the bedside lamps. He was engrossed in the hotel's guest information pack but looked up and set it aside on the desk when Harry came out.
"Were you sick again?" asked Severus, opening one of the bottles of mineral water and handing it to Harry.
"No, I'm feeling better now that I'm off the boat. Thanks," said Harry, taking the bottle and sipping some water.
"You're welcome. Just get some sleep; you'll probably feel a lot better in the morning. I'm just next door if you need anything."
"Severus, can you stay with me tonight?"
"Would you like me to?"
Harry nodded. How could he explain that just having Severus near him was helping?
"Very well, Harry. I'll just go back to my room and get changed for bed; I'll see you in a few minutes."
"Great. Thanks. Here, take this," Harry gave him the electronic key card. Severus kissed Harry's forehead before going back to his own room.
Harry undressed and put on one of his new t-shirts and a fresh pair of boxer shorts, both in black, as he knew how much Severus liked the colour. Once Harry had removed his glasses and set them on the bedside cabinet, he slid inside the cool sheets and waited for Severus to return. It was strange lying in bed waiting for Severus to join him. Even when he'd stayed at The Burrow, Harry had slept alone in a camp bed in Ron's room. He'd never shared a bed with anyone before and wondered how different it would feel to sleeping alone.
About ten minutes later; he heard the beep of the door as Severus used the card to come back in. Severus was dressed in one of the hotel's bathrobes and from the gap at the front, Harry could see Severus' naked chest. It was a lot hairier than Harry's own as well as broader. Severus locked and bolted the hotel room door before walking over to Harry's bed. Harry gaped when Severus slipped off the robe and Harry saw he was wearing nothing but a pair of black boxer shorts. The tight t-shirts Severus had worn to their training sessions had accentuated his muscles, yes, but nothing could have prepared Harry for the naked sight of them and he felt a bit faint.
"Harry? Are you all right?"
"Oh. Yeah. Fine," said a dazed Harry as he moved over so Severus could climb in beside him. There were some rustling of blankets as they both got settled, each on their own side of the bed until Severus held his arm out. Harry needed no more prompting. He scooted over so that he could lean his head on Severus' shoulder. Harry draped on arm across Severus' chest and slid one leg between his.
"Okay?" asked Severus reaching for the light switch.
"Mmm," mumbled Harry, almost asleep already. He was more than okay; he was lying in the arms of the man he loved and there was nowhere on Earth he'd rather be.
After lunch on Monday, Hermione ushered Harry and Ron upstairs to Harry's bedroom. Despite being Head Girl with her own private room, boys still weren't allowed in it, which Ron had discovered a few days into the start of term. It had taken him three showers to get rid of the goo that had landed in his hair.
Hermione and Ron sat down on Harry's bed while Harry took the desk chair.
"Well… Spill," demanded Hermione. "How did it go?"
Harry smiled and blushed. "God, it was brilliant!"
"How did what go?" asked Ron with a confused look between the two of them.
"Harry's date of course!"
"But you were with Snape all weekend," said Ron, as if he was explaining things to particularly dense five year olds. "He wouldn't have let you go off on a date."
Hermione counted to three under her breath. "Snape?" spluttered Ron, finally getting the idea. "You had a date with Snape?"
"More than one actually," sighed Harry. He just couldn't seem to wipe the silly smile off his face.
"You and Snape? Eww! That's gross! He's so..."
"So what, Ron?" Harry asked dangerously.
"He's your teacher! It's against the rules! Hermione, tell him!"
"Actually, there are no rules specifically forbidding teacher and student liaisons as long as the student is of age."
"Liaisons? Is that some posh word for fucking?" Ron's face had turned almost as red as his hair. "I can't believe you, Harry! Fucking Snape, I really thought you had more taste!"
"Ron Weasley! What an awful thing to say!" said Hermione.
"Well, it's true! Who in their right mind would want to fuck Snape? That's it, isn't it? He's Confunded you or something!"
"I'm not Confunded! I love him and he loves me!"
"Love? Snape wouldn't know the meaning of the word!" Ron dived off the bed and toyed with one of Harry's crystal chess figures. "He gave you this, didn't he? He doesn't love you! He's just trying to buy you! You're nothing but his whore!"
"GET OUT!" Harry roared as the windows started to rattle in their frames. Wind rose up and ruffled the curtains and bedclothes as Harry fought to regain control of his magic. "Hermione, get him out of here! Now!"
"Ron, come on!" Hermione grabbed hold of Ron and pushed him out the door. It slammed behind them. Harry sank to his knees at the foot of the bed and leaned his head on the bedspread, breathing heavily. It had been a long time since he'd lost control of his magic like that, but Ron had just made him so angry.
He knew nothing about Severus, nothing! How dare he sit in judgement on who Harry should or shouldn't love! And as for fucking, well they hadn't done that yet, had they? Not that it was any of Ron's business anyway! Ron was the one who'd told him that the Courting meant it was serious, not some fling, and yet he'd called Harry a whore.
Harry hadn't deluded himself; he knew not everyone was going to approve of him going out with Severus. There was the age difference, Severus' past and all the rest of it, but he had thought that, of all people, Ron would have been supportive and not started ranting at how wrong Harry was for loving Severus.
It didn't feel wrong to Harry. Inside, where it counted, it felt more right than anything else in his life had ever been. No matter what happened; he wasn't going to allow Ron or anyone else to spoil it.
Harry's hands curled into fists. He loved Severus and no one, no one, was going to take that away from him.
Harry skipped the rest of his classes on Monday afternoon, so he wasn't at all surprised when, just before dinner, one of the Gryffindor first years came to his room and told him that Professor Snape wanted to see him in his office.
The journey to the third floor to see Severus in his guise as Harry's Head of House wasn't as exciting as if Harry had been going to see him as his lover. Were they even lovers? Or did they have to fuck, as Ron so crudely put it, in order to be called lovers? Harry passed a few other students on the stairs, who seemed to stop their conversations as soon as they spied Harry. Was he just being paranoid or were they really talking about him?
Harry wiped his sweaty hands on his school robes just before he knocked on Severus' office door. The door swung inward on its hinges and Harry saw that Severus wasn't alone. Professor McGonagall was there, as was Ron.
"Come in, Harry," said McGonagall.
Harry looked at Severus, whose face was giving nothing away. It seemed a world away from their trip to London. Had that only been yesterday?
"You weren't at any classes this afternoon, Harry," said Severus, "as your teachers have informed me." Was it Harry's imagination or did he sound upset that Harry hadn't told him and he'd had to hear it from someone else? It wasn't deliberate; Harry had just wanted to stay in his room.
"I'm sorry, sir. I was upset and I didn't feel like facing them today."
"You can't just skip classes whenever the mood strikes you," said McGonagall. "You're Head Boy and you need to set a better example to the younger students. How would it be if everyone decided they just didn't feel like going to lessons? I'll leave the punishment up to you, Professor Snape. However, there is another matter we need to discuss. Mr. Weasley, would you wait outside?"
Ron glared at Severus before stomping out and slamming the door behind him. The room tilted alarmingly as Harry fought to keep his feet. Ron had told her!
"Mr. Potter, do sit down before you fall down," said McGonagall, waving Harry into a chair. "I've been hearing some nasty rumours about the pair of you and although I don't believe a word of them, I do need to investigate. So, are they true? Mr. Weasley seems to be under the impression that Harry is under some sort of compulsion spell to make him sleep with you."
"I'm not under any compulsion," said Harry. "Ron's got it all wrong."
"So there is nothing going on between the two of you?"
Harry and Severus both looked at each and Harry couldn't help the blush from forming on his face. "Harry, it's all right. You can tell her."
"Severus is Courting me," said Harry.
"A formal Wizarding Courtship? With letters and everything?"
Harry nodded. "Would you like to see our letters?"
"No, that is unnecessary. Well, this certainly puts a different spin on things. Ronald Weasley mistakenly seems to think that Professor Snape was pursuing you for some nefarious purpose. I take it there are no spells involved and you both entered this Courtship of your own free will?"
"We did," Harry and Severus said together.
"We love each other, Professor, but we decided a Courtship would be a good way to get to know each other a bit better before things go further, " said Harry.
"Before things go further? Ah. So I take it you haven't actually been – er – together in that sense?"
"No," said Harry, blushing a little. "Not yet."
"I see. Well, you are over eighteen, Harry. What you choose to do and with whom is your own business. It is not against Hogwarts' rules as long as both of you consented and are old enough to do so. Perhaps in the circumstances it is best if Harry has someone else to mark his written work. I think you should still attend the Defence classes Harry, as Severus is the best teacher we've had. However, if I hear complaints from other students that Severus is treating you any differently because of your relationship, then we will have to rethink that."
Harry couldn't believe they were getting off so easily. Professor McGonagall didn't sound as if she disapproved; only that she was worried their roles as teacher and student might be blurred because of their Courtship.
"Thank you, Professor," said Harry.
"I will have a word with Mr. Weasley as well. He needs to learn to respect other people's privacy. I'm afraid the rumour mill may have started already. Are you ready for the whole world to know about your relationship? It won't be easy. For either of you."
"That's okay," said Harry glancing at Severus, who nodded. "We can face it. Together."
"Very well. I'll leave you to Professor Snape and your punishment for missing lessons."
Harry stood up and walked her to the door. Ron was waiting outside, but Harry ignored him and shut the door in his face, locking and warding it once he'd done so.
Severus came out from his desk and wrapped Harry in his arms. "Are you sure you're okay about this going public, Harry?"
"I love you, Severus. I don't care who knows it."
"The Daily Prophet will have a field day."
"Let them. They're always writing something about me anyway. Let it be something that makes me happy for a change."
"I make you happy?"
"You know you do," said Harry, standing on tiptoes so that he could kiss him. It was a slow, soft kiss that he could get lost in and he tried not to let himself get too aroused. He'd never had that trouble when he'd been kissing girls. It worked for a while, until Severus took control of the kiss.
Severus gripped Harry's head and kept him there, kissing and biting Harry's lips. Harry moaned deep in his throat; his mouth opening as Severus teased him with his tongue. His cock was throbbing in a matter of moments and pressed up against Severus' thigh. Severus moved his hands, they seemed to be everywhere at once, caressing his face, his neck, his back, his hair and Harry mewled in pleasure. Oh, God! He didn't want it to stop.
Severus fumbled with the clasp holding Harry's school robe together and pushed it down Harry's shoulders. It fell to the floor somewhere behind them. Harry was gasping for breath, his hips bucking when Severus ended the kiss. Severus dropped to his knees in front of Harry, his hands creeping underneath Harry's jumper to open the lower few buttons of his shirt. When Harry felt Severus' fingers on the bare skin of his belly, he almost jumped as he felt a spike of arousal so intense it was a wonder he was still standing.
His cock was hard and aching and Severus was just there, so near where Harry needed to be touched. Harry's whole body was aflame with need. His skin felt far too hot for his body and he was getting light-headed.
"Please!" gasped Harry, unsure what he was asking for. Just knowing that he wanted something, needed something. Anything. "Oh, please!"
"Harry, what is it? What do you want?"
He didn't want to talk. He just wanted to be swept away on a sea of ecstasy and forget all about the rest of the world. "Please touch me. Please, sir, please!" Harry's hands tangled in Severus' hair as Severus leaned forward and licked Harry's skin. Harry shrieked and panted as Severus continued to lick and suck at his belly, just above the waistband of his trousers. Severus pushed Harry's jumper up to below his armpits, holding it in place.
Severus had gone nowhere near Harry's cock, but what he was doing was so arousing. Even just the thought of it. Harry was still in most of his uniform with only a few spare buttons opened, his jumper bunched around his chest. Severus was on his knees in front of him and gazing up at him with the most intense expression Harry had ever seen on his face. Harry could see his own face reflected in their dark depths: his lips red and kiss-swollen, his face flushed with arousal, his hair messy and sweaty.
Severus' eyes were on fire and Harry lost himself in that gaze. "Sir!" Harry panted as the telltale tingles started in his cock and groin. Severus sucked hard on Harry's belly and Harry lost control completely. "Oh fuck! I'm coming!" He screamed as the first pulses left his cock and soaked his trousers. His hips just wouldn't stay still as he thrust and thrust against empty air. His knees buckled, but Severus had sensed it and his arms had gone around him to stop him from falling.
"Oh God! Oh God!" Harry moaned as his hips jerked one last time and his orgasm finally stopped. Harry glanced down at Severus, who was smiling up at him. The cut of Severus' teaching robes was so loose that Harry couldn't even tell whether or not he had an erection. Harry slid down and almost onto Severus' lap and reached out for his groin. Severus was hard. Harry began to rub him through the fabric but Severus stilled his wrist.
"No, Harry. Not now. We need to discuss some things first." Severus cast a cleaning charm over Harry's trousers and his skin stung as if he'd just been rubbed down with sandpaper.
"What things?" asked Harry, resting his head on Severus' shoulder and playing with the top button of his robe.
"We haven't time to discuss this now, Harry. It's almost dinner. Can you come to my quarters later tonight?"
Harry nodded. "Are you angry with me?" For why else would Severus have refused Harry's touch when he was aroused?
Severus hugged him close to his chest. "No, Harry. I'm not angry with you. We just need a bit of time to discuss things properly, okay?"
"Now off you go, I don't want you to miss dinner on my account."
Harry slid off Severus' lap, still feeling a bit shaky after his orgasm. "See you later."
Severus stood up and kissed him tenderly before he shooed Harry out the door. "Until tonight, Harry."
Severus pushed the slab of roast beef around his plate before carving off a slice that he barely tasted. His mind was too full of Harry and what he hoped to discuss with him that evening. When Minerva had mentioned punishment so casually the first image that had popped into Severus' head was a naked Harry draped across his lap as Severus spanked him until his arse cheeks were red and hot under his hands. Even now the image was still haunting him and he shifted in his seat as his arousal flared again. It had taken almost all of his control to stop Harry from touching him earlier and Severus knew that going slowly was no longer an option. He wanted Harry. He craved Harry. He just hoped he wouldn't be frightening him off if they decided to take things further.
Severus glanced down at the student tables. Harry was sitting between Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom; Ron Weasley was further down the table among the first years and no one seemed to be talking to him. Harry was quiet too and seemed to have about as much appetite as Severus had. Severus pushed his plate away; he didn't bother waiting for dessert before leaving the table and making his way to his quarters. He knew it wouldn't be long before Harry followed him there.
After hardly ten minutes in his rooms, there was a knock on Severus' door. Severus opened it to find Harry smiling shyly up at him. "Hi."
"Hello, Harry. Come in." Severus led him to the living room and waved him onto the sofa. On the coffee table in front of the fireplace was a stack of leatherbound books with no visible titles. As Harry sat down Severus noticed his eyes were drawn to the books.
Severus sat down on an armchair next to the fireplace and wondered where on Earth to begin. When he'd taken a pet before, both of them had known what they were getting into. Not only was Harry a virgin but he seemed very unworldly in other areas as well. Severus wanted to teach him, not just about sex but about art and literature, good food, fine wines and everything else that Severus wanted them both to share. Severus didn't think Harry knew anything about domination and submission but from Harry's behaviour, he reckoned that Harry would be very happy as a sub.
"Why were you so upset that you skipped classes today, Harry?"
"I had an argument with Ron and I lost control of my magic. I didn't want to hurt anyone so I just stayed in my room until I calmed down. By that time I didn't feel like going to class."
Severus hated asking; it would seem as if he didn't trust Harry, but the question still had to be asked. "You weren't thinking of doing anything to damage yourself? Like that day in the lake?"
"No, sir," said Harry, glancing down at his feet. "I haven't felt like doing anything like that for a while."
"Did you realise you called me 'sir' just then?"
Harry looked up and Severus wanted to drown in those green eyes. "Did I? It just slips out sometimes."
"That was one of the other things I wanted to discuss with you, Harry. You seem to find it natural to call me 'sir' and to let me decide things for you. The clothes, the food in the restaurants. Did it bother you that I was making decisions for you?"
"No, it helped actually."
"What do you mean?" Severus leaned forward, eager to hear Harry's reasoning.
"You know how I was brought up, Severus. I don't – well, I don't really know anything. I'd never been in any fancy restaurants like that and I didn't know what the food was, so I just let you decide for me. It was easier leaving it up to you. I liked that I didn't have to worry I was making a fool of myself, because you were there and I – this is going to sound so silly..." Harry trailed off.
"Go on, Harry."
"Well, I know I'm eighteen, hardly a child any more, but I liked that you were there to look after me. I've never really had anyone to look after me before. To the world out there I'm supposed to be this strong person who defeated Voldemort, but I don't want to be strong and brave all the time, having to look after everyone else."
"Harry, do you know what a dominant or a submissive is? Or a master or pet?"
"Not really, no."
"A submissive is someone who submits their will to another. It can happen only during sexual play or all the time if they wish it. The submissive would obey the dominant's orders and be punished for disobedience. To some people, the act of submitting is considered a weakness, but in fact the opposite is true. It takes great strength and trust to submit yourself to another person. The dominant can only dominate the submissive because the submissive has allowed it. I've noticed that when you're alone with me you've been showing some submissive behaviours and maybe that's because I've been showing some dominant ones without meaning to. If you are not interested, then we can forget all about this conversation."
"No, I'm intrigued," said Harry quickly. "The master and pet thing, would that mean I would belong to you?"
"That's right. As your Master, it would be up to me to look after you and keep you safe as well as teach you about the wider world in general. In return, you would give me obedience and see to all my needs as I would see to yours. Submission and discipline doesn't necessarily have to be about pain, but we can discuss that if we decide to go down this route. If I punished you for something, I would always tell you why and once you were punished, that would be the end of it. Previous infractions would never be brought up."
"So there'd be rules and I'd have to obey them? But I'd know what the rules were?"
"The Dursleys never seemed to have any reasons. They just beat me when they felt like it."
"Considering you upbringing I wasn't sure whether you'd be interested in something like this but as I said, I did notice you behaving quite like a submissive when we were in London."
"It seemed ... it seemed natural to act that way around you," said Harry. He blushed a little. "I ... I called you 'sir' when I was ... when I was in the shower. It made me hot."
Severus smiled at him. "Did it indeed? Well, Harry, do you think this is something you might be interested in? We can try it and if you find it isn't for you, we can just go back to a conventional relationship. It's entirely up to you. If we do go any further down this road, I'd suggest you use a safeword."
"Something that you are unlikely to shout out in the throes of passion. If I do anything, anything that you are not comfortable with, just say your word and I will stop. And one more thing, Harry. If you do decide you'd like me as your Master, I will never use my influence on you to force you to have children. That is a decision that both of us should make together, no matter our other roles."
"What sort of punishments are you likely to give me?" asked Harry, biting his bottom lip.
"We can discuss that along with anything else we'd like in our contract."
"There's a contract?"
"There can be. It can help us decide how far we're willing to go and show that we both agree to this type of relationship. I have some books here that have some more information and a book of erotic stories detailing fictional dominant/submissive relationships. You don't have to decide anything right away. It's a big decision and I don't want to pressure you."
"You've been thinking about this a lot, haven't you?"
"I have, Harry. It would give me great pleasure if you were to decide to be my pet, but only if you wanted it too. A pet is not a slave, although to some outsiders it might seem like that. How you wish others to view the relationship is also up to you. We can be Master and pet in private and Harry and Severus out there, or you can decide if you would like to share that part of yourself with others. It can be difficult for some people to accept."
Harry nodded. "I know. I don't think Ron would approve, but we're not speaking anyway."
"What did you two fight about anyway?"
Harry took a long time to answer. "You and me. He said – he said I was nothing but your whore, that you only wanted to f-fuck me." Harry began to cry silently.
Severus was out of his armchair and next to him on the sofa in an instant. He tugged Harry onto his lap and tucked Harry's head against his shoulder, rocking him until he calmed. If all Severus wanted was a fuck, there were plenty of places in Knockturn Alley that could cater to that need. He wanted more from Harry, a lot more, and he wanted to give Harry a lot more too. Severus kissed the top of Harry's head. "Ron Weasley wouldn't know his arse from his elbow. You know you are a lot more to me than that, Harry."
"I do know, Severus, but sometimes words hurt a lot more than people expect them to. I thought he was my friend."
"Real friends stand by you no matter what."
"Well maybe he was never a real friend then." Harry wriggled on Severus' lap and stared at him. "I need to think about this," said Harry, waving his hand at the books sitting on the coffee table.
"Take all the time you need, Harry. There's no rush. We'll have a lifetime together."
"A lifetime?" Harry's eyes widened comically.
"You did realise that Courting you meant I was thinking of marrying you?"
"Sort of, I guess. It's just you'd never mentioned it before."
"Well, I'm mentioning it now. I was going to propose at the Winter Solstice, but now you've ruined the surprise." Severus pretended to pout.
Harry grinned and leaned down to kiss him. "Well maybe you could just Obliviate me and ask me then."
"I might just do that, brat," said Severus as he sealed his mouth against Harry's and both of them forgot about weddings and masters and pets, at least for a while.
When Harry returned to the common room later that night with Severus' books clutched to his chest he was hoping that everyone else would have already gone to bed. Luck wasn't on his side. Nearly all of the upper years were still dotted about on the chairs and sofas eagerly looking towards the portrait hole when Harry stepped through it.
No lights were on, the only light was from the fire flickering in the grate. No one was even pretending to do any study. Harry should have guessed they would want to know what was going on but he didn't want to tell them. He was fed up with every man and his Crup wanting to know his business. Wasn't he allowed any privacy, ever?
Ron was staring at the books in Harry's hand and he flushed, wishing he'd thought to shrink them. There was no way Harry wanted anyone to else to know the subject matter contained within those pages.
"Did you get detention, Harry?" asked Neville.
"Yeah. I've got to help out in the hospital wing after classes for the rest of the week."
"Oh? Snape doesn't have you on your knees sucking his cock all week? Got fed up with you already?" asked Ron snidely.
"Shut up!" Harry could feel the anger bubbling beneath the surface. "What have you been telling everyone?"
"Just the truth. That you're Snape's new fucktoy."
All the other Gryffindors were looking from Harry to Ron and back again like spectators at a Quidditch match.
"Harry, is it true?" asked one of the sixth years whose name Harry didn't even remember. As he looked around the common room he realised something else as well: none of the girls were here. "That you're shagging Snape?"
"It's none of your damn business!" snapped Harry, livid beyond endurance. "It's my life and I'll thank you all for keeping your noses out of it!"
"He is Confunded!" said someone Harry couldn't see. "Harry Potter wouldn't get angry like that!"
"I told you!" Ron crowed. "Snape's done something to him. What's in the books, Harry?" asked Ron, advancing on him.
Harry edged towards the stairs but Ron was quicker and he managed to wrest the books from Harry's arms. They spilled onto the floor, some of them flipping open and the assembled students gasped at some of the images revealed within the pages: a tall man dressed all in leather, another man kneeling in front of him with a collar and a leash. Men in various sexual poses both dressed and undressed. Harry felt his whole body flush with embarrassment.
"How dare you!" Harry rounded on Ron. "Those are private!"
"They're Snape's!" retorted Ron. "That's sick, Harry! Can't you see that? He's just using you as a sex slave!"
"It's not sick," said Neville. "It's just different."
"Different?" snorted Ron. "Kneeling in front of him and calling him 'Master'? Just what I'd expect from a Death Eater!"
"Leave him alone, Ron!" shouted Neville. "It's not our business. Come on, Harry." Neville helped Harry gather up his books and walked with him up the stairs. There were still questions floating up behind them but Harry ignored them. He knew that if he turned and started trying to defend his relationship yet again his anger would get the better of him. Neville left him by his bedroom door and began climbing the stairs to his dormitory.
"That's right, Neville! You sickos have got to stick together!" Ron's voice carried up the stairwell.
"Neville, can you come in for a while? I don't feel like being alone right now."
"Sure. If you want me to."
Harry nodded and pushed his bedroom door open with his foot. As Harry set the books down in the centre of his bed, Neville admired the crystal chess set Severus had given Harry. "That's beautiful. He must really love you."
"Ron reckoned he was trying to buy me with expensive gifts."
Neville huffed. "And Ron calls himself a pureblood! That's a gift that can't be bought, Harry. Those are faery crystals. They can only be wrought with magic. Snape created that gift for you with his own magic, that's a very deep commitment. Working with crystals takes a lot out of you. It must have taken him weeks to make this."
"Wow, I didn't know that." Harry sighed and sat down on the edge of his bed. "I don't know what's got into Ron lately. He was fine with me being gay a couple of weeks ago and knew I was being Courted. I know he doesn't like Severus, but he's being so mean about it. And why does he keep going on about sex? We haven't even done that yet!"
"Um, Harry. I think it might be my fault. Why Ron's being so weird at the minute."
"Your fault? How do you figure that?"
"On the last Hogsmeade weekend, I stayed at the castle. Someone was visiting me and Ron saw us together in the dorms. He freaked out."
"It wasn't Ginny, was it?" Harry asked although he thought that might explain a few things.
"No. It was George and we – we were playing."
"Playing what? Exploding Snap?"
Neville blushed and pointed at the books.
"Oh. Oh!" said Harry not sure what else he could say. He hadn't seen that coming.
"I'm his sub," said Neville. "Ron didn't understand what he was seeing, he just ran off and he hasn't spoken to George since. He can barely look at me either."
"So – so you know a bit about this?" asked Harry, waving his arms around at the books. "We haven't decided on anything yet, I don't know a lot about it, that's why Severus gave me the books."
"I'm still being trained," said Neville. "It's difficult to see each other very often, but George tries to come and see me on Hogsmeade weekends and he's invited me to the Burrow with him at Christmas. He's told his parents that we're a couple, but not what sort of couple."
Harry tried not to feel upset at Neville's words. It was the first Christmas he hadn't been invited to the Burrow and the way Ron was feeling towards him right now he reckoned he wouldn't be getting an invitation any time soon.
Neville wandered over to the bed and skimmed through a few of the books. "The Art of Submission, that's a good one. George gave me that for my birthday. Boys in Chains: Erotic Tales of Bondage and Submission, oh that sounds good, can I borrow that when you've finished with it?"
"I'll have to ask Severus."
"Oh, of course," said Neville as if it was the most natural thing in the world for Harry to have to ask permission. "If you've any questions, Harry, you can ask me. If your Master allows that."
"So you've no problem with me seeing a teacher?"
"You can't help who you fall in love with, Harry. And if you want to have the same type of relationship as George and I have, well I would be a bit of a hypocrite if I said I couldn't understand that need, wouldn't I?"
"It's a bit scary," Harry admitted. "I told him I needed to think about it."
"Well, that's good, isn't it? You'll make the right decision." Neville yawned. "I'd better get back to the dorms. Will you be okay?"
"Yeah. Thanks for the talk, Neville."
"You're very welcome, Harry."
When Harry awoke the next morning there was a single white rose on the pillow beside his bed along with a scrolled up piece of parchment. Harry smiled to himself and unfurled it; there was only one person who could have bypassed his wards to magic those into the room.
Impatient always for the hour
When next I feel your gentle touch
I yearn to hold my virgin flower
Long for the boy I love so much
Nothing could wrest me from your side
Neither gold nor silver, force nor guile
Erstwhile ambitions pale beside
The ache I have to make you smile
All my love, Severus
P.S. Wipe that silly grin off your face and get to our session!
Harry giggled as he set the poem aside and sighed deeply. God, who knew Severus would have been such a romantic? Harry glanced at the alarm clock; he wouldn't even have time for a wash before he was due to join Severus in their training session. Just because they were Courting now didn't mean that Severus was about to let him slack off. Harry scrambled for his work-out clothes, hurled them into his bag and dashed out the door, almost running the entire way to the dungeons.
Harry skidded to a halt outside the gym and tried flattening down his hair, even knowing as he did so that it was a futile task. It made him feel better that he'd tried though. Severus was already there, as usual wearing one of the tight black t-shirts and a pair of jogging bottoms. Harry tried his best not to stare, but that was almost as futile as trying to tame his hair. His eyes were drawn to those muscles time and time again.
"You're late," said Severus, although there was a clock nowhere in evidence. "Discipline is very important, Harry."
Harry wondered if there was a double meaning behind Severus' words today. "Yes, sir. I'm sorry. I forgot to set my alarm last night."
"Very well, don't let it happen again. Get changed and we can start, or were you thinking of exercising in your pyjamas?"
Severus grinned at him and Harry looked down at his attire in alarm. He'd been so keen to get here on time that he hadn't even dressed first. He was still wearing a pair of plaid pyjama bottoms and a long sleeved t-shirt that he'd slept in the night before. "It was your fault," said Harry. "I was all flustered after reading your poem, I forgot to get changed."
"I make you flustered, do I?" Severus asked innocently standing close to Harry and trailing a finger along Harry's lower lip. Harry made a strange noise, somewhere between a moan and a whimper and he angled his body towards Severus' only for Severus to step back away from him.
Severus slapped him lightly on the thigh. "Discipline, Harry. Work first, play later."
"You promise?" Harry asked.
"Where you are concerned, I will always keep my promises."
Staring up at him, Harry didn't doubt it for a moment.
A/N: The poem is changed a little from one my husband wrote to me (used with permission, LOL!)
When Harry entered the Great Hall for breakfast after his training session the noise level dropped dramatically. Harry caught a glimpse of the front page of the Daily Prophet but it didn't have a photo of him or Severus; it was a photo of Arthur Weasley under the headline. Ministry Reforms. Well, it looked like no one had talked to the papers. Yet. The gossip was just too juicy; Harry knew it would only be a matter of time before someone talked to them.
Harry wandered over to the Gryffindor table and sat down between Hermione and Neville; feeling the eyes of hundreds of students boring into his back. It made him feel as if he had ants crawling all over his skin and he shuddered a little. Ron was nowhere in evidence this morning and Harry wondered if Ron was avoiding him so they wouldn't get into another slanging match.
"Toast, Harry?" asked Hermione as she lifted down one of toast racks that had just been floating past them.
"Yeah, thanks," replied Harry, even though he wasn't feeling particularly hungry. Mindful of Severus' eyes on him, Harry took his time buttering each slice of bread, making sure that all of the bread was covered from crust to crust before he took a bite. It was like chewing soggy cardboard and he had to wash down each mouthful with sips of pumpkin juice.
"Where's Ron?" Harry asked once he'd finally finished his toast. It wasn't like his friend, former friend, to miss out on food.
"He had a firecall from his Mum in McGonagall's office this morning," explained Hermione. "He's still in the Head's office."
Harry hoped everything was all right at the Burrow and as he glanced up at the teachers' table he realised Professor McGonagall wasn't there yet. Severus saw him looking and gave Harry a smile and lifted his tea cup to him in acknowledgement.
Harry's heart burned in his chest. He knew how much Severus valued his privacy and the fact that he was willing to smile at Harry in public made him realise just how much Severus really did care for him. This wasn't some fling that he wanted to hide from the rest of the world. Harry knew they both would have preferred it if they could have told people in their own time but the pixies were out of the cage now and nothing was going to get them back in. It wasn't as if they could Obliviate the whole school, although at times Harry was tempted to do just that.
Severus gave him a heated stare over the rim of his cup and Harry felt his groin tighten in anticipation. He could hardly wait until tonight when they could be alone together again. But before that he had classes and a detention with Madam Pomfrey to get through. Harry didn't think she'd make him do anything too onerous; she seemed to have a soft spot where Harry was concerned. He was just grateful Severus hadn't made him do the detention with Filch.
When the owls swooped in with the post, as always at this time, Harry felt a pang of loss as he remembered Hedwig. He'd always meant to get a replacement owl but somehow he had never got around to it. He watched as the others received their letters and presents from home, all smiles and giggles, and felt even worse. Just as he was getting up, a large brown owl stopped at his place and dropped a parcel onto his empty plate. The owl flew off without even waiting for a treat.
The box was white and unadorned except for Harry's name in gold lettering on the lid. Harry looked at Severus again; who was smiling and nodding and indicating that Harry should open the box. A public gift? Severus really was taking this Courting thing seriously, wasn't he?
Harry lifted the lid and peeked inside. There was a rectangular box of blue velvet lying on a nest of tissue paper. Harry removed it and just held it in his hand; stroking his fingers over the softness of the velvet. Severus was watching him intently. Harry opened the lid and heard Hermione's gasp to the one side of him.
"Oh Harry! It's beautiful!" exclaimed Hermione.
Harry removed the delicate silver bracelet and caressed the miniature cauldron that dangled from it.
"It's a Wizarding Charm Bracelet," she continued. "Muggles have them too, but their charms aren't real. The Wizarding ones are charmed with protection and love spells in each token. You're meant to add a token at certain milestones in your life. Courting, betrothal, marriage, children and things like that. The tokens can take the shape of anything that is special to either of you."
"Where do you learn all this stuff, Hermione?" Harry fingered the charm again and this time if he concentrated he could feel the love and protection in that tiny cauldron enveloping him like a warm blanket.
"Am I the only one who pays attention in History of Magic?"
Harry and Neville looked at each other over Hermione's head. Both of them burst out laughing.
It wasn't until later that afternoon in Charms when Ron approached him. Harry deliberately scratched his nose with his left hand, his new charm bracelet jangling on his wrist.
"Can I talk to you?" asked Ron, glancing around to make sure that Professor Flitwick was still busy helping Parvati with her Silencing Charm.
"Well, your lips are moving and noise is coming out, so I guess that means you're capable of talking," retorted Harry, not willing to make it easy.
"Do you have to make it so difficult?" Ron hissed.
"Difficult? I'm not the one who went running to McGonagall and told the whole world our business!"
"Is there a problem, boys?" squeaked Flitwick, glaring at both of them.
"No, Professor," they both chimed in unison.
"Please, Harry. I need to speak to you. Can you meet me in the Room of Requirement before your detention?"
Harry had never seen Ron looked so despondent before and he felt his heart lurch. "Okay," he found himself agreeing.
The Room that night had become a version of Ron's bedroom at the Burrow, but it was a larger version with a few differences. All the wallpaper and posters were in the same style, but they all looked newer, as if they'd all only just been put up. The bed was larger, but still covered with a Chudley Cannons bedspread, and there was a small relaxation area with a couple of orange bean bags that had never been in Ron's real bedroom.
Ron was standing by the side of the bed, nibbling his nails.
"Ron? What did you want to talk about?"
"You've probably heard about the firecall this morning."
"Is everything all right with your family?"
"What? Oh, yes. It's nothing like that. I don't know what you'd call the firecall equivalent of a Howler, but that was what I had this morning. She really laid into me about fighting with you and Neville and alienating George. Oh, and failing my classes and being disrespectful to teachers and all the rest of it. But she doesn't know. None of them know," said Ron.
Harry was surprised to find that Ron seemed close to tears."Ron? Know what? What's going on with you?" Harry had no idea that Ron was failing in his classes, but then he'd been so preoccupied with Severus and his own problems that it was hardly surprising.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I should never have said those things to you or Neville, or talked about Snape like that. It's not really anything to do with that. I thought I could handle things. I thought I was handling things, but then I saw George and Neville, and then you and Snape, and it brought it all back."
"Last year, Harry. When the Snatchers had me. They – they made us do things. Awful things; and they tortured us with Cruciatus when we didn't obey."
Harry felt his face paling. "Oh, my God! You were raped?"
"Not me, I was a pureblood and they wanted to keep me pure. They made me do other… things. But the Muggleborns and the half-bloods weren't so lucky. Merlin, Harry! It was awful! They made the purebloods watch while they – while they..." Ron choked back a sob. "They had us all in chains and made us call the leader, 'Master'. When I saw Neville kneeling in front of George that day, I lost it. I can't stand feeling like this!"
"Ron, I'm so sorry. Why didn't you tell anyone about this before?"
"I was so ashamed, Harry. How do you talk about something like that?"
"You just did. Has it made you feel any better?"
"Maybe you should go to Madam Pomfrey for counselling," suggested Harry. "She really helped me."
"She did? She wouldn't tell anyone, would she?"
"No, but I think you ought to tell Hermione and apologise to Neville and George."
"I'll think about it."
"It was terrible what happened to you, Ron, but what you saw with George and Neville was different. Neville chose to submit to George willingly; he wasn't forced into it. And if I decide to give myself to Severus that way, it will be my choice too. Everything I do with him I do willingly. There are no spells or potions bending either of us to the other's will. Well, there's the contraceptive potion, but that's different."
"You need a contraceptive potion? You have Gaian Syndrome?"
"Yeah, you've heard of it?"
"Yes, one of our distant cousins had it. He's got three kids now."
"So it won't be a problem between us?"
"No. I really am sorry, Harry. About all the things I said."
"I can understand a bit why you said those things, but it would have been better if you'd talked to me first rather than go running to McGonagall to accuse Severus of abusing me! He has never abused me, Ron. Believe me, I know what abuse is and this isn't it."
Harry nodded but didn't go into any details. Ron may have apologised for what he'd done but it would be a while before Harry felt like sharing anything so intimate with Ron again. He didn't think their friendship would ever be as close as it had been before.
"It's not nice to have your whole life scrutinised," said Harry.
"No, it's not. I am sorry, Harry."
"Can you accept me as I am, Ron? Can you accept the fact that I am with Severus and that one day we might get married and have kids together? Can you accept the fact that I might want to kneel before him and call him 'Master'?"
"I don't think I'll ever understand the need to call him 'Master', but I can accept that you want to. I've been a prat, Harry, and I really would like us to be friends again."
"I'd like that too, Ron. But you've got to let me live my own life. If I make a mistake or a bad decision, then at least I'll know it was my choice. Do you understand? My choices were taken away the day Voldemort marked me and now he's gone I've got choices back. I want to do what I want for a change, is that too much to ask?"
"No. Thanks, Harry. I'm not sure I would have been so accepting."
"Yeah, well, Severus always says I'm a bit too soft for my own good."
"Oh! I almost forgot! Mum wants me to invite you and Snape to the Burrow for Christmas."
"Well, you're a couple, aren't you? And as Mum always says: the more the merrier."
It was after nine o'clock before Madam Pomfrey gave him leave to go and Harry was glad to pack it in. His back and shoulders ached from sorting out the store cupboards; not only the medicines but the linen and equipment cupboards as well. He'd been up and down ladders all night taking stock of how many pillows or blankets needed to be repaired or replaced. It would have been a lot easier to use magic, but as it was detention, that wasn't allowed.
The work wasn't difficult and it left his mind free to wander. Unfortunately, his mind kept wandering back to what Ron had told him. He hoped Ron would tell Hermione what had happened to him. Harry knew how much better he'd felt after he'd told Severus all about his relatives. It hurt keeping secrets locked inside and Harry wouldn't wish it on Ron.
"That'll be all for tonight, Harry," said Madam Pomfrey as Harry put back the last of the clean pillows on the top shelf. "I suppose I'll be seeing you again tomorrow?"
"Yeah. Se - Professor Snape gave me detention for the rest of the week."
"You go and get some rest, dear, and I'll see you tomorrow."
Harry nodded and took his leave, although rest was the last thing on his mind. He hadn't forgotten Severus' promise that they could 'play' later. Although not entirely sure about everything yet, Harry knew he wanted to go further with Severus than kissing and getting so excited he came in his trousers! Naked would be good, very good and as he approached Severus' door, Harry had to adjust himself so that his erection wasn't too visible.
Severus opened the door for him before Harry had even knocked, as though he knew exactly what time Harry would arrive.
"Thanks for the bracelet. It's beautiful," said Harry once he stepped through the threshold.
Severus wrapped his arms around Harry and kissed him breathless. "I'm glad you liked it."
Severus stepped away and Harry was left standing there by the doorway feeling strangely bereft. The room was dimly lit with candles and the flickering orange flames of the fire. There was a sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace that Harry was sure hadn't been there when he stayed with Severus during the summer. As Harry moved further into the room he saw that there was a bottle of oil, a bowl of water and a wash cloth sitting on the coffee table.
"Severus?" Harry's eyes widened.
"Take your shirt off and lie down on the rug, Harry. Poppy told me what she'd have you doing tonight; I just wanted to give you a massage."
"Oh," said Harry.
"You thought the oil was for something else, didn't you?"
Harry blushed; it had been his first thought. "I did. I thought we would have talked about it before we got to that stage though."
"We will, Harry," Severus assured him. "Just because we won't do that yet doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves. Now, lie down on the rug. I promise you'll like it."
Harry didn't doubt that for a second, he just wondered if he'd like it a bit too much, Severus was a wizard with his hands. And his mouth. And his tongue. And oh dear, he'd be making another mess of his trousers at this rate.
"Um. Right. Okay." Harry removed his robe and folded it before setting it down on the sofa, doing the same with his jumper and shirt. He was aware of Severus' eyes on him the whole time, warming him more than the fire.
"You can remove the glamour, Harry. You won't be able to feel as much with it on."
Harry still felt self-conscious about his scars but knowing that Severus had already seen them made it easier to remove his glamour.
"Shoes too, Harry. You'll be more comfortable barefoot."
"Okay." Harry sat down on the sofa bare-chested, next to his folded clothes and untied his laces. He wondered if Severus was going to insist he should remove his trousers and underwear too, but once Harry's socks were off, Severus just nodded and lifted up the vial of oil.
Harry nodded and padded across to the rug. Severus Accioed a cushion from the sofa for Harry to lie his head on and made sure Harry was settled comfortably.
Severus knelt down, straddling Harry's thighs and opened the vial of oil. Harry didn't recognise all of the scents, but could tell there was lavender and sandalwood along with something flowery that he couldn't quite pin down.
Severus began to knead Harry's neck with both hands, the slickness of the oil making his hands glide effortlessly over the skin. Harry moaned as the kinks were being worked out. "What are the flowers?" he asked, looking over his shoulder.
"I used a base of rosewater," said Severus before leaning down and nibbling on Harry's ear. "White roses. Pure. Just like my virgin boy."
"Ohhhh," Harry moaned and flushing, hid his head against the cushion, the words going straight to his groin.
Severus got some more oil and proceeded to massage Harry from neck to lower back, rubbing and pressing with both hands. It was wonderful and Harry all but melted into the rug in front of him. Harry's toes curled against the soft sheepskin and he sighed with bliss. His cock was hard and getting harder by the minute due to Severus' wonderful ministrations. As it gradually got bigger, it pressed uncomfortably against his zip. "Ow!" muttered Harry.
The wonderful massage stopped. "Did I hurt you?" asked Severus with some concern.
"No. Ah, it's my zip. Can I – can I take my trousers off?"
"You need to ask me that?" Severus laughed, leaning over Harry's back, his hair tickling his skin. "Turn over; I'll take them off for you."
Severus moved off Harry and Harry wasted no time in turning over. He knew Severus would see he was aroused, but Severus had probably guessed that already if Harry's sighs and moans were anything to go by. Severus' eyes flicked to Harry's groin. Harry wasn't the only one who was aroused; Harry could see the tent in Severus' trousers too. The thought had his head reeling. Just touching Harry, massaging him like that, had made Severus excited?
"See, I knew you'd enjoy it."
"I did. You have wonderful hands," said Harry, still blushing furiously. He wished he wouldn't go so red all the time.
Severus reached up, his fingers still slick with oil and caressed Harry's shoulders and chest.
"You like the way my hands make you feel?"
"Ohhhh!" Harry's hips arched up. "Yes! God, yes!"
Severus moved his hands lower and lower until they rested by the waistband of Harry's trousers. Harry wasn't beyond begging but he decided to let Severus take the lead for now, as everything Severus had done so far had been wonderful.
Severus bent his head and kissed Harry's stomach; that part of Harry's stomach that had made him lose so control so easily before. Harry writhed on the rug, his heart beating so fast he thought it would burst out of his chest. "Please!"
"You're so hard, aren't you?" asked Severus, looking up at him with desire in his eyes and pressing his hand on the bulge in Harry's trousers. "Would you like us to do something tonight?"
Harry nodded. "Not ... not everything," he said breathlessly. "Naked ... something naked." If he didn't get out of his clothes soon he was going to explode!
"Oh, my dearest Harry, I think I can arrange that."
Severus leant down and tugged Harry's zip down with his teeth, growling a little. Harry almost lost it there and then, Severus just seemed so masterful!
Umbridge and Filch. Umbridge and Filch. Umbridge and Filch.
Once Harry's trousers were off, Severus didn't stop there; he removed Harry's underwear in one fell swoop and tossed everything in an untidy heap on the floor beside them. Severus straddled Harry's hips again before summoning his wand.
"I bet they don't teach you this one in Charms," said Severus with a knowing grin. "Divestio." Magic flared and in an instant Harry was suddenly skin to skin with his intended.
"Oh, fuck!" Harry closed his eyes and gripped Severus' hips with his hands.
Umbridge and Filch. Umbridge and Filch. Umbridge and Filch.
There, that did the trick and he felt like he could open his eyes without humiliating himself yet again. Did everyone come this fast? Or was he just weird? Severus didn't seem to have any trouble with premature ejaculation but maybe that was because he was older and more experienced.
Harry opened his eyes and he gaped at Severus. Then he gaped some more.
"Oh, God! You're beautiful," groaned Harry as he reached up to caress the muscled arms and chest that he had been so enamoured of. Severus groaned and pressed his groin against Harry's stomach.
Harry couldn't see much of Severus' cock from his position lying on the floor, even when he lifted his head to get a glimpse of it. Just a hint of red and dark curls was all he could make out. From the weight of it, Severus' cock felt bigger than his own. Harry's hips began to thrust of their own accord and he heard Severus make that wonderful moan again.
"Wait. Let me get some more oil, it'll be better."
Harry waited while Severus coated first his own cock and then Harry's before lying down so that his whole body was lying flush with Harry's. Chest to chest, neck to neck, groin to groin. Severus turned his head so that he could kiss Harry. The kiss started off quite slow and gentle, their lips moving in tandem as their lower bodies rocked against one another but as their thrusting got faster and more urgent, so too did the kissing. They were nipping and biting at each other's lips, Harry's thighs wrapped around Severus' waist and he urged him to go faster and faster by drumming his heels on Severus' back
It was a maelstrom of sensations; Harry had never felt anything like it before. Before, arousal tended to happen in his prick and his sac, but with Severus completely covering him like this; it was as if he was feeling desire everywhere. In his skin, in his bones, in his hair, right down to his toes. Both of them were gasping through the kisses, a light sheen of sweat covering both their bodies as they strived for the peak together.
Harry knew it wouldn't take much more, but he was trying to hold back so that they could come together. Severus pulled his mouth away, panting harshly. Severus pinned Harry's wrists above his head and seared Harry's skin with the blaze of possession in his eyes.
"Mine!" Severus growled and shuddered against him. Harry felt the wet warmth flood onto his belly and the extra sensation was too much on his overloaded body. He bucked against Severus and he moaned his release to high heaven as one of the strongest orgasms he'd ever had overtook him.
"Ahh! Ahh!!! Yours! Only yours!" His whole body shook with the force of it. So much seed seemed to come out of his cock. Rope after pearly rope, some even ended up on his chin. Harry's legs locked around Severus' and Severus pressed even harder on his wrists as Harry rode the waves of ecstasy.
"Severus! Severus!" Harry screamed when it seemed as if every ounce of fluid had left his body. Although dry now, his cock still twitched and rubbed against their slick bellies.
"You're beautiful when you come," said Severus, leaning down to lick Harry's come from his chin. "And you taste exquisite." Severus pressed his mouth hard against Harry's and Harry was treated to the strange, tangy taste of himself on Severus' tongue. They kissed and kissed, passing Harry's emission between them until there was no more left.
"We're all sticky now," said Harry with a small giggle once Severus let him up for air again. He felt so sated and languid that he could quite happily have fallen asleep on the floor. His muscles had all turned to jelly.
"Indeed. Isn't it handy that we have a bowl of water and a cloth right here?"
Harry's eyes widened. "You had this planned for tonight?"
"Did I plan to seduce you and have my wicked way with you tonight? Oh, yes."
Harry grinned. "Good. I like it when you have your wicked way with me."
Severus rung out the cloth and began to wash Harry's belly, thighs and prick. It was slow and tender and almost as satisfying as what they'd just been doing.
"What was it called?" Harry asked, waving to encompass both of them.
Severus rinsed the cloth and began washing himself more briskly than he'd washed Harry.
"You really don't know? It's called 'frottage'. Not to be mistaken with 'fromage', which is cheese."
"I – I liked it. A lot," Harry said shyly.
"I think I rather gathered that. A lot of people do."
"I love you, Severus." Harry yawned.
"I love you too, Harry. And you're tired. Come on, let's get you to bed."
Severus got off Harry and helped him up, both of them enjoying a full body hug once Harry had reached his feet.
"I could get used to naked hugs," said Harry.
"I don't want to go back to my room," said Harry. "It's so lonely."
"Then stay," said Severus, kissing his forehead.
"You'd let me?" Harry asked in surprise.
"It's not as if our relationship is a secret anymore, is it? I'd suggest you leave early though, we don't want to give the first years a heart attack."
"So I can stay?" Harry couldn't believe how happy that thought made him.
"You can stay, my wonderful, beautiful Harry."
"Charlie!" Harry squealed and ran to hug him in greeting. Severus' heart thudded in his chest as he watched the easy affection between the two of them. Harry should only have that welcoming smile for him, no one else. Over two heads taller than Harry, Charlie Weasley looked the epitome of the rugged, outdoor man. His hair was windswept, his cheeks ruddy, his eyes sparkling with vitality. Severus couldn't help but compare his pale complexion with that of the second-eldest Weasley and wondered if Harry found him lacking.
"Merlin! Look at you!" said Charlie, twirling Harry around and whistling. "You've filled out." Charlie's eyes were glittering as he took in the vision before him. There was no getting around it, Harry was indeed a vision and Severus knew that eyes would be drawn to him. Dressed in a pair of black trousers, an emerald jumper and a black leather jacket; Harry looked decidedly edible and Charlie Weasley looked as though he was dying for a taste.
Flushing, Harry turned around and glanced at Severus with a worried look, as if he knew Severus would be angry with him. Oh, Severus was angry all right, but not with Harry. He was angry with Charlie Weasley who had dared to touch Harry with so much familiarity. The dragon handler would soon learn that Severus didn't share what was his. Ever.
"Harry, why don't you put our things away in our room? I would like to have a word with Charlie."
Severus didn't know where the rest of the Weasleys were and when they would return but hopefully he would have enough time to give Charlie a piece of his mind.
"Okay, Severus. I'll see you later." Harry hugged him before levitating both trunks up the narrow stairwell and into their bedroom.
Once Harry was out of sight, Charlie turned to Severus and winked. "Your room? You and Harry, eh? You are a sly one, aren't you?"
"There was nothing sly about it," retorted Severus.
"No? The last I heard Harry was going out with Ginny! I didn't even know he was gay. Or is he bisexual?"
"I don't think that is any of your business, is it? We're together and that's all you need to know."
"And Mum approves of this, does she? Harry's only eighteen," said Charlie, sinking down on one of the sofas.
"And yet, if I am not mistaken, you were staring at Harry as if he was a rather tasty dessert. I would appreciate it if you would not lay hands on what is mine in future."
"God, Snape! Do you know what you sound like? Harry isn't your slave!"
Severus just smirked at him. Harry had yet to decide if he wanted to become Severus' submissive, but Severus knew it was only a matter of time. He'd seen the hungry look in Harry's eyes when he held him down and called him 'mine'. Harry wanted to belong to him, that much was obvious.
"Isn't he a bit young for you?" asked Charlie. "You're old enough to be his father!"
"True, but I am not his father. Nor does he look upon me as a brother."
Before Charlie could continue, the kitchen of the Burrow was filled to capacity with the Weasleys and their guests and any sort of personal conversation would have to wait for another time.
There was a large pine tree in one corner with an overflowing stack of presents underneath it. He and Harry had already set their gifts beneath it earlier, both for the Weasleys and for each other. It had been a long time since Severus had spent anything like a family Christmas with anyone, but even as he was surrounded by the warmth and welcome at the Burrow, he couldn't wait for when he and Harry had a Christmas of their own with their own children.
"Where's Harry?" asked Bill, glancing at his mother. Fleur was looking rather more rounded than usual and, although no official announcement had been made, Severus guessed there would soon be another Weasley added to the clan.
"He's putting our things away," said Severus, wondering how many more times he was going to have to explain that he and Harry were now together. It looked like Ronald hadn't told all of his family yet.
"They're Courting," sighed Molly. "Just like you and Fleur did, Bill. Isn't it romantic?"
Bill spluttered out his hot chocolate and Severus had the impression that Bill and Fleur hadn't waited until the wedding night for consummation of their union, as was traditional with a wizarding Courtship. Severus knew he and Harry could still have plenty of fun while still waiting for the consummation.
"Too hot," explained Bill sheepishly, blowing on the top of his mug. Outside the kitchen window snowflakes swirled lazily in the darkness and melted as soon as they hit the pane.
"Oh, do you remember that time when we were Courting, Arthur? And we ended up talking for so long that it was well past curfew when we got back. We had detention for a month!"
"Isn't it a bit weird with you being Harry's teacher?" asked George, who had his arm around Neville Longbottom.
George sounded genuinely interested rather than disapproving so Severus was quite happy to answer. It still seemed a bit strange to see George without Fred by his side and Severus kept expecting him to walk into the room at any moment. "Not really, no. In class he is still my student and is treated accordingly. We can separate the two relationships."
"It's true," said Neville. "If you didn't know beforehand, you couldn't tell they were together by the way they act in class."
"Yeah," Ron agreed.
"My ears are burning," said Harry as he reached the bottom of the stairs. "Were you all talking about me?"
"Yes, they were," said Ginny, who despite sitting with Ernie Macmillan, seemed to send hopeful gazes in Harry's direction.
Severus wished Harry had already decided to become his pet so that he could take him away from all of these people. Tying him to the bed and locking him away was such a tantalising prospect, but Severus knew that after what Harry had been through with the Dursleys he couldn't do it to him. Harry needed his friends and other people around him and although he hated it, Severus knew that he was just going to have to get used to the fact that other people might look at Harry and find him attractive. But as long as all they did was look, that was okay. Severus was an only child and he didn't share well.
"Would you like some hot chocolate, Harry?" asked Molly. "There's plenty left."
"No, thank you. I'm a bit tired; I think I'll head off to bed."
"All right, dear. We'll see you in the morning," said Molly.
Severus spent another half an hour in the kitchen, trying not to make it too obvious how much he wanted to go and join Harry in their room. But soon he couldn't take any more of Ginny's snide looks or watching George and Neville snuggling together, as if they weren't aware of how many other people were watching them.
"Goodnight," said Severus and was bade goodnight in his turn.
When he pushed open the door of the room he and Harry would be sharing, his heart just about jumped into his throat. Harry was completely naked and kneeling with his head bowed by the foot of the bed. Beside him was a wrapped parcel in Slytherin green; one that hadn't made it beneath the tree.
Harry turned when he heard the door open and lifted up the parcel. "I wanted to give you this in private, sir," he said, his eyes still lowered. "An early Christmas present."
"Thank you," said Severus, removing the proffered gift from Harry's hands. It didn't take long to unwrap and Severus wasn't that surprised by what he found within. An elegant leather collar, unadorned except for a ring at the front, along with a silver leash.
"You're sure, Harry?" asked Severus, sitting down on the side of the bed and petting Harry's hair.
"I'm sure, Master. I want to give myself to you. All that you'll have of me."
"Oh, Harry. I want everything."
"Everything?" Harry queried, opening his fist and Severus saw the small vial of oil there.
Severus chuckled. "Don't be so impatient, pet. We won't be doing that yet. We're Courting. It's traditional to wait until the wedding night for consummation. I'd rather we wait."
"Oh. I'm sorry, Master. I didn't mean to presume. I just thought that's what you wanted."
"I do, pet, one day. But for now I'd like something else."
"Anything, sir," said Harry, kneeling up straighter.
Anything… oh the images that conjured up! Severus was like a child in a sweetshop and he didn't know which delicacy to try first. He leaned down and fastened the collar around Harry's neck. Harry hissed in pleasure and arched his hips.
"I want you to know that you're mine, Harry. You belong to me now. Always."
"Always," sighed Harry and laid his head on Severus' thigh.
"Have you thought about what you'd like in our contract, Harry?" Severus asked. Despite wanting nothing better than to accept Harry's submission, he wanted to make sure that Harry knew what he was letting himself in for. It was not something to be taken lightly.
"I have, Master," said Harry. "I've written out a sample one. May I fetch it for you?"
"If you would," said Severus, surprised and pleased that Harry had already written one out. It seemed Harry was taking this seriously. Harry stood up as gracefully as a dancer and removed a scroll from his trunk. His whole body was flushing as he handed the parchment to Severus; his cock jerking with excitement.
Harry knelt back down on the floor as Severus read the parchment.
I, Harry James Potter, do hereby offer my submission to Severus Tobias Snape. I promise to obey his will or suffer punishment. I want to submit to him in every way including sexually. My body is his to do with as he wishes, unless I cannot handle certain situations. In which case my safeword would be 'Lily'. All that I am I give to Severus Snape and hope he will accept this unworthy slave.
"Harry," Severus pushed a finger underneath Harry's chin and tilted his head up to face him. "You are not unworthy. Your submission is a gift and one I would accept gladly. But do you realise what you are saying here? You want me to be in control of every aspect of your life? I would decide which friends you could and couldn't see. What money you could spend and every other decision, barring children, would be up to me. Is that really what you want?"
"It is, Severus. I know what I want and I want to allow someone else to take control of everything. I'm fed up of being the strong one. I want someone strong enough to take care of me. I love you and I want to submit to you. I've thought about it a lot. I know what I'm doing."
"Very well," said Severus, conjuring a self-inking quill as his hand hovered over the parchment. "If you're sure?"
Harry nodded again.
I, Severus Tobias Snape, hereby accept the gift of Harry James Potter's submission. In return for his submission, I promise to look after all of his needs, financially, socially, sexually and others as the need arises. I acknowledge that if he uses his safeword, all play will stop immediately. Punishment may consist of (but not be limited to) spanking, paddling or removal of privileges. No permanent injury will result from any punishment and past misdeeds will never be used in order to extend a punishment. Limiting food will never be used under any circumstances. Harry James Potter may at any time revoke this contract if he feels unable to continue the relationship in a domination/submission capacity. Revocation of the contract does not mean the relationship has to end, just the submission elements.
Severus handed the scroll back to Harry, whose eyes scanned the added details eagerly. "So this is all we need to do?" asked Harry.
"Well, we both have to sign it, but that is basically it, yes."
"So if I signed it, I would belong to you?"
"Yes, Harry. You would belong to me. Some Doms allow others to use their pets sexually, but I am not one of them. If you want to belong to me, you need to know that I do not share what is mine. Ever."
"I don't want anyone else, Master," said Harry. "I only want you."
"Then how about we have a trial version of your submission? Let's say until you leave school, that will give you time to see if it is really what you wish."
"You'd be willing to do that for me?" asked Harry. He sounded so surprised, as if the submissive's wishes were never taken into account.
"Harry, a submissive is not a slave. I only have the option to dominate you because you have me given permission to do so. You are the one in control and that's how it should be. I promise to respect your safeword but you must respect yourself enough to know when something is too much for you. I won't be angry if you use it. We are still partners and lovers first, Master and pet second."
"Thank you, sir," said Harry, leaning up and kissing Severus softly on the mouth. When Harry pulled away, Severus schooled his face into a stern mask.
"You did not have permission to kiss me, pet," said Severus and was gratified to see Harry's eyes darken in desire at the forceful tone. Harry did want this, it was obvious now. "But since we are guests I will waive your punishment until we are back at Hogwarts."
Harry nodded, blushing. "As you wish, sir."
"Indeed," said Severus, smiling indulgently at his new pet.
"Harry!" squealed Hermione as Harry lifted up a slice of toast with his left hand. "Is that a...?"
"Betrothal ring, yes," said Harry, proudly showing it off to her. It was the first day back after the Christmas holidays and Harry was dying to share his news. Severus had proposed to him on New Year's Eve in the Weasleys' orchard. If Harry closed his eyes he could still remember the trees bedecked with flickering faeries and lanterns as he and Severus walked through the snow holding hands.
Hermione took Harry's hand in hers so she could examine the ring more closely. The silver band was etched with Celtic Runes but since Harry didn't study that discipline he wasn't sure what they meant.
"Love, honour and cherish," said Hermione, translating them as she read. "Oh, Harry! That's so romantic!"
Harry grinned, agreeing totally. Sometimes he felt as if he was floating on a cloud, he was so happy these days.
"And did he get you a new Charm for your bracelet?"
Harry nodded and showed her the miniature silver feather. "For Hedwig," Harry said softly. "We're getting bonded over the Easter break."
"So soon?" asked Hermione.
Harry shrugged. It didn't feel soon to him. They loved each other and now that everyone knew about their relationship anyway they had no reason to wait.
"You should have seen it," said Neville. "Professor Snape got down on one knee and everything!"
"How did you know that?" asked Harry. He had assumed he and Severus had been alone in the orchard.
"You weren't the only two looking for some privacy that night," Neville smiled and winked at him.
"Too much information," said Ron, stirring his porridge but not attempting to eat any of it.
Harry stared at Ron, wondering if he was ever going to be able to accept the type of relationship he and Neville were in. "Anyway, what about you? How was Australia?"
"It was lovely, Harry. A bit strange to have Christmas in the summer though. Mum and Dad love it out there. They're going to apply for citizenship as Australia is looking for dentists at the moment."
"Won't you miss them?" Harry couldn't imagine that if he still had his parents he'd want them to live so far away from him.
"A bit, but with the restrictions lifted on international Apparition now, I can visit them quite often. Your dad's doing really great things at the Ministry, isn't he, Ron?"
Ron looked up from his porridge bowl; it seemed as if he had been contemplating drowning himself in the dish. "What? I wasn't listening."
"So I see. Are you okay, Ron? You've hardly touched your breakfast."
"I'm fine, Hermione! I'll see you later." Ron hoisted his schoolbag over his shoulder and left without eating anything more.
"What's up with him?" asked Hermione.
Both Neville and Harry looked at each other. "I think you'd better ask him yourself, Hermione," Harry said. It wasn't his secret to tell. He knew how hurtful it could be for someone else to share your secrets before you were quite ready for the world to know.
"Don't worry, I will!"
Classes that day seemed to drag on interminably. Harry wanted the day to end so badly that he was barely concentrating in any of his lessons. At eight o'clock he had an appointment with his Master for his punishment; he had kissed Severus without permission. Sitting in Charms, looking at but not reading the same page for the past ten minutes, Harry felt a shiver of desire up and down his spine as he wondered what form that punishment might take.
Harry trusted Severus; otherwise he would never have signed the contract. He didn't think Severus would really hurt him and if things got too much he could always use his word. Harry was quite keen to see how far his own limits could take him. Strangely, it felt liberating to hand over control to someone else. Maybe it was because this was something Harry chose to do. Having his life controlled first by the Dursleys and then by the wider wizarding world; he felt he'd had no choice but to train for and eventually defeat Voldemort. It was expected of him and Harry had a terrible self-consciousness about disappointing people.
By the time dinner rolled around, Harry was so filled with nervous anticipation that food was the last thing he wanted. Feeling his Master's gaze upon him though, had Harry attacking his steak and kidney pie as though it had done him some great wrong. It was in their amended contract that Harry wasn't to skip meals. After so many years of never knowing where his next meal was coming from it was great that someone cared about him enough to make sure that he ate and that he had enough to eat.
Falling in love with Severus was the best thing he'd ever done.
Severus waited anxiously for Harry to arrive. He'd decided not to be too tough on Harry tonight; Harry was still being trained and Severus didn't want to scare him off the submission before they'd even started. There were plenty of things he'd like to do, but patience was a quality Severus admired and he told himself that it would be rewarded if he took things easy now.
At five to eight, Harry knocked on the living room door. Severus waved his wand to open it and admit Harry.
Harry was still wearing his school uniform and his robes. As soon as he entered the room, Harry walked over to Severus and sank to his knees, his head lowered. Severus could see a pale patch of neck peeping out from the edge of Harry's shirt collar as he stared down at his pet.
"Very good, pet. In our rooms, I expect you to greet me like that all the time. You may speak."
"Thank you, sir," said Harry. "Master, I would like to apologise for my presumption the other night."
"Apology accepted," said Severus. "But an apology doesn't get you out of your punishment."
"I know, Master. I accept whatever punishment you wish to give me."
"Very well. Stand up and strip, you may set your clothes on the floor for now. You won't be needing them tonight."
Harry struggled to his feet and, blushing madly the whole time, began to rid himself of every garment, from robes to underwear, from shirt to shoes. Once he was fully naked, Severus realised he was fully aroused as well, his cock standing almost vertical from its wiry nest of dark curls.
Severus sat down on an armchair and indicated the floor by his feet. The fire was blazing in the hearth and light from the lanterns danced along the walls. Harry sank down as gracefully as a dancer and bowed his head.
"For your punishment, Harry. You will suck me until I come, but tonight you will not come. Once you leave here, you are not to bring yourself to a climax either, is that understood? Your body belongs to me now and I will decide when you come, if at all. If you please me; then we will see about letting you come next time. Do you understand and accept your punishment?"
"Yes, sir," said Harry, breathing heavily. Severus knew this would be a difficult punishment for Harry to accept at first. The boy was so responsive that Severus would be very surprised if he lasted while sucking Severus off. If he came without permission, then Severus would just have to think of another punishment, wouldn't he? Severus grinned and unbuttoned his trousers, sighing with relief. He'd been hard as soon as Harry had knelt on the floor.
Harry looked at Severus' cock and then Severus' face. "Permission to speak, Master?"
"Granted. What is it, pet?"
"It's just - what do I do?" Harry asked plaintively.
Of course! Severus should have realised Harry wouldn't know as Harry had never been with any man before. "What did you enjoy when it was done to you?"
Ah, there it was again, Harry'd delightful pink blush. "Um, no one's done it to me either."
"No?" Oh, the thought of how innocent Harry was in the pleasures of the flesh had Severus' head reeling and his cock throbbing with want. He was the one who would get to instruct Harry in all the ways of love and what wonderful lessons they would be! Time for some hands-on learning.
"Just lick and suck, but mind the teeth. I don't expect you to deep throat me yet, you may use your hands on the rest of the shaft if you like. And remember, pet, you are not to touch yourself or come."
"Yes, Master. Thank you, Master," said Harry as he bent his head and sucked the head of Severus' cock into his mouth. Feeling all that wet heat around him had Severus groaning out loud and tangling his fingers in Harry's hair. Harry may have been untutored and inexperienced, but he more than made up for it in enthusiasm, moaning around the cock in his mouth and sucking as if his life depended on it.
"Harder. Suck harder," Severus commanded. "I'm not going to break."
Harry placed one hand on Severus' lower shaft and hollowed his cheeks as he did as he was ordered. Not even half of Severus' cock was inside Harry's mouth, but watching those raspberry pink lips stretch around him was one of the most erotic sights Severus had ever seen. Harry's cock was dripping copious amounts of precome onto the stone floor and his hips were thrusting against empty air as he fought his arousal.
Severus felt his balls tighten and knew he wasn't far off. He gripped Harry's hair and began pumping in and out of his mouth furiously as he struggled for the peak. "Harrrrry!!" he shrieked as his cock jerked and spilled his seed inside Harry's waiting mouth. There was too much of it for Harry to contain it all. Suddenly, Harry's hands gripped Severus' thighs and he shuddered as his cock pulsed and he came all over Severus' trousers and shoes, without his cock ever being touched.
Severus' softening cock slipped out of Harry's mouth and Harry looked nervously up at him. "I'm sorry, sir! I couldn't help it!"
Severus had come so much that quite a bit of it was dribbling down Harry's chin and onto his chest. His eyes were hazy with spent lust and his whole body flushed with desire. The boy looked positively debauched; a look Severus was only too willing to get used to on him.
"You came without permission," said Severus sternly. "You also soiled my clothes. Lick me clean and then return to your dormitory. You will learn control, Harry. I insist on it."
"Yes, Master," said Harry and it sounded as though he was struggling to hold back tears. They weren't shed though and Severus wondered if Harry would use his word. He didn't, Harry knelt down and began licking Severus' trousers and boots clean of his shed seed.
It took all of Severus' control not to reach out and caress his pet's hair.
Harry didn't know how long he'd been crying into his pillow before he heard the knock on his door. He sat up, hugging the damp pillow to his chest as if to ward off intruders. Harry had left Severus' quarters so late that hardly anyone had been in the common room so he didn't think Ron had seen how upset he was. It would be just like Ron to use this as an excuse for not accepting Harry's relationship.
"Who is it?" Harry called, hastily wiping his face and hopping down from his four-poster. He tried to repress the hope that it was Severus come to see if he was all right, but deep down Harry knew it was a futile hope. He was being punished for disobeying and God, was it a punishment.
"Harry? It's Neville. Are you all right? You seemed a bit upset when you came back."
Harry opened the door and let his friend in, before promptly bursting into tears again. It didn't help that he'd taken his dose of contraceptive potion that morning and the hormones always made him react badly.
"Oh, Neville! It was a-a-awful!" Harry sobbed. "I don't think I can do this!" Harry wailed and sank down by the foot of his bed, leaning his back against it.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Neville asked gently, sitting down beside him.
Harry waited for a few moments until he'd stopped crying and could finally manage a coherent sentence. "I - I disobeyed and he punished me," Harry admitted. "But afterwards, he didn't even look at me or touch me. He never even kissed me tonight. It felt awful." It felt as if Ron had been right all along and Severus had only wanted him for sex. But that couldn't be right, could it? They were getting married! It had to mean more than sex, didn't it? "I - I felt used."
"Harry, you've got to tell him how you feel."
"How can I? He's supposed to be the Master! It doesn't matter what I want, does it?"
"Of course it does! You're the one in control, Harry. He can only dominate you because you gave him permission to. If you still want him to be your Master but you're really uncomfortable with something, either use your word or have a discussion with him. Just ask for permission to speak freely and explain why it bothered you. He'll want to know, Harry. You can't keep doing things you don't feel comfortable doing or you'll end up resenting the relationship and maybe even resenting him for making you do it. Did you have a contract?"
"Yes, but this wasn't mentioned."
"There's always room for negotiation, Harry. You're in this together. You're his submissive, not his slave. I think he'd want you to tell him if something was bothering you this much."
"Thanks, Neville. I'm sorry to bother you with all this stuff."
"It's not a bother, what are friends for?" Neville grinned at him and Harry felt his heart lift. It would be all right. He would talk to Severus tomorrow and clear the air.
Harry had a free period just before lunch and spent the time wondering how he was going to broach the subject of what had happened last night. He'd decided to seek Severus out in his office during the lunch break as Harry knew he wouldn't manage to last through until the evening. He ate lunch first then followed Severus upstairs; Harry knew Severus sometimes marked work or set lesson plans after his lunch.
Severus was waiting for him at the top of the stairs in the Defence classroom. "Come in, Harry. I was expecting you."
As soon as the door shut, Harry sank to his knees and bowed his head. "Permission to speak freely, Master?"
"Of course. You can get up off the floor, pet," said Severus sitting down on the sofa and patting his lap. Harry wasn't sure that he would deserve the treat of sitting in his Master's lap once Severus heard what he was going to say, but he was going to take the comfort it offered anyway. Harry sat down across Severus' lap and rested his head against Severus' shoulder. Severus pushed his fringe away from his forehead and caressed the skin there. "What is it, Harry?"
"It's about last night; the punishment when I came after you'd forbidden me to. Severus, I can handle most things, but I can't handle not being touched. The Dursleys never touched me unless it was to hit me and I'd never been hugged until third year. You making me lick your clothes clean, that didn't bother me and I'd expected to be punished for disobeying, but you not even touching me or kissing me afterwards, that really hurt and I don't think I can handle that. I love you, Severus, but last night it felt as if you were using me, as if you only wanted the sex and nothing more. I know that isn't true, but it's how I felt."
"Harry, if you want to leave the submission behind, we can do that."
"I still want you to be my Master, Severus, but I just need to be touched too, even if I have done something wrong."
"Thank you for telling me this, Harry."
"You're not angry with me for speaking out?"
"No, if something really isn't to your liking, I need to know. It's a Dom's responsibility to look after his sub but I can't do that properly if you don't tell me what you need. You could have used your word last night, Harry; why didn't you?"
Harry shrugged, not looking at him.
"That isn't an answer, Harry."
"I - I didn't want you to think I couldn't handle it. It was only our first session and I didn't want to disappoint you."
"Harry, you being uncomfortable and not using your word, that's what disappoints me. I will be pushing your limits, but you need to tell me when those limits are reached."
"I'm sorry, Severus. You will have to punish me for that, won't you?"
"I will. We have time now. Undress, then I want you to come back and lie face down on my lap."
"Yes, Master," said Harry, sliding off Severus' lap and undressing in record time. Severus was trying his best to look stern, but it seemed as if he was trying not to smile as Harry stood in front of him, his cock pointing straight at his Master. Harry lay down across Severus' lap, his legs and his head resting on the sofa cushions; the fabric of Severus' robes prickling the skin of his abdomen and groin.
"Ten should do it," said Severus. "You will call out each number and afterwards you will thank me for your punishment. You may be vocal, but you are not to come, do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," said Harry, wishing Severus hadn't added that bit about not coming. Harry still wasn't so sure he could control his reactions when Severus touched him. It was as if his body was attuned to every inch of Severus' and it didn't really matter whether Harry himself was being touched. Just sucking Severus off last night had Harry coming so hard he saw stars without his own cock even being touched at all.
Harry heard a whistle of air just before Severus' palm landed on his buttocks. The pain wasn't as bad as anything the Dursleys had done to him, but it knocked the breath from him for a second. "O -one," gasped Harry just as the second blow landed right on the same position as the first had. "Two!" His arse was stinging now and by five he was really feeling a burn on his skin. His cock was hard and throbbing, trapped between his abdomen and Severus' legs but Harry tried to ignore that sensation completely and concentrated on feeling the pain in his arse and nothing else. He wouldn't disappoint his Master again.
Again and again his Master's hand came down and by end of it Harry was sobbing the numbers out. "Ten! Ten!"
The next time Severus' hand came down it was to caress the flesh he'd just spanked.
"Thank you, Master," said Harry as his sobbing eased off and he felt those wonderful fingers on his skin. He'd missed that so much last night.
"Accio salve." Harry lifted his head to see the jar slap into Severus' hands. "This will take the edge out of the sting, Harry, but there should still be a bit of tenderness there. Or I have another which will heal it completely."
Harry angled his head round. "No, Master. I'd like the reminder."
"Very well," said Severus as he dipped his fingers in the gel and began to smooth it over Harry's arse cheeks.
"Ohhhh," he moaned as he felt his skin cooling almost at once, which made his cock perk up again too.
"And you didn't come," said Severus, whispering against Harry's back, his fingers still tracing patterns on his arse. "I think you deserve a reward for being such a good boy today." Once Severus had finished with the salve, he turned Harry over so that he was sitting on Severus' lap again; this time with Harry's back pulled flush against his chest.
Harry groaned deep in his throat when Severus wrapped his hand around Harry's leaking prick. Severus' hands were so much bigger and so much more experienced that Harry felt his head swim. "Would you like to come, Harry? Would you like me to make you come?"
"If - if it's allowed, Master," said Harry, lowering his neck and feeling Severus' lips kiss him there. He shuddered with desire.
"Good answer, pet," said Severus. "Widen your legs."
Harry obeyed at once, the position feeling a little precarious, but he knew his Master wouldn't let him fall. One arm wrapped firmly around Harry's chest while the other hand stroked Harry in a maddeningly slow rhythm. Harry arched his hips, trying to get more pressure on his cock. His balls felt as if they were about to explode at any minute. He needed to come so badly! "Please!" Harry begged. "Please, Master!" Harry's stomach jolted as Severus brought him to the edge again and again with those wonderful hands but still not enough to let him fall over it.
"Oh God! Let me! Master! Let me come! Please!!" wailed Harry.
"My beautiful boy," Severus whispered in his ear before biting lightly on his shoulder. "Come for me, Harry. Come for me now."
Harry bucked his hips into Severus' hands as the pleasure soared through him and he felt his cock pulsing with white-hot heat. "Master! Master!" he shrieked as he shot jets of pearl over Severus' hand and his own chest and thighs. Severus didn't ease off his strokes; he kept squeezing and pressing until Harry felt as if he'd been drained dry. Harry collapsed against his Master, his legs feeling more like rubber than anything made of flesh and bone. His cock was still twitching within Severus' hand even though there was nothing left to come out.
Severus let go of Harry's cock and tugged him around so that he was sitting astride Severus' lap. "I love you, Harry," said Severus. "Even if I don't say it as often as I should, remember that I love you." Severus pulled Harry's head down and kissed him long and deep on the mouth.
When he pulled away, both of them were gasping for breath and Harry was getting hard again. Severus caressed his cock and kissed Harry again. "The bell's about to ring," said Severus. "Much as I would love to stay and continue, you know we can't."
"I know, Master. I'm sorry I didn't get to make you come."
"We will have plenty of other opportunities, Harry. You're mine forever now." Severus lifted up Harry's left hand and kissed his betrothal ring and the skin around it.
"Forever," agreed Harry, his heart singing.
"How about this one?" Neville held up a shocking pink monstrosity with paler pink lace around the cuffs and collars, not to mention twelve pink bows on the front to keep the robe closed. This was supposed to be a man's robe? It was worse than the Valentine's decorations Lockhart had conjured in their second year.
"Too fussy," said Harry quickly, wondering if Neville had really liked that one. Scrivenshafts had branched out a little; as well as selling quills and parchment they now had a small selection of Wizarding clothing. A very small selection. Harry and Neville continued to hunt through the clothes rack, but nothing was catching Harry's eye at all. Ron was standing in one corner, his arms crossed over his chest; looking as bored as if he'd gone with Hermione to the bookshop.
Neville held up a charcoal grey robe with no decoration whatsoever. "Too plain," Harry sighed. It was Valentines Day and their last Hogsmeade weekend before the Easter holidays and he needed to find a wedding robe soon or he would be going to his bonding ceremony in his uniform at this rate!
"They don't have much of a selection here," said Ron. "You need to go to London, see what Madam Malkin's or Gladrags have got."
"Good idea," agreed Neville.
"We can Apparate there and back before anyone knows we've gone."
"What? You don't mean today? Without permission?" asked Harry. The students had permission to be in Hogsmeade, not to go gallivanting all over the country. What if McGonagall found out? What if his Master did?
"Yeah. We can go and see George too, we can meet him for lunch," suggested Ron. "You'd like to see him, wouldn't you, Neville?"
"Yes, but he's not expecting me," replied Neville.
"So? He'll still be glad to see you. Come on, it's not as if the Dark Lord's still on the loose, is it? Where's your sense of adventure?" Ron persisted. "You want some nice robes to get married in, don't you?"
Harry nodded. Ron was being very persuasive but he was still worried about what Severus would say about it. Harry didn't want to do anything to upset him. "I'm only going if I can ask Severus first. Someone will need to know where we are in case something does happen," said Harry firmly.
"Good idea," agreed Neville.
Ron pouted, but waved Harry out the door. "Go on, go and get permission from your Master like a good puppy. We'll wait here."
Harry bristled at Ron's tone, sometimes he wasn't sure whether or not Ron was joking, or whether he really did have problems with the type of relationships he and Neville had. Ignoring the jibe, he pushed the door open and scouted the High Street for a glimpse of Severus, as he'd been one of the chaperones for the Hogsmeade visit today. Harry spotted him looking in the window of Honeydukes.
Harry ran to him and paused, waiting for Severus to speak first.
"Harry? Is something wrong?"
"Not wrong, sir. But there wasn't much of a selection of dress robes in Scrivenshafts and Ron and Neville suggested we might need to go to London to see some there. May I have permission to go, Master?" Harry asked, bowing his head.
"They want to go today?" Severus asked in surprise.
"There isn't much time before the wedding, sir."
"That's true. Well, you are all over eighteen. I trust you can look after yourselves in London for the day. But make sure you are all back in time for the feast. I expect you in my quarters after the feast, Harry. I have plans for this evening."
Severus' dark eyes bored into him and Harry felt arousal shoot through him. Severus' 'plans' were always worth it. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
Hogsmeade was crowded with students, but Harry suspected that if it wasn't, Severus would have been leaning down to kiss him right about now. Harry licked his lips and they tingled just imagining it.
"Off you go and enjoy yourself."
"I will! Thanks, Severus!" Harry grinned at him and then ran off to join his friends.
"Well?" Ron demanded as soon as Harry returned to the shop.
"He said yes."
"And you really would have stayed if he'd said no?" asked Ron, as if he couldn't quite believe that.
Harry wasn't so sure about that, but he didn't really want to go into his punishments with Ron, so he said nothing. Neville was looking at him with something akin to understanding and Harry realised that no matter what Ron said, he was never going to be comfortable with the fact that Harry or Neville wanted Masters. Ron just didn't understand it at all. It wasn't surprising given what had happened to him with the Snatchers, but Ron should have realised that they were different. Ron hadn't been given the choice, but Harry and Neville had chosen this, not out of fear but because it was something they wanted.
"Let’s go," said Harry as he led both of them outside and into one of the smaller streets leading off the High Street. "We'll wait for each other in the market square, right?"
Neville and Ron both nodded before Disapparating with two loud cracks. Harry closed his eyes and visualised his destination, but in reality putting it off for as long as possible. He hated Apparation, especially the sensation of being squeezed through a too-tight tunnel. Even today he still had hints of claustrophobia after being locked in the cupboard and then the smallest bedroom at Privet Drive. In fact, besides flying, he hated most forms of Wizarding travel. The Floo network made him ill and Portkeys held too many bad memories for him to be comfortable with them.
Sometimes Harry missed flying; maybe it was time he brought it up again with Madam Pomfrey. He'd been feeling a lot better and she seemed to think so too as his counselling sessions were now down to one a week rather than every day. He still exercised every morning with Severus; Harry didn't want to give that up. Seeing Severus in those tight t-shirts were worth every aching muscle afterwards! Harry shook his head as if to clear his thoughts and Apparated to the market square in the centre of Diagon Alley.
"What took you so long?" demanded Ron with a pout. "We've been stuck here almost twenty minutes!"
"I was just thinking," said Harry. "If you didn't want to come shopping with us, you could have just said."
"It's not that, we were worried about you, you prat!"
"Oh," said Harry, flushing. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to worry anyone."
"Come on, let's try Madam Malkin's first. Her stuff is usually a bit cheaper than Gladrags."
Harry didn't bother pointing out that he could afford the clothes from Gladrags, knowing how prickly Ron could be about money. All three of them made their way down Diagon Alley, stopping in at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to let George know they would be popping back for lunch. The surprised joy on George's face when he saw Neville almost had Harry blubbing there and then. Did Severus look like that when he saw Harry unexpectedly? Harry was going to have to watch him closely in future.
As soon as Madam Malkin saw Harry, she ushered the three of them towards the back of the shop to a private fitting room decked out in red velvet couches and curtains and snapped her fingers at three assistants to help her.
"Mr. Potter, a pleasure! A pleasure!" She beamed at him and waved them all onto the couches. Harry had briefly seen a picture of a brothel in one of his cousin's magazines and he had to stifle a giggle as he thought of the three assistants offering them more than clothes. "What can we do for you today?"
"He's looking for wedding robes," said Neville.
"How delightful! And when is the big day?"
"The Monday after Easter," said Harry.
"So fitting. A spring wedding, the spirit of renewal and regrowth. I have just the thing. Rebecca, the new robes we've just had in. Bring the box. I'm sure we'll find something for you there, Mr. Potter."
"Right, dear, stand up so we can get a good measurement. You'll want your robes to fit perfectly for the big day, won't you? Sarah, fetch our guests some tea, would you?" Madam Malkin instructed the youngest of the assistants; she looked like she hadn't long left Hogwarts herself, but Harry didn't recognise the blonde girl.
He stood up on the plinth that Madam Malkin had just conjured and stood still while her wand guided the measuring tape all around his body, measuring across his shoulders, from head to toe, inside leg, the width of his chest and more. Harry was just glad he hadn't needed to be naked in order to get a good measurement. The tape curled itself up once the measuring was finished, but Madam Malkin indicated for Harry to stay on the plinth as Rebecca returned with a large box of fabrics.
Harry took off his school robe; handing it to the other assistant, who draped it over the back of one of the couches.
"Hmm, let me see. Yellow is always popular for spring weddings," said Madam Malkin, lifting out a pale yellow silk robe. She draped it across Harry's shoulders and shuddered. "Dear me, no! That colour doesn't suit you at all! Something stronger, I think. Ah, yes. The blue maybe."
This time the robe was a similar shade to a summer sky. Both Neville and Ron shook their heads as well as the staff from the shop. "No, no, no," muttered Madam Malkin as she rummaged in the box for the next robe while Rebecca removed the blue robe from him. Harry wished they'd let him see a mirror so he could judge for himself, but that didn't seem to be the done thing in Madam Malkin's.
Madam Malkin lifted out a dark green robe with embroidered silver butterflies all over it. They caught the light as the fabric moved, almost making it seem as if they were fluttering about. Harry knew even before trying it on that it was the robe he wanted. He'd fallen in love with it already. It wasn't too plain or too fancy, just right. Madam Malkin helped him on with the robe; it had a high Mandarin collar and sweeping sleeves. It wasn't very practical, but then weddings weren't really about being practical.
"Oh, yes. That's the one," said Madam Malkin, the other two assistants nodding, just as Sarah returned levitating a tray of tea things in front of her. She glanced up at the plinth and smiled to show her approval as well.
"Oh, Harry! It's gorgeous!" enthused Neville, but Ron was being rather quiet.
"Ron? What do you think?" Harry asked, twirling round, the silk flowing with him. He felt like a prince wearing it.
"It's Slytherin colours!" hissed Ron. "But I suppose Snape would like that, wouldn't he?"
"Ron, he's Head of Gryffindor now. It wouldn't matter whether it was Slytherin colours or not. I'm sure I could get married in red and gold and he would still like it. I like these colours. They suit me."
"They do indeed, Mr. Potter," said Madam Malkin, finally conjuring a full-length mirror in front of him.
"I'll take them," said Harry, not needing Ron's approval. The times when he did things just to please other people were long past. It had only ever made him unhappy when trying to do what other people expected of him or gave their approval for. "What should I wear underneath?"
"We have a traditional tunic and leggings in the same shade, but they don't have any embroidery, just plain green."
"That's fine; they won't detract from the robes then. I'll take those as well. Oh and we need some robes for Neville and Ron in similar styles. Ron's my best man and Neville is a groomsman."
"I'm sure we can manage that. Why don't you have some tea first and we can get started after that?" Madam Malkin removed Harry's new robe. "I'll adjust the fit for you, dear. Would you like to take it with you today or we can owl it on later?"
"Could you owl it to Hogwarts, please?" asked Harry, sitting down and taking a sip of too-sweet tea.
Neville and Ron grinned at him. "It's exciting, isn't it?" Neville asked him.
Harry couldn't help grinning back. Being married to Severus was going to be the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him.
"Verity, can you mind the shop while we have lunch?"
"Of course, Mr. Weasley," replied Verity with a smile. Harry still found it strange to hear George being addressed as 'Mr. Weasley'. He kept expecting Arthur to appear from somewhere. George smiled at the three of them, his smile the warmest when his eyes caught Neville's, and he ushered them up the stairs to the flat above.
There was one large living space with a small open-plan kitchen area, two comfy sofas in front of a red brick fireplace along with a table set for four. Two doors led off the space which Harry assumed led to the bedroom and the bathroom, but since both doors were shut fast he couldn't be sure. There were quite a few wizarding photos of the twins in them; Fred was sporting the mischievous grin he'd had when he was alive and Harry felt a lump forming in his throat. It still surprised him when Fred didn't automatically appear at George’s side.
"I've just got a ham salad, is that all right?" George asked, as he went over to open the fridge and get out the plates which were already prepared.
"Lovely," said Harry, who had never been one to complain about any food he'd ever been given.
Once they were all seated; George levitated a bottle of wine over to the table and began to pour it into each glass. As they ate their food, Harry hoped no one noticed he wasn't drinking the wine at all.
"Did you get your wedding robes?" George asked, spearing a lettuce leaf on his fork.
"Yes, in Madam Malkin's. I just hope Severus will like them."
"They looked really good on you," said Neville. "He'll love them."
"And what did you get these two imps?" George asked, leaning over and ruffling Neville's hair. Neville blushed, but he had an enormous grin on his face. In fact, from the way that Neville and George couldn't keep their eyes off each other, Harry guessed they would probably like some time alone. It was Valentine's Day after all and Neville being in London was an unexpected treat for George.
"Silver robes for both of them. It goes well with their colouring, or so said Madam Malkin," Harry laughed, knowing he had no eye for fashion at all. "Ron, that reminds me. You'll need to come with me to sort out the rings. Will you be okay for a while, Neville?"
Neville nodded eagerly and as soon as they'd finished eating, Harry grabbed Ron's arm and led him outside to Diagon Alley again. The street was crowded with shoppers and they had to weave in and out just to walk down the street.
"We could try Smythe's," said Ron as they neared Quality Quidditch Supplies. "They're the only jewellers in Diagon Alley that I know of. I got Hermione's necklace there."
"Ron, I don't need to get any rings. Severus is sorting that out."
"So why did you say that, then?"
"Because George and Neville would like to be alone for a bit."
Ron paled. "Eww! I didn't need to know that!"
"Ron, grow up! They're adults; they can do what they like with whoever they like. Come on, we can have a look at the new brooms," said Harry, knowing that was one way to distract Ron. They spent over an hour in Quality Quidditch Supplies ogling the new Starburst, Comet Three Hundred and Meteor. Ron was drooling over the new replica Chudley Cannons' kit and Harry now knew what he could get his friend for his birthday. Despite still being a bit of a prat where other people's relationships were concerned, Harry knew Ron was still his friend and he had few enough friends as it was. Although sometimes he did wish Ron was just a bit more broad minded.
"We should probably start heading back for Neville," said Harry. "Did you need to buy anything else or should we head back to Hogwarts?"
"I promised Hermione I'd meet her in Hogsmeade, so we should probably get back to school."
"Okay." Harry had nothing else to sort out. Besides his dress robes, Severus was organising everything else for the wedding. All Harry had to do was turn up with his best man and groomsman. Harry didn't even know where the wedding itself was taking place; Severus had given him some Apparation co-ordinates but that was all he knew. Severus told him he wanted it to be a surprise.
When they returned to the shop Neville and George were already downstairs, but Harry could tell just by looking that Neville had had a very enjoyable time. His lips were swollen and his hair was almost as messy as Harry's. There was also a prominent mark on his neck, a love-bite. Harry grinned at him. "Ready to go, Neville?"
Neville turned to George, who took Neville in his arms and kissed him soundly. Harry felt his toes curling just watching it. They were both so in love. When George released Neville, he looked a little dazed.
"Now he's ready," said George.
Harry was in such a state of excited anticipation that he could hardly eat the food at the Valentine's Feast back at the castle. Knowing his Master was watching him; he did manage to eat some of the shepherd's pie and had some rhubarb crumble for dessert. The enchanted ceiling was filled with flurries of snowflakes which disappeared before they reached the tables. All the floating candles were pink tonight and there were garlands of pink roses draped across the window sills as well as in vases on the centre of the House tables. Every so often pink confetti fell from nowhere and Harry had to stifle a giggle when he saw the look on Severus' face when the confetti landed on his plate. The Defence teacher was not amused!
Neville was on one side of Harry, Ron on the other. Ron and Hermione were sitting close together and whispering in each other's ears. Neville had a dreamy, faraway look in his eyes and Harry couldn't help teasing his friend.
"Did you have a good time with George today?" Harry asked him.
"Oh, Harry! It was brilliant! Thanks for that. He was really pleased to see me, wasn't he?"
"Of course he was. He's madly in love with you."
"You think so?"
Harry nodded; it had been obvious to him that the two of them felt exactly the same about each other and it was beautiful to see. George deserved some happiness after losing Fred and Harry couldn't think of anyone more deserving of love than Neville, who had stuck by Harry through everything. Neville had never believed that Harry had put his name into the Goblet of Fire or that he was the Heir of Slytherin. Neville had been one of the first members of Dumbledore's Army and Harry hadn't forgotten how Neville had reformed it when he'd been at school last year while Harry was on the run. Neville was a lot braver than people gave him credit for.
Feeling the hairs prickling on the back of his neck, Harry glanced up at the teachers' table and as expected his Master was staring down at him with such intensity that Harry felt his breath hitch. Severus nodded at his plate and left through the side door at the back of the Great Hall. Harry let his cutlery fall to his plate. "I have to go, Neville. See you later."
Neville looked up at the space where Severus had been and grinned. "Have a nice time."
"I'm sure I will," Harry grinned back. Harry was trying his best to be nonchalant, to show Severus that he wasn't really waiting on the man's attention, but it was rather spoiled by the fact that Harry ran all the way to the third floor Defence classroom and skidded to a halt right in front of a smirking Severus.
The corridor was empty of other students, so today Severus reached out and caressed Harry's cheek. "Good evening, pet."
"Good evening, Master," replied Harry, lowering his head. His jeans were getting tight just wondering what 'plans' Severus had for this evening. Severus ushered him through the classroom and office and into the private quarters. Harry sank to his knees by the living room door and offered his neck, as he'd been taught to do. Severus liked him on his knees and when Severus reached out and carded his fingers in Harry's hair, it was all Harry could do not to purr like a kitten. His Master was very pleased with him tonight.
"Excellent, pet," said Severus. "But tonight I have a different place for you. Tonight I want you on my lap."
His lap! Harry shivered with pleasure; Severus must be really pleased with him to allow Harry on his lap! Harry risked looking up. "Thank you, Master."
"You're very welcome. Come."
Severus held out his hand and helped Harry up from the floor, leading him to the sofa. Once Severus was settled; he pulled Harry onto his lap and cradled him in his arms. Harry was sitting sideways on, his arms around Severus' neck and his head leaning against Severus' shoulder. It was wonderful to be held like this and Harry relished this treat every time even if they didn't do anything else.
"I was very happy with your behaviour today," said Severus and Harry felt his heart swell. His Master was proud of him! "You could have gone without asking permission and just decided to do what you wanted, but you didn't. I think you deserve a reward."
"A reward, Master?" Harry's cock jerked in his jeans.
Severus nuzzled Harry's neck. "Hmm, yes. We can do whatever you want tonight, barring consummation. That's for our wedding night."
Their wedding night! God, that was only a few weeks away and Harry's whole body flushed at the thought of being so completely claimed by Severus. There were plenty of other ways to have fun though, but Harry wasn't sure what he wanted; he'd never been given the choice before.
"Can we – can we both come?" Harry suggested, blushing. "I liked that – what was it called, frottage?"
Severus' grip on Harry's waist tightened. "Oh, yes. I love that too. Stand up and undress for me. I want to see you. All of you."
Harry nodded and slipped off Severus' lap, removing his clothes one by one and folding them in a neat pile on the floor. Severus' dark gaze never left him and by the end of it Harry was panting harshly, his cock was as hard as a rock and dribbling precome on the floor.
"Beautiful," said Severus with a sigh and stood up to start removing his own clothes.
Harry's hands itched to be relieving Severus of his garments but he fisted them by his sides, knowing that if Severus hadn't requested it, he wasn't to touch yet. Once Severus was nude, Harry's eyes were drawn to his Master's groin and the thick cock that nestled amid a thatch of dark curls. Severus was bigger than Harry in all respects, but Harry found he wasn't at all frightened, not these days. He had been a bit nervous when they started, but now it was usually excitement rather than nerves that had his heart pumping so fast.
Severus sat down on the sofa. "Sit on my lap, your legs either side of me," ordered Severus and this was one order Harry was only too happy to obey. He scrambled into position and moaned when their bare skins came into contact with each other. He could feel Severus' cock pressed against his lower belly as his was pressed against Severus' abdomen and it was wonderful. Harry began thrusting, his arms wrapped around Severus' neck; Severus' hands holding his buttocks.
"Don't hold back," said Severus. "Come when you're ready."
"Thank you, Master," gasped Harry, knowing he was still not so good at controlling himself. Severus angled his head so that he could kiss Harry deeply on the mouth. One of them gave a guttural moan, but Harry wasn't even sure by this stage who it was. The kiss went on and on, Severus nipping his lips, thrusting his tongue into Harry's mouth as their lower bodies thrust against one another. It was too good; all too soon Harry felt heat coiling low down in his belly and he ground his hips even more firmly against the chest in front of him. His toes curled and he had to pull away from the kiss as he felt his impending climax. His balls ached and then burst with bliss as he bucked against Severus. "Ohhh! Ohhhh! Master! Master!" Harry shrieked as he painted Severus' chest in streaks of white, pulse after pulse leaving his cock and leaving Harry panting for breath.
Severus' fingers dug into his bum as he pressed Harry down against him and a few moments later, Harry felt the warm, wet results of his Master's orgasm on his belly, his own cock twitching a little more at the sensation.
"Oh, God!" Harry moaned through the aftershocks; his legs trembled as he leaned his forehead against Severus'.
"You're beautiful when you come," said Severus, looking deep into Harry's eyes and giving him a kiss so deep it was as if their passion hadn't already been spent.
Later that night, Severus made him beautiful twice more.
Harry downed his contraception potion in two gulps, wincing at the bitter taste. Only a couple of more months before he could stop taking it; he and Severus had decided it would probably be best to wait to start their family until Harry had left school. There were a couple of times when Harry had to force himself to take the potion; he was getting broody. He wanted a family and it seemed to go against his nature to prevent that from happening. Madam Pomfrey had told him it was quite common for men with Gaian Syndrome.
"Harry? You with us, mate?" asked Ron. He and Neville were fussing around the room trying to get everything ready for the wedding. Harry stared at the breakfast tray on his bedside table; he'd only been able to manage two bits of toast before he felt his stomach recoil with the thought of eating anything more this morning.
"Sorry, I was miles away."
"Well, we need to get you ready," said Neville, holding Harry's wedding robes in his arms and laying them reverently on the bed. He and Ron were both already dressed in their own wedding finery and Harry had to agree with Madam Malkin on this one. The silver robes suited both of them and as Harry looked at his friends, for the first time he saw them as the young men they were and not the children of his imagination. Both of them towered over Harry now; he'd never really had that longed-for growth spurt, but Severus didn't seem to mind.
"Nervous?" Neville asked him.
"A little," Harry admitted, but he was excited too.
"Right, you have your shower while Neville and I sort out the flowers," said Ron.
"What are we doing with the flowers?"
"For your hair," said Neville.
"I'm not wearing flowers in my hair!" protested Harry. That was for brides, wasn't it? For girls!
"It's a traditional wizarding ceremony, Harry. Yes you are," said Neville firmly, ushering Harry to the bathroom and closing the door in his face. Harry stared at the wood grain of the door for a moment, but then decided to continue with his ablutions. If it was a traditional ceremony, that meant Severus would be wearing flowers too, wouldn't it? If that was the case, then perhaps Harry wouldn't feel so silly with flowers on his head. Sometimes Harry wondered if Severus thought of him as female because he had Gaian Syndrome.
Stripping off his pyjamas, Harry stared at his nude reflection in the full length mirror. He hadn't often done that, not wanting to be reminded of all the Dursleys had done to him and his scars were an almost constant reminder of his horrible time at Privet Drive. He didn't look female. His chest was flat and now with his regular training, he was quite well-muscled as well. It wasn't the scrawny waif who looked back at him any more. Harry may have been short but his body was a lot more developed than it had been and the longer he looked the more he realised he wasn't turning into a girl at all, Gaian Syndrome or not. That might change when he got pregnant though.
Harry ran his hand through his hair and turned on the shower. Severus loved him no matter what he looked like and Harry just hoped that would still be the case when he was heavily pregnant with their children and waddling rather than walking.
Once showered and shaved; Harry emerged from the bathroom to find a coloured wreath of different blooms on the bed. Harry had already chosen his flowers earlier that week when Neville had asked him for his list although he hadn't realised that he was going to be wearing the flowers. There were white roses symbolising eternal love or innocence, acacia for chaste love, blue violets for faithfulness, strands of grass for submission and water lilies for purity of heart all artfully arranged on the wreath. Harry still thought it looked a bit girlish though and wasn't sure he'd feel comfortable wearing it. "Severus will be wearing one too, right?"
"Of course," Neville nodded and placed the wreath on Harry's head, moving it this way and that until he seemed satisfied with it. "Then after you become bonded, you swap wreaths. Are there any other flowers you would like added to it?"
"No, you seemed to have picked everything I wanted to tell Severus," said Harry, giving Neville and then Ron a fierce hug. "Ron, have you got the rings?"
Ron patted his pockets and his face fell.
"Ron!" Harry shrieked, his visions of a perfect day rapidly dwindling until Ron grinned at him.
"Merlin, Harry. I was only joking."
"Oh God, don't scare me like that! I feel like I'm about to have a heart attack already. What time is it?"
"Half past nine," replied Neville. "Shall we go and see if the others are ready?"
Harry nodded; the sooner they got out of the castle the better he would feel. It was the anticipation that was making him so jumpy. Once he was there and saw Severus waiting for him, then it would be a lot better. At the moment his self-esteem was so lacking that he was wondering if Severus was even going to go through with it. Who'd want to be tied down to Harry for the rest of their life?
"Deep breath, Harry," advised Neville. "You're panicking."
Harry did as he was told and followed them both downstairs to the Gryffindor common room where the seventh years and some of the sixth years were waiting.
"Seamus! Dean! You came!" Harry exclaimed in surprise.
"Course we did," said Seamus. "We couldn't miss yer weddin', could we?"
Ginny looked at Harry, then away again, snuggling closer to Ernie Macmillan. If things were different, this might have been her and Harry's wedding day, rather than Harry's and Severus'. Harry wondered briefly if she was disappointed.
"Right, has everyone got the Apparition co-ordinates?" asked Hermione, ushering people into an orderly queue. "The wards will be down for five minutes to allow us to Apparate from within the castle, so please make sure you are ready to go at quarter to ten. Has everyone got their licence?"
There were nods all around. Harry glanced around at all his friends' happy, smiling faces and felt his knees threaten to give way. He was getting married. It suddenly seemed all too real. "Harry? Are you all right?" asked Hermione, hands on her hips. "Did you even eat any breakfast?"
"He had some toast," said Neville.
"I'm not really hungry."
"Well, it shouldn't be too long until the reception. You'll probably feel better about eating after the ceremony. Right, we'll all head off and see you there. You look wonderful by the way, " said Hermione, giving him a soft peck on the cheek.
Once everyone else had left, Harry and his attendants looked down at their co-ordinatates and Apparated away from Hogwarts and to their unknown destination. There was still that feeling of being encased in a too-tight tunnel and Harry fought for breath the whole way there. At least this time he didn't fall flat on his face when he arrived at his destination; strong arms wrapped around him as soon as he landed and Harry was soon gazing into the eyes of his Master and future husband.
"Welcome to Snape Castle, Harry," said Severus, kissing his forehead. Now that he had time to look around, Harry could indeed see a castle in the background. It wasn't as grand as Hogwarts, but it had battlements, turrets and lots of mullioned windows.
"You have a castle?" Harry asked in surprise.
Severus laughed. "No. It actually belongs to a distant cousin, a different branch of the family, but he has agreed to let us get married in the grounds. It's not usually open to the public at all; he's doing me a favour just for today."
Severus was dressed in a deep grey robe with emerald trim, his hair hanging loose and his flower wreath perched firmly on his head. Harry glanced at the flowers to see what Severus' choices were. There were forsythia for anticipation (Harry blushed when he realised what Severus might be anticipating), red carnations telling Harry that Severus' heart ached for him, white camellias to let Harry know that Severus found him adorable, azaleas hinting that Severus wanted Harry to take care of himself and baby's breath for everlasting love.
Harry felt a lump forming in his throat and they hadn't even started saying the vows yet. Severus really did love him. They were going to get married and spend the rest of their lives together. A life without Voldemort to spoil it. A life with their children; their family. "Am I dreaming?" Harry asked his intended.
"It's not a dream, Harry. This is real. Our love is real. Shall we?" asked Severus, holding out his arm for Harry's. "Unless you've changed your mind?"
"No." Harry hooked his arm through Severus' and made his way to the wedding arch. The seats for the guests were lined up in two rows and Harry felt his heart fluttering madly as he and Severus walked up the aisle between them. Garlands of flowers were draped around the wooden archway and birds sang in the trees around them.
A small, rotund man was standing beneath the arch and behind him was an altar draped in white cloth with golden runes embroidered on it. On the altar itself were candles, a platter of bread, a crystal chalice of water and a censer.
The celebrant smiled and nodded at both of them. "Friends, we are here today to witness and bless the bonding of Harry James Potter and Severus Tobias Snape. If there is anyone here present who knows of any lawful impediment to this bonding, let them speak now or forever hold their peace." There was a pause while he waited, but no one spoke up.
"Harry, perhaps you would like to begin?"
Harry nodded, his throat tight. He took a deep breath before he could recite his vows. "I, Harry, do take you, Severus to be my bond mate in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer all the days of our lives. You are the sunshine to my rain; you are my one and only and I promise to be faithful to you."
"I, Severus, do take you, Harry, to be my bond mate in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer all the days of our lives. You are the sunshine to my rain; you are my one and only and I promise to be faithful to you."
"Excellent, the rings please?"
Ron marched forward, beaming proudly as he held out the small velvet box where their wedding rings nestled. The celebrant removed them and gave them one each. Severus lifted the gold ring and slid it onto Harry's finger. "Wear this ring as a sign of our love and commitment." That done, he kissed Harry's hand and stood back.
Harry's hand was trembling as he lifted the ring and placed it on Severus' finger. "Wear this ring as a sign of our love and commitment."
The celebrant then turned to the altar and lifted up a platter of bread. "Spirits of the Earth, we beseech you to bless this union with good health, a happy home and fertility. Blessed be."
"Blessed be," chanted all the guests.
Next he lifted a censer and waved it over Harry and Severus. "Spirits of the Air we beseech you to bless this union with wisdom and learning. Blessed be."
"Spirits of the Water," intoned the celebrant, lifting up a crystal chalice filled to the brim with water. "We beseech you to bless this union with understanding of each other and a life lived in friendship. Blessed be."
"Spirits of the Fire, we beseech you to bless this union with harmony, vitality and sensuality." The celebrant lit two candles and handed one each to Harry and Severus and then pointed to the single candle on the altar. "Light the single candle to show that you two have now become one."
Harry's hand was shaking so much that his candle almost blew out before they got to the large candle in the middle of the altar, but he managed to keep it alight somehow. Once the centre candle was lit, they each blew out the single ones and smiled at each other.
"Severus and Harry have been bound in accordance with our laws and customs. Now they will exchange their wedding wreaths to show that they have accepted each other as bonded partners."
Harry could hardly believe how happy he felt. They'd done it. They were married.
"Congratulations! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our newly bonded couple, Harry and Severus!"
"Harry and Severus! Harry and Severus!" the crowd of guests chanted over and over again.
Harry was getting a little light-headed and swayed on his feet.
But this time, there was someone there to catch him as he fell.
"Congratulations!" Molly Weasley was the first of the guests to hug them both, but soon it was a muddle as to who was hugging and congratulating them. Showers of brightly coloured confetti seemed to fall from nowhere, landing in their hair and their clothes.
"You may swap swap wreaths now," said the celebrant, smiling broadly at them.
Harry blushed at having forgotten that part of the ceremony. The guests slid back to their places, looking a bit sheepish too as Harry and Severus reached up and removed their wreaths. As Harry lifted his own towards Severus' head and Severus reached towards him, Harry felt almost as if they were crowning each other. He couldn't seem to stop smiling.
"Happy, my Harry?" Severus whispered close to his ear as he slipped his own wreath onto Harry's head.
Harry could only nod, he was afraid he might burst into tears of joy if he opened his mouth. He'd never thought something this good would ever happen to him. The day was sad for him too, remembering all those who couldn't be there to share their wedding.
"They're with you, Harry. In here," said Severus, placing a hand softly against Harry's heart and at the words, Harry's tears could no longer be contained. Severus wrapped Harry in his arms. Harry didn't know how long he stood there, just being held and comforted.
"I'm sorry," Harry mumbled to Severus' chest. "I'm being silly."
"If you can't cry at your own wedding, when can you?" replied Severus. "Nothing you feel is ever silly, Harry. Not to me. You took your potion today, didn't you?"
Harry nodded, although he knew it wasn't just the hormones making him react like this. The rest of the guests had slipped back among the chairs and tables, giving them some semblance of privacy, but it wasn't the same as being on their own. He mentally shook himself and smiled up at his husband, his grin getting even wider. His husband! They were married; they'd finally done it and nothing could ever keep them apart now.
"Ready to face the world as a married man, Harry?" asked Severus, extending his elbow.
"I think so," replied Harry, taking the proffered arm as the two of them weaved their way between the guests to receive even more congratulations and hearty slaps on the back from the men and glassy-eyed smiles from the women. Hermione was already sobbing into her second handkerchief as Ron held her up and Harry had to move away quickly before Hermione's weeping set him off again himself.
As the sun dipped lower on the horizon, lanterns magically lit all around the grounds of Snape Castle, making the cutlery and glassware sparkle like jewellery. Soon it was time for everyone to sit down to the formal dinner and as Harry and Severus made their way to the top table, Severus pulled out Harry's chair for him, making Harry blush and wonder if everyone knew the position Harry had in their relationship. Once he was pregnant it would be pretty obvious that Harry was the bottom, not to mention submissive. But what did it matter if they knew? He was happy, he was in love, and if people thought any less of him because of it, surely that was their problem, not his.
He thought it came down to the fact that he was a very private person; he didn't want everyone else in the world knowing his business, sexual or otherwise. But being Harry Potter, keeping his life private just wasn't an option. As long as he lived there were always going to be people who wanted to know things about him and would pay for newspapers like the Prophet to find them out, even if what they printed wasn't entirely accurate.
The bowls in front of them filled with their first course: leek and potato soup. It wasn't until Harry and Severus each lifted up a roll and began to butter it, that the rest of the guests did the same.
Replete after his meal, Severus settled back and listened while Neville Longbottom read out all the cards and telegrams from well-wishers. It was fully dark now, the moon a sliver of silver in the night sky. There was a chill in the air and despite the warming charms enclosing them Severus just wanted to get back to Hogwarts and warm Harry up beneath the blankets. His groin stirred just thinking about the wedding night ahead.
Harry was shivering a little and scooted closer to Severus, who in turn put his arms around his new husband, hardly daring to believe it was true. Once Neville had finished with his speech, Arthur Weasley stood up and tapped his goblet for order. Arthur had barely opened his mouth before Harry pitched forward, his head hitting the table with a loud thud knocking over the champagne flute. The guests gasped in distress and Severus was out of his chair and bending over Harry in an instant.
Harry hadn't yet been drinking. Had he just fainted?
"Harry?" Severus traced a finger along Harry's cheek, finding something sticky on Harry's face. As he leaned over he recognised the smell immediately, the coppery scent was unmistakable: blood. "Harry!" he insisted more urgently this time. Poppy was on her feet and making her way around the tables to reach them, but Harry was making no sign of coming round.
"We need to get him back to the infirmary, Severus," said Poppy, rolling up her sleeves as if she was already there and ready to sort out what needed to be done. "Can you Apparate him to the gates?"
Severus nodded, his mind a blur. Why was Harry bleeding? There didn't seem to be any wound or cut anywhere on his face, yet his face was still bleeding, more crimson drops were staining the table cloth he was lying on.
"Arthur, please give our apologies," said Severus as he scooped Harry up in his arms and Apparated them to the edge of the school wards.
Poppy was already there before him, a lantern bobbing in her hand as she checked Harry. "Can you carry him to the hospital wing or do I need to conjure a stretcher?"
"I can carry him," said Severus, his hands clawed tight around Harry's prone form, as if unwilling to let him go just yet. He followed Poppy's lantern back to the school, it doused itself automatically as soon as they reached the well lit entrance hall. Once in the infirmary, Poppy waved to one of the beds, indicating that Severus should set Harry down now. Severus was reluctant to do so, but he knew Poppy couldn't very well carry out a proper examination with Severus holding him.
"Why is he bleeding?" asked Severus as he finally put Harry down on the bed.
"He isn't bleeding, well not exactly," said Poppy. "He's sweating."
"He's sweating blood?" demanded Severus. "Why?"
"When was the last time he took his contraceptive potion?"
"Today, I brewed it last night."
"So it was fresh, then? You haven't changed any of the ingredients?"
"No, why would I?"
"He's having some sort of allergic reaction to something," said Poppy. "Can you fetch me his potion?"
Severus nodded, but he didn't think that was going to do much good. Harry had been taking the same potion for months now; surely he couldn't suddenly be allergic to that?
For once the stairs were behaving and Severus made his way to Harry's bedroom in good time. The door was slightly ajar but as Severus pushed it completely open, he realised he had never been to Harry’s room before. He'd magicked some gifts and letters there, but he had never once set foot inside it.
Severus stood in the doorway and for a few moments he let his eyes wander over this domain that had been uniquely Harry's. It was a strange sensation, but he felt a bit like he was snooping by coming in without Harry's knowledge. After today Harry would be moving in with him in the quarters set aside for the Defence teacher and their family. There were very few married teachers at Hogwarts, but the school rules did not disallow it; it was just more usual for the staff to be single.
The crystal chess set, Severus' first Courting gift was sitting in pride of place on Harry's desk, as sparkling as the day it was wrought. Either Harry had been polishing it religiously or perhaps he'd cast an anti-dust charm on it. He scanned it quickly, but besides an unbreakable charm there was only the chess set's innate magic. Harry had been taking care of it himself. Harry's four poster bed was made up with military precision, the pillows plumped to perfection and not a wrinkle in the curtains or the bedspread. Severus' face darkened as he remembered all the times Harry had been forced to the duties of a house elf while he'd been at that house in Privet Drive.
Looking around again, he spotted the vial on Harry's bedside table, but that couldn't have been his contraceptive potion. Severus always made sure to brew every one of Harry's potions in a clear vial, so that could see at once that it hadn't been tampered with. The vial sitting on Harry's bedside table was green. After a quick search of the wardrobe and all the drawers in the room as well as every cabinet in the bathroom, Severus had only one conclusion. He was hoping it was the wrong one, but there was no other potion anywhere among Harry's things, just the green vial Severus now held in his hand. Someone had switched the potions.
Severus took out his wand and summoned Winky; she was the only elf Harry trusted as much as Dobby. It had been Winky who had been giving Harry his potions once Severus had brewed them. After Dobby's death, Winky had seemed to decide that wallowing in butterbeer was not the way to go and was well on her way to becoming one of the head elves if she kept things up.
"Master Severus, sir! Isn't you supposed to be at your wedding?" she asked once she arrived, her tea-towel immaculate today.
"Indeed, Winky. Did you bring this potion to Harry this morning?" Severus held out the green vial. Winky sniffed it and shuddered.
"No, Master Severus. Winky is not bringing this potion. Winky is bringing Harry Potter's normal potion in the clear vial like Master Severus is telling her to."
"Where did you leave it?"
"Where I is always leaving it," said Winky, glancing over at the bedside table, which was now empty. "Master Harry's potion is gone!" she exclaimed indignantly. "I know I is leaving it there, sir! Winky will iron her hands for being so careless!"
"You will do no such thing! It is not your fault, Winky; please return to your duties."
Once she was gone, , Severus clutched the vial in his hand and, unstoppering the vial as he went along, he hurried back to Poppy and the hospital wing;. He was trying to see if he could discern the contents as he went along: ginseng, almond oil, damiana and valerian! Severus ran the rest of the way to the infirmary.
"It's a Genialis Potion! It has valerian in it, Harry is allergic to valerian, but obviously whoever brewed this didn't know that."
"But that's an aphrodisiac and fertility potion," said Poppy. "Why would someone want to give him that?"
"I have no idea," said Severus as Poppy bustled about getting the antidote ready for Harry. He was still unconscious so Poppy had to lift him up to get the potion down his throat, but once he swallowed it his breathing evened out a bit more.
"He'll sleep for a bit now, Severus. It was just lucky you knew which ingredient he was allergic to."
Severus' mind was spinning. A Genialis Potion. This wasn't some one-off incident or even an accident. Genialis took months to brew and obviously whoever brewed it for Harry had no idea he had Gaian Syndrome, for Genialis worked to increase sperm productivity and longevity as well as including a lust component. Harry's sperm were sterile, so no matter how much potion he took he would never be able to father children that way.
The question was: who among the Gryffindors (for who else could have had access to Harry's room?) were thinking of having Harry Potter's child?
When Severus found the culprit – and he had no doubt that he would indeed find them – they would soon discover that it didn't pay to mess with what was his. Ever.
Harry struggled to open his eyes; his eyelids felt as if they'd been glued shut and his mouth was so dry it was as if all his saliva had been replaced with sand. He licked his lips, but that didn't help much, except to let him feel that his lips were dry and cracked like old parchment. Severus was sitting on a chair beside the infirmary bed; he was leaning over the bed and resting on his arms. A couple of soft snores indicated that Severus was asleep.
Harry glanced around the infirmary in the muted light from the few lanterns that were still lit. What had happened? Harry remembered Neville's speeches at the wedding but after that, nothing. Obviously something had been wrong with him to land in Hogwarts infirmary rather than their quarters on their wedding night.
Harry gingerly pushed himself up and slid out of the bedcovers, noticing as he did so that he was dressed in the hospital issue striped pyjamas rather than his own. As Harry stood up, he tried to take stock of any injuries, but he didn't seem to be hurt anywhere, he was just a bit light headed.
He sank to his knees by the side of the bed, head bowed, hands resting on his thighs as he waited for his Master to wake. It didn't seem to take long; it was as if Severus was attuned to him and woke a few minutes after Harry had first knelt on the floor.
"Harry, what are you doing on the floor?" asked Severus.
"Waiting on your pleasure, Master," said Harry, his voice wobbling a little. Isn't that what Severus wanted?
"Get back into bed at once! You're not well," said Severus. "That is an order."
"I'm sorry, Master. Do you need to punish me now?"
"Harry, being a sub is not about catering to my every whim. I'm your Master, that means I also look after you when you need it. It's about comfort and care as well as discipline, do you understand?
"Yes, sir," said Harry, not quite understanding why Severus seemed to be so angry. As Harry climbed back into the bed, he was appalled to find himself on the verge of tears yet again and blinked quickly, trying to hide them from his Master.
"Have I done something wrong, Master?"
Severus reached out and caressed his hair. "No, pet. Not unless you brewed the potion yourself. Did you?" Severus' eyebrow arched an enquiry at him.
"I know how much you want children, Harry. Did you decide to brew a Genialis potion?"
"A what?" Harry had never heard of it. "Will that be on our NEWTs then?"
"Unlikely," said Severus with a sigh. "Someone switched your contraceptive potion with a Genialis potion; it's a very potent aphrodisiac and fertility potion. One of the potion's main ingredients is valerian, which you are allergic to. That's why you ended up in the infirmary. Tell me, is this the first time you noticed your potion vial was green?"
Harry nodded. They had been in such a rush with the preparations this morning that he'd forgotten Severus' cardinal rule; only ever drink a potion from a clear vial. Harry couldn't believe he'd been so foolish.
"And did you see anyone come into your room with the vial?"
"No, I was asleep and when I woke up the potion was there, just like always. I never see it arrive."
"Do you normally ward your room at night?"
"Yes," replied Harry. "So I don't think anyone could have got in."
"Then how did the potion end up on your bedside table?"
"Elves could have got round the wards," suggested Harry.
"Hmm, that's possible," said Severus. "So whoever brewed the potion didn't leave it themselves, they got an elf to do their dirty work. Well, the main thing is that you are all right. In future, I will make sure to give you the contraceptive potion myself. That way we can be sure it hasn't been tampered with."
"Permission to speak freely, Master?" asked Harry, toying with a loose thread on the bedspread. How was he supposed to ask this?
"Granted. What is it, Harry?"
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but no sound was coming out. It was if a fluttering Snitch had got lodged in his throat and he couldn't speak around it.
"Move over," said Severus.
"You seem to be able to speak about what is bothering you better when you are being held," replied Severus. "So I intend to hold you until you feel comfortable enough to speak."
Harry kicked the bedclothes down to the foot of the bed and moved aside so that Severus could climb onto the bed beside him. Once there, Severus opened his arms in invitation and Harry wasted no time in scooting over to his new husband and being wrapped up in his embrace. It wasn't quite how he'd envisioned their wedding night, although both of them sharing the same bed had indeed featured in his fantasies.
"What is it, Harry? You know you can talk to me about anything. Ours may be an unusual relationship, but first and foremost it is a relationship. And in a relationship, people talk," said Severus, stroking Harry's back. Harry arched into the touch and hid his head against Severus' chest.
"Harry?" Severus prompted once more.
"It's just – um – I don't want to take it any more. The contraceptive potion."
"I thought we had decided that we would wait until you left school before starting a family?"
"I know, sir. But taking the potion – it feels wrong."
"You have moral objections to taking it?"
"No, Master. It just doesn't feel right for my body. It's like I'm doing something my body doesn't want me to. It craves something else."
"I guess," said Harry, lifting his head to stare into Severus' eyes.
"You feel this strongly about it?" Severus' touch didn't waver.
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry."
"Harry, don't apologise for talking about how you feel. Remember our contract? I promised to look after all your needs, and if you feel this strongly about getting pregnant, then we need to discuss it further. I'm glad you told me this, pet. Please don't feel scared about talking to me about things like this. For now, I think you should still take the contraceptive potion for this month and then we will discuss it again. It's not something to be taken lightly and I want you to realise what you will be getting into. Male pregnancy will not be easy, Harry. Even with Gaian Syndrome, men weren't really designed to carry babies."
"I know, Severus, but my body feels ready. I'd like at least to try."
"And we will, just not yet." Severus' tone was firm and Harry knew the discussion was over for the moment. He had promised to obey his Master's will in everything except for pregnancy, but Harry knew Severus was correct. Harry had no idea about being pregnant, or even bringing up children for that matter. There were only a few months of his schooling left, surely it wouldn't be that difficult to wait as they had first agreed? Harry nodded, knowing in his head that what Severus said made sense, but it made him feel hollow somewhere deep inside.
"I will perhaps send an owl to Bill Weasley," said Severus.
Harry looked at him enquiringly.
"Fleur Weasley is pregnant; I thought she might be able to give you some first hand information."
"She's pregnant? Ron didn't tell me," said Harry.
"Perhaps he doesn't yet know. There has been no official announcement as far as I'm aware."
"Oh," said Harry, wondering how Severus knew. Had – had Severus been looking at her at Christmas? Noticing her and her Veela genes? Or perhaps Veela magic didn't work on you if you were gay? But what about at the Quidditch World Cup? Harry too had been enamoured of the dancing Veela until Arthur Weasley brought him out of it. "Do – do you think she's pretty?" Harry asked at last, dreading the answer.
"You're jealous of Fleur Weasley?" asked Severus, sounding as if he was trying not to laugh.
"Well, she is part Veela. Maybe she'd enchant you away or something," mumbled Harry, feeling daft about worrying about it, but worrying about it all the same.
"Numerous though her charms might be, nothing can compare to the prize I have right here in my arms," said Severus. "It's you I want, Harry. No one else. Perhaps you need a more practical demonstration?"
With that, Severus turned so that he was pushing Harry back down onto the bed. Harry's head hit the pillows with a muffled noise as the breath was stolen from him by Severus' passionate kisses. It had been so unexpected that Harry was hard within a moment and he ground his hips against the weight of Severus on top of him. Fierce arousal shot through every nerve ending in his body and he clawed at Severus' back, trying to keep him in place.
He needn't have worried, Severus didn't seem to be going anywhere and he manoeuvred his hands between them, taking Harry's cock out of the fly of his pyjama trousers. Severus stopped kissing Harry's mouth, but Harry wasn't disappointed for long as he continued to bestow kisses all along Harry's neck and jaw. At the same time, his hand was working up a frantic rhythm along Harry's cock, which was throbbing with want.
"Please, Master! May I?" Harry gasped out, his hips bucking.
"You want to come, Harry? You want to come all over my hands and my clothes? Is that what you want?" Severus whispered close to his ear.
"Yes, Master! Please! Please!" Harry whined, unsure how much longer he could keep himself from falling into ecstatic oblivion. Severus' touch had always excited him and tonight was no exception. But Severus knew Harry's body so well now that he was adept at keeping Harry on the edge, without allowing him to fall over it. His balls ached, they felt so full. He needed to come so badly!
"What if Madam Pomfrey should walk in and see you being so wanton? What would your friends say if they could see you now, begging for my touch on your cock? The Chosen One reduced to a pleading slut?"
"Oh fuck!" moaned Harry, his cock jerking at the thought. At that moment he didn't care who saw him as long as he got to come!
"Not yet," said Severus, smirking. "But very soon, Harry. I'm going to fuck you and then you'll know you'll always be mine. Now, come for me now!"
Harry arched his hips and yelped as the orgasm tore through him. He watched in breathless fascination as his emission spilled over Severus' hands and onto his belly, Severus' groin pressing hard against Harry's thigh as his husband's face contorted in ecstasy as he too found his release. "I was always yours, Severus," said Harry softly.
Severus kissed him, long and deep, drawing out the pleasure so that Harry was left feeling even more light headed than ever. Eventually they had to come up for air, but kept giving each other little kisses, as they couldn't quite keep their mouths away from each other.
"Hopefully that will help you sleep now," said Severus. "Poppy assures me you should be fine to leave in the morning and I want you well rested." Severus' eyes glittered as he raked his gaze over Harry, paying particular attention to the flaccid cock, now just resting outside Harry's pyjamas. "Our wedding night has been delayed, not cancelled altogether. I want you fit for tomorrow. Make sure to eat a good breakfast. You'll need it."
Harry blushed as Severus leaned over and kissed him with such passion and such fervour that Harry didn't doubt that for a second.
Harry was awake long before Madam Pomfrey appeared by his bedside with a breakfast tray. Alongside the usual bowl of porridge, plate of toast and glass of pumpkin juice there was a single white rose in a crystal vase and an envelope with his name on it sitting on the silver tray. Madam Pomfrey was grinning fit to burst.
"Severus left a message for you, dear. It's a surprise."
Despite being a little disappointed that his new husband hadn't been here when he woke up, Harry's tummy fluttered wildly as he wondered what surprise that envelope contained. Severus' surprises were always special. Madam Pomfrey hovered by him until Harry had eaten most of his food and he wondered if Severus had told her to make sure he ate enough. Or maybe she wanted to see what the surprise was as well? Harry wasn't sure it was a surprise that could be shared; he didn't fancy Madam Pomfrey knowing everything about their love life, thank you very much! After eating all that he could manage, he pushed the tray aside and lifted the envelope.
Madam Pomfrey lifted the tray and Banished it back to the kitchens. "Severus has left some clothes for you, dear. I'll leave you to get dressed."
"Thanks," said Harry, relieved when she bustled off and he could read his letter in peace.
My dearest Harry,
I know we had decided not to have a honeymoon since the Easter holidays are so short, but after the scare you gave me last night, I realised that life itself is far too short and we should make the most of every moment. To think that I might have lost you scared me, I admit it.
It's not anywhere exotic, as even though we're wizards, getting a hotel at such short notice still means we are left with whatever's available. I have, however, procured us rooms in a hotel in Brighton, overlooking the sea. It has been recommended to me as a romantic getaway, and being Brighton, not even the Muggles will mind that we are two men together.
I will be with you shortly and we can Apparate together.
All my love,
Harry couldn't stop the grin from forming. He hadn't expected a honeymoon at all. Brighton! He'd never been there, he'd never been to the seaside at all and except for that terrifying night out to the hut on the rock, he'd ever seen the ocean before. Brighton had a reputation for being very gay friendly, Harry hoped that was true. It would be wonderful to walk along the beach and hold Severus' hand without worrying they would be offending someone.
Harry dressed quickly in the clothes Severus had left him: a pair of black trousers, an emerald green shirt with black buttons and a lightweight v-neck jumper in the same colour. The clothes weren't Harry's; he'd never seen them before but he guessed Severus had picked them out for him. Once he was dressed Harry looked in the bag again, but was disappointed – his collar wasn't there. He hadn't worn it to the wedding, but he had expected that Severus would want him to wear it again. His neck felt a little bare without the leather encircling it.
Almost as if Severus knew when Harry would be ready he marched down the aisle between the beds, his face brightened by an indulgent smile for Harry. "I'm sorry I wasn't here this morning, Harry, but I wanted to get this charm done before we left." Severus held out a miniature wedding ring, sparkling as the sunlight caught it.
Harry held out his left arm; the charm bracelet dangling from it as Severus fussed about trying to attach the new charm. Severus' breath on his bare skin both tickled and aroused him in equal measure. "How soon before we get to the hotel?" Harry blurted out.
"So eager, my pet?"
"Yes, Master," said Harry, feeling the truth of it as he said the words. He was on fire for Severus' touch and they both knew it.
"Very well. Let's go."
The hotel was along the sea front in Brighton, as were hundreds of other hotels and apartment blocks. The place was bustling with tourists and Harry squeezed close to Severus as they made their way along. The hotel didn't look much different from its neighbours, a white painted Georgian terrace with balconies on some of the upper levels, but it did look in good condition.
Severus ushered him inside and once they had registered, Severus took them and their luggage up to their room.
"A moment, please," said Severus as he set their suitcase down and brought the key to the lock. Once the door was opened though, Severus made no move to walk through it.
"I believe this is traditional." Severus bent down and scooped up Harry into his arms. Harry squawked in surprise, but he didn't want to get down. He wrapped his arms around Severus' neck and clung on for dear life, although he didn't really think that Severus would drop him. Harry knew how much the man worked out, as Harry had watched him and seen him naked quite often now. Severus' frame belied his strength.
Severus pushed the suitcase through with his foot, then with Harry still cradled in his arms, he entered the room and slammed the door shut with his foot as well. Harry barely had time to register the decor before he was carried over to the bed and deposited on its soft surface. He sank down into it, groaning in delight when Severus lay on top of him and proceeded to kiss him breathless.
It wasn't soft, or gentle. It was all teeth and tongues as they both fought each other with their lips and tongues, as if trying to see who would give in first. Harry didn't want to stop, but breathing was becoming an issue and he had to pull away, panting like a racehorse. Harry kicked each shoe off with the other foot, not even bothering to untie the laces. His cock was throbbing in his trousers and if Severus kept pressing like that, kept grinding, Harry knew he was going to come in his trousers like a schoolboy. Then he giggled; for a few months more, he was still a schoolboy.
Severus' whole body stilled. "Are you finding this amusing, Mr. Potter?"
Harry flushed. "I'm sorry, sir. I was just thinking."
"Ah. A dangerous occupation for you. Let's see if we can stop you thinking for a while, shall we? Stand up."
Severus moved off him to enable Harry to do just that. As soon as Harry stood up his eyes raked the room, just a quick glance but what stood out at once was the large free-standing bath right in front of the windows. Windows without the benefit of any curtains or blinds! "Run the bath, Harry. Then I want you to undress for me. Slowly."
"Yes, Master," said Harry as he walked over to the tub. There were some bath gels and soaps sitting on the rim of the bath. "Would you like bubble bath, sir?"
"A little, not too much," replied Severus. "I want to be able to see you. All of you."
Harry turned on the taps and poured three drops of the lavender scented gel under the flow of running water. He turned; Severus was sitting on the foot of bed. his shirt sleeves rolled up, his legs spread to accommodate the erection that was tenting his trousers. Harry swallowed and felt a fission of desire, knowing that it was him who had caused his Master to become aroused.
"Undress," Severus commanded again.
"What first, Master?" asked Harry, his hands hovering by his jumper.
"Whatever you like, as long as you're completely naked by the end of it."
"Oh. Yes, sir," said Harry and tugged his jumper over his head. He started to fold it; his tidiness ingrained still after so many thumps to make sure of just that.
"No," said Severus. "Just undress. Don't worry about the mess."
"Okay, Master," said Harry, letting the jumper slip from his fingers and fall onto the wooden floor. He began to unbutton his shirt, feeling Severus' eyes on him the whole time. Harry hadn't worn his glamour in front of Severus for a while now, but he still felt a bit self-conscious at allowing his scars to show and he had to close his eyes.
"Open your eyes. Look at me," Severus ordered.
Harry did so, his hands already going to the button of his trousers.
"Do you know what I see when I look at you, Harry?"
"No, sir," said Harry breathlessly, his eyes locked with his husband's.
"I see my world. You're my world, Harry." Severus stood up and made his way over to where Harry was standing, his hands covering Harry's and helping Harry down with his zip. "I'm going to bathe every inch of you until you're so hard you can barely stand it. Then I'm going to fuck you, Harry. I'm going to fuck you so hard you'll not want to even sit down for days. Do you know how long I've waited for this moment? To be buried balls deep inside you and you will be begging and squealing for me to let you come. How long can you last, Harry? How long can you last before you're begging for release?"
The heat of the man standing beside him, the words in that voice that sounded like chocolate-covered honey had Harry's knees turning to jelly and he grasped hold of Severus' waist. "Sir!" Harry didn't think he had the patience to be bathed and cosseted; he wanted to be fucked and he wanted it now. His cock was hard and dribbling precome onto the floor once Severus had pulled Harry's trousers and underwear down around his ankles. "In me, sir! Please! In me!"
"What about our bath?" asked Severus, licking his neck just below his ear lobe, his erection feeling so hot and hard against Harry's thigh.
"After. Fuck me first. Please!"
"Are you sure, pet?"
"I'm sure, please, Severus! Master!"
"Very well. On the bed, pet. On your back. I want to see you."
Harry nodded and once Severus had moved aside, he wasted no time in shucking the rest of his clothes and hurrying to do just that. He was glad Severus had suggested that for this, the first time he'd be taken, that they would be face to face. Harry had read up on it and although he knew that it would probably be less painful if he was on his hands and knees, he knew he wanted to be able to see Severus, despite any extra pain.
Severus tugged off Harry's socks and kissed each foot, making Harry hiss and arch his back in pleasure. It didn't take long for Severus to divest himself of his own clothes and Harry stared at all the naked flesh above him. Of course, it wasn't the first time he'd seen Severus naked, or even seen the large cock purple with arousal. But it was the first time that Harry would be breached by it and he shivered a little in nervousness. His Master saw it.
"Harry, if you're not ready..."
"I am, sir. I'm just nervous. I want this. I want you. I ache," said Harry, lifting his hips off the bed, leaving no doubt as to just where he ached.
Severus licked his lips, his cock jerking as he stared at Harry so exposed. "Very well." Severus reached down for his wand, cutting the taps off mid-flow and summoning a jar from their luggage. "Bend your knees, feet flat on the bed."
Harry did as he was told, feeling very undignified and ungainly, but as soon as Severus pressed a slick finger against the crease of his arse, he felt a strange sensation back there. It felt almost as if his arse was twitching, wanting to be filled with something and he inched his body closer to Severus' finger.
"Have you ever done this yourself?" asked Severus. "With fingers or toys?"
"No," Harry gasped as the finger breached him. It didn't hurt, but it was such a strange sensation. Severus glared at him. "No, sir," Harry amended.
Two fingers didn't feel much different to one, but by the third there was a little bit of burning as he stretched. Harry shifted, unsure whether he actually liked this or not. His cock was still hard though, so he guessed his body was enjoying it. Severus' fingers shifted inside him. "Fuck!" Harry yelled as such delirious pleasure shot through him that he thought for sure he'd come already. His cock spurted precome onto his belly, but he hadn't come. Not yet. Severus had touched something inside him. Something that was making Harry angle his hips, wanting more and more of that delicious feeling. "Please! Please!" Harry panted, his head thrashing on the pillow.
The fingers withdrew and Harry watched in avid fascination as Severus coated his cock with liberal amounts of oil. He settled himself between Harry's legs. "Is this what you want, pet? My cock inside you, filling you? Splitting you in two?"
"Yes! Yes! Oh God! Hurry, Master!" pleaded Harry.
Severus held his legs as he pushed himself forward. The head of Severus' cock was thicker than even three fingers and Harry wasn't sure it was going to fit at all. He held his breath, his eyes watering. "Breathe, Harry. Relax through it. It should get easier in a moment."
Harry nodded and obeyed his Master. The first time was supposed to hurt a bit, wasn't it? He'd heard that it hurt for girls too and he breathed through the pain as Severus eased his cock past the ring of muscles. Severus was panting heavily, his hair hanging loose around his face. Harry reached up and pushed it out of Severus' eyes. Harry's cock had wilted a bit at the initial pain, but the deeper Severus went, the more Harry was getting used to it.
Slowly, inch by inch, Severus entered him, resting each time to allow Harry to get used to it. "Stroke your cock," suggested Severus. "If you stay excited, it will hurt less."
Harry didn't need to be told twice. He rubbed his shaft as Severus filled him to the hilt and he felt Severus' balls right up against his arse. He liked the dual feeling of being filled and having his cock stroked at the same time.
"I have to move," said Severus.
"Then move, sir," said Harry with an impish grin.
Severus bent over and kissed him roughly, before taking hold of Harry's hips and thrusting into him like a piston.
His Master's passion was unrestrained, something wild and abandoned. Harry gave himself up to the sensations. There was still a little pain, but it was a good pain and added something extra to his passion. He kept stroking his cock, knowing it wouldn't be long at all. Severus changed his angle slightly and kept touching that magic spot inside Harry on every upward stroke. Harry howled in ecstasy. They had both wanted this for such a long time. To be joined. To be one. It was as if all the months of kisses and caresses before it had prepared them for this moment. In the end, it wasn't Harry who was begging.
Severus' thrusts speeded up and he panted out urgently. "Come for me, Harry! Come for me now! Ahh! Ahh!" Severus shuddered and screamed against him as Harry felt the wet warmth bathe his insides. He wasn't sure whether it was that sensation, or whether it was the order to come from his Master, but semen spurted from him in ecstatic pulses, his buttocks clenching around the cock inside him. He came and came, feeling almost as if he was outside his body and watching himself come. His heart thundered in his ears and his legs fell loosely onto the bed as aftershocks tore through him. "Oh God!" Harry moaned, reaching up for a deep kiss.
They kissed for a while afterwards, not willing to let the other go just yet, but they had to come up for air sometime.
"Did I do all right, Master?" Harry asked shyly.
"All right?" Severus laughed. "All right? No, Harry. You did brilliantly."
The lights hanging above the promenade stretched off into the distance like a string of yellow pearls. Moonlight glinted off the water, the sea swishing against the shore. Harry held Severus' hand, as if perhaps afraid Severus might wander off and leave him there alone. Severus held back a snort – as if he was going to leave Harry anywhere now that they'd finally bonded. Harry was his, body, heart and soul and there was no way Severus was ever going to give him up.
"I would like you to wear your collar more; especially when we are alone," said Severus.
"I thought you didn't want me to wear it, sir," said Harry. "It wasn't in the bag of clothes you gave me."
"I thought you were already wearing it, it wasn't in your room. I know, for I searched it thoroughly after that scare with the potion."
"It wasn't there? It should have been in my wardrobe. I'm sorry, sir."
"You will take better care of your things in future," said Severus sharply. "And you will wear your new collar every day, even at school. You may cast a concealment charm during lessons, but at home you will kneel and greet me wearing your collar. You're mine, Harry."
"Yes, Master," said Harry, lowering his eyes to the pavement. "I'm sorry I lost it."
"What's done is done; it can't be helped now, but I know just the place to find you a new collar. George Weasley recommended someone. This way, Harry."
Severus tugged on Harry's hand, it felt as if Harry was on a leash and that thought had the blood going straight to Severus' groin. He imagined Harry, naked except for the leather collar, a chain dangling from it as Severus pulled and pushed him this way and that until he had settled on a position. The fantasy was taking on a life of its own and walking was becoming a bit of a problem. The collar could wait, there were more pressing matters to attend to. He turned towards the steps leading down to the beach and under the pier.
"Here," said Severus, leading Harry down the steps and onto the shingle beach. The pebbles crunched beneath their feet as Severus led Harry beneath the pier. They weren't the only couple who had sought its privacy and already sounds of passion were filling the air. As Harry stared around him, Severus quickly cast a Notice-Me-Not spell around both of them, but Harry didn't know they were no longer being observed. Although going by the antics of some of the other couples, they seemed to have eyes only for each other anyway.
"On your knees, pet," Severus commanded.
"Here?" Harry gasped. "Outside, sir?"
"Are you incapable of following simple instructions? Yes, here! On your knees, now!"
Even with just the moonlight and a few streetlights, Severus could see Harry flushing. Would Harry balk at this? He was very private and Severus wondered if he'd pushed too far. Was this the day Harry would use his word?
But no, Harry was sinking to his knees onto the pebbles and shells beneath them; small hands reaching up to undo Severus' trousers without further instruction.
"You know what to do." Severus leaned back against one of the pier struts and closed his eyes.
The first tentative lick had him biting back a moan. Harry still wasn't very confident at this, nor was he yet as proficient as Severus might have liked, but just the fact that it was Harry and that he wanted to please his Master had Severus' nerves on fire.
Remembering how much Harry needed to be touched, Severus reached out and caressed Harry's hair as Harry licked and nibbled on his cock like some sort of sweet. The teasing touches were both too much and not enough.
"Deeper, I want to come, pet, not be teased all night." He tightened his fingers in Harry's hair and thrust his cock deeper into Harry's mouth. Oh… the heat, the wetness as Harry suckled on him almost had his knees buckling.
Harry couldn't yet manage to deep throat him so he didn't try to push for that yet. Instead, he let Harry use his hands on the base of his cock as the head pumped in and out of Harry's lips. "Open your trousers. I want to see you come." He opened his eyes and glanced down at the boy kneeling in front of him. Harry's eyes were wide behind his glasses, his mouth reddened as he wrapped his lips around Severus' cock. The sight was almost enough to undo him.
One of Harry's hands fumbled with his zip and pulled out his erect cock. So, despite Harry's hesitation he was still excited. Did it excite him to think that people might see them? It was a kink Severus would never have associated with Harry, but he remembered how strongly Harry had come in the infirmary when he'd described just that scenario. Maybe that was something to look into later.
Harry's mouth around him become more erratic the closer to orgasm his pet came and Severus knew he wouldn't be long in coming either. Already he could feel the build-up around the base of his cock and sac and knew he wanted to empty his balls all over Harry's face, wanted to see him covered in his semen. He wanted Harry marked as his, and only his. Severus pulled his cock out of Harry's mouth, hearing a disappointed whine as he did so, and pointed it straight at Harry's face as the orgasm started. It seemed to start right down in his toes and travel up his torso before the seed flew out, splattering Harry's cheeks, mouth and nose in stripes of white. Harry gasped in surprise, his hand faltering on his cock.
Severus knelt down beside him and trailed a finger through the emission decorating Harry's face. He held his finger out and Harry opened his mouth wide. "Good boy, you know you want it, don't you?"
Harry nodded, still sucking on the finger. Severus gripped Harry's hand in his and stroked them both over Harry's cock, the precome making it easy. "Keep sucking until you come, Harry. I know how much you like something in your mouth."
"Mmm," Harry mumbled. Severus sped up his strokes, knowing how close Harry was.
Harry bucked his hips and almost bit down on Severus' finger as he came, bathing Severus' hand and his own in wet warmth. Once the tremors subsided; Severus kissed him, long and deep and wrapped Harry up in his arms. He hadn't forgotten Harry's words that day. Harry needed to know it was more than sex, despite any scenes they might play out.
Severus took out his wand and cleaned them both up.
Harry gasped. "Sir! The Muggles, won't they see?"
Severus grinned. "We're under a concealment spell, Harry. They couldn't really see us. But you thought someone might see, didn't you?"
"Did it make it more exciting? Knowing someone might be watching?"
Harry blushed and hid his head against Severus' shoulder.
"It's all right, Harry. I'm not angry. It might be interesting to play out having someone watch us. As long as they know they can't touch you; only I am ever to touch you like that."
Harry made a strange sound, a bit like a strangled whimper, and Severus could feel Harry's cock hardening against his thigh. Oh, yes, Harry did like that idea. He'd have to see what he could do.
"Harry!" Hermione, Neville and Ron screamed at him as soon as Harry appeared for breakfast on the first day back at school.
"Are you all right? What happened? We were so worried!" said Hermione.
"Can we talk about this after breakfast?" asked Harry. "We've all got a free period then, haven't we?"
"Room of Requirement?" Ron asked.
"Yeah, I'll tell you then," said Harry as he sat down rather gingerly on the student bench. He winced as pain flared in his arse and he wished he'd taken Severus up on his offer of some more pain potion. Two spots of colour flared on his cheeks as he realised Ron was watching him with a strange expression on his face.
"Harry, did he hurt you?" Ron hissed in a whisper.
"I'm fine, Ron. Just let me get some breakfast, okay?" It was none of Ron's business what they got up to in the bedroom and if Severus had hurt him, it was with Harry's consent. Harry grabbed a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage and tucked in, still feeling Ron's eyes on him the whole time. Not just Ron's eyes, he realised. His Master was watching him too to make sure he was eating. Harry squirmed in his chair. He couldn't be getting hard again! They'd made love three times the night before; he surely couldn't want to have sex again already, but the prick throbbing in his trousers seemed to have other ideas.
Once breakfast was finished, he walked with the three of them up to the Room of Requirement. Trying to work out what he was going to say to them at least helped to calm his body down. Harry pushed open the door to the Room and hastily shut it again before the others could see it. The Room had decided that Harry wanted it to be his and Severus' honeymoon suite, but with a few additions. Manacles hung from the ceiling and there were whips and paddles sitting on the bed! Harry knew Ron wouldn't be able to handle seeing those, although he was sure Neville would probably understand.
"What's wrong?" asked Ron.
"Er, nothing. You two go in first," said Harry, stepping back and letting Hermione in first.
Ron followed; Harry peeked his head around the door and saw nothing more than a facsimile of the Gryffindor common room. Ron and Hermione had already claimed one of the sofas, so Harry and Neville each took one of the comfy armchairs and Harry sighed as the upholstery cushioned his sore arse.
"Are you all right, Harry?" Neville asked. Harry nodded.
"What happened, Harry? Everyone was so worried when you collapsed at the wedding. Madam Pomfrey wouldn't tell us what was wrong." Hermione flicked her hair out of her eyes and raked her gaze over him, as if she would be able to find out what was wrong with him just by looking.
"She kept saying it was confidential. As if we were going to broadcast it round the whole school!" Ron said indignantly.
"I had an allergic reaction."
"To what?" asked Hermione.
"Well, with Gaian Syndrome I have to take a contraceptive every month to stop me ovulating."
Ron grimaced as if he found even the words distasteful. How would Ron react once Harry did get pregnant? Was he finding it that upsetting?
"And you're allergic to the potion?" asked Neville.
"No, Severus brews it for me every month, and he knows what ingredients I'm allergic to and alters it for me. Someone switched the potions that morning. Instead of my normal contraceptive potion, someone had put Genialis Potion there instead. I'm allergic to the valerian in it."
"Oh my God!" Hermione clasped her hands over her mouth. "They could have killed you!"
"Well, maybe they didn't know you were allergic," Ron pointed out.
"That's not the point, Ron! That was a despicable thing to do! Switching people's potions like that! It's extremely dangerous. Harry's lucky to be alive! And a Genialis Potion… that's a male fertility potion, isn't it? Why would someone want to give you that? It wouldn't work on you with you having Gaian Syndrome."
"Maybe they didn't know I had it. Severus was livid."
"I bet!" agreed Hermione. "Have you any idea who might have done such a thing?"
"Not really, no. But at least I know it wasn't any of you. You three and Ron's family are the only other people who know I've got Gaian Syndrome."
"Oh, Harry!" sighed Hermione. "I'm so glad you're all right! Were you in hospital all this time? Madam Pomfrey wouldn't say."
"No, Severus took me on honeymoon." Harry couldn't help the grin. "We went to Brighton."
"Oh, how lovely! Did you have a good time?"
"It was brilliant," said Harry. "The hotel was beautiful, we had a sea view and everything."
"You look really happy," said Hermione with a smile. "You deserve it."
"Thanks, Hermione. I feel really happy too. Severus is wonderful."
Ron snorted, and then hastily disguised it as a cough. Neville, Harry and Hermione all glared at him.
If Ron couldn't agree with that, then maybe Ron wasn't the friend Harry had thought he was after all.
"And for homework, I want twelve inches of parchment on the different classes of healing charms," said Professor Flitwick as the class groaned, Harry included. "To be handed in on our next lesson tomorrow."
Great, another late night just so he could get his homework finished in time. Didn't the teachers talk to one another? Didn't they realise how much homework they each gave to the class? How they were supposed to fit it all in Harry didn't know. He could see why Hermione had needed a Time-Turner in third year. If they hadn't all been destroyed, he would have been tempted buy one himself. There just weren't enough hours in the day.
Tonight, he and Severus were hosting their first dinner party and Harry was in a panic already. What if he burnt the food? What if no one liked his cooking? What if he gave everyone food poisoning? Severus had suggested that they might use the elves to rustle up something for their guests, but Harry didn't feel right about having the elves cooking for their dinner party and he knew Hermione wouldn't have approved either. He wanted to do it right, and that meant cooking himself. His cooking at the Dursleys had always been plain, solid fare, for Vernon had no patience for any foreign rubbish. Harry wasn't sure his skills were up to it, but he wanted to try something a bit fancier for their guests.
As the bell rang everyone gathered up their parchments, books and quills; Hermione was still frantically trying to write down some more notes even as everyone else was heading for the doorway and freedom. Charms was their last class on Thursdays.
"Harry, do you fancy a game of chess in the common room?" asked Ron.
"I can't Ron, I haven't got time. You know I have to get things organised for the dinner party tonight. I'll see you then."
"Whatever." Ron hurried out, not looking back.
"Ignore him, Harry," advised Hermione. "He's just being a prat lately. It was very good of you to invite us to dinner, I hope Ron appreciates all the effort you've put into it."
"I thought we'd sorted things out," said Harry as the rest of the class filed out around them. "Did – did he tell you what happened?"
"About what happened when he was with the Snatchers? Yes, he told me. But that's still no excuse to be taking it out on you and Professor Snape."
"He doesn't take it out on Severus. It's only me he says anything to."
Ron knew he would get short shrift from Severus if he spoke to him the way he spoke to Harry. Harry didn't understand it; he'd thought things had gone back to normal with the two of them, but Ron was still acting weird around him. Was he that upset that Harry was gay? Or was it the Gaian Syndrome? It wasn't exactly something Harry could help. It was something he was born with.
"Then it's even more surprising that you invited him to your dinner party if he can't even be civil."
"I hadn't intended to. He saw the letter from Bill and wanted to know all about it and when I said that Bill and Fleur were coming to dinner, he wanted to come too. We invited Neville and George as well." In fact, Severus had been most insistent that Neville and George were invited, much to Harry's surprise.
"So we're gate crashing?" asked Hermione. "Harry, if you don't want me there, you only have to say."
"No, Hermione. It's not like that; I do want you to come. Please. It's my first dinner party and I'm terrified I'm going to make a complete mess of things. I'll need someone there so Ron won't go off the deep end."
"Why would he?"
"Well, the reason we invited Fleur and Bill in the first place is that Fleur is pregnant and Severus wants me to talk to her about it. About getting pregnant."
"Oh. And I suppose Ron will have his knickers in a twist because you want to get pregnant?"
"Something like that. Sometimes I don't think he actually believes I have Gaian Syndrome. I'm not sure how he's going to handle it if I do manage to get pregnant."
"Harry, you have enough to be worrying about with mollycoddling Ron! I'll take care of him; you just worry about yourself, okay?"
"Did you ever find out who switched the potions that day?"
"No. Severus makes sure to hand me the potion himself now, just to make sure it doesn't happen again."
"It has to be someone in Gryffindor, doesn't it?" Hermione mused to herself. "Who else would have been able to get to your room?"
"I'm trying not to think about it," replied Harry. He didn't want to think that any Gryffindor would do such a thing but he knew Hermione was probably right. None of the other Houses could have got into the Gryffindor dorms. They both finished packing up their school things and made their way up the staircase.
Harry accompanied Hermione up to the third floor where they parted company, Harry to go to the Defence quarters as she continued up to Gryffindor Tower. A glance at his watch showed that it was already half past four. He was late to greet his Master and Harry knew that would merit some sort of punishment; hopefully just a spanking so that they could get it over with and Harry could get on with the preparations for the party. The chicken had been marinating in herbs and spices overnight; it just needed to be cooked. Harry had already made lemon meringue for dessert; it was chilling in the cool cupboard.
As soon as Harry entered their living room, he heaved a sigh of relief. His Master wasn't here yet. Harry sank to his knees in front of the sofa, facing the fire and cancelled the concealment charm on his collar. He traced his fingers along the black leather, feeling a shudder of desire as he did so. Wearing the collar, knowing that his Master had put it on him and knew that Harry was wearing it all day made him feel so special. Owned and wanted. Harry belonged to someone now and no matter how much of an arse Ron was being lately, Harry wouldn't change anything about his marriage. Maybe he just hadn't explained things very well to Ron? That this was his choice and Severus would stop if Harry really wanted him to.
The door clicked open; Harry took his hands away from his neck and placed them on his thighs, lowering his head to the floor, waiting for his Master. Boots clacked against the flagstone floor and Harry saw his face in the shiny toes of his Master's boots. Severus reached out and caressed his hair. "Good afternoon, pet. You may speak."
"Thank you," said Harry, still keeping his head down. "I need to be punished, Master."
"Do you? What did you do?"
"I was late to our quarters today."
"Indeed, as was I. Without you telling me I would not have known. You could have kept it to yourself."
"Why not?" Severus pressed a finger under Harry's chin and tilted his head up to face him. Harry blinked.
"Because you're my Master."
"Very well, Harry. Trousers off and then over my lap. This is a punishment; you are not to come."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Harry stood up to remove the all the clothes on his bottom half. He was half-hard already just knowing that Severus was going to spank him. He could almost feel the sting in his arse as Severus' hands came down on his flesh and he had to bite back a moan. Severus settled himself on the sofa and waited patiently for Harry to take up his position; his middle across Severus' lap, his head and his legs resting on the rest of sofa.
"It would have been ten, but because you spoke up about your infraction, I'll make it five today," Severus caressed the skin of Harry's left buttock. Harry tried to think of something un-arousing so he wouldn't disgrace himself and disappoint his Master.
"Thank you, sir," said Harry and he meant it. They both knew he would never have lasted without coming if there had been ten. Severus never asked if he was ready; Harry was expected to be prepared to take his punishments whenever they were meted out. The first slap always made him gasp in surprise and it nearly always made his cock rock hard as well. It was frustrating, knowing that he wouldn't be allowed to come for hours after this, if at all. It would have been all too easy to rub his cock along Severus' lap and bring himself off that way, but Harry didn't want to disappoint him, so he held back and kept still as the next four slaps hit his flesh. It stung and his eyes were watering by the end of it. A gasped sob escaped him at the pain.
"Ssh, Harry. It's over now," Severus summoned a vial to him and soothed the gel over Harry's heated cheeks. Harry sighed with bliss as the soreness cooled but didn't diminish altogether. "And now, we have some guests to prepare for, don't we?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," replied Harry as he turned around and was greeted with a passionate kiss.
"Oh, Harry! It looks wonderful!" exclaimed Hermione as soon as she came through the door, closely followed by a sullen Ron. Harry had chosen the table decorations himself with a little help from Severus as to what might look best. Their own small table had been extended so it could comfortably seat eight and it was draped in a crisp white cloth. Crystal wine goblets with a rim of gold sat at each place, along with fine china plates also with a gold trim. Severus had showed Harry how to arrange the napkins into swans. The napkins were one of their wedding presents from Bill and Fleur and had a gold monogrammed H & S in one corner. A vase of daffodils sat in the middle of the table and there were two golden candelabra at each end.
"Thank you," Harry blushed at the compliment and showed them to the sofa while Severus asked if any of them wanted anything to drink while they waited for the others. Everyone was in dress robes and Harry felt very grown up all of a sudden. Married, hosting a dinner party. That was the sort of things adults did, wasn't it?
"I'd love a butterbeer, Professor," said Hermione as she shook out her robes, a very dark pink tonight.
"Yeah, I'll have one too," mumbled Ron. "Thanks."
Severus went to the kitchen to get the drinks while Harry just short of hovered, his hands smoothing down non-existent wrinkles in his robes. He was too jittery to sit still. By the time Severus had returned with two glass tumblers of butterbeer for Ron and Hermione, there was another knock on the door.
Bill and Fleur had met Neville and George on the way, so all four of them had arrived together. Harry ushered them in, taking their cloaks, except for Neville, who hadn't worn one. Fleur was resplendent in silvery dress robes shot through with gold thread. Her swollen abdomen was quite visible now and Harry couldn't help staring.
"What a wonderful room!" enthused Fleur. "And you 'ave used our table linens! You 'ave great taste, 'Arry." Much to Harry's mortification, Fleur swooped down and kissed him on the cheek, wafting a flowery scent of perfume around her. "So kind of you to invite us, isn't that right, Guillaume?"
Bill nodded and took hold of Fleur's arm to escort her to the sofa as Neville and George both sought out armchairs.
"Thank you all for coming," said Harry. "If you'd like to sit down at the table, I'll go and get the first course."
"Do you need some help with that?" Hermione and Fleur asked together.
Harry smiled. "No. No, thanks. I think I have everything under control."
"That was delicious, Harry," said Hermione as she set down her napkin next to her clean plate. Compliments were forthcoming from nearly everyone else and Harry felt himself blush in pleasure. Severus leaned over and caressed his hand, smiling at him.
"I'd never tried the Tandoori chicken before. I'm glad you all liked it."
"It was lovely," said Neville.
"I've made lemon meringue for dessert." Harry stood up in order to clear the dinner plates.
"Fleur can't eat that," said Bill apologetically. "Or anything with raw eggs, really."
Harry nodded. "I know, so I made a fruit flan for Fleur as well."
"You did not need to go to so much trouble, 'Arry. I would have been quite 'appy to miss dessert. I'm fat enough already!" Fleur laughed and patted her abdomen.
"You're not fat, you're perfect," replied Bill, kissing her on the cheek.
"You would have been missing a treat, then," said Severus. "Harry is a wonderful cook and his desserts are to die for."
"Thank you, Master," said Harry, and then belatedly realised what he'd said. He hadn't intended to let it slip out like that and he didn't want to offend anyone, but Ron was looking anywhere but at him, his face almost as red as his hair. Harry couldn't stand this one minute longer. Why should it bother Ron what Harry did in his own home? "Can you just get over yourself, Ron?" Harry demanded. "You've been looking at me all night as if I was something the cat dragged in and I'm sick of it!"
"It's you who's sick!" retorted Ron. "Kneeling in front of him and calling him 'Master'!"
"Am I sick too, Ron?" asked Neville softly.
"Yes! You're all sitting here acting as if this is normal! And it's not! You've all gone mad!"
"Ron! How dare you!" Bill chimed in. "You are a guest in Severus' and Harry's home!"
"Harry's home?" Ron's face twisted. "It's his bloody prison! He has to rush back here every day to do chores and the cooking, just like when he was at the Dursleys'! He doesn't even have time for his friends anymore!"
"Ron, that isn't true! Harry has always made time for us," said Hermione.
"You're all blind! Snape is abusing him and you're all letting it happen!"
Harry's knuckles clenched on the table top. "Severus is not abusing me!" Harry screamed to them all, making the glasses rattle. "He is my Dom, my Master only because I allow him to be. I can end the domination any time I choose."
"Then why don't you?"
"Weren't you listening, Ron? It's my choice. I choose not to end it. It's something I want."
"He's using you!" Ron insisted. "You're nothing but his fucktoy, you do realise that, don't you?"
"Shut your mouth, Ron! You have no idea what you're talking about!" yelled George.
"You're one to talk! You've got your own little fucktoy as well, haven't you? How does it feel to get no respect, Neville?" spat Ron. "Just a convenient hole to be used anytime they feel like it?"
Ron speaking like that to Neville was just the last straw. "That's enough! Get out, Ron! I don't want to see you anywhere near me ever again!"
"Fine by me!" snapped Ron and strode out, slamming the door behind him.
"Harry, I'm so sorry-" Hermione began.
Harry held up his hand. "Don't. Don't apologise for Ron and his prejudices. They're nothing to do with you. Excuse me, I'll just go and get dessert."
Once he reached the sanctuary of the kitchen, Harry held on to the draining board and took a few deep breaths. So it was out in the open now. Ron hadn't understood at all. He'd been pretending all this time. Pretending that he understood what Harry needed in a relationship. Pretending that they were still the friends they had been. Well, they certainly weren't friends now! He lifted up a knife and took the meringue out of the cooling cupboard.
When Harry' sojourn into the kitchen took longer than fifteen minutes, the guests were beginning to get restless and Severus was getting worried. Harry hated shouting and arguments, he'd told Severus they reminded him too much of his uncle and the things that had happened at Privet Drive. For Harry to shout at Ron just brought it home how upset Harry must have been over the altercation.
"Professor, perhaps we should go," Hermione suggested. Always quite tactful, that one.
"That might be for the best, Miss Granger. This is not quite how Harry had intended the evening to go." Severus glanced at George and shrugged. Nor was it how Severus had intended it either.
"Ron was way out of line," said Bill. "He had no right to say those things, especially when he was your guest! I'm sure Mum will have quite a few words to say on the subject!"
"Indeed." Severus found he didn't want to protect Ronald Weasley from the wrath of Molly. Let him face up to the consequences of his actions for once.
"Perhaps I will come back to speak to 'Arry some other time, no? Just the two of us. It might be better."
"Thank you, Fleur. That would be appreciated. I'm sure Harry still has lots of questions."
"Say goodbye to Harry for us, won't you, Professor? And thank him again, it was a lovely meal."
"I'll pass that along, Mr. Longbottom." Severus retrieved the cloaks for those who'd brought them and then ushered them all towards the door, bidding everyone goodnight with his thoughts still on Harry. Once he'd got rid of their guests, he made his way to the kitchen. Harry had worked so hard at making everything perfect and Ronald Weasley had to go and spoil it. Severus wondered if Minerva would let him get away with giving Ron a detention for ruining Harry's dinner party. If not, he could always find fault with something else.
As Severus pushed open the kitchen door, his heart shot into his throat. Harry was sitting huddled against the cupboard beneath the sink, a bloodied tea-towel wrapped around his left hand. The knife was sitting on the draining board, its metal stained crimson. "Oh, Harry," Severus moaned and knelt down next to him. "What have you done to yourself?"
"I cut my finger when I was trying to slice the meringue. The knife slipped; I guess I wasn't concentrating properly."
"Your finger?" queried Severus, unwrapping the tea-towel as gently as he could.
"Yeah, I cast a blood-clotting charm on it; we've been doing healing charms this week. I don't think I'll even need to see Madam Pomfrey. Do you reckon Professor Flitwick will accept this as my homework?"
Severus smiled; Harry must be feeling better if he could joke. Much to Severus' relief, Harry had indeed been telling the truth. The small cut on Harry's left index finger was no longer bleeding, but there was a maroon crust of dried blood around it. Severus had feared the worst when he'd seen the bloodied towel. Harry must have seen it in his face.
"Oh, my God! You thought I'd slit my wrist or something, didn't you?"
"The thought did occur to me, yes. It wouldn't be the first time you tried something like this, Harry."
"I know, Severus, and I'm sorry if I put you through all that worry again. But this is different. I was suffering from depression before, that's much better now. And I could never do that now."
"Because I know how much it would hurt you, Master," Harry said softly. "I'm afraid you're stuck with me."
"And you with me," replied Severus, leaning over to kiss him. "Aren't you upset about what happened?"
Harry laughed, but it sounded forced, hollow. "Of course I am! But I can get upset without wanting to do myself in, you know."
"Good to hear it."
"I think we're going to have to give the lemon meringue a miss, I've probably bled all over it." Harry struggled to get up, Severus held out his hand to help him to his feet.
"The others have left; I thought it was for the best."
"Oh. It was a disaster, wasn't it?"
"No, Ron Weasley was being an obnoxious brat and got cut down to size. I don't think it was a disaster at all."
"Severus ... I think it might have been Ron who switched my potions. My room was never warded against friends, in case of an emergency. He could have got past my wards. From what he said tonight, it sounds like something he would do."
"We can't just go around accusing him, Harry. We need proof. And I know just how we can get it."
On Saturday morning, Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout accompanied Severus to the Gryffindor common room. All the Gryffindors had been rounded up and were now sitting or standing anxiously around the room. Harry had never seen the place so full. Hermione was standing next to him; Ron was over by the fireplace, not looking at him. Ron hadn't spoken a word to Harry ever since the dinner party two nights ago.
"Mr. Potter needs to take a special potion every month," said McGonagall and Harry just wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. He didn't want his whole private business broadcast round the school, but that was the track McGonagall seemed to be heading for. "However, someone from this House switched potions, almost killing him in the process. This is why we have contacted all of your parents who have given permission for all of your belongings to be searched."
"What? You can't do that!" protested one of the third year boys, blushing furiously.
"I assure you we can, Mr. Cleary. This is a very serious matter and I'm afraid this small breach of privacy is something you will have to put up with. Rest assured, we are only looking for any evidence concerning the switched potions. Anything else will be ignored. Amnesty in other words. I don't care how many copies of Playwizard or Playwitch, or how many bottles of butterbeer you've sneaked into your rooms, that is not what we are looking for."
"We should start with the girls' dormitories first," said Severus. "First through to seventh."
"Harry, come with us," said Severus. "You'll recognise the potion vial more than any of us."
Harry wasn't sure whoever had switched the vials would have left them just lying around for someone to find, but he followed the teachers anyway. He really wanted to hold Severus' hand, but knowing they were being observed meant he had to rein in the impulse. McGonagall chivvied the first year girls up the stairs to their dormitory. They all looked a bit panicked, but Harry didn't think any of them had done it. The Genialis Potion wasn't even on the curriculum for NEWT level students; he didn't think any first year would have the skills to make it.
As expected, they found nothing out of the ordinary in the younger years' trunks and wardrobes; it was all school books, sweets and teddy bears. The fourth and fifth years' trunks yielded up much the same along with make-up and teen magazines (quite a few with Harry's picture on the cover), but no potion vials. McGonagall called the sixth and seventh years up to their dormitories and everything was searched once again. Nothing untoward was found, but Harry found himself on the receiving end of more information than he ever wanted to know about Hermione. They both blushed and then burst out giggling at each other when Hermione's stash of raunchy books was strewn about her bed.
"The boys next, Severus?" asked Flitwick, looking anywhere but at the underwear lying on the students' beds and on the floor.
"Yes, we'll start with the seventh and sixth years since we are already up here."
Harry had suspected it might have been Ron, but he hoped he was wrong. He hoped that their friendship had meant something, that Ron would never have done such a thing to him. But when Professor McGonagall opened Ron's trunk and emptied the contents onto the floor; they all saw what was in it. Along with the usual books and sweets from Honeydukes they saw Harry's leather collar that he thought he'd lost and there, reminding him of the song, were five green potion bottles, four of them still full of potion.
"Ron! How could you!" cried Neville. "You almost killed Harry!"
"Mr. Weasley, you will accompany me to my office. I will send for your parents. Harry, Severus, please join us in a moment." McGonagall turned to the other teachers. "Thank you for your help. The students are free to do whatever it is they normally do on Saturdays. After you, Weasley."
The room around Harry started spinning. Ron? It had been Ron all along? He swayed a little where he stood, but almost before he knew it, Severus' arms were around him keeping him steady. "I thought he was my friend," Harry whispered hoarsely, trying his best not to give in to the tears.
"Friends don't do things like that," said Neville.
"Come along, Harry. We need to see the headmistress."
Harry nodded and let himself be led out of Gryffindor and down the stairs. He remembered little of the journey except that Severus was with him. It was almost as if he was in a trance of some sort. Things didn't feel quite real and by the time they arrived at the door to the headmistress' office, Harry didn't even remember walking up the spiral staircase. The door opened even before they had a chance to knock and McGonagall ushered them in.
Ron was seated slumped over a chair by McGonagall's desk. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were standing by the wall. Mrs. Weasley was crying and her husband was doing his best to comfort her.
"Why Ron?" wailed Molly, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. "Why would you do such a thing?"
Ron didn't answer her.
"Molly, Arthur. As I'm sure you know this is a very serious offence."
"You're not going to expel him?" asked Molly.
"It is one of the options I am considering, yes. If I don't receive a satisfactory explanation, then I will have little choice. To the governors, this will look like little more than attempted murder."
"I wasn't trying to kill him!" Ron interrupted. "I was trying to make him see sense!"
"What? What are you talking about?" asked Arthur.
"I'm not saying another word until he goes," said Ron, jerking his head towards Severus.
"As your current Head of House, Professor Snape is well within his rights to be here, not to mention his position as Harry's husband."
Ron folded his arms over his chest with a stubborn expression on his face. "I'm saying nothing while he's here. He's got Harry Confunded or something and I'm not letting him do it to me!"
Harry didn't want his Master to go, but he knew that Ron meant what he said. They would get nowhere if Severus stayed in the room. Surely Ron knew that Harry would tell Severus everything anyway? He had no secrets from his Master.
"I will wait outside for the moment, Headmistress," said Severus, squeezing Harry's shoulder on the way out. Once Severus was gone, everyone in the room turned to Ron.
"Well, Ron?" demanded Harry. "Why did you dose with me Genialis Potion and almost poison me?"
"Genialis Potion? Ron, what were you thinking? That's on the restricted list at the Ministry!"
"I wanted you to get pregnant," said Ron simply. "I thought if I switched the potion with your contraceptive, you'd get pregnant that much quicker. It's meant to be a fertility potion as well as an aphrodisiac."
"Not for males with Gaian Syndrome, it isn't," explained Harry. "Genialis Potion increases sperm production, but my sperm are sterile, so it wouldn't help. That potion is supposed to help an infertile couple, male and female. It wouldn't have worked on me anyway. But why, Ron, why did you want me to get pregnant?"
"He has Confunded you, hasn't he?" snorted Ron. "He's using you, Harry. He just wants to have some young thing on his arm and I thought if you got pregnant, it would make you see."
"Make me see what?" Harry was just getting more and more confused.
"That he wouldn't want to be tied down with a child and then he'd leave you. Then you'd realise that he never really loved you."
"So you gave me the potion, hoping I'd get pregnant and that he'd leave me because of it? Abandon me and our child?" Harry could hardly believe this.
"God, Ron, with friends like you, who needs enemies? That was despicable! Even if I wasn't allergic to the potion, what you did was awful. And hoping he'd leave me? What a pillar of support you are! And what then? What did you hope to happen if he did leave me and I was pregnant? You'd want to put me through all that alone?"
"No!" protested Ron. "I would have helped you and so would Hermione. We would be back to the way we were. Before he came along. Just the three of us. And the baby. All of us could have got a flat or something together and we'd all help with the baby."
Something wasn't quite adding up. Why would Ron want to be tied down with Severus' baby? That didn't make much sense. Then Harry remembered something Neville had said once. About a bonding being between two people, or sometimes three.
"Oh God! You're jealous!" Harry accused him. "Jealous of Severus. That's it, isn't it?"
"You deserve much better than him!"
"Like who? You?"
"At least I'd know how to treat you right!"
"So you lied to me that day? When you said you weren't interested in doing things with me?"
"It'd be better than you being with him!"
"Oh, so you're prepared to overlook the fact that you're straight as long as it gets me away from Severus?" Harry snorted and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Ron, but you have no idea. You don't know what I need. I'm not sure you ever did. I think you have this image of me as some perfect hero, but that's not the real me. The real me needs boundaries and discipline and Severus is not afraid to give me those things. I'm not perfect, Ron. I never have been. But I love Severus and he loves me."
"I love you!" cried Ron.
"No you don't. You love some perfect picture you have of me, not the real me." Harry moved across the room, he wasn't sure how much longer he could bear looking at Ron. So Ron had concocted some sort of happy family scenario with the three of them and Harry's baby. Molly and Arthur looked gobsmacked.
"Well, this has certainly shed some light on the matter," said McGonagall. "But the fact still remains that you deliberately put another student in danger. You are nineteen years old, Mr. Weasley, well past the stage where we can put things down to youthful ignorance! There are consequences to be faced. I do not think you meant Harry to get hurt, but the fact remains that you should not have switched anyone's potion. It was dangerous and irresponsible. Since there are only a few months left until you take your NEWTs, I will allow you to stay on at Hogwarts until the exams. However, you are suspended from all activities not related to your studies. There will be no Hogsmeade visits for you, you are off the Quidditch team and you will have detention every night until the end of the year with Madam Pomfrey. Let's see how blasé you are about potions when you will get to see first hand the consequences of misuse."
"That is most generous, Headmistress," said Arthur, glaring at his son.
"I know now this was not done out of malice, Ronald, but if you put another foot wrong this year, then I'm afraid I will have to expel you."
"Thank you, I don't deserve this chance. I'm sorry, Professor. I was wrong to do that to Harry."
"Yes you were, but it's not me you owe an apology to, is it?" asked McGonagall, steepling her fingers under her chin.
Ron turned around and sought out Harry's eyes before standing up and striding over to him.
"I'm sorry, Harry." Ron held out his hand. Harry didn't take it.
"Apologise to Severus and then we'll see."
Severus wasn't at all surprised that once he'd left the headmistress' office, he couldn't hear a word of what was said inside it. Minerva knew her silencing charms. What did surprise him was Harry storming out of the door around half an hour after Severus had left it and slamming it behind him, his breath catching.
"Sir, may we return to our rooms?" Harry's eyes were glowing with some inner jade fire and Severus half expected to see a thundercloud gathering over his head. Harry was angry, very angry.
Severus nodded, although he was almost dying of curiosity. What had been said to make Harry so angry? He could guess until the cows came home but it would only be speculation. They walked in silence back to their quarters; Severus guessed that Harry didn't want to talk about things until they had the privacy of their rooms.
What he wasn't expecting, even before he had cast the wards on the door, was for Harry to whirl him around and pin him to the door with Harry's body pressed close against his and Harry's lips pressed firmly to his own. Harry was frantic, mewling and whimpering as he seemed to be trying to crawl inside Severus' skin. Severus felt the heat flare in his belly and lower still as Harry gyrated against him; the hard length of Harry's cock pressing against his thigh.
"Fuck me," Harry growled between kisses. "I want you to fuck me. Hard."
All the blood seemed to rush to Severus' cock and bollocks as he remembered what fucking Harry was like. So hot and tight, all that rippling flesh around his cock and he moaned into the kiss. It would have been so easy to give in to the lust, but Severus knew that wasn't really what Harry needed right now. Harry had never initiated sex like this before; something was wrong and Harry was using sex as a way to escape it. However there was the fact that Harry was aroused, very aroused. Knowing how sensitive Harry was, Severus knew Harry wouldn't be able to be calm enough to talk until he'd managed to come or somehow calm down a little.
Severus brought his hands up and cupped Harry's face in his hands, pulling away from the kiss. Tears were dripping from Harry's lashes and he tried to turn his head away so that Severus wouldn't see them. "Ssh, pet. It's all right," said Severus. "It's all right. Lean against the door for me."
Harry nodded as Severus moved so that Harry could take his place against the door. Once Harry had his back to the door, Severus sank to his knees and began to unbutton Harry's jeans – a task made more difficult by the firm erection pressing against the denim.
"Master!" Harry gasped through his tears as Severus finally managed to free Harry's erection. Severus hadn't often done this to Harry, so he knew the sensations were new and unusual for Harry and would have him coming quite soon. Harry's hips were thrusting against empty air and Severus didn't want to tease him much longer. Harry would be calmer once he'd come.
"Come when you need to, Harry," said Severus, leaning forward and taking the tip of Harry's leaking prick in his mouth. Oh, Merlin! The boy tasted so sweet and Severus hummed in pleasure as he sucked on Harry's cock, feeling the precome dripping onto his tongue like honey. He flicked his tongue around the foreskin and Harry almost slid down the door, moaning and babbling incoherently. Severus leaned over further so that he could fit more of Harry's cock in his mouth. Licking Harry, sucking Harry, was making his own prick throb in his trousers. He fumbled one handed to get his trousers open and pulled his cock out, stroking it with one hand while he stroked Harry's balls with the other.
He took the whole of Harry's cock in his mouth, snuffling at Harry's pubic hair, loving the scent of him. Sweaty, but clean and sweet too. Harry's cock hardened in his mouth, he could feel the pulse throbbing through it and knew Harry wouldn't last long. His strokes on his own cock speeded up to try and make them come together.
"Fuck! Oh Fuck!" yelped Harry. "Oh God! I'm gonna come! Sir! Sir! Ahhh! Ahhh!" Harry howled as he came, filling Severus' mouth and throat with his warm seed. Severus sucked and swallowed every drop even as his own cock spurted over his hand and trousers and he felt almost blind from the pleasure. He glanced up, his mouth still suckling on Harry's cock as his pet shook and trembled with the force of his orgasm. Not just pleasure, Severus realised, as Harry began sobbing in earnest, his shoulders shaking with the effort.
Severus let his cock go and then pulled Harry down onto his lap, cradling him in his arms and letting him cry it out. There was no point in getting Harry to talk just yet, he was too upset. Severus kissed Harry's hair and stroked his back as he let Harry finish crying.
"I'm sorry, sir," said Harry at last. "I didn't mean to get your robes dirty."
"Robes will wash, Harry. I'm more concerned over what has you so upset. Can you tell me what happened?"
The words tumbled out of Harry, one after the other, so fast that it took a while for Severus to make sense of them.
"But Ron Weasley's as straight as a plank," Severus said. The boy had been a bit of a skirt-chaser before he'd settled on Hermione Granger and Severus had caught him quite a few times in the Astronomy Tower, always with a girl. There had been no boys at all, not even as an experiment.
"He seemed to think the sacrifice was worth it if he could get me away from you."
"So he isn't gay, but would be prepared to sleep with you to save you from a worse fate?" Severus mused out loud.
"Something like that. I haven't encouraged him, I swear!" Harry was working himself up into a panic again.
Severus carded his fingers through Harry's hair, still as wild as ever. "I know you haven't. The boy is delusional; I really think Minerva should have expelled him. He almost killed you, Harry."
"But he didn't. I'm still here, Severus."
"That you are. You didn't really think I would leave you if you were pregnant?"
"No, but Ron seemed to think you would. He doesn't understand about us at all. That we said our vows and we meant them. If you were only after one thing, why would you have married me and shared your life with me? He doesn't understand about the submission. He thinks I'm your slave or something, but it isn't like that."
"Harry, if you're not finding the submission to your taste, we can always end that, you know."
"No!" Harry said firmly. "I want it this way, Severus. I want you to be my Master. I don't care what anyone else's opinion is, that doesn't matter to me. The only person whose opinion I care about is yours. Everyone else can go fuck themselves!"
Severus chuckled, it wasn't often Harry swore when he wasn't in the throes of passion and it sounded strange coming from a face looking so innocent.
"I think I'd rather fuck you," Severus whispered hoarsely.
Harry's eyes glittered. "Yeah?"
"Oh, yes," said Severus, feeling his groin stirring once more and he hadn't even taken a potion. He felt the urge to lay claim to Harry again, to wipe out memory of anyone else. Not that he really thought Harry would run off with Ron Weasley, but he just wanted to make sure that Harry knew who he belonged to.
"Lean over the sofa," Severus ordered. "Take everything off except your collar."
Harry's face slackened and he was almost drooling in his haste to obey. "Yes, sir."
Severus watched avidly as Harry undressed, his eyes raking over that perfect form. Even with the scars, it was a perfect body because it was Harry's body. The boy had filled out quite a bit with proper meals and all his exercising and Severus let himself appreciate the muscles rippling as Harry bent over; the pert globes of his buttocks that fitted perfectly in each hand. As he reached the sofa, Severus squeezed each one as his cock nudged against the crease of Harry's arse, but despite both their excitement he knew Harry wasn't quite ready to be taken dry yet.
Too impatient to Accio the lubrication from their bedroom, Severus cast a charm on both of them, slicking his cock and Harry's channel. Harry gasped in surprise; Severus had never used this charm on him before. Harry wriggled his arse and glanced around behind him. "Are you going to fuck me or stare at me all day, sir?"
Severus gave him a swat on the arse. "Don't be impertinent. For that, I should just let you lie there, aching and aroused and just waiting to be fucked. How long do you think you can stand it?"
Harry's face paled and he looked immediately contrite. "I'm sorry, sir. Forgive me?"
"Just this once," said Severus, who was aching and aroused himself and wanted to pound into that inviting arse in front of him. He held onto Harry's hips and pulled Harry's arse toward his cock, lining them both up together. Harry hissed a little in pain at the first stretch and Severus was about to withdraw and prepare him with fingers first.
"No, sir. Don't stop, please!"
"But you're hurting."
"It's a good hurt," said Harry. "Please, keep going."
Severus did just that, filling Harry to the hilt, feeling himself gripped in velvet walls. He leaned his head on Harry's back and took a few deep breaths to calm himself down. It never got old, no matter how many times he was inside Harry.
"Stroke yourself, make yourself come," Severus ordered and saw Harry's hand move beneath him on the sofa. Harry was soon squirming against him and Severus guessed he was feeling excited enough for Severus to move. And move he did. It was bliss as always and he thrust away, sliding in and out of Harry like a ship sailing through the waves..Harry was moaning beneath him, pushing back on every thrust, meeting Severus halfway. Severus brushed against Harry's prostate and the boy cried out, his inner muscles clenching around Severus' cock as Harry's climax overtook him.
It was much too soon, but Severus could do nothing to prevent him falling over the edge and into ecstasy. "Harry!" he moaned as he felt his balls emptying out through his cock and into Harry. "You're mine!" His fingers tightened their grip on Harry's hips, wondering briefly if he'd left bruises as the aftershocks tore through him.
"Yours, Master," Harry agreed, turning round to look into his eyes. Green eyes, so like Lily's eyes, but Severus knew that the boy beneath him, his husband, was more than just the product of James and Lily Potter.
"I love you," Severus whispered, surprised at how easy the words came to his lips these days. He pulled out of Harry and turned Harry around so that they could kiss. It was soft and sensual, now that their passion had been spent, but good for all that. It was like a promise, that kiss. That they would be together forever, no matter how many silly notions other people had about their relationship.
"Harry, I've been meaning to talk to you about something," said Severus, stroking Harry's hair once more. He was addicted to Harry's hair, he realised. He could hardly go a few moments without stroking it.
"Hmm?" Harry asked sleepily, nuzzling against Severus' chest hair, his eyes fluttering closed.
"About someone watching us."
Harry's eyes flew open. "I thought you were joking! Just you know, getting me hot talking about it."
"So it's not something you'd like to try in real life?"
"I don't know. Who could we trust enough not to go blabbing to the Prophet or something?"
"Well, I had considered asking George Weasley and Neville Longbottom."
"So that's why you invited them to dinner the other night?"
"Yes, but things didn't quite work out, then, did they?"
"God, Severus. I don't know. If I had thought about it in real life, I was expecting strangers, not my friends. I don't know that I would feel comfortable enough with friends watching me. It would be really weird. But if you want me to, I'll do it."
"Harry, I may be your Master, but if it would be that uncomfortable for you, I'm not going to make you do it."
"Not uncomfortable, maybe more embarrassing. How would I ever look them in the face again once they've seen me naked and screaming? I admit the idea gets me hot, I'm just not sure about putting it into practice. Can I think about it a bit more?"
"Of course you can."
"Thank you, Master," said Harry, leaning up to kiss him once more.
"Harry dear, what's the matter?" asked Madam Pomfrey as Hermione ushered him into the infirmary.
"It's nothing, I'm fine," Harry insisted. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"He isn't fine, Madam Pomfrey. He threw up in Potions and Professor Slughorn wants you to have a look at him."
"Very well, hop on the bed for me, there's a good lad," said Madam Pomfrey, removing her wand from her pocket. There were several students already in the other infirmary beds and now that he looked, Harry noticed that Madam Pomfrey's hair, normally so well tended, was escaping her bonds and hanging in sweaty tendrils around her face. The woman looked exhausted and Harry felt guilty about bothering her just because he'd thrown up. It was just the smell of the armadillo bile, he never could stand it.
Knowing he wouldn't get out of it without at least an examination from the matron, Harry sat down on one of the empty beds and swung his legs. Madam Pomfrey waved her wand over him and nodded to herself. "As I thought, it's Wizard's Flu, dear. It's going round at the moment. I suppose you weren't inoculated against it, were you?"
Harry shook his head, he'd never had his Muggle vaccinations, never mind wizarding ones.
"Well, your temperature is a bit high, that's probably why you threw up. I want you to have plenty of bed rest and fluids and I'll just get you some potion for the aches and pains. You should be fine in a few days. Have you been inoculated, Hermione?"
"I think I still have a few left. Come with me, dear." Madam Pomfrey led Hermione into her office. Harry stood up as he waited for them to return with the potions. He was glad Madam Pomfrey took Hermione into the office for her injection; Harry wasn't very good with needles and he swayed a little just thinking about it. He sat back down on the bed and held his head, a pain lanced through his head behind his left eye.
"Harry?" Hermione's voice brought him back. "Are you okay?"
"I have a bit of a headache."
"Here you are," said Madam Pomfrey handing him a blue vial. Harry's hand shook as he took it; he hadn't accepted any potions for months now if they didn't come straight from Severus. He wouldn't even test any of his own concoctions in Potions anymore; the memory of being poisoned was still so strong in his mind. "It's all right, Harry. These are from Severus; he brews all the medical potions for me. I double checked the ingredients; there is no valerian in this."
"Sorry for being so silly." Harry took the potion from the matron's hand and downed it in two gulps. His headache eased off. "Thanks."
"It's not silly at all, it's very sensible," said Madam Pomfrey. "Your body is remembering and just warning you to be careful next time."
"Okay, thanks." Harry stood up.
"Where do you think you're going?" Madam Pomfrey's hands were on her hips.
"Er, back to class."
"What part of 'plenty of bed rest' didn't you understand? Right, I had been prepared to let you rest in your quarters, but knowing you, you'll be up wandering about and try to do everything anyway. It's a stay in the hospital wing for you, I'm afraid. I need to keep an eye on you."
"I ... I don't want to stay overnight," said Harry, glancing at Hermione, who nodded in understanding.
"I can take him back to his rooms and let Professor Snape know he has to rest," said Hermione.
"Harry, it's not like you to have a phobia about staying here. Are you worried about last time you were here when you were almost poisoned?"
"It's Ron, Madam Pomfrey. Harry doesn't want to stay here because Ron will be here in the evenings for his detention."
"I see. Well, if you promise me you will take it easy and take your potions, I will allow you to rest at home. Let me give you some more potions to take with you and I will write a note for Professor Snape. Excuse me a moment."
Once the matron was gone, Harry looked anywhere but at Hermione. After Ron's part in almost poisoning Harry was discovered, Hermione had split up with him and no one from Gryffindor was talking to him anymore. Harry felt somehow that it was his fault, that he was to blame for splitting them up and for Ron no longer having any friends. Sometimes he felt the guilt gnawing away at his stomach like acid. People tried to convince him that Ron had brought it on himself, but Harry couldn't help but wonder if he'd paid more attention to Ron or had noticed things earlier that none of this would have happened. But it was useless worrying about it now. It had happened and there was nothing to be done.
One evening Ron had gone to their quarters to apologise to Severus, but Harry could tell from the tone of his voice that Ron hadn't really meant it. Severus knew it too and threw him out on his ear. Harry and Ron's friendship was effectively over and Harry knew he could never be friends with him again. Ron thought that he was in the right and was too stubborn to see anyone else's point of view. The trio was no longer Harry, Hermione and Ron – it was Harry, Hermione and Neville now. Even Ginny was no longer speaking to Ron.
"Right, here we are," announced Madam Pomfrey as she returned with a wicker basket filled with six small potion vials and an envelope that she handed to Hermione. "Make sure Professor Snape gets this."
"I will. Ready, Harry?"
Harry nodded and stood up, only to find the room swaying around him again. He ignored it and hoped Madam Pomfrey wouldn't notice. It seemed such an effort to walk back to the third floor and into their living quarters. Potions had been their last class and Harry knew he was late again for his Master after their detour to the infirmary. Harry pushed open the door and Hermione followed him in with the basket of Potions over one arm and the note clutched in her other hand.
"Miss Granger? What's wrong?" Severus took one look at Harry and hurriedly took hold of him and led him over to the sofa.
"Wizard's Flu," replied Hermione. "Madam Pomfrey said to give you this." Hermione handed over the note. "He's to have plenty of rest and fluids and his pain potions are here."
"Thank you for looking after him, Miss Granger. I can take it from here."
"Oh. Oh, of course. Do you want me to take some notes for you in class tomorrow, Harry?"
Harry nodded, but the way he was feeling right now, he really couldn't have cared less about class. Nausea roiled in his stomach once more; he stood up to try and make a dash for the bathroom, but he didn't make it. He sank to the floor and threw up over the flagstones. Dimly he heard the door shut as he retched again, but little was left to make an appearance, just sour bile and spittle. It felt as if he'd torn himself inside out and his throat ached with the effort. His chest and stomach hurt too, as if the muscles weren't used to it.
"I'm sorry, Master! I'm sorry!"
Severus Banished the vomit with a wave of his wand and pressed a cool glass of water into Harry's hand. "Ssh, it's all right, Harry. Drink that and then we'll get you to bed, okay?"
Harry nodded, tears of distress stinging in the corners of his eyes. He hated feeling ill. What on Earth was he going to do when he got pregnant?
"How did your visit with Fleur go?" Severus asked as Harry sipped at his water, trying to distract him.
Fleur had come to visit him at lunchtime to discuss pregnancy with him and with the way Harry was feeling now, he wished he had remained in blissful ignorance. If Harry hated how he was feeling now, what was he going to do if he suffered through three months or more of morning sickness? Not to mention the aches and pains, the swollen ankles, the rushing to the loo every five minutes as the baby pressed down on your bladder. Harry wished he could just skip the pregnancy altogether, just wave a wand and the baby was there like magic. He wanted children, he knew he did and his body craved it too, but he was just so scared of being pregnant. There seemed so many things that could go wrong and Harry worried about them all.
"Fine. I think we should stick to what we said; that we wait until school's finished."
"If you're sure?" Severus asked him.
"I'm sure," said Harry. "It won't be that long. It's May already; I can wait until June or July before we start thinking of getting pregnant."
His glass drained, Severus helped him up from the floor and into the bedroom. The green velvet hangings and quilt had never looked so inviting. Severus undressed him; kissing each patch of bare skin as it was revealed and if Harry had been feeling better, he knew those kisses would have had him aroused and aching. As it was, he was grateful for their comfort and closed his eyes as he let Severus tend him. Normally it was the other way around; Harry undressed and dressed Severus every day but he could grow to like this attention.
Harry shivered as he sat on the bed, bare but for his boxer shorts. Severus Accioed a nightshirt to him and pulled it down over Harry's head before casting a warming charm on the sheets so that they weren't so chilled to the touch. Harry slid under them and lay his head down on the pillows.
"Would you like me to get you anything? Some more water? More blankets?"
Severus caressed his forehead and looked deep into his eyes. Harry felt tears gathering again. How could Ron have wanted to take this away from him? Take Severus away from him? He could feel the love Severus had for him in every touch, whether it was a caress or a spanking. Harry knew he was loved but Ron hadn't seen that at all.
Harry grabbed hold of Severus' wrist. "Can you just stay with me a while? I don't want to be on my own." Not like before, not like when he was with the Dursleys. When he was there they shoved him back in the cupboard if he was ill, not caring if he vomited over the floor or soiled himself when he wasn't allowed out to the toilet. It was just another thing that proved to them he was a dirty, filthy freak.
"Of course," said Severus. "The marking can wait."
Severus removed his robe but kept on his shirt and trousers, lying down on top of the covers. Harry scooted over and rested his head on Severus' chest, hearing the steady thump of his heartbeat beneath his ear. "Try and get some sleep, pet. It will make you feel better."
"Okay," Harry stifled a yawn as he replied; he was starting to feel rather drowsy, his eyes drooping closed.
"I have my orders from Poppy. If you don't follow her directions, she suggests I tie you to the bed if I have to."
Harry opened one eye and looked up at him. "Hmm, that has possibilities, Master, but I think I'd like to be a bit better before we try any of them."
Severus chuckled and kissed Harry's forehead. "Sleep, brat."
"Your brat," sighed Harry, closing his eyes once more.
"Always, Harry. Always."
"Come in, Harry. There's no need to look so nervous, you aren't in any trouble."
Harry entered the headmistress' office and closed the door behind him. He'd received a note at breakfast from Professor McGonagall, asking him to come to the office during his free period after Charms. The last time Harry had been in here was the day that his friendship with Ron had ended and he couldn't help but feel a bit sad about the memory. Fawkes must have just had a burning day; he was a little ball of grey fluff sitting on his perch. Harry glanced around at the portraits of the previous Heads, but all were asleep or seeming to be.
"Take a seat, Harry."
Harry sat down and placed his hands in his lap. "Now, normally it's your Head of House you go to for careers advice, but as Severus is your husband the governors don't feel that would be very appropriate for you. So I've been asked to step in instead. Now I know in fifth year you were considering being an Auror? Is that still a path you wish to pursue?" McGonagall rummaged in the desk drawers and removed some pamphlets.
"No," Harry said vehemently. The last thing he wanted to do was chase down dark wizards and criminals. He'd done enough of that to last him a lifetime.
"I see," McGonagall set one of the leaflets aside. "Have you thought of what else you'd like to do?"
Somehow, Harry didn't think that blurting out, "be Severus' sex slave" would go down well with the Headmistress, although that was something he was very fond of. The truth was, he had never really given a career much thought and Severus had never mentioned it either. At the beginning of the school year Harry had been too depressed to think beyond getting up in the mornings, never mind anything more long term.
"It would have to be something that fits in with children," said Harry. Despite Fleur's stories, Harry still wanted a family and he didn't want them raised by someone else. He knew they would never lack for occasional babysitters but Harry didn't want anyone more long term like a nanny or house elf.
"Well, there are plenty of choices, Harry. You just have to pick the best one that's right for you. What about an apprenticeship, have you given that any thought? You could train to be a healer, or a potions maker."
"But don't apprentices have to live with their masters?" Somehow, Harry didn't think Severus would approve of that.
"Oh, you're right. I'd forgotten. That wouldn't really be suitable for you now that you're married. You probably want to spend as much time with your new husband as possible." The twinkle in her eyes could have rivalled Dumbledore's.
"Er, yes," replied Harry, trying his best not to blush. "Can I discuss things with Severus and get back to you? I really have no idea yet."
"Of course you can. Take your time, Harry. There's no rush, is there?"
Thinking of their full vault, Harry knew that was true. It wasn't as if they'd be destitute if Harry couldn't decide on a career straight away. Once Harry completed his studies, Severus would still be teaching, so Harry would be on his own for most of the day. A job or hobby of some sort could only help, but only if Severus allowed it. Harry had given Severus complete control over his life bar children and he would only do what Severus thought was best. It helped knowing that the decision wasn't really his, for Harry wasn't sure he could decide for himself.
"Thanks, is there anything else?"
"Not really, dear. Unless you want to talk about anything?"
"No. No thank you, Professor."
"Very well then, Harry. Feel free to come and talk to me if you need to."
Harry nodded and left the office, not sure whether he was feeling worried or relieved. His counselling sessions with Madam Pomfrey had finished a few weeks ago, she reckoned Harry was coping very well but told him to come and see her if he needed to. Harry found that he felt much more at ease talking things over with his Master than relying on outsiders, but perhaps it was good that the offers were there.
As Harry stepped down from the moving staircase he caught sight of Ron sitting on a stone bench with a book in his hand, his head down reading it or pretending to. Ron glanced up and flushed when he saw Harry but didn't acknowledge him. Harry turned on his heel and walked the other way, as far away from Ron as he could get. By the time he reached the Charms classroom, Harry's whole body was shaking. He sat down next to Neville and took a few deep breaths.
"Are you all right, Harry?"
"Yeah, I just saw Ron on the way up."
"Did he say something to you?" asked Hermione from the desk on the other side of Harry.
"No. It just shook me up a bit."
"You look like you've seen a ghost. You're white," added Hermione.
In a way it was true, Harry had seen a ghost. It was as if Ron Weasley – the Ron Weasley who had helped rescue Harry from Privet Drive in second year, the Ron Weasley who had shared his wizarding sweets with Harry, the Ron Weasley who had given Harry his first proper Christmas presents, the Ron Weasley who had been Harry's friend – was dead. He no longer existed and it seemed as if some stranger had taken his place.
Harry didn't look round when Ron came into the classroom but he knew when it had happened as everyone else ceased their normal chatter and the room turned as silent as a mausoleum. Professor Flitwick stood on a stack of books behind his desk and cleared his throat. "Right everyone, I know how close the exams are getting, so today we'll do some quiet reading and revision. Miss Patil, can you pass out last week's homework please?"
"Yes, Professor," said Parvati as she stood up and scooped the parchments from the desk. Harry glanced at his essay and tried to stifle the grin. An 'E' wasn't bad, but he knew he would need to work harder if he wanted to get an 'Outstanding' in his NEWT. Harry felt that anything less would be disappointing and disrespectful to his Master. Harry wanted to do well to please him.
Harry rushed back to their quarters after his last class and headed to the bedroom to remove his robe and place his schoolbag by the side of the bed. He returned to the living room and with his back to the sofa he knelt down on the floor, staring at the empty fireplace and waiting for his Master to arrive. It was a position Harry found completely natural, to be on his knees before Severus and he found his mind wandering to that time in Brighton beneath the pier, his mouth watering as if could taste Severus' cock in his mouth right this moment. Harry knew it wasn't really up to him when they had sex, he could ask for it, but it was ultimately Severus' decision and sometimes he might be denied. Rather than face the rejection, Harry didn't usually ask and waited for Severus to start things. The time after he'd found out about Ron's betrayal had been a bit of an aberration.
The door clicked open and Harry's ears pricked up like a puppy knowing when his Master was home. Every day was the same; as soon as Harry heard the door his stomach filled with butterflies and he waited in nervous excitement for his Master to enter the room. Severus smiled as soon as he saw Harry and reached out to caress his hair.
"Good afternoon, pet."
"Good afternoon, Master. May I take your robes?" Harry lowered his head and his eyes as he waited for the answer.
"You may," Severus reached out a hand to help him up. "Then you can take off your shirt. I want to see your collar."
"Yes, sir," said Harry, beginning to unbutton Severus' robe, starting at the very high collar. There seemed to be hundreds of buttons, or maybe Harry was just impatient, wanting to see his husband's desirable form. The robes hid a lot and Harry gulped as he remembered Severus' tight black t-shirt that he still wore to their training sessions every morning. Harry shifted, but it was useless trying to hide his arousal from his Master. Severus could tell.
"What naughty thoughts have you in such a state?" asked Severus, smirking.
"You, Master. I was thinking of you." Harry had finished undoing Severus' robe; he folded it and put it in the bedroom. When he came back out, Severus was still standing there, his back to the fireplace.
"Elaborate, Harry. What were you thinking? Talk to me while you take off your shirt."
"I was thinking about Brighton and under the pier and how you looked this morning in your black t-shirt."
"You do like me in that, don't you?"
Harry nodded as he finished with his shirt button and shimmied out of his shirt before folding it and setting it down on the sofa.
"What do you like about it?" Severus sat down in an armchair and waved Harry to the front of it.
Harry knelt down before him and leaned his head on his Master's lap. He wondered if that had been too presumptuous, but Severus didn't object and began to stroke his fingers through Harry's head once more. Harry snuggled closer and tried to think why he liked seeing Severus in that t-shirt. It was sexy, that was obvious, but there was more to it than that.
"I can see your muscles," Harry explained at last. "You look so strong. Like you can protect me."
"You like that? To know I will protect you?"
"Yes," replied Harry simply. "I like knowing I have a strong Master."
"You're strong too, Harry. Don't forget that. It takes great strength to submit your will to another. It's a precious gift you've given me."
"May I speak freely, Master?"
"You may." Severus caressed Harry's neck, just above his collar and Harry leaned into the touch. It was hard to concentrate when Severus touched him like that.
"Professor McGonagall wanted to see me about careers today, but I didn't really know if you wanted me to work at a career. I'd really like to look after our children rather than hire nannies or something, so it would have to be something to fit around that, wouldn't it?" Harry nibbled on a nail and then desisted at once when his Master raised an eyebrow at him.
"What would you like to do, Harry?"
"I don't really know. Something part time maybe, or work for myself, that way I can set my own hours and fit it around any children we might have."
"That sounds an excellent idea. I think you would be bored being here on your own when I'm teaching and doing something like that would probably help."
"You don't mind?"
"As long as I have you to come home to every evening I don't mind at all. There's a Wizarding Business Fair on in Edinburgh in August, perhaps we could go there and make a little holiday out of it? You can see what sort of Wizarding Businesses you might be interested in."
"Oh! That sounds wonderful, Master! Thank you!"
Severus glanced down at Harry's tented groin and smiled. "Perhaps before dinner we should take care of some other business?"
Harry couldn't get out of his trousers fast enough.
Harry hummed in contentment as Severus idly stroked his hair. Severus was sitting at his desk and marking some of the third year Defence essays; Harry was kneeling beside the desk on a cushion as he revised for his exams. The Gryffindor common room had been much too noisy for Harry's liking and since he no longer had his own bedroom in Gryffindor Tower he found he worked much better when he was at home with Severus.
"I can hardly keep track, what have you got tomorrow?" Severus asked as he set down his quill and removed his hand from Harry's head in order to stretch. Harry's eyes were drawn to the small patch of skin revealed as Severus' shirt rode up his frame.
"Potions in the morning, Charms in the afternoon and then Astronomy tomorrow evening. I can hardly believe that the exams are nearly over."
"How do you think you'll do?"
"I think I'll do okay, Master. I want you to be proud of me."
"I am proud of you, Harry. But you've been studying for hours, you need a break. Come with me, I have a surprise for you in the bedroom."
Harry flushed. "Oh!"
Severus stood up and held out his hand to help Harry to his feet. "Remember, Harry. If anything makes you uncomfortable you may use your word."
"Yes, sir." Harry's curiosity was piqued. Was it something Severus wasn't sure Harry would enjoy? Harry had never yet needed to use his safeword. He trusted Severus would do what was best for him and his heart was thumping wildly in his chest as Severus pushed open their bedroom door. Harry swallowed; his throat suddenly dry. Neville and George were sitting on their bed, both still fully dressed. Harry started shaking, but he wasn't sure whether it was from dread or excitement. There was no mistaking the stirring in his groin though.
Severus waved his wand and conjured a sofa, before pushing Harry down onto it. "We are the watchers tonight, Harry," Severus whispered to him. "And if you feel comfortable enough with it, they can watch us some other time."
"George, Neville, are you okay with this?" Harry asked. He didn't want his friends to feel uncomfortable.
"More than okay, Harry," said George. "We've done this before. Only at a club though, not with friends watching us. But this should be better." George grinned and kissed Neville's forehead and Harry could feel the love palpable between the two of them. Neville trusted George as much as Harry trusted Severus and he knew none of them would be hurt tonight. This was all consensual, even if a bit unusual.
"Ready, love?" asked George standing up. Neville nodded eagerly and slid to his knees on the floor. It was a position so familiar to Harry as well and he scooted closer to his Master on the sofa. Neville began by unbuttoning George's shirt, rising up to reach, although George wasn't that much taller than him. As each button came undone, Harry could see the sparse ginger hairs decorating George's chest and a dusting of freckles around his nipples, brown rather than the pink of Harry's and Severus' own.
"They're watching us, Neville," said George hoarsely. "They want to see how well you can please your Master tonight."
Neville groaned and the sound went straight to Harry's groin. His trousers were getting uncomfortable now, but he didn't know whether or not he was allowed to touch, or if it was just watching tonight. Neville undid George's trousers and pushed them and his boxer shorts down towards his shins, but didn't go any further. Just before Neville pulled George's cock into his mouth, Harry got a brief glimpse of wiry red hair and a cock shorter than Severus', but slightly thicker. It was the first cock besides his own and Severus' that Harry had ever seen but it didn't excite him as much as seeing Severus' cock did. What did excite him was watching the two of them together, how into each other they were. Neville was groaning around the cock in his mouth and George was moaning too.
"Touch yourself," George ordered. "I know how excited you get with someone watching you. You don't care, do you? The whole school could come in here right now and you wouldn't care as long as you got to come, would you?"
By this stage, Harry wasn't sure whether or not George's words were aimed at him or Neville and he squirmed in his seat.
Severus glanced over at him and Harry knew Severus had seen the bulge in his trousers. "Do you want them to watch you, pet?" Severus asked.
"Please, Master. If you allow it." Harry didn't know how much more of this tension he could bear.
"Very well. George, please continue, then you may watch Harry and I."
George grinned again and looked down at Neville, carding his fingers through his hair. Neville's head began bobbing again, one hand snaked around to undo his trousers and remove his cock. Harry's mind supplied himself kneeling in front of Severus as Neville and George watched and he had to try and calm himself before he became so excited that he would come helplessly in his trousers. God, Severus knew his kinks so well! Harry wasn't sure he would have had the courage to ask for this himself, but there was no denying the excitement he felt as it played out.
George's shirt flapped around him as he thrust in and out of Neville's mouth, his pace increasing with every thrust. Harry had to move his hips; he could tell from the expression on George's face and the pained groans that he was going to come soon. Neville's arm was frantically working around the front. Suddenly George howled and grabbed a tight hold of Neville's head as he climaxed.
"Oh, fuck!" moaned Harry, reaching for Severus' hand. "That was hot."
"Wasn't it just?" Severus smiled and kissed him. "Now it's your turn."
"Where do you want me, Master?" Harry's voice wobbled as he asked.
"Undress and lie down on the bed." Severus stood up as George and Neville put their clothes to rights again. Harry caught sight of Neville as he turned; Neville's face was bright red and there was a smear of George's come on his lips. Neville licked his lips and grinned at Harry like the cat who'd got the cream. Well, Neville certainly seemed to be enjoying himself; it wasn't something he was being forced to participate in. Not that Harry thought George would force him, but it was good to make sure.
Harry toed off his shoes and socks and stood in just his shirt and trousers.
"Everything, Harry. I want them to see you. To see how beautiful you are."
They may have been his friends, but Harry still wasn't that comfortable about lots of people seeing his scars, so he cast a wandless and silent glamour before he removed the rest of his clothes. His hands trembled as he pulled down his boxers, worried how he looked to the others.
"He's right, you are beautiful, Harry," breathed Neville. Harry glanced at his Master in alarm, but Severus just nodded his head.
"He is only telling the truth. There is no punishment needed for that. Lie down on the bed, on your back."
Harry obeyed, feeling unsteady on his feet as he climbed up onto their bed. Severus made no move to join him on the bed; all three of them stood around the bed staring at Harry.
"I want you to touch yourself, Harry. I want you to come with us all watching you."
"Oh God!" Harry's cock jerked at the fantasy of it.
"Do you need your word?" Severus asked gently.
"No, sir. I'm fine."
"Very well. Begin."
The intensity was too much; Harry had to close his eyes, but he still knew they were all watching him. He toyed with his nipples, making them stand up like little pebbles as his hips seemed to move of their own accord. It was as if a jolt of electricity had connected his nipples with his cock and sac and Harry moaned in time with his thrusts.
"Oh, they love watching you, Harry. You're so beautiful, so passionate like this. You're lost in pleasure, in sensation. They want to touch you, I can tell. But they won't, will they, Harry?"
"No, Master! Only you are allowed to touch me."
"That's right, Harry. Touch your cock for me now, stroke it."
Too far gone to do anything but obey his Master's orders, Harry's right hand moved lower and gripped his shaft. It was hard, slippery and wet with precome and he groaned even louder. He didn't care how many people were watching, this was too good to stop! The sensations were doubled knowing that he had an audience and Harry's breath caught as he felt the tingling beginning low down in his belly. His balls tightened and drew up towards his body. Harry hovered on the edge for a few moments before his husband commanded hoarsely, "Come for me, Harry. Come for me now."
Harry's hips arched off the bed as the force of the orgasm tore through him. His cock throbbed and pulsed as he spilled his seed all over his hands and belly in hot spurts. His eyes opened and the first thing he saw was his husband's dark eyes shuttered with lust as he looked at him. Neville and George were looking at Harry with something that he could only have described as awe.
"It was an honour to share this with you, Severus," said George.
"Thank you for sharing with us," said Severus. "And I don't need to remind you that this is to remain between all of us?"
"Of course not! We'd better get going. Goodnight, Harry."
"'Bye," Harry waved from the bed. He was too boneless to get up.
"I think you enjoyed that well enough, pet, didn't you?" asked Severus once their guests had left. Severus climbed onto the bed and licked Harry's stomach clean and as he did so, Harry could feel Severus' erection digging into his hip.
"Yeah. Thank you for arranging it, Master. But I think I neglected you somewhat."
Severus cast a spell to remove his clothes and climbed atop Harry, pressing their cocks together. Harry's was starting to harden again.
"Let's see if you can make up for it, shall we?"
And Harry did. Twice.
"Time is up, everyone. Please step away from your telescopes and hand in your parchments."
Harry stood up and arched his back in a long stretch; his back was aching from being bent over the telescope and the ledge beside it to fill in his answers. He gathered up his scrolls, all three of them and gave them to Professor Tofty, wondering at how much the man seemed to have aged in the few years he'd last seen him. Never remembering the man as young, now he looked more wizened and stooped than ever. His hair was almost completely gone except for two white tufts around his ears and his white beard almost reached his waist now.
Once Tofty had collected all the exam papers and cast a charm to determine that no cheating had taken place, he bade them all farewell and tottered down the stairs, leaving the remaining students free to discuss their final exam.
"Was it Venus or Mars that was the evening star?"
"What did you put for question twelve?"
"How many galaxies did you put in?"
"I thought a Milky Way was a Muggle sweet?"
"Merlin, I could murder a butterbeer."
The words washed over Harry; they seemed to be coming from a long way off as he stood and stared at the night sky, this time without benefit of a telescope. Stars seemed so small twinkling up there. Did the stars look down on them and see tiny humans?
"Harry? Are you coming to the Three Broomsticks with us?" Hermione brought him out of his reverie.
"Sorry, I was miles away."
"So I see. Well, are you coming?" Hermione was smiling and there was no sting in her words.
"Yeah, I just have to go and ask Severus."
"That's right, you need his permission don't you, slave boy?" sneered Ron, his lip curling in disgust.
"Stay out of this Ron; it's none of your business!" Hermione warned him.
"Oh? So it's a threesome now, is it? Do you get down on your knees for Snape as well?"
Harry couldn't help but think back to the night before when George and Neville had joined them, but he knew Ron was nowhere near ready to hear about that. Not that any of them were going to blurt it out, it was private between the four of them and Ron certainly didn't need to know.
Hermione flushed, but Harry soon realised it wasn't from embarrassment; it was anger. "I don't know what I ever saw in you, Ronald Weasley! You're pathetic!"
"I'm pathetic now, am I? I didn't notice you saying that when I was fucking you and you screamed my name when you came!"
"Ron, shut up!" roared Harry, appalled that his former friend would say something so private with all the other seventh years watching them, mouths agape as they watched the arguments between the former friends. Parvati glanced at Hermione, with a surprised look on her face, as if she couldn't quite believe that someone as bookish as Hermione would in fact have anything at all to do with something as earthy as sex. "Come on, let's go. Just ignore him, Hermione."
"I may be pathetic, but at least I'm not Dark like you!" Ron turned to encompass the rest of the seventh years with his gaze. "Do you know what he was? The Hero of the Light? Our so-called Saviour? Do you know why he was able to defeat the Dark Lord?"
"Yes!" snapped Hermione. "He sacrificed himself for all of us and you know it, Ron!"
"He had Voldemort's soul inside him! He was Dark too! He's going to be the next Dark Lord!" Ron ranted, with all the conviction of a toothless soothsayer proclaiming the end was nigh. Despite their differences, never in a million years would Harry have thought that Ron would betray him in such a way. What he'd told Ron and Hermione about his depression was something he thought would remain between them.
Ernie Macmillan burst out laughing. "Don't be ridiculous, Weasley! There's nothing Dark about Potter, have you forgotten all he taught us in the DA?"
"That's right," added Parvati Patil. "If Harry was Dark, he wouldn't have been able to teach us the Patronus Charm, would he? That's a protection spell. Why would someone Dark teach us protection spells? You're just jealous of him and you always have been and it's about time Harry saw sense and dumped you. No offence, Harry."
"None taken." It was a surprise, but a welcome one, that they spoke out to defend him.
The rest of the class filed downstairs leaving only the four of them on the top of the Astronomy Tower. Ron, Neville and Hermione were all staring at Harry, as if expecting him to say something else.
"Did our friendship really mean so little to you, Ron?" Harry asked softly. For Harry, who had never had many friends growing up in Surrey, when he found them he tended to hoard them like a mother dragon guarding her eggs. But somewhere along the line Ron had cracked; had turned rotten in his shell and Harry knew they would never be the same again. He didn't know whether it was because of what had happened to Ron while in the hands of the Snatchers, or if he really was just jealous of Severus, seeing Severus as stealing Harry away, or if it was just some flaw in Ron's character.
"You're the one who ended it!" snarled Ron. "You're one to talk about friendship! You're evil! You're evil! SECTUMSEMPRA!!"
Harry screamed in agony as pain lanced throughout his body from a multitude of cuts across his skin. His clothes and skin were shredded to ribbons as if he'd just been slashed with an invisible sword. Blood dripped onto the ground and the world was turning grey as he fought to stay conscious. There was so much blood falling in crimson rivers onto the paving stones. His legs buckled under him and he placed his bleeding hands in front of him to break his fall as the ground rose up to meet him.
"Petrificus Totalus!" Neville shouted and Harry dimly heard the thud as Ron fell to the ground somewhere to his left.
"Neville! Quick! Fetch Madam Pomfrey!"
Then the world went completely dark and Harry could hear no more.
"No, nothing yet, Severus."
The voices were muffled, distant and Harry didn't know how to reach them. Everywhere ached and it was such an effort to try and keep listening. In the end he gave up and sank down into the darkness once more. Time had no meaning as he floated among the stars, wondering why they looked so big now. Balls of orange and red flame that would consume him if he got too close. Searing heat across his skin had him screaming out loud and he awoke in the infirmary, the sheets a sweaty tangle around his body. It felt as if bandages covered every inch of his chest and arms and his eyes were held shut by something across his head.
Unable to see, dizzy, disorientated, he turned to one side and retched over the bed he was lying on, but nothing was coming back up except sour spittle.. He fumbled around, knocking over a glass of something on the bedside table; the sound of glass shattering had footsteps rushing to his side. A cloth or handkerchief was wiping at his mouth.
"Harry, can you hear me?" asked the matron.
"Yes," Harry croaked; his mouth felt as dry as if he'd been swallowing gravel for days. "What's wrong? Why can't I see?"
"It's just the bandages, Harry. You're not blind. The curse damaged your eyes temporarily, there was some slicing to the corneas, but it's fixed now. The bandages are just there to allow your eyes to heal some more before we expose them to the light again. It's good you're awake. The blood replenishing solution acts much quicker if you drink it rather than take it intravenously."
Harry fought down nausea at the thought of eating or drinking anything. "I won't be able to keep it down," Harry said plaintively.
"Come on, dear. You need the blood replenishing solution."
"You will do what Madam Pomfrey tells you to do, Harry," said his husband in his best dominant tones.
"Yes, sir," Harry replied meekly and pushed himself upright to lean against his pillows. It was strange not being able to see anything. Madam Pomfrey tipped his head back and fed him three drops of the blood replenishing solution. The potion didn't taste as terrible as he'd been expecting it to.
"I suppose I'd be wasting my time to offer you breakfast?" asked Madam Pomfrey.
Harry nodded, he wasn't feeling remotely hungry. "Could I just have some water, please? I'm thirsty."
"All right, dear. I'll get you some dry toast as well. No arguments."
Harry shut his mouth again and he heard her bustle away.
"What happened, Master? I don't remember much after Ron cast that spell on me."
"No, you wouldn't. You passed out from blood loss but luckily Miss Granger knew enough to stem the bleeding until Madam Pomfrey and I got there. You've been in and out of consciousness for the past few days, but you are healing well."
Severus didn't touch him, didn't lean over to kiss him or caress his hair and Harry felt an icy chill grip his heart. He wished he could see his Master's face. Expressions didn't lie even if the lips did.
"Sir? Did I do something wrong?" asked Harry, moving his head from side to side, not exactly sure where Severus was.
Severus didn't answer straight away, but he reached for Harry's hand. "No, Harry. You did not, I did. I invented that spell and wrote it down! How could I have been so foolish? I nearly lost you because of it!"
Harry couldn't see his face but he could sense there was something else. Severus hadn't told him everything.
"Master? What else? Am I going to die?"
"No, you most certainly are not!" Severus proclaimed and Harry had an interesting vision of Death coming for him, but Severus Snape blocking his way with a sneer and not allowing him or his scythe anywhere near Harry.
"What is it, then? You sound upset."
"I am not upset, Harry. Merely discomfited." Harry waited, the pause seemed to last an eternity. "Ron Weasley's actions didn't just harm you, but put the life of our child at risk as well."
"What?" squawked Harry.
"You're pregnant, Harry."
"Severus, I can't be pregnant! I've still been taking the contraceptive potion."
"Harry, we may be wizards, but as with Muggle contraceptives, they are not one hundred per cent effective. There was also the time you had wizards' flu. The pain potions you were taking could have made the contraceptive potions less effective."
"And no one thought to tell me this?"
"You do still want children, don't you?" Harry could imagine the raised brow even if he couldn't see it.
"Yes, of course I do. I just wasn't expecting it so soon! I thought we would have a few months to prepare. It's just a surprise, that's all."
"A good surprise?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I think so. So, what's happened to Ron?"
"I don't think you need concern yourself with that."
"Please, Master. I need to know."
"Very well; he has been taken to St. Mungo's and placed in the secure ward for the criminally insane."
"Oh God," moaned Harry. Ron, locked away.
"Don't you dare! Don't you dare feel guilty over this! You have done enough for that boy and he threw it back in your face. You owe him nothing, Harry. Nothing."
Harry spent the next five days in the infirmary, not speaking, not eating and Severus was sorely tempted to punish him for disobedience, even though he understood the reasoning behind it. Of course, part of it was that Harry was suffering from morning sickness and wasn't really that interested in food, but Severus understood the deeper reasoning too. In Surrey, the Dursleys had punished Harry by withholding food from him whenever they thought he'd done something wrong, or at least that's what they'd told the young boy. But the Dursleys couldn't punish him that way any longer and Severus had promised he would never deny Harry any sort of sustenance. So Harry had decided to punish himself for his perceived guilt at what had happened to the Weasley boy by not eating.
It didn't matter that Harry's friends, the staff, Severus and the remainder of the Weasleys had exonerated him over what had had happened to Ron. Harry was drowning in guilt and nothing any of them could say was going to help, Severus knew his husband too well. It wasn't Harry's fault, but Harry thought it was and Severus didn't know how any of them were going to convince him otherwise.
Something was wrong with Ron Weasley, the Mind Healers at St. Mungo's thought it might have been a psychotic episode brought on by post-traumatic stress and were treating it accordingly. They weren't sure if he would ever recover and it looked like his stay in St. Mungo's might be permanent. Even if he was released, Ron's dreams of being an Auror were over; no one with a history of mental illness was allowed in the Auror Corps as the job was considered stressful enough for those who had no history of mental disturbance. But no matter Ron's state of mind, it was not caused by anything Harry did or didn't do.
Severus propped his head in his hands and sighed as Harry gave him the silent treatment once more. He couldn't even see his husband's eyes as the bandages hadn't been removed yet, Poppy wanted them to stay on for as long as possible to give Harry's eyes the best chance to heal properly. "If you weren't pregnant..." he muttered to himself.
"What? You'd put me over your lap and spank me?"
It was the first words Severus had heard from Harry in days.
"Yes, I would! You have no business disrespecting me or the matron."
"Go on, then! Do it! Punish me!"
Ah, now they got down to the nitty gritty. "And what would I be punishing you for, Harry?"
As he expected, Harry clammed up again and wouldn't say another word. Severus would not use their relationship in order to punish Harry for what had happened to Ron.
"I'll come back later. Poppy said your bandages can come off this evening."
Harry didn't reply, just turned his head on the pillow and hid his face from view.
Instead of leaving the infirmary altogether, Severus popped his head round the office door. Poppy was busy with inventory, a clipboard hovered by her hand and a dictation quill was taking down her notes. "Pepper-up Potion, thirteen vials." She paused when she saw Severus, the quill stopping mid-scratch.
"Is it Harry? Has something happened?" She Banished the quill and clipboard and removed her wand from her pocket.
"No, nothing else," said Severus. "I just wondered if I might have a word?"
"Of course, Severus. Take a seat. Would you like some tea or coffee?" Poppy sat down on the chair behind her desk.
"No thank you." Severus didn't think he would have the patience for either at the moment; he was too worried about Harry. "Poppy, tell me honestly, his depression could come back because of this, couldn't it?"
"It is a possibility, yes. For someone who has suffered from it previously, it's more likely that he'll be prone to it in the future."
"Do you think he is still a suicide risk?" Severus could hardly bear thinking about it, but he knew it was something that had to be faced.
Poppy shook her head. "Not now, Severus. Now Harry has you and is expecting a baby, no matter how he feels about himself I know he would never put an innocent child at risk, however miserable he might be feeling."
That was hardly comforting.
"What about him not eating? Could that put the baby at risk?"
"No, Severus; most people suffer morning sickness in the first few months of pregnancy. The baby will get all his nutrients from Harry. It's Harry who would suffer most from lack of appetite, there's a risk of dehydration among other things. I've got him on a nutrient drip to prevent that from happening, but once he leaves the infirmary you'll need to find some way to get him to eat."
"And after the curse? Harry and the baby are all right? There's no permanent damage?"
"There will be some scarring," replied Poppy. "That curse is nasty; I don't know where Ron Weasley found it! Even once the injuries heal, there will always be scars from it, they can't be cured. But apart from the scars, nothing permanent, no. Both of them are going to be fine, Severus."
"Thank you, Poppy." And now it was his turn to feel guilty, after all it was his blasted curse that had hurt Harry in the first place! Were his earlier mistakes never going to leave him? Severus stood up to take his leave.
"Oh, and Severus, although you didn't ask ... normal sexual relations are fine right up until a few weeks before the birth. Penetrative sex at that point might trigger premature labour, so I suggest you employ other methods nearer the delivery date."
Severus blushed like a nervous schoolboy and hurried out before Poppy could ask any more questions about their love life.
The remainder of the students had long gone home so Severus ate his meals in their quarters rather than the Great Hall. Dinner that evening was a light chicken salad, just right for the heat of summer, but Severus could barely manage a few mouthfuls. He scoffed at himself, how was he going to get Harry to eat when he couldn't eat himself?
At seven, he gave up and headed to the infirmary. Poppy was sitting by Harry's bed, reading to him. Harry's head turned as he heard Severus' footsteps. Looking at his bandaged eyes, Severus realised how much he missed seeing their green depths.
Poppy clasped the book shut and set it down on the bedside cabinet. "Ah, Severus is here, dear. Ready to get those bandages off?"
Poppy waved her wand and dimmed all the windows; this far north it wouldn't be sunset for a few more hours. The light became muted but it was still bright enough to make out all the furniture as well as Harry and Poppy.
"Now, Harry. I've made the room darker, but if it's still too bright just let me know as soon as I take off the bandages, okay?"
Harry nodded and his hand reached out blindly for Severus'. Severus took Harry's hand in his and kissed the palm before holding it tight. "It's all right, Harry. I'm here."
Severus stood to one side of the bed so that there was room for Poppy at the other. She began by unwinding the bandages around Harry's head, but leaving the pads on his eyes in place. "Okay, Harry. I'm going to remove the right pad now. Just keep your eye closed for a moment after I remove it."
Poppy removed the white pad as gently as she could and Severus could see how much care she was taking with her patient. Harry's eye remained firmly shut, his face scrunched up. Poppy held her hand over his eye, a few inches from his face. "Now, dear, open slowly and tell me how that feels."
"Too bright!" Harry gasped, even looking at the light through Poppy's fingers.
"Severus, if you would?"
Severus waved his wand and made the light even dimmer. "How's that?"
"That's better," said Harry. "It doesn't hurt."
"Fine. Now for the other eye, dear. Same again, keep your eye closed for a moment."
Harry squeezed Severus' hand as if he was nervous or perhaps in pain. Severus stroked his hair but had to move out of the way so Poppy could remove the pad covering his left eye. Poppy held her hand in front of him again and asked him to open his eye. Harry did, blinking both of them.
"Any pain? Any blurred vision?"
"Things are blurry," said Harry.
Poppy giggled. "Dear me, of course they are!" She summoned Harry's glasses and helped settle the frames on his face. "How's that? Blurred still?"
"No, that's back to how things normally look."
"Very good. I'll charm the room to gradually get lighter so you can get used to normal light levels again, dear. But once you have, I see no reason why you can't go home later tonight. Are you sure you're not in any pain?"
"No, ma'am. I feel fine."
"Right, I'll give you an eye test, just to make sure there hasn't been any residual damage."
Poppy conjured an eye chart and propped it up by the foot of Harry's bed. "Is that bright enough for you to see, dear? Or do we need the room brighter?"
"A bit lighter," said Harry. "All I can see are dark shapes on the board, I can't make them out."
Poppy gradually increased the light levels until Harry said, "That's fine."
After a few minutes it was clear to both Poppy and Severus that Harry's eyes were not fine at all. With or without his glasses, he only got two letters on the whole chart right, both of them the largest ones. Poppy shone her wand light at Harry's eyes; he winced through it but endured it in silence.
"I don't understand it! Your eyes have no residual damage from the curse any longer."
"Harry, when was the last time you changed your glasses?" asked Severus. Had they been so worried about damage from the curse that they'd overlooked the bloody obvious?
"Change them? I never have. I mean, I've always had these ones."
"Since when?" demanded Poppy.
"Since I was seven or eight, they were Dudley's old pair."
Poppy put her hands on her hips and stared at him, aghast. "Do you mean to tell me you have been wearing the same pair of glasses for over ten years and they weren't even your prescription? Didn't they take you to an optician?"
"No," Harry said simply and refused to elaborate. Severus knew why. Opticians cost money and the Dursleys wouldn't pay out money for the freak in their midst.
"Well, it's a wonder you haven't gone blind before now with wearing the wrong glasses all this time! Right, let me try some different lenses for you and we'll do the test again."
Over an hour later, Harry was the proud new owner of a pair of glasses that were actually designed for him and as soon as he put them on, Severus knew they were the correct prescription for Harry. His eyes widened in surprise and he stared about the room in awe, his eyes resting on Severus.
Poppy quickly took her leave when she saw that Harry was about to cry. Severus climbed up on the bed and hugged Harry to him. Between hiccupping sobs, Severus could make out a few words. "I can see! Oh, God. Severus! I can see!"
Severus held him until Harry had cried himself to sleep and he pressed a tender kiss on his forehead, feeling his heart ache for all this young man had been through. Severus vowed to himself that nothing or no one was ever going to hurt his Harry again.
Look for more of Harry and Severus' adventures in the sequel, Blood and Gold.